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


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.


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?


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!


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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Elise's bookshelf: currently-reading

A Clash of Kings
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tagged: currently-reading