Fans, friends, and anyone else can use the following address to send me email:

Whether it's a comment you don't wish to post in front of everyone or a request for information, I will monitor this address and try to follow up to those indicating they wish a reply. (Please, no spam. I just want to make it easy to communicate.)

IMPORTANT - email addresses are ONLY used to respond to messages, and are NOT sold or used for any other purpose.

Friday, June 29, 2012

And We Reach the Stuck Place

It always happens. The story which has developed quite nicely and almost magically, hits a hard stall around Chapter 8. There is a plot afoot of which Tracy knows next to nothing, but she has clues. Now it's time for me to do the back story. I need to figure out what that plot is, how the clues fit into it, and what motivates those involved.

This seems a bit backwards, even to me. I know other writers who would positively cringe at my lack of planning. Yet, somehow it seems to work out. Creating the background of the current action can be an entertaining exercise by itself, although its intricacies most likely will never see print. I just need to know what it is, and the more fully I can develop it for myself, the more solid it will sound even when summarized.

I also still need to work out the climactic moment. What happens? Who saves whom? Who's the bad guy and who's the good guy? (Although I don't like to go with cliches on heroes and villains because everybody is some of each.) Some of these questions will get answered in the process of building the back story. I've already brought together characters from the first two Tracy Wiley books which should foster a good, acrimonious showdown, but that's as far as I've gotten.

So the pencil and scratch pad come out to chart relationships and figure timelines. I've already started a text document where I write a summary of events. And it's also time to let my imagination take flight and create images of scenes. Some I might use, and I will most definitely discard some. The important ingredient to the creative recipe, though, is to not try to control it or make it perfectly fit the story. I want images and emotions and something that gives me a chill up my spine. That's when I'll say, "Ooooh, that's good," and then I'll be unstuck.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Dream Job

Oh, if I could be a full-time writer! I'm having such a good time writing the third Tracy Wiley book. Building the puzzle, creating the scenes, letting my mind get into her head. Compared to my other novels, this one may be the first in a long time which is really brand new. Generally, all the others contained elements and/or sequences that had been formed in flights of imagination but with no "home." When the need for something arose in a work in progress, I drew upon those bits and pieces and usually found just what I needed. Or sometimes one of those homeless passages became the foundation for a new story.

The latest "Faces" entry has been pure, new invention all the way. Sometimes the words seem to take control, inventing the story without my planning it and amazing me with how well the pieces fall into place.

I have wondered, on occasion, how far I can go with my two book series. My characters will, of course, get older. The latest book addresses Tracy's changing needs, her dislike for adventure and her desire for stability in her life. And since she doesn't actually go looking for trouble (although it seems to find her), it makes me wonder how many more times that formula can work. Just how many times can one woman get into trouble by no fault of her own and have it turn into big time danger? And not strain the tethers which suspend disbelief?

I like Tracy, probably the most of any character I've ever written. She's almost my alter ego. She does and says things I would be too inhibited to do or say, and I have no personal desire for danger. That was something I decided long ago when I decided what I wanted to be when I grew up: that as a writer, I could be anything and it could change whenever I wanted to and it would come out exactly like I wanted.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

I Feel the Magic

Great progress yesterday in the newest "Faces" entry. I started in Chapter 4 with a general--really general--idea of the things that needed to happen, but without specific ideas for conveying them. I knew I wanted Tracy to find herself in a sort of surreal situation, beyond the fact that she doesn't really know what's going on. Once I got started writing, the ideas just flowed. The last part I wrote for the day gave me one of those "Oooh that's good" moments.

On another note, visits to this blog have increased a lot in the last few days, and I can only assume it has something to do with BookFest, just based on the timing. It is very gratifying to know people are interested enough to stop in and I hope some of them are repeat visitors.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

BookFest Recap and Miscellany

Yesterday was Glen Ellyn BookFest. I actually sold a book! Also handed out fliers and business cards which I hope will lead people to check out my ebooks and various web locations. I got to meet people and talk about writing with other authors which is always a great experience.

I decided at the last minute to get in on Pitchfest to give a one-minute sales pitch on "The Dreamer Gambit." Because I did not plan and rehearse, it was something of a disaster. I probably should have read the blurb off the back instead of trying to ad lib. And having a one minute time limit adds another layer of stress on top of facing a sea of people. Funny thing is, I managed to do the same thing--give a quick description of the book--to a number of people who came to the authors' tent looking to buy books. Guess I just do better in the one-on-one, which leads me to the conclusion that I need to work on speaking to larger audiences. I've had some experience with that in the past--giving a training class at the City of Naperville many moons ago and speaking to the Lunchtime Rotary Club on the City's Y2K plans--but it's been a long time and I was prepared for those. Perhaps the larger lesson here is to always be prepared. I need to be ready to talk about my work to any audience, from one to a hundred, anytime, anywhere. This is something I had not previously thought much about, and I'm considering it a lesson learned, thanks to BookFest.

While in the authors' tent, I was approached by someone from the Glen Ellyn Library about possibly coming to do a talk of some kind. I hope she did not see my performance at Pitchfest and change her mind. I think I could handle sitting with a small group and discussing my writing experiences and the craft itself. Just being asked was a thrill, another milestone in feeling like a Real Author.

A few more take-aways from the event: I will probably sign up for the Chicago Writers Association which I learned more about at the authors' breakfast. Randy Richardson spoke to the group about it, and it sounds like something else I should get into. Also, I spoke to some people who were at Love Is Murder in February, and I know I have to sign up for the 2013 event. Who knows? I might get another opportunity to be on a panel.

Ahead in July: Kindle Book Review is going to announce the semi-finalists in the Best Indie Books of 2012 contest. "Two Faces, Two Faced" is my entry. If I make the first cut, i.e., my books goes to the judges, I'll have bragging rights on that, which would be great ad copy with the sequel coming soon. Later in July, I should be getting some idea of what I sold in the appropriate quarter (Apr-Jun for Write Words, Jan-Mar for most everyone else). Let's see what my publicity push accomplished!

For the nonce, back to writing.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Flying Fingers, Indeed

Well into Chapter 3 of new "Faces" novel. Today's challenge: how to handle two characters driving from Miami to Chicago. There must be some exchanges of information between them and some sort of development of the plot, but the key thing is to get through it at a reasonable pace that doesn't get boring. I've got a few ideas on how to do it, but the pacing will be tricky.

Tomorrow is BookFest in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, my first book signing event. I think I have everything ready to go, but getting just the tiniest bit nervous in a sort of undefined way.

I'd like to say thank you to some visitors who left comments on this blog. I know I get visitors, but getting feedback is really, really great.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Flying Fingers

Just wrapped Chapter 2 in the new "Faces" novel. That's well over 6,000 words already. Tracy is so easy to write, though, bless her heart, and I'm still in the early stages where I know what's what and what's next. Can't wait to start Chapter 3 which is where the meat of the conflict gets underway. Well, actually, it got underway, i.e., foreshadowed, in Chapter 1 by the appearance of an earlier character who seems to be involved in some way whenever Tracy gets into trouble.

Revving up for Glen Ellyn BookFest on Saturday. I've got my signs ready, plus chapbooks of "The Changeling Kill" for anyone who buys "The Dreamer Gambit" and some other promotional materials. This will be my first go at an event where I'll be selling and signing my books, and I'm both excited and a little nervous as it gets closer.

Interestingly, I've started to pick up more followers on Twitter that are involved in promotion and sometimes graphic arts. As far as the art-related ones, I wonder if those are prompted by the book covers. Creating them is a matter of necessity because Write Words is small and does not employ a graphic designer. I think I'm getting better at constructing cover art on the computer though as I learn to use the tools at my disposal. The hardest part, though, is coming up with a concept that is also workable AND is in some way representative of the book. No ideas yet on the new one, but they'll start coming as I get deeper into the story.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Here We Go Again

Started writing the third installment of the Tracy Wiley series. As noted in yesterday's post, the compulsion to get going on all those ideas I have for it proved inescapable. Up to ten pages so far today. I have a working title, but I almost hesitate to use it. For one thing, it does not exactly fit the pattern of the other titles. It also does not convey the essence of the story.

Had another thought about "Dabblers" today in regards to my POV character, Stefanie. I think part of the problem is she seems too weak. I know she is faced with uncertainty and sometimes frightening events, and I know she feels a need to hide aspects of herself from other people, but the net effect is weakness. Potential readers won't know what's inside her until late in the story, but if she's too wishy-washy, no reader will get that far. What the cure for this situation is, I don't know. At some point, it will simply come to me, I'm sure (or fairly sure). I just need the right inspiration.

Glen Ellyn BookFest is this coming Saturday, and it's very exciting. While I'll be selling/signing copies of "The Dreamer Gambit," I'm not looking at the event solely as a money-making proposition. Hopefully, I will sell some books, the more the better. But the main thrust is promotion, getting my works into the public eye. I have fliers to hand out as well as business cards. There will be other authors there and people from other areas of the fiction business. So it's time to get my game face on and tap the exhibitionist part of my personality. That part doesn't get out much and remains somewhat shy, but I need it now if I'm going to make it in this business.

Now, back to my next novel. 

Monday, June 18, 2012

My Capricious Muse

Finished the first pass over "Dabblers" today, and suddenly, I face a dilemma. The original manuscript was finished in 2008 and went through a few edits in attempts to get it published. As noted in an earlier post, I picked it up again following the completion of  "Game Faces" because I thought it warranted another shot at seeing the light of day (or at least, computer and ereader screens).

My dilemma? "Dabblers" did not excite me, and darned if I know why. One publisher I submitted "Dabblers" to in an earlier phase said the characters were sort of flat, and I think I might understand what she meant. I did attempt to beef up the conflicts somewhat although I may have gotten too involved with style and dropped the ball on that aspect somewhere in the middle chapters. The original inspiration for the story was to do a sort of cozy mystery but with elements of psychic occurrences and pagan religions. I wanted to treat those themes in a way which could really happen, and perhaps the end result is too subtle. The story has its share of action with a couple of life-threatening passages in the climactic scenes, but I didn't get a rush, a chill, some reaction when I read those passages. I can still get a fleeting dose of excitement from my published novels which have been worked on just as much as "Dabblers" if not more. Methinks I may have to give this one some additional thought. So much for the guidance of my muse in attacking a rewrite.

Interestingly enough, while working on "Dabblers," what has dominated my flights of imagination is a third entry into the "Faces" series. The basic concept I had in mind when I started on "Dabblers" and which I decided was not well-formed enough has blossomed. I have some really good scenes, and while I don't have an idea for how it ends on the horizon (I almost never do when I start a novel), I know the general direction. A long time ago, I read a book about writing fiction which suggested seven questions for plotting:

  1. Who is this character?
  2. What does he/she want?
  3. What stands in the way of him/her getting it?
  4. What does he/she do to overcome this obstacle?
  5. What is the result of this action?
  6. What showdown does this lead to?
  7. What is the outcome?
 I think it was something like that. Usually, I get to around question 4 and find I have so many ideas that I can't wait to start. So I do.

So that's where my muse has led me. One day, I'm sure I'll be looking at "Dabblers" again. Who knows? When I reach the "stuck place" in the next "Faces" book, I may suddenly be inspired with how to fix "Dabblers."

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Ready . . . Set . . .

Stocked up and getting prepared for Glen Ellyn BookFest next Saturday. I bought more ink cartridges, a sign holder, and a tray, and then got to work printing. The letter-style tray will hold a single-sheet summary of all my published books. I printed about 50 of those. The stand up sign holder is for the price sign for paperback copies of "The Dreamer Gambit." I'm thinking about creating chapbooks for "The Changeling Kill" to be given to anyone who buys "Dreamer." The paperbacks will have a special gold label on the binding. I printed a sheet of those too, but I need to trim them a tiny bit before applying to the books.

Further preparation--I've got my eye on a small blue toolbox that formerly held -- tools! -- to use as my cash box. It needs to be cleaned out first, and I've found a small padlock to use on it. I'll also get the opportunity at the event to give a one-minute pitch to the audience as it gathers for the keynote speaker. One minute can be horrendously short or excruciatingly long or both. What to say? I have some idea, but it will require polishing and rehearsing.

As for progress on "Dabblers," my first pass is up to the final wrap-it-all-up chapter. I hope to complete at least a second pass before the editor at Write Words sends me galleys for "Game Faces." I have some ideas for cover art for "Dabblers" that I'm mulling over. Of course, since "Dabblers" is a new story line, it will have to be sent to the Write Words committee for acceptance. I guess I shouldn't get the cart before the horse here and take it one step at a time.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

So Many Books, So Little Time

Making good progress on "Dabblers." Up to Chapter 19, just before the big denouement. I'll still be going back for at least one more pass through the whole thing, probably more than one. Already starting to think about cover art.

As previously noted, I have ideas for a third entry in both the "Faces" and "Dreamer" series. The third outing for Tracy Wiley has a working title, "A Friendly Face." A lot of the scenes have grown in detail, and an overall plot line has emerged. This one will probably follow "Dabblers," although I fear I might be getting ahead of myself since "Game Faces" has not even been published yet.

For "Dreamer," I was considering moving Tabitha out of the POV entirely although she would still be present, and adding a POV for a new character introduced in "Changeling." That created something of a creative brick wall because this new character has not had any time to flesh out in my mind. I don't know the character (note clever approach to not revealing gender) well enough to step into those shoes. The idea occurred to me today that maybe a new POV is not such a good idea. I might just go back to Tabitha instead, maybe develop her a little more. Even so, the plot is still barely a sketch.

One more week till BookFest and I still have a lot of preparation to do, but I'll be ready. It is, after all, my first book-signing event.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Figuring It Out

Good news first. I received verification that "Game Faces" has indeed reached the publisher. I had started to wonder, but found out the editor is just on vacation.

First printing of signs for BookFest proved one thing--I need more ink cartridges. I'll be looking to buy some other supplies too and hopefully come out with a professional-looking display under the tent.

I started back through "Dabblers" yet again and may have resolved my problem of creating suspense and conflict. Stefanie's secret is defined by an earlier event in her life, something strange and frightening, and she and Paul fear something similar is coming into play with her Uncle Hank's death. In an earlier draft, the earlier event had a name, the Rear Window Incident, named after the Alfred Hitchcock movie. I started to remove that in the rewrite but I've decided it does need a name, mainly as a means of referring to it. The name is different now, and while the event gets mentioned at junctures where Stefanie begins to fear a repetition is afoot, only a few of the details of it are given out at each stage. The other change required her to think more about that event the first time it gets mentioned, but still in vague terms.

I hope this approach gets the job done.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Too Much or Not Enough?

About half way through the "Dabblers" rewrite, and I now I find I am second-guessing myself. I knew from the start that there would have to be more conflict and I started out with that, but now I'm wondering if I've already dropped the ball. I feel like there's not enough action, but is that because there isn't or because I'm so familiar with the story?

And as to the drama level required, "Dabblers" started out like a cozy mystery: female amateur sleuth, small-town location, murder happens prior to POV character's entrance. But because it is a character-driven story as opposed to a plot-driven one which is what most cozy mysteries would be, I feel like just solving the mystery is not enough. Stefanie, my main character, is also dealing with a personal problem. There are aspects of herself which she wishes to deny because they make her different from other people and she does not want to be different. Also, those same traits are difficult for her husband to accept, and while she does not fear losing him because of them . . . or maybe deep down she does! What she fears most is being an outcast. She knows from experience that people who know her secret never look at her the same way again. Her husband, Paul, knows more than anyone else and loves her the way she is. At some level, she worries that he too will look at her differently if he must also accept the rest.

I think what I fear that I've dropped the ball on is Stefanie's awareness of her final secret and her concern about revealing it. Well, maybe after I've tinkered with the wording and such, another read-through will indicate how much more rewriting will be needed.

On another note, the Glen Ellyn BookFest is just two weeks away. Today, I'm going to print out my signs and see how they look. Also, on the BookFest website, there was an article about the people who are going to present the early-morning program about promoting yourself as an author. Two of them are from Browne & Miller, the biggest literary agency in Chicago. Could be a huge opportunity.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Updates and Progress

Work proceeds on "Dabblers." Up to Chapter 11 which is something of a turning point. While I would not categorize this project as a "major" rewrite, there is a lot of stuff to polish and/or fix. I actually caught an anachronism in Chapter 1. A character parks his car at the bottom of a long driveway but at the end of the scene, it's at the top! Oops.

"Dabblers" also offers the tricky business of including a fair amount of knowledge on certain subjects. I try to stick to the really necessary details without going overboard--a practice I've seen best-selling authors get away with but which strikes me as showing off how much research they did. The "ain't it cool?" effect. If it doesn't move the story or foreshadow something to come, out it goes. It can be hard to do, but let's face it, the writer may be fascinated by subject matter woven into the story but will never know if readers find it boring and tedious. As stated, I've caught some big-name authors including too much detail, almost as if they were stretching the length of the book by it, and it hit me as contrived. Learn from your own mistakes but never miss the chance to learn from the mistakes of others.

In between, I've been creating signs for the upcoming Glen Ellyn BookFest. I get half of a banquet table, i.e., 3 1/2 feet of front edge, which I plan to use as many inches of as I can. Another sign for the top of the table with the price on it. I'm using Photo Shop to create the signs and hopefully will come out with something fairly professional looking.

Still have not heard back from Write Words about status of "Game Faces." I suspect vacations might be involved.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Scattered Progress

Up to Chapter 5 in polishing "Dabblers" manuscript. One key issue I have to go back and look at is pacing. Simply put, something must happen in each chapter that changes things in a permanent way. I believe "Dabblers" may have suffered from a lack of this in its first incarnation which is why it received its fair share of rejections in attempts to get it published. The story is meant to be subtle, approaching subjects such as psychic ability, reincarnation, and magic is a real-world sort of way. The other tricky part is my main character's feelings about it all. As an artist, her imagination is fertile ground for ideas and information, but she does not want to feel apart from other people, different or special. She wants normalcy, and her innate abilities get in the way of that. But to keep a reader's interest, something must happen on a regular basis, most desirably with escalating levels of drama leading up to the BIG SCENE.

Much of the writing in "Dabblers" seems pretty solid, with some minor adjustments to style. Renovating this one could take a while.

The Glen Ellyn BookFest is now less than three weeks away, and I still have a lot of preparation to do for it. Signs for the sales tent must be created, and I don't think my little color printer can handle any size larger than 8 1/2 by 11 which may not do it. Need to research printing services at various retail places.

Still waiting for a response on "Games Faces." Hopefully, I'll get an E.T.A. on galleys before long.