Tuesday, December 30, 2008

One Crazy Day in the Life of a Novelist

As I looked back on this year, I found this guest blog, which sums up the highs, lows, and strange encounters a novelist can experience in one day.

9:42 am: As I write page 162, I realize that an entire investigative thread in my new novel is not quite logical. And there’s no way to massage it or spin it. So I go back to the beginning and try to pick out and rewrite every reference to this line of inquiry. Did I get them all? Or did I leave a little silver of foreign material that will pop up and irritate readers? Now I have doubts about other plot threads. So I decide to print out all 162 pages and read through them before continuing to write the story. How many trees have I killed in my career as a writer and editor?

12:29 am: Another writer posts on my Facebook page, “Congrats on the review in Mystery Scene. ‘A thrilling, eye-opening read.’” I am excited. I haven’t seen this review, and it will make a great blurb. I search Mystery Scene’s webpage, but I can’t find the review and I don’t have a copy of the magazine. So everyone in mystery world knows what this review says, except me. I worry that the one line I know about may be the only positive thing the reviewer said.

3:10 pm: After months of waiting, my beta reader sends an e-mail with her feedback on the first 50 pages of my new story, Secrets to Die For. After commenting, “This is a very worthy story, a page-turner with great potential,” she says, “Try to SHOW rather than TELL.” Aaaghhhhh! I like to think that I live by this ubiquitous writing rule. But now I wonder: Do I even know what I’m doing?

6:17 pm: After months of waiting, the book trailer for my recently published novel, The Sex Club, arrives via e-mail. I excitedly click open the file, ready to be thrilled and amazed. But no, the trailer is weird and confusing. The girl in the last scene is at least 20, dark-haired, and kind of heavy. She doesn’t even look dead. The victim in my novel is 14 and blond and thin and very dead. I show the trailer to my husband. He hates almost everything about it and cannot stop talking about how much he dislikes it. I am crushed. I spent the last of my promotional money on the trailer, and I counted on it selling a few books. Now I have to compose an e-mail that diplomatically says, “Start over.” It takes an hour that I don’t have. (New and improved trailer is viewable at the bottom of this page.)

9:05 pm: I receive an e-mail from a mystery book club leader named Ruth Greiner, who apparently does have a copy of the Mystery Scene review and says she’ll never read The Sex Club no matter how great all the reviews are. She does not say why, and she does not have to. Just seeing her name horrified me. The antagonist in The Sex Club is a very nasty woman and her name is Ruth Greiner. How was I to know? Now I have to write an e-mail that explains how I chose the name—Ruth is Biblical and strong, Greiner is the name of a street in my old neighborhood. I also try to carefully express my concern for her feelings, without admitting any liability. I offer to send her a free copy of my next novel, then feel lame about it.

10:16 pm: Yet another fun-filled e-mail arrives. This one is from a local author whom I met at a book fair and exchanged novels with. He says he’s quite sure he’ll find a publisher for his new novel and wants to know if I’ll read his book and write a blurb for the front cover. This is the first time anyone has asked me for a blurb, and I’d like to be excited. I’m flattered that he thinks I have any clout. But I didn’t get past the first page of his first novel (which started with a rectal search by a large German woman), and this one, he says, is much more sexually explicit. How do I get so lucky? Oh yeah, I wrote a novel called The Sex Club, so he must think I’m a sex fiend. (It’s a mystery/thriller, really!) I spend 20 minutes composing an e-mail, then delete it, thinking I'll deal with it tomorrow.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Sex Sells—Or Does It?

Sex sells. That’s what marketers always say. And it seems to be true for tight-fitting jeans and toothpaste. But it is true in crime fiction? In my experience—not necessarily.

Some of the best reviews I received for my novel, The Sex Club, started out with a disclaimer like this: “I didn’t think I would like this book, but . . .” The readers/reviewers went on to say that the title (and sometimes the cover) had originally turned them away, but that they’d read it because another reader raved about it. They ended up loving the story, but still, their initial aversion concerned me. So I asked members of Dorothly L (a mystery discussion forum) what they thought about the title. Many said they would never pick up the novel in a bookstore or library because of the title.

So then I wondered: How many bookstores and libraries had decided not to stock my novel because of the title? From the comments of a few, I believe there might be many. After realizing this painful reality, I started adding this footnote to all my communications about the novel: “Despite the title, the story isn’t X-rated.”

It is not a good sign when you have to explain or make excuses for your title.

On the other hand, many writers on the CrimeSpace and Facebook networking sites have posted great comments about The Sex Club’s cover and title. One writer posted, “Judging by the title, that’s a book I HAVE to read RIGHT NOW.” Many others have simply said, “Love the cover!”

During a discussion with writers about the word sex in a crime fiction title, the reaction was also mixed. One writer said, “If sex is in the title, isn’t that a lot of emphasis, leading the buyer to think the book might be in the wrong section of the bookstore?” A quick search of Amazon brought up only one other mystery title with the word sex —Sex and Murder (A Paul Turner Mystery). But at least that author was smart enough to get the word murder in the title too.

My conclusions: 1) If I had it to do all over again, I’d change the name, 2) Bookstores and libraries are critical to sales, and authors can’t afford to alienate them or their patrons, 3) Mystery readers prefer dead bodies to warm ones.

What's your reaction? Do you shy away from books with sex in the title? Do you mind a little sex in your mysteries or do prefer that the characters stay on task?

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Power of K

I originally posted this blog on BookBitch about eight months ago, but yesterday I read a manuscript that had eight or more characters whose names started with K. So I realized it was worth posting again.

Marketers and comedians have long taken advantage of the powerful K sound. The K sound is especially emphatic at the end of word, which is why Jack and f**k are both so fun to say. Can you think of a comedian who can get through his/her material with saying f**k or jerk or some variation of jack (jackoff, jackass, jackshit)?

Crime writers (maybe all writers) love the K sound too, they just may not realize it. Think about the name Jack for protagonists. Jack Ryan, Jack Reacher, Jack Keller, Jack Taylor, Jack Davis, Jack Carpenter, Jack Irish, and Jack Palms to name just a few. Then there’s Taylor Jackson and my own Detective Wade Jackson. Not to mention the Jakes (Jake Riley, Jake Riordan, Jake McRoyan, and more).

The X sound is really K with a little S on the end, so Alex is almost as popular with crime writers: Alex Cooper, Alex Cross, Alex Archer, Alex Delaware, Alex Duarte, Alex Bernier. And Cooper and Cross are both pronounced with the K sound. Then there’s Kinsey Milhone and Greg McKenzie, which has a trifecta of winning sounds: the double K sound and the popular Z. Marketers like Z almost as well as K.

There’s plenty of K sounds in other protags too: Lincoln Perry, Lucas Davenport, Elvis Cole, Kelly Jones, Joe Pike, John Cardinal, Michael Kowlaski, Vicky Bliss, and Jacqueline Kirby. Apologies to the hundreds that I’ve likely missed.

In my recent novel, THE SEX CLUB, which has both K and X sounds in the title, the main characters are Detective Jackson and Kera Kollmorgan. Jackson’s daughter’s name is Katie. In women’s fiction, Kate is the female equivalent of Jack—a short, powerful K name (Kate London, plus many others).

It’s not just me. Author Jack Getze has a protag named Austin Carr who encounters a bad guy named Max, whom he calls Creeper. In as single scene, he writes about Carr and Creeper as well as an AK-47, Alka-Seltzer, a stockbroker, an Escalade, a Caddy, and a Lincoln.

Another writer told me, “I had so many K names in my first book I had to change all but one.”

What is it about the K sound that we like so much? One amateur theory is that as babies, we all heard a lot of K words and noises: cootchie-coo, cutie-pie, cuddles, etc. But it could be that this is simply one of those things that is hard-wired into our brains from human experiences long ago. Whatever the reason, readers and writers like the sound K, so keep it coming ... just not all in the same book. And give Jack a rest.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

When to Ignore Good Advice

Advice for writers is everywhere. Rules for writing. Rules for querying. Rules for submitting. Like most writers, I also actively solicit advice from beta readers, successful novelists, and others in the publishing business. There have been times when I followed what seemed like good advice and ended up regretting it. Other times, I ignored perfectly good advice and was glad I did. How do you know up front when to ignore sound advice? Listen to your own instincts.

Long ago, an agent advised me to write a YA novel because she knew an editor who was looking for YA manuscripts that dealt with troubled teen scenarios and she thought I would be perfect for the series. My instinct said it wasn’t right for me, but I thought this agent had a solid connection that would get me published. Total waste of time! I am not a YA writer. (I’m not sure I was every really young. My mother swears I was born 40.)

One very successful agent who I was once signed with kept advising me to write a cozy mystery series because that’s what all the publishers wanted. I don’t read cozy mysteries, and I didn’t think I could pull it off. So I never tried. That was smart. See above. So my rule for myself is: Never write a novel I wouldn’t read. (Unless someone gives me a boatload of money upfront and and all the time in world to complete it.)

A beta reader once advised me to not make the murder victim’s mother a drug addict who had died of drug-related complications. She thought it was distracting and unnecessary. But it was the basis for the character’s personality! It was why she ended up in the situation she was in at the time of the murder. Wrong advice! Easy to ignore.

Everyone in the business says to never query an agent before you finish writing the story. I have routinely ignored this advice (when sending snail mail) and have never had an agent respond to a query before the manuscript was ready. Agents are notoriously slow (I once got a response three years and three months later), so why not eliminate that waiting gap with productive writing time? Sending queries early also motivates me to get it done.

A successful mystery writer and dear friend once advised me not approach an editor at a major publishing house directly. She felt strongly that I should get an agent—that the editor would never consider a manuscript submitted without one and that it might seem unprofessional. But this editor had read The Sex Club as a manuscript and loved it. She knew my name and my writing. I felt there was no harm in asking if she’d like to see the next installment in the Jackson series. So I queried her directly anyway (via e-mail). Then a few weeks later, I ran into her at Bouchercon and pitched the novel again. A month later, she e-mailed me and asked to see the manuscript. I’m still waiting to see how this turns out. But even if she passes on the series, I’m still glad I ignored that well-intended advice and made that direct connection.

I've learned to write only the stories I feel passionate about, regardless of what’s currently trendy; to trust my own instincts about what works best for those stories; and to never let fear get in the way of making connections.

Do you ignore standard industry advice? Does it usually work out for you?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

And the Winners Are . . .

Thank you everyone for participating. I received so many good names, I may eventually use them all. But after conferring with my story consultant (aka “husband Steve”), we realized that three of our favorite names came from the same person! So, the big winner is Cigdem Aksoy, a Facebook friend, who currently lives in Turkey. (The postage will cost more than the book, but well worth it.) She submitted:

Seth Valder, who is now a sleazy strip club owner in Thrilled to Death
Eddy Lucas, who runs a “Dirty Jobs” business. I had already chosen “Eddie” for this character (who is really a bad guy-lite), and “Lucas” is the perfect last name for him.

She also submitted the winning name for the con man/misogynist, but I realize now that I can’t reveal it without ruining the mystery for those of you who plan to buy this story in 2010 when it comes out. (You are planning to buy this book, right? )

And in the spirit of giving, I’ll send books to these honorable mentions:
Zoran Mircovich (submitted by Scott Roche aka Spiritual Tramp) Liked this name so much, I’m going to create a part for him.
Stig Bloodcutter (submitted by Anthony Taylor) Made me laugh out loud!
Randy Cockrane (submitted by Gayle Carline for the strip club owner) Very clever!
(Winners, please e-mail me with your mailing adddress.)

Cigdem also provided links to places to find names, so I'll share them here.

Seventh Sanctum
Villain Names
Stone Dragon Press

Thanks again for playing!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Name That Character

I’m at that point in my new story where I need to settle on some character names. I’m writing a series, so the recurring character names are decided (like them or not). For others, I often grab a moniker for the moment and keep going if the writing is flowing, then go back and search/replace when the perfect name comes to me. Sometimes, the first name that comes to me is the right name. I love it when that happens.

I have also changed the name of main characters after writing the entire novel. I hate when I have to do that. After thinking about a character as “Sierra” for six months, it’s hard to let go of that identity. And now it’s hard to remember her new name when I’m discussing the novel, which is embarrassing. But I changed it because I had too many female characters whose names ended with “a” (the schwa sound).

What I need now are bad guy names, and I feel stumped. So I’m having a contest.(My brother asked me to name one of the antagonists after him, so one down, two to go.) One of the bad guys runs a strip club and various other sleazy deals, and the other is the ultimate con man/misogynist, who puts on one face for the public while engaging in the worst sort of behavior behind the scenes. That's all I can say without giving away the mystery.

I’ll give away two copies of THE SEX CLUB — one to each of the top two submissions. You can post your submissions in the comments section, which could be fun for others and/or e-mail them to me, using the link on the right.

True character-naming story: When I was writing THE SEX CLUB and needed a name for the psycho bomber lady, I picked Ruth because it’s short, strong, and Biblical. I picked Greiner because it’s the name of a street near my house. Three years later, I was horrified to learn there was a woman named Ruth Greiner who is an avid mystery reader, leads a mystery book club, and is on the same popular mystery list serv that I am. She got wind of the name through a review of THE SEX CLUB in Mystery Scene magazine and e-mailed me to express her displeasure. (So don’t submit one of your relative’s names, unless he/she never reads anything but Mad magazine.)

Even if you don’t enter the contest, share your “I wish I could take it back” character-naming story!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

What Is Your Price?

In the New York Times Sunday book review, Paul Greenburg wrote (humorously) about bailing out writers. His introduction refers to writers as losers, who, instead of selling books, are selling their home furnishings to stay afloat.

What is interesting is that the concept he proposed is not a bailout at all. Greenburg believes that the problem with the writing industry is that there are too many writers now and not enough money to support them all. He mentions the 185,000 listed by the National Endowment for the Arts who support themselves through artistic endeavors. This, of course, does not include the thousands and thousands who write in their spare time and support themselves by some other endeavor.

His hypothetical proposal: “About 275,000 new titles and editions are published in the United States each year. Let’s say we want to eliminate half of them. Assuming it takes about two years to write your average book, we would offer book writers two years of salary at the writers’ average annual income of $38,000 a year.”

The catch? Those who take the money would have to stop writing. This is a buyout, not a bailout. When companies have more workers than they need, they offer cash incentives to employees leave their job voluntarily… forever.

It’s an interesting premise. If someone offered you $76,000 to never write again, would you take the money? If not, what is your price? What if you only had to stop writing for two years, would you do it for that price?

This question is like the “Would you sleep with an ugly stranger for a million dollars?” scenario—only with a lot less money and a much harder decision. If nothing else, it will make you think about how important writing is to you and what you would sacrifice for it.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

All I Want for Christmas… is Nothing!

It’s two weeks before Christmas and, as usual, I’m on my way to the Goodwill. Not to shop, but to make room in my storage space. My donation box contains an assortment of last year’s Yuletide gifts from my family—lawn lights, ski gloves, a music box, and a Twister game, to name a few. What does a middle-aged woman with bad knees and a fat husband want with a Twister game? Really. I’m trying to keep the emergency room visits to a minimum, especially now that I no longer have health insurance.

Guilt sets in as the small man in a blue smock sorts through my stuff. Some of these items were chosen with care. Such as the wok (from my brother who knows I love stir-fry) that almost set fire to my kitchen. But the basket of scented soap was a last-minute panic grab by someone who either forgot or didn’t care that perfume gives me a headache.

My niece calls while I’m collecting my receipt, and the seasonal madness starts all over.
“What do you want for Christmas this year?” she demands, high on the adrenaline of power shopping her way through a Fred Meyer half-off white sale.
“Nothing,” I say, as I do every year.
“I’m going to buy you something anyway, so you might as well give me a clue.”
“Please don’t. I would rather you gave the money to charity.”
“You’re no fun.” She hangs up and goes back to shopping; there are 20 people on her list.

Why does my family continue to buy me presents when I have asked them year after year not to? I am middle-aged, I (used to) earn a good living, and I acquired everything I need long ago. I am also making good progress in accumulating everything I want. The only things that I want—that I don’t already have—are too expensive for me. Which means they are also too expensive for my family and friends.

I do not need another crock-pot, fry-baby, or nut-cracker. (I am far too lazy to ever purchase nuts in the shell.) I do not wear fuzzy sweaters because they make my skin itch, and if a sweatshirt is red or green with any sort of reindeer or snowflakes, I’d could walk around naked with less embarrassment. And as long as I’m being a snob, I don’t eat the plastic cheese or greasy processed-meat sticks from Hickory Farms either. On the other hand, I do love chocolate—but it makes me look fat. So anyone who wraps it in irresistible pink and silver and puts my name on it doesn’t really love me.

Having run out of other options, some family members have started giving gift certificates. But seriously, what is the point of two 40-something siblings simultaneously exchanging cash at the end of December? In what way is this meaningful or logical?

At the bottom of my donation box are two ceramic Santas, three assorted-sized silver bells, and a collection of green and red candles that could torch the neighborhood if they were all lit at once. As I part with the decorations, I think: I haven’t put up a tree since my kids moved out. Does my family really think the sight of a three-inch Saint Nick in red suspenders and shorts is going to turn this Scrooge around? Hah!

On the way home, I call my niece back. “I changed my mind,” I say. “I know what I want for Christmas.”
“Cool. What?”
“An indoor swimming pool. With a hot tub.”
“You’re so funny. Will you settle for a bag of York Peppermint Patties? They’re low fat.”
“Sure.” I hang up the phone. One down. Sixteen to go.

PS: If you have to/like to buy Christmas gifts—buy books!

Monday, December 8, 2008

How to Fix the Publishing Industry

What if major publishers. . .
  • abandoned the hardback fiction book altogether and let libraries and collectors simply laminate their own copies of trade paperbacks? Then the first printing of each book could be bigger and priced to reach the whole market. Publishers win by reducing their print costs and minimizing the number of returns. Readers win by getting a book they can afford when it first comes out, and writers win by reaching as wide a market as they can on the first publication. Novelists would also never be stuck in hardback form only—as many are—a spendy version that’s hard to sell at book fairs and special events and never reaches its full audience.

  • changed distribution to a nonreturnable basis? Bookstores would have to be conservative in how many books they ordered at one time, and publishers could simplify their bookkeeping for everyone involved.

  • printed only as many copies as were necessary to fill orders? Money (and trees) would be saved from not printing, shipping, processing, and shredding books that never sale.

If all that happened, bookstores would have fewer returns to process and they could make money by remaindering books on their own premises. They could offer discounts and buy one/get one free deals to keep product moving. Promotional bargains pull in customers who spend money. It’s how retailers make money at Christmas.

I am not the first to suggest these changes. So why doesn’t the industry do it? No one wants to go first. Every major publisher is afraid to lose business to the other company who isn’t doing it. Meanwhile, the big houses aren’t making real profits. Only the small publishers who have adopted some of all of these ideas are in the black year after year. What will it take for the industry to recreate itself?

As an novelist, would you care if your book never came out in hard back? As a reader, do you buy hard backs? Would you miss them?

Friday, December 5, 2008

Back Up Your Backup

Watching the fires in California recently made me think about how it would feel to come home and find my house in ashes. All I could think about was how devastating it would be to lose my electronic files. Not the computer itself, the lifetime of creative work. All the other things—clothes, books, appliances—are replaceable. The insurance check would buy more stuff. But if my files are ever lost, I’ll be lost too.

This is not the first time I’ve had this thought. In fact, I once had a hard drive (in a PC) catch fire, and I lost the e-file of a great novel that I spent years on. I had made a backup disk, but it mysteriously disappeared. (Teenage computer geek son grabbing floppy disks without thinking!) That was a devastating moment, saved only by the reassurance that I had a printed version. Eventually, I paid a transcriptionist to retype the paper copy into a Word file.

So I developed a healthy sense of paranoia and thorough backup system. And as anal as it makes me sound, I’m sharing it so other writers will remember to back up their files and store them in several safe places.

  • I have an external hard drive and software (LaCie) that I back up the whole drive with—files, e-mails, bookmarks—once or twice a week. But it’s sitting right next to my computer, so if my house burns, it’s toast too.

  • I also carry a flash drive in my purse that contains all my creative files—novels, scripts, promotional material, etc. I carry this with me mostly for convenience and peace of mind.

  • Once every couple of months, I burn a CD or two of all files (Word, Excel, InDesign, PDFs, etc.) and take it to my car. (Flash drives are unreliable, and if you tell a techie that’s what you’re using, he will roll his eyes.)

  • Every time I complete a new novel, I burn it to a CD and take it to my mother’s. The car could go up in a fire too. Or get stolen. Or wrecked.
I started all this before there were online backup services available, so I’ve never used one. Maybe it’s time. Are you backed up?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Fast, Fun Mystery!

In case you’re tired of my ramblings, today I’m interviewing fellow mystery writer, Jean Henry Mead. Jean is on a two-week blog tour to promote her new mystery, A Village Shattered. This cozy whodunit is a fast, fun read, featuring senior sleuths, Dana Logan and Sarah Cafferty. The story is Jean’s third work of fiction, but the author has a long career of writing, interviewing, and taking photographs. But I’ll let her tell you in her own words.

What’s your elevator speech for your new novel, A Shattered Village?
Two 60-year-old widows living in a retirement village are suddenly confronted with the deaths of their friends and club members, who are dropping dead alphabetically. A serial killer has stolen their membership roster and their own names are on the list. Dana Logan, a mystery novel buff, and Sarah Cafferty, a private investigator’s widow, decide to solve the murders themselves when the newly elected sheriff bungles the investigation, but not before Dana’s beautiful daughter Kerrie is in danger of being killed in the process. San Joaquin Valley fog hides the killer and helps him commit the murders.

Who are your characters, Dana Logan and Sarah Cafferty, modeled after? Which one is more like you?
I didn’t realize until Dana and Sarah are discussing the first murder of their friend Alice Zimmer that Dana resembles actress Gina Davis, and Sarah looks like Shelley Winters. Dana is tall like me as well as stubborn and a little eccentric. There the resemblance ends.

You were a journalist and nonfiction writer long before you wrote novels. When did you make the switch and why?
I actually wrote my first novel in fourth grade, a chapter a day to entertain classmates, and have always wanted to be a novelist. But I worked for my high school newspaper and graduated to editing my college paper while working as a cub reporter for the local daily newspaper. After I had written my third nonfiction book, Casper Country, a centennial history, I had stacks of research notes left over, because I had read 97-years’ worth of microfilmed newspaper. So I decided to write a novel, utilizing all that research. The result was a recent publication, Escape, a Wyoming Historical Novel, featuring Butch Cassidy’s Wild Bunch and a kidnapped young heiress disguised as a 12-year-old boy.

Is there other overlap between your nonfiction books and
ur novels?
Yes, Escape is about 50% actual history and 50% dramatization. Most of the real characters are true to life, and I added a few fictional characters to move the story along. With my latest senior sleuth novel, my police reporting came in handy. And my husband is a former highway patrolman, so his advice helped as well. A Village Shattered is the first of my Logan & Cafferty senior sleuth series, which will be followed next spring by Diary of Murder and later, Died Laughing, both of which take place in Wyoming.

You’ve done a lot of work and organization on behalf of western writers, founding the Western Writers Hall of Fame and working for the Western Writers of America? What motivated you?
I was serving as president of Wyoming Writers when Western Writers of America held their annual convention in Casper. A local writer, Bill Bragg was hosting the convention and asked me to do advanced publicity. I joined in 1979 and became national publicity director for WWA. Two years later I established the Western Writers Hall of Fame and wrote Maverick Writers, a collection of interviews with some of WWA’s most prominent members.

You’ve interviewed some very famous people. Who was you favorite person to interview and why?
I enjoyed all of them, but Louis L’Amour, A. B. Guthrie, Jr., and Wyoming governor Ed Herschler top the list. I also enjoyed interviewing Gerry Spence, although it was in a crowded Ramada Inn lobby while he was holding court. Louis L’Amour was downright shy about being interviewed, which surprised me. He submitted to very few interviews and invited me to his home in Bel Air for an hour, which stretched into several hours of talking about his past. He showed me his office, which contained some 10,000 books with hinged floor-to-ceiling book cases that revealed identical ones behind. I expected him to be arrogant, but he was just the opposite and made me feel at home. A. B. Guthrie was full of himself but was hospitable at his modest A-frame home at the foot of Montana’s Sawtooth Mountain range. I felt privileged to have interviewed them both. Governor Herschler was in his golf duds when I interviewed him at the state capitol building in Cheyenne. He was very candid about his life and court battles against his friend Gerry Spence.

What is the one thing in your life or list of accomplishments that you are most proud of?
Having my books published, which will soon number over a dozen, and hearing from my readers, who have said they enjoy my books. What more could a writer ask?

Who are your favorite authors?

I learned to write fiction by reading Dean Koontz’s novels and he remains a favorite. I also read James Patterson (without his co-authors), Ernest Hemingway, Agatha Christie, and the classics at the moment. I read Janet Evanovich when I feel in the mood to laugh. I like a lot of writers, who are too numerous to name.

What's next for you?
I’m working on my first children’s book, The Mystery of Spider Mountain, which is a takeoff on my childhood home in the Hollywood Hills. I’m also working on another western historical about the unwarranted hanging of Ella Watson-Averell, who was nicknamed Cattle Kate by her cattlemen executioners. Reading about the hanging made me angry, which is a good reason to write a book. And, of course, I’ll continue to write Logan & Caffery senior sleuth novels.

Where can we find you on the web?
My webpage is located at: JeanHenryMead.com. I have two blog sites. One is a writer’s advice site, Write On! at: http://advicefromeditors.blogspot.com/ and my Western Historical Happenings site: http://awhh.blogspot.com/. I’m also a member of two mystery blogs: Murderous Musings and Make Mine Mystery.

The rest of my blog book tour is listed at: http://myblogtour.blogspot.com/. I hope everyone will stop by to leave a comment to be eligible for the drawing for three of my signed copies of A Village Shattered.

If you have more questions for Jean, feel to to ask!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Back on Track: aka New Rules

In November, while everyone else was cranking out a 50,000 word novel, I had a pathetically low word count. Why? Shit happens. More specifically, I spent a lot of time trying to drum up freelance work, I spent a lot of time babysitting, and I let myself get into the “I’ll make up the time tomorrow" mode. Wrong! It’s always today, and there’s never enough time to do anything extra.

So here’s my plan to get back on track:

First, I unsubscribed to half the e-mails I was receiving. Who has time to read all those newsletters? Sorry to those of you who put them out, but I just don’t have time.

I stopped opening e-mails first thing in the morning. In fact, it’s now a rule. No e-mail until I’ve worked on the novel for a few hours. (Unless the e-mail is from an editor/publisher!)

Another rule: No Twitter or FaceBook or reading blogs during writing time. They all have to wait until I move on to freelance work. (This will be the hardest rule to keep!)

I’m going to give longer deadlines for the freelance work I take on, then stick to working in the afternoons and evenings (if needed). Mornings are for writing!

And my husband is going to take our niece to school on one of the mornings she’s here, so I’ll only have one morning each week interrupted by that adventure.

And for balance, I’m adopting a new motto: Experience joy every day. Get up and dance! I do not have to be productive every second of every day… As long as I get my three or four hours of writing done, first thing every day.