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Friday, March 29, 2013

Who's The Hero?

Okay, I've got as many as seven characters meeting up for the final confrontation in "Seer, Tyro, Fiend" and still no place for it to happen. They won't all be there together at once, but that leads to the question of who is going to save the day. Actually, it could wind up being multiple people doing the saving. The whole scene is still nebulous at this stage with only a few bits and pieces in my head.

It's times like these that I wonder about my urge to write stories. It has always been there, although it originally took the form of let's-pretend games as a child. Even so, this weird process of juggling characters, motives, scenes, clues, words seems like something unnatural while it feels absolutely natural to me. Once the story begins happening in my head, it will continue to play like a movie in my mind, filling my dreams or keeping me awake thinking about it, rewriting itself endlessly until I commit words to a manuscript. Only then will it cease haunting me.

Have to keep this post short because I have company coming to dinner tomorrow, I haven't finished half of what I need to do, and I've got one kitty with an upset tummy I have to monitor. Fortunately, our company is our best friends, so if things are not perfect, they understand.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Back to Writing

I finished another key scene in "Seer" yesterday and this morning which sets up for the confrontation of good and evil. As I wrote it, I saw a way to employ one character's flaws to heighten the action. I did go back and tweak parts of the scene because I realized I'd left out some crucial questions that Stefanie would have definitely wanted to ask the person she was talking to. She didn't get a direct answer, but it was important to keep that element of the puzzle in the forefront. I also had an inspiration about the final scene and maybe an idea of where it takes place. Don't have all the pieces just yet, but it's finally coming.

Did a bit of web searching for cover art ideas for "Seer" and tried to figure out how to execute some of the images that have developed in my head. One idea I sort of discarded because it was too intricate and would leave no room for the title and my name without covering important details. An image I saw somewhere (can't quite remember exactly where) presented a good option that sort of meshed with the design of the "Dabblers" cover. Still a long way to go on cover art, I guess.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Advertising Day

Since the latest scene for "Seer, Tyro, Fiend" is still under construction in my head, I spent some time this morning creating a book brochure which can be downloaded as a PDF file. I tried adding it to this blog page, but I can't figure out how to "attach" a file for download. Hmmm. Anyway, I have provided a new link at the left of this page to get to my Google site where you can download the brochure. I thought this might be a good way for people to get information on my books in a manner they can easily save and look at later.

My other goal for this new brochure is to start sending emails to area libraries with the brochure attached, also indicating that it can be downloaded if anyone has a problem with attachments to emails. In the email, I plan to tell them of my willingness to do events--signings, book fairs, book clubs, etc. Creating the content of this email is next on my list, along with finding addresses to send it to.

Another thing I'm considering is some sort of promotional video. Right this moment, I know nothing, make that less than nothing, about making videos for the Internet. If anyone out there has information on the subject--how to do it yourself or how to get it done--I'd love to hear from you.

Congratulations to Gunter Kaesdorf on the publication of his first novel! I met Gunter at Love Is Murder back in February and we talked at some length about the trials and triumphs of getting published. I told him, in glowing words, about my success with Write Words, Inc., and he said he planned to send a query letter. Lo and behold, he got a contract and his first book is soon to be published.

So to all you "uns" (i.e., unpublished) authors out there, by all means, give real consideration to small publishers. While they might not have the resources of the "big boys," and you will have to fill in some of those gaps yourself, you also stand to gain some things the major houses will not offer. Artistic freedom comes to mind. I've heard stories from authors about zero control on the cover art, titles being changed, endings being changed. That hasn't happened to me at all, plus I can handle all the business of getting the books out via my computer. 

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Couldn't Put It Down

Haven't had a lot of time to get words into the manuscript so far today, but I'm homing in on the big confrontation for "Seer, Tyro, Fiend" in my head. As noted yesterday, timing is a factor. So far, Stefanie and the other main characters have not had many encounters with the "bad guys," and I want to bring those out of the background in a measured way that does not seem as jarring as waiting till that last scene. Also on the subject of timing, I find my story currently on a Friday, and I think that will work out for the denouement to come.

In the back of my mind are issues that will be addressed when I start editing the first draft. Chapter breaks are one of them. One of the earliest books about how to write fiction that I ever read had a chapter called "I Just Couldn't Put It Down." I remember thinking, lo so many years ago, that I was about to find out what to do when I couldn't figure out how to say what I wanted to say. Instead, it was a reference to making the reader reluctant to stop reading, and the way to make that happen is to have each chapter end with a sort of cliff hanger. Gotta keep reading to find out what happened. Arline Chase from Write Words also talked to this topic in her blog, wherein she says that the scene/chapter ends when something changes forever.

Without even looking back at "Seer" in its first draft, I know I've broken this "rule" in places. I also have to catch myself being overly concerned with the number of pages per chapter. Personally, I find it annoying when a book has fifty or more chapters, some of them quite short. Often, a scene break would do the same job, but there's something about the white space and chapter heading that makes for a more profound stop in the action. It gets me thinking about why we use chapters in fiction at all, unless of course the story relies on multiple points of view or action in different locales occurring at the same time. Dean Koontz is one author who really mixes things up in this organizational area. Take a look at his "Strangers" as a good example. It's also one of my favorites of his works.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Crunch Time

Added some more to "Seer, Tyro, Fiend" this morning after the weekend's hiatus, and then I hit a brick wall. The time has come to set up for the big scene, and I don't even know the particulars of that yet. Who will be where and how will it be resolved? Should I have one more scene in which one of the conspirators is called to account? How close should that happen to the final confrontation? Oh, but wait! What about the objective in the story, the missing woman? What do I do with her? Bring her in? Keep her off stage until after it's all over? I have some ideas for things that should happen in order to weave together facts and events, but I think I really need to make a serious effort to consolidate it all. There should be excitement, suspense, drama, and a satisfying "crunch." I already know there will be a secondary crunch at the end which will close the loop on the story.

I'm already toying with a theme for a third novel in the Windsong Lake series, but it's just a broad stroke of an idea. This one might actually require some research first in order to explore the reincarnation aspect of Stefanie and Paul's relationship. To do that, I'm thinking about having them return to England and the place where Paul bought Stefanie her moonstone locket, the place that seems to inspire a lot of her paintings. One idea I had was to interleave their exploration of their history with what was happening in the time when they were first united. (If that seems confusing to anyone, I suggest reading "Dabblers" for references that help explain it.)

Before a third Windsong Lake, however, I feel compelled to do a third Jack Watson. I may have posted about this before, the idea of a stalker being one facet of the story with an embezzlement plot as the mainline case. I have a bunch of notes I wrote up some time ago which probably contain more details than I remember. It's why we make notes, right?

And then there's the inspiration for a sort of dystopian adventure which would be a major reworking of an earlier novel that I've rewritten a number of times already. That one sometimes calls to me, too, and would be something of a departure for me as the new incarnation will be set in the future.

Could I possibly work on more than one novel at the same time? I know I tried it once before and then dropped one when the other started coming together faster. Lucky for me, there are no rules for how to do this job, and I'll never know until I try.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Flying Over Hurdles

"Seer, Tyro, Fiend" is closing in on the Big Scene. Along the way, I've been dealing with the build up to that, hitting obstacles and clearing them just as fast. Yet I'm abundantly aware that I don't know where all the build up will lead. Where will the showdown take place? Who will be there? Who will be instrumental in achieving the outcome? For the moment, there are at least six characters involved who should probably take the stage, but that seems a bit too complicated to be believable. Yes, I know, this is fiction and I can tell my tale any way I choose. Or can I? If someone who eventually reads it finds it hard to accept, they might review it as being silly or preposterous or contrived. A review like that might make others steer clear.

So I now must ask myself the philosophical question, why do I care? Is it about sales? As an author, of course sales are meaningful, but the fact is, I would probably write stories even if I wasn't getting published. (I sure did a lot of writing before I got published.) Is it about fame or acclaim or respect? Those would be nice. Restating the question, why do I write? I weave these intricate stories in my head and feel compelled to put them on paper and attempt to get others to read them. Being published means the chance to find more readers. That leads to the question of why people read fiction at all. Escape, enjoyment, inspiration, education--any and all might apply.

Kind of interesting, though. Some can't get enough to read and some can't stop creating stuff for them to read. Expand that to music or performing arts. It's about creativity, both the act of it and appreciating it. Only humans (so far as we know) do this. Therefore, I create because I am human.

Okay. Good enough reason. Done with philosophy for today.

Once again, as I wrote this, I hit upon a Gotcha. This one is a true homonym: steer, one word with two meanings. It means a head of livestock or to guide or pilot, as a ship. For some reason, I always thought there was another spelling, i.e., stear, but a check of my dictionary says no such word. Well then, I guess I no longer have to question that one.

Thursday, March 21, 2013


So far today, 21 hits on this blog, up there in the record books. My inclination is to believe that it had a lot to do with the wonderful comment I received on yesterday's post. Any author who doesn't publish with the big houses knows how much effort must go into self promotion, and word of mouth is a huge component of that.

Now I must confess something. In a way, I broke one of the rules in my sixth novel, "Stranger Faces." Usually, I'm the first one to cite the rule about getting the story's conflict out there as close to page one as possible. In "Stranger Faces," I tried something a little different which stretches that rule, and I'm going to explain why I did it. My POV character, Tracy Wiley, is your basic amateur sleuth even though she's not investigating a murder in this one. She's a shoot-from-the-hip, seat-of-the-pants type of problem solver, figuring out moves to get herself out of jams on the spur of the moment. (How's that for overloading on cliches?)

In her latest adventure, she's hired by her old friend, C.I.A. agent Kevin Fox, to accompany him on a road trip to Chicago to help him figure out who betrayed him on his latest assignment. He wants Tracy along to throw anyone watching him off guard since they won't know who she is or why she's with him. He's out in the cold (oh, do the cliches never end?) and doesn't know who in the intelligence community he can trust. He gives her very little information to work with, so she's flying blind. Later, she gets dragged back into his troubles, in serious danger, and must figure it all out for herself.

Now, back to the broken rule. The book opens with Tracy doing her normal job, which is solving people's non-legal issues for an hourly fee. Later, after her trip with Fox, she does another routine job for a regular client, and then further on, a third one, not so routine. These mundane jobs are the set up for her problem solving skills, giving her someone to turn to for help when she needs it. While the situation with Fox is presented in Chapter 1, the heart of the conflict and the dangerous situation she faces are unveiled more gradually. Since it's all told in first person from Tracy's viewpoint, I wanted the trouble to be unclear to her (and the reader), unfolding as she investigated it.

Okay, confession over. In a way, I did follow the rule about getting the story started as close to page one as possible, but I did it sort of sneaky. Maybe even a little bit of a refreshing change?

Something I wrote here triggered a Gotcha for today. cite/site/sight You cite a rule or regulation. A building is erected on a site. What you do with your eyes is sight.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

A Battle of Words

Some people write action scenes, and I've tried to do justice to a few of my own. Some people write love scenes, and I've posted at other times on my own feelings toward those. Most intriguing to me, though, is the battle of words. It's where characters in opposition on something exchange words, argue, try to finesse each other. These are hard to write. The action must be balanced, with each side getting its turn to have the upper hand. The dialog must seem as natural as it can, even though characters in books don't really talk like real people in conversation. Books would be much longer if they did because a lot of real conversation is filler.

"Hiya, Sally. How's it going?"

"Hey, Joe. Not too shabby. Did you watch the game last night?'

"Yeah, awesome. Betcha we get to the playoffs after all."

"No way! You say that every year."

"Say, listen, I need to ask you about those status reports that are due tomorrow..."

The first four lines would be cut by an editor from a manuscript, presuming that the question about the reports is the real meat of the conversation. Even though people in real life introduce serious topics with polite greetings and chitchat, that has no place in fiction. Usually. Those lines might be made meaningful if there's action going on with them, perhaps hints about how these two people really feel about each other, or some other tension coming through.

"Hiya, Sally. How's it going?" Joe stole a glance over his shoulder before she could look up just to make sure the boss's snitch had not caught up yet.

"Hey, Joe. Not too shabby." Sally shuffled papers on her desk. "Did you catch the game last night?"

Still no sign of the informer, but Joe knew he could not raise Sally's suspicions. "Yeah, awesome. Betcha we get to the playoffs after all."

"No way!" Sally looked up with a smug smile. "You say that every year."

He normally would have argued but time was limited. He had to get the reports from her and hand them off to his reporter friend waiting in the lobby before anyone saw him with them. "Say, listen..."

In a way, this is sort of a Gotcha. You want your conversation to be natural but nobody really wants to read natural. Sometimes you can put the clutter in if it's accompanied by real information, but mostly, you throw out what you don't need.

And that might be the rule then: Everything in the manuscript should play a part in moving the story forward.

Boy, do I ever feel pretentious giving writing lessons!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

For the Love of It

As I started to write today on "Seer, Tyro, Fiend," the scene was about to move into a new day, and I realized I did not know what day it was! Time to go back through the manuscript and chart the days according to the major events that happened in each. I knew the major scene in Chapter 5 occurred on a Saturday, so I worked backwards and forwards from there. So the story begins on a Tuesday night, and I'm now about to start on the Friday morning nine days later. All this in order to avoid any anachronisms. As any day begins, I need to know whether Stefanie's husband, Paul will be going to work or if it's the weekend. Can't have him going to work day after day without ever getting time off!

Earlier today, I got my act together to do some accounting of my little writing enterprise, filling in my spreadsheet of payments and expenses. Following that exercise, I checked email and came across the daily "digest" from the CWA Yahoo group. It contained an article written by an author about how much money he made from having a "best seller" on Amazon. The $12,000 he made seemed awesome to me. I haven't made anywhere near that much with six books!

I'm sure everyone who gets a book published has lofty dreams of being the next James Patterson or Jodi Picoult, but I've seen in various places that most authors sell fewer than 100 books in their career. So why do we do it? Is it just pie-in-the-sky high hopes that we'll be the exception to the rule? For me, it's the love of doing it, turning my flights of imagination into real stories others can read. It's the thrill of seeing my books for sale on various websites and receiving checks from my publisher of any denomination. It's having people I know tell me they read one of my books and how much they liked it. And it's going to conferences and book events where I meet people, perfect strangers, who want my advice or to hear my experiences. I'll add to that the comments people leave on this blog, or as on most days, seeing the "hit" counter here go up, and knowing someone out there is reading me.

In light of all that, today's Gotcha: Write for the love of it, write for the recognition and accomplishment. Writing to get rich may work sometimes, but with so many people now able to make their works available for very little money, instant fame and wealth might be a long shot.

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Good Stuff

Oooh, this is getting good! I just revealed a key piece of the puzzle in "Seer, Tyro, Fiend" and it will lead to some startling conclusions. Events are coming faster now, as they should at this point in a story, but I still find I need to go back and add bits of foreshadowing as I go. For example, I need one character to have a certain predisposition to react in a specific way to something scheduled for the big confrontation scene, so I went back and added a few lines here and there to give hints of it earlier in the book.

The drive to finish the book is strong now, but that is also in competition with a number of other things I wish to do with my abundant free time now. It's also a struggle to not fritter away that time with goofing off, which I sometimes tell myself I have every right to do if I choose. When I do goof off some, I usually wind up regretting not spending the time better. Ah well. Guess I'm just not as disciplined as I could be.

On other fronts, I've checked corrected galleys for "Game Faces" and "The Changeling Kill" print editions, and I believe they are ready to go. "Dabblers" paperback is also on the horizon. Being that I published three ebooks in 2012, I would like to keep up the pace by finishing "Seer" soon. Then I'm thinking it's time for the third Jack Watson book, although I've not had much time to think about it. I have an opening scene in mind, as well as a general plot, but I usually have much more than that in my head before I start putting words in a document.

After that, I have in mind a reworking of a previously written though unpublished novel. It has to do with conspiracies and an alternative view of how society really functions. I've been thinking of pushing the setting into the future a bit and extrapolating on current trends in setting the stage in a dystopian world. Since I wrote it once (or twice maybe) already, I have characters and a few scenes. The original plot will need some tweaking, and the main point of view character has already gotten an overhaul.

Then again, as I've worked on "Seer," I've begun getting a few ideas about a third entry in the series. But those are just fragments, not a plot or anything, so it's way out on the horizon.

Friday, March 15, 2013

You Know It Don't Come Easy

As work progresses on "Seer, Tyro, Fiend", I keep asking myself if I am over-developing Stefanie's psychic abilities. The idea I began with was that she should explore her talent as opposed to her reluctant reliance on it in "Dabblers" and that it should change. Now I wonder if it's changing too fast or departing too much from its origins, i.e., the ability to foretell tragic events. Having said that, however, she was able to discern facts about past events in the case of her Uncle Hank, so maybe I'm not going too far out on a limb after all.

Now it's getting close to crunch time, where I have to decide how it all comes together, where "good" and "evil" go head-to-head. I'm thinking about having one of the conspirators turn on the other when put under pressure, but I'm still not sure how that would work. Perhaps the first step is to decide where that confrontation will take place. Then, who will instigate it? Maybe the good guys lay a trap which goes terribly wrong somehow. Or maybe the bad guys take offensive action because they are close to being discovered. Must think on this some more.

For today's Gotcha, I have to thank the morning TV news because of a story they ran today.

dying/dyeing  The first word, familiar, as in "The fire was slowly dying." (And no I don't want to "Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow"!) The second word is the trick: "Today they are dyeing the Chicago River green for St. Patrick's Day." In this case, the root word is "dye" but turning it into a gerund defies the usual rules.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Ever-Present Promotion Quandary

While I continue to make progress on "Seer, Tyro, Fiend," I spent some time this morning (and a little bit yesterday) in the name of promotion. Yesterday, I did some research on The Kindle Book Review and how to inquire about submitting something. Oddly enough, this morning I received an email from CWA about the services of Windy City Reviews. On a whim, I put together a query to submit "Dabblers" for review, since it's in the pipeline for a paper edition. Then I did some reviews on Goodreads of some books I read many years ago because the characters and scenes in them still pop into my head from time to time. So much for promotions for today.

Lots of progress on the writing front with more pieces of the puzzle coming together. I know I'm getting closer to the Big Scene, yet I"m still not certain about how it will go down, or where, or what the outcome will be. I have ideas, yes, but no solid design.

Speaking of designs, as "Seer" draws nearer to completion, I need to put my graphic designer hat on to do a cover. I have seen so many extraordinary works of art via Facebook that would make great covers for "Seer" but I'll have to do some research to find out who the artist is and would it be possible to either use one that I've seen or ask for a new one just for this book. I have other concepts rolling around in my brain as well, and as usual, they prove hard to execute with my meager artistic tools and abilities. If only I could "write" them...

Been falling short on my "Gotchas" feature, so I decided to look up some words that are spelled differently but are pronounced the same. I learned, to my surprise, that these are called "homophones" and not "homonyms" as I thought. Learn something new every day. I found a website list, reading it as a memory nudger, and came across one that has given me pause (paws?) more than once:

ade/aid/aide The first one is really a suffix when not masquerading as a surname; it goes with lemonade or blockade. The second one is to give help or a noun applied to that help itself. The third one is where I usually have a problem; it means a person who is a helper. Somehow, even when I type it correctly, I catch myself wondering if it's right and have to look it up anyway.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Quite A Day

Started out really well this morning with some sort of weirdness in my Internet connection. After some help from my service provider, all was well, but I felt compelled to go to all my accounts at various places and change my passwords. Probably overkill, but . . .

Then, income taxes. I'd done most of the work already, but I had a couple more forms to fill out and then get everything ready to mail. Yes, mail. Odd for a one-time computer professional, you might say, but because I worked with computer programs and with an employer website as well, I don't fully trust even those websites that insist they are secure. Security measures are always one step ahead of those clever gnomes who hack them. Or one step behind perhaps. Ain't no way I'm typing my personal tax information on a website.

Okay, on to writing stuff. "Seer, Tyro, Fiend" progressing really fast now. Another important scene is underway, and I was so engrossed in it, I hardly noticed the afternoon getting on. Haven't even had time to come up with a "gotcha" for today. But when the muse is with me, it seems a shame to send her on a coffee break while I try to think of an editing trap to talk about. The story is the main thing, right? The scene I'm working on is pivotal, and it has been in my head for some time. The mystery is beginning to unravel, answers are coming clear. It's exciting. Can hardly wait to get back on it.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

On the Right Track

Imagine my surprise yesterday evening when I found 24 hits on this blog for the day. I'm still not entirely sure how these counts are done, whether the 24 represents multiple page views by one person, single views by many, or somewhere in between. Maybe I don't want to know for sure, because the number itself provides a sense of success and satisfaction.

"Seer, Tyro, Fiend" is now well over 53,000 words, and things are moving faster now. I'm still working out the Big Scene, however, but not too actively at this point as I have to get the set-up right. I've set a goal to have a first draft done before the end of March, and who knows? Maybe it'll be closer to being ready than that. Then I'll have to start agonizing over cover art. As usual, I have a lot of ideas, pictures in my head, but no clear idea of how to bring them about.

In the realm of promotion, I find it increasingly difficult to come up with advertising messages in the face of my newest book being part of a series. "Stranger Faces" recently received a 5-star rating on Goodreads, and I don't think the reader has read the first two "Faces" books, and that says the book stands up well on its own. Still, I don't know that I want to market it that way. To me, the three books form their own sort of unit, and if I were reading them out of order, I would feel compelled to go back to the earlier volumes to find out what all those hints are about. That's just me though.

Today's Gotcha. This one relates to "Seer" in a way, and I happened upon it in one of my editing books.

sleight/slight  The first word means deft or skillful and is most often used in the phrase sleight of hand. the second word refers to size or amount. I've heard the phrase sleight of hand so many times, yet I think I might have written it wrong on occasion. Who knew?

Monday, March 11, 2013

Nine to Five

With the weekend over, work resumes on "Seer, Tyro, Fiend." Since my day job ended just over a week ago, I have all the time I want to write during the weekdays, so I take a break on the weekend. Kind of makes it my 9-to-5 job! Even so, the ideas keep coming, and a number of them hit me just after going to bed last night. There were so many, I finally had to get up and make some notes for fear of forgetting them by morning.

One thing I included in a scene which suggested Stefanie had even more psychic ability I took back out. Between her visions of future events and her eidetic memory, she's got enough power already. I put it in originally because I needed her to get more of a sense of the "fiend" in the title, the ultimate bad guy. Instead, I modified an earlier scene to supply more information about him and give him more on-stage time. Those changes got made this morning. I also needed to check on some foreshadowing details, to make sure events happened in the right place and the right people have knowledge of them.

My ideas about the background of the sinister doings of the story continue to evolve. It's all about the motive, and I keep playing with that. The concern is that I get stuck in a rut of motivation, of the same reasons for bad guys doing bad things. I caught myself in the act this time but a little tweaking is all that's required. But then I have to go back and foreshadow it properly and . . .

Writing is an iterative process.

Today's "Gotcha" came from looking up stuff for "Seer, Tyro, Fiend":
pallet/palette - The first one is used in shipping; the second one is the board an artist uses for paint.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Who Are These People?

A bit of a departure this morning, since I've not really accomplished much on "Seer, Tyro, Fiend" today. Still trying to decide how to do something. The "fiend" is going to contact Stefanie, but I'm not sure how just yet.

Anyway, the departure: how I name and develop characters.

Jack Watson: Oddly enough, when I began writing "The Dreamer Gambit," the private detective was meant to be a secondary character. I decided my main POV, Tabitha, should find him attractive, but he would want to stay purely professional. The next question was why, what motivated him. Thus began background development of the detective--stuffy upbringing, strong on ethics, recently divorced, disastrous marriage. He started to interest me more, and about the same time, I found that making him a POV would help to take the reader where the action is and could set up some tension in certain scenes. Why Jack? I don't know. The name popped into my head. Why Watson? His full name came out to be John Holmes Watson, Junior, but I wasn't even thinking of a Sherlock Holmes connection when I found the name Watson on a website of surnames. Then it fit. Make him an ex-cop and let his old connections tease him about Watson the Private Eye. With "The Changeling Kill," Jack sort of took over the series.

Tabitha Solo: Since the story of "The Dreamer Gambit" revolved around her, hers was the first name I had to come up with. The inspiration for "Dreamer" came from the dream sequence, and for no reason I can really explain, it started with Scott's voice calling Taaaa-bith-aaa. Her surname was Solokowski, which seemed like a good name for a Chicago girl, and HONEST, I SWEAR, I didn't think about naming a singer "Solo."

Tracy Wiley: Okay, I confess on a little word-play on this one. Once again, the name Tracy just popped into my head, but I chose the last name as applicable to her tendency to crack jokes.

Elena Griegos: Tracy's Doppelganger in "Two Faces, Two Faced." I wanted a name that sounded exotic, foreign, but perhaps not definitely indicating one country or another. Didn't want to target another culture or fall into any cliches about countries. The other consideration was that it be easy to pronounce. I don't want readers to struggle with the name every time they encounter it. The resulting name could come from a number of countries, but in the end, the character came from none of them!

Christian Roosa: Believe it or not, the sexy police detective of "Game Faces" and "Stranger Faces" was about to be called Jefferson, short form, Jeff. A friend of mine who could hardly wait for a followup to "Two Faces, Two Faced", didn't like it, and I wasn't all that excited about it either. Then I thought of Christian, which is kind of an antonym because the character is a womanizer. His last name? I once worked with someone with the last name Roos and was told it was Dutch. I remembered this as I passed a street on my regular route to the grocery story--Roosa Lane. Bingo! The detective has a last name!

Stefanie Durant: When I first wrote "Dabblers," some of the names were different. Stefanie's last name had to say "French" because of Paul and I chose Devereaux. Her friend Amy's maiden name was Parker, and her husband was Nathan. Then some good friends turned me onto the TV show "Leverage." It had characters named Nathan Ford, Sophie Devereaux, and Parker. Oops. Purely coincidence. I looked up French surnames on a website and found Durant, which means enduring, and I liked the underlying meaning for Paul. Amy's husband became Adam, and I changed her maiden name too, but it only gets mentioned a time or two and isn't really important in any way. By the by, I spelled Stefanie with an "f" instead of a "ph" because people call her Steffie, and it's easier to make the mental connection by sticking with the "f" all the way.

Today's Gotcha: Envelop/envelope The first one's a verb meaning "to surround." The second is a noun, meaning something that surrounds. The trick? Past tense of the verb is enveloped.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Time On My Hands

Ack! Having all my time to do what I will with it, I often find myself scattered. There are things I need to do and things I want to do, and they always seem to be at war for my time. My original goal in governing this is to do some of each every day. Unfortunately, the "wants" seem to be winning more often than not. Worse, when I reach a point in writing "Seer, Tyro, Fiend" where I need to think on it some more, I wind up doing a "want" instead of a "need" and then berating myself for having so little discipline. Gotta work on this.

"Seer" moving along well. I'm going for an unconventional sort of resolution which I hope will both surprise and satisfy. The scenes I worked on this morning do some of the setup for that. I'm still working out how the big showdown will play out, where it will occur, who will be there, as well as what everyone does. Of course, there must be some danger involved although I'm not sure what that will be exactly. The ideas are swirling around in the darkness of my imagination, however, and eventually they'll come together.

Today's Gotchas:

To/too/two I honestly think people on social websites have just given up on these three words and replace all forms of it with the numeral "2", which is only equivalent to the last of the three and means nothing else, ever. Too is comparative, i.e., it's just too much, or means the same as "also": I want to go too. To is used in a lot of ways, but given the definitions of the other forms, suffice it to say, it gets used wherever the others don't work.

Peal/Peel Did the car "peal" out of the parking lot, or did it "peel"? It's the first one! Peal means a loud sound. Ah, but one would "peel rubber" on a tire in the act of "pealing" out of the parking lot. Whew!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Let It Flow

Really liking this free-agent gig. Progress on "Seer, Tyro, Fiend" has really taken off this week. I'm sure the pages I wrote this morning will be rewritten, torn apart, resequenced before I call it done, but it's a good start. For this morning, I wrote a scene in which a new suspect emerges, based largely on Stefanie recalling him telling her a big lie. In the next scene, Amy's character is going to add another layer on the story in an emerging theme about vengeance and when it is justified even though someone might get hurt.

I don't actively try to find a message for my stories. Usually, the inspiration comes from an interesting scene or situation or passage of dialog around which I wrap a mystery. I guess that's not very clear, but the whole inspiration/imagination thing isn't all that clear even to me. Still, I think it's kind of nice that a book has something to say beyond "Once upon a time..." I'm not saying authors should try to save the world with their writing, but a little education and/or thought provocation aren't a bad thing.

And now, continuing my new "feature," here are today's Gotchas:

affect/effect This one almost always trips me up. Effect can be a noun or a verb; affect is always a verb. Effect as a verb means to bring about or execute; affect means to influence. So the noun form of effect is easy, as in Tides on earth are an effect of the moon. After that, things get a little dicey as the meanings of the verbs are not that widely separated. One would say, Salt affects (influences) the flavor of food. One would also say, The company effected (brought about) budget cuts. 

lay/lie Another tricky one. Lay means to place. Lay the gun on the table. In past tense, He laid the gun on the table. Lie means to tell a fib, but the most confusion comes from its other sense, to recline or rest in a horizontal position. The past tense of the latter is lay. Note: there is no such word as layed. (Oh, what a language we have!)

farther/further This one is really sort of easy but people misuse these words so often that when you try to think of an example sentence, there's a good chance you've heard someone do so. Farther is used in regards to real distance: it's a block farther to work for me now. Further is abstract, meaning "more": I was further confused by his explanation.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Getting Into It

It is snowing like crazy here in Illinois, and here I am,cozy at home, writing up a storm. "Seer, Tyro, Fiend" is   in the hell-bent-for-election stage, pace increasing, tension increasing (I hope), and all the story threads coming together. Even that final confrontation scene I've been agonizing over . . . well, not really agonizing. Fact is, I haven't given it all that much thought as I develop all that leads up to it. But I did have an idea of how it should be resolved, and it ties in nicely with my dilemma over one of my characters being too perfect while not having enough of a role for another one. Yes (she chortles), it's all coming together.

Then there's the other segment of my writer's career--promotion. Kind of difficult to think about getting out there to sell, sell, sell in the midst of the biggest snow event the Midwest has seen all winter. I did rewrite and fund my Google ads this morning, and maybe I'll take another look at my Goodreads ads. I still wish I knew exactly how many sales are generated by my advertising dollars, but I doubt there's any way to know for certain. Now that I have more free time, I can do some web surfing for more venues.

Just on the spur of the moment, I had an idea for something to do on this blog. It draws inspiration from today's post by Arline Chase from Write Words with some observations about editing. The English language is riddled with words that sound alike but are spelled differently and mean entirely different things. I know I've been caught by them more times than I'd like to admit, and I've read works by other authors who have fallen prey to them too. So starting today, I'm going to include "Gotchas" in my posts. (Thanks for the inspiration, Arline!)

compliment/complement You pay someone a nice compliment. The icing is the complement of the cake. (Caught this one a couple of times in recent proofing tasks.)

peak/peek You climb a mountain peak. You peek under the bed before climbing into it. (Microsoft Word often gets this wrong!)

heroin/heroine The first is a drug, the second is a female hero. It's easy to miss the final "e" when it's needed. The following two sentences both make it through spell checker: He's keeping an eye on our heroin. He's keeping an eye on our heroine.

it's/its Contrary to conventional rules of English, "it's" is NOT the possessive form of "it" but a contraction of "it is." For something belonging to "it", the word is "its." (Oh, yeah. Microsoft Word gets this wrong, too.)

Monday, March 4, 2013

Discovering Characters - Mine

I just finished working on a scene between Stefanie and Paul, and I'm surprised by how it turned out. Odd thing, isn't it? The characters took over again and found their own way through a conflict. I sometimes wonder how much control I have over these people of my imagination.

The larger issue, though, is if I continue to let them be who they are, do they ever grow? Since last year's rewrite of "Dabblers," I have been determined to make Stefanie a stronger person and growing more so as things progress. Now I'm a little worried about Paul. Is he too good? Too perfect? Too understanding? If he is never more than a foil for Stefanie and a means to resolving a puzzle, does that make him more of a character and less of a person?

I have another scene coming up which may lead the way to a decision about where his character will go, but once again, I find I'm letting the characters take over. I have a closing scene in mind (although the big denouement is still a mystery to me!) which will reveal a somewhat different side of Stefanie, but one I think readers will understand and embrace. Heavens! I sure hope so.

Just reread what I've written here, and lo and behold, something clicked. Maybe a lead-in to Vol. 3 of the Windsong Lake series?

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Recap of Day 1

Accomplished a lot of writing-related stuff yesterday. Lots of writing done on "Seer, Tyro, Fiend." I decided, since my post yesterday, that I did not need to figure out all the esoteric clues I was about to deliver. I can always go back and tweak, augment, and refine what I write. Once that scene was done, another one developed smoothly from it. And the reason it flowed so smoothly was because I let the characters take over. I let them be who they are as they tackled the situation.

Galley proof for "Game Faces" the print edition - done. Verifying corrections to "The Changeling Kill" print edition - done. In the process, I picked up some interesting editing info. I did not know that Gurney should be capitalized because it is a trade name for a particular type of stretcher. I also did not know that the Chicago Manual of Style says that the word "god" should only be capitalized when used reverently. When a character says, "Oh my god" - no capital g. Never knew that.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Retirement - Day 1

So here it is, my first day without a salaried job in almost 40 years. Facebook asked me how I was feeling this morning. I feel mighty fine. Throughout the day at the office yesterday, a lot of people asked me what I was going to do next, and many were shocked to learn of my literary pursuits. While working, I made it a point to NOT talk about writing except during more personal, friend-type conversations with people, because I did not think it would be ethical to market my books while on the job. As much as possible, I strove to keep my two worlds separate. Of course, as I prepared to leave employment, the rules changed just a little. I mean, when people asked the question, lying would then be unethical, right? (I'm sure Jack Watson would cringe.)

Once I arrived home, I had some time to work on "Seer, Tyro, Fiend" but stalled at another crucial juncture. Stefanie is about to receive some clues that will solve the missing-person mystery, but those have to be somewhat esoteric, like pieces of a puzzle that must be put together to make sense. Deciding what those should be led me to another thought regarding my own fair-play rules. I started to wonder if I have provided just enough clues as to the identity of a major villain. This person (see how she cleverly declines to provide a hint with a gender-specific pronoun) does not have much time on stage so far, and the easy answer is to "beef up" that scene some more. Would it then be too obvious due to the drama it would entail? But another appearance might also be too big of a hint. The other option is to mix things up so that the reader isn't all that sure who the baddies are.  Ah, well, I'll have more time to work on it now!

There are some other writing-related tasks high on my to-do list. I need to finish up proofing on "Game Faces" for the paper edition and check the corrected paper galley for "The Changeling Kill." A paper edition for "Dabblers" will be showing up before long, too.

And just yesterday, people were warning me that I'd get bored after a couple of days without a job!