December 23, 2021 - Looking Forward to 2022

Thursday, December 23, 2021

I know we haven’t even celebrated Christmas yet, but I can’t help looking ahead because I want to ensure that next year is better than this year, at least as far as my writing and publishing career goes. Oh, there were plenty of positives, but overall I was disappointed in how many books I wrote this year. Too often, time got away from me, and it was a struggle to get words on the page—or on the screen as that’s where I do all my writing. The only way I know to get control of my writing activities is to plan ahead. This, as it turns out, isn’t as easy as it sounds.

I’ve watched several YouTube videos on planning for writers, attended a couple of free webinars, downloaded various spreadsheets that purport to help authors do planning for the New Year, and bought a fancy author’s planner which is supposed to do it all. It has sections for everything. Except it doesn’t tell you what to put in all those lists, boxes, and calendars.

There are a lot of moving parts to this process. I can guesstimate how long it will take me to write a book. And I can schedule when I’d like to release books for sale this coming year. In between is the problem. I’ve been trying to make detailed lists of what needs to be done—revising, editing, proofreading, sending it out to beta readers for review, designing or buying a cover, writing the blurb or sales description, formatting the manuscript, uploading it to Amazon, and promoting the book. At each stage there are decisions to make.

How long will it take me to revise the book? How long will it take to read it aloud? How long will my beta readers need to critically read it and give me feedback? What kind of advertising should I do? And how will I squeeze all of that into a period of three to six months?

Do I put the book on pre-order or not? There are pros and cons to this one. If I do create a pre-order, there’s tremendous pressure to meet the deadline to upload the book. Because if you mess up, you can lose the ability to do another pre-order for a whole year. But if things go right, you’ll be able to put the link to the upcoming book in your newsletter and advertising and the back of the last book, building buzz, and hopefully orders for the book, in advance.

Will I be able to find the perfect picture for the cover? Will it be easy, meaning I’ll spend less than an hour on image sites, or difficult, meaning I’ll spend d-a-y-s searching and eventually have to settle for something that I don’t really like?

Will I remember to schedule ads far enough in advance to assure they happen when the book is released? This is one of the reasons I’m intent on doing better planning this year. Some sites have long lead times (a couple of months), while others don’t let you book an ad that far in advance. I ran a sale on one of my books the last week in November. I was able to set it up on Amazon ahead of time. But then I promptly forgot about it until it had already started. Needless to say, it was too late to run any ads, so there was practically zero sales impact from the lowered price. I don’t want to have that happen in 2022!

Anyway, to give you an idea of why I’m pulling my hair out right now, I’ll end with a photo of my dining room table. Eventually, I hope to have everything in that thick, white book instead of on a plethora of notebooks and spreadsheets. Wish me luck!

Wood table with notebooks, color-coded spreadsheets, and pens


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December 16, 2021 - Old Nantasket

Thursday, December 16, 2021

I imagine most people who read my Shipwreck Point Mysteries have long since figured out that the inspiration for these books has largely come from the Perry Mason mysteries by Erle Stanley Gardner. In my opinion, those books and the television series they inspired are almost the perfect combination of plot and character.

But few people know that the other half—or maybe more than half—of the inspiration for the series is the history of a small seaside town in Massachusetts. I met someone who lived there, and after several years of living close by, I managed to buy a condo one block from the beach in Hull.

I’d always wanted to live near the beach. I grew up on Long Island, and both sets of grandparents owned bungalows in Breezy Point where we visited often. So it was only natural that when I was able, I lived on the beach, too.

It wasn’t only the water and the sand that attracted me. It was also the idea of living in a small town, a summer town where almost everything closed down after Labor Day, not to reopen until the following May. It also had a rich history, kept alive by memories of Paragon Park, where several generations rode the carousel and big wooden roller coaster. The amusement park had closed decades before I arrived, but whenever I mentioned I lived in Hull, the first words out of the listener’s mouth were a tale of Paragon Park.

There was more to the history of Hull than an amusement park. The first night baseball game was played under electric lights on a field in Hull. Because of its location at the entrance to Boston Harbor, many ships foundered off its coast, and the Life-Saving Station with a team led by Joshua James was famous for its rescues. Today the station is a museum and well worth a visit. And then there was the shadier side of Hull’s history.

Local historian John Galluzzo has written several books about the town, and I met him at various local events where he was selling and signing them. (I never dreamed I’d be selling and signing books myself one day at events like that.) Anyway, I’m not sure whether it was in a conversation with him or a credit in one of his books that started me on the hunt for a book named Old Nantasket by one Dr. William M. Bergan.

It turned out the book was out of print and almost impossible to find. And so I grabbed the only copy I eventually came across, even though the cover was water-stained and creased. Later on there was another printing, and I bought a new copy. But I’ve also held onto the old one just in case.

Dr. Bergan, a dentist, was a member of the Old Ring, a corrupt organization run by Boss Smith, that controlled everything in the town. If you remember your history, think Tammany Hall, but on a smaller scale. Later in life, he was moved to write the history of those days. The drinking, the gambling, the houses of prostitution, and the elegant hotels where people like President Grover Cleveland came to stay. They were entertained by the likes of Harry Houdini and Jenny Lind. The wealthy of Boston built summer “cottages” in Hull to get away from the heat in the city. The less wealthy took a steamboat from Long Wharf or the train for day trips.

Dr. Bergan writes in a frank and folksy style, often with his tongue planted firmly in his cheek. In addition to being informative, the book is a delight to read. I’ve borrowed several incidents that occur in the Shipwreck Point books from real events described in Old Nantasket. Oh, and if you’re wondering about the name, Nantasket is what the Indians called the peninsula, and what the beach is still called today.

So there you are. You never know what events in your life will inspire a book, much less a series. I’m glad one of the them was getting to know Hull, Massachusetts.

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December 13, 2021 - Resting?

Monday, December 13, 2021

After several years in a row of pushing to publish a new book by the end of the year, this year I decided I would allow myself to rest between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. I’d enjoy the holidays, read and watch movies, and see what kinds of activities I could go to.


As Robert Burns said:

The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men

Gang aft agley, 

What happened?

An odd thing happens toward the end of the year. With a new year on the horizon and a blank slate to start over, I begin to think about what I’ll be doing then. Like most writers, I set goals for myself each year, generally consisting of write more words, publish more books, and learn new things.

“Learn new things” is my kryptonite. With sales on courses during the week after Thanksgiving, I couldn’t resist buying a couple. And opening up that particular Teachable school reminded me of several other courses I’d accumulated earlier in the year by taking part in a Kickstarter for the author that gives them. Oh.

And lots of authors are giving one last push with webinars and presentations to sell their courses in an effort to boost their income. While I’m not going to buy another course this year, I am tempted to attend the free teasers. Today I spent an hour watching a presentation on how to use Goodreads to gather more readers and sell more books. Since I’d much rather spend time on Goodreads than Twitter or Instagram, it sounded like a worthwhile use of my time. I think it was, but now I’ve got a whole bunch of more stuff to do.

Plus, I promised a writer acquaintance I’d read and review her latest book in December and I haven’t even started it.

Then there’s research I want to do for the books I’ll be writing next year. And doing the planning for which books I’ll write and publish and advertise in the future.

So all that free time has pretty much evaporated.


Does anyone know where I can get a time turner?

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December 3, 2021

Friday, December 03, 2021

Every year I tell myself that I’m going to finish all my writing tasks by the end of November so I can enjoy the holidays. And every year, I’m running behind.

Except for this year, oddly enough. Part of that has to be lowering expectations. I never dreamed that I’d be able to revise and publish my NaNo novel by the end of the year. And there are no other novels in progress at the moment. Before NaNo, I wrote two short stories, which are easier to complete in a limited amount of time. Yes, I said that. Me, the person who has always said she couldn’t write short. Somehow that changed recently. I’ll have to see if I can write another one in the next few months.

Ironically, I have no holiday plans this year. The family isn’t getting together at a particular location. Some are still afraid of COVID. Others have personal stuff going on. And I spent my holiday travel money on a research trip I’ll be taking at the beginning of February.

So, what do I do with a free month?

I’m taking courses. A writer I respect has a lot of short courses up on Teachable, as well as some more intensive workshops with weekly assignments. I’ve taken a couple in the past, and always said I wanted to take more, but they’re on the expensive side for me. Expensive being defined as anything over $10. I tend to buy books to learn from whenever I can, because they’re generally under that $10 limit. But this writer ran a half-price sale for Black Friday and I got a healthy royalty deposit from Amazon at the end of November, so I sprang for two courses.

And got reminded I had about four more from when I contributed to a Kickstarter he and his wife (also a writer) ran this past year when I looked at my dashboard. Woohoo!

(You didn’t think this severe introvert meant an actual party with people and streamers and balloons and such, did you?)

I’m also trying to figure out what my writing schedule should look like to work for me. That’s a work in progress. I’m planning one week at a time and seeing how close I come to doing what I planned. As usual, it’s not 100%. But that’s okay, because this is a trial run so I can figure out what my real writing schedule will be in 2022. And that’s fun, too.

That’s all for now!

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December 1, 2021 - I Won!

Wednesday, December 01, 2021

With the application of a lot of BICHOK (Butt In Chair Hands On Keyboard), I managed to write 50,192 words and complete the first draft of Homicide On the Range in November! This is an incredibly rough first draft, and so it will need a lot of cleaning up. The novel will also probably be a lot longer when it’s finished.

When I’m trying to get the story down, it reads more like a movie script than a novel. In other words, there’s a lot of dialogue, but very little narrative, which is where the descriptions of the setting and the characters go. So two people or more (sometimes as many as six) talking in a box with white walls.

That’s not terribly interesting for the reader, so I’m going to have to go back and layer in all that color. That will take some time.

As a reward for getting that done, and because I’m usually finishing up a book and trying to publish it while everyone else is preparing for Christmas, I don’t have any new writing planned for the month of December.

Oh, I’m not going to sit in my recliner with a book and a box of chocolates. I need to plan what I’m going to write and publish in 2022. I spent this morning making a huge list of what I need and want to get done, first in the month of December, and then next year. It’s a daunting list.

I then split out the December tasks (writing a book description, cleaning up my desk, scheduling my work for next year, and taking a couple of classes to improve my writing and perhaps advertising skills) and put that in a spreadsheet. I assigned completion dates to everything and sorted it by date and laid out my work for the rest of this week in my planner.

Over the next couple of weeks, I’m going to have to do the same for next year. I bought a brand new planner with lots of sections and stuff to do that in. All I have to do is figure out how to use it!

That’s all for now. There are two kitties who want their dinner and I’d better take care of that before they get impatient, which involves getting into all kinds of trouble.

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November 17, 2021 - It's Been a While

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Recently, I’ve had to make hard choices about what I’m doing with my time. In addition to working on my NaNoWriMo novel, I’ve been trying to catch up on all the videos from the recent conference as well as working on planning for next year. That hasn’t left much time for posting my progress.

I fell behind on the NaNo Novel, which is sometimes a fatal mistake. You look at how many words you’ve written and how many words you should have written by this time, and it can be discouraging. You can do one of three things. You can quit because you know you’ll never catch up. You can put in extra time to get those missing words. Or you can tell yourself that the actual number of words you’ve written doesn’t matter; what matters is getting as many words as you can reasonably write.

I’m at the option 2 point. I’m not so far behind that I can’t finish the month at 50,000 words… yet. I’ve written 25,345 words so far. I should have written 28,339. So 3,000 words behind, which I can get close to in a day if I really push myself. That would mean giving up one of my Sundays off. Or I can plan on writing approximately 2500 words each day instead of 1667. I’m trying 2500 words a day. Unless I can’t catch up, in which case, I’ll have to look closely at those Sundays.

I’m also working on the planning part. This came about because of one of those conference sessions I watched. I try to plan out every year, and after being disappointed with how many books I published this year, I want to do better in 2022. But that takes doing some analysis on my numbers for 2021 before I can even start thinking about what I’ll do next year. And 2021 isn’t over yet. Will I be able to publish the novel I’m writing now before the end of the year? So I’m looking at scheduling the rest of this year as well.

And, as always, everything takes longer than I think it will!

Needless to say, journaling my writing progress goes to the bottom of my to-do list. I’m not sure when I’ll post the next update. It all depends on how much I get done earlier in the day. But I’ll post when I can for those of you who are interested.

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November 12, 2021 - Like a Bouncing Ball

Friday, November 12, 2021

That’s what my writing progress has been like. I seem to be alternating higher than average word count days with low word count days this month. That’s the chart from my NaNoWriMo profile page at the top. I’ve got to have more high word count days than my current average if I want to “win” NaNo.

Of course, for me, the challenge isn’t to win NaNoWriMo. No, what I want to do is finish the first draft of this book so I can release it no later than mid-January.

Can you believe we’re racing into 2022 already? I’m having a hard time comprehending that. But I’ve started to think about what my goals for the new year will be. I struggled to accomplish much this year, publishing only one full-length novel. I spent almost as much time on each of the two shorter works (a novella and a short story) as I did on that novel. It was a big change from last year, when I published the first four books in the Shipwreck Point series.

I want to make 2022 more like 2020 than 2021. I’d like to publish six books: three Rainbow Ranch mysteries and three Shipwreck Point novels. But I’m not at all confident that that’s possible. Four was hard enough! I’ll have to decide soon, but if I’m honest with myself, four novels (two in each series) is probably the most I can do.

So, I downloaded a Planning & Organization Workbook put together by another presenter at this week’s writers conference, Audrey Hughey. All of the really successful authors do planning like this, which not only includes stating large goals like how many books you’re going to publish, but putting together a detailed schedule for what you want to accomplish.

Elana Johnson uses spreadsheets. Her book, Writing and Marketing Systems, is awesome. I read it this past year. Elana is a superwoman. She publishes lots of books each year primarily under two pen names. She has a third pen name, but that one’s kind of dormant now.

I loved everything about what Elana does, but I can’t envision myself ever matching her level of productivity and energy. (Note: She writes romance, and even she admitted in her presentation at the conference that every book is the same book. That’s what romance readers expect. Mystery readers want a little more originality, although the plots are formulaic.)

Audrey’s style isn’t quite as intimidating. And her workbook started with defining what success means to you. That’s a challenge in itself. I wrote something like six pages in my journal this morning trying to define that for myself. After sleeping on it, I’ll write it up in the workbook tomorrow morning. And then I’ll proceed to the next exercise.

I also really, really want to buy her planner, which this year is called The 2022 Author’s Planner. It includes not only planning your writing and publication schedule, but your marketing tasks. It also has a section for tracking business income and expenses and story ideas and all kinds of other things. Now, I already do this, but they’re in different formats—Scrivener, Quicken, Things for Mac, and even a couple of spreadsheets—which means they’re scattered in various places on my computer. They idea of having one reference for everything author related is tempting. Although I’m not sure I’d keep the planner up to date, because I really need Quicken at tax time and I’m so reliant on Things to track tasks.

But I want that planner now! And the Frixion erasable pens she recommended to write in it with.

Can I tell you a secret? Writers tend to be stationery junkies. Like quilters have their fabric stash, writers have a stationery stash. We have boxes and shelves filled with notebooks, index cards, pens and pencils, sticky notes in various sizes and colors, and sometimes washi tape. One writer I follow on YouTube has dozens and dozens of planners. She does a video every month about setting up the planners (yes, that is plural) she’s going to use to track things. Seriously.

So I’m trying to decide if I actually need her planner (and the pens!) or not. I’ve put them on my Christmas wishlist, but what if they sell out? (That happened last year.) Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) is real!

Okay, I’ve babbled on long enough today. I’ll let you know what I decide in another blog post.

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November 10, 2021 - Persistence

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Yesterday turned out to be as difficult as the day before. It didn’t help that I had things on my schedule other than writing. If I’ve learned anything over the past ten years, it’s that I need to get my writing done in the morning. There are days, like today, when I can put in a second session later, but they usually include a good morning session as well.

One thing that helped today was watching a recording of a session from a writers conference that is taking place this week. The title of it was Production and Writing of a Long Series, which is what I’m hoping for with not only my Shipwreck Point Mysteries, but the new Rainbow Ranch Mysteries as well.

Ironically, the presenter immediately announced that she was going to go off script. Yes, she was going to talk some about writing a long series, because she has one, but what she was really going to talk about was what it took to be a successful author. Mostly, she focused on mindset, a word I’ve been hearing a lot of lately.

And just to catch our attention, she started out by saying she was the author of 87 books. She produces over a book a month most of the time and sells phenomenally well. While we were still trying to comprehend that, she dropped her second bombshell. It took her until book forty to be profitable.

Okay, so I’m thinking of my KDP Dashboard with its current eleven published novels and three or four short stories that has taken me almost ten years to populate, and counting on my fingers to come up with it’s going to take me another thirty years to get to that point.

Except it might not. See, Sarah Noffke told us there were several things that made a difference with that fortieth book. For one thing, she found her passion. Up until then, she’d been writing science fiction and space opera, a genre that’s popular, but she found it a slog to keep writing. For book forty, she wrote an urban fantasy novel. She loved writing in that genre, the book sold well, and suddenly she couldn’t wait to get to work each day.

But there were four other pieces to her success that all worked together. Most of all was learning to believe in herself. As she said, “What we believe will always come true.” Or, as Henry Ford put it, “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.”

Yeah, this is a hard one. It’s hard to check your sales every morning and see you’ve only sold two books. Or sometimes none. You have to learn not to tell yourself you’re a failure, but to say something positive about that. I dare you to come up with something that doesn’t sound hokey.

Another point that resonated with me was taking better care of yourself. She discovered that eating healthier and regular exercise made her feel better. I know she’s right, but I’ve been struggling with that lately. If you’re a certain type of person, when you’re down on yourself, you go for the chocolate or the potato chips or something similarly not-nutritious. You watch TV instead of going for a walk. Her enthusiasm and reaffirmation that taking care of your body would lead to an improvement in your mind encouraged me to make (another) fresh start today. And, amazingly enough, I didn’t need an afternoon nap, I wrote over 2,000 words, and didn’t feel stuck once.

There was a lot more to this presentation, and I’m going to watch it again either this evening or tomorrow and take notes. Because it’s just what I need at this point in my life.

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November 8, 2021 - Resistance

Monday, November 08, 2021

Today was a strange writing day. It wasn’t that the words came hard. Actually, they came fairly easily… once I got started.

Getting started was the hard part.

I write in what are called “sprints,” which means I set a timer for thirty minutes of writing, then when that’s up, I set a timer for a 5-10 minute break. After the break comes another thirty-minute writing sprint, etc. Well, today, each time I took a break, I really didn’t want to start writing again.

Steven Pressfield, the author of The Legend of Bagger Vance, calls this resistance. He wrote a short book, The War of Art, explaining this phenomenon which is very common with writers. Long before I found his book, I remember conversations where fellow writers would ask questions such as: “Why would I rather clean the bathroom than sit at my computer and write my book?”

I mean, cleaning the bathroom ranks right up there with cleaning the oven or slopping the pigs. It’s not something you’d usually choose to do. But for some reason, there are days when anything sounds better than writing.

Once you know that you’re not a total freak and understand that this happens to almost everyone on occasion, you also know that the only way to deal with it is to tell that inner voice to shut up! and start typing. After you’ve gotten a few sentences down, it’s easier to keep going. But today, when I took another break, the whole cycle started all over again. :::sigh:::

I’m hoping tomorrow will go better, although it probably won’t. A virtual writers conference starts tomorrow, and I’ve got a full calendar of talks to watch/listen to. I wonder if I signed up for it so I wouldn’t have to write. But I can’t afford to take a week off from writing. Not if I want to “win” NaNo. Which is why I signed up for NaNoWriMo in the first place. I needed the deadline.

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November 6, 2021 - Days 3, 4, and 5

Saturday, November 06, 2021

I’m finding it hard to keep up this writing diary on a daily basis. After spending two hours split into four writing sprints, so it’s longer in real time than that, the last thing I want to do is more writing. Especially on days when it doesn’t go so well.

That describes Thursday, when I only got roughly 600 words. But they were new words, even if there weren’t many of them and even if they weren’t very good. Yesterday and today were better, with over 2,000 words each day.

I’ve found that I do best when I split my writing time into two sessions, one in the morning and one in the evening. Like my aging iPhone, my batteries don’t hold a charge as long as they used to. I need to do something in between, something that’s not writing.

I’m not sure whether I’ll write tomorrow or not. I usually make Sunday a day off because it’s good to have one day a week with no pressure. But I’d like to get ahead on my word count so that when the inevitable dry spell hits me later in the month, I’ll still stand a chance of completing 50,000 words. I’ll see what happens.

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November 3, 2021 - NaNoWriMo Day 3

Wednesday, November 03, 2021

 These are the kind of writing days I live for. After stumbling along for two days, I’m deep enough into the story to let my muse do most of the work.

I’d written a few paragraphs of the next scene yesterday, which I read this morning so I could pick up where I left off. It came to me that I’d started this scene too late, that there was something else that had to happen first. As soon as I started adding that to the beginning, Spooky, the cat showed up.

Who?

Spooky, the black cat.

You see, one of the reasons to start a new series with some of the same characters that my readers have loved in the past was to be more conscious of reader expectations for cozy mysteries. One of the things cozy readers love is a pet, preferably a cat. So this time, I introduced a black cat named Spooky early on. I even went back into my outline and stuck boxes for extra scenes that included the cat. But it’s much better when characters—human or feline—appear organically in the story.

I also found a way to include some of those character details in the new scene that I’d been attempting to jam into an earlier one. And they worked!

I used to have a note over my computer that said “See the movie.” Because when I get into a story, that’s basically what I do. The movie plays out in my head and I just type what happens. And rather than ticking off boxes for plot points or worrying whether I’ve planted a clue in the proper place, it’s sometimes good to remind myself to sit back and go along for the ride instead.

It doesn’t always happen, but the more I get involved in a story, the easier it is to get into the zone. Or, as I think of it, watch the movie.

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November 2, 2021 - NaNoWriMo Begins

After waiting eagerly for November 1st, I discovered that I was a little rusty at this writing thing. I struggled mightily on Day 1, taking a little over three hours to get just over 2,000 words. I wasn’t terribly happy about most of them, but the only way out is through (which is almost what Robert Frost said, who seems to be the originator of this expression). In other words, the only way to improve is to keep going, which is why I made myself do a second writing session on Monday to reach that 2,000 words.

It worked, because I liked the second thousand a lot better than the first. And I was rewarded with a little gem from my muse. It turns out one of the ranch hands is an expert at gun twirling. He’s the standard quirky character in a cozy mystery, but lacking for humorous dialogue for him in the first scene, I had to come up with something. (And it allowed me to watch a couple of YouTube videos of cowboys doing tricks with guns, thus avoiding some writing time.)

On Tuesday, I thought I’d do better because the next scene was plotted more thoroughly. But as I wrote, I realized I was tending to put way too much backstory in this scene. My task is to introduce all my suspects, give some indication as to why they might kill the victim, but not so much as to bore the reader. As a sure sign that I was not accomplishing this goal, I started to bore myself. Hmmm…

So I quit at 1100 words, intending to come back to the writing later, but I got caught up in the World Series game, then there was finally a new episode of The Curse of Oak Island, and I fell asleep watching TV, and… Well, you know the drill. One excuse after another.

Which is why I’m at my computer early on Wednesday. I’m 200 words behind by NaNo’s schedule, but more than that by mine, which includes Sundays off. So I need to get to the writing early this morning and put in the time to catch up.

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October 27, 2021 - A Good Day

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

 As is often the case, a day of frustrating problems was followed by a day when I actually got some things accomplished. That formatting software (Atticus) cooperated, so I was able to finalize the novella—except for uploading, which I’ll do next month.

I spent a lot of time searching for floor plans of a ranch house so I could get ideas for the design of my fictional one. Unfortunately, since ranch is also a modern designation for a style of house, it’s not so easy to find the genuine article. The closest I got was a floor plan that a fan had constructed based on the series High Chaparral. If you can believe it, he wanted to build his own house to look like the one on TV. (And people think authors are crazy.)

So, with that as a basis, plus the rooms I needed for my story, I spent some time drawing a plan for the Rainbow Ranch ranch house. I wound up with some issues (like the rooms aren’t proportional), but it’s good enough for me to use as a reference as I write. I’ll either decide to buy Minecraft and try to build it in that, or I’ll fight with Photoshop Elements to create something a little prettier.

And then, since my Amazon delivery arrived, I put up bedroom room-darkening curtains and the rod to hang them on. I bought them more for privacy than making the bedroom darker. There is, however, a place next to the window where the outside light (which, because it’s an apartment, is on all night) does peek through. I’ll find out tonight if I can arrange the curtains to block that.

And that’s it for today. 

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October 25, 2021 - A Necessary Distraction Today

Monday, October 25, 2021

 My to-do list is getting very long. In between working on the first novel of the new series, I’m trying to get a related novella finalized. Months ago, I realized that although I had it in my head as to how and why Lilliana and Christopher leave the retirement home, there was no such explanations for my readers.

I’m writing the first book in the Rainbow Ranch Mysteries as if someone picking it up had never heard of the African Violet Club Mysteries series. The idea was to have what’s called another “entry point” into my novels. It was only later that I realized there were a bunch of readers who would be going, “What? How’d they get there?”

So I wrote that story earlier this year, and I want to have it ready for people to read before the first Rainbow Ranch Mysteries book comes out. There are lots of steps to that, and the next one on my list was putting it through ProWritingAid. This is probably my least favorite part of producing a novel. Or novella, in this case.

The software determines what it thinks is wrong with my grammar, spelling, style, and everything else it can think of. Lots of times, it’s right. (I almost always write “baited” breath instead of “bated” breath.) But lots of times, it’s flat out wrong. But the worst times are when it might be right, and I have to decide whether to change what I’ve written to what PWA suggests or keep it the way I wrote it in the first place. That’s hard work.

I finished that up before lunch time, so, being a glutton for punishment, I decided to put the novella through some formatting software I just bought rather than using Scrivener’s formatting like I usually do. This resulted in much trial and error with pauses to watch videos and redo several steps, one of which included contacting tech support.

I wonder what adventures I’ll have tomorrow. 

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October 22, 2021 - Distractions

Friday, October 22, 2021

It’s amazing how good I am at convincing myself that non-authorly stuff is actually related to my writing. In addition to NaNo starting up on November 1st, Ifcomp started on October 1st and runs through November 15th. Okay, you’re thinking. She just finished explaining one obscure activity and now she’s talking about another?

Yes, I am.

Ifcomp is short for Interactive Fiction Competition, which is another annual event. Interactive Fiction is a genre of computer game that is all about telling a story and solving puzzles. What distinguishes it from other games is that it is text based. That’s because it was invented before computers could do graphics. The first game of that type was Adventure (or Colossal Cave Adventure or some variation of that) written by Will Crowther for a PDP-10. I know you never heard of that computer, but it was a popular machine in its day.

Anyway, a bunch of students at MIT were enthusiasts of the game and came up with the idea that they might be able to make money selling games like it that ran on home computers like the Apple II and Commodore 64. They were right. People like myself were addicted to these games, starting with Zork (modeled on Adventure) and expanding into stories that were science fiction, fantasy, and even horror. For a brief time, Infocom was the most successful gaming company on the planet. Until home computers supported graphics and everyone wanted pretty pictures with their games.

However, text adventures never went away entirely. Today, there are hundreds (thousands?) of hobbyists who keep them alive by playing and writing their own games. Which is what Ifcomp is about. People submit their games to the competition to be judged by players of the games. The winners get prizes, nothing extravagant mind you, but it’s as much for the acclaim as the prizes.

And, like clockwork, every fall I get all nostalgic about these text adventures and want to go back to playing them for the competition. I did try writing one or two, but they use their own programming language and I was a programmer by day back then, so I wasn’t always enthusiastic about doing more programming at night. Plus, I was a single mom with a career, so I didn’t have time to get deep into hobbies.

But I kept those original Infocom games, including my two box sets of all of them ever released. And this year the force is strong in me. I even downloaded the latest version of the software to run the games and pulled one of the basic level ones off my bookshelf. (Since I’m out of practice, I thought I’d start small.) But I haven’t gotten around to actually playing it.

Because I found something else to distract myself with. Minecraft.

Remember I talked about making a map of the setting for my Rainbow Ranch Mysteries? As I was mulling over making a map in Photoshop Elements with all the preliminary work of isolating different types of buildings and fences and trees and stuff, as well as searching through Google maps for an area that had the basic terrain I was looking for, I remembered that Holly Lisle, a science fiction writer, used Minecraft to create her settings and buildings. So I thought maybe that might work.

Which led to a lot of Googling and downloading a trial and trying to figure out how that worked. After messing around on my Mac for a while, I figured out that it wasn’t the best platform to play Minecraft on. No, I’d be better off using my iPad, because that version has more functionality.

But before I went that far, I took a breather. Because, although I tell myself that both interactive fiction and Minecraft are also storytelling, I don’t think they’re going to make my world building for this new series any more efficient. And my limited brainpower (remember that from yesterday?) might be better off getting back to work rather than playing around with the fun stuff.

Ahem.

So I buckled down and worked on those characters for a couple of hours.

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October 21, 2021 - Pushing Toward NaNo

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Only 10 days until National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo or just NaNo) starts. I’ve been working in fits and starts lately. I feel like I’ve got enough to start writing, and it’s hard to get motivated to fill in all the outline details. For the past two days, I’ve been doing some more character development. That’s where I always start my stories. It’s where I come up with ideas for the plot as I get to know each character better. I’ve been feeling pretty good about my progress with that.

Until today.

I was going through my character worksheets in Scrivener and discovered one character—who started out as minor, but might have a significant role to play after all—where I had only a name and his relationship to one other character. No picture. No description. No lines with things like want, need, secret, personality type, not even hair and eye color or general physical description.

Quickly, I brought up other character sheets. Most of them were in the same state.

Panic time.

And here I’d figured on spending the next few days fiddling with Photoshop Elements and drawing a map of the ranch. I’d even started cropping out different kinds of buildings to put on the physical map.

So I quickly developed a new spreadsheet based on one used by another author (and added to extensively by me) for my recurring characters. I’d already done one for the characters specific to the first novel, and I used that as a model. Putting those twelve recurring characters side by side and filling in the boxes I had answers for showed me a lot of blanks. I had a lot more work to do.

It’s been interesting, especially since working on those characteristics led to answers as to why I was going to have one of the characters do something—other than to make a different character not be available to the story at one point in time. But also exhausting.

Most writers can do creative work for only a part of the day. Writing new words—or fleshing out characters—takes a lot of brain power. I thought I was a slacker until I heard several successful authors say they only wrote two or three hours a day.

You can do research or things like drawing a map or checking your sales or setting up promotions after the creative work is done. But it’s tough to keep the words flowing when you’ve drained the brain. Yes, there are exceptions. Robert B. Parker would work on one book in the morning, have lunch, then work on a different book in the afternoon. I heard him talk at a book signing, and his attitude was that other people work eight hours a day at their job, so why shouldn’t writers? Obviously, he’d been in training longer than I have. And attitude matters.

I plan on working on attitude next year. As well as a bunch of other stuff. But as for today? I’m done.

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October 13, 2021 - I Found the Plot

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Sometimes you can’t see the forest for the trees.

Today I decided I should make the effort to find the notes I made when I was first planning this book. Since I was certain I’d already looked through the notebooks on my desk, I pulled each of the spiral-bound notebooks off my book shelf and went through them looking for my scribbles. I didn’t find anything. So back to my desk to try to recreate whatever it was.

Except first, I went through all the pages in the first notebook with writing on them and discovered what I had was there. I also discovered I didn’t have as much as I thought I did. I’d come up with a sort-of motive for each of my suspects, but not a strong motive. Except, of course, for the actual killer. I thought I’d better work harder on the other suspects.

I also decided that I needed to give my actual killer a second motive, one that was weaker than the one that prompted her to kill the victim, but not so weak that it would scream “This one!” Yeah, it’s all too common to give the killer either no motive known to the sleuth or something so weak that you can just tell the author is trying to point you away from them. I think I figured something out that will work.

I also took out my hand-drawn map of the village of Rainbow Ranch (okay, I went through three different versions I had stuck in a looseleaf) to refresh my memory and to see if I’d indicated where the setting for this new series was. I hadn’t, but I knew I had a description of Lilliana driving to it in one of the African Violet Club mysteries. Of course, it was in the last book I wrote, but I went through two before that looking for that description.

So I’ll have to put on my to-do list: Draw new map.

The other thing I’ve got my subconscious worrying on is the subplot. I think I have a great idea for one that will carry through several books, but I’m not too sure how to work it into the current book, much less the next few books in the series.

I’ll worry about that tomorrow.

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October 12, 2021 - What's the Plot?

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Before the move, I was working on the first book in my new series. I remember working out all the details of the victim, killer, and suspects and feeling really good about what I was going to write. Now that I’m mostly settled in and going to write the book for NaNo, I thought it was time to refresh my memory about the story and flesh out the details.

There’s only one problem. All the “feel” for the story that I had before the moving break is gone. I recognize what I wrote in my one line per scene outline, but not the richness that should happen in addition to that one line. And the ending is very sketchy, which was what I was hoping to flesh out.

So to feel like I’m making progress on this story, I started thinking about some other things.

For one thing, Lilliana, my senior sleuth had completed her character arc in the first series, and I thought she should have a new arc for the new series. I even got an idea as to what that should be. That required a new character, and I came up with a really exciting concept. The more I worked on that character, the more I thought this was going to be an excellent story.

There’s only one problem. It can’t be the main story of a murder mystery. So I have to figure out a way to stretch it over multiple books, not use a lot of what I’m coming up with right away, which is kind of deflating.

And I still have the problem of working out the ending of the murder mystery satisfactorily.

I know I’ll figure it out eventually. I always do. But at the moment, I’m in the stage where my brain is jumping around to all kinds of ideas and things I should do and not solving the central problem.

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October 9, 2021 - A Day with Photoshop Elements

Saturday, October 09, 2021

I’ve been watching a lot of NaNo prep YouTube videos lately. NaNo is short for NaNoWriMo, which is short for National Novel Writing Month, which happens in November. Since I’m about ready to start a new book, it’s good timing for me. I’ve also been beta reading a book on Writing and Marketing a Bestseller by Elana Johnson. I love her writing books. She’s a high-energy person (usually), writes a ton of novels every year, and makes really good money.


NaNoWriMo recommends having a cover for your NaNo novel to make it more real, and Elana is a big fan of pre-orders, for which you also really need a cover. And a blurb, but that’s a different problem. Since I’d started designing a cover for the new series I’m about to start a few months ago, I thought I’d pull it up and make the modifications I’d intended several months ago, like replacing the watermarked “try” images with purchased artwork. I started to do that late yesterday, only to discover I’d totally forgotten the techniques I’d mastered in creating the mockup.


Can you say “frustration”? I seriously wanted to cry. Photoshop skills don’t come naturally to me, and I’d spent so much time figuring some stuff out when I designed the original cover, none of which stuck with me. On top of that, I couldn’t find the pink index card where I noted how to do some of these things. (It’s probably still packed in a box somewhere.) I told myself to calm down, that being hangry was amplifying my frustration, and that I should think about it another day.


Of course, I woke up a 6:00 AM and, after feeding the cats and making coffee, the first thing I did was turn on my computer and open up Photoshop Elements. But, knowing I needed a refresher, I first spent a couple of hours watching videos from two different classes I bought earlier this year. This was followed by long sessions of relearning how to do a few things and learning different ways of doing others, until I finally had an acceptable cover for book one.


Since I was in the groove now, I copied that and made modifications to suit book two. (I’m not crazy. When I do my own covers, I stick with a single design that I can make minor changes to for each book. I’m not a professional cover designer who can make each cover unique. I’m not even sure that’s a great idea.)


You know, people think about a writer as someone like Kathleen Turner in Romancing the Stone, sitting and typing madly all day long. Or Richard Castle, who lives in a penthouse and effortlessly turns out books with hardly any work at all. But there’s lots of other tasks now, especially if you’re an indie. Yesterday’s lengthy project was trying to come up with titles for these new mysteries.


I thought I had come up with a clever idea of adapting song titles for the books, but after the first clever idea, nothing came to mind. So first I spent several hours making a list of song titles related to what I’m writing. Then I spent another span of time looking through word lists that would go with them. In the end, I only came up with a title for the second book, and I’m not sure whether I’ll keep it or not. If you have a publisher, they come up with the title. Even if you think you’ve got the perfect one, they’ll most likely change it.


Anyway, I’m glad tomorrow is Sunday, which is my day off. Then Monday I’m going to have to really dig in and start plotting the book so I can write it.

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October 7, 2021

Thursday, October 07, 2021

Hmmm… “tomorrow” turned out to be almost a week later.


My Halloween short story is ready to go. If you’re on my mailing list, you’ll get a link where you can download it for free. If you’re not on my mailing list, it will be available on Amazon in the middle of October.


Sign up for my newsletter here.


After doing a beta read for an author friend of mine, I spent today redoing my writing schedule because I changed my mind (again) about which book I want to write next. I wish I could write two books at a time, but I can’t. So it will be (as promised in last month’s newsletter) the first book in the Rainbow Ranch Mystery Series. I’m definitely looking forward to writing this one. I just wish I could rearrange the calendar to put an event that won’t happen until the first week in February to next week.


I’ll tell you about that when it happens.


Hopefully, it won’t be too long before I’ll be able to start teasing the new book with a cover and a blurb. All I have to do is come up with them.


Anyway, I wanted to write and post this before the Red Sox game. The AL Wild Card game on Tuesday night was perfect, and I’m hoping the ALDS series also goes their way. After being forecast to not even wind up in the hunt this year, the Red Sox have surprised everyone. I love this team!

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October 1, 2021 - Trying to find my routine

Friday, October 01, 2021

With cartons still left to unpack, organize, or find a place for, I haven’t quite established a new routine (although my old one is struggling to reassert itself). But I’m trying to do some writing task before tackling the next batch of boxes each day.


Today, I did the last bit of revision on my Halloween story, “Murder at a Masked Ball” and then put it through ProWritingAid. That’s my least favorite part of the writing process. PWA doesn’t understand the subtleties of language, especially when I’m trying to write in a more old-fashioned style on purpose. I’m surprised that it picks on what it considers excess verbiage even in dialogue. For instance, I have one of my characters say they were “a bit” something, like a bit tired or a bit confused. PWA, in its no-nonsense way, thinks the sentences would be a lot clearer if I eliminated “a bit” and just said they were tired or confused. It has no understanding of the subtle difference between the two.


On the other hand, it’s gratifying to discover I had zero usage of passive voice, one of the things that I had to change a lot in past years. It seems natural to tell a story in passive voice, but the words aren’t as strong that way.


Anyway, I sent the story off to my chief beta reader and requested some others from among mystery writer friends in a group I belong to, so hopefully I’ll be getting feedback in the next few days. I’ve already started looking for artwork for the cover, which is another difficult part of the process. I always think it will be easy to find a picture that reflects my story or novel, but the stock photo sites never seem to have what I think would be the most obvious kind of picture.


Until tomorrow.

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September 29, 2021 - I'm Back

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

What a month this has been. I just hope I don’t have to move again for a very long time. I have too much stuff. I got used to that not mattering so much since I had a large closet in my office and a larger one in the hall that I called the pantry, but it also stored Christmas decorations, cat stuff, and pots, soil, and other supplies for my African violets and houseplants. I have closets here, but they’re smaller, and the one in my office is also the laundry room and the cat room, so no storage for boxes.


But I’m not complaining. I love the layout of this apartment, and it’s in much better shape than my old one. I had an adventure with the stove this morning (I’ve been using my crock pot and the microwave so far), which has a glass top (which I had in my house) and fancy digital controls (which I didn’t). All I wanted to do was scramble eggs, but figuring out the buttons was a challenge, particularly in turning the burner off. I was proud of myself for making the eggs, but pushing the digital button again, which was supposed to turn it off, kept showing H5, which I thought was an indication of the temperature and meant High 5, and that the stove was still on.


After poking at the buttons again, I brought my breakfast into my office and searched the internet for the instruction manual so I could turn the stove off. After reading through the appropriate page a couple of times, I figured out I had turned it off, and what the indicator was saying was HS, for Hot Surface, and that it would go off when the stove cooled. Duh.


But at last I have, finally, gotten back to writing. Or planning for writing. I spent over an hour figuring out my tasks for the rest of this year and the first quarter of next year. I’m going to try to work in some craft study as well as planning and writing two novels in that time. I have several books that I’ve bought this past year that I haven’t read yet. Or only skimmed. I’m looking forward to getting back into a routine, but it won’t be as intensive as I’d like it to be.


I still have a lot of boxes to unpack and organize.

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September 7, 2021 - Time Flies!

Tuesday, September 07, 2021

No, I haven’t forgotten about my intention to post my writing progress. I just haven’t made much since I wrote last. But today I knew it was time to finish up that short story, and so I made that my priority. And finish it, I did, writing 2021 words for a total of just over 17,000 words.

The ending was easy, since I’ve known what would happen since I started thinking about this story. In fact, the ending was the whole reason to write the story to begin with. I could have just put a short narrative prologue at the beginning of the first book in the new series, but I think in stories. I also felt that since I’ve made my readers wait so long to find out what happens next to Lilliana and Christopher, they deserved more than a few sentences.

This is the first draft, and so I need to revise it to make sure it reads smoothly and includes all the information I intended, but not so much people who read it will get bored. And check commas and such so that the writing doesn’t annoy people.

But the hard part is done, and my plan is to release it in November or December, with the first book in the new series (did I mention that’s the Rainbow Ranch Mysteries?) coming in late January or early February of next year.

There will be something else in October of this year, but you’ll just have to wait to find out what that is.

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August 31, 2021 - This Week's Progress So Far

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

I’m continuing with my plan for working on the short story. Yesterday I wrote 555 words and today I wrote 964 words. If I didn’t have so much other stuff to do, I probably could have written twice as much. This is one story where I’ve actually got everything I wanted to say in it in my outline. As I write, I’m discovering some additional information, but nothing that affects the basic structure of the tale. I can only hope that the outline for the novel will be as complete when I start writing that.

I also watched one of the Amazon KDP videos this morning, one with Dakota Krout. I knew his name because he’s one of the perennial bestsellers on Amazon, but not too much more than that. It was a very interesting interview about how he started as an author, mistakes he made and things he did right, and how he learned so much and now is not only successful himself, but how he’s published several other indie authors who have also become bestsellers.

He writes litrpg, which stands for role playing game literature. Think Ready Player One, which kind of started the genre, but from what I hear isn’t actually typical of how it developed. Litrpg isn’t my cup of tea, but I did read Ready Player One and liked it. Just not enough to read more in the genre.

One of the things he does both with his own books and with those of the authors he publishes is use the rapid release strategy. In his case, that doesn’t mean writing a book a month. It means waiting until you have three books in a series written, no matter how long that takes you, then releasing them a month apart, complete with pre-orders on each so you build momentum. Libby Hawker does this as well. He thinks you need to do this to build confidence in readers that you will not write just one book that they love and then never write anything continuing the story. If I understood Dakota correctly, once you’ve built this trust, it doesn’t matter much how long it takes for you to publish book four or five or seventeen in the series. I think Libby Hawker only wrote three-book series when she was touting this strategy, and since mystery series are usually just getting going at the three-book mark, it didn’t seem to apply to me.

I’m particularly interested in this since I am working on a new series now. I had intended to write one book, maybe two in this series, publish them as they were done, then write another book in the Shipwreck Point series. The idea would be to alternate between the series. But after listening to Dakota Krout, I’m thinking I’ll write, but not publish, the first two books, then a Shipwreck Point book which I will publish, then start work on the third in the new series. When I’m a month out from finishing it, I’ll publish the first book in the series, and then the next two to get that rapid release boost. Then I’ll start alternating books in each of the series.

He also had some interesting ideas on Amazon ads, but if you want to know what that was, you’ll have to watch the video yourself. 😉

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August 28, 2021 - Where I'm At

Saturday, August 28, 2021

That curve ball has been preoccupying me this week, and so I’ve made little writing progress. I get out of sorts when I don’t write, so today I determined to write something to keep my hand in. That something was the short story that transitions between the African Violet Club Mysteries and the new Rainbow Ranch Mysteries. Since it occurs before the first novel in the next series, it makes sense to complete it first. Besides, I stand a chance of finishing that story in a week, maybe a little more, maybe a little less, which will mean I can check something off my list. I thoroughly enjoy marking tasks complete.

And then, if life doesn’t get too crazy, I’ll go back to the novel and try to make progress with that, along with dealing with the changes that are coming.

I just hope we don’t get too many more storms. Another violent thunderstorm moved through Tucson late this afternoon, bringing strong winds, sheets of rain, and thunder and lightning. My office window leaked again, of course, which meant stuffing towels along the sill and on the floor for a while. I will be so glad to not have to do that any more, but there’s a chance of more severe storms toward the end of next week, so we’re not out of the woods yet.

I can’t promise daily writing for the next month, but I will try to post brief updates whenever I do manage to get some words written.

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August 24, 2021 - The Start

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

As usually happens, life has thrown me a curve ball this month. To be truthful, I was complicit in the way the game has played out, but I hadn’t intended to make this move for another year. That’s where life came in.

Yes, I’m being vague, and yes, it’s on purpose.

Let’s just say I’m now juggling priorities and trying to figure out what to do next. Several times a day.

The good news is, I did start Homicide on the Range this morning. I didn’t get the 2,000 words I was aiming for, much less catch up on the 2,000 words I didn’t write yesterday. But I did write slightly over 1400 words, which isn’t bad for an hour’s worth of work. I didn’t like a lot of what I wrote. As always, I got off to a rough start, trying to figure out exactly how the story would open. In revisions, I’ll probably change the first few paragraphs a lot.

But I was encouraged by the fact that the scenes started playing themselves out in my mind. Once I made a decision about what to write next, the characters took over and led me through the next few hundred words. This is a good thing, because it means I’ve done enough planning for my unconscious, my muse, if you will, to work out the details on the fly.

I’m not sure how tomorrow will work out. I have to run more errands tomorrow (which is what I was doing a good part of yesterday), and that always throws me off as far as writing goes. I’ll be happy once my life is a bit more settled again. I’m going to try to focus on that rather than the disruptions I’ll need to deal with for the next month.

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August 20, 2021 - Ready to Write!

Friday, August 20, 2021

As I predicted yesterday, today I was able to finish my basic outline for the first book in the Rainbow Ranch Mysteries series. I can’t tell you how good this makes me feel. Even thought I’m a week late on my deadline, in the grand scheme of things, I can still publish this book on time, meaning mid-November. I just have to practice BICHOK method (Butt In Chair Hands On Keyboard).

I was done with plotting by lunchtime, so in the afternoon I moved on to more administrative tasks. I published a box set for the first three Shipwreck Point mysteries. Apparently, readers who read box sets are different than readers who read individual books. A lot of them subscribe to Kindle Unlimited, and the idea of only using up one borrow and getting to read three books in appealing. They also are attractive sale items. Not that I have any intention of putting this book on sale in the near future. That will probably happen next year. (Am I really planning for 2022 already? Yes. Yes, I am.)

Speaking of sales, I’m going to be running one in mid-September, so today I set up the discounted prices for those books (Yes, I said prices and books, not price and book.) on Amazon. No hints yet on that either. If you subscribe to my newsletter, they’ll be announced first there.

All in all, this was a good writing day.

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August 19, 2021 - Back to Plotting

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Although I didn’t post to my blog yesterday, I did get quite a lot done. This was thanks, in large part, to an Idea to Plot video with Chuck Manley on Keystroke Medium. He, Kalene Williams, and Lauren Moore showed how to brainstorm a plot in about an hour.

The secret to doing this is to stick to basic plot points. Don’t try to go too deep. The women kept doing this, or as they said, they kept getting lost in the weeds. When coming up with the main character, they started with a basic idea: a female senior in high school who discovers she’s got magical powers. Right from the get-go, the women started going off the track by discussing things like what color her eyes are and whether she’s on the cheerleading team. (No, I don’t think these were the exact things they drifted off into, but the premise they started with was an awful lot like Buffy, the Vampire Slayer. More on that in a bit.) Chuck would have to reign them in and said that at this point, whether she’s a cheerleader or not isn’t important.

What Chuck was looking for were the broad strokes of the plot until they got to the end. He said you filled in the details on the next pass.

Now, this reminded me an awful lot of my own spending hours searching for pictures of the desert the other day. Or coming up with the fact that one suspect in my murder mystery has six children, two boys and four girls, even though they never make an appearance. Focusing on those little bits was keeping me from deciding what big thing happens next. It would take me weeks to get to the last plot beat.

So, back to Buffy. Right from the start, my initial reaction was that this plot they were coming up with wasn’t very original. I mean, the idea of a chosen one who has powers they’re unaware of, is mentored by the wise man, and trains to defeat the Big Bad Guy has been used thousands of times. It’s not only Buffy, it’s Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. I was tempted to stop watching the video, but desperate to develop my own plot, I stuck with it.

And what happened was that as they got further into the plot, the more they brainstormed, the more it developed into something, if not totally unique, was different enough to make an intriguing story.

For the past two days, I’ve been trying to focus on the bare bones plot points of my mystery rather than the picky details of whether the ranch house faces east or north. It’s enabled me to make more progress in two days than I have in the last month. I’m almost done with that first plot pass now, and if I keep forging ahead, I just might be able to start writing this novel next Monday.

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August 17, 2021 - Writing

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Since I didn’t feel like I got much done yesterday even though I know it’s all part of the process, I decided that I needed to write new words today. And so I opened up the short story that I’m writing as a transition between the African Violet Club Mysteries and the new Rainbow Ranch Mysteries. I left that off in the middle to try to plan the new series, which meant I had to go back and reread what I’d written so far.

It wasn’t bad, although I did find a few typos and missing words that I had to fix. I managed 1626 words today, even though I wasn’t a hundred percent clear as to where some of the scenes were going. For some reason, I’m a lot more confident writing in this world than I am in Shipwreck Point. I suppose it’s because I’ve known Lilliana so long, writing in her voice comes naturally to me. I know her well enough that I can have her do things and be sure of how she would approach a situation or react to something that happens.

I definitely felt more productive writing than searching for photographs on the internet.

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August 16, 2021 - Steady Progress

Monday, August 16, 2021

It’s amazing how much stuff it takes to write a novel that isn’t exactly writing. I’m trying to do a chapter-by-chapter outline of this one right now while champing at the bit to actually write new words. I know who is killed, who killed her, and why. I also know why the other suspects might have done it. But I wasn’t sure how the victim was killed.

That led me to search for pictures. You see, how she was killed depends on where she was killed. I had to get her away from the rest of the group so she’d be vulnerable. I also had to have her die in a way that wouldn’t scream who killed her. And I wanted the setting to be realistic.

The best way to do that is to make a field trip to either the exact location or, if there isn’t a real one because the place in the book is totally fictional, a place somewhat like it. This has been difficult to do over the past few months due to COVID. Two years ago, I did drive out to Empire Ranch for the Day of the Cowboy, so I had that as a reference. But this story takes place on a slightly different kind of ranch. This story takes place on a dude ranch.

Now, a decade or more ago, the company I worked for held a dinner at Tanque Verde Ranch, which is actually in Tucson, which is part of the problem with using that one. It’s too citified for the location I’m imagining.

I do know an actual dude ranch that I’m using as the basis for my fictional one, but I’ve never been there. I hope to rectify that over the winter (like most things in this climate, you have to wait until winter to enjoy it), but I want to finish writing at least the draft of this book before then.

So I Googled all three places, generally winding up on TripAdvisor for an assortment of photos that I saved to a new Pinterest board. (No, you can’t see that right now. I make my book research boards private. Later on, if I take the time to do it, I might do a public version of it.)

That makes it easier to envision this make-believe place, put my characters in it, and see how they behave. So now I know exactly where and how she’s killed. I’ll probably have to draw a map of the ranch and its surroundings while writing the scene. While I have an actual map of my source dude ranch, it’s too complex for a cozy mystery setting. It’s like setting a story in Boston as opposed to Cabot Cove. I have to lay out Cabot Cove.

I didn’t get a whole lot done on the outline itself. But my castle in the air is closer to being done, which means I’ll be able to move into it (mentally) in a few days.

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August 13, 2021 - Focus

Friday, August 13, 2021

A good day today. I was able to focus on planning the first book in my new Rainbow Ranch Mysteries. I now have at least a minimal character profile for my killer, my victim, and the four additional suspects. I’ve also got the “master plot” or theme for both my sleuth and the killer. I’ve figured out that for mysteries, you can’t just focus on the protagonist, because the antagonist, aka killer, is just as much of a driving force for the story as the protagonist is. Maybe more.

Tomorrow, I’m hoping to start filling in the details of the plot points for this novel. That will probably mean exploring secondary characters and figuring out what complications will get in the way of my sleuth solving the mystery.

I’m not sure I’ll make my goal of starting the first draft on Monday, but I’m hoping for the end of next week. Then I go into all-out NaNoWriMo mode.

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August 12, 2021 - A Brief Update

Thursday, August 12, 2021

 Just a short note tonight to keep from skipping too many days.

My focus today was working on character sheets for the killer, victim, and suspects in the first novel. It’s days like today when I wish I had chosen to write romance where you only have to be very detailed about two people. As I think about motives for the various suspects, things always get complicated. There has to be a whole history between each of them and the victim for it to make sense that they’d want to kill him or her.

I also keep thinking about the cast of continuing characters who are, after all, the reason readers keep coming back to a series. It’s not usually because the mystery is so clever. No, in the African Violet Club mysteries, I’m sure everyone—including me—kept reading because they wanted to know if Lilliana would find her Prince Charming and her purpose in life. And what sweater Nancy would knit next. And how all the other characters were doing with their health issues and families and social activities. I developed those over a period of years. Now I’m faced with pretty much a blank slate, and all of those side characters are merely the deputy sheriff, the ranch foreman, the old timer, and things like that.

Eventually I’ll figure it all out, but not today.

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August 11, 2021 - Rain

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

No, the title doesn’t have much to do with writing, although it is the excuse I have for not being more productive today than I was. Our very rainy monsoon continues. Last night, a thunderstorm parked itself over Tucson and deluged us with an incredible amount of water. Now, the window in my office has been known to leak during a heavy rain, but last night water was pouring in. I used up five bath towels over time, trying to keep the water from soaking everything.


I then had to bring those towels to the laundry room this morning and wash, and more importantly, dry them so I’ll be prepared for the next storm, which may come as soon as tomorrow night. I spoke with the office today, and I was the second, although not the last, I’m sure to complain about a leaking window. She had more calls from residents on the first floor, who must have had water flowing under their doors.


Not only are washes, our usually dry stream beds, filled to overflowing, the fire department was doing swift water rescues on Broadway last night. There was just that much water.


Anyway, I continue to make slow but steady progress on my writing. I did a lot more work on fleshing out my characters for the first novel in the new series yesterday, and wrote almost 800 words on the short story today.


I also spent a lot more time on coming up with a concept and a design for the covers for this series. After much frustration yesterday, today I made great progress on a different idea. I hope to have something worth showing in another week, at least to the writers in my mystery sprint group, to see if they think I’m on the right track.


I’m hoping for a lot more writing progress tomorrow. If it doesn’t rain too hard.

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August 9, 2021 - Plotting the Novel

Monday, August 09, 2021

The title is kind of misleading. That’s what I was trying to do, but I made very little progress.


I know the setup of this book—a group of old college roommates gets together for a reunion—and there’s a murder, which my senior sleuth solves. Sounds great, right? As far as it goes, that is. But there are lots of details missing, and today was the day to start working on those.


It took me a while to settle on whether to start with the characters or the plot. I thought it should be the plot, so I opened up my notebook to the page where I’d started making notes. I only had two plot variations, and I decided I didn’t like one of them, which left me with one. I needed more ideas than that.


So I began to look through some of my references on plotting a mystery to see if that would help. I almost bought another book on Amazon, but fortunately was able to convince myself to try with one more reference I already have before doing that. (Yes, buying more craft or marketing books is always a great way to procrastinate on actually doing anything.)


Well, that worked only briefly, because many of the situations required specific occupations or relationships between the characters. So I was back to character to see what I could come up with. There are six women in this group, which is larger than I usually begin with, but I want to make sure I have enough suspects without going outside the group and be forced to use some of the continuing characters in the series.


I find it awkward to refer to characters as Suspect 1 or Suspect A, so I needed names. This led me to the Social Security website to look up names that were popular in 1960. Since I want them to be close to retirement, I had to start with subtracting 60 from 2021 to come up with a birth year. Then, in Googling some other information, I happened upon a wonderful site which has a summary of news events, movies released, etc., and pictures of fashions for each year from the 1800s to the current day (https://www.thepeoplehistory.com/). Yes, I did get lost there for a while.


I decided on six names, then thought I needed to know what their occupations were going to be at the time of the story. Yes, more searching the Internet for likely occupations for a woman with a college degree today. I particularly wanted two that were somewhat related to use as a point of contact that might be a reason two of them had kept in touch over the years more than the others. Finding those suggested a scenario that could lead to a problem. Good stuff!


So back to plotting. That put me back to where I started. I was either going to have to dig deeper into one of the plotting references or do more internet searches for stuff. That was not going to be a short task. :::sigh:::


Fortunately, I checked my email, which reminded me of something I needed to do by tomorrow for Sisters in Crime. Which I did. And now it’s just about time for the Red Sox game (why am I still watching them?), so I thought I’d better write this up and post it.

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August 7, 2021 - I Just Keep On Truckin'

Saturday, August 07, 2021

 I spent lots more time on searching for covers images today. I had given up on that and told myself I’d think about it after I plan the novel this coming week. But while I was in the shower (Don’t everyone’s best ideas come to them in the shower?), I suddenly came up with a concept that would simplify making covers for this new series. I’d already downloaded some graphics that I could use for the background. It was “just” a matter of finding the objects to put on top of that.


Yeah, I always think that.


Anyway, I’m close to having images I can work with, and if not, I remembered that I actually know a graphic artist. He does the artwork for a friend of mine’s picture books, and I used to be in a critique group with them. So, if I really need something different than what I can find on stock photo sites, I’ll speak with Elaine and ask her if I should approach him.


Fortunately, there were several natural breaks in my day, and I was able to tear myself away from looking at pictures long enough to write 1,000 more words on the short story. This one is flowing pretty well. It’s amazing what an outline will do. I should be able to finish it up in two or three more days.


And then there was the “emergency” for the Tucson chapter of Sisters in Crime. I’m the newsletter editor, so whenever the board realizes they need something from the members right away or there’s an announcement that needs to go out, I get a flurry of emails in my inbox as they debate exactly what it is they want me to do with that. I have to sort through them and make an engaging email to the members out of all that. As you can guess, one of those things happened between yesterday and today.


So I’ve just finished sending out a newsletter and thought I’d better write and post this blog before turning off my computer for the night. Remember, I don’t work on Sundays, so you’ll next see something from me on Monday evening.

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August 6, 2021 - New Words!

Friday, August 06, 2021

I spent a good part of yesterday setting up the scenes to “Return to Rainbow Ranch” in Scrivener. I wrote a brief synopsis, with the hope I was addressing all the plot points in advance.


It must have worked, because today was a good writing day! I wrote almost 1500 new words on the short story, and as I’d hoped, the words flowed easily because I didn’t have to keep stopping to figure out what happens next.


This is the method I’m really hoping to use with the novels in this series. It was how I wrote the first three books in the African Violet Club Mysteries and was able to “rapid release” them.


I also set up the schedule for writing the first book in the Rainbow Ranch Mysteries. As part of the 3-Day Planning a Series Challenge that just finished, the instructor asked us for the date we would start writing the first draft of the first novel, the date we would finish the first draft, and the date we would publish that book. That leaves a whole bunch of missing steps between finishing the first draft and publication. Rather than get to the end of the writing and needing to figure it out, I did the math today. It’s somehow calming to know what I’ll be doing for the next three months. Having a plan makes it all seem doable.


Now all I have to do is not add a whole bunch of other things in between the book steps. Too often, I do that. My life seems so organized, I think I’ve got plenty of time to join a class or a group read or something, forgetting how much time that takes away from the primary task at hand.


I have one other problem I need to sort out rather quickly: how am I going to name these books?


The African Violet Club books were named after colors out of necessity. I wanted to do the covers myself (at least at first), and the only way I saw that as possible was to create a template cover and change one thing about it for each book. The easiest thing to change was the color. I also searched for what words were used most often in the titles of successful mysteries. Murder seemed to be the top choice. So I had a color and the word Murder. Once that was decided, I just needed an appropriate adjective to describe the color, and hopefully the plot, for each book.


The Shipwreck Point Mysteries were even easier. As they are partly an homage to Perry Mason, it made sense to title them in the same way Erle Stanley Gardner did. Which was always “The Case of” followed by (usually) an adjective and a noun beginning with the same letter. This isn’t hard at all. There are even lists online for nouns beginning with… and adjectives beginning with… . If you’re really stuck, you can go through those and pick two that go together.


But nothing like either of those methods presents itself to my brain regarding the Rainbow Ranch books. I’m just hoping lightning will strike before I finish the first draft of the first book,

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August 4, 2021 - This is going to be a Great Series!

Wednesday, August 04, 2021

Sorry that I’ve been absent for a few days. Sunday is always a scheduled day off. Then, starting Monday, I was taking part in a 3-Day Plan Your Series Challenge. I’ve been wanting to start planning my new Rainbow Ranch Mysteries series for a few weeks now, but I felt obligated to finish the outline for The Case of the Pirate’s Puzzle first. Only that wasn’t going as smoothly as I’d hoped.


The series challenge came along just at the right time for me. It allowed me to stop fighting with Pirate’s Puzzle and start thinking about the books in the new series. Well, the challenge didn’t exactly do it. But having it available meant I was able to give myself permission to back away from the Shipwreck Point world and explore the new one.


Through a series of exercises, the three days got me to the point where I not only have a good concept of how the series will develop, but am excited about writing it. To show you how excited, while the challenge aimed to have concepts for four books in the series, I came up with ten! Okay, I don’t have a lot of details on most of the books. In fact, the only books that have more than one line attached to them are the first and second. But that’s a great start!


I’ve also got a better idea of how to flesh out these stories than I did before the challenge. It’s a method I’ve been working toward, with figuring out how Plotto and Plottr work, reading another book on how to write a mystery, and thinking about the suggestions in book called Write Frame of Mind. That last has suggestions on how to deal with the blocks you as a writer face based on your personality type. That’s a little like the enneagram book I’ve also been reading. Mindset is a big part of being successful, and I’m trying to work on mine.


I’m looking forward to tomorrow when I plan on finalizing an outline for the short story and beginning to list out plot details for the first book in the new series. With any luck, I’ll make good progress. Tune in tomorrow to find out how I did.


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July 31, 2021 - A Plan

Saturday, July 31, 2021

Yesterday I got lost in Design-A-Cover Land. Well, not exactly designing one, but getting ready to design one. That meant a lot of time scrolling through images in Deposit Photos, looking for appropriate backgrounds and pictures that could be my main characters. It’s very easy to spend hours doing that, which I did. But having a cover as a reference is inspiring, which is how I justified not spending any time at all on planning the Rainbow Ranch Mysteries.


Today was the opposite. Or maybe I just got far enough in my imaging to continue working on the stories.


Number one was creating a list of motives for my murders. This was inspired by a list in Mastering Your Mystery by Cheryl Bradshaw. It didn’t seem like a great list, but it was a start. I fleshed it out by Googling “motives” and reading several other lists. I put all this into yet-another-spreadsheet, and put it in my Book of Lists.


Similarly to what happened with listing tropes on Thursday, this inspired a number of ideas for other stories. Or hooking up the existing scenarios to a motive, which sometimes led to a villain. Kind of. At this stage, everything is very fluid.


I also started thinking about the short story that will act as a bridge between the African Violet Club Mysteries and the Rainbow Ranch Mysteries. I’d written four scenes in that a few months ago, but there’s a lot more that has to happen before I can finish it. But while I was watching the Red Sox game (ugh!), I kept picking up my iPad and Googling more things as I thought of them. When the Rays scored a bunch of runs in the bottom of the eighth inning, I turned off the game and went back to my office.


I have just spent another half hour putting the short story and its scenes into Plottr so I wouldn’t forget the ideas I came up with. I’m hoping to find the notes I was writing the story from originally (I hope I had a clear idea of the murder, because there’s not a whole lot about that in Scrivener from when I left off!) tomorrow, so in between the Plan Your Series Challenge activities, I can add some words toward getting the story done.

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July 29, 2021 - Tropes

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Today was fun. One of the prep exercises for the Plan a Series Challenge is listed as “Brain Dump/Mind Map of Ideas.” This has three items:

  • Story ideas
  • Character types
  • Tropes


The first is the most difficult for me, since I think of a “story” as the entire novel, with all the twists and turns a reader expects in a mystery. So I didn’t quite feel up to doing that assignment.


But character types? That’s a whole other ball of wax, especially because in going through my various resources on plotting a mystery, I ran across a list of stereotypical villains. The ones that most appealed to me were the prodigal son/black sheep, the fake friend, red is for revenge (I’m not sure why red.), the femme fatale, the equal, and the bully. 


Most of all, I liked the fake friend, probably because I’ve been watching Scott & Bailey on BritBox, which is about two female investigators on the Major Incident Team. Because the focus is on the women, this police procedural has a lot more emotional content than is usual, and a recent situation proves that one character is a fake friend. So I’d seen this trope in action very recently, and liked the ramifications of it.


The villain often defines a mystery story, and reading about these types started my brain percolating situations that could use them. But I wasn’t quite ready to deal with story ideas yet.


So I moved on to tropes. If you ever want to waste—errrr—spend a few hours browsing online, go to tvtropes.org and start reading. I’ve done this before for mystery tropes, but I wanted to take a look at western tropes and discovered there’s also a crime category separate from mystery. I copied two and a half pages of different tropes into my notebook.


I also came up with scenarios for five books. Five? I thought this challenge was to plan four books in your series? Well, yeah, but I couldn’t help myself. While doing all this immersion in characters and tropes, I was also thinking about situations that would lead to a group of suspects to be in one location for a period of time with few or no outside characters and possibilities that could lead to one character killing another. I initially stopped at the required four, but had one more idea that I didn’t want to forget. So I added another book to this new series in Plottr.


I can’t wait to find out what I dream up tomorrow!

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July 28, 2021 - Switching Series

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

I listen to and watch a lot of podcasts, because I’m always trying to learn something about being a better author. One I subscribed to on YouTube is Author Revolution with Carissa Andrews. But I hadn’t watched many (any?) of them until a few days ago. Serendipitously, the second or third one I watched mentioned she was starting a three-day Plan Your Series Challenge. Hmmm…


I have to interject that I’d also attended a couple of webinars this week, one with David Farland, the author of Million Dollar Outlines, which I’ve been trying to get through while planning The Case of the Pirate’s Puzzle. Everyone has great things to say about him as a teacher, and of course, the webinar was to pitch one of his classes. But it is really expensive and he’s a science fiction and fantasy author. The other webinar was with Jerry Jenkins pitching his class on how to write a bestselling novel. I think that was more expensive than David Farland’s course. And he’s most famous for the Left Behind series, a combination of Christian Fiction and apocalyptic fiction.


I keep thinking that I’ve got more to learn about writing a novel. But I’m no longer a beginner, which is where most of the courses are targeted, and I’ve never run into one of these big courses given by a mystery writer. I’ve been trying to hold off on taking another course, promising myself I’ll pay for a developmental editor for the first book in the Rainbow Ranch Mysteries who will at least be a specialist in plotting a mystery and, hopefully, can give me personalized advice about how to write better fiction.


So my ears perked up when I heard Carissa Andrews mention this Plan Your Series Challenge and—gasp!—I found out she writes a mystery series. Supposedly, in three days, she’ll show you how to plan a series, including outlines for four books in it that you should then be able to write quickly and rapid release. And it’s free! Okay, it’s probably a teaser for her paid course, but the timing seemed opportune, since it starts on Monday, which was when I was supposed to start outlining the first book in the Rainbow Ranch Mysteries. I signed up for the challenge, which means a newsletter and a FB group.


I didn’t expect to have the first newsletter arrive yesterday with a pre-planning assignment. Guess what I worked on today?


It was actually fun, answering some of the questions about this new series, going over what ideas and brainstorming I’ve gathered over time, and thinking about what this series should look like.


But it leaves me in a dilemma about what to do with The Case of the Pirate’s Puzzle. My best guess—as of today—is that I’m going to focus on the new series for the next couple of days, and then spend the weekend putting all my notebook scribbles about Pirate’s Puzzle into Plottr and Scrivener, and pick that up after I’ve got the first book in the new series drafted.


But that may change.

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July 27, 2021 - Slow Progress

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

 I started today by opening Plottr to continue planning the scenes in The Case of the Pirate’s Puzzle, but quickly found that in order to do this correctly, I had to create more characters, locations, and now attributes to have it make sense. Attributes are pretty much anything you want to define them as. At the moment, I have one for the day of the week, date, and time for each scene. I haven’t decided whether to make point of view an attribute, a category, or a tag. These functions are more limited in Plottr than in Scrivener, where I’ve got most of this information—except for characters first introduced in this novel. So I had to set those up.


Then I decided I needed more suspects than I have, which at this point are Titus Strong’s client and one of Ranson Payne’s henchmen along with the actual killer. This requires backtracking to the victim and reasons someone would want to kill him.


That’s when I discovered I didn’t know a whole lot about him yet. I was going to sit at the dining room table and try to flesh him out, but I never did get to that.


I had watched a video while eating breakfast this morning about being a healthy writer. (There was more than that, but the healthy part was what I focused on.) One of the things that Roland Denzel said was it’s very unhealthy to sit for hours on end. (I think I knew that.) He elaborated that even getting up and walking around for five minutes every half hour would do such magical things as lower cholesterol. Now, I already use the Pomodoro method, or what are sometimes called writing sprints, which consists of setting a timer for (in my case) 30 minutes with a 10 minute break. But I usually don’t get up during those 10 minutes. Instead I check my sales, my email, and what’s happening on Facebook.


So today before I started writing, I made a checklist of tasks that I could do on my 10 minute break. I thought I’d broken it down into small enough bites to accomplish in that time, but the first two took significantly longer than 10 minutes. So, by the time I had those character sheets printed out, it was nearly time for lunch, as my cats so conveniently reminded me.


Later, I went back to reading Million Dollar Outlines by David Farland. The part I read today suggested that the best way to learn how to write well was to read the successful books in your genre. The way he said it was the bestselling books of all time in your genre, which is usually very different from what’s on the bestseller list today. So I went down the rabbit hole of finding a couple of those lists, copying them, and checking availability at the library and on Amazon.


I’m supposed to have this outline done by the end of the week, so I’d better be inspired tomorrow with new characters, scenes, and plot twists. Otherwise :::sigh:::, I’ll be behind again.

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July 26, 2021 - Assorted Tasks

Monday, July 26, 2021

After taking the weekend off, I took a closer look at my To-Do List. I have a program called Things for Mac where I keep it, because that program allows me to set start dates and deadlines on each task. It also allows you to organized tasks by project and assign a deadline to the entire project.


So, one project I have is for things having to do with my mailing list and website. That was one where I’d let several items slide. One of the tasks I set up is backing up my subscriber list, my website theme, and my website content, e.g., blog posts monthly. Since that doesn’t take very long, I decided to do that first.


Then was another task I’ve been putting off: cleaning up my mailing list. Most newsletter services charge by the number of subscribers you have. The thing is, it’s too easy to accumulate subscribers who never actually read your emails, which means they’re unlikely to be buying any of your books. I’m also thinking about running another newsletter list building promotion, which will add subscribers. Now, the last one I ran bumped me up to a new pricing tier, but over time, enough subscribers have unsubscribed to put me down a level. But, if I ran a new list building promo, chances are I’d go right back into that higher price level. So it behooved me to purge people who never open my newsletter. To make a long story short, it took me longer to set that up than I thought it would.


I also went to yet another webinar on how to write a novel. Of course, it was really a pitch for a course, but I’m a course junkie. If I could afford it, I’d sign up for every writing related class that exists. Fortunately, this one costs almost $2,000, so it was relatively easy to not sign up for it. But I did spend ninety minutes listening to a little content and quite a lot of teasers and pitching.


Finally, yes, finally, I opened up Plottr and started plotting the next book in my Shipwreck Point Mysteries series. That’s PlottR, not PlottO. Plotto is the idea generator system I’ve been working on. Plottr is software to lay out your timelines, chapters, and scenes. It’s a visual, drag-and-drop system, so it’s a good way to plan a novel. It also exports an outline in Scrivener format, which could use improvement, but at least it’s a starting point. I didn’t work on it very long, but at least I did something toward making that novel a reality.

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July 23, 2021 - More Plotto

Friday, July 23, 2021

 I don’t feel like today was very productive. I had an appointment at 10:30 this morning, which interrupted my concentration midway through my best writing time. It took a lot of willpower to continue where I left off when I got back home.


This turned out to be especially true because I’ve gotten to the fourth Plotto lesson, which is largely learning to understand the cryptic coding as well as the method of developing plots. The unique shorthand used to describe conflicts, characters, and their relationships makes sense as you’re reading the explanations, but working with it isn’t intuitive. At least not to me.


So I eventually abandoned the Plotto lessons for today and opened up Photoshop Elements to start designing a book cover for the first box set of the first three books in the Shipwreck Point series.


This box set has been on my todo list for a couple of months. When that happens, I tend to scan past that particular item and move on to something else. But a writer from one of my Facebook groups wrote a long post recently outlining his path to success. (That’s the simplified explanation. He’s actually written a series of posts over the past three years.) One of the things he talked about was how boxed sets of his series now make up the largest portion of his income. Readers tend to like to have the entire series, and Kindle Unlimited subscribers in particular like the idea of one borrow encompassing multiple books. And BookBub, the most profitable advertising platform for authors, tends to like discounted box sets.


I didn’t finish the book cover, but I’ve got the largest part of it done. I should be able to finish it over the weekend, compile the three books into one Kindle file, and publish it early next week.

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