Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Anita's Attic: Inspiration at the Movies

Inspiration! Writers need it like drug addicts need drugs. Maybe that's a bad analogy. How about babies need milk or humans need air. We find it in different places, sometimes from reading books, an event in the news, or people watching at the grocery store or the mall. Lately, I'm finding inspiration at the movies. Nothing new, but I'm getting really good inspiration. So much that I'm considering that anytime I'm stuck, just go to the movies.

This weekend I saw two. My sister in law and I used to be movie buddies. We went to a couple of movies each month, but we hardly ever go anymore. Our schedules are different. Her youngest child is 20, mine are still in school and busy with sports. Yesterday, we made up for missed time. We went to see One For the Money. I love the Stephanie Plum series and although my sister in law doesn't like reading, she loves frightening or funny movies. We got there but the movie had sold out. We decided to see Underworld instead.

I loved all the Underworld movies, and I enjoyed this one as well, but it was different than what I had expected. I won't spoil it for you, but I was surprised at some elements in the movie. Still I got more for my money than just a movie. I was inspired. I love it when that happens. I'm sitting there enjoying the show and BAM! inspiration hits. My relic hunter series isn't anything like Underworld, but something about the atmosphere struck a chord. Maybe because the scene I'm working on takes place in a secret tunnel, and the movie had a really cool hidden lair underground. And it had some interesting twists. I love my twists and turns. So anyway, after the movie was over, I really wanted to rush home and write, but One For the Money was coming on in five minutes, and this time it wasn't sold out, so what the heck. We started out frightening and ended the movie fest on funny.

By the way, after the first half hour of One For the Money, I was disappointed, but it got better. I think it's hard for a movie to live up to a book, and in this case, the first one has to set up the characters, and that's usually not as funny as when the characters are established and in their normal element. But it was a great day and I got a lot for my money.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Liz's Lair: Networking at Conferences

First off, let me explain why I am so late with this post. I am madly racing for the deadline of book 3 and was up until the wee hours last night, and I totally forgot about this. Bad me. That's why this is an encore blog dressed up. Here goes.

Mother, Do You Have To Talk To Everyone?

To this day, my kids still ask me that. I love to talk to people and usually do, which brings me to the first part of my topic, networking at conferences.

There is no better place to connect with people who “get” you than at a writers’ conference. Even if you are an introvert, someone like me is going to come up to you and ask what you write. Before you know it, you will be talking to a perfect stranger (me) and wondering exactly how many lattes I had that morning. (Remember Kramer on that one Seinfeld episode when he had too many? That’s me.)

And you wanna know something? Nine times out of ten, your answer will surprise the bejesus out of me. While I pictured you writing sweet romances, you floor me with plots of steamy erotica or vampire-hunting, shape-shifting werewolves. I love conferences for this reason. Even the smaller ones are great for networking. Matter of fact, sometimes they are more intimate and allow for better access to one-on-one time with the editors and agents in attendance.

That said, I LOVE RWA Nationals, one of the biggest ones out there. I adore the crowds, the goody room, the bars at night where everyone in there is talking writing and just about everything else, including the great workshops where you can’t help learning new stuff.Unfortunately, I'm not going this year for two reasons. I can't afford it, and I no longer consider myself a romance author. I decided this year would be all about mysteries.

I leave on Thursday to go to Love is Murder conference in Chicago. It's a small conference, and I'm looking forward to connecting with mystery writers as well as fans. Then in April I'm heading to Bethesda Maryland for the Malice Domestic conference. That's not only a mystery conference, but it's one specifically for cozy authors and readers. Kari, my CP Joni, and our friend Rochelle are going, along with a gazillion cozy names I recognize. If nothing else, it will be a blast. I am on panels at both these conferences, so I need to have a drink or two before since that isn't my strongest suit.

Anyway, I digress. At all the conferences I attend, I like to collect business cards. Because I am of the age where memory doesn’t always serve, I write a little something on the back to help me put a face to the name. Last week, I was going through my stack and decided to share some with you. Most of them simply say stuff like - Canadian at breakfast, Dallas 2007, bookseller at lunch in DC 2009, etc. Some are more specific and a few are downright interesting. Those are the ones I’m gonna list. I’ll leave out the names to protect the innocent – and to keep from getting harassing emails.

A police homicide commander from Atlanta who said to call him anytime. NEVER HEARD FROM HIM.

A woman who won the Librarian of the Year award in 2006. NO CONTACT

Two women I met at the Harlequin party we crashed last year. Both belong to online book clubs and said to let them know when I sell, and they’ll get the word out to buy my book. Yippee!! THIS IS THE WONDERFUL BECKE DAVIS OF B & N WHO HAS BECOME A GREAT CYBER FRIEND.


A young guy from my chapter who asked if I’d look at some of his work. Not being able to say no - another thing I am famous for – I said yes and he whipped out seven chapters. Fortunately for me, his seven chapters were only 20 pages total!! NEVER SEEN OR HEARD FROM HIM AGAIN AFTER I SENT THE CRITIQUE. SHEESH! AM I THAT BAD?

And last but not least, in Reno, I sat with an older guy who was a chiropractor. He said he was shopping his book – are you sitting down? – a 650 page story involving the colon. THANK GOODNESS THIS BOOK NEVER CAME OUT. HAVEN'T EVER SEEN HIM AT ANY OTHER CONFERENCES.

You can’t make up stuff like this!!

And you must be wondering what the cartoon has to do with anything, Absolutely nothing. I just couldn't resist. This one makes me laugh out loud every time I look at it. Kind of like some of the times when I make my killer too obvious.

Got any good stories about meeting other writers?

Friday, January 27, 2012

Time Management

A favorite, or not so favorite topic - but a very important one. We all know when we're doing it properly and when we're not. When we're on a roll, things are getting done, progress is being made and we feel like a superhero! We are unstoppable! Bring it on and we will succeed! Nothing is going to stop us now, we've found the secret formula!!

**cue screeching brakes**

Then...someone or something throws the dreaded monkey wrench, causing chaos, inevitable panic, and no time for a calming glass of wine to regroup. You're schedule is jam-packed yet you still have goals. Goals that can still be kept if you adjust accordingly.

I've never been a "true" schedule person. I like order, and I'm a definite list maker. I'm a planner and I need to know what is coming down the road so I can be ready for it, but I don't need to know exactly what time it's coming. Monkey wrenches get thrown at me alot - especially when it comes to my writing. Just when I believe I have a "plan" (ha, okay, call it a schedule) on what I'm working on and when I perceive "the end" if I stick to it.....I end up switching gears, and for good reason.

My only problem is I have so many lists, updated lists, re-updates lists...my desk is a clutter house for my To-Do's! You'd think I would simplify and condense my lists. Nope, I can't. Each list has notes about the things on it, usually too much to re-write onto a revised list. It's crazy, but it's what I call my orderly chaos. Don't move my lists or throw them away. I know exactly what's on them and where they are (well, usually) when I need to refer to them. I do this for everything: housework, kids sports, my school work, the day  job, and my writing. Now, some things coincide with my calendar (I keep 2 of these) and usually my day job list gets re-written, but I just can't do this with my personal lists.

I write this post today because I'm realizing more and more the importance of being flexible in my writing life, yet still managing myself so I stay on track. It's very easy to get off track and that seems to be my biggest hangup. My time is divided into so many different areas, I often think if I could just let one of them go it would make my life a lot easier. But unfortunately for me, letting go of something isn't an option. So...I have to dig deep and make it all work the best I can while keeping everyone happy (or close to it).

I've recently thought of a schedule that I'm going to try to put into place (especially when the hubby is home and not traveling). It's a tough balance, but I think if I can stick to it it will work. I have to make it work because my writing goals have changed a bit and I have to be more aggressive with this if I'm going to be a success.

So continuous lists is how I stay on track. What tricks do you have to manage your time? How do you handle the monkey wrenches?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Cassy's Corner- Naming your Characters

I’ve written about this before. But, here I go again. How do you name your characters? I’ve found that the names have to resonate with me. There is some mix of the person you are writing about matching with the moniker you’ve given him or her. You can practically date someone by the name. If I asked you when a Doris was born versus a Chloe, you’d be quick to reply. So, how do we pick and choose what we call our characters and what does that portray to our readers?
One of the beefs I have with the way an author picks names is to have them similar. Jeff, James, John, and George. I confess I become confused. There have been times when I’ve had to flip the pages backwards to remind myself just who was James- was he the good guy, the mystery person or the side kick?
I use a silly technique for naming. I write down two columns from A- Z. As I name a character the space next to the letter of the first name and last, if it’s pertinent, is filled in. No two characters can have a name that begin with the same letter or sound similar. So, if I have a Caroline there is no Catherine.
That said, what about the name connecting with you- the writer. I wrote almost 200 pages before I realized that I really didn’t like my character. Thinking more hours than it probably deserved, I realized I did like her. But, she had the wrong name. Once I changed her name from Sophia to Anne, we not only got along much better but she become more alive for me.
When writing a full-length book, you spend a huge amount of time with these quirky, free-thinking, usually independent characters. Picking their names is more important than many would imagine. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Kari's Kave is Swallowing Her Up!!!

Holy cow, I've never been so busy in my life!

Anita's post yesterday was great, and one I am in desperate need of. I need to start following that process on a daily basis, instead of just when I'm under deadline and writing like a mad woman! I always do this to myself, and now, once again, my life is nuts.

I seriously need to go away with just my laptop for a week!

There are not enough hours in the day. Good thing I love what I do. But I really do have to learn to say no to my hubby, my kids, volunteering, etc. I am so bad at that. One simple little word ... no! Why is that so hard? Why do I feel so guilty when I do say no, which isn't often? Why do I end up changing my mind and saying yes anyway?

That's another goal I'm working toward. Staying on track and just saying no!

So, in the meantime, don't worry, I'm not dead or missing or lost! I will be burined alive in my Kave, ignoring everything else, staying on track (hopefully), and just saying no :-)

Come on, writing gods ... swallow me up!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Anita's Attic: Reprint of Rachel Aaron's Blog - How I Went From Writing 2,000 Words a Day to 10,000 Words a Day

A few days ago, Dana Rodgers (my CP) told me about this wonderful blog she had seen by Rachel Aaron, author of The Legend of Eli Monpress novels who had found a way to increase her writing goals dramatically. I went to the blog and I was wowed! So I asked Rachel if I could share it here. She agreed. Later on, she's going to be a guest blogger here and hopefully answer some more questions. This is a long blog but well worth reading. If you don't have time now, stop back when you can or go to Rachel's blog for the original post. Here's the link.


How I Went From Writing 2,000 Words a Day to 10,000 Words a Day
When I started writing The Spirit War (Eli novel #4), I had a bit of a problem. I had a brand new baby and my life (like every new mother's life) was constantly on the verge of shambles. I paid for a sitter four times a week so I could get some writing time, and I guarded these hours like a mama bear guards her cubs - with ferocity and hiker-mauling violence. To keep my schedule and make my deadlines, I needed to write 4000 words during each of these carefully arranged sessions. I thought this would be simple. After all, before I quit my job to write full time I'd been writing 2k a day in the three hours before work. Surely with 6 hours of baby free writing time, 4k a day would be nothing....

I guarded these hours like a mama bear guards her cubs - with ferocity and hiker-mauling violence. To keep my schedule and make my deadlines, I needed to write 4000 words during each of these carefully arranged sessions. I thought this would be simple. After all, before I quit my job to write full time I'd been writing 2k a day in the three hours before work. Surely with 6 hours of baby free writing time, 4k a day would be nothing....

But (of course), things didn't work out like that. Every day I'd sit down to add 4000 words to my new manuscript. I was determined, I was experienced, I knew my world. There was no reason I couldn't get 4k down. But every night when I hauled myself away, my word count had only increased by 2k, the same number of words I'd been getting before I quit my day job.

Needless to say, I felt like a failure. Here I was, a professional writer with three books about to come out, and I couldn't even beat the writing I'd done before I went pro. At first I made excuses, this novel was the most complicated of all the Eli books I'd written, I was tired because my son thinks 4am is an awesome time to play, etc. etc. But the truth was there was no excuse. I had to find a way to boost my word count, and with months of 2k a day dragging me down, I had to do it fast. So I got scientific. I gathered data and tried experiments, and ultimately ended up boosting my word count to heights far beyond what I'd thought was possible, and I did it while making my writing better than ever before.

When I told people at ConCarolinas that I'd gone from writing 2k to 10k per day, I got a huge response. Everyone wanted to know how I'd done it, and I finally got so sick of telling the same story over and over again that I decided to write it down here.

So, once and for all, here's the story of how I went from writing 500 words an hour to over 1500, and (hopefully) how you can too:

A quick note: There are many fine, successful writers out there who equate writing quickly with being a hack. I firmly disagree. My methods remove the dross, the time spent tooling around lost in your daily writing, not the time spent making plot decisions or word choices. This is not a choice between ruminating on art or churning out the novels for gross commercialism (though I happen to like commercial novels), it's about not wasting your time for whatever sort of novels you want to write.

Drastically increasing your words per day is actually pretty easy, all it takes is a shift in perspective and the ability to be honest with yourself (which is the hardest part). Because I'm a giant nerd, I ended up creating a metric, a triangle with three core requirements: Knowledge, Time, and Enthusiasm. Any one of these can noticeably boost your daily output, but all three together can turn you into a word machine. I never start writing these days unless I can hit all three.

Update! The talented Vicky Teinaki made a graphic of this metric and let me use it! She is awesome!

Side 1: Knowledge, or Know What You're Writing Before You Write It
The first big boost to my daily wordcount happened almost by accident. Used to be I would just pop open the laptop and start writing. Now, I wasn't a total make-it-up-as-you-go writer. I had a general plot outline, but my scene notes were things like "Miranda and Banage argue" or "Eli steals the king." Not very useful, but I knew generally what direction I was writing in, and I liked to let the characters decide how the scene would go. Unfortunately, this meant I wasted a lot of time rewriting and backtracking when the scene veered off course.

This was how I had always written, it felt natural to me. But then one day I got mired in a real mess. I had spent three days knee deep in the same horrible scene. I was drastically behind on my wordcount, and I was facing the real possibility of missing my deadline... again. It was the perfect storm of all my insecurities, the thought of letting people down mixed with the fear that I really didn't know what I was doing, that I wasn't a real writer at all, just an amateur pretending to be one. But as I got angrier and angrier with myself, I looked down at my novel and suddenly realized that I was being an absolute idiot. Here I was, desperate for time, floundering in a scene, and yet I was doing the hardest work of writing (figuring out exactly what needs to happen to move the scene forward in the most dramatic and exciting way) in the most time consuming way possible (ie, in the middle of the writing itself).

As soon as I realized this, I stopped. I closed my laptop and got out my pad of paper. Then, instead of trying to write the scene in the novel as I had been, I started scribbling a very short hand, truncated version the scene on the paper. I didn't describe anything, I didn't do transitions. I wasn't writing, I was simply noting down what I would write when the time came. It took me about five minutes and three pages of notebook paper to untangle my seemingly unfixable scene, the one that had just eaten three days of my life before I tried this new approach. Better still, after I'd worked everything out in shorthand I was able to dive back into the scene and finish it in record time. The words flew onto the screen, and at the end of that session I'd written 3000 words rather than 2000, most of them in that last hour and a half.

Looking back, it was so simple I feel stupid for not thinking of it sooner. If you want to write faster, the first step is to know what you're writing before you write it. I'm not even talking about macro plot stuff, I mean working out the back and forth exchanges of an argument between characters, blocking out fights, writing up fast descriptions. Writing this stuff out in words you actually want other people to read, especially if you're making everything up as you go along, takes FOREVER. It's horribly inefficient and when you get yourself in a dead end, you end up trashing hundreds, sometimes thousands of words to get out. But jotting it down on a pad? Takes no time at all. If the scene you're sketching out starts to go the wrong way, you see it immedeatly, and all you have to do is cross out the parts that went sour and start again at the beginning. That's it. No words lost, no time wasted. It was god damn beautiful.

Every writing session after this realization, I dedicated five minutes (sometimes more, never less) and wrote out a quick description of what I was going to write. Sometimes it wasn't even a paragraph, just a list of this happens then this then this. This simple change, these five stupid minutes, boosted my wordcount enormously. I went from writing 2k a day to writing 5k a day within a week without increasing my 5 hour writing block. Some days I even finished early.

Of the three sides of the triangle, I consider knowledge to be the most important. This step alone more than doubled my word count. If you only want to try one change at a time, this is the one I recommend the most.

Side 2: Time
Now that I'd had such a huge boost from one minor change, I started to wonder what else I could do to jack my numbers up even higher. But as I looked for other things I could tweak, I quickly realized that I knew embarrassingly little about how I actually wrote my novels. I'd kept no records of my progress, I couldn't even tell you how long it took me to write any of my last three novels beyond broad guesstimations, celebratory blog posts, and vague memories of past word counts. It was like I started every book by throwing myself at the keyboard and praying for a novel to shoot out of my fingers before the deadline. And keep in mind this is my business. Can you imagine a bakery or a freelance designer working this way? Never tracking hours or keeping a record of how long it took me to actually produce the thing I was selling? Yeah, pretty stupid way to work.

If I was going to boost my output (or know how long it took me to actually write a freaking novel), I had to know what I was outputting in the first place. So, I started keeping records. Every day I had a writing session I would note the time I started, the time I stopped, how many words I wrote, and where I was writing on a spreadsheet. I did this for two months, and then I looked for patterns.

Several things were immediately clear. First, my productivity was at its highest when I was in a place other than my home. That is to say, a place without internet. The afternoons I wrote at the coffee shop with no wireless were twice as productive as the mornings I wrote at home. I also saw that, while butt in chair time is the root of all writing, not all butt in chair time is equal. For example, those days where I only got one hour to write I never managed more than five hundred words in that hour. By contrast, those days I got five hours of solid writing I was clearing close to 1500 words an hour. The numbers were clear: the longer I wrote, the faster I wrote (and I believe the better I wrote, certainly the writing got easier the longer I went). This corresponding rise of wordcount and writing hours only worked up to a point, though. There was a definite words per hour drop off around hour 7 when I was simply too brain fried to go on.

But these numbers are very personal, the point I'm trying to make is that by recording my progress every day I had the data I needed to start optimizing my daily writing. Once I had my data in hand, I rearranged my schedule to make sure my writing time was always in the afternoon (my most prolific time according to my sheet, which was a real discovery. I would have bet money I was better in the morning.), always at my coffee shop with no internet, and always at least 4 hours long. Once I set my time, I guarded it viciously, and low and behold my words per day shot up again. This time to an average of 6k-7k per writing day, and all without adding any extra hours. All I had to do was discover what made good writing time for me and then make sure the good writing time was the time I fought hardest to get.

Even if you don't have the luxury of 4 uninterrupted hours at your prime time of day, I highly suggest measuring your writing in the times you do have to write. Even if you only have 1 free hour a day, trying that hour in the morning some days and the evening on others and tracking the results can make sure you aren't wasting your precious writing time on avoidable inefficiencies. Time really does matter.

Side 3: Enthusiasm
I was flying high on my new discoveries. Over the course of two months I'd jacked my daily writing from 2k per day to 7k with just a few simple changes and was now actually running ahead of schedule for the first time in my writing career. But I wasn't done yet. I was absolutely determined I was going to break the 10k a day barrier.

I'd actually broken it before. Using Knowledge and Time, I'd already managed a few 10k+ days, including one where I wrote 12,689 words, or two chapters, in 7 hours. To be fair, I had been writing outside of my usual writing window in addition to my normal writing on those days, so it wasn't a total words-per-hour efficiency jump. But that's the great thing about going this fast, the novel starts to eat you and you find yourself writing any time you can just for the pure joy of it. Even better, on the days where I broke 10k, I was also pulling fantastic words-per-hour numbers, 1600 - 2000 words per hour as opposed to my usual 1500. It was clear these days were special, but I didn't know how. I did know that I wanted those days to become the norm rather than the exception, so I went back to my records (which I now kept meticulously) to find out what made the 10k days different.

The answer was head-slappingly obvious. Those days I broke 10k were the days I was writing scenes I'd been dying to write since I planned the book. They were the candy bar scenes, the scenes I wrote all that other stuff to get to. By contrast, my slow days (days where I was struggling to break 5k) corresponded to the scenes I wasn't that crazy about.

This was a duh moment for me, but it also brought up a troubling new problem. If I had scenes that were boring enough that I didn't want to write them, then there was no way in hell anyone would want to read them. This was my novel, after all. If I didn't love it, no one would.

Fortunately, the solution turned out to be, yet again, stupidly simple. Every day, while I was writing out my little description of what I was going to write for the knowledge component of the triangle, I would play the scene through in my mind and try to get excited about it. I'd look for all the cool little hooks, the parts that interested me most, and focus on those since they were obviously what made the scene cool. If I couldn't find anything to get excited over, then I would change the scene, or get rid of it entirely. I decided then and there that, no matter how useful a scene might be for my plot, boring scenes had no place in my novels.

This discovery turned out to be a fantastic one for my writing. I trashed and rewrote several otherwise perfectly good scenes, and the effect on the novel was amazing. Plus, my daily wordcount numbers shot up again because I was always excited about my work. Double bonus!

Life On 10k A Day
With all three sides of my triangle now in place, I was routinely pulling 10-12k per day by the time I finished Spirits' End, the fifth Eli novel. I was almost 2 months ahead of where I'd thought I'd be, and the novel had only taken me 3 months to write rather than the 7 months I'd burned on the Spirit War (facts I knew now that I was keeping records). I was ahead of schedule with plenty of time to do revisions before I needed to hand the novel in to my editor, and I was happier with my writing than ever before. There were several days toward the end when I'd close my laptop and stumble out of the coffee shop feeling almost drunk on writing. I felt like I was on top of the world, utterly invincible and happier than I've ever been. Writing that much that quickly was like taking some kind of weird success opiate, and I was thoroughly addicted. Once you've hit 10k a day for a week straight, anything less feels like your story is crawling.

Now, again, 10k a day is my high point as a professional author whose child is now in daycare (PRICELESS). I write 6 - 7 hours a day, usually 2 in the morning and 4-5 in the afternoon, five days a week. Honestly, I don't see how anyone other than a full time novelist could pull those kind of hours, but that doesn't mean you have to be a pro to drastically increase your daily word count.

So 10k might be the high end of the spectrum, but of the people I've told about this (a lot) who've gotten back to me (not nearly as many), most have doubled their word counts by striving to hit all three sides of the triangle every time they write. This means some have gone from 1k a day to 2k, or 2k to 4k. Some of my great success with increasing my wordcount is undoubtedly a product of experience, as I also hit my million word mark somewhere in the fifth Eli novel. Even so, I believe most of the big leaps in efficiency came from changing the way I approached my writing. Just as changing your lifestyle can help you lose a hundred pounds, changing they way you sit down to write can boost your words per hour in astonishing ways.

If you're looking to get more out of your writing time, I really hope you try my triangle. If you do, please write me (or comment below) and let me know. Even if it doesn't work (especially if it doesn't work) I'd love to hear about it. Also, if you find another efficiency hack for writing, let me know about that too! There's no reason our triangle can't be a square, and I'm always looking for a way to hit 15k a day :D.

Again, I really hope this helps you hit your goals. Good luck with your writing!

- Rachel Aaron

Wow. Thanks so much, Rachel. This is amazing stuff. I'm more than ever encouraged to keep up with the goals I've set , but I think I can reach even higher. Rachel will drop by Mysteries and Margaritas soon to talk more about her writing and her methods.

In the meantime, here are a couple of places you can purchase her The Legend of Eli Monpress novels.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Liz's Lair: Welcome Suspense Author Dale Phillips

Please help me give a rousing M & M welcome to fellow mystery author, Dale Phillips. Dale was at the Crime Bake in November with Pete Morin, one of the Book Cents Babes (and yes, we call him that to his face!) and he hung out with us the entire time. By the end of the weekend we were ready to declare him one of us. Anyway, he has several books out, so I'll let him tell you all about them. He's giving away a free download of A FALL FROM GRACE and one copy of his newest mystery collection CROOKED PATHS. So take it away, Dale.

Hello All-- am happy to be guesting here, among so many talented writers. As a fan of good mysteries, good margaritas, and good writer blogs, this is the place to be!

I met Liz, Kari, and Barbie Jo at the Crime Bake conference, where their camaraderie and fun-loving mischief was infectious. Let's just say that if you go out with them, bring bail money, extra ammo, a getaway car, and two escape routes… Don't worry, gang, what happens at Crime Bake stays at Crime Bake. Besides, they'll never find those bodies…

These ladies show the best of the writing world today-- cooperation and collaboration, instead of competition and exclusion. They help each other, and other writers. This makes things better (and a lot more fun) for all.

So I was asked about my Zack Taylor mystery series, set in Maine. The first book, A MEMORY OF GRIEF, came out last year, and the second, A FALL FROM GRACE, is being released now, with the official launch on Saturday, Jan 21st. Not bad, since I went with a startup publisher, and A MEMORY OF GRIEF was the first book they released. This series has something different, a tough guy protagonist who hates guns, but who faces people that use them. Too much of the time, I read a mystery where the protagonist gets into trouble, and instantly gets saved by whipping out a gun. Not very realistic, at least from my experience. And not very fun to write, where the weapon is a perpetual deus ex machina, an instant solution to all danger. Where's the tension, if we know the hero or heroine can always even the odds in such a simple fashion? I'd rather make it more interesting by having the protagonist at a distinct disadvantage right out of the gate. How's Zack going to get out of this one?

Zack also has a lot to learn. He's had a rough time, and guilt from a past tragedy has made him drift through life, forming few attachments. He finds purpose in seeking the truth about the death of a friend, and discovers much about himself in the process. Stained by hanging out with the wrong crowd in places like Vegas and Miami, he finds the laid-back lifestyle of Maine to be quite healing, despite the fact that he keeps finding trouble along with it. He's an underdog, and this makes him gravitate toward helping others who are at the mercy of predators. For example, in "A Fall From Grace," Zack must help a single mother accused of murder, and defend her against an entire town that thinks she's guilty.

All his time alone has made Zack a thinker and a reader, and the title of each book reflects the theme of the novel, with references taken from literary works. So there are layers, and more to offer the careful reader than just another action yarn. This series will especially appeal to those who like John D. MacDonald's Travis McGee, and Robert B. Parker's Spenser.

Reader response for the series has been terrific, including a great recommendation from NY Times Best-Seller mystery writer Debbi Mack, author of Least Wanted, Identity Crisis, and the soon-to-be released Riptide. I've also joined mystery book clubs, and it's so great to connect with readers and find out what they enjoyed in the books.

I've been writing for years, and even had Stephen King as my writing teacher back in college. While he depicts Maine primarily through the lens of horror, I want to showcase the state in a different light. And though excellent mystery writers like Kate Flora and Gerry Boyle write great Maine-based crime tales, their books are filled with so much unrelenting darkness, I hardly recognize the place where I spent so much time. The setting is more than just backdrop for me, it's about a place I love and still think of as home, though I now live in Massachusetts, a two-hour car ride away.

Apart from the novels, I've published poetry, a non-fiction career help book, and over 20 stories, including mystery/crime tales in such places as: Crime & Suspense, Big Pulp, Short.Story-Me!, and Over My Dead Body. My first mystery story collection, Crooked Paths is now out: www.smashwords.com/books/view/113991

I'd like to invite the readers here to sample my novels and other works-- via Amazon's "Look Inside" feature and the sampling capability on the ebook site Smashwords, as well as on my website.

Thanks for inviting me to drop by. Keep up the good reading

Dale lives with his family outside Boston where he's worked over twenty years as a professional technical writer making computer software programs understandable and usable. He's had a variety of other jobs from holiday Santa to wine steward, and he's a tournament chess player and a fencer. He's published over twenty short stories, has appeared on stage, television and in Throg, an independent film available on Netflix, Jeopardy, and Think Twice. After writing three novels, he co wrote and acted in a short political satire film, available here.

Friday, January 20, 2012

You're Never Too Old!

We've all heard that before right? Or what about You can't teach an old dog new tricks!? But it's true. You're never too old to do something you really want to do, something you're passionate about, or always dreamed about. Hell, if you're healthy enough and always wanted to skydive or parasail....then go for it! That's not my thing, I'd rather swim with the dolphins. If writing a book or memoir is what you're passionate about, then do that too! And as far as teaching an old dog?? If that old dog isn't too stubborn, I bet they can learn anything, especially if there's a treat involved.

This week I've started on a new adventure. I'm going back to school. Yup, as if I don't have enough crazy in my life I am going to throw in reading/studying/writing. I have an Associates in Accounting and that's been interesting, especially for a girl who still for the life of her can't do percentages in her head. It hurts just thinking about it now. Hey, I go to a store and 35% off is a decent deal. It's not 50%, but it sure beats 15%. I'm good with that. I don't need to know the exact cost of the sweater I'm holding. If I want it bad enough, I will round up. My oldest son is like me in this regard. Poor kid, he didn't inherit his father's mathematical genes. I'm sorry.

Now, I didn't just come upon this idea willy-nilly. I gave it alot of thought. Through my search for a more challenging job this summer, I realized even though I had 8 years job experience at the university, and had 5 or 6 (ugh, I've lost track) interviews in a 2 month period, my Associates Degree was holding me back. At this point in my writing career, I was still in my "death spiral" as I like to call it from my loss of contract and I honestly didn't know what more I could do. My husband had taken a huge cut in salary and it was starting to effect us financially. I felt like I had to do something and getting a full-time (vs. my part-time) job was of the essence. So I applied and was accepted in the Writing Program and SU. And I am going to be working toward my Bachelor's Degree, while I continue to write, schlep kids, clean the house, walk the dog, blog, be the team mom, FB, Tweet, and oh yeah.....and probably drink heavy! LOL.

I'm all good with it. This old dog needs to re-activate her brain cells. I'm ready for the challenge and knowing the polly-perfect that I am, I WILL make it all work and it's going to be great. Of course, I say this as I'm breaking into self-publishing my work, I have some fantastic ideas for romances and cozy mysteries, and I'm taking 2 classes! Of course, it was just in the cards that the writing would take off just as I accept something just a huge. It's like getting a puppy and then finding out you're pregnant with twins, and your in-laws are moving in for a year. Yup, story of my life.

So I'm putting my best foot forward. I'm sure the first couple weeks will be adjustment, but I've already semi-planned a nightly schedule in my head which includes writing and classwork. A Philosophy Class and Sociology of Sport. I'm looking forward to this journey. I know it's going to help my writing and critical thinking/analysis. And who knows...I just might be able to get a story idea out of it all. Eventually once I can take classes in my major, it will help me complete some of my open-ended projects. Oh yes, I'm thinking ahead to use some of them as classwork!  It's all good in the land of Barbie Jo!

And who knows....I just might add something wild and crazy to my list for next year!

So what kinds of things have you wanted to do, but haven't yet? What's holding you back? Better yet, what crazy things HAVE you done that you never thought you would? And who/what made you finally do them!

Have a great weekend everyone and enjoy some football!! I'm hoping for a Ravens/Giants Super Bowl!!! (I'm NOT a New England Fan, but if it has to be, then I will take the Giants/Pats re-match!)

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Cassy's Corner- Where Do Your Characters Come From?

I have been thinking about characters and how they fit into our plots. Lately I have spent a large number of hours mixed between sitting and waiting and trying to take action. We have a family member who was hospitalized then transferred to an intermediate care facility. Now we are planning for what it takes to return to her home. All of that is really not the point.
I’ve written before about watching people and wondering what distinguishes someone in Italy versus New Hampshire. Well, the time I have recently logged in airports, hospitals, nursing homes, on the phone with arrangements has led me to again revisit the concept of “where ideas arise.”
Many of my books are of the mystery/suspense genres. By definition, someone is going to die, be tortured, get lost, or suffer in some uncomfortable manner. These last few weeks are great fodder for the mind of a writer as one sits for hours in a hospital trying to be patient (not the patient) and be reasonable with all of the staff who really aren’t helpful. Do I kill off the doctor who sanctimoniously offered his grave advice? It’s terrible to think of doing him in, but the leather jacket on one day and the blue velvet pants on another make him a great target, not to mention his age. Is this a character waiting to be written?
Then there was the mother in the toy store. We had to pick up a gift. She was dragging her about five-year old child from item to item demanding the little girl pick out something. The child was in tears, begging that she didn’t know what she wanted. The mother scolded that if the child couldn’t find something she’d go home with nothing. The child panicked some more. I almost couldn’t tolerate the situation. My husband took my hand for he knew I was about to jump in and tell the mother you don’t place a full candy shop in front of a small child and expect an adult decision-making process. Yup, I was ready to kill off the mother, or at least think of some life-redeeming event that would help her understand that at one level she had tortured her child.
Then, there was the slightly plump nurse’s aide. His gray hair was tied back in a long ponytail. He was cheerful, helpful, and ready to do the tasks many of us would rather not. He winked at me as we realized that the “stories” our patient told were from another time and place. He was kind without being patronizing. As I thought through plot lines I decided he clearly deserved to live.
I won’t go on about the security folks at the many airports. About the phone calls with faces I have never seen, but can imagine. About the rules that are totally obstructionistic. About the paperwork that makes one truly homicidal.
No, this is good stuff. I had to spend a few hours at the airport before my flight home as we had logistic issues. This was not a burden for there were so many people around me behaving in marvelously curious ways. Marvelous for they quickly became characters. Loud. Fat. Fussing. Complaining. Hugging. Crying. Rushing. Confused.
I’ve made notes. 
Characters are both a part of us, our friends and family and then definitely an influence of where we go and what we see. This becomes our writing. 
Do share. I love to hear about how you watch the world and how that becomes your writing.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Kari's Kave: My Story Took Over...

Wow, this is a first for me.

With the first two books in my series, I started out knowing who the victim was going to be and who the killer would be. I am not a plotter or a pantser, I am both.

I usually know the basics: killer, victim and main suspect. Then I write the opening. After that, I plot out a few chapters at a time. I usually figure out my suspects and red herrings, etc. and weave them in. I write some more, and then plot a few more chapters.

Many times things will occur to me as I am writing, and I come up with the best twits and turns in the middle of the book, then go back and add them in.

This time with book three, my story literally took over.

My victim said, "You want to do what to me? Um, no, I am having way too much fun. Besides, you've made me too likable and your readers would be very upset if you suddenly killed me off."

Darnit, I thought. My victime was right! So I chose another victim that made much more sense and wouldn't upset my readers.

Only.....once I changed my victim, my killer suddenly seemed so obvious. In book one, the killer is hard to figure out, but still, some people figured it out right at the end. In book two, the killer is even harder to figure out, and I have even more twists you won't see coming.

Talk about pressure.

Book one was a national bestseller and nominted by RT for Best Amateur Sleuth of 2011. So, the pressure to make book two even better was on. I actually think it IS better, and so does my editor. What does that mean?

Basically, that book three has to rock! EEEEEEKKK!!!!

Talk about pressure. So when my killer seems obvious, and I don't have that many twists yet, I started to freak out. I think that's why my story took over. It knew I was having a meltdown, so it decided to help me out.

And man, I think I've come up with a great new killer and some twists even I didn't see coming. I really hope this one is the best book yet. Time will tell....in the meantime.....back to writing!

So tell me, has this ever happened to you? Inquiring minds want to know.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Anita's Attic: Making Goals

I mentioned last week that Dana and I were helping each other keep track of our goals. My goal was to write 20 pages per week. One thing I’ve discovered is that it’s difficult to track totals. With my goal setting, I didn’t really take into account that some days might be spent on editing, not new writing. And the new writing might be in older scenes where I’ve revised the plot and have to change a scene completely or add new paragraphs, which helps the story but doesn’t necessarily advance the number of pages.

Although I didn’t meet my goal in some ways, (I only wrote about 10 pages) I feel very good about my progress. For one thing, I’m excited about the story. That’s huge. I’ve made some great revisions, found missed opportunities, changed some scenes, edited some pages, and added a ton of ideas to my story IDEAS file, where I keep my brainstorming notes.

As Liz mentioned in her post, life will always interrupt. Your editor will ask for edits when you least expect it, or a kid will be home from school. Like today, our schools were closed but I didn’t realize it until last night. But I’m making progress, and I’m totally excited about my story. I think setting goals is going to help me get things done. (photo credit: winnond)

Monday, January 16, 2012

Liz’s Lair: National Good News Day

As you all know I have really been stressing out about my deadline for the 3rd book in my Clueless Cook series. Originally, it was January 1, but I asked for and received an extension. The six-week blog tour I did for Liver Let Die, plus getting Mortal Deception up, and the fact that I had a really hard time with Halibut just kicked my butt. It wasn’t that I didn’t have the time to write. I just couldn’t figure out how to make this book right.

Enter the self doubt
that took over where the other things left off and royally kicked my arse. At one point, I almost said the hell with it. I just can’t do it. Why can’t I just sell the books I’ve already penned and not have to write new ones?
Hello breakthrough. I don’t know exactly when it happened, but suddenly one day, I got an idea that got me really exacted and I was ready to burn the computer keys with the story.

Meet the copy edits for BSO. Just when I was itching to sit down and write Halibut, I get the copy edits that are due on January 24th. Mind you, they weren’t bad, but they still required TIME, especially the recipes in the back. These are my own recipes and I rarely measure things. Guess what? Berkley seems to think that’s important.

Hello, editor?? “And Liz, I need a synopsis for Halibut and some ideas for a cover since I’m going to the cover copy meeting next week.” Here’s where I freaked out. I had no clue where the story was going with the exception of the tiny breakthrough I had the week before. So, I stopped everything else and wrote a 9 page synopsis and sent a couple of ideas to Berkley. The good news is that it forced me to finish the book in my mind. Now all I have to do is finish it for real. My goal is 10 pages a day for 8 days. Don’t expect to see me much on the loops or Facebook, as I am committed to getting it done.

Oh, did I mention Dan and I babysat our granddaughters for 6 days while the kids lounged on the beach in the Bahamas drinking fruity concoctions with umbrellas?? And did I tell you the girls are two and a half and nine months old?? Guess how much writing I got done?

Enough whining. Let’s get to the good stuff. Somewhere in that time frame, my editor sent me the cover for BSO, and I absolutely love it. The illustrator managed to capture the ice sculptured longhorn steer perfectly. That made my week.
UNTIL I got a call from my agent on Wednesday. Seems my editor called her and wanted to buy Book 4, CHICKEN CACCIA-KILLER. This was totally unexpected since Christine had already said Berkley would wait until they got a look at the numbers for presales on book 2 before any offer would be forthcoming. Since that won’t happen until sometime in May, this offer came totally out of the blue.

Seems my editor knows how slow I write and didn’t want to get the books off schedule while they waited.

Moral of the story
: Sometimes it pays to write pathetically slow and to ask for deadlines.

Secondary moral of the story
: Sometimes when you write pathetically slow and ask for deadlines, you have to give up everything fun for a few weeks. Crap!

Okay, let’s make this – MY GOOD NEWS day. Tell me something fun that happened to you

Friday, January 13, 2012

Competition is a good thing

It's part two of NFL playoffs and I am extremely excited!! My NY Giants beat the Dallas Cowboys (Sorry Liz) and  My favorite underdog Denver Broncos beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in OT (sorry Kari)!! I can't wait for the games this weekend!! I'm hoping both teams do well, although their match-ups are pretty tough, hell even the 2nd string QB for Green Bay is playing well. Eli will need to up his game. And Tim...well he needs to open his eyes, see the field and complete some flippin passes!! And his defense had better sack the illustrious Tom Brady who have FOREVER in the pocket!

Needless to say, I have friends who like each of the teams playing. And we are having some "friendly fire".  I love it! Quite Honestly, I think we need to host a Super Bowl party regardless of who wins just because we are a house of football.

I love all of the good news happening with all of my writing friends. People are self-pubbing left and right, finishing new stories for submission and proposals to further their contracts.  All of this news is very motivating. I think friendly competition with your peers is a good way to keep yourself on track with your own work.

I have had a very slow and distracting week during my writing chapters Write Your ____ Off month. I've disappointed myself by not making my self-imposed page count 3 days this week. I may be down, but I'm not out! I plan on working the rest of today to make up those pages. A good 15-20 page day would put me right back on track. So I'm going for it! I have made my list of projects to finish once this story is completed AND I've come up with a couple new ideas. I've added them to the order of things so I need to stay on target for January.

Do any of you use competition as a motivator?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Cassy’s Corner- To Do Lists

I’ve been making lots of “To Do” lists lately. Some of my lists actually have items that say, “Make To Do list for xxxx.” So my lists have lists. I have been known to write down tasks that I have already accomplished, just for the pleasure of scratching it off.
With lists I’ve discovered I approach them in four different ways depending on what the topics are and where physically I am.
First, if I’m thinking through the normal activities of my house I use my own shorthand. I know what I mean when I mark down something like dgs/fd that I have to order more dog food from the supplier I use. Scrts- that’s to pick up the prescriptions at the pharmacy. My husband picks up my notes and shakes his head, incomprehensible.
Then there are the lists that have to do with phone calls, repairs to the house, follow-up conversations for whatever. Those lists are a little more detailed so I can remember what it was that I needed fixed and why. So it might have the phone number of my repair man along with a note that says, “dryer has odd thumping sound from right side in the back after running for 20 minutes.”
The third kind of list happens when I travel. I have diligently created a spreadsheet on my computer of all the things I must take with me on a journey. Do I use it? Of course not. I write it out each time. Why, I have no idea—I just do it. Always included are things like: computer, charging cord for computer, cell phone, charging cord for the cell phone, passport, leave money for the housekeeper, set the alarm. You’d think I’d have this down by now, but I still make the list.
The last kind of list I make is when I’m in unknown territory and need to not miss important points or issues. I’ve just returned from Iowa (hence the late posting today) and realized I needed yet another pad of paper in my bag to record all I had to remember. This time it was about putting care together for my mother-in-law. So the list was more like: Meet doctor at 5:30 am outside the hospital room, park in North garage for other doors are locked, call the social worker to coordinate transfer, obtain the paperwork for release of information. I promise you that list was longer than any of the others.
I go on about this not because you might be interested in how I organize my time. But rather, as I sat on the plane coming home and sorted through the pages of notes I had gathered, I realized I do the same process with my writing. I list my characters’ attributes, needs, challenges. I think through my setting’s contributions. I worry about my plot points.
I might sound a tad compulsive here. I’m not. I just move forward with more assurance when I have my lists.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Kari's Kave: It's the Final Coundown!

Every have a song you can't get out of your head?

That's me lately.

It's the Final Countdown! keeps playing over and over and over....

We always take a family vacation to Florida in February to visit my parents. I love going, and so do the kids. We stay with my parents and eat like kings and queens. My mother is an amazing cook :-) We swim, play golf, ride all over in the golf cart, play botchi ball, shuffle board, tennis, etc. And we always go to at least one theme park (this year animal kingdom again :-) and of course the flee market! I think I want to go to the ocean for a day as well.

Usually, my hubby drives the whole way and I get soooooo much writing done. Here's why...when the kids were babies (remember, I have 4!!!) they would cry and fuss and demand so much attention. I spent most of the trip feeling car sick as I turned around and tended to them. Once I even shook a rattle for 4 hours straight just to keep the peace. I kept saying, "Honey, you want me to drive?" to which he would ALWAYS reply, "Nope. I'm good, but thanks for asking."

Fast forward to today. The kids are glued to the movie screen, their iPods, cell phones, game systems, etc. They are self-sufficient and require NO care now. So when hubby says, "Honey, you want to drive?" I just smile as I respond, "Nope. I'm good, but thanks for asking."

Karma baby :-)

So hubby listens to his music while I bring my laptop and write all day long for both days down (20 hours). And then I write all day long for both days back (20 hours). That's 4 full days total (40 hours total). I always get sooooo much done.

And if he's really good (and I'm stuck), once in a while I do give him a break and drive for maybe 2 hours in which he sleeps and I think :-) I get a lot of mental plotting done that way.

Well, this year will be different. Ugh.

Hubby's previous job he had 8 weeks vacation. So when he lost his job and then landed an even better job, we were relieved and thrilled. The only downfall was that he would only get 2 weeks vacation. What we didn't realize is that he doesn't get those days up front. He has to acrue those days over the course of the first year. That means he will only have like 3 days vacation earned by our trip.

Remember karma? Oh yeah. Now it's my turn to get payed back.

I am driving down alone with the kids, and he is flying to join us mid-week and then driving back with us. Now I have to drive the whole way alone. Well, my oldest has his license so I might let him drive a couple hours in the middle to give me a break, but pretty much, it will be all me.


I am still really excited to go, and my brain will need a break by then anyway. Book three TROUBLE IN THE TAROT is due March 1st, so my plan is to finish the book in the next 5 weeks, then give it to my CP (our very own Barbie Jo) to read while I'm on vacation. Then I will have 1 week to polish it when I get home and turn that puppy in.

Meanwhile, hopefully, I'll plot book four while I drive. Note to self: remember to bring mini cassette recorder with me :-)

So.....let the countdown begin and wish me luck. I'm on page 66 and must get to around 320 in 5 weeks. That means writing 3 chapters a week or 50 pages a week (which is only 10 pages a day with weekends off...so doable!). Then it's fun in the sun a big ole bottle of wine :-)

So tell me, what kind of countdown are you on these days ?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Anita's Attic: Accountability

As I mentioned last week, I usually don't do New Year's resolutions, but I really need to make some changes, so Friday while Dana (my CP who's also having motivation issues) and I were having breakfast, she suggested that we set writing goals for the week, and check in with each other at the end of the day. If we're accountable to someone else every day, we'll have more motivation to get the work done. It's easy to fudge on what you've accomplished to yourself; not so easy to do it to a friend.

So we started this week. I decided my goal is to write 20 pages per week. I didn't think about setting alternate goals for the days I'm just editing or revising, but Dana set those goals as well, and I'm going to incorporate them.

Today I revised 19 pages. Now these weren't hard revisions, just tweaking, but I was very pleased. And I wrote half a page in a scene than needed help. All these were things that needed to be done and I feel great. I'm feeling the POWER! You know that feeling when you know you're on the right track and meeting those deadlines actually seem possible. I'm thinking, I AM a writer. I'm not a one series wonder. I can do this.

I know it won't happen overnight, but I'm working on creating a new me. I've been trying to focus on writing, not emails and promotion. Although there is a time and place for that. I did do an interview with a local TV station last week. Very small station. http://blip.tv/virginia-living-television/its-all-local-with-anita-sherman-and-india-rose-5865950.

Warning: this host site just shows the interviews online. They also host some other shows, some not so desirable. Unfortunately, that's the only way I could see it since the station doesn't air in my town.

The interview went well, and it was good experience for when I'm famous and all the talk shows want me. :) My clothing selection did not work out so well. The outfit looked slimming while I was standing up, but sitting down...not so much. Frankly, I looked like a whale. The actual interview doesn't start until about 13 or 14 minutes in. First they talk about local news, so you'll have to scroll past that. One of the interviewers is also named Anita.

I know we've probably talked about this before, but do you guys have daily goals? I remember Liz saying she was committing to 25 pages a week (I think). I'm open to any suggestions.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Liz's Lair: Welcome Mystery Author Lois Winston

National Clean Off Your Desk Day
by Lois Winston

I want to thank Liz Lipperman for inviting me back to Mysteries & Margaritas today as part of my month-long blog tour in celebration of the release of Death By Killer Mop Doll, the second book in my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries.

Did you know that today is National Clean Off Your Desk Day? Really! Would I kid about something as serious as that?

When I learned this, I looked around at my own desk, and began to wonder if maybe my husband wasn’t responsible for creating National Clean Off Your Desk Day. You see, when I’m writing, I become a clutterbug. Piles of loose papers, notepads of varying sizes and shapes, and stacks of books cover every square inch of my desk. Multiple sticky notes are adhered to each sheet of paper and dozens of pages in each book. More sticky notes line the perimeter of my computer monitor and the sides of my keyboard. My notes have notes!

I spread out on all available surfaces, creating more surface space when needed. I’ve even used the open top drawer of my file cabinet as an extension of my desktop. One time, I couldn’t find a specific note I’d written. I searched through every piece of paper in every pile to no avail. I even dumped the recycling bag onto the floor and scoured through all the scraps of junk mail, thinking I might have inadvertently tossed the note. I spent hours searching for that piece of paper before finally giving up.

Two years later, I pulled a file from the filing cabinet, and there was the note I’d been looking for. It had slipped down into the file cabinet. I still use the open file drawer as an additional work surface, but I’ve learned my lesson. I now first cover the top with a large piece of cardboard.

Did I mention my husband is an engineer? They don’t do clutter. At least mine doesn’t. He’s a minimalist. He also has the maddening habit of cleaning up after himself at the end of the day, whether he’s finished his project or not. That’s why I think he might be responsible for National Clean Off Your Desk Day.

Me? I just continue to accumulate all the miscellany involved in writing a manuscript for however long it takes to finish the manuscript. You can imagine what my desk looks like, given that it takes me about eight months to write a book! And even after I’ve finished a manuscript, I hold onto all those notes. I toss them into a folder and file them. Just in case.

Are you a clutterbug like me? Or are you a minimalist like my husband? Let’s hear from you. Post a comment, and you could win one of 5 signed copies of Death By Killer Mop Doll I’m giving away as part of my blog tour this month.

The full tour schedule can be found at my website, and the Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers blog, In addition, I’m giving away 3 copies of Death By Killer Mop Doll on Goodreads.

Also, for anyone attending The American Library Association’s Mid-Winter conference January 20-24 in Dallas, Midnight Ink will be raffling off the hand-crafted mop doll shown in the photo during the opening reception Friday evening. Register for the drawing at the Midnight Ink booth #1459.

Lois Winston is the author of the critically acclaimed Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries published by Midnight Ink. Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun, the first book in the series, received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Booklist. The new year brings with it the release of Death By Killer Mop Doll, the second book in the series. Read an excerpt here. Visit Lois at her website and Anastasia at the Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers blog. You can also follow Lois and Anastasia on Twitter @anasleuth.

Death By Killer Mop Doll blurb: 
Overdue bills and constant mother vs. mother-in-law battles at home are bad enough. But crafts editor Anastasia Pollack's stress level is maxed out when she and her fellow American Woman editors get roped into unpaid gigs for a revamped morning TV show. Before the glue is dry on Anastasia's mop dolls, morning TV turns crime drama when the studio is trashed and the producer is murdered. Former co-hosts Vince and Monica—sleazy D-list celebrities—stand out among a lengthy lineup of suspects, all furious over the show's new format. And Anastasia has no clue her snooping has landed her directly in the killer's unforgiving spotlight.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Write Your @*$ Off Update

Last Friday I talked about the WYAO (Write your @$$ off) challenge that my local chapter is doing for the month of January. Write EVERY DAY during the month - doesn't matter how  much or how little - and you only get 3 "mulligans". Kind of like a mini-NaNo. It's supposed to be new material (no editing) although due to deadlines, there's a lot of authors who are doing a little of both.

I am pleased to say, Sun-Thurs I have written every day for a total of 20 pages thus far! That may not seem like a lot for some people but it's a lot for me! I've toyed around with having my personal page goal to be 3 pages per day, so it's nice to see that I can reasonably stick to that in the future if I apply myself.

So far I'm finding this challenge very refreshing. I don't feel "forced" to write at all. I've basically told myself it's something that I have to do - like taking my vitamin or exercising. I have to do it. It doesn't matter what time of day, either. I can get the pages in during the morning or evening or both! And I check in when I know I'm done for the day - which is making me accountable, and I like that. I thought I'd feel more pressure but surprisingly I don't.

The last couple of days have proved challenging, but I persevered and wrote so I'm feeling quite accomplished. *insert huge smiley face* I kept thinking because hubby was out of town and the children were at ski club, I'd be able to kick some page-booty but that didn't happen. Other non-writing things needed my attention for a couple hours. But like I said, I got the pages in and there's no pressure. I just need constant productivity on the page.

So how did everyone else do, who wanted to join the challenge with me? Were you able to write each day so far this week? Did you run into any obstacles?

I still have pages to work on today and of course this weekend. I'm hoping I won't have to call in a mulligan this soon! I've got plans for at least one of them! Let's keep pushing on and clicking those keys!! I'll take new comers if anyone wants to join in!

There's still time to WYAO!! (if only 20 pages were 20 pounds.....)

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Cassy's Corner- How We View Our Work

I don’t usually clip and paste work from other sites, certainly never never without attribution. I’m making an exception to my customs, not the part about crediting the work, but in directing you to a posting. Chuck Wendig wrote a list of “musts” for writers on his blog at this address- http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2012/01/03/25-things-writers-should-stop-doing/
It’s making the rounds on various websites. Hopefully he won’t mind my posting the link here. One warning, if you have a fragile constitution you might find some of the language a little over the top. I confess I didn’t, but that might tell you something about me.
The 25 things Chuck lists that writers must stop doing (these are his words) are:

Stop running away
Stop stopping
Stop writing in someone else’s voice
Stop worrying
Stop hurrying
Stop waiting
Stop thinking it should be easier
Stop deprioritizing your wordsmithy
Stop treating your body like a dumpster
Stop the moping and the whining
Stop blaming everyone else
Stop the shame
Stop lamenting your mistakes
Stop playing it safe
Stop trying to control s**t you can’t control
Stop doing one thing
Stop writing for “the market”
Stop chasing trends
Stop caring about what other writers are doing
Stop caring so much about the publishing industry
Stop listening to what “won’t” sell
Stop overpromising and overshooting
Stop leaving yourself off the page
Stop dreaming
Stop being afraid- Let this be YOUR year

Chuck has a short paragraph for each of these points. I’ll let you read them on his site. He does a good job of elaborating. In this time of resolutions and self-awareness, I’m going to read Chuck’s list again and then think of what it might mean for my writing.

May your New Year be fruitful in all the ways you wish it to be.