Just recieved the cover for my next book, “Reclaiming Katie”. The designers over at FantasiaFrog did a wonderful job. I will be a repeat customer. Summary and official release date coming soon.
I have had more than a few emails asking me when the sequel to 1929 will be out. The truth is, I have no idea. While I am half way finished with the manuscript I tend to get sidetracked with other projects. Which is a good and bad thing. I miss my characters from 1929 terribly and knowing what I have planned for them, sometimes it gnaws at me to get back to Rockport. But most days I can’t seem to get myself to open up the file and while I’m not sure why, I do know that when I do, it will be wonderful. Timing is everything. Regardless, in an effort to become more productive, I have tried to research what other authors do. The big names have a lot of good advice and while I am sure they aren’t giving away all their secrets, (that would be foolish) they do pass a few along and I always consider using them for myself.
For example, I read in an interview with Nora Roberts (while not my genre of preferred reading, is still an extremely prolific author) writes the entire book in one sitting in an outline. It goes on for pages, (3 or 10 I can’t quite remember) and then she goes back in and fills in all the details, expanding each scene with details and character development. Nice idea, I thought and tried that for myself. Bomb. Can’t do it. I got through the first page and couldn’t stay away from the details. I just had to expand it right now. What I did discover, however, what that when I get stuck muddling through the middle, (I have nine manuscripts stuck at the middle, by the way) if I write out the next five major events, -Judy goes to bank and finds out her identity was stolen decides to sell house after talking to uncle -starts to fall for construction guy working on house– that sort of thing, then I can jump from lily pad to lily pad and get past that awful middle section that causes me so much pain. So even though I can’t do it exactly the way Ms. Roberts does it, (and I wouldn’t want to emulate a style exactly, I value individualism far too much) I did learn something by tweeking that method to make it work for me. Who knows, I might actually get to those nine half-finished manuscripts now!
Another author I have researched extensively is Diana Gabaldon. (The Kracken of authors…sorry, little inside joke with my muse.) Maybe it’s because hers was the first book I picked up after college and hadn’t read anything but textbooks for years, or maybe it’s just that she wrote a damn good series, but I admire her writing so much. She is the queen of details and rich characters. I have read the Outlander series three times. The first time for fun. (Good thing I didn’t find it in college or my grades would have suffered terribly.) The second two times I read it, I was studying. How she opens and closes a scene. What she bothers to go into detail about and what she leaves to the imagination. Her style is brilliant. Something I have learned from interviews with her is that she writes scenes from all over the book and then pastes them all together, somehow managing to create a thousand pages of Jamie and Claire wonderfulness. So, guess what? I tried that. With the current book I’m working on, actually. Bomb. Can’t do that either. I got so off track, so confused and ended up clicking “Copy…delete” instead. What I discovered from that, is that if I write the very last scene, it helps me stay on track. Like a wall map with pushpins. “You are here.” and “You need to get here.” I have stopped trashing manuscripts (I think I’ve thrown away 5 that were barely buds of books) since employing this method.
So, again, these authors methods did not work for me, but by investigating, I found something that did. Now, I need to go back and write the final scene in all my half-finished material and I might be in business.
So, my method, for those readers who have emailed me and asked, is still evolving. Currently, I flesh out a three-part idea on day one. It rolls around like a rock tumbler in this manic brain of mine and soon details start emerging. I get the first scene out and write the bullet points to get me through the first few chapters. I use the bullet points to pull me through slow spots and usually by the end of the first week I write the last scene. Once I have the front and back buttoned up, it goes pretty smoothly from there. Details and characters reveal themselves and off I go. My biggest challenge at that point, is finding the time.
Stay tuned for news on the new cover design for 1929 and for the soon to be released “Reclaiming Katie”
So, while the world has discovered and fallen in love with Downton Abbey over the last three seasons, I am just now finding it. So far, this is the only good thing to have come out of a bout of writers block. I rarely watch tv and so when I was surfing Netflix for something relatively intelligent and entertaining, I remembered reading a blog post about this show, oh, a year ago. So I gave it a shot. I am completely hooked. I only have episode seven left of the first season with no way to watch the second season. Grr! There are so many characters to love, I don’t know who is my favorite. But this is a series I must own. I could watch it over and over. If you haven’t checked it out yet, please do!
I found this hidden deep in my computer and thought it would be a nice way to start this blog. Written back in the days when I juggled family, work and writing, it shows what a typical day for me was like. I have since quit my job and come home full time to write, however alot of my days are just as crazed.
The alarm clock sounds at six am. My eyes pop open and my mind does a kickstart, whirring and clicking, albeit slowly, in the dark morning hours. The first thing I think of is my novel. My series. My side projects. Where I’m at and where I need to be. The second thing is the feedback I received from others; email that was checked late into the night that I was too tired to reply to. I have to get to those first. I wake up the first son and stumble to the kitchen for coffee. Already, in the ten steps down the hallway, I have thought of two revisions and an additional thread in Jonathan’s Cross that could lead to a short story if I have time to develop it.
I sit down sipping liquid life and power on the computer. It’s even slower to wake up than I am. I get frustrated and swear that one day, one sweet day, I will have the fastest most powerful computer ever made.
I check my email to get my heroin. I’m a full blown addict and I admit it shamelessly. I depend on my fix to get me through my long day.
First email, I get a real nice fix. A beta reader who received an ARC. I made them cry. That’s a rush.
Second email. Editing approvals. I’ll have to do that later when my brain is firing on all pistons.
Third email. More heroin. It’s lower grade and a smaller hit, but that’s fine. I sort through a dozen email and prioritize them.
Then I check my reviews on Amazon. For the most part, hit after hit. I’m loving it.
Miss Self-Doubt makes an unusually early arrival. She whispers in my ear all the possible reasons the feedback could be insincere. All the reasons I’ll never escape the ranks of the wannabe’s. I reopen the emotional email from a reader who cried reading my novel.
I tell Miss Doubt to go to hell. But she’ll be back.
A second cup of coffee and I wake up the second son. I don’t dare open a project now, so I work on smaller tasks. I answer emails and set my schedule for the day, which always deviates from the schedule I set for myself the night before while falling asleep.
I’ll write for three hours, read others work for one, make an early dinner, do some laundry and actually dry my hair after I shower.
My son yells at me. Crap. It’s Saturday. No school.
“Go back to bed then,” I say, hoping they will so I can work some on the next book.
Nope. Cartoons. Loud annoying cartoons.
“I really need to get an office,” I grumble.
I open a book and try to organize a piece to work on for a short story. I don’t have time right now to spit out something new, so I’ll work with what I have.
Copy, Paste, Cringe. This is going to need work to make sense.
“Mom, were hungry.”
“Cereal,” I say, pointing to the kitchen, not tearing my eyes from the computer.
I’m not winning mother of the year, that’s for sure.
Last night I told myself I would make them waffles. Told my husband that, too. Now I’m back here standing with one foot in the real world and one foot in the imaginary, pointing my kids to cold sugar puff cereal.
I grew up on that. They’ll be fine, right? There’s always therapy later, if they need it.
I glance at the clock. Nine-thirty.
“Crap!” Where’s my morning going!! I kick it into high gear. I have two more reviews to do to meet the daily quota I set for myself.
I begin reading a story about a young man in the civil war. It’s well written and highly disturbing. I can’t tear my eyes away from it.
“Mom, we’re still hungry.”
“Toast,” I say, pointing again to the kitchen.
I am half way through reading and have to pee so bad I think my bladder is going to explode. When my eyes start watering, I can’t read so well and I run to the bathroom. I speed-pee faster than when my kids were toddlers and could, somehow, manage to find the hidden bleach, open the childproof container and drink it in the twenty seconds it took me to pee. I have since managed to get bathroom trips down to 11.5 seconds.
Back to the computer.
“Mom, I need underwear.”
“Wear your brothers.”
Finish reading. Loved it. Can’t leave feedback right now, I can’t think. I jump up and start a load of laundry.
“Mom, I need a clean glass.”
“Dishwasher.” I point.
“Crap. I forgot to run them last night.”
I get up and wash a few glasses to get them through until lunch.
Back to reading, finish the reviews and work on the next book.
I get about 700 words down trying to tune out Spongebob.
“Mom, we’re hungry again.”
“Make a sandwich.” God, I used to be such a good mom. I used to bake bread from scratch and cookies from scratch and I even ironed. Yes, I ironed. When I had to. But I did dote on my family and feed them well, before I started writing. That seems like lifetimes ago.
“We’re out of bread.”
“Crap. I forgot to buy some.”
“Double crap. Okay we’ll go to the store in a few minutes.”
I dive into working on a piece for a contest. It’s my first contest and Miss Doubt tells me not to bother, I won’t win anyway. I knock the annoying wench off my shoulder and edit, snip, shave, add, revise. I pretty it up as best I can, hoping that the snippet from the novel will make some kind of sense.
“Mom, what about the store?”
“In a minute.”
“You said that twenty minutes ago.”
“I know, I know, I’m sorry, this is important. Just another minute.”
I glance at the clock. Eleven am.
“Crap. Okay guys, let’s go to the store.” I submit the entry and forget about it. I entered it to get the first one out of the way.
I run to the car in sweats and a tee shirt. At least I have a bra on. My hair is sporting the bedwraggled look, thrown up in a ponytail with a dozen renegades, Medusa style. I look in the mirror as I back up and make myself cringe. No make-up, dark circles under my eyes and wild hair, a wrinkled tee shirt that says “Irish” across the front accented with a little Cheeto dust. Where’d that come from?
“Boy, won’t the cashier be surprised when I DON’T pull out a welfare card,” I mumble.
“What! We’re on welfare?!” My older son panics.
“No, son, we’re not on welfare. I just look like it.”
Strategic planning begins on the threshold of Safeway.
“You-” pointing to one son, “Go get a cart.”
“You-” the other son, “Go grab two gallons of milk.” I head for the ready-made chicken and thank God for the convenience foods I once detested and swore I’d never feed my family.
Thank God for Oriental Express, Thank God for prepackaged cookies and sliced bread, I think, as I order my husband a nice dinner.
An old lady jumps in front of me and I debate whether to cause a scene.
She takes forever, rejecting every piece of ready-made fried chicken held up for her approval.
I’m losing my patience. Not that I have a vast reserve to begin with. I send the boys for various items while I’m waiting. I look into the cart and see all kinds of things I didn’t send them for. They love it when I’m distracted like this. They whistle, looking at the ceiling with their hands behind their back, playing innocent.
I throw a few things back in the deli case when they aren’t looking.
With the chicken FINALLY handed to me, (I don’t care what it looks like lady, just throw 8 pieces in a bag and hand it to me) I head to the check-out, grabbing random things as I go. A diet dinner for me to counteract the Cheetos I had for breakfast, bananas-(oh, there’s one good thing in the cart) and soda. Need something to make a mixed drink with when the kids go to bed.
The cashier is indeed surprised when I pull out cash.
She offers to help me get the bags to the car…or the bus stop. I must really look like crap.
I tell her no thanks, stifle a smart-mouthed comment, and am on my way. Glancing at the clock it’s almost noon.
Race home with a new idea swirling around my head, starting to take the shape of a tornado. I struggle to pay attention to my sons chatter about the “newest, most super awesomest” video game level they just beat.
“Awesomest isn’t a word,” I say.
At home the groceries get piled up on the counter and the boys dig through for their treats.
“Hey! I don’t remember buying that!” I yell as they run away laughing.
I put the groceries away, and at least fifty dollars of it is junk. My kids love this writing thing. I don’t think they’ve seen a vegetable in a week.
“Tomorrow,” I promise myself. I’ll cook a real dinner. I’ll make two vegetable a night for the next week to make up for it.”
I sit down and get back to work. I knock out a rough outline for the idea that hit me on the way out of Safeway. Checked the email again. Another good review and I’m floating.
“I love this,” I say for the tenth time.
“We do, too!” my son says, toasting my writing career with a large box of Mike n Ike’s I don’t remember buying.
Read another story, write another review. Check email. There’s a problem with the cover art for the book.
I fix it and go on to answer more editing questions.
Glance at the clock. It’s one thirty. Grab more coffee, speed-pee again and start a short story that won’t leave me alone. I type so fast my wrists hurt. I think I’m getting carpel tunnel syndrome.
I get a thousand words into the short story. Glance at the clock. Two pm.
I reluctantly close the word program and websites.
I pull on scrubs, neatened my medusa hair and throw on a little foundation to look presentable. The badge feels like an iron weight around my neck.
Ten minutes after two. My husband gets home. We speed talk like auctioneers to fill each other in on the day’s events before I have to leave ten minutes later.
I’m still pretty happy on my commute to work. I listen to music that reminds me of my books and stay in that happy place awhile longer.
When the hospital comes into view, my heart sinks a little. Keeping patient’s care first and foremost, I have to leave my books, my characters and my plots at the door and my eyes lose a little of their light.
I punch in and all is well for a while. I do my job; the job I’m grateful for but still don’t love.
The phone rings, a doctor screams, a machine breaks down, and all hell breaks loose for the next half hour. I stop amidst it all and wonder if I have enough sick time to fake a nervous breakdown. It really wouldn’t be a stretch…
I don’t have enough sick time so I jump back into the madness. I glance at the clock. Only seven more hours to go.
I really like a few people I work with and I hope we’ll stay friends when I leave here. Some, however, I plan on writing into a future novel as a loathsome character with a raging case of syphilis and a fetish for goats.
Miss Doubt likes to show up at work. I tell her it’s past visiting hours and to go away. She doesn’t. When I’m tired and it’s dark outside ,she tells me I’ll always be here, punching the clock, working a job I don’t love. It bothers me only until the sun comes up.
A couple of coworkers asks me why I’m so tired just a few hours into my shift. I tell her, “Because I’m a writer.” One looks dreamy and sighs, “Oh, that is such a romantic, glamorous lifestyle, lucky you.” I look at her like she has three heads.
When quitting time comes I always expect that little beep of the time clock signaling freedom to make me instantly happy. It takes a while to get back to the happy. I gather up my books, plots and characters again outside the door and think about them on the way home. By then I am bone tired, but happy.
Everyone is long asleep inside. The cat is happy to see me and even happier when I refill his food bowl.
I kick off the shoes, pull off the badge and tuck it away out of sight. Someone drank all the soda. No mixed drink tonight.
I sit down and write another thousand or so words until I can’t see straight.
After changing into something-anything, suitable to sleep in, I can’t resist checking my email. There’s a wonderful letter from someone who really enjoyed my stuff. I need that bit of happy to sleep on.
I fall into bed and glance at the clock. Two am. Glamorous my foot.
Tomorrow, I tell myself, I’m going to make the kids waffles.