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Friday, December 6, 2013

The Fun of It

Made excellent progress on "Mongan Manor" yesterday with Stefanie and Paul in the heat of the treasure hunt. Their search took them back to the tower of the title manor where there is supposed to be one or more clues to a family secret and/or buried treasure. They put their talents together and uncovered some major clues, but there is still one element missing. 

At the same time, as they get closer to solving the mystery, various members of the Manor's family are weighing in with information and subtly revealing which side they are on. As with any secret, there are those who want it revealed and those who want it to remain secret. It's a lot of motivations to juggle. 

Very soon, it will be time for a Big Scene, one which has been percolating in my imagination for weeks now and was at the heart of the inspiration for the book. I try to stop myself from looking at the word count on my computer screen as a guide to how far along I am in the story. By that measure, I am at about the half-way point. I know I shouldn't pay any attention to it. (Maybe MS Word will let me turn it off?) I always go back and do major edits after the first draft is done anyway. Still, since my work on the ms. comes is spurts, it's hard to know if I've got the pacing right or not. 

Hope to have word pretty soon on "Where Power Lies." I was talking with my husband the other night, and he was telling me some of what he read in the newspaper. I only look at the weather page usually. Anyway, some of the things he read about were ideas I incorporated into "Power" and its future setting. I don't put myself in the same visionary class as Arthur C. Clarke, but then, his predictions for 2001 and 2010 didn't totally hit the mark either.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Updates, and Some Observations

After a break over the long Thanksgiving weekend, I've gotten back to writing "Mongan Manor." Some history got laid down this morning, and I'll keep pressing on today.

I've commented before on the whole zombie craze that seems to dominate Hollywood's output these days, and it was a trailer for the movie "World War Z" that triggered a further observation about it, or at least a question. Beyond the fact that any sort of monster is, in my opinion, an easy villain in fiction. No background to develop, no motivation to explain, the concept itself is enough to tell a reader what side the character is on. Some traditional monsters--vampires, werewolves--have recently begun to straddle the line, sometimes becoming the actual heroes of a story with background and motives that people can embrace enough to make them good guys. But zombies--they're dead people reanimated that need to feed on human flesh. Mindless, soulless, a danger that must be destroyed.

But they were once people, weren't they? I don't watch zombie movies myself, but I'm sure they frequently use the device where a one-time good guy turns into a bad guy which must be obliterated in a desperate decision to be made by the remaining good guys. (Case in point, the movie "From Dusk Till Dawn," although it was vampires in that one. While violent and gory, it was raised to a higher level, I think, by comparing the bad guys in the first half--killers on the lam--with the vampires. There's evil, and then there's EVIL.) But the point I was getting at was that with zombies, a story is saying that we're our own enemies. Anyone you see can suddenly become evil and dangerous. Ordinary folks become the enemy in an instant and can therefore be killed. Anyone who can kill the zombies, those formerly ordinary folks, is a hero. So what does this say about the state of humanity? Has our hunger for control over our destinies reached a point that we feel righteous at seeing multitudes of enemies slaughtered? Violent computer games have come under fire as possibly influencing the isolated and disturbed individuals to act out the same actions in the real world. With a movie, you don't get to control the action as in a game, but you do get to root for the hero(es) out there slaughtering what amounts to other people who are different. While it may be simplistic to say that violent entertainments beget violence in real life, I still find it deeply disturbing that the masses actually enjoy watching it.  

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Holidays Are Upon Us

Been so-o-o busy lately, something had to give, and I guess it's daily blog posts that gave. I figured that as long as I was producing new pages of "Mongan Manor," I should concentrate on that within the time I have to work on writing each day.

Got past the stuck places and events are now unfolding at a furious pace. Almost at the turning-point scene that's been in my head for a while, but with a few revisions to the original form. Still waiting to see how the whole thing comes out.

I've also found my thoughts drifting to future projects. There are many of them:

  • Finish third book in Jack Watson series. I stopped before because (1) the timing of it was off, (2) I wasn't sure where to go with it next, and (3) the inspiration for "Mongan Manor" was tempting me.
  • Revisit manuscript of my first and second completed-but-not-published novels, both science fiction. Oh, do they ever need work . . .
  • Another paranormal idea that's been shuffling around in my brain. This one would be really different--a male victim who gets involved in an investigation with a female cop and a paranormal investigator (also female) in an uneasy alliance against a new sort of creature. Still very much in the formative stages.
  • Return to an unfinished manuscript from a few years ago, a medical thriller.  

But I'm trying to stay focused here and do one thing at a time. Maybe if I could clone myself...

Monday, November 25, 2013

Stuck Again

Well, not really stuck. Now that an important member of the "Mongan Manor" family has been introduced, I've been wrestling with what she will initially reveal that will lead to solving the mystery of the treasure. Previously, I was still working out her character, but I think I've got that down now--nearly 100 years old, but still sly and a bit mischievous. She and Stefanie have just met, and I need to work out what get said in this first passage.

As usual, I want to get past this point and on to the more exciting stuff that's coming up. I suspect there are some authors who could work out of sequence and get to "the good stuff" but I can never quite bring myself to do that, no matter how eager I am to write the big, dramatic scenes. Surprising--to anyone but me--is the fact that I still don't know how the story ends! Really. No clue. But experience has shown me that the inspiration will come at the proper time, and the scenes will practically write themselves.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

A Different Sort of Antagonist

I'm at a point in "Mongan Manor" where an antagonist, of sorts, is coming onstage for the first time. I realized that even though I have mentioned her repeatedly in the first part of the book, I had little idea about her personality. Now, before her first active scene, I need to define her better. This person started the trouble at the heart of the story while unaware of what she was starting. Do I make her innocently mischievous or deviously manipulative? Should she be failing in her mental faculties since she's almost a century old or be sharp and cunning? Nice or nasty?

And how important is it to determine her motivations? And should those motives be complicated or simple? At this point, I have to decide how important they are to the plot. Regardless of why this lady stirred up her family with the notion of hidden treasure, the goal is to find it and settle all the disputes. Her motives will have to fit her personality and vice versa. What keeps coming into my mind about her is a character portrayed in a movie that's a favorite of mine, mainly pertaining to her appearance and manner, but that's just the surface.

I have some other activities planned for the day, things which occupy the hands while letting the mind roam.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Why

I sat down this morning with the intention of putting something on my blog but with no ideas about what. Distracted by hunger, I got up and made some scrambled eggs. Since it's easier to read while eating than to write while eating, I went into my email to read some messages from The Write Practice. There was an article titled "The Odds Are Against You, Might As Well Get to Writing." While it presents some daunting statistics about the scant chances of commercial success for a writer, it encourages authors to write all the same. It triggered some thoughts about why I do this.

First, it's not for the money. Yes, I get paid when people buy my books. I wish more people would to get me to the point where I make a comfortable living at it. Do I expect to move into a mansion and have servants and all that? No. Comfortable would be just fine, but I'm not even to that point yet.

Second, I know the odds are against fame and a Pulitzer Prize, and neither of those things ever inspired me to write. Recognition is certainly nice, and I get some of that now and again. Nobody stops me on the street or in the grocery store to indicate they recognize me. I'm not a household name and wouldn't expect to be unless I get more books sold.

Third, I've already proven that I can write a novel, get it published, and get paid. Therefore, what drives me is not a sense of accomplishment from doing once what many are never able to do.

So what, then, is the point? Why do I do it?

As I imply on my websites, I can't NOT write. It goes on in my head whether I want it to or not. Story ideas, scenes, bits of dialog, characters and their relationships--my imagination keeps generating the stuff. The only way to control it is to put words together in a "permanent" way. Only, that just makes room for more stuff to gush out of my brain. It's as if there is a story that must be told, and since I don't have throngs of people waiting with bated breath to hear me tell it, into print it must go. Once it's in a manuscript, why not try to get it published? I have, and it continues to be a rewarding experience. Just not monetarily rewarding. Yet.

I've often heard advice from big-time authors who say not to try to write to the market. Just because Young Adult vampire/shapeshifter/zombie/wizard stories are the rage one day doesn't mean that the thirst for such books won't be quenched by the time YOUR book finds its way to the marketplace. The best advice I ever heard was, "Write the book that is in you."

Which is what I do. There seem to be many of them in there waiting to get put down in words. Fine by me. I would continue to do it even if nobody wanted to publish or read anything I wrote. But I think someone who writes stories of any length actually taps a common well of human experience which stands to ultimately touch others. Writing stories is a high form of communication, of human communication, of sharing experience and ideas and emotions. Perhaps that is the bottom line of why it feels so rewarding.

Catching Up

Haven't had much time to devote to anything writing related over the last few days as I have been trying to catch up on a number of other things. With the possibility of a full-time job on the horizon, I may have less in days to come, and my blog posts may become far less regular. The time I have available for writing activities will probably be devoted to writing first rather than social media.

Work will continue on "Mongan Manor" which is now picking up pace toward a turning point event.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Point of View Can Be Tricky

Got through a tricky passage in "Mongan Manor" where Stefanie gets some good information from a member of the family, putting a different spin on the treasure. Her conversation went through a few fits and starts as I worked out how much to reveal and how many red herrings to toss out.

Arline Chase, my publisher, always has excellent information on her blog for Write Words. Her post yesterday was about author intrusion, something I try to stay on the lookout for. In a nutshell, it has to do with not including information unavailable to the point of view character. Since I do a lot of my work in first person POV, I really have to watch out for this. My character cannot narrate that My cheeks turned red unless she's looking at herself in a mirror at the moment. Instead, her narrative might say, My cheeks burned with embarrassment. It's a bit trickier when writing in third person, harder to catch. I think the key is that the point of character feels things about him/herself and observes things about other characters to draw assumptions and conclusions. As someone who read Arline's post remarked, big-name authors fall into the trap frequently, and maybe the average reader doesn't notice, but critics and editors sure do.

Both POVs have their benefits and limitations, and the choice of which to use is largely a matter of style and preference. I use third person for the Jack Watson series as a device for giving the character information my main protagonists don't have and to take the reader where the action is. If not for this ability, stuff would happen off stage and Jack would be ferreting it out later. I think letting the reader witness important events "first hand" adds to the tension. For my other series, the plot unfolds through the eyes of one character who must unravel what is happening and how to protect herself. First person sort of locks me into a female protagonist because I'm not sure I would know how to write a first person male character for a novel. I did try it once in a short story, but those are usually so bare-bones in character development, it did not matter. Maybe I'll try it in a novel someday.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

More on The Name Game

Started in on "Mongan Manor" this morning, backtracking a bit to pick up the rhythm of the scene. I also had a flash of inspiration about providing Stefanie with the clues to the family secret and treasure mysteries, so I went forward with that. Had to stop and do some research on coats of arms and the various symbols used, and while I haven't yet decided on a key symbol for the story, I'm comfortable with the concept at least.

While doing my research into family names and histories, coats of arms, etc., I'm starting to wonder if I should include a disclaimer in the book when it's done. I want to stay true to the Irish heritage, but not so true that anyone could think I meant to portray real people. I'm making this up out of pure imagination and using facts from research for authenticity. I remember reading about another writer who was getting threats from someone who claimed her book of fiction exactly mirrored a relative's life. Is that how these things get started? Someone reads a book and figures any supporting details which match with him/herself or someone they know in life (notice, I did not say "real life" because life is real and fiction is fiction) and automatically assume that the writer based the book on them. Nonsense like that is nothing but ego and/or greed. I don't know anyone with the last name of Sheehy, the family name in the book. I chose it because of its meaning--eerie or mysterious. I did web searches for Irish-sounding names, both given and surnames, but mainly used those with certain meanings which will be part of the clues to the family secret.

I completely avoid using names or physical descriptions that might lead someone who knows me to think I wrote about them. I don't even like the idea of loosely basing characters on someone I've met. For one thing, when I meet someone, I never think "Gee, he/she would make a great character." It just doesn't happen for me. For another, when I'm developing a story, the characters are contrived to play certain roles in it. I need good guys and bad guys with a large proportion of people who are neither all good nor all bad. The role each plays determines their appearance, age, profession, history, demeanor, attitudes, and all the rest and can change as needed. Even the main POV character is subject to this treatment. Perhaps that's why I don't spend a great deal of time deciding who my character is before I set to writing the story, although that is an exercise many teachers of writing encourage.

Stefanie in the Windsong Lake series is a case in point. When I decided to resuscitate the "Dabblers" manuscript I finished a few years earlier, I decided that the character was too wimpy, too needy. She needed to be stronger. That was when I decided that she had known about her psychic ability and kept it secret for most of her life, even from her husband, Paul. Voila! More conflict was born. And her situation required her to "make peace" with her ability which kept trying to warn her of impending trouble, which meant she would be growing, developing, changing. Once I settled on that, my muse let out a sigh of relief and said, "Ahhh, now we've got it."

Monday, November 11, 2013

Updates and A Bit of News

I did some more fiddling with the cover for "Where Power Lies" and with the blurb as well. I wanted to do some experiments with changing the background colors and to be sure that there is ample room for the title and byline to be added without losing any important elements. I reduced the shadows to only one row so that more of the background is revealed, which also adds a bit more color. Unfortunately, my graphics skills and toolkit are very limited, so all my attempts to change the color pallet resulted in shades of one color only, which looked less attractive than the original.

Also added a small amount of text to "Mongan Manor," getting through a scene where I was not really sure what I wanted to happen. It needed to be an event of some importance, but what was it supposed to say? The resolution brought me new inspiration for how a subplot unravels going forward.

This afternoon, I'm going on a job interview. Yes, out of temporary retirement, perhaps, and back into a day job. Thus far, it could go either way I suppose. While I would certainly love to continue focusing on my writing career, it isn't bringing income in a major way. So it looks like I'll return to squeezing it in around a real job. Ah, well...

Friday, November 8, 2013

Updates and Miscellany

Yesterday afternoon, I received my print copy of "Dabblers," and frankly, the sense of satisfaction never diminishes with each book. One more print book left to receive, and I understand it's on its way.

I checked with the libraries where I donated books and was delighted to find "The Dreamer Gambit" in both their catalogs. One of them was even checked out! Might this lead to people discovering my other books, too? Sure hope so, because that was the whole idea about donating to the libraries.

Everything is prepped for "Where Power Lies" now, as I've pretty much settled on the most recent cover design, the one with the blood on it. That red spot really pops, I think, and more or less settles the fact that the woman beside it is the murder victim mentioned in the blurb. Anyway, I think it will work.

Back to Mongan Manor today. I need to sit back and consider the scene I'm working on next and what change it will bring about.  I think I know what it is, but it's just a matter of how I can reveal it.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Name Game

Working on a crucial piece of "Mongan Manor" this morning, I realized that one of the names I had selected early on caused a problem with the method of delivering pieces of the puzzle. I went back to my list of Irish names previously collected, but I did not find anything workable. Back to the Internet. A little searching on the Behind-The-Name site gave me a good name to use but it then too closely resembled another name I had selected for a different character, already changed once before for the same reason. So I found a new name for that one too. (Bless Microsoft Word's find and replace.)  Now I'm deciding where the next step goes, especially in light of the pacing issues I mentioned in an earlier post.

After another peek at my cover for "Where Power Lies," I played around a bit with the background colors looking for a way to charge it up a little. Then I had a burst of inspiration, and this morning, I managed to execute it in another sample cover.

I think the pool of blood draws the eye fairly well. The most time consuming thing about this cover design is the shadows. When pasted over the background, tiny flecks of white surrounded each "head" and needed to be touched up.

Just for reference sake, I'll include my working blurb here, too.

In 2075, fifty years after a cataclysm nearly leveled the continent, the United States has been reborn with cities rising from the ruins. Deanna Kirkland struggled out of poverty to land a job in one of them, working for Senator Wolfson. On the bottom rung of the new society, Dee spices her humdrum life with daydreams of glamorous adventure while accepting that working for Wolfson is as close as she'll ever come to realizing her fantasies.

Then she happens to find a coworker dead in the Senator’s office and her life becomes more like one of those fantasies. Although everyone tries to convince her the woman committed suicide, Dee seems to be alone in thinking it was murder until she runs into Reese Ballard. He says it's evidence of the machinations of secret networks he calls Power Blocs that run everything while hiding behind a sham of democracy. Leery at first, she joins his search for the truth and soon finds his conspiracy theories are not merely theories. She plunges headlong into a different and dangerous world as those shadowy networks seek to silence them before they can reveal the truth about where power lies.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Too Much Too Soon?

Had time on my hands today without Internet access for most of it, but I did some work on "Mongan Manor." There is an important piece of the puzzle to the family secret involving names of ancestors, and I had thought I would put that off until much later. As I started down a different path this morning to do a different sort of scene, it struck me that it had the potential for more drama and would fit better at a later point, closer to the Big Scene, as it were. So I switched gears and started dropping some hints about names.

As always, I'm concerned about pacing. Each chapter must reveal something and institute a permanent change, hopefully with increasing tension and surprise, until the final wrap-up. The problem is getting a feel for where on the upward curve I am at a given point. In an earlier post, when I was working on the third Jack Watson book, I realized that things were happening too fast. A series of events occurred in the space of a day and it just didn't seem to be reasonable. Granted, I'm writing fiction, but as Stephen King once wrote in his "Danse Macabre," fiction requires a suspension of disbelief. Disbelief is a heavy load, like lifting a grand piano with a hoist to a third floor apartment. If you do it right, the reader gets swept up in the story and will believe just about anything, but if it flies in the face of reason to flagrantly, it's game over. Using my Jack Watson story as an example, I could imagine the reader thinking: "The killer found a phone number, called someone from out of town, got hooked up with a contract shooter, and then a snitch mentioned to Jack that someone was gunning for him ALL IN ONE DAY?????" Since I write in fits and starts, from day to day, the gaps make it hard to notice this, but when I went back to verify what day of the week I was currently writing (yeah, I do that a lot), I realized how much had happened in the space of a day and it just seemed impossible, even for fiction.

The other challenge with the Windsong Lake characters is that they're intelligent people. Paul's a genius and Stefanie recognizes patterns and never forgets anything. If a clue is too obvious and they both miss it or misread it, that grand piano is a pile of splinters.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

OMG I'm Writing a Cozy!

Well, not really. Added another scene to "Mongan Manor" which reveals some of the relationship issues among the extended family who owns it and dropping some important clues, too. While writing it, however, it struck me how much of the cozy mystery feeling keeps cropping up. A bunch of people with different agendas around a dinner table. There are clues and red herrings at the same time, some of it innocent because each character has a different goal and different background knowledge. One of the things that makes it fun is to have a character speak from their point of view in a way that the others will misinterpret or read more meaning into it than is there. I find myself returning to my notes document where I have a synopsis of the family history, its secrets, and where each character present stands on it.

I'm still waffling a little about how the mystery will get solved, vacillating between a down-to-earth versus a paranormal sort of resolution. At present, I'm favoring the paranormal, but the problem I'm having with it is that if Stefanie's psychic experience puts the final piece into place, there is no proof to present to the rest of the players. She's an outsider and there's no reason for anyone to take her word for it. She'll need corroboration of some sort. There's also the issue of a murder or at least an attempt at it. I have some ideas about it, but they are still sort of nebulous. Perhaps that's not such a bad thing because I can make adjustments as I go, as the family conflicts take shape. I need a murderer, a victim, and a motive.

The one thing I don't want to do is repeat myself. This time out, I think Stefanie should take the lion's share of credit for solving the mystery with some help from Paul of course. The experience should also enhance or change her psychic gift in some manner, and I've got an idea about that, too.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Lo and Behold

I do believe I have a cover for "Where Power Lies" and the blurb is now in pretty good shape too. A couple of ideas/thoughts/inspirations led to the cover design process, and I thought I'd map that process out.

I started with the blurb. First pass was very wordy and included way too much information. I honed it to the essentials after a few passes, realizing that the blurb cannot possibly convey every aspect of the plot or the setting.

An earlier cover concept featured the bright, modern city surrounded by what is called the No Zone, areas of crumbling buildings and such. As I worked on the blurb, the No Zone definition got cut, so the illustration of it on the cover was no longer workable.

The latest version of the blurb has a number of significant details: a main character who comes to the reborn city, a dead body in the Senator's office, shadowy secret networks, the Senator as a puppet for those networks.

I had a few elements already--woman's dead body (and I'll bet I'm now on a watch list somewhere for searching on THAT any number of times!), a man in a suit (the Senator), silhouettes of male figures, i.e., shadows. I experimented with some tools at my disposal and finally got the Senator and the dead woman in a black-and-white graphic look. I put them on a gray background which resolves into groups of shadow figures. Then I needed a back drop for all of it, and I found it in the print shop program I bought some time ago. It works well because I can format all the elements in an image that is the correct size for the cover art. I tried a few background options, and fortunately, found the perfect one.

And now, here is the design I've come up with. Penny for your thoughts?

Friday, November 1, 2013

Still Two Worlds at Once

I did some more work on "Mongan Manor" this morning, tweaking a few things in earlier pages and double-checking details. I was pleased to note that some early clues are suitably ambiguous yet fair. I then got past the hump to move forward. Four more players have shown up at the house, and next up, Paul will meet Robert Markey, heir to Mongan Manor and another genius. The wordplay between them is where I had to pause, and I'll pick up there again once I decide what information they should exchange. Their interactions are going to be crucial and tricky.

Yesterday, I did some more polishing of the blurb for "Where Power Lies" in order to help define what the cover should look like. I also thought my first pass was too long with too much detail. The whole idea of the blurb is to intrigue and entice the reader, deliver a flavor of the story without going into a lot of definition. The current version is down to around 200 words, which is not a bad size. Interestingly, without really trying to do so, the editing has removed mention of certain elements that would justify one of my cover design concepts. With that, I can focus on the remaining idea I had for it, and I'm going to play with it today while I work out the next scene of "Mongan Manor."

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Feel the Power!

Query for submission of "Where Power Lies" came back positive, so the manuscript is on its way to the selection committee! I spent some time fiddling around with the cover art (not so good) and with the blurb. I think the blurb I've got truly represents the story, but it's too long and not really "snappy." While my intent is never to falsely represent anything, I want to come up with a descriptive piece that's quick and intriguing. As for my cover art attempts, I have a couple of designs in mind. One features a futuristic city growing out of the ruins of the old, i.e. the "No Zone." The other concept is to have a silhouette vignette of the woman's dead body with a man (the Senator) standing over it, but the shadow he casts starts at his feet and then becomes the shadows of many people. I guess it depends on the blurb again, so if I rewrite what I have, one or the other covers may seem like the better option. The problem is, I'm not sure I can execute either of them very well with my meager tools and skills. I actually had a third option but it doesn't fit well with a blurb because it uses symbols that the reader will only discover by reading the book. Ah, well. Back to the drawing board.

"Mongan Manor" is still waiting to move to the next scene, but "Power" has been the focus of my attention and I haven't even thought about what should happen next in any detail. I find that sitting and staring at the computer screen, waiting for inspiration to come, doesn't work for me in these cases. I just have to sit and think about it, not doing anything else. On a few occasions, I've been able to just start typing something and my muse suddenly reveals the path ahead, but usually not. And I have never yet been able to skip over a leading section and just write the scene I've been so eager to get to. Just can't bring myself to do it. Maybe it has to do with not working from an outline. The story must unfold for me as it does my characters, so I can't skip over connecting sections to write the "fun stuff" out of sequence.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Gone and Done It

I completed my edit of "Where Power Lies" yesterday, and this morning, I sent off a query letter to Write Words about it. Guess that's that. Of course, until I get a request to see a sample, I can still make minor changes, but I'm going to try to avoid that. It's time to move on. If the manuscript is accepted, I already have the blurb, but the specter of cover art will then loom. Perhaps when I reach the next stuck place on "Mongan Manor," I'll take another whack at a cover image I have in my head.

Back to "Mongan Manor." I had some ideas on how to move forward, which involves Paul determining how the search for answers will move forward. I'm still pulling the passage together, getting ideas into proper sequence. Stefanie and Paul will be trying to get more information from the members of the family at Mongan Manor and to determine who might be behind the trouble the Ken is warning Stefanie about. Of course, their investigation is going to stir up the antagonists and bring some of that trouble their way. I've also considered a few aspects of the big conclusion scene which has already been foreshadowed, but there are a lot of details to work out. A key element is that while events of the past shaped the current situation and many of the players are long dead, there must be enough information among the living to enable Stefanie to solve the mystery.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Final Edit?

Finished reading hard copy of "Where Power Lies" and I have started the painstaking effort to make electronic changes without introducing any new errors. Once that's done, its query time.

Since I got onto this editing pass, I haven't had time to consider the next phase of "Mongan Manor" as yet, but once again, it's one of those cases where I want to get through the buildup and on to the next action which will be a major turning point. I also have to work out the murder aspect. I have the players and motives arranged, I think, but how it actually happens has yet to be developed. Of course, Stefanie and everyone else at Mongan Manor will first find the body and have to work out how it happened. All that's down the road a bit, nothing more than an outline of events at this stage.

A friend of mine has been posting Halloween music videos (from YouTube) on his Facebook page for some days now, and one of them is a recently-discovered favorite for me. "Voodoo" by Godsmack. He laughs at the notion of what people who don't know me would say to my liking it, but people who really know me know I have a widely (wildly?) eclectic taste in music. Anyway, in response to his post, I mentioned how surreal it was to listen to the song (which I could not resist) at 7 a.m., and he said something about a new story line. I said I'd see what my imagination could come up with. Voila! An idea. Still very formative, but I'm intrigued by the notion of doing a horror story. Well, maybe not horror as the genre is usually taken to be. I'm not a fan of blood and gore because, as Stephen King once wrote, the icky factor is the lowest level of horror fiction. I'd rather try for the top level--pulling the reader into the story so that he/she feels the terror and horror of the characters. An interesting challenge...

Monday, October 28, 2013

News and Updates

I heard from the publisher over the weekend and hopefully "Game Faces" and "Dabblers" will soon be out in paperback! Can hardly wait to get my author's copies.

I started writing a blurb for "Where Power Lies" in the interest of coming up with a cover concept, either that I could do myself or hire someone to do. Of course, I still have a long way to go on the proofing from hard copy that I began, and then making all the corrections to the manuscript. You'd think as many times as this story has been rewritten, I'd have it down by now, but alas... Sometimes, how I respond to reading my own book relates to my particular mood at the time. I had thought I would hold off doing more editing for a bit, but I may get back to it sooner rather than later.

That's because I'm stalled in "Mongan Manor" for the moment. It's time for Paul to get involved in solving the mysteries, an his interactions with the other characters are crucial. They will reveal things in very subtle ways which makes the coming passages tricky to plan and write. While I'm making every effort to not fall into the same plot pattern as in the first two books, there is one pattern that stubbornly exerts its influence, and that's not necessarily bad. Stefanie absorbs events and details and she reacts to them in her own emotional way. Paul comes in and applies his logical thinking and people-reading skills to pull her observations together to indicate what people are planning and doing. This is their synergy, filling in each other's gaps in ability. In this outing, in the name of changing things up, Paul is not resistant to the uncanny and Stefanie is not hiding anything from him any more. I guess another recurring theme is that Stefanie's psychic abilities continue to develop, but that's intentional. It's part of her character growth, which in turn is what makes me want to keep writing the same characters.

Also on my mind of late is more promotional activities. I need to polish my book brochure for a slicker look, as well as on-site materials for book fairs, etc. Since there may be speaking engagements in my future, I should probably outline a talk to give. I'm also considering a sort of book give-away, but I need to work out the details before I announce it.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Useless Words

Another appointment this morning gave me more time to read "Where Power Lies" off hard copy, and I keep finding tons of stuff to change. All those conversation tags that add nothing--I said, he said, she asked. So remembering some tips from one of my favorite editing books, I devised a set of "rules" to follow regarding tags.

  • Replace a tag with some action where feasible. "I think you're wrong on that." He looked down his nose at her. "You need to rethink your reasons."
  • If there has been a break in conversation, a narrative passage for example, tag the first two exchanges of dialog to establish who is speaking to whom. 
  • Use tags a bit more liberally (or better yet, the action substitution mentioned above) when more than two characters are speaking. 
  • If a line of dialog opens a chapter or scene, make sure the reader knows who is speaking.
  • If the tag does not clarify anything, cut it.
  • Watch out for overuse of adverbs on tags, i.e., seriously, jovially, softly, gently, etc.
  • Avoid repeating the same pattern of avoidance. For example, doing the first option above over and over again. Mix it up.
What I also (re)discovered is that by removing those useless words, it leaves room for more creative stuff where it really makes an impact. I'll be reading more in days ahead.

Now I'm eager to write the next scene in "Mongan Manor" which will crank up the action some more.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Decisions, Decisions

While waiting for workmen to keep an appointment this morning, I started reading a printed copy of "Where Power Lies." Aaargh! Found mistakes--real mistakes!--on page 2. It's that old closure thing again. Also, having been away from the manuscript for a while, I spotted a couple of things to change for the sake of clarity, as well as unnecessary stuff I could remove, mainly tags that aren't needed. I've read about half way thorough Chapter 2 and I cringe at the number of corrections to be made. Lots of corrections also means lots of opportunities for me to introduce MORE errors. But maybe it'll all be worth it.

Made some progress on "Mongan Manor," especially in the thinking department which led to the next scene to be written. But now I'm into "Power" again, but maybe I can juggle the two books at once.

Since my morning appointment required a bit of a drive, I found myself thinking about the cover for "Power," and trying to figure out how much ease of execution should weigh into my decision on a design. There are a lot more factors that go into a cover concept. Eye-catching is certainly paramount, but I personally hate it when an attractive book cover misrepresents the story within. I believe that when someone reads the blurb on the back (or screen), the cover art should mesh with that little information and invite further investigation, i.e., reading the book. Some of my concepts for "Power" would be impossible(?) for me to do myself, but before I run off to find a graphic artist, I have to decide if a particular concept will follow my rule above. Perhaps what I should do is write the blurb first! Haven't done that yet, maybe because my early attempts have indicated it will be a tough job.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Planning Ahead

I have an errand to run tomorrow which will require me to sit and wait for an unknown period of time, so my first activity this morning was to print a copy of "Where Power Lies" to proofread. In the past, proofing from paper has allowed me to find errors I missed, and I hope it will this time too. I'm still thinking about giving self-publishing a try on this one, just for the experience. Got to do a cover for it as yet too.

Some work happening on "Mongan Manor," but I find myself at a point where I need to figure out what happens next. Paul has arrived at the manor and is about to meet some of the family there. He'll go head to head with one of them who happens to be a genius, too. I need to plan that conversation carefully to move things in the right direction. It's also about time to provide some more clues and perhaps for Stefanie to have a warning vision of something bad about to happen, i.e., the murder. Seems I have a few things to iron out in order to move forward.

Still prevaricating on the whole book trailer thing. It's going to take a good deal of work even after I decide what I want the finished product to look like. I have to wonder if my time would be better spent elsewhere, like spiffing up my promotional materials. I was showing my hubby one of my book brochures compared to that of another author which I picked up at Glen Ellyn Bookfest a few weeks ago. Hers was on slick paper, not just plain bond, and the graphics were more professional looking rather than clip art and other images available on Microsoft Word. Also on the promotion front, I may have some personal appearances pending next year, and it may not be too early to outline a talk about my writing career. I've spoken in public a couple of times before and was on a panel discussion at Love Is Murder this year, but being the "star" will be somewhat different. On the up side, I'll be talking about a subject close to my heart.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Updates et al.

Working on "Treasure of Mongan Manor" this morning, still in the easy going stage before I hit the first "stuck place." Maybe I won't hit one this time around. The book has so many elements in it--psychics, geniuses, ghosts, treasure, greed, inheritance, puzzles, genealogy. I noticed a certain Gothic edge to it as well, which doesn't surprise me under the circumstances, mainly due to the setting in an old manor house.

I think my antagonist candidates are pretty solid now, each having a motive to justify their actions. I might even have decided on the murder victim. There are a couple more characters to introduce that will muddy the waters somewhat and provide more information, but Stefanie's husband is about to join in the "fun." (In quotes because fun for me to write generally means not much fun for my characters.)

Yesterday, I did some more thinking about a book trailer, focusing on "Dabblers." I wrote out a script, as suggested by the article I hit on, and then viewed some examples on YouTube. I think many of them were professionally produced, which makes me fear creating something that is instantly recognizable as the work of an amateur. Then again, one of the book trailers I saw at the Glen Ellyn BookFest a few weeks ago looked as though it could have been produced by the techniques I thought I would use. Well, there's one way to find out how well I can do the job. I am considering doing more of Stefanie's "sleep drawings" like the ones I made for the book's cover, and those would work well in the first part of the trailer, although I'll still need some other images as well. I can try putting something together and then try it out on some friends for their opinion.

Also, while writing this morning, Microsoft Word presented a new Gotcha. I typed the following sentence:

I stared after her, unsettled, wary, and wishing I was better equipped to figure it all out.

Word flagged "was" with a green underscore indicating a grammar error. I right clicked on it and took the suggested replacement of "were." After the change had been made, Word put the green underscore on "were" and suggested replacing it with "was." This is one of those grammar rules I struggle with because "I was" seems intuitively more correct than "I were," so I did some research. I found my answer on this web page. Quick and Dirty Tips. The answer is "were," and the reasons given are quite interesting.

My own quick and dirty tip for the day? Be leery of spelling and grammar checking by a computer program.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Spreading My Name All Over

This morning, I delivered paperback editions of "The Dreamer Gambit" to the Barrington Area Library and the Elk Grove Village Public Library, as well as one "Two Faces, Two Faced" to Barrington. Elk Grove Village has stated they will BUY copies of all my other books for their collection. Now that I have seven books published, the idea of donating a copy to libraries in the name of creating a following is a good idea. When I only had one book, it seemed like giving away the store. Elk Grove Village will put a special sticker on the bound end to let people know I'm a local author. Itasca Public Library where I dropped off a copy of "Dreamer" last week, wants me to do some speaking appearances next spring and fall. I may get free advertising on any or all of their websites and newsletters, perhaps even something on their bulletin boards. Books given away could be money well spent!

I found a website which gave tips on how to create a book trailer and what to do with it when you have it. I discovered I have all the tools I need already on my computer, so I'm going to give it a whirl. Once I create it, I'll see how it plays. If it works well, it could become an attention getter for future book fair appearances.

Now I'm eager to get back into "Mongan Manor" for a bit this afternoon.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Uncertain Ground

Starting on a positive note, I delivered a copy of "The Dreamer Gambit" to the Itasca Community Library near me and talked about the possibility of doing some appearances there, possibly two. If it all comes together, this will be a great chance to reach out to the public and maybe gain some readers.

Now, that uncertain ground. In "Mongan Manor," Stefanie is getting her first look at the family portrait gallery which will be crucial to solving the secret puzzle. I've already prepared the reader with the knowledge that the paintings do not cover the entire family, but this idea of presenting various players in the action all at the same time. Most of them are deceased anyway. I know I can't focus only on the ones with key roles in past goings on, because that could give it all away. And I don't feel purposely tossing out red herrings is fair to the reader. Whatever gets presented should have some meaning overall. Thus far, I'm interspersing descriptions and possible clues with Stefanie's observations and reactions. We'll see how it turns out.

The other issue is the character of Stefanie. She's an unusual character with her strange allotment of traits. Her psychic abilities, her eidetic memory, and her skills at solving visual puzzles make her feel estranged from nearly everyone. Her ongoing struggle is to accept herself as she is, but while working on that, she is a self-exiled outsider. The problem is that I find it so easy to get into her head. No, I am not psychic, and I'm lucky if I can remember what I had for breakfast much less everything I've ever experienced like Stefanie does. I'm fairly good at puzzles, true, and have a limited artistic ability, but that hardly seems enough for me to be able to step so smoothly into her shoes. Does this mean I'm as weird as she is? I suppose my imagination has always made me feel apart from other people, too, and perhaps that explains it. I can only hope that her behavior in the novels is relatable enough for readers, that they understand her mood changes and thought processes and empathize with her.

Thursday, October 17, 2013


Another library I contacted replied that they would like to receive one of my books and perhaps arrange a personal appearance. While I've done a little public speaking in the past, this would be the first time for me to be the "star." I'll probably have some time to put together a talk of some sort, but it will be an adventure. So that's three down and three to go of the places I sent letters to.

On another promotional front, I've been thinking about spiffing up my brochure for a glossy, more professional look. I had the idea of finding a photo of an old fashioned typewriter keyboard and changing the keys to spell out a brochure title and my name. I still need to explore printing options to get a good finished product. Also considering a poster of some kind to display at personal appearances. Maybe even a book trailer?

Working on "Treasure of Mongan Manor" again and making pretty good progress. Still trying to decide who will be murdered and why. I think there has to be a murder in order to kick the stakes up, provide some real danger and suspense. Of course, there must also be some development of Stefanie, either her power or her personality. Character growth is something I always look for in a series or even just one book, because the conflict the character finds him/herself in must require change of some kind. That's growth. Somehow, the old-style mysteries, where the sleuth was just the gatherer of information without any hint of having a personal life, never really appealed to me that much. While I do love the puzzle aspect of the story, I want the whole package, either as a reader or a writer.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Meanwhile, Back at the Manor...

Doing some work on "Treasure of Mongan Manor" this morning, feeling my way through introductions to the people who live in or are visiting the manor. I don't want to bring in too many people at once, though, because that can be confusing to the reader. It's an odd thing a writer has to remember: while the story and its players are perfectly clear in your head, the reader will know nothing in advance of being told about it. Each introduction of a character must tell something about them, provide some reason for them taking the spotlight, however briefly.

Will there be a murder at Mongan Manor? Probably. There's a family fortune, a buried treasure, and a secret in the offing, any of which could be the motive for a murder. Some might want to solve the secret, and some might want to keep it under wraps. Some believe in the treasure and some don't. I haven't given any insights to the inheritance as yet, but I'll be toying with it soon enough. One motive at a time.

I also caught a problem earlier. Working from the family tree I drew up, with all the nice Irish names applied to several generations of family members, I realized in the writing of the current introductions scene that I had one character named Marla and another named Moira in the same room together. The names are just too similar. Marla then became Alma. It's that old closure thing. People don't read every letter or even every word placed before them. There are lots of examples of the phenomenon circulating on the web, where even though  the letters are in the wrong order, maybe even interspersed with numbers, as long as the first and last ones are correct, most people are able to read it. The study of human psychological development calls that closure. So if a reader is speeding along at a good clip, having two such similar names could be confusing. As my publisher says, one of the cardinal rules for an author is never to confuse your reader.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Promo Engine, etc.

Last week, I sent letters and book brochures to six libraries near me, offering them a choice of a free book as well as my willingness to join in book fairs or meet with book clubs. I received one very nice response expressing interest in my offer of a free book (they actually asked about two of them). The other response I received yesterday mystified me a little. It came in an email saying only the library would not be able to add my titles at this time and thanking me for the information. They didn't want a freebie? It makes me wonder if that person actually read the letter. The email said nothing at all about author events, etc.

After my online efforts at promotion yesterday, i.e., joining or updating various websites, I got a spike in visits to my blog. I can only assume it's related. I'll keep exploring. I'm also giving more thought to offering editing services on Authors Den. For a fee, I'd read the first 20 or so pages. The fees might change according to how much the writer wants me to do. Grammar, spelling, punctuation would be the first level. Then structure and style. Then maybe a critique of how well the book opens. Need to work out the particulars of the plan, such as how works are sent and payment received.

And "Where Power Lies" now begins with a prologue. I think the idea works well to acquaint the reader with the setting and also alleviates the need for my first-person POV character to convey that information. Now the year of the story is up front, along with a description of the events that gave birth to the changes in society. Gone is the longish "thinking" part which did not occur until Chapter 2. The result gives me that satisfied feeling you get when you've fixed something that needed repair with a quick nod and a dusting off of hands. Just hope I didn't introduce any new errors. (*sigh*)

Now, back to "Mongan Manor" and some tricky first encounters.

Monday, October 14, 2013

I Know I Shouldn't, But...

Had a great idea for "Where Power Lies" over the weekend. In earlier posts, I wrestled with the issue of back story, how to present to the reader what my character already knows about the future world she lives in. The current manuscript contains a long passage of her thoughts as she travels to work one morning, but the soliloquy has always felt stilted and too much like what it is--info dump. Later on, another leading character recounts some of the same information as part of a speech.

Inspiration struck. I'll write a Prologue! It will be an excerpt from a speech which occurred ten years prior to the actual story. That later speech will echo it in an offbeat way. Dee's reflections on her way to work in the city will be greatly shortened with that long narrative eliminated, all the better to have her think about something more important! I'll get down to making that final (?) tweak later today, and then perhaps my muse will rest easier.

I also have more ideas about moving "Treasure of Mongan Manor" forward. I stopped at a point where Stefanie is about to meet more of the "players" in the mystery/puzzle, but I wasn't sure which characters to have her interact with or what the outcome would be. After being away from the story for a day or so, I realized the decision was actually easy and the result will move the plot along. That's what it's all about, after all.

This morning, I started pursuing some promotional leads as well. I'll put a link to the newest addition of websites I have information on on this page as well as all the others. That's what takes the most time--having every site link to all the others. Based on an email from Authors Den about how to make the most of my author page there, I did a bunch of updates on that site. There is also an article I kept in my favorites list about making book trailers. I may have skimmed it at first, but I'll take another look. The main question I  hope to answer is once you make a book trailer, where do you put it so people will see it?

Anybody out there care to comment on book trailers? Helpful? Never look at them? Hard to do? I'd love to get comments.

Friday, October 11, 2013


Sent off six letters and brochures to local libraries yesterday, offering each a free book for their collection and to make appearances with book clubs or at fairs. We'll see how that works out. I'll be exploring more promotional ideas and I'm giving serious consideration to making a book trailer. I found some articles on how to do that, but I'm not sure exactly what to do with it when it's done. I suppose I could do what some authors at Glen Ellyn Bookfest did and bring a computer to display the trailer in their allotted space. When it comes to personal appearances, I see a need to step it up a bit and look more professional. Would that help sales? Dunno.

Waiting to hear from my publisher about print editions of "Dabblers" and "Game Faces" before I send in my query for "Where Power Lies." A few times, I've started to open the "Power" manuscript and then decided there was nothing more to be done to it. I'm sure there are things I would change if I really tried, but it really is time to move on.

"Mongan Manor" is progressing well. Still fumbling around with how to get back story told. I've settled for putting in references whenever I think of them with the intent of editing them down later. I certainly want the book to be readable by someone who has not read the previous two books, but I also don't want to annoy those who have by restating things they already know. This can certainly be done, I believe, and a good example is with the Tempe Brennan books by Kathy Reichs. I did not start with the very first one, yet I enjoyed several of the books without it. Some of the references to previous events tempted me into reading the books that covered them, so that's the effect I want to achieve with my series.

An interesting blog post from Brianna Lee McKenzie (a writer's journey) which I picked up on from Twitter. She writes of how she had never written erotica, never tried to do steamy, explicit sex scenes, and yet found actually doing it not all that difficult. Hmmm. Maybe someday, I'll give it a shot, too. Thanks, Brianna, for the inspiring post.

Thursday, October 10, 2013


This morning, I prepared mailings to some local libraries, offering the a free book as well as my availability for events. I'll be dropping those at the post office this afternoon, and then I'll see where it goes.

Making HUGH progress on "Treasure of Mongan Manor." I've decided this time to not worry about picky stuff like how long chapters are or where I provide bits of back story. My aim is to get the story down in words and get bogged down as little as possible.

I think the title is pretty solid now. Since there was an inheritance involved in "Seer, Tyro, Fiend," I wanted to do something different. Since my setting is a modern-day castle of sorts, a hidden treasure just fell right into place with it. Now I have a family gathering in a Gothic setting and they're all interested in finding the treasure. One member has hired Stefanie to use her puzzle-solving skills to find it first. Inventing the title manor house is proving to be a lot of fun, as is dropping clues for Stefanie. Since logical thinking is not one of her highest skills, she sometimes gets a little lost, especially when other people attempt to benefit from what she knows or says. That's when Paul comes to the rescue, applying his intellect to supply the pieces she is missing to figure out patterns. One of the characters in this one is a genius, like Paul, and it should be fun having them butt heads.

Something I will have to do soon is go back over my family tree and figure out dates of death for some of the ancestors. Those dates will relate back to specific and important events, and I have to make sure all the ages work out right as well.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Publicity, Etc.

Well, I had planned to be at the Joliet Public Library Author Fair on Saturday, October 12, but unfortunately had to withdraw in light of other personal matters. Because of that, and upon some reflection following the Glen Ellyn Bookfest, I've been taking another look at publicity. Part of my endeavors this morning was to get contact addresses for other local libraries. Then I created a letter to send them offering to donate one of my books as well as to make personal appearances. Since I have some paperbacks on hand after Bookfest, and some brochures, I'm going to do a mailing to the libraries in my area. If they like the free book, they might just want some of the others. You never know, and it's worth a shot.

The other thing I did this morning was complete the query letter for "Where Power Lies," which I am now calling finito. I could probably go on editing and tweaking the manuscript for ages, but what's the use in that? I received a comment on the subject on this blog which sort of pushed me over the edge. It is time to move on.

I also did just a wee bit of research on "Mongan Manor" for an upcoming scene. I need an Irish character to say something supremely Irish that gives him away, and it must be in a specific context. I believe I found it, and now I'm eager to get into writing the scene which is still, sadly, a ways down the road.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

When Will It Ever Be Done?

Still tinkering with "Where Power Lies" and with each change, I ask myself if I should just call it done and move on. Then I'll come across something that really needs to be changed, if not an outright mistake, and I dig in again.

The urge to get back to "The Treasure of Mongan Manor" grows ever stronger. Thoughts of how to set up the mystery for Stefanie continually send up a siren song to open the document and do something. Then I think "Power" needing to be finished before I can put full attention on "Mongan Manor," and around it goes again.

While I had planned to go to Author Fest at the Joliet Public Library this Saturday, I've had to back out for personal priorities. Besides that, I'm giving my promotional strategy an overhaul. So far, only thinking about what to do and how to do it, but the idea that continues to reverberate from Glen Ellyn Bookfest is that all the other authors' displays had a more professional look as well as something to catch people's eyes. I realized that what I had out there was not set up to entice people from a distance; they had to be right up next to the table to see what was on it. In light of that, I also wound up speaking to more authors than to readers, which gives me pause. Time for a new approach.

Monday, October 7, 2013

The Quest for Perfection

Reading "Where Power Lies" from the back to the front this morning, and doing this way does seem to help me find things. I've also had a few snippets of ideas occur to me at odd moments during the weekend, just details to tweak the setting a bit. I also noticed a few cases of repetition, but do I really want to go through the process of running the word frequency counter again? Some of the repetition I've noticed occurs in different forms or tenses of a word, for example, wary and wariness, intense and intensity, warning and warned.

It comes down to the constant question of when have I done enough proofing/editing. In all of my previous books, I have found more errors in the final product, from out-and-out spelling or grammar errors to those pesky repetitions. Working with a small publisher, I don't have the input of an editor who will go over every word and punctuation mark. I could hire the service of such a person on my own, but even in books which I've read that supposedly went through a professional's fine-toothed comb, I have found  mistakes. Sometimes BIG ones.

On the other hand, I have also read books, both best sellers and self published, that other readers raved about without a single mention of errors of any kind. That raises the question of the worth of the effort to reach perfection. If readers overlook the imperfections in books, then they certainly won't notice complete perfection either. Is striving for zero errors an effective use of my time or anyone else's? I think if the story is good, if people enjoy it and remember it and want to think about it, any errors they find won't matter.

I'm not making excuses here. Proofing is still necessary, and I'll keep trying to reduce errors and such as far as is feasible. But sooner or later, that manuscript has to be called "done" and head out into the world.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Word Pictures

Working on "Treasure of Mongan Manor" today, and it's such fun describing the images I have in my head about the title residence. When I left off yesterday, Stefanie was still a day away from her trip into the Wisconsin countryside, and I wasn't sure what to do next. Then I decided, what the heck? Let's get her out there to where things get going in a big way. Chapter break and then she's driving into the small town (which will be the scene of an important turning point) and on to Mongan Manor. I wanted to give it a place-out-of-time feeling, a throwback to another age, because part of the coming action will have Stefanie wondering what age she's living in.

I also started doing some proofreading on "Where Power Lies" yesterday, starting with the last chapter. Whether it's starting fresh at the end or because I've been away from it for a few days, I immediately found a few things to change. I'm also thinking a bit more about the Reese Ballard character. He's an enigmatic man that Dee compares to Jekyll and Hyde. Not that he's evil. He just gets very focused and driven about his job and turns hard-edged and intense which fascinates her. Other times, he's like any other guy, a little shy and sweet. Dee discovers the key to his many moods along the way.

Anyway, the method of reading from the end to the beginning looks like a viable tool. When I do get back to full scale reading, my plan is to contemplate each sentence (if long enough to warrant it) and sharpen the prose as much as possible. Now if I can just get "Mongan Manor" to a good breaking point where my fingers don't itch to type more on it.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Trying to Stay Focused

While "Where Power Lies" sits waiting for another proofreading, I've decided to concentrate for the rest of the week on "The Treasure of Mongan Manor," where things are heating up. I'm in the easy-flow stages of this one, where the ideas keep coming and fitting neatly into the plan. Why fight it?

The other reason I'm holding back on "Power" is to ensure I have time to really do it right. I plan to start at the last chapter and work backwards. Reason? Too often, when I read from start to finish, the last part of the book gets less attention as I get involved in experiencing the story. By starting at the end, maybe I'll not get so excited by the building tension and pay more attention to looking for errors.

As for pitching "Power" to my publisher, my top concern is genre. In talking to other people about it, I've called it a futuristic political thriller mystery. While that captures the spirit of it, I doubt it will suffice. There is a murder to be solved. It involves political maneuverings. It's a thriller because action and danger continue to move forward. And it takes place in the future, showcasing new technology, but that's not the real center of the story. Since this is rewrite elebenty-seben of this book, I'm obviously committed to telling the story in some fashion, mainly because I think it's a good one. Maybe even better now that I've added the pseudo-political element. As for the cover art, I've actually contemplated the unthinkable--hiring an artist!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Moving Forward

After a few days of hiatus from writing, I'm back on it today and moving forward on "The Treasure of Mongan Manor," volume 3 of the Windsong Lake books. I'm about to get into the real meat of the story, and I've had some good ideas about one sequence I'd been mulling over. It has the potential to be rather erotic, but I don't really write erotic stuff, as I've mentioned in blogs past. Still, what I'm envisioning might call for some physical description of that nature, because it's an important scene with pertinent information. I'm not to the point of writing it yet, so I'll give that some additional thought.

Another question I'm wrestling with is whether or not there should be a murder involved. As planned thus far, there's plenty of conflict going on, any of which might end up with someone murdered. The murder of someone who might have held all the answers could have a suspense aspect to it, but I don't know yet. As much thought as I've put into mapping out all those conflicts over a missing treasure among members of an extended family, I haven't yet figured out how it all resolves. The characters at this point are just sketches, a statement of a role each plays, so I can't really plan until they become more fleshed out. Once I start seeing who they all are, I can identify a murder victim, a killer, and the motive.

Early on in the planning stage, I began to wonder if there would be a role for Amy, Stefanie's best friend. Happily, I've found one for her. Since Stefanie is a poor reader and even worse at doing background research, Amy will provide information important to solving the puzzle at hand, i.e., the secret to the treasure.

As a side note in the Gotchas category, I was talking to an author at Bookfest last Saturday, and he told me how he had someone proofread one of his manuscripts when it was converted into a Kindle format. My publisher has often told me that sometimes these formatting programs don't "play nice" all the time, but this author's experience proved that in spades. Careful reading of that manuscript found the exact same sentence repeated EIGHT TIMES in various places throughout the book. Now there's an error that would be tough to find without reading the whole book straight through in one sitting.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Blahs

Been a bit under the weather lately and just not in the mood to work on anything much. It happens sometimes.

Bookfest 2013 is over and done. I didn't sell a single book, although I saw other authors all around me selling theirs. I'm now doing some serious reflection on presentation for future events. Many people showed up with some sort of attention-getting gimmick--a video screen with a book trailer, special props, even food. Were those responsible for drawing interest? It may be a fact of life, but it's a little disconcerting that people coming to learn about and buy books are easily swayed by something other than the books. I had a representative selection from all three of my series, but I'm thinking maybe I should focus on just one at any event and choose a suitable attention-getter based on it. I have a couple of ideas about that.

I'd also love to hear from anyone with an opinion on what attracts people at book events.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Plot Change Already?

All ready for Bookfest tomorrow, apart from getting some small bills for change. This morning, I printed more business cards, a couple more brochures, and some signs. I packed up books and got all my paraphernalia together, ready to go. I will be in the Glen Ellyn Public Library from 11 til 2 to sell and sign books, chat with readers, and hand out advertising. In two weeks, I'll do it all again at the Joliet Public Library Black Road branch.

I did a lot of work on "Mongan Manor" yesterday, and I began more this morning, but then I stopped because I realized the motive behind the plotting was about an inheritance and suddenly seemed too similar to the previous book. I feel I should change it up a little, come up with a different sort of motivation for my antagonists to drive their actions. Maybe I'll go back to the hidden treasure idea. Something hidden in the rebuilt tower of the title place which everyone wants after hints dropped by a senile relative. Treasure means wealth, and each of the other relatives has a reason to want it. But maybe the treasure is not what they think. Gonna have to think this through, especially since I had already gone to all the trouble to work out the family tree and rights of inheritance for the original plot. I'll also have to figure out how to incorporate a critical scene, one I have more or less set in my mind already and which serves as a turning point. Good thing I've been keeping plot notes on the side.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Fun Stuff

"Where Power Lies" got its final trim and is now just under 80,000 words. It'll take another proofreading before I consider it done, though. All that cutting could have created more errors. I'll attack that after another rest period.

Making HUGE strides on Windsong Lake Vol.3, which I have started to think should have the title "The Secret of Mongan Manor." I've almost completed the passage where Stefanie is asked to employ her skills at the title estate to find a secret about the right of inheritance. Infighting among branches of the family tree will make for conflict, and there is a strong tendency for psychic ability within the clan which will provide challenges for Stefanie. Since her husband, Paul, is already experiencing his own conflicts and it has caused some uneasiness between them, that's another line of plot.

And just this moment, as I pondered what to say about my remaining plot issue, i.e., should there be a murder involved, I arrived at the answer. Yes, there will be a murder, although I'm not sure yet whodunit.

Now, this is the fun stuff!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Busy, Busy

I spent some time this morning making up brochures for Bookfest this weekend. I made 15 so far and may make some more.

While those were printing up, I got back onto some plotting for the new Windsong Lake book. I knew that Stefanie would be invited to a country manor house to figure out a mystery, but I had no idea what that mystery really was. Yesterday, I sat down and began drawing a family tree for the characters inhabiting the house and figuring out what the "secret" was that Stefanie is supposed to uncover. I bounced back and forth between my diagram and typed notes about who had things to hide and who wanted them revealed, i.e., motives. I think I have most of that ironed out now, as well as a device for getting Stefanie and Paul into Mongan Manor. Some of what I figured out may change down the road, but I think I've got a solid plot now. While my booklets were printing, I made a clean copy of the family tree and am now figuring out the dates of birth of each person. The person who invites Stefanie to Mongan Manor doesn't want anyone to know the real reason, so she says it's because she has commissioned Stefanie to do a painting of the manor as a gift to one of the clan's matriarchs. That fits nicely with why a family gathering is being invaded by a stranger. More details to be worked out before I get into the scene where the invitation is given.

I also was struck by the notion that "Where Power Lies" is too long. There's a nagging memory in my head about the number 80,000, as in word count. At 82,280, that nagging urged me to do some more cutting this morning. Now it's down to 80,648, and I'll be looking to trim just a bit more. None of this means any plot changes--just cutting out some stuff that really isn't necessary. Will another proofreading be necessary in the face of all this chopping? Probably.  (*sigh*)

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

On Many Fronts

Worked on brochures to hand out at upcoming library events, but I need more ink for my color printer to continue. Quandary: how many to print? I'd hate to run out, but then if I print too many, they'll be useless when I publish my next book. Saturday is BookFest 2013 in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, and I have lots of books ready to sell.

Found a few more tweaks to "Where Power Lies," and while looking for the place to put one of them, I found a big boo-boo from a previous edit. So I bit the bullet this morning and reset the document to let Microsoft Word do its grammar check. I did fix a few things in the process and came up with no other major errors. That doesn't mean there aren't any...

Cover art. Still debating on this. I've found a few resources for real artists who will create a cover for me, and I have an idea or two of what it should look like, something better than what I started to create on my own. If any readers out there do graphic arts (for low budget) or who know of someone, I'd love to hear from you.

Did some more writing on the new Windsong Lake book. A small action became a connection for the story, like seeing a puzzle coming together. I still have to figure out the mystery which needs to be solved. I'm at the point in the manuscript where that mystery will be introduced to Stefanie and set her on a course of action. To do that, I need to know what the mystery is first so the person who tells it to her provides just the right amount of information (or maybe some disinformation).

Monday, September 23, 2013

Another Milestone

This morning, I wrote a first draft of a synopsis for "Where Power Lies." How to tell the same story on two double-spaced pages that I used 82,000 words for to begin with? Surprisingly, the more I do this exercise, the easier it gets. I may continue to tinker with what I wrote, but I believe I've captured the essence of the story well enough for the purpose the synopsis serves. By tinkering, I mean finding ways to pack more information into the space I have! If a paragraph ends with a partial line, it means there's some space there which could be used for words.

The manuscript is ready to go, I think. It seems no matter how many times I proofread, I always find something. Sometimes it's wording or needing to include something, and sometimes it's just typo's and punctuation. The trick is knowing when to quit, to say "It's ready" and send it off.

Because "Where Power Lies" is a new story line, I'll need to query my publisher about it, which means I have to come up with a blurb, or a pitch description for the query letter. These are almost the same thing, I believe. This one's going to be a bit more challenging since I must first set the scene in the future where things are just a little different. But one step at a time.

Friday, September 20, 2013

When Is It Enough

Almost done with a read-through of "Where Power Lies," and based on how much I have changed along the way, I wonder if another will be required. Hurried changes are always culprits for new errors, and I received a lesson in that yesterday. In a few idle moments, I picked up a copy of "Seer, Tyro, Fiend" and found two typos! I believe they can be fixed for future print runs, and I wonder if I should look for more

Another cause for caution is that I'm eager to get into the new Windsong Lake book more and I fear that will make me rush through my proofreading even more. And I still have to do a synopsis for "Power" before I can query my publisher for interest in it, plus cover art, etc. I know there are those who would tout the luxury of having a deal with one of the major publishing houses where they take care of the editing and the cover art and the promotion, but those also take a long time to reach the market and they exercise a lot of control over the finished product. While I have to do more of the work with a small publisher, I have more artistic control and also see results much faster.

All that being said, the real limiting factor here is my own impatience to write new books. Can't just turn off the imagination machine, after all.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Proofing, One More Time (I Think)

Finished the first chapter of the new Windsong Lake book and started on Chapter 2. The issues I had with the status of Stefanie and Paul's relationship resolved it self very neatly, always a gratifying experience. I started thinking more about the actual mystery which will be introduced, and I think maybe the book title should be "The Ghost of Mongan Manor." That part will require more thought before I get into writing it.

I've started another reading of "Where Power Lies," and after not reading much of it for a couple of days, I find I like what I've got. A few more words got added or removed, but the basics work just fine. During this reading, I'm also keeping in mind where chapter breaks occur. I caught myself figuring out how many pages each chapter was, and I had to recall that consistent chapter length is not really an issue. What matters is that each chapter ends at a point where something has happened that changes things in a permanent way. This caused me to move the end of Chapter 1 back a bit, and now it ends with Dee making an important connection rather than with her reflecting on her harrowing experience of finding a friend dead in the office. So damn the page count! The structure matters more than the numbers.

There will be one more pass when I'm fully happy with the manuscript, and that is to check formatting. Using Microsoft Word, funny things can creep into the file that can only be seen when the formatting marks are made visible. In the past, I've gotten galleys to proof where paragraphs did not begin as they appeared to in my file, mainly due to how the one before ended. If the Enter key is pressed at the end of a sentence, Word inserts a paragraph symbol. However, if I'm accidentally holding down the shift key at the same time, a different symbol gets inserted. Those are the instances where the galley winds up not ending the paragraph properly. I also look for extraneous spaces and tabs in this stage.

So back to reading, although I'm not looking forward to the next step to publication: writing The Dreaded Synopsis.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Feeling My Characters

Almost through the first chapter of the new Windsong Lake book, "Mongan Manor." I'm fairly sure the opening scene I was agonizing about yesterday will stay in because it has a purpose. It sets the location, the players, that there is conflict in Stefanie and Paul's relationship, and it provides background which might allow someone to read it before reading the other two. I always have trouble with scenes where my lovebirds are at odds. Go figure. Imaginary people and I still get emotionally involved. But conflict is the name of the game in fiction, because readers would get bored with a tale in which everything in hunky-dory all the time. Something needs to happen, and when some of the things that happen involve emotions everyone can relate to, the characters become someone to care about and root for.

I may go back and take another look at "Where Power Lies" tomorrow. It needs another reading, as I've mentioned, and hopefully I'll be able to do so with "fresh eyes."

My shipment of books arrived yesterday for Bookfest in about a week and a half. I have signs made up, and I've revised my book brochure. I'm holding off printing them up so they'll be as up to date as possible.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Next Book and Other Progress

I spent some time this morning on promotional materials for Bookfest on September 28. I revised a booklet I had made a while back, a brochure of my novels with other information, and ran a couple of tests. Larger type made it easier to read, and I updated some publishing information. Each page features a book, and with some adjustment of the layout, to make sure the cover art appeared in the same spot on each page, I think I've resolved a bleed-through issue I was concerned about. Gotta buy more ink cartridges, and I'll hold off massive printing for a bit in case I get print edition information for "Dabblers," "Game Faces," and "Stranger Faces." I also made up three signs to use, one sign for each book series. I think I'm set for Bookfest.

I made one tweak to "Where Power Lies" this morning, because I realized I had not covered a facet of our current sociopolitical landscape and how it relates to my future world. Still planning on letting it rest before I do another full reading.

So on to the next book, Windsong Lake Vol. 3. The working title is  "The Treasure of Mongan Manor" but I'm not all that pleased with it. Maybe it'll change to "Secret of Mongan Manor." Mongan is a name from Irish mythology, the son of the sea god, a shape shifter known for his generosity.

Eight pages into the manuscript, and I'm already questioning my starting point! The beginning has been in my head for a while, in which Stefanie has a vision about Paul being in danger and using her psychic ability to find him and warn him. While it sets up a layer of conflict important to the story, the event itself is not at all related to the mystery Stefanie will encounter. Is the fact that I set up a different conflict enough to warrant this scene, even though it doesn't really begin the mystery plot? Perhaps I should just "go with it" for now, as many authors do. Just write the story and worry about editing later.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Another Pause

I've got "Where Power Lies" pretty much where I want it now, I think. I'm going to give it a rest for a few days and do another full read through to verify I've made the appropriate points. The length is pretty good, at just over 82,600 words. When I finally apply the "Done" stamp to it, I'll do a synopsis and blurb and consider sending my latest "child" into the world.

I'm very excited get back to the newest Windsong Lake book. It's been started, of course, but I've been trying to lean on "Power" to get it closer to finished before letting my muse take flight with Stefanie.

I also have to get ready for Bookfest 2013 in Glen Ellyn in less than two weeks. Last night, I made up three signs for the table, one for each book series. A price sign is also required, as well as an up-to-date brochure to hand out. As to pricing, I'm considering offering a discount for anyone buy more than one book, maybe buy one book for $9 or any two for $16. I still don't know exactly which books I'll have on hand to sell, so the pricing thing might have to wait till the last minute. I would love to go to Bookfest, or to Joliet Author Fest, with a full complement of my books to offer, but I'm not sure if that's going to work out for timing. Also getting down to the wire is whether or not I'll participate in the pitch session at Bookfest. The one I wrote is for "Dabblers," but if I don't have a paperback on hand to sell, it kind of misses the point. We shall see.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Back On It

Friday found me dealing with personal business and little time for anything else, but it looks like I'm going to be back in the saddle again.

Updates on "Where Power Lies" getting close to completion (I think). The word count has been drastically reduced, from over 84,000 to now 82,600 or so. More might get chopped before I'm done. I also keep thinking of little things to tweak here and there, but they are minor points, finishing touches. Then I need to do a synopsis, blurb, etc. Of course, since this is a new story line, I will have to go through the query and submission process with Write Words, never assuming publication is a done deal.

Also have to start leaning on materials for upcoming book events--signs, brochures, and so on. I have paperbacks on order for "Changeling," "Two Faces," and "Seer" but they have not arrived yet. Trying not to bite my nails. I need stuff to sell!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Editing Is a State of Mind

Yesterday's slashing editing on "Where Power Lies" has reduced the manuscript by more than 1,000 words, and I'm only half way through it. I find it interesting on how my general mood influences my editing. I know that when I'm creating the manuscript, I try to get things down quickly with occasional slow-downs for important passages. On my first pass through, I try hard to make sure I'm conveying things clearly, and this ends up adding words. I also try to supply more imagery at this point, which also adds words. Searches for overused words can add or subtract length. An analogy to sculpting in clay just popped into my head, the notion of molding, modifying, removing clay or putting it back on.

At some point, I'm going to get totally sick of the story and want to move on. Hopefully, that coincides with the other sign of being "done," i.e.,  when I go to change something and realize that what was already there works better. That isn't to say I won't find things I wish I could change when I proof the galley (assuming my current publisher wants to pick up the book!) but that too is a matter of mood. The galley proof is about fixing format errors, spelling and punctuation, and adding the occasional word that mistakenly fell to the slashing edit--usually pronouns and articles I didn't intend to cut.

I feel good about the shortening length here, and I suspect I'll be right around 81,000 words by the time I'm done. For POD books, that's a good length, especially for a first in the series book. Does that mean I'll do a sequel to "Where Power Lies?" Maybe. I might even have a few ideas . . .

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

In A Slashing Mood

Taking another pass at "Where Power Lies" this morning, and I find myself doing a lot of cutting. Extraneous stuff mostly, tags, descriptions of inconsequential things. In the back of my mind, however, is a cautionary voice telling me that slashing stuff often leads to new errors. I might delete one more word than I intend, or take out the verb which makes the sentence a sentence. Maybe after this pass, I'll finally get to the read-through where I don't need to change anything and simply correct obvious errors.

I also made the decision to remove chapter titles. I've heard from readers that they don't really pay attention to them. I've left them in for the Jack Watson books and the Faces books, and having done so in those series, I will have to keep them for any future additions. I left them out of the Windsong Lake books, but I started using them in "Where Power Lies," mainly as a tool to find passages. The titles get marked for as level 1 of an outline and I can quickly navigate within my document to something I need to find. Since I took them out this morning, I guess I'll have to find my place some other way.

As I settled into bed last night, I had an alarming thought regarding the upcoming Glen Ellyn Bookfest. I've been preparing a 60-second pitch to give to attendees for "Dabblers," but what do I do if I don't have any paperbacks of it to sell? It's supposed to have gone to press, but I don't know if there'll be time to order any copies to take with me. I'm giving some thought to prepping a pitch for "Two Faces, Two Faced." Those are already on order, and I hope they're going to be delivered any day now.

Then again, the thought of standing up in front of people to give my pitch, of any book, makes me wonder if I should do it at all. It's not a requirement, and I can think of some practical reasons beyond my own stage fright to skip it. I guess I should be prepared with one or two pitches and make a decision at the last minute.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Joliet Author Fair and Updates

Received confirmation from the Joliet Public Library Black Road Branch for Author Fest in October. Here are some of the details:

Joliet Regional Author Fair
Saturday, October 12, 2013
11:00 AM to 3:00 PM

Joliet Public Library

Black Road Branch

3395 Black Road, Joliet, IL  60431

This was such a great event last year, and I'm really looking forward to meeting people and having the chance to sell books. 

Looks like more of my ebooks are soon to be in print format--Dabblers, Game Faces, and Stranger Faces. That will mean ALL of them are available in both formats! 

Now then, for book #8, "Where Power Lies": still making changes and catching repetitions as I go. I'm starting to feel more of an itch to get onto the next Windsong Lake book, but I'm trying to exercise some discipline here. "Power" still needs editing, and a synopsis, and a blurb, and a cover...

Monday, September 9, 2013

Miscellaneous Updates

My first review for Windy City Reviews was posted today, and I also received some comments from the author about what I had to say. It's very gratifying. The book was excellent, and I simply said so. I hope more writers request me to review their books in the future as I enjoyed doing this.

I believe paperback editions will soon be available for my three remaining books: "Game Faces," "Stranger Faces," and "Dabblers." I've already ordered copies to sell at two upcoming library events and hopefully I'll still have time to order some of the others. I really want to have a copy of "Dabblers" on hand for Bookfest in Glen Ellyn because I've written a 60-second pitch to present to library patrons. Gotta start rehearsing that.

Making more progress on "Where Power Lies." It's so easy to get sidetracked from hunting for repetition when I see other areas for improvement. For example, I figured out a way to subtly set the time of the story very early on, which soothed a touch of anxiety about waiting until Chapter 2 to do so. I also continue to notice tags which aren't really needed. As I keep changing things, I'm beginning to think I may have to rerun the word frequency counter program again at a later time. I haven't done much more on the cover art yet, but I think I've nailed down the concept to something I can execute. I may have to seek out some additional images to use, though, as what I already have isn't quite right yet.

For now, back to work . . .

Friday, September 6, 2013

Still Editing

After a morning of chores, I'll be getting back to work on "Where Power Lies" some this afternoon. I started with looking at instances of the word "that", which the word frequency counter program shows was used 649 times. Lots of instances occur in dialog, and some of those can stay. My main focus is on those in narrative. The test is to read the sentence without the "that" and see if it means the same thing. If it does, the word goes.

Part of this process has the potential to introduce other instances of repetition. If I rewrite a sentence to get rid of "that," I might reuse another word in close proximity. I could probably run the word frequency counter a hundred times over and still wind up with too many uses of one word or another. That's why running programs--word counts, spelling, grammar--is not enough. Only careful proofreading will get even close to a perfect manuscript.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Editing, The Next Phase

Finally made it through the second reading of "Where Power Lies," and this morning, I ran the program to count how frequently each word is used and the closest proximity of uses. I went through the list and removed some things that won't matter, i.e., people's names, punctuation marks, scene break marks, etc. Next comes the tricky part: to analyze the rest of the 84 pages of the list.

I know I tend to overuse the words "that" and "had," among a few others. I do a Find operation in Word to look at each instance and decide if the word is needed or if the sentence can be replaced. Other words used less frequently still present a challenge. An example, the list showed the word "granite" had been used twice in the manuscript, 67 words apart. I checked the document and found I had used it to describe the steps in front of a building and then again when mentioning the wall surrounding the same building. The second appearance can be eliminated because we've already established that the outdoor plaza is made of granite. On the other hand, the word "inventing" appears twice with only seven words in between, yet when checking the text, the repetition makes sense and I'll leave it alone. It's a time consuming task, so much so that in the past, I've gotten bored with it and quit after tackling the obvious. As stated in an earlier post, I've seen evidence in my published books that I really need to stick with it.

I started working on a cover idea, manipulating images for it, but that is also a time-consuming process. This morning, I took a break and did a little writing on the next Windsong Lake book, although the break didn't last long in the face of the guilty feeling I should be finishing "Where Power Lies."

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Ain't That How It Goes

Almost done with a reading of "Where Power Lies," just a couple more chapters to go on this pass. I think I've got a lot of the kinks worked out, i.e., stating facts and theories in the proper sequence. Next up will be the word-frequency program to see how many times each word is used and how close together. I plan to give this much closer attention this time around, after having read some of "Two Faces, Two Faced" and noticed some repetitions that could have been fixed. (Sigh) Once I get through that round, I want to take another look at chapter breaks.

It's been one of those days where planned appointments and errands took much longer than I thought they would. I would have completed my proofreading before posting this, but decided not to wait.

Ordered print books to sell at Bookfest at the end of the month. Not all my titles are available yet, and I hope the rest will be in time to order up and take them along. I've got my pitch ready although it still needs  A LOT of rehearsal!

I also completed and submitted my first review for Windy City Reviews, and hopefully, it will be posted soon. Then I can add it to Goodreads and Amazon. The program of authors helping authors is a great idea, and I'm trying to do my part by giving a review to another author, who might then be inclined to read and/or recommend something of mine. It's all mutually beneficial.