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Monday, October 29, 2012

Gone and Done It

First draft of "Stranger Faces" complete! Now there's the editing, the "layering" of details, proofing, etc.

I've also been hunting for a cover concept. A few ideas have occurred to me, but I'm not sure what I want to do with it. While it must follow the theme of the first two covers, my early attempts have come out looking like a rehash. And according to my own rules, the cover should be constructed out of elements that set up the story and pull the reader in without jumping too far into it. In fact, the cover should catch the eye first. Then the blurb hits on the same elements as the cover and gives an idea of how the story starts. This is a lot of requirements to have to pull together.

In the background, I've been thinking about a sequel to "Dabblers" (and it's not even out yet!) as well as a third entry to the Jack Watson series. I have a plot concept for the latter, but I'm thinking of introducing a new POV character, introduced as a secondary character in "The Changeling Kill," but I don't know this person well enough yet. In one of my writing reference books, there's a list of questions designed to foster building a sketchy idea into a real person. I may hit on that. Mostly, it's a matter of dividing my time and inspiration.

I am also concerned for my friends at Write Words out in Cambridge, Maryland, where Hurricane Sandy is bearing down. I hope they and everyone else in the storm's path is prepared and comes through the ordeal unscathed.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Inspiration Versus Imagination - Dabblers

I picked up the final files for "Dabblers" prior to publication on November 1 (as long as Frankenstorm on the east coast doesn't bring any delays). With the release date so near, I thought I might reflect on the inspirations for the story.

NO SPOILERS. I'm not going to give away anything critical here. These are just some of the bits and pieces   which wound up woven into the story.

Uncle Hank's House: In my mind, it looks like a 1950s brick ranch I used to live in some years ago, although it was not near a lake. Even the interior layout, which Stefanie describes, matches that house.

The Pool: An important element late in the book. Another house I lived in, the one where "Dabblers" first became a notion, had a pool just like it.

The Altar: Another important place that kinda sorta exists. At the same house as the pool, there are some stone slabs embedded in the middle of the back lawn, somewhat distant from the house. Never did figure out what they were doing there, other than perhaps to provide a solid foundation for a picnic table. Of course, the rest of its appearance in the book is quite different.

Windsong Lake: Inspired by a neighborhood we looked at when shopping for the house with the pool. It had  houses surrounding a small lake and had the feel of a summer getaway place. The real-life place does not actually constitute a full town, just a neighborhood, but it still exists out in the Northern Illinois countryside, same as Windsong Lake. I later embellished Windsong Lake with details drawn from Lake Zurich, Illinois, not far away.

Pagan Religions: Not part of the initial story line, but it became so when a couple of friends became deeply interested in Wicca. They gave me a book as a gift, the title of which appears in "Dabblers", and it served as a valuable resource for writing it.

Stefanie's Dream: Not the one that begins the book, but one she relates deeper into the story. It's a permutation of a dream I had as a girl, one that shook me up because the "me" in the dream was a different person from my waking self. Didn't even look the same. I adapted the threatening aspects to Stefanie's dream and embroidered around it with imagination.

Someone at the Joliet Author Fair stopped at my table to chat and asked me if my characters are based on people I have known or met. The answer is a resounding "no." Story comes first, the hint of a plot, a puzzle to unravel, a mood to be captured. Naturally, my characters--at least the one(s) telling the story--must be part of me because I imagined them. I have never yet had a situation where I was inspired to create a story around a "character" from real life. Once I have the idea for the heart of the story, the characters develop alongside it to provide what is needed to shape the tale. At some point, characters take on a life of their own, become more independent of me in a way, and in so doing, they can alter the path of the story. While re-editing "Dabblers" this last time around, going over the manuscript I wrote four or five years ago, I decided I did not like Stefanie very much the way I first wrote her. She seemed weak, helpless, and having those traits in my POV character offended me. So I changed things around, made her path of discovery into one of acceptance instead. I don't see how I could have done that with a character drawn from life whose nature would resist changing to suit my story. Heaven forbid I should be limited in the story because it had to adhere to the traits of a real person and then find out I did not like the story!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Struggling Along

Still on the last chapter of "Stranger Faces" although I continue to backtrack through the manuscript to check things, adjust things, etc. I was starting to worry that the story was coming up short in length, since most of my novels finish up around 80k or so. But even with the last chapter not quite complete, I'm approaching 71k and with additional edits, the length should come out about right.

The cover art . . . I've tried a few ideas out, but they appear dull to me. I've had one more design occur to me, but it will require me to DRAW something. (She gasps in awe.) I want to do some outlines of weird faces, to go with the title. For this one, though, I'm not sure what sort of background to use. Someone suggested something with Chicago because a trip there for Tracy becomes a very important event. It would be great to get a picture of the city skyline on a clear day with a road running to it straight out of the camera viewpoint. Then my drawn faces could overlay it at the edges. Not sure how that would look, but first I'll have to find the photo.

"Dabblers" comes out in one more week. I was trying to use Twitter, as I think I mentioned last time, but ideas of what to tweet each day have dried up. I continue to worry about the balance between my attempts to advertise not being seen or being seen so often they become annoying. I did put something on the Facebook group page for CWA which I hope will reach a wider audience.

A friend is reading "Game Faces" now. Can't wait to hear some feedback. I do wish it would become available on Amazon, but I've never gotten anywhere trying to find out why it isn't already.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Catching Up

Into the final chapter of "Stranger Faces" and the final scene. Then it will be time to go back and fill things out and do editing. Lots of editing. I have become aware of an underlying theme for the novel as well. Because Tracy put her life on hold after her mother and brother were killed long before the first book took place, she can be a little bit backward in her relationships with people. Each book, along with a mess for her to extricate herself from, adds a new layer to her personal development, learning how to deal with different types of relationships. With the third book nearing completion, I see what her lesson is, and part of the editing process will be to refine passages that support it. I don't want to be more specific as I never want to produce "spoilers" in my posts.

Then there's the cover art. I have some ideas, but I must try to continue the imagery used in the first two books. The main element is the outline of one more more faces, but I have yet to figure out what the background should look like. Considering the title, which I certainly want to depict on the cover in some fashion, I have been looking at images of, well, strange-looking faces. I also thought I might try to fiddle with the face outline from "Game Faces" to try to create an expression of surprise. As for the background, there are a number of possiblities. There are scenes in Chicago which could provide some imagery, and there are some explosions later in the book which suggest flames in the background. At this point, I guess I'll keep searching for the right elements.

I've been using Twitter to try to pump up interest in "Dabblers" ahead of its release. Each day, I put a sort of teaser line out there in a tweet, but it's getting tougher to come up with something new that might pique people's interest and not give away anything. Thus far, each day I've started thinking about what else to say and wondering if I can come up with anything, and each day I do. Nine more tweets to go until the release.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Another Book to Go Paper

"The Changeling Kill" paperback edition is getting underway, as noted on my publisher's blog page. That will be three out of four published books in hard copy. Very exciting stuff. I should be able to get copies of "Two Faces, Two Faced" to sell at Love Is Murder in February, but I don't know about "Changeling" yet. Guess I'll be updating my promotional materials again.

I started thinking about cover art for "Stranger Faces" which is in the final wrap-up chapter. While that does not mean the book is "done" by any stretch, I figure I need to start on the cover now in order to have it all done at the same time to send off to Write Words.

And for my next project? I've been working on ideas for the next Jack Watson book. I have more ideas for a sequel to "Dabblers." I've also toyed with doing a short-story collection. Another Faces entry? "Stranger Faces" will leave the door open for more. There are also five other older manuscripts that could be whipped into shape for publication. Some of them require more whipping than others, and some were never even finished in the first place. The decision may balance on how "Dabblers" is received. Perhaps the interest in things paranormal will continue with readers for a while more.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Getting Ready for "Dabblers"

I figured out how to get an image file of the "Dabblers" cover out of the galley PDF file, so I'm updating a couple of websites early. The page on this blog now shows the cover, as does my Google site, Kathryn Flatt, Writer. Shelley at Write Words has remarked how much she likes the cover art on this. It's my own combination of an image found on the web, overlaid to look like it's outside a window. The sketches on the bottom part are mine except for the one of trees in the center which is supposed to look more like a real artist did them instead of Stefanie's very crude "sleep drawings." I arranged the sketchpad, drawings, and pencil on a black surface and took a digital photo of it which I then transferred to my computer. The blood spots were clipped from web images and placed on top of that. (Tried making fake blood, but it didn't look right, and I was not about to try to get any of my own!)

Once the book comes out, anyone reading it will reach descriptions of the "sleep drawings" and be able to find those drawings on the cover. I have high hopes for "Dabblers," mainly because of the popularity of paranormal subjects. Ideas for a sequel are swimming around in the back of my head.

I have also made some progress on "Stranger Faces," having gotten through the Big Scene which pits good guys against bad in a final showdown that concludes the mystery. The last chapter is for wrap up of where everybody is after that. Of course, there will be many more passes before I even get to proofing it.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

And A Splendid Time Was Had By All...

Joliet Author Fair is now a done deal, and I had a great time. The organization and planning put into the event was abundantly obvious from the time I arrived right down to the last detail. The table spaces were excellent, advertising first rate, lunch was provided as well as goodie bags for the authors, and it was free! I sold a copy of "The Dreamer Gambit" and passed out information on all my books while talking to a number of people who attended and other authors who attended.

I probably would not have even known about the fair if I had not joined the Chicago Writers Association. The annual dues of $15 is probably the best money I've spent so far in my little writing business. The exposure and inside track to opportunities like the one in Joliet is more than worth it.

"Dabblers" has now been put to bed, the corrections to the galley in the hands of Write Words now. I'm eagerly awaiting the final files, especially the cover art in various sizes and formats so I can ramp up advertising for it. I think "Dabblers" has a lot of potential because of its paranormal themes. I hope there are adult readers out there who enjoy subjects such as clairvoyance, reincarnation, magic, and witches all wrapped up with a murder mystery AND who are somewhat weary of all the protagonists being teenagers. Almost all the characters in "Dabblers" are 40 years old or more, with one notable exception. I also hope people will empathize with Stefanie, my reluctant psychic, who must learn to accept her unique talent in order to solve the mystery.

Now, it's back to "Stranger Faces." While I have been thinking a bit about what comes next after that, it just so happens that while sitting at my table at the Author Fair yesterday, I began jotting down notes for the next entry in the Jack Watson series. I also have some ideas about a sequel to "Dabblers" somewhere down the road.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Updates, Etc.

Two proofreadings of "Dabblers" galley are done, and a list of corrections compiled. Once again, I debate whether to call it done or do one more pass. I still have a couple of weeks before I need to have corrections turned in, but I'm eager to get on with other things.

Preparation for Author Fest this coming weekend is foremost in my mind now. The weather forecast for Saturday is for rain and cool temperatures, which I hope will drive more people to the library. Almost everything I'm taking along is ready, except for attaching my signs to a project board. I have hopes of reusing the board for other events, so the plan is to tape the current signs to it as late as possible to prevent the tape from becoming too attached to the cardboard.

The short story that I posted recently, "Mr. Fixit," received a couple of nice comments on and has 63 hits on it so far. The story would be added to a short-story collection I've been toying with for a while, another sort of project to mix things up a bit. I don't want to be categorized as only a mystery novelist because I do like to write other genres too.

I also need to start thinking about "extras" to post here about "Dabblers" when it comes out, like the casting and music that I've done for other books. I have a few ideas in that regard, but there are more characters to cast. Can't wait to get image files for the final cover, as it looks really great.

Three novels in one year. Not bad for someone who also holds down a full-time job.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Ready, Set, Go

BIG progress this weekend. Printed galley for Dabblers to proofread. I've found it easier to read off paper copy and mark the corrections rather than reading from the computer screen. The file comes in PDF format and as I use "page down" to move through it, the computer does not follow a smooth progression through the document. At the bottom of what will be a printed page, scrolling down will jump to the bottom of the next page before going back to its top. Hard to keep track. And since my correction document is actually a table with the page, paragraph, line number, before image and after image, counting the paragraph and line can be tricky on the screen.

My little basement print shop was busy this weekend, too. I created my own business cards, eight signs to be attached to a project board, and an additional page about my latest books to append to an earlier flyer. Also made up a price sign for selling copies of "The Dreamer Gambit" at next week's Joliet Author Fair. Really excited about that event.

So once I proof the "Dabblers" galley, I'll return to "Stranger Faces" which is almost at the big climactic scene where "good" goes up against "evil." Then will come the editing, filling in, fact checking, and so on that completes the novel. Still haven't come up with a solid cover concept, but perhaps something will come to me as the story nears completion.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Dabblers Scheduled Release Date November 1

Picked up the galley for "Dabblers" this morning and will begin proofreading. I have three weeks to do the proofing and send back any corrections. The cover looks sensational.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Gearing Up

With various medical problems now behind me (I hope), I am gearing up for the Joliet Public Library Author Fair on October 13. This weekend will be for preparing signs and handouts.

After considerable debate and wringing of hands, I am adding an email address to my blog. You'll find it down at the bottom of the page under CONTACT ME. I seriously hope I don't wind up with a ton of spam, but I do plan to watch for emails and reply to any that request a reply.

Nothing sent to this email address will be used on this blog without the consent of the sender, so please don't be shy.

I've also made a bit of progress on "Stranger Faces" and started thinking a little bit about the cover art. While the notion of making up my own artwork was daunting at first, I've grown to like it a lot as a creative outlet. And since I've gotten more familiar with and adept at using different graphics facilities, I think the covers are getting better and better.

Still, "Stranger Faces" requires a good deal more writing on the first draft and then the addition of enriching layers. Soon (I hope), galleys for "Dabblers" will arrive and I will have to work on that. My publisher also mentioned a paper edition for "The Changeling Kill" which means another round of proofreading. I'll add the search for my next project to the list as well.

And having outlined all that work to be done, I feel invigorated, excited, because this is what I love to do.

Monday, October 1, 2012

An Annoying Interruption

Been under the weather for the last few days. The doctor said it's called torticollis, a spasm of the big muscle that goes across the shoulder and up into the neck. Very painful. I am on the mend now, but not quite 100% better. Over the last weekend, I did little or nothing in the way of writing. I didn't think anything could disable me enough to do that, but it did. Between the pain and the sleepy effects of the muscle relaxant, I could barely stay awake most of the time.

There are a few updates, however. My publisher asked about doing a print edition of "The Changeling Kill," and I noticed that the cover art for "The Dreamer Gambit" on the Amazon site has been changed to reflect the fact that it is part of a series. Since stuff is getting loaded to Amazon, maybe "Game Faces" will show up there soon, too.

Back to work on "Stranger Faces" until the galleys for "Dabblers" make the scene. I'm really hoping that one gets out for Christmas. The quarterly payout for book sales will be coming in the next couple of weeks. It is the only indicate I ever have of how many books I have sold. Unless . . .

Anyone reading this page who has read one or more of my books, please feel free to tell me so via a comment. 

Don't know what I'll get out of that, but you never can tell.