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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A Little Lift

Sometimes it's funny how just when you're feeling down or discouraged, out of the blue comes something that picks you up.

I was in that very position a week or so ago, and then I received an e-mail from the contest administrator for Writers of the Future. The message mentioned my semi-finalist standing in the first quarter and then indicated they had not seen any further submissions from me and asked if I was still writing. Then the kicker, and I quote, "You are too talented to give up! I hope that is not the case."

Of course I haven't given up, and I responded as such. My most recent contest entry just came from a different e-mail address is all.

Work is progressing on the sequel to "Dreamer," but I'm reaching a point where I have to go back and make a chart of what happened when and who knew what when. Since my writing opportunities come in fits and starts, it's easy to lose track. When I find myself scanning through more than a hundred pages of text, looking for past references of a name or event, it's time to make a chart.

Someone asked me recently if I storyboard my novels. The answer? Not really. While working on one novel, I actually did sketches of a scene to figure out how the room should be laid out and where all the people would have to be positioned for the denoument to work out. Usually, I kind of work it out as I go, developing, going back and revising when I think of something that makes me say to myself, "Ooooh, that's good!" That method sometimes gets me into trouble, though, because the revising opens up all sorts of opportunities for inconsistencies to be introduced. I guess that's what proofreading is for.

I don't know that I would have the patience to outline an entire novel before starting on page one. What would happen to all the great ideas for bits of conversation or the perfect words to describe something? I think I also secretly fear that if I put the whole story down in an outline, I'll feel the story  has been told and lose interest in it. The general story is in my head, the urge to put it into print is irresistable, the doing of it a satisfying labor of love.  

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Joy of Really Creating

Other than short stories, I've been trying to remember the last time I started a brand new novel. It must have been the medical thriller (as yet to be finished) back in 2010.

The set-up for for the sequel to "The Dreamer Gambit" began taking shape some time ago, and I kept some notes as well as made a stab at the beginning. Now the ideas come barrelling in almost faster than I can get them down. I'm currently at 109 pages and loving the creative process.

Of course, the main characters of Jack and Tabitha are back, but this time Jack is more central to the story. He should be, considering his client this time is his ex-wife. Tabitha is deeply concerned about his working for her and she also manages to get involved in his investigation of Victoria's mysterious new boyfriend. I'm trying to make it readable by those who did not read the first book while not rehashing too much history for those who have.

I keep hoping to get more feedback from people on "The Dreamer Gambit." It would be nice to know how more people view the novel, how they like the characters, were they able to figure it out before the penultimate chapter.

Once again, I close with "time will tell."

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Two Faces, Two Faced - Coming Soon

As alluded to in an earlier post, my next novel soon to be published is a mystery/thriller set in and around Miami, Florida. Here is a blurb I wrote for it:
            Tracy Wiley lives by two simple rules: take things as they come and levity lightens the load. She’s content in her job as concierge in a Miami convention center solving other people’s problems. She keeps her relationships minimal, including only her beloved father and steady guy Alex Laughlin. All is well until Alex tries to talk about their future and becomes angry when she responds with sarcastic quips. Both petrified by the idea of commitment and devastated by the split, she takes off on a cruise and runs straight into trouble when enigmatic Robert befriends her.
            Their brief friendship draws the attention of a government taskforce that recruits Tracy to help catch Robert’s boss, Elena Griegos, head of a smuggling empire and a near perfect twin for Tracy. Masquerading as Elena to help trap her cohorts, Tracy plunges into a dangerous world where everyone has two faces, including the sexy C.I.A. agent assigned to protect her, a duplicitous Interpol agent, and a legendary assassin. Even Elena is not what she seems. To regain control of her life, Tracy must swallow her pride and ask Alex for help, only to discover that he too has a few surprises in store.

I've been to Miami a number of times and have also been on a cruise and visited Jamaica, although many years ago. Coupled with some research (gotta love map software and satellite images!), some of the places are real but many of the businesses exist only in my imagination.

One big inspiration for this novel was John D. MacDonald's "The Girl, The Gold Watch, and Everything." It's a favorite of mine for incorporating a puzzle to solve along with some humor. While I don't purport to match Mr. MacDonald's sharp wit, hopefully people will find Tracy's wry sarcasms humorous.

Time will tell.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Corruption Problem - Solved!

In an earlier post, I commented on having problems with corrupted files, which I concluded were due to (a) a trojan which infected my computer last winter and possibly infected my Word 2007 templates, or (b) my own fault due to editing a document on a flash drive (which is bad because the drive gets all screwed up as the file continues to expand).

Well, it happened again today. The row of little black boxes showed up as I typed into the "Dreamer" sequel manuscript. I'm now into chapter 4 and I sure did not want to go back and create another new document. So I did some web searching. First I found a number of places that will let you buy software to correct the problem. THESE MAY BE A SCAM BASED ON WHAT I FOUND OUT NEXT!

What actually was happening is something that is built into Microsoft Word. When you type three or more hyphens, underscores, hash signs, asterisks, and then press Enter, unless you change a default setting, Word applies an automatic border to the paragraph before it. My publisher, and I assume others, requests using three asterisks centered in a line to indicate a scene break because many of the programs used to publish ebooks will drop the break if it is only white space. By resetting the Autoformat as you Type defaults, you can prevent this from happening entirely; there is a setting for creating bottom borders. To get rid of the boxes, just select the paragraph above and below where the boxes appear and then select "no borders." Voila! Boxes gone! And it didn't cost a thing.

Similar conditions apply to earlier versions of Word. Here is the website where I found this so you can find the details:

I wanted to spread the word to all other writers using Word to not jump in and buy some "solution" which will most likely simply copy your file to a format which does not retain formatting and then have you copy it back and manually reset your lost formats. By all means, try this solution first!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Writing Updates

"The Dreamer Gambit" is off to the presses! While Barnes and Noble is already taking advanced orders on the paperback edition, the expected release is early 2012.

Up to Chapter 4 in the sequel now. As much as I thought I had the story pretty well outlined, I'd almost forgotten how challenging it can be to actually get it down on paper while making sure: the pacing works, the scenes are balanced, the clues are disseminated equitably but without giving away too much, the characters are fully developed, the interactions are believable, the time line is neither too compressed nor too extended. Whew! Granted, once the first draft is complete (or sometimes even before), I can always go back and adjust things back in Chapter 2 when I need to support a great idea in Chapter 10. Whatever did writers do before the age of computers and word processors?

My next ebook is going to be "Two Faces Two Faced" as previously noted. No estimate yet on when it will be available, but most likely in late 2011. December, maybe? I'm trying to put together some cover art, but while I have great visions in my head, executing them is also a challenge. I bought some graphics software which I need to learn how to use to combine the different elements. Good thing Write Words handles the lettering. I don't know if I'd ever be able to get that right.

Really looking forward to the Love is Murder conference in 2012. The last time I went, I was still unpublished and agent-less. I'm still without an agent, but now I am an Author. (It's my blog so I'm going with a capital "A".) This time, I'll be out there promoting my work in any way I can. Maybe even autographing paperbacks of "Dreamer."