Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Books on the Horizon

Some books on my to-be-read pile, with links...

LOVE LIKE SKY by Leslie C. Youngblood...middle-grade novel

SALEM'S LOT by Stephen King...horror novel (this is for my Halloween read)

I've had a hankering for books about Alaska. Here is a partial list of recommendations from a Facebook post. This list includes fiction, non-fiction, etc...

#1 Recommendation was for 
THE GREAT ALONE by Kristin Hannah

MURDER ON THE LAST FRONTIER by Cathy Pegau (this one looks very appealing to me, high up on my TBR pile)

TWO IN THE FAR NORTH by Margaret Murie


THE SNOW CHILD by Eowyn Ivey


SITKA by Louis L'Amour


THIS COLD HEAVEN by Gretel Ehrlich (Greenland not Alaska, but still looks amazing)




I also just read a lovely ARC for a holiday romance. Will post a review soon.

Other recent reads I enjoyed...

THE POSTMAN ALWAYS DIES TWICE by Zara Keane (cozy mystery)

AROUND THE WRITER'S BLOCK by Rosanne Bane (writing manual)

TRACE by Archer Mayor (mystery)

Happy Reading To All!



Monday, September 24, 2018

The Great Experiment

The Great Experiment

I would like to invite you along for the ride as I attempt my "Great Experiment!"

What is "The Great Experiment?"

Well, first a little background for those of you who don't know me.

The most important things to me as an author are writing unique, one-of-a-kind fiction--the quirkier the better--and trying new things creatively. I like to set up writing challenges for myself as I embark on each new project. 

They are craft-related goals.

I'll try writing a different genre, experimenting with a new format, change up POVs, blend storylines in a novel. I try to do something totally different creatively and push myself as a writer.

Example: A few years ago, I decided to write a romance with characters in their late 50s/early 60s--not common at that time, and in fact the characters were considered way too old and not appropriate for romance. That was a challenge I couldn't pass up. I also made the couple fairly unlikable characters, and attempted a short-format as an added test. Could I make readers root for this couple by the end of the book? Believe their love story? And accomplish that with 21,000-words?

Could I do it?

I really had no idea, but the challenge was worth the risk and fun to boot.

Shockingly, APPLES SHOULD BE RED did extremely well. It's not for everyone, but the unexpected aspect got it attention and it received many excellent reviews, awards, even a potential film deal, etc.

That was an experiment with a happy ending. (In the matter of complete transparency, I've attempted many projects that failed and have ended up in the trash bin. As one does).

My outside-the-box thinking also applies to marketing/promotion. I am not interested in "playing the game" as far as typical promotion/marketing/branding. Believe me, as an introvert extraordinaire, if I could reinvigorate the "Hermit Model for Authors"--living alone in a shack in the woods--I would be all over that. 

As I came to terms with these truths about my own personality, I realized that the "stuff authors should do"--at least for genre fiction--is not a good fit for me. Most of these things make me uncomfortable.

The list includes aggressive promotion, writing-to-market, joining secret author groups that offer the "holy grail" (HOW TO MAKE A BESTSELLER LIST), attending huge reader events, and so on.

I decided I wanted to make a new publishing model for myself that focused on personal connections with other authors and readers, in smaller, more intimate groups. Not based on the need to sell/make money, but for authentic friendships to form. I also wanted to make connections with a more eclectic group of people, including scientists, artists, musicians. Creative and curious people in all different types of professions/with various interests.

I know, this strategy is sucky if you're trying to make tons of money. But if you're just trying to be happy and creatively fulfilled--which are my personal goals--it's a good plan. 

What I'm wondering now is this...if you don't "play the game" and follow these lists, if you try something totally outside-of-the-box, can you still find an audience and a modicum of success?

Here is my overall game plan for this publishing experiment...

1. Minimal social media accounts.

2. No street team. 

3. Speaking engagements: yes (especially small groups...super fun for me). Book readings: Yes (that's my favorite). Huge reader events: No.

4. Focus on unique fiction, original material.

5. Focus on stand-alone books.

6. No writing groups/loops focused on marketing/promotion.

7. "Small Batch Whiskey" model for sales/branding. High quality, small batch, unique one-of-a-kind product, and focus on connecting with small groups not massive followings.

8. Home-grown website.

9. Authentic branding.

10. No author/reader groups.


Don't bother me...I'm in my shell!

Current goals...

1. Finish BLUE, which is so far out of the box it probably needs a new galaxy.

2. Upon completion of book...Query agents/publishers. I had a small publisher when I first started writing, then branched into self-publishing. I think this book would do well with a more traditional approach. Worth a try, and if not, I can self-pub it.

3. I have a very unique plan for promotion, which I'll discuss as it happens. 

4. Continue to do things that make me happy...give workshops about self-care for authors, craft, etc. Travel. Meet new people.

5. FLEXIBILITY in terms of work/life balance. If my family needs me, they come first.  

So, this is the experiment. I made up my own rules of engagement. Will this work?

I have no freakin' idea, but it's worth a try.

For those of you playing at home, you can follow me on this blog/website for updates. I'll try to post on Mondays with an update for the week. I also have wonderful interactions on Facebook, pretty much the last-man-standing for my social media accounts. Friend me there if you're so inclined.

I would love to hear about your goals, achievements, and progress. Join me here to share. Are you creating a tailor-made plan for you? Are you following a more traditional path on your writing/publication journey? Let's chat. 

Share your weekly goals and let us know how you're doing, what's working/not working. WHAT'S YOUR EXPERIMENT?

Thanks for following along...


P.S. First Week of Updates

1. Status of BLUE: at approximately 10,500 words

2. Work on edits for existing sections, add new section switching POV from boy to girl. 

3. For folks interested in a sneak peek at BLUE, here's a link.

4. Hygge goal for the week: Make miniature terrariums with ferns/moss donated by neighbor.


Saturday, September 15, 2018

Overcoming Professional Jealousy

Here's a topic that is uncomfortable and sometimes embarrassing and can be utterly debilitating.

It's also something that is widely prevalent in publishing although seldom spoken about.

Unless you are living the existence of a "hermit" writer--perhaps living in a shack in the woods with no Internet service, maybe a small herb garden, and perhaps a couple of wiener dogs...

(Sorry, I got side-tracked by my fantasy life!) are aware of other authors.

In fact, once you get going with marketing/promotion you realize that comparing yourself to others is actually part of the process.

Who are your "comps?"

That's how publishing companies market you. They compare you to similar authors and market you accordingly.

The downside of this is that you are in danger of having your ego crushed when you discover that similar authors sell more/have better reviews/win awards/[FILL IN THE BLANK ABOUT ANYTHING THAT MAKES YOU FEEL BADLY ABOUT YOURSELF]. 

This is professional jealousy.

This can affect your motivation to write.

Or even to continue with this career.

This is especially an issue in romance publishing where everyone is writing the same themes/tropes, copying each other, jumping on trends. Writing "unique" fiction is not the end-game, which was explained to me in condescending fashion by an agent many years ago.

It's all about the comps.

So, what to do?

First of all, don't feel guilty. It's natural to compare yourself to others, and it's normal to sometimes feel envious of other peoples' success.

But this is the thing you have to remember...

Other people may write the same genre, or have similar interests/branding/series, etc., but no one else can write your book but you.

That's what you have.



That's it. That's what you own. Your story. Other authors might write similar things, even the exact same topic, but only YOU can write YOUR story.

No one else is you. Want to be yourself, not others. Want to write YOUR stories, not someone else's.

Your story is your power. Don't give it up.

Wise words from an old hermit writer...



Wednesday, September 12, 2018

New Ruts in the Road

I realized something this summer.

Writing romance is a default setting for me.

What does this mean?

It means that it has become a habit. When I start writing, I easily slip into alternating hero POV/heroine POV, banter/dialogue, focusing on their relationship. Creating setting as texture. The writing flows easily. It's second nature, uncomplicated, effortless.

The writing has always been the easy part for me.

It's the thinking/planning that's tough.

Writing romance is painless. I've been doing it for twenty years, and so's easy. It's habit. It's my default setting.

I spent months and months working on my current WIP--which is NOT romance--and it became a hellacious struggle.

I couldn't figure out why. Writing the words is usually not such a challenge. But the structure for this book is different, the themes are more subtle. I have a lot more decisions to make. Those decisions were taken out of my hands when I wrote romance.

This summer when I attempted to work on a romance story...voilà! 4000 words popped right out without a sweat.

Forming a 20-year habit means that I have brain pathways that have become extremely ingrained. They are ruts in the road. 

It's tough to make a new path when ruts are already there.

It's also tough to figure out a new writing process when one is already in place.

I'm 52-years-old. I'm forcing myself to make new pathways. I'm forcing myself to find a new process. I'm working on a totally different type of fiction, and there is no default setting for this.

It's all new.

Some days I think about how easy it would be to just chuck this project and go back to romance.

Pop out that word count without batting an eyelash.

But this challenge is good for me as a writer. It's also good for my brain.

I am forcing myself to make new ruts in the road, bushwhacking a new path.

I can do it. But damn, it's hard.

Using this Stephen King quote as inspiration right now...

In the meantime, I did a little re-write for Henry Miller's Daily Program and 11 Commandments. I adjusted it for a mom with kids.

Here's my personal take on his approach...

Henry Miller Daily Program


Henry Miller: If groggy, type notes and allocate. If in fine fettle, write.

Me: Get daughter up and drive her to bus stop.

Get organized for the day: make bed, clean kitchen, start laundry, etc.

Walk. Think about work-in-progress while walking. Make plans for next section. BRAIN-STORM! Walk Time = Brainstorm Time.

Write FRESH WORDS. Aim for 1-2 hours of fresh writing. (This is my best time of day for brain to work creatively).


Henry Miller: Work on section at hand, no intrusions, no diversions. Write to finish one section at a time, for good and all.

What I like about HM's approach...I also like finishing one section at a time before I move on. I need that part settled and fairly well-edited before I can move on to the next section.

However, my brain is not always up for FRESH WORDS in the afternoon...

Me: Do low-brain-capacity errands/chores. Go to post office, pay bills, fold laundry, shop/prep/cook dinner.

For writing: Re-read morning section, do edits, take notes. Possibly work on alternate WIP if I need a creative bump.

MAKE PLAN FOR NEXT DAY WRITING. Think of next scene, section. Do edits/clean up writing. Take notes for next section.

Pick up daughter at bus stop.


Henry Miller: See friends, read, explore, bicycle. Write if you're in the mood. Paint, make notes, corrections.

His extra note: Make time to visit museums, bike rides, sketch, library once a week for research, CUT OUT MOVIES. (hee hee! I think movie-watching was his weakness)

What I like about this: I think it's CRUCIAL to have a life and do things that spur on creativity. Like seeing people, enjoying art/engaging in other creative outlets, travel, trying new things. YES TO ALL OF THIS!

Me: Evening is for family, down-time.

Have dinner, finish household chores. Read, walk again. Walk dog if she's willing. Socialize with friends. Sleep early if possible.

Henry Miller 11 Commandments

1. HM: Work on one thing at a time until it's finished.

Me: I've discovered that working on a secondary WIP in the afternoon is a good break/reinvigorates my creative well. 

2. HM: Don't start a new book.

Me: Agree. I am trying to focus on primary WIP, and back-up project only as needed.

3. HM: Don't be nervous. Work calmly, joyously, recklessly on whatever is in hand.


4. HM: Work on program, not according to mood. Stop at appointed time.

Me: Disagree with this. If you have a family, it's almost impossible. Be flexible. If family needs/health needs crop up, that's okay. If you're exhausted, the words aren't flowing, that's okay. Do other things. If the words are flowing, keep going.

5. HM: When you can't create, you can work.

Me: Excellent advice. Yes. You can still take notes, do research, work on promo, etc.

6. HM: Cement a little every day, rather than adding new fertilizers.

Me: I like this. Tighten up your manuscript/edit as you go along instead of adding tons of new raw words. I like this a lot because it means your manuscript is in fairly decent shape at the end instead of needing tons of edits/revisions.

7. HM: Keep human. See people, go places, drink if you feel like it.

Me: YES YES YES. Drink beer on weekends.

8. HM: Don't be a draught-horse. Work with pleasure only.

Me: This is so true for me. The magic happens with joyful writing not forced word count.

9. HM: Discard program when you feel like it, but go back the next day. 

Me: Good advice.

10. HM: Forget the books you want to write. Think only of the book you are writing.

Me: Slightly disagree. If you have creative inspiration for something, take notes and keep a file folder for later on.

11. HM: Write first and always. Painting, music, friends, cinema, come later.

Me: I don't completely agree with this. Sometimes you need these things to replenish the creative well and then the writing flows better. Trying to force words when they're not happening is like lying in bed trying to force yourself to sleep when you have insomnia. Sometimes it's just not happening. That's okay. Do something else for a bit.

I would love to hear from all of you! What do you think about Henry Miller's advice? Is it important to stay a bit flexible?

Have any of you worked on establishing new brain pathways for your writing?

Let's chat!



Monday, September 3, 2018

Quick Pickles!

End of summer project...quick pickles!

This is for 3 mason jars, but you could double/triple the recipe easily.

3 cups water
1 cup apple cider vinegar (or white vinegar or white balsamic vinegar)
1 T. sea salt
1 T. peppercorns (I used green and black)
1 T. mustard seeds
1 T. coriander seeds
fresh dill
bay leaves
garlic cloves, peeled
Veggies of choice...I used cucumber, green beans, carrots, and biquinho peppers.

Mason jars, washed and dried. They do not need to be sterilized since these will be refrigerated.

Make brine: Put salt in a pot with vinegar and water, bring to a boil. Remove from heat and allow it to cool while you chop your veggies, etc.

In a small bowl, mix together peppercorns, mustard seeds, coriander seeds.

Line up mason jars. Put a couple of sprigs of fresh dill in the bottom of each jar. Add 2-4 garlic cloves, according to taste. Add 2 bay leaves and 1 T of spice mix.

Pack in veggies. I sliced cuke with skin on, trimmed beans, sliced carrots. Kept the biquinho peppers whole. You could also add hot peppers for more kick!

Pour the cooled brine over the veggies and seal with lid. Put into the refrigerator and wait at least 2 days to "marinate."

This recipe said the jars are okay for 6-12 months, but I'm not sure about that. We kept our jars for about a month. Delicious!

Ready to go!

Dill, garlic, spices, bay in the bottom!

Fill up with veggies!

Pour brine mixture over veggies.

Add lids. See photo on top!