Here you can follow the blow-by-blow account of my attempt to transform myself into a (regularly) published author.

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Friday, March 30, 2012

Paddy Plays in Dead Mule Swamp- Chapters 24 and 25

cover for Paddy Plays in Dead Mule Swamp cover design by Farah Evers
I've been dabbling at this all week, but finally had serious time to devote to writing. Mostly, this was a matter of word crafting, as I had a clear idea of what needed to happen.

So, I crafted, and typed and finally got to the end of the event. Total words, 2895. Whoa! Suddenly, I have two chapters. That's fine, the number of chapters is nothing important.

I'm currently reading a book by one of my favorite mystery authors, Rita Mae Brown. Now that I'm writing mysteries myself, I'm paying more attention to techniques of other writers. Some of her chapters are long and some are short. There's no rule for length. Personally, I try to have each chapter cover either one event or one day, or one emotional package, with something that either adds to the suspense, or perhaps to character development.

This block of words splits nicely into two sections.

Here's an excerpt from Chapter 25:
    Clearly, no one had been here for ages. The weeds grew tall and were unbroken around the sad, but once proud old building.
    On the opposite side of the road, the river side, an opening had formerly been cleared to the river. I thought it must have been done to provide river access to the house. A faint trail led through a swath of daisies and Queen-Anne’s lace. Paddy was already poking his way along it, and I followed him. Sure enough, the river was very close, and the bank had been cut to provide a sloping access to the water. If there had been a dock it was long gone, a victim of winter freezes and spring floods.
You can buy book 1, News from Dead Mule Swamp, for only 99¢ at Smashwords, or Amazon

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Writing Outdoor Columns

alt text entrance to the Little Eden Camp Nature Trail
(photo by jhy)
 Although most of my entries lately have been about working on the Anastasia Raven mysteries, I am primarily (I think), an outdoor writer.

This week, I turned in my 69th monthly "Get Off the Couch" column for the Ludington Daily News, and my ninth weekly column for the Mason County Press.

The column in the newspaper has been fun to write, and a source of some local notoriety. People actually stop me in stores, or in a parking lot, to tell me they like my column. I hope a few of them are also telling the newspaper. Occasionally, when I introduce myself to someone they say, "Oh, I know you... you write that outdoor column." Now, there's a way to make a writer happy!

I've had no luck syndicating the Get Off the Couch Column, but I admit to being easily discouraged. Two rejections put me off that project. Writers have to be more determined than that. I'll work on it... maybe later.

This month, as I do every March, in the newspaper column, I reviewed hiking/adventure books, three this time. And this week's Mason County Press column will introduce readers to a short nature trail I stumbled upon a couple of weeks ago.

The Ludington Daily News columns are not available on-line, unless you subscribe to the paper. One collection of columns is currently available as an e-book, called Get Off the Couch with Joan, at Smashwords. The price is $1.89.

I'm formatting a second volume of humorous essays entitled Fall Off the Couch Laughing. It will be available soon.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Paddy Plays in Dead Mule Swamp - Chapter 23

cover for Paddy Plays in Dead Mule Swamp cover design by Farah Evers
Today I read chapters 19 through 22 over, without interruption, and guess what? Chapter 20 is finally smooth and fits well with the rest of the narrative. The little changes I've worked in over the last couple of weeks have fixed it. Thank goodness!

So, I moved on to Chapter 23. It was one that was all set in my mind as to what should be in it, so there were no false starts, and no wavering. I just needed to accomplish two things, with good dialogue and descriptions.

I think, from now on till the end, I know exactly what needs to happen. However, this is writing. I could still be surprised.

Here's an excerpt from Chapter 23:
    He paused and shifted his weight. “You manage to hear a lot for a newcomer. That’s pretty old news.”
    “I’m not trying to pry. I did start asking about Angelica, just to be able to talk to the girls without putting my foot in my mouth.” I grinned. “And people tell me all kinds of things.”
    “That’s probably true enough.”
    “So, do you want to tell me about it?”
    “There’s not much to tell. We used to have a pop machine back then, and a candy counter. Larry walked over here one evening, looking to buy a can of pop, but the machine was out of order. I think he must have been high on something because he went berserk.”

You can buy book 1, News from Dead Mule Swamp, for only 99¢ at Smashwords, or Amazon

Friday, March 23, 2012

Paddy Plays in Dead Mule Swamp- Chapter 22

cover for Paddy Plays in Dead Mule Swamp cover design by Farah Evers
It's been one of those busy weeks. Combine that with another bit of waffling as to just what should be in this chapter, and it took me five days to get Chapter 22 written.

Despite some early uncertainty, this chapter come together well today, and required me to add in a bit to that questionable Chapter 20. Actually, 20 is getting better. I have one more thing to add to it for sure. And, if I can figure out a reasonable confrontation that will fit, I'll add that too, and break it into two chapters. Hopefully, by the time any of you read it, you'll never notice a break in the suspense.

So, the suspect pool has widened, Ana is in up to her neck whether she wants to be or not (of course, it's a mystery right?) and now things will begin to play out.

Here's an excerpt from Chapter 22:
    Geraldine got right to the point. “I haven’t seen you in church lately, Ralph,” she said sharply.
    “We talked about that, Dini,” explained Adele in a rush. Dini was Geraldine’s nickname, although I suspected she didn’t care for it very much. Geraldine was a large, proud woman, and the diminutive “Dini” didn’t fit her. “He’s on the church membership roll, and there’s nothing in the by-laws requiring regular church attendance to be on a committee.”
    Ralph leaned forward and took a chocolate donut, while staring intently at Geraldine.
    There was more tension in the room than I understood.
You can buy book 1, News from Dead Mule Swamp, for only 99¢ at Smashwords, or Amazon

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Paddy Plays in Dead Mule Swamp- Chapter 21

cover for Paddy Plays in Dead Mule Swamp cover design by Farah Evers
 Whew... I haven't lost the thread of this story, or my "touch," or whatever. Chapter 21 came out of my fingers into the keyboard just fine.

After struggling so with Chapter 20, I was beginning to worry. I am starting to get vibes of some things that will make that miserable chapter more interesting and will widen the suspect pool and build some suspense. I'm sure it's redeemable.

Meanwhile, I'm sailing ahead again.

Here's an excerpt from Chapter 21:
    “Leave the dog home,” Milford ordered.
    I didn’t argue, but took Paddy inside and shut him in his kennel. “Sorry, boy,” I said. “The detective isn’t a dog lover.”
    The three of us hiked back to the river once again. I pointed out the lack of unusual tracks on the path we followed, and then how they covered the bare dirt at the roped-off area. Milford grunted, and the technician went to work, pulling out equipment to take casts.
    “Where’s that cigarette?” Milford asked.
    “This way,” I said, and led the way upstream along the river bank. We found the butt with no problem. It was lying in the mud, and didn’t seem to have been disturbed since I had put it out. The detective pulled out a small camera, snapped several photos, and scooped the cigarette up in an evidence bag.
You can buy book 1, News from Dead Mule Swamp, for only 99¢ at Smashwords, or Amazon

Friday, March 16, 2012

Paddy Plays in Dead Mule Swamp- Chapter 20, and some thoughts on modern publishing

cover for Paddy Plays in Dead Mule Swamp cover design by Farah Evers
I've been struggling with Chapter 20 all week, and I'm still not very happy with it. However, it's time to leave it and move on to Chapter 21. Maybe when it's bracketed by parts I like I'll be able to see what's wrong with it.

The first time through, I left out an important piece, so I had to go back and weave it in. I think something more significant needs to happen, but I'm not sure at this point what that would be.

Since this chapter is likely to change, perhaps significantly, I don't think I'll include an excerpt.

Instead, I'm going to comment on a blog post made by Dougie Brimson, author of Billy's Log, at Why I love my readers (and why their reviews are so important!)

He says:
"Of course there are people who would never review a book for all kinds of reasons. The usual three being ‘I wouldn’t know what to write’,’ I’d be embarrassed’ or ‘I can’t be arsed.’ But by thinking in this way they are actually missing out on what to me is one of the most exciting elements of the ebook revolution and that’s the potential for the reader to become directly involved in the publishing process... And speaking as an author, reviews have other benefits. One of which is that they help me to decide what to write next."

I think this is one of the most interesting parts of the e-publishing revolution... the instant feedback. For example, When I wrote News from Dead Mule Swamp, I included several local people who became friends of Ana. I generally planned that those characters would continue to show up in subsequent books. However, as feedback began to come in, obviously readers loved Cora Baker.

Chatting with my husband the other day he said with some surprise, "You've changed what you are writing because of what people said?"

In response I explained that I wouldn't go quite so far as to say I changed anything, since I already had the plot of this book pretty much worked out. However, I did make sure that Cora makes more than a short appearance, and that her friendship with Ana has a chance to grow.

So, feedback has certainly had an impact on my writing. Not to mention the encouragement from people who liked the first book. Without that, I probably wouldn't have continued. What you think does make a difference!

Action item of the day: go write a review of a self-published book you've read. I'd love it if you'd review one of mine, but it will help the entire publishing industry if you review a book or two.

You can buy book 1, News from Dead Mule Swamp, for only 99¢ at Smashwords, or Amazon

Monday, March 12, 2012

Paddy Plays in Dead Mule Swamp - Chapters 18, 19

cover for Paddy Plays in Dead Mule Swamp cover design by Farah Evers
Saturday night I got a brain wave for a small element to add to this story which serves several purposes.
1. It brings Cora into the story more (something readers of the first book wanted)
2. It provides an emotional relief from Chapter 17
3. It creates a piece of the final outcome that will be satisfying to the reader

Once I decided how to make it work, I sat down to write yesterday afternoon, and it just exploded onto the screen. I ended up with over 3000 words, and since the chapters in this series are generally short, I split it into two.

Now, I'm ready to buckle down and get back to the main theme and the emotionally heavier part of the story.

Here's an excerpt from Chapter 18:
    By the time I got some food collected and Cora had returned the papers and photos to their files it was eleven o’clock. We decided to go to the park first. We didn’t want to waste any time, so just took the paved roads, crossing the county on School Section Road and turning north on Kirtland till we reached the turnoff to Turtle Lake. During the drive, I filled Cora in on my conversations with Star and DuWayne. She shared my concern for the girl, but her body language made it clear that she still didn’t have much use for DuWayne.
You can buy book 1, News from Dead Mule Swamp, for only 99¢ at Smashwords, or Amazon

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Paddy Plays in Dead Mule Swamp- Chapter 17

cover for Paddy Plays in Dead Mule Swamp cover design by Farah Evers
Finished this chapter on Saturday. I knew exactly what had to be in it. Which leads me to digress a bit about how I organize my thoughts for writing.

I was asked, by someone I was chatting with on my trip East, if I work from an outline or how I know what goes where in the story.

I guess the idea of an actual outline is mostly in my head. I do have a file with general notes- scenes that I think might be good, interesting names, snippets of conversations, but what I actually write down in terms of organization is a list of chapters.

It's easy to divide the story into bite-sized pieces with generally what happens in each one. These are the central events in chapters. I put them in sequence and write them down. That doesn't mean they are set in stone. In Paddy Plays in Dead Mule Swamp, already, one chapter had to be broken in two, another potential chapter was shrunk to a few sentences and tacked on the end of another one.

Just last night, as I was getting ready to start Chapter 18, I got a brain wave for a small interesting development to add to the story, so that bumps all the original chapter ideas ahead one number. It's just a list to organize the sequential flow of the story, not a rigid plan.

As for Chapter 17, it's another emotional one, and when I finished writing I was really wrung out. For a "light" mystery, this one is having its heavy moments. Here's an excerpt (but I'm deep enough into the story by now that I don't want to give things away with the excerpts):
    Paddy had been crouched at my feet, not barking, apparently trying to understand the angry human voices he was unaccustomed to hearing. I'd almost forgotten him. Now he stood up and nuzzled my hand. Suddenly my knees were weak, and I collapsed into an easy chair. The dog put his head in my lap.
    "Now what, Paddy?" I asked, as I stroked his silky ears.
You can buy book 1, News from Dead Mule Swamp, for only 99¢ at Smashwords, or Amazon

Friday, March 9, 2012

Toby and Harry Free through March 10

cover Toby and Harry

Twin Trinity Media is offering some of their short stories for free on Smashwords this week. You have two more days to get "Toby and Harry" for NOTHING. Just download it!

This story is out of the norm for me. Maybe that will interest you (what was she thinking when she wrote this?). Maybe you won't like it. But you can find out with no financial risk at all. Aren't you curious?

Use the coupon code RE100 at Smashwords, for Toby and Harry any time through March 10.

Don't have a reader? No problem. Smashwords offers several formats that can be read on the computer.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Paddy Plays in Dead Mule Swamp- Chapter 16

cover for Paddy Plays in Dead Mule Swamp cover design by Farah Evers
This chapter has actually been done for a while. I've been out of town for a week and didn't write at all during that time. Actually, that's not strictly true. There was a lot of car time and I worked out more details for upcoming chapters in my head. No words were put into the word processor, but progress was made.

Anyway, this chapter was written one night before I left, when I couldn't sleep.

I'm itching to get to creating the next one. The number of "Likes" for Anastasia Raven on Facebook is increasing, and I hope I started a couple of new ripples of sales while on my trip. Obviously, if I have more than the one book available, sales are going to do better. So, I'm really eager to get "Paddy" ready to go.

Here's an excerpt from Chapter 16:
    Just as the last of the light was fading, Detective Milford walked in the kitchen door. He seemed to have taken over the house as his base.
    “Mr. Leonard, let’s go in the living room,” he said. It wasn’t an invitation; it was a command.
    Len nodded and stood up stiffly. The men left the kitchen, and I looked at the girls. They both looked very tired.
You can buy book 1, News from Dead Mule Swamp, for only 99¢ at Smashwords, or Amazon