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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Quite A Day

Imagine my surprise when I checked the statistics on my blog this morning to see 38 hits. The highest one-day total to date. By noon, it hit 41. I don't know what's driving it, but I hope it continues!

I also checked the Fictionwise site for bestsellers under the publisher listing. "The Changeling Kill" came in at #6! And it hasn't even been out a month yet! While I realize that list represents only sales through Fictionwise for books from Write Words, it's still very gratifying to be on any top ten list at all.

First pass on Chapter 1 of "Dabblers" complete. I believe I've fixed some of the problems mentioned in yesterday's post, although it proved to be a tougher exercise than I thought it would be. Interweaving back story and descriptions of scenes in the first-person POV can be tricky. I once received some advice that first-person should be akin to someone telling a story to a best friend, but since a best friend would know more in advance than almost any reader, some exposition is required. For example, the layout of my fictional town and especially the house where much of the action takes place should be set in the reader's mind well before that action begins. I don't want to have to lay out the geography right before it becomes necessary lest I bog down the pace and ruin the suspense. Tricky, but certainly not impossible.

Now, on to Chapter 2.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Beginning "Dabblers"

My next work is on "Dabblers," a manuscript that goes way back. I can't remember exactly when I started writing it. Maybe around 2007 or 2008? I know that it was in a finished state in February 2009, because I was debating whether to pitch it or "The Dreamer Gambit" at Pitch-a-Palooza at the Love Is Murder conference that year. I went with "Dreamer" at the time. Later, I sent queries to agents and small publishers for "Dabblers" and received some good, if basic, feedback.

Digging into the ms. anew, I realized something that is missing right off the bat. I've seen it called a "problem statement" or an "objective" in various places. It's a statement of what the POV character wants or must overcome, an idea of the conflict at the heart of the story. I've noticed that my novels tend to have two lines going at the same time--one a mystery/puzzle to solve and the other an emotional/relationship issue. One of the two has to be out there, in the reader's face, within the first couple of pages.

I remember when I was originally writing "Dabblers" thinking that I would reveal things about my character as the mystery built up, a sort of "slow reveal" strategy. The comments I received from one publisher was that the characters seemed sort of pale, uninteresting. So maybe "slow reveal" doesn't actually work. Just because I know my character and the interesting story that lies ahead, no one else knows it, and if I don't get them interested within the first couple of pages, they aren't going to care enough to get to the essence of my character or the mystery she faces.

The first step of polishing "Dabblers" then became getting the story rolling. I changed a couple of passages so that my POV character, Stefanie, sets up some hooks to lure the reader in. First, there is conflict between Stefanie and her husband, Paul, over some traumatic event that recently occurred. As the two characters converse in the opening, they are both avoiding talking about it although both are concerned that Stefanie is not ready to face dealing with her uncle's death because of that earlier event which grows more and more mysterious-sounding. The other part of the story, i.e., the current mystery of what really happened to Stefanie's uncle, also begins to unfold in Chapter 1 with suggestions that his supposedly accidental death was not an accident at all and that occult forces were involved.

The other thing I noticed is that the story bogs down as Stefanie describes the setting, the small town of Windsong Lake which she knows well. I'm thinking some of the description can be moved to other passages when she starts going into the town. There are other passages early on which provide some back story. The way it is currently written, it jerks the reader out of the scene, almost like the old asides in Shakespearean plays where an actor speaks to the audience. Avoiding this can be tricky when writing in the first person, but now that I've recognized it, I don't think I can let it slide. There is a possibility that trying to weave in the facts in other ways might bog things down even worse, but that's a judgment call I'll make when I get there.

Monday, May 28, 2012

I've Gone And Done It

Just sent "Game Faces" to Shelley at Write Words. It may be my fastest-completed novel yet, considering how I didn't even think Tracy had another story when "Two Faces, Two Faced" was published back in December. Special thanks go to Terry Dailey who read "Two Faces" and asked when the sequel would come out. She gets credit for making me think about a sequel and getting the ball rolling.

Now it's time to start my next project. I am going to revamp an earlier manuscript titled "Dabblers" which I completed in 2008. I have learned a great deal since I wrote it, and I want to apply that knowledge to make it better. It's a sort of cozy mystery because it takes place in a small community and investigates a murder that happens "off stage." But the amateur sleuth also finds herself in peril as she investigates, and the situation forces her to accept some things about herself that she has previously denied. The story also involves pagan religions and a touch of reincarnation and destiny.

Can hardly wait to get started. I'll be chronicling the project in future posts.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Is It Soup Yet?

I think I'm done with "Game Faces." I even have a  blurb and a cover! Yet I keep going back and reading passages and making minor tweaks. I don't know that I can actually stop doing it until I send it off to the publisher. My problem is, how I feel about any particular passage can vary by day and my mood. I might like a sentence one day, change it the next day, and then decide it should go back the way it was (although actual total reversions like that are really rare.)

One new preparation step I'm going to add before sending my latest "child" into the world is to make the Rich Text Format copy and actually review it for formatting. Most of the corrections I come across in the galleys is lost formatting--missing italics, paragraph indents, section breaks, centering. I haven't gone back to the other novels to look at the RTF copy to see if the formatting is getting lost there or later via the program my editor uses to prepare it. I really would like to give her the cleanest file I can, as it makes things much easier for both of us.

Next up, I think I've decided to polish an older manuscript for what I hope is Book #5. While I have ideas for sequels to both "Changeling" and "Game Faces," they are not fully developed enough to start work on them. The older manuscript I'm focusing on is a mystery that touches on psychic phenomena, pagan religions, and a tiny nod to reincarnation. I know where its problem spots are. It needs more conflict. I guess perhaps it's my style to have my main character(s) face both a mystery as well as relationship/self-awareness issues. Two conflicts at the same time in a way. The personal side makes a story more interesting, at least to  me, and hopefully to readers as well.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


I never know when to leave well enough alone. I keep finding things to tweak in "Game Faces" although I know I have to call it finished at some point. This morning, I thought Tracy needed to consider a big decision she makes in the underlying relationship story. While what I changed makes the story better (I think), now I start to worry about discontinuities being introduced by the change. Did I also have her think about the same thing later? Is what I replaced mentioned later? Problem is, I've now read the whole book--straight through and in bits and pieces--so many times, I no longer actual "read" it. My brain fills in what I know should be there instead of seeing what is there.

Got a good foundation for the cover art. I have three different backgrounds I'm playing with. Similar to "Two Faces, Two Faced," I want to add the outline of faces to the cover which, although they are merely lines, are the hardest part of the whole thing. First, finding pictures of faces to use for the outlines, in this case, one male and one female, and with the appropriate expressions. I'm not even sure it's possible to show expressions with just a line drawing of a face. I also considered using full silhouettes of the faces, but that doesn't help all that much. Finding just the right artwork is a tedious job.

My goal is to have the whole package--cover, book, blurb--ready at the same time to go to Write Words.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Letting Go

I am now very close to that wrenching moment when I must decided that "Game Faces" is done and send it off, a feeling perhaps like a parent sending a child off to school for the first time. This entity which I have created must now stand on its own. While some people might scoff at the idea of comparing writing a book to raising a child, I would say to them that there is a lot of emotional investment in writing, or at least in mine. Having a book published is tantamount to baring a piece of my soul to the world and waiting for its judgment. Hours and hours of time and thought have gone into building this fictional world and these imaginary people, and yet they are somewhat real because they are parts of me, developed in my head based on my history and who I am and what I believe.

Yet the time is coming when I have to dust off my hands and say "I'm done with this one." I must admit, however, that it is easier because Tracy will be be back. She'll have another adventure (at least one) and I can continue developing her world.

My other dilemma is whether or not to resurrect one of my earlier works prior to working on another "Faces" book, or even another Jack Watson book. I've always wondered about authors who write a series. How difficult is it to get acceptance when they want to break into something new? I can imagine a reader grabbing the eagerly-awaited newest release from a favorite author and finding to his/her dismay that the familiar character(s) are not part of it. With that in mind, I may just have to try one of those other novels at this juncture.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Catching Up

I'm in one of those scattered phases again. Polishing of "Game Faces" is almost complete. I'm at the point where I have an idea to change something, and as I set about making the change, I realize what's already there is better. (That's how I know I'm done.)

Agonizing over cover art for the book now too. I wish had had more facility with computer-based art. As I scour the 'net for images that can be cobbled together for the cover I see in my head, there is an underlying concern for catching another virus from one of the associated sites. It's happened before.

One detail for the cover is a dead body, a young woman with blond hair, the first murder victim in the novel. Try web searching for that! Young woman's body provided some alarming results. Crime scene photos? Oh, what an experience that was. There are things which cannot be unseen. Too many words added to search terms only brings back too much that doesn't really relate. Unless I get really lucky on this, I'm anticipating tweaking the cover design to exclude the body.

Ideas for the next installment of the Tracy Wiley series keep coming, although the central plot is still underdeveloped. While I also have some ideas for another Jack Watson mystery, that one requires a new POV character whom I have yet to turn into a three-dimensional person.

Also preparing for the Glen Ellyn BookFest. I have a hand-out sheet made up with my books on it. Now I need signs to display at the fest. I'll also be considering other promotional ideas along the way. Bookmarks maybe?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

More Updates

Editing on "Game Faces" has progressed to running the word-count program to seek out repetition and extraneous words. After that, one more spell check, one more pass to look at formatting codes, and then--Done!

Ah, the cover. This may be an opportunity for me to dig deep into Photo Shop. How to combine parts of images from several sources? I'm not sure at this point, that it can even be done, but I'll give it a go.

There's still a lot of preparation to do for BookFest in June. I need to make signs for the sales tent, run off my fliers, and I've considered making a chapbook of "The Changeling Kill" to hand out to anyone who buys "The Dreamer Gambit." There's a one-minute pitch to construct, too.

As to what to work on next, I find myself divided. Ideas for a third installment of "Faces" series are coming fast, more so than for third outing of "Dreamer" series. And there are all those older manuscripts begging to see the light of my laptop again. Some might say that having two different series going at once should be enough, but I secretly fear that if I should run out of ideas for my main protagonists and then try to launch a new character s/he will not be as well received. And those older books are still close to my heart. They are the products of a lot of hours of thinking, writing, and polishing, and I cannot just abandon them.

Perhaps soon I'll have more time to work on writing . . .

Friday, May 11, 2012

Updates and News

Received confirmation that I will be participating in Glen Ellyn BookFest 2012, sponsored by the Glen Ellyn Public Library on Saturday, June 23. I will have a table in the tent where I can sell copies of "The Dreamer Gambit." There will be more sales opportunities inside the library before and after the speakers--one-minute pitches to the audience--as well as a morning program about promoting your own books.

I've already put together a single-sheet summary of all my books which I can give away. Books will be deeply discounted and signed. I also need to make up signs, and I'm contemplating doing something extra. One idea was, in line with the chess theme of the "Dreamer" cover, offering Pepperidge Farm Chessmen cookies to passers by, maybe attached to the summary sheets.

Should be a great promotional opportunity!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

"The Changeling Kill" - Now on Amazon

Just added the link at the left to go straight to the book's detail page on Amazon.Also checked Barnes & Noble, but it's not there yet. Will update Goodreads and Authors Den later today.

Very close to being done with "Game Faces," at least to the point of letting it "rest" a bit. After a few days of not looking at it, I can read it again with fresh eyes.

Cover art . . . I have an idea but once again have a tough time with execution. Perhaps I need to explore alternative concepts.

Also considering what to work on next. Most likely, I will choose one of my older manuscripts for reworking/polishing, but which one? New-Age-Psychic-Murder-Mystery? Medical thriller? Sci-fi flavored thriller? Can't decide.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Music, Music, Music

As I've remarked in past posts, music always plays a big role in my writing. It inspires me, sometimes with a bit of lyric or a created atmosphere. On occasion, I have incorporated inspiring tunes into the novel they impacted.

Having just did my "soundtrack" post for "The Changeling Kill," I realized that I had not connected much music to "Game Faces" which is still in progress. The only tune thus far was "Heartbreaker" by Pat Benatar.

Yesterday, my friend, Ellen, and I were talking about music and realized we both liked many of the same performers. One of those is Enigma, a group I stumbled across a few years ago on recommendation from another coworker. Ellen had a different CD than the one I did, and she loaned me hers.

Voila! It was as if someone had written a soundtrack for "Game Faces." One of the songs had the classic effect and inspired me to tweak a scene to incorporate the imagery the song created. When I told Ellen how much I liked it and that it inspired me, she said I should keep the CD for my own. This one will be listened to a great deal. The songs will, of course, be listed in the soundtrack post when "Game Faces" becomes a published novel.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Changeling Kill - Soundtrack

As I've probably noted before for my other novels, music plays an important role in inspiring me in my writing. Sometimes, the words of a song strike a chord (no pun intended) and spark an idea for a scene. Other times, something I happen to hear seems to mesh with a bit of the novel already written, as though it was made to be played in the movie if the novel ever became one.

Now that "The Changeling Kill" is published -- still waiting for more vendors -- it's time for IF MY BOOK BECAME A MOVIE. I'll list these by the name of the song in the book.

We Can Soar - This is Tabitha Solo's big number in the concert that is the setting for the big denouement. While it is not an actual song, it was inspired by "Running" from the Sarah Brightman disk "Symphony." Both the real and the imagined song feature orchestra and choir. Both start out in a more classical mode with a rock band featured in the middle section.

Smooth - An actual song by Carlos Santana with Rob Thomas doing vocals. In the book, it's being played at a party.

Taking Care of Business - Old song by Bachman, Turner Overdrive from decades ago. It gets mentioned as the ring tone Tabitha uses for her manager.

Cover Me - The Bruce Springsteen tune which Tabitha sang to Jack in "The Dreamer Gambit." She now uses it as her ring tone for him.

Love Awake - A nonexistent song I made up at the end of "The Dreamer Gambit." Tabitha wrote it for Jack and people tell her how much they like it.

Next come the songs not actually mentioned in the book but which I heard and felt connected to it.

A Girl Like You - by Edwyn Colllins. There's a lyric in there: "Now my hands are bleeding and my knees are raw. 'Cos now you've got me crawling, crawling on the floor." This one relates to Jack's relationship with his ex-wife, Victoria.

Suddenly You Love Me - Old song by the Tremeloes (hope I spelled that right). Another song for Jack and Victoria. "Oh there's never been a woman who can treat me like you do . . ."

Jack's tortuous relationship was only hinted at in "The Dreamer Gambit," but it takes center stage in "Changeling" since it's Victoria who hires him and pulls him into the plot.

Next up, casting. While the main characters were cast in the blog post for "Dreamer," there are a number of other roles to fill in "Changeling." I haven't really thought about them in depth, but will for a future post.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Number Four

Work now resumes on "Game Faces" which is in the polishing stage. The process does more than improve sentence structure and eliminate continuity errors. I look for ways to refine the feelings, enhance the tension, clarify descriptions, and sharpen dialog. Tracy has a sense of humor, and while much of the situation she finds herself in is no laughing matter, there are plenty of opportunities for her to be her humorous self. Just as I did when writing "Two Faces, Two Faced," I hope that the passages that make me smile or laugh do the same for other readers. I have ideas for the cover, but once again, translating the image in my mind to a viable computer image can be a strong challenge.

With "The Changeling Kill" published now, I've been ramping up on publicity. For the present, the ebook is only available through the publisher,, but once it shows up on Amazon and B&N sites, I can do more. A book needs to be available via Amazon in order to put it on Goodreads and AuthorsDen. In the meantime, I have created a Facebook page, updated my Google site (, posted a tweet on Twitter, added a publication to my LinkedIn profile, and did a Facebook post open to the public.The update to my Goodreads ad for "The Dreamer Gambit" was just approved, so the headline now indicates that "The Changeling Kill" is available now.

I did enter a contest for best new ebook of 2012, submitting "Two Faces, Two Faced." The first step is a quick review to "thin the ranks". If I get past that, I'll still get something out of it. Money? I'd trade a cash prize for additional publicity any day. Unfortunately, it will be several months before results start coming in. It's all about sales...

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Big News!

"The Changeling Kill" was published today. It is available in PDF format through Write Words, Inc. (see link at left). It will appear on Amazon and B&N in a few days to a week (usually).

Still polishing "Game Faces," but that's a long process by itself, especially the continuity/anachronism checking.

Now I have to update a bunch of other sites with the news of my latest book.