New Year, New Chances

With 2014 quickly fading, it’s time to shift the focus to 2015. A new year filled with new chances, new opportunities, new promises. I’ve “claimed” 2015 to be mine and my family’s year. We will conquer fear of the unknown and stress of the known. We will shine.

How about you? Do you make resolutions or set smart goals? I do, and like most every other person, they tend to fall by the wayside by January 3rd. If they make it that long. We’re good at putting too much pressure on ourselves with unattainable goals, thus setting ourselves up for failure. But what about all those inspiring quotes that say “reach for the stars?” That falls into the long range category — before you can grab hold of a star, you’ve got to climb the steps of the ladder. And each step itself is a goal. An attainable goal.

My goals for 2015:

  1. Write a minimum of 750 words per day, more if it’s flowing. If I stick to that, Wink II will be finished by April.
  2. Have the last two grands potty trained by summer. The success/failure of this goal could affect goal #1. We’ll see. I’m sure Nina and Allen would like to go to the store and not have to buy diapers for the first time in like, 4 years?
  3. Avoid fast food. At all costs. Or at least limit it to once a week.
  4. Walk. In a more concentrated, focused effort. Chasing after the kids doesn’t count. That’s like short bursts of high intensity aerobics — grabbing Casey before he leaps from the first stairway landing, catching a toy Ivy threw at Ireland’s head, opening the baby gate for Aiden when he has to go to the bathroom, or those always fun massive searches for Pinky Pie or any of Ireland’s other lost Little Ponies.

And that’s it. I’m shooting for the stars. Step by step.

typewriter_quote

 

When Writing Becomes a Family Affair

I am so tickled to have special guest C. Hope Clark posting today. Hope is not only a fabulous writer, she’s the brain-child behind Funds For Writers, the go-to proverbial bible for writers in all stages of their careers. I’ve been reading Funds For Writers for more years than I can count and am honored to now call Hope a friend. Welcome, Hope!

 

Selfie + 1
Hope and her grandson Jack

Lynn Chandler Willis is as dedicated a grandmother as I’ve ever seen. Family is the center of her world. So when asked to do this guest blog post, I itched to discuss family and the writer, and how the partnership is often crazy, hilarious, and eye-rolling unbelievable.

Blogs and forums abound with writer discussions about how to address the urchins that interfere with our journeys toward bestseller-dom. Of course we love the brats. No questioning that. Like kittens, they’re cute and can’t help themselves. We write around them, knowing one day they’ll grow up and allow us more time to create.

But what do you do when they are in their twenties and still in the way? And what about parents? Sisters, uncles and cousins? Once you publish a book or two, invariably your predecessors, successors, as well as those on the odd bent branches of the family tree, get in your way. And they are not as forgivable as kittens.

Hope Nanu Cookies
Hope with Nanu Cookies and her son Matt

When I released Lowcountry Bribe, the first in my Carolina Slade Mystery Series, family and friends devoured the book, pointing out which character was which relation, enjoying the inside joke they thought they knew. (Except for my mother, who ordered me never to write about her.) My son asked why I made him a girl. The assumption was I had to be the protagonist and my husband the romantic interest. They pointed out “errors” in the story, telling me my children were never kidnapped, so why put that in the book? I developed a list of one-liners in response to these reactions, the main one being, “It’s fiction, people. That means pretend.” They’d roll their eyes as if they knew better.

When Tidewater Murder came out a year later, they quizzically scratched their heads. “Who is this?” they’d ask. “When did this happen?” Only one new character went into that book with a slight resemblance to a dear friend, a friend who’d challenged me to include him. The story was the purest fiction I’d ever written. “What?” they asked. “What fun is that?” “You sure this isn’t our cousin from Mississippi?”

And don’t get me started about the romantic scenes. “Did y’all really get it on, like on the beach like that?” Cue the standard reply, “It’s fiction.” Or consider the time my son said on Facebook about the subject, “Imagine how reading that stuff makes me feel?”

Or what about the ex-husband who won’t pick up the book because . . . there’s an ex-husband in the story. After all, writers “write what they know” and he believes I probably, subconsciously, wrote about him.

The public, and therefore our relatives, think every tale of fiction is rooted in reality, and some instances probably are. We use our experiences as catalysts. But we avoid the use of clones, resumes, and biographies taken from our family tree for obvious reasons . . . hurt feelings, misunderstandings, and the potential for misrepresentation. But what is it about families and their fear they are, yet wanting to be, subjects in a book?

Maybe it’s that desire for the proverbial 15-minutes of fame. Maybe it’s a way of feeling honored by being blood-kin to a famous author (tongue-in-cheek there). Maybe they can’t let loose of reality to spin fable, and don’t understand those who do.

????????????????????????????????????????Palmetto Poison is Slade’s third story, and this time she is full-bore investigating the most complex case of her life. Enter her boyfriend, his ex-wife (also an agent), his sister, Slade’s sister, kids, and a complete family feuding cornucopia of families she investigates for murder, drugs, and political favors.

My family won’t know how to react!

C. Hope Clark is author of The Carolina Slade Mystery Series with its newest release Palmetto Poison, available wherever books are sold. Please visit her website at http://chopeclark.com She is also editor of FundsforWriters.com, selected for Writer’s Digest’s 101 Best Websites for Writers for 14 years.

http://www.amazon.com/Palmetto-Poison-Carolina-Slade-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B00IE68F54/

http://www.amazon.com/Lowcountry-Bribe-Carolina-Slade-Mystery-ebook/dp/B007A4CQ1U/

http://www.amazon.com/Tidewater-Murder-Carolina-Slade-Mystery-ebook/dp/B00CHT2PT6/

3books

 

10 reasons why I write

Like a good marriage, loving one another sometimes isn’t all there is to it. There has to be more to it than the passion, the need, the desire, and the unrealistic expectations of a life of luxury. So here it is—I’m opening the veins so the non-writing world can see the real reasons we writers do what we do.

  1. We loathe housework. We can’t be expected to dust, sweep, mop, clean toilets and write the great American novel.

    042814 311
    It hasn’t been used in a few weeks. I think its stuck to the floor,
  2. It gives us an excuse to drink coffee or a mocha in the middle of the day.
  3. So we can put off going to the grocery store until the only thing left to eat in the house is a near-empty bag of stale pretzels.
  4. Exercise? Seriously? I have to finish this chapter before my self imposed deadline, which I’ll push back again and again.
  5. It gives us an excuse to politely bow out of any social invitation. Birthday party? Sorry, I’m under a deadline. Cook out? I have to finish this chapter. Err…wait a minute—free meal? Do I have to bring anything? If not, make the effort. Those pretzels are really stale.
  6. It gives us a reason to google images of ‘hot shirtless men’ for character images of course.
  7. It gives us an excuse to stay up way past a normal bedtime because we are in the zone.

    042814 312
    Don’t judge
  8. It gives us an excuse after staying up way past a normal bedtime to take a nap the next day.
  9. It lets us legally kill people we don’t like, fall in love with people we’d like to spend a lifetime with, and heal some of the wounds we’ve carried far too long.
  10. For a brief moment in time, we are in control of an entire universe.

So how about it…why do you write?

My twisted thoughts

I’ve recently discovered I’m a contradiction. I’d do good in a Coen Brothers movie because I can go from laughing my head off at the dark and twisted to awwww’ing over something cute and cuddly.

The contradiction really shows in my Twitter and Facebook posts.

platformSee, there’s this thing we writers are supposed to do to advance our careers and gain new readers. We’re supposed to build a platform. A platform is the method(s) a writer uses to get their name in front of agents, publishers, and most importantly, readers. Social media has made building a platform much easier than years past. But still, it takes time, patience, and effort to not only get your name out there but to grow and nurture these relationships you’re building. One step at a time. A platform is ever-evolving. The more you grow as a writer, the more your platform grows.

A brand, on the other hand, is just what it implies. Unless there’s been a big mistake by a delivery driver, you’re not going to find a Coke in a Pepsi cooler. Thus, you’re probably not going to find a Stephen King novel in the romance section. A lot of writers do cross murder-mystery-partygenres and many use pen names so loyal readers of one genre don’t rebel when they pick up a Sci-Fi/Fantasy when they were expecting a mystery.

So, where am I in all this? I’m still building my platform—as I said earlier, it’s an on-going thing. And the brand as a mystery writer is falling into place as I’m establishing relationships with other writers and readers. And here’s where the contradiction is coming in.

I post a lot on Twitter about crime, for a few different reasons. 1) The psychology behind it interests me, 2) as a research tool or plot idea generator for other crime writers, 3) some of it is straight out of a Coen Brothers movie and I just adore them.

confused_jackBut I also post a lot about dogs. I’m a dog lover. And I post a lot about the trials and tribulations of parenting and they’re often funny. My own kids didn’t have one or two kids, they had litters. And as the Granny Nanny to eight of them, I have an over abundance of toddler-related material ready at the whim.

So how can I follow up a too-funny tweet of a picture of Casey with a goofy hat on with a tweet about a horrific murder with all kinds of twists and turns. Beats me. I’m just as confused as you are.

Maybe my brand should be a dog loving, toddler fan, mystery writer?

The proper way to kill people

On paper of course. In fiction. Like in a murder-mystery. Now that we’ve got that cleared up.

Crime shows like Castle, Bones, Blue Bloods, Southland, Hill Street Blues, and the list goes on and on…make up a good portion of most watched television. Why? Because they’re entertaining. Some aren’t entirely believable, but they are fun to watch. gmom is amazing and i love her very much – HA! – editorial comment inserted by granddaughter Ava. Back murder1to the story…mystery writers love crime/detective/police procedural shows and that’s great. As long as you’re just watching to enjoy and not using them for your research. If you are, it’s a lazy way of writing. Stop doing it right now.

There are way too many resources available to help with your research for you to write your mystery using a television show as a guide. Because most of the shows on television get it wrong. Sometimes with cringe-worthy results.

Many moons ago when I first turned in a manuscript for critique, I was scolded for having a flower bloom at the wrong time in the wrong place. The critique partner wasn’t being picky—she was being thorough. I was being lazy and picked some random flower that didn’t even grow in my settling. I lost a little bit of my butt and a lot of my credibility.

And as writers, we know what happens when a you lose credibility with a reader. They put the book down and will hesitate, if not refuse to, read your next one.

murder-mystery-partyLearn the difference between a revolver and semi-automatic. Learn the dynamics of what happens to a person when shot—no, they aren’t blown backwards like you’ve seen a thousand times on television. They drop straight to the ground. Learn terminology. Learn the legal system—no, you don’t have to study law but knowing when a warrant is needed and when it’s not is a good thing.

Two of my favorite resources are Crime Scene Writer Yahoo Group and the Writers Police Academy. The Crime Scene group is populated by experts in many fields and they’re more than willing to help with your questions. No matter how odd. Trust me. Murder-graphic-008

And as a side note, I’ll be presenting a program for my Sisters in Crime/Murder We Write chapter on writing crime fiction and getting “it” right Sunday, Nov. 17 from 2-4pm at the High Point Public Library. I’ll be discussing some of the resources available to help you get it right.

 

 

I’d like to thank the Academy…

56th Annual Primetime Emmy Award Nominations If you hop over to my Facebook timeline and scroll to last year about this time, you’ll probably see a status update about writing my Emmy acceptance speech when I was a little girl. I’m a big TV fan. Always have been and always will be. The Emmys will be awarded tonight. When I was a kid and wrote my acceptance speech it wasn’t for acting, directing, producing — it was for writing. I even wrote a spec script for a show called “The White Shadow” while I was in high school.

Of all the award shows, the Emmys have always been my favorite. Except for the year they snubbed Robert Duvall for best actor for his role in Lonesome Dove. Still shaking my head on that one.

Well, as I aged, my acceptance speech never really wavered. It always ended with the line “dreams really do come true.” Of course the older I got, the more fleeting the dream seemed. But the more encouraging it was to younger writers because, even at my, um, older age, I was living proof it can be done.

IMG_20130922_114506So…where is all this leading us? To my acceptance speech. No, not for the Emmy you silly goose — that’ll be next year. My acceptance speech for winning the 2013 Minotaur Books/Private Eye Writers of America Best First Private Eye Novel competition. Thanks to the Private Eye Writers of America and St. Martin’s Press, my favorite PI, Gypsy Moran, will come to life!

The award was presented Friday night at the Shamus Awards Banquet, coinciding with this year’s Bouchercon. I wasn’t able to actually attend because, well, it costs money and I’ve got six grandkids with birthdays coming up.

So anyway, Robert Randisi, founder and past President of the Private Eye Writers of America, sent me an email last week congratulating me on the win. He says he understands I will not be at the conference but would I like to make a comment to be read. Oh….Robert….you don’t know how long I’ve had this little speech written.

IMG_20130920_195908Dreams really do come true.

Time to stop the bitchin’

I’m probably going to stomp on some toes with this but it’s been a’brewing. I’m starting to see a trend and it’s getting under my skin. I have several writer friends who are enjoying the fruit of their labor with the release of their books. Cool. I’ll be right there with them next week with the official release of The Rising. Yeah!

But the last few weeks I’ve found myself “with them” in more ways than one. Bitching. Moaning. Griping. And over all complaining about the amount of work that goes into not just writing the book, but marketing the book. I spent an entire “work” day (meaning total of 8 hours) finalizing a blog tour. Yeah, yeah, yeah…my eyes were crossed when I finished. So what? Stop pissing and moaning about it. Nobody made me market this book. I’m marketing it because, well, I want people to actually read it. They can’t read it if the only place it’s available is on my laptop or in a file drawer.

Ivy2
We have to pitch a few fits before we…

So then we have to back up and question just why we write in the first place. Yeah, yeah, yeah…we’ve all got a story to tell. We like creating characters who live in imaginary worlds. We visualize scenes and whole chapters, complete with soundtrack. But ask yourself who are you writing for? If it’s your family and a few friends, why worry yourself sick about the editing and the cover design and the back cover blurb? Just write it and be done with it. If you’re writing for an audience larger than will fit in your living room, you have to stress about all these other things. But – here’s the kicker – no one is making you do it!

We writers are an odd bunch. I personally think we tend to be a bit passive-aggressive, or bi-polar, or down right unrealistic at times. Yes – please – buy my book! Damn – this marketing! You like it? You really like it? Crap – a bad review. How could they not like it? I’ll just go to bed now and pull the covers over my head, And cry. Crap – forgot about Twitter. Need to reply to those DMs. I just want to write! What the heck is Instagram? Do I have to post pictures? Interact. Just be yourself. Well, myself tends to be a bit of an introvert so how am I supposed to do that oh great Marketing God?

I have friends that say treat writing and marketing like a “real” job. Some even say work only 8 hours a day, like most “normal” people. Well, you know what…it’s not a real job and we’re not normal people. A true writer is never really off the clock because we’re constantly thinking about the dialogue, visualizing the next scene, playing what if. We can’t shut off our brain like some people shut down their computers before punching out for the day. We don’t have a time clock that tells us we’re “done for the day.”

Ivy1
…realize it’s really not that bad

But – no one is making us do it. We do it because somewhere in the far corners of our brains, we like it. We like the creating. We like the ego boost of a five star review. We like the pat-on-the-back.  So stop acting like you don’t. Stop acting like it’s a freakin’ chore to dig up more Twitter followers so maybe they’ll buy your book. If you didn’t want people to buy your book, why’d you publish it in the first place? The oh so poor tortured writer is so cliche’. Get over yourself. And I’ll get over myself too. And maybe, just maybe, we can together stop pretending we’re so over-burdened with the business of writing, we’ve lost the joy of writing itself.

So, I’m going to write a little on my WIP this afternoon, maybe market The Rising some, thank my new Twitter followers (all of them for that matter), and maybe play a level or two of Candy Crush. Just a normal Sunday afternoon. And I wouldn’t trade it for a time clock for anything.

True confessions

I’m not that crazy about coffee anymore. There I said it. It’s a weight off my shoulders. A burden gone.  And to take it even further – I not much of a drinker of alcoholic beverages, either.

So…what’s the big deal? I’m a writer! For the normal person, these proclamations may not be a big deal. But I’m not normal. I’m a writer.

Some of my writer friends write in coffee shops. Some have very productive writing sessions while sipping on a cup of joe. I’ve been debating on packing up the laptop and heading to a local cafe myself to try and up the daily word count, but I’m scared my secret would surface. The image of a writer typing away at the keyboard while a cup of…grape Kool-Aid sits nearby doesn’t conjure up the same mythical vision. Laptop on Kitchen Table with Cup of Coffee

Don’t get me wrong. There was a time not too long ago when I was one of those writers whose words were tethered to a cup of coffee.  But then something happened – I don’t know, like hot flashes or something – and I was no longer in want of any type of drink with steam rising from it.

In my mind, the marriage of writers and coffee was so ingrained, when my taste buds changed, I wondered if  I was cut out for this writing life. All my writer friends thrived on the stuff as if it were an intravenous happy drug.  While I was chugging the (sugar free) grape Kool-Aid.

Not really all that fond of sweet ice tea now, either. Holy Crap! Now I’m not even a true southern! But that’s another post for another day.

hemingway460276
Ahhh…to drink, er..write like Papa!

Back to the drink of choice…in all the “how to write” books I’ve read, they all say study the masters. You know, guys like Papa Hemingway and that Faulkner guy (who leaves me banging my head against hard objects!) So I did…and discovered Papa, Faulkner, Dylan Thomas, Hunter S. Thompson…they all liked to, um…partake in Miss Mamie’s throat soother. A lot. But their writing was brilliant (I reserve judgement on Faulkner, but he IS considered one of the greats.) For some reason I don’t think the how-to books meant to emulate the greats in every way so I’ll leave the hard drinking to frat boys.

So am I still a writer even if I no longer like coffee? Am I still a writer if I write without having a good buzz? Or go on a binge after the writing is done (that Faulkner guy again)?

Stand up to the stereotype my fellow writer friends! Ditch the coffee and the spirits. Want you join me for a cup of Kool-Aid?

 

 

Kicking the one-night stand to the curb

Every writer has a process. For some, the idea comes first and once the idea is fleshed out on paper into a story, they give it a title. In the meantime, they refer to their work as their WIP- or work in progress. For others, the title is there from the beginning, either generated before the first word is ever written or shortly after.

I’ve always been a title first writer, sometimes, building an entire novel around the title. When the title is there from the beginning, I know the direction the story is going, the tone I want to convey, and the purpose of every word. Without the title, I tend to flounder. The story isn’t real to me yet. It’s like a high school writing assignment – something you have to do but will drag your feet doing it.

Several months ago, I started my current project. Note the keywords several months and current project! I knew the story beginning to end, and even the middle but writing it was a chore. The story and I fought against one another. It wanted to just lay there and die and I would come along every now and then and perform a quick bout of CPR to instill new breath. I’d tell myself ‘tomorrow night – I’ll finish this chapter’. When tomorrow night came, there was a fascinating discussion on Twitter or some heavy-duty drama going on on facebook. Did I feel guilty? Not really. I wasn’t invested in the outcome. My current work – or WIP – was like a one-night stand rather than a good marriage. I didn’t even know it’s name!

Well, yesterday, I was playing around with some design programs I have and trying my hand at cover design. Again, note the fact I was more or less just killing time, not writing. And then something magical happened. I started looking for pictures to manipulate in the various photo editing programs and there it was. As soon as I saw the picture, the title hit me like the proverbial ton of bricks. I joyfully kicked the WIP to the curb and happily committed to Nobody’s Baby.

It feels real now.

What do you think of the cover? It will probably change a little but I do like the concept. And yes, that’s my granddaughter Ivy high-stepping through a grassy field.

NobodyBabycoveronly1