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Sunday, December 30, 2012


The holidays always present obstacles to good, heads-down writing. That being said, I do believe I have reached a "stuck place" in "Seer Tyro Fiend".

First, there is a timing issue. An investigation has begun, but it should not proceed too rapidly. Although the investigator here is a certified genius, he doesn't have all the facts yet, and his pursuit of them must follow very logical paths based on what he does know.

Second, I'm getting that nagging sense of not enough conflict. Stefanie has her husband and her friends, the Greenleaf family, and if there is conflict between her and any of them, it will be more of a benign situation, a difference of opinion.

Third, also under the heading of timing, where I left off, it is Saturday afternoon in fiction land. What happens on Sunday? Stefanie's husband, Paul, is not working, but if he concentrates on the mystery over the weekend, he may get too far too fast, bringing back the first timing issue.

I suppose there are some writers who would smugly smile and think, "That's what she gets for not doing an outline." Perhaps that's true. For me, though, writing an outline is almost like writing the story, or worse, telling someone the entire story. If I tell the whole thing, the spark is gone and I lose interest in constructing it in a manuscript. It's happened before. Also, once I get going on creating the story in my head, sheer eagerness to get it underway prevents me from planning too much. I fear I'll lose the heat of inspiration and perhaps some of the ideas in my head as well. Oh, how many times I had a good idea about how to say something and then lost it before I got the chance to write it down.

Oddly, I may have come up with a cure for my "stuck place." In the book, I've already mentioned that Paul is under stress due to his promotion to Lead Investigator. Maybe I need to embellish the effects of that stress, which might also lead to more conflict. It might also lead Stefanie to try to shield him from more stress due to her current situation.

By Jove, I think I've got it!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Avoiding Little Anachronisms

The holiday break from my day job has not provided as much time to write as I had hoped, but I'm getting some in today before the long weekend and returning to work on Wednesday. 

Some of the most recent scenes I wrote demanded a few tweaks here and there, including a change in sequence that just made more sense from the standpoint of what a logical man like Paul would do. The changes required some editing for continuity purposes as well to avoid anachronisms. Arline Chase from Write Words has had a number of posts on her blog about this topic based on questions from writers. While the word anachronism might at first suggest things like current slang in an historical setting or the mention of an event that should not have happened yet, there are smaller anachronisms that can creep into a manuscript. Since my creative process is all over the place, not progressing in a straight line from beginning to end before changes get made, I have to be watchful of them. 

As an example, the scenes I switched around were quite emotional for Stefanie who received comforting support from Paul. One patch of dialog originally delivered in his office was changed to happening in a hotel room. Only a quick reread after cutting and pasting the sections in their new order showed Paul standing up when he was already standing! It also had Stefanie emerging from the shower and noticing him collecting some evidence in the bathroom. The shift of order had him hugging her shortly after her questioning him about what he was doing, but that meant he hugged her while she was still drying off. While that is not impossible, it did seem awkward once I realized how it "sounded." 

Both of these anachronisms might have been caught during the editing phase, after the entire manuscript got written in a first pass, but a perfectionist tendency in my wants each scene as complete and correct as it can be before I can move on. I know there will always be more tweaking as I edit, but I always fear that if I don't get it right in the first draft, I might just forget to check for it later or, worse, lose the thread of the inspiration altogether.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Back On It

Well, Christmas is now in the rear view mirror, and for personal reasons, I won't be glancing back at it very much or fondly.

Did not make much progress on "Seer Tyro Fiend" of the words-on-pages variety, but I did some thinking and made some decisions.

  • Changing the name of one of the antagonists and tweaked his personality a bit.
  • Invented a coming scene and embroidered on it.
  • Made headway on figuring out who did what among the antagonists
  • Came up with an image for the cover art and how to execute it.
Don't have to go back to work until Jan. 2, so I hope to get more writing done in the next few days.

Visitors to this blog were up Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, so I hope that means people were exploring my books as possible purchases for their new ereader devices received as presents.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

More On Plotting

A few days ago, I posted about the "recipe" for plotting I usually follow. Since then, I've been thinking about the plot of "Seer Tyro Fiend," and I realized that the same steps for the main POV character development and basic story line also apply to the secondary characters who are the antagonists. For each of my "suspects," i.e., the instigator(s) of the trouble, I have to figure out who they are, what goal they were trying to further with their actions, and why it's important to them. So each antagonist develops something of a subplot of his/her own.

So as it now stands, I have a victim (of sorts), and four possible antagonists. These will all get chained together. I have made the first link in the chain between a victim and one of the "baddies" and have an idea of who the next link in the chain is. Now I have to figure out that character's motives for getting involved, what he/she seeks from that involvement.

Also on the agenda is some aspect of the paranormal angle of the story, and as mentioned in an earlier post, I need to find roles for the other characters on the "good guys" side. The character of Adam, Amy's husband, only came on the scene at the end of "Dabblers," but I want to give him something to do. I've been toying with the idea of making him suspect of something, but I don't know that I can justify the other characters seeing him that way. That area of conflict might be too tangential to the main story line anyway. I've read novels with little side plots like this in the past, and I was always disappointed when it turned out they did not really tie into the main source of conflict. I don't like loose ends. I suspect readers would accuse me of throwing out red herrings if I did this, and while a mystery can incorporate such foolers, I don't like using them. It makes for loose ends and a sloppy effect. Okay, so real life isn't neat and has side stories and all the loose ends don't always tie together. But this is fiction, and expectations for fiction are usually that it does not mirror real life. The satisfaction from a good story is that it does provide neatness and explanations and resolution.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Realistic Fiction?

Christmas Vacation! Yay! "We're so glad it's Christmas Vacation!" - from my favorite holiday song, the theme of the National Lampoon movie. Listen to the words some time--a nice sentiment.

Got through a pivotal scene in "Seer Tyro Fiend" yesterday, where the puzzle to be solved looms large and a bit dangerous. So now, Stefanie and Paul must unravel that puzzle, and I'm not even sure exactly where it leads yet! I will probably let the characters have their way with it and see where it goes. As things begin to happen and the antagonists (i.e., candidates for "fiend") become more active, their behavior must be both rationally motivated and fitting with the characteristics I've assigned to them. These are people, as close to reality as I can make them, and they must act in believable ways. I know I have, in the past, tried reading a book only to pitch it aside when a character does something out of character. This is a problem I liken to "slasher" horror movies where the terrorized female runs from the maniacal killer straight into his lair, or to someplace not safe where she will be cornered. I mean, any rational person knows that if something odd is happening in the house, or it looks like someone has broken in, the thing to do is leave, not walk around looking in dark closets or - gasp - the basement!

 I've also become increasingly aware that this book does not neatly fit into the Mystery genre. Whereas "Dabblers" began with a murder (sort of), this one does not. Maybe it's not all that important. I think people just want to read a good story, and if "Dabblers" got them somewhat invested in the character of my amateur and unorthodox sleuth, they may want to read more. "Seer" delves into Stefanie's past a bit more, and it's a dark place indeed. I also see her developing her unique talent to a new level, but I'm just not sure of the particulars yet. Will she discover a new ability? A new facet of the one she knows about? And what about the participation of the supporting characters? I'd like to give Paul, Amy, Adam, and maybe Hannah something special to do. I'll have to see what they want their roles to be.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Good Part

"Seer Tyro Fiend" coming right along. Yesterday, I was busy writing the part which includes some of my initial inspiration for the story. As I've pointed out before, my novels usually begin with scenes developing in my head that aren't necessarily at the beginning of the story. Such scenes keep flowing around in my imagination until I actually get them into the framework of the story (and sometimes even after that). That means part of how the book starts getting written is constructing the set up for the inspired events, leading back to the formula for plotting I learned from a book on fiction writing long, long ago.
  1. Who is this character? (Of course, in a sequel, I already know this.)
  2. What does he/she want? Or more specifically, what problem is presented.
  3. What does this character do about it?
  4. What conflict arises from this action?
  5. How does the character address the conflict?
  6. What showdown does this lead to?
  7. How is the problem resolved?
While this is a "recipe" for creating the plot, it is not necessarily the outline for the book, and yeah, I do some tinkering with the steps above. In essence, something happens to someone and the story is what they do about it. This is character-driven plotting, to be sure. If it were plot-driven, question 1 above would deal with the person who instigated the "something that happened" which is usually not the protagonist/investigator. (Think Sherlock Holmes or Miss Marple.)

So yesterday's scene was where some smaller events culminated in a crisis situation. My amateur sleuth, artist Stefanie Durant, is not a logical thinker, so it takes a crisis to get her thinking and making the proper connections. This scene is where her investigator husband Paul gets more into the act.

Then there will be the "big scene," the climactic moment which leads to resolution. Oddly, I don't know what this will be yet. In fact, I'm still playing with the roles of the various antagonists involved. Now that I have them in mind, that they've become "real" to me, I'll sit back and let their personalities take them where they have to go.

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Plot Thickens

On the heels of realizing I needed a new villain for "Seer Tyro Fiend," I have invented not one but two villains. All the candidates will have been introduced by Chapter 5 which should really muddy the waters of who the real bad guy is and what the goal is. I love playing with the intricacies of motive and personality. It's not enough to just have a villain defined as such because he does bad things. There has to be a reason why he does it, one that is understandable. Perhaps reprehensible, but understandable. If the villain does horrible things for no apparent motive, then no one is safe, the malevolent acts become random, and there is no puzzle to solve, other than how the good guys are going to get away and stop the villain for good. That's also slipping into the horror genre, because what is more horrible than an unstoppable (maybe) villain who kills without reason, without discrimination?

I don't write horror, and maybe that's because I do love the puzzle, building it, making it tough to figure out but not impossible. And these days, the horror genre seems to demand the big gross-out. Whether it's a nasty murder or the villain's deserved end, gruesomeness seems to be an accepted standard. I'm not a fan of assaults on my digestive tract. While I have read a few novels that succeeded in a sense of horror without anything gross, it's a tough thing to achieve I think. An example would by "Lady" by Thomas Tryon. He sweeps the reader into the time and place of his story about a beautiful but lonely widow as seen through the eyes of the young man entranced by her. When he finds out her secret, something that might be seen as mundane in today's world, it was shocking for me because I was following him in his time where it would have been deeply shocking. No blood, no carnage, no yucky stuff, but a nasty slap upside the head all the same.

The horror I see around these days--mainly vampires and zombies--is just that: abundant opportunities for yucky stuff. Both types of monster kill dispassionately for hunger and that's all. Talk about an easy character development for the bad guy! The writer doesn't even have to explain anything. Just put the appropriate monster category on the page and you have all the characterization you need. Vampire? Sucks blood to survive, can't go out in sunlight, etc., etc. Zombie? No brain, but an animated and hungry body, usually in advance stages of decay and/or damage, no reason, no motive but hunger. Not to malign anyone's pet genre, but to me it seems like the cheap way out. If I were going to do real horror, I'd want to come up with my own monster, defined out of my imagination and not someone else's legend.

Sunday, December 16, 2012


The events of Friday in Newtown, Connecticut leave me deeply saddened. I have no friends or relatives there, but the tragedy touches us all because it is an example of the failures of our society.

But I wish to say something positive here.

Let's Spread the Word:

L o v e  instead of hate
P e a c e  instead of turmoil
S e r e n i t y  instead of fear
A c c e p t a n c e  instead of rejection
J o y  instead of despair
C o m f o r t  instead of pain

We're all in this together.

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Muse Smiles

The magic of inspiration! While going over my ms. for "Seer Tyro Fiend," it occurred to me that a particular plot device I was using had been used in more than one other of my novels. I knew I had to take a different approach, and voila! A new approach popped into my head with an inspired twist. More revisions required, but the more I tinkered with the setup in earlier chapters, the better the new approach looked. This story is now a juggernaut, moving forward and bringing me along with it. It's as if the story already exists and I am discovering it as I write it.

In this novel, Stefanie finds herself confronting the events in her childhood surrounding her discovery of her unique abilities. I wrote a very emotional scene yesterday and was surprised at how it affected me. The feelings I sought to create stayed with me even after I finished up writing for the day. I hope that's a sign of success in having conveyed that emotion. It still resonated when I reread it this morning in preparation to continue the current chapter.

I've also been doing some reading of other people's fiction, mainly with the idea that if I review other's work, they'll reciprocate. I could really use some reviews of "Two Faces, Two Faced" for the print edition due out in February, 2013. The third book in the series, "Stranger Faces," is also scheduled for that date, as is Love Is Murder 2013 conference. This happy coincidence seems to suggest some marketing opportunities, but the specifics remain hazy. Will have to think on this more.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

I'm Looking Out for a Villain

Thinking about "Seer, Tyro, Fiend" this morning, I realized that I had not considered the plot in very much depth. This is my usual pattern though. I have a basic idea of somebody doing something bad, but at some point I must flesh out exactly who, what, how, and why. As I began to do that, I realized something else: I need another bad-guy candidate. After all, I don't want to make it too easy to figure out what's going on! I pondered this while driving to work and believe I have come up with an answer, but I must go back over my manuscript thus far and plant the seeds for it. Oddly enough, I still don't know how the story will end up, but I seldom do at this early phase.

My other thought since shutting down writing yesterday evening was that "Seer, Tyro, Fiend" strays from the classic format of the mystery genre. Whereas "Dabblers" began with a murder, the sequel does not. Sometimes, the whole genre thing gets in the way of a good tale. I have a situation in my head which stirs me, excites me, and I think it will excite other people the same way. (At least, I hope so.) Earlier in my writing career, I rewrote a book to fit a specific genre because a publisher only took that genre of book and were mildly interested. That novel was not published. Lesson learned: Stick with your inspiration and don't try too hard to twist it just to sell it.

I read an article yesterday, recommended by someone from Chicago Writers Association, regarding the use of first person point of view versus third person. He wrote very negatively about first person, saying it would be impossible for a person to remember details at the level required to tell the story that way. But I believe people are familiar enough with first person narratives that it doesn't really jar anyone, and I think it has some advantages. First, I get to take the reader into the protagonist's head, hear her thoughts, feel what she feels. Second, it better supports a straight-line plot where everything known happens to or in view of one person. I wrote the Jack Watson novels in third person for a reason. My detective was not trying to solve a murder, as I believe that is a task which belongs to law enforcement. He comes at the mystery sideways and must piece it together from clues he has. By writing in third person, I can switch viewpoints to put the reader in the action as some events happen and have Jack discover them later without having someone someone tell him about them in detail.

On another subject, my activities on Twitter seem to be generating a lot of action. One new follower complimented me on my website (whether it was this one or the Google site, I'm not sure). It's very rewarding to know that visitors enjoy this site, and I always welcome either comments here or sent to my email address shown at the top of the page.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

A Day to Write

Made a lot of progress on "Seer Tyro Fiend" today, and what a great way to spend my birthday. Unfortunately, it's back to work tomorrow.

I'm still trying to get the hang of Twitter. I see messages go by, some of them about books that catch my attention, but I scarcely get to read it when more tweets start coming through. Maybe I need a new approach to looking at Twitter. On the up side, my count of followers has gone well beyond 500. I hope this equates to more exposure out there, as some followers have re-tweeted my tweets.

"Seer Tyro Fiend" is up to Chapter 3. Similar to "Dabblers," I'm not doing chapter titles as I have in my other series. I guess I feel sort of locked into using them in the Jack Watson and Faces series in order to maintain consistency, but I've heard from a few people that they don't really pay any attention to chapter titles anyway. Not that it's a big effort to think them up. Having them or not is neither here nor there.

I need to do a little research for Chapter 4, hitting on my "Wicca Handbook" for information about a topic. That book was both inspiration and source book for knowledge about metaphysical subjects, and had I not received it as a gift years ago, "Dabblers" probably would not have come to be. The newest novel explores some of Stefanie's past and follows her efforts to not just accept her psychic talents, but to use them in a positive way. Of course, there's going to be some conflict involved as well as a mystery to solve.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Short Announcement

I may have arrived at a title for the "Dabblers" sequel -- "Seer, Tyro, Fiend." That's seer as in clairvoyant, tyro is another name for apprentice or novice, and fiend is sort of obvious. Note that the three words do not necessarily all describe the same person, and in that way, the title follows the format of the original, i.e., a word that denotes what one or more characters is/are.

Going forward, then, posts about the sequel will have a label matching the title, unless of course I think of another title I like better.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Joy of a Series

Haven't blogged for a couple of days. Friday--company holiday party and then preparing for company at home. Saturday--more prep, company stayed until late, but we had a great time. Now I'm looking forward to Monday and Tuesday off to do some series writing.

"Stranger Faces" is slated for release February 1! Still have to proof galley when it becomes available. Feb. 1 is also the date for release of "Two Faces, Two Faced" print edition. And all of this just in time for Love is Murder.

Sequel to "Dabblers" is progressing well, socializing notwithstanding. I had a couple more ideas for the title, but I want to do a search and make sure there are no other books published recently with the same title. Don't want to cause confusion out there.

In regard to the subject for this post, there's a lot of good to say about writing a sequel. It means I get to explore the character more deeply. In "The Changeling Kill," sequel to "The Dreamer Gambit," I got the chance to delve into Jack Watson's past, specifically his hellish marriage. In the sequel to "Dabblers," it's digging into some of Stefanie's unhappy childhood, her early days of dealing with her psychic gift. In both cases, the past is reawakened by current events, so the retrospective angle becomes important and necessary. Applying more history to the character is fun creatively and turns him or her into a more real person, even to me. I get to meet them during their first novel and then we become closer friends, sharing our dark pasts and deep secrets, in the sequel.

Tracy Wiley, on the other hand, did not work out the same way, but that's because her personality flaw, i.e., her withdrawal from people when her mother and brother died, has left some aspects of socialization underdeveloped. Her naivety in that regard is part of what gets her into trouble. Ah, well, if people were all the same, what a dull world it would be.

Thursday, December 6, 2012


In writing the sequel to "Dabblers," I find myself faced with a familiar dilemma, i.e., how much recapping is necessary or desirable. The great thing about writing a sequel is that the characters have already been developed for the reader, but then, there are things to consider about this. Someone may pick up the sequel without realizing there was another book ahead of it. Fortunately, Write Words will indicate on the cover of a sequel that it is "Vol. 2" or whatever number. This might drive a potential reader to get the preceding books as well, but it might just turn him/her off as well. With that in mind, I would like to provide enough references in the sequel so that actually reading the other book first is not necessary, yet not so much information that the telling bogs down for those who did read the earlier entries in the series. Some recap is also good for them if a fair amount of time (and reading of other books) comes between the volumes.

It's a delicate balancing act. I'm currently trying to insert information provided in "Dabblers" into the sequel as it becomes necessary to explain the position of certain characters, especially Stefanie, the POV character. The new novel brings back someone from the most troubled period of her childhood in the opening chapter, so some description of who he is and what his presence means to her was required. Then I found myself working in descriptions about Paul, Stefanie's husband and soul mate. I guess I'll have to wait until the editing phase to determine if I've done too much or too little.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Guilty Pleasure

Well, I did it. After yesterday's post, I started thinking more about a sequel to "Dabblers" and writing down some notes about the plot. The exercise served to increase the excitement, and the next thing I knew, I was writing it.

So perhaps I've embarked upon writing two novels at once, possibly switching back and forth with the political thriller I mentioned starting a rewrite on. I've never done it this way before, but who knows? It might work out for the better. The down side is I could wind up distracted and not completing anything, and if that seems to be happening, I can always shelve one book until the other gets done.

I've also been trying to find more time to read books by other authors, with the intention of writing reviews and maybe generating a little reciprocity. I know a lot of readers are skeptical of hype by the producers of a book and place more credence with reviews from other readers. When I'm selecting a book to read, I actually don't look at reviews. Really. I read the blurb to see if the story line piques my interest. Depending on the book format, I'll read a bit of the first chapter. At times, writing style will sour my interest. I picked up a science fiction novel, one of a box full of books given to me by a friend, because it was the first of a series and I thought I would give it a try. After a couple of pages, I quit. Intriguing premise, yes, but the style was meant to take the POV of a "redneck," a young man of low education and questionable socialization. The sentences were all over the place, changing subjects, inserting unrelated details. Or maybe they would be related later, but the disorganization put me off.

Another thing that will make me put a book down within the first chapter is a failure to see the story emerging. It's a rule of writing that I cannot ignore. Something has to happen right quick or I lose interest. I realize I may have stretched this rule in the first chapter of "Stranger Faces," but the first passage is a setup for something that comes along later. With that being said, by the end of Chapter 1, Tracy has an injured spy sleeping on her couch, and I think that takes care of getting the story started "right quick."

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

In A Quandary

"Stranger Faces" has gone off to Write Words to become an ebook, so now it's back to a next novel. I had started rewriting a political-thriller type of mystery and I have reached Chapter 5. As I talked with my husband about my day last evening, I called "Stranger Faces" my "number 6." He sometimes has trouble keeping up with my writing pace, so I reminded him that the Jack Watson series has two books, the Faces series has three books with the addition of "Stranger Faces," and "Dabblers" is its own story line.

Which led me to think about what I am now working on, yet another story line. The fact is, rewriting an older book is not as exciting as creating a new one even if the rewrite is quite significant. I started doing it because . . . I don't know. I like the story and the characters I guess.

I also have ideas for a third Jack Watson book. The biggest hurdle for that one is the POV characters. In "The Changeling Kill," I introduced the character of Angel Ortiz who would become Jack's new employee. The plot lines (two things going on at once) I have in mind almost demand Angel be a POV and maybe no POV from Tabitha. The trouble is that I don't know enough about Angel yet, about who she is and how her mind works, what drives her. But I've been thinking about her more, developing the character, and at some point, I think I'll have a breakthrough.

The other hot prospect is a sequel for "Dabblers." I get very excited about working on this one because I already have one of the pivotal scenes playing out in my head. It's been in there for months, actually, and that begs to be written. I don't know exactly where it all will lead, and that's exciting too.

So I suspect I will be shifting gears -- again! -- and will make a decision soon. Maybe two novels at once?

Sunday, December 2, 2012

It's Soup

Well, I think I am ready to send "Stranger Faces" to Write Words. As part of a series, it goes straight to prep for publication. As previously stated, I can look at my manuscript every day and always find something else to tinker with, quite possibly undoing it another day and reverting back to the original. I guess I get to the point where I realize that all the additional polishing is not adding much to the work itself but is just a matter of details and phrasing. While recent perusals have found some actual errors--homonym uses, misspellings--those can also be corrected during the galley process.

Having gone back to reading books by other authors, I begin to wonder if I am being too much of a perfectionist, but then again, I don't want to experience that shameful feeling when I find a BIG mistake after the book is published. (There was such an instance in "The Dreamer Gambit" but I'm not going to publicize what it is because some people might not even notice it unless they're looking for it.) While I am writing, I try to make sure that every scene serves to move the story forward in some manner. I can branch out and be creative in setting the scene, embroidering it with details, but it must do something. I am finding that not all authors follow the same structure rules that I do.

I've settled on a cover for "Stranger Faces," and I've written the blurb. I'll do another check of each of those, and maybe run MS Word spell check one more time.

"Where Power Lies" (gotta come up with a real title) is progressing quite well, I think. I'm into Chapter 5 already. Some of the scenes are/will be the same as in the older version, but there's been enough of a change of concept to revise and rewrite the actual text. Of course, the dreaded "stuck place" still lies ahead around Chapter 7, so we'll see.