Sunday, August 30, 2015

House Hunting

I seem to be spending an inordinate amount of time on various realtor sites these days, trying to cull through the opportunities available to us as my sister and I search for our perfect home. On Friday, we spent the entire day running from one to the next. We're getting smarter in our attempts now. Instead of just writing down the address and price before we head out, we take the time to look at the pictures and make up a list of pros and cons for each. It's really helped us in the search, as we were able to eliminate four of the six we drove by today.

Which made me think of writing. Of putting together a manuscript from start to finish, of having a plot that works and is strong enough for a 70,000 word novel. I'd like to be a total pantser and just go where my muse leads me, but it makes me nervous if I don't know where I'm headed, and I don't have the time to explore dead ends, to have to tear off the last half of the book and do it again. But I also am not quite on the opposite end of the spectrum, either. I don't do outlines, but I do write out my plot points from start to finish, to see if there's enough story and if it's strong enough. I weigh the pros and cons of the story before I get too far into it. I guess you could say I do a drive-by of the story.

If I like the plot points, I'll usually go one step further and write a synopsis for the entire story. I'm not saying I stay true to the synopsis once I get going on the book, but it helps me see clearly where I'm headed and how to get there. It helps me fall in love with the story line and the characters. We're not at this stage yet in our house-hunting. We can't afford to fall in love with a house until we get a contract on ours.

Like books, there are millions of houses out there, all for sale and begging to be picked. Each has its strong points (usually) and each has some drawbacks. But, if the house is pretty enough, has good bones, and gives us at least most of what we want, we'll offer to buy it. Books are all begging to be picked, too. So they'd better have pretty covers and good bones beneath the cover. And if they deliver the message we were looking for, so much the better.

A Widow's Salvation is available for pre-orders now, and will be released on September 7, 2015. It has a pretty cover and I hope you'll agree it has good bones beneath the cover. Here's a snippet from the book:

A little more than an hour later, he arrived at Central Park. He rode for a while on the bridle paths, which were the best way to take in the park, but he wanted to get off his horse for a bit and walk. He spied a stable a few steps off the bridle path and entered the facility.
The man in charge saluted him, and Elijah suppressed a grimace. There was no getting away from the war.
“I want to take a walk through the park for a while. Can you stable my horse for an hour or so?”
“Happy to, Colonel. Enjoy your afternoon.”
Elijah set off on foot. He had an interest in bridges and wanted to see the Glade Bridge. It had been under construction on his previous visit, and the fact it was made from locally quarried sandstone enhanced its appeal to him. The design was as lovely as he’d imagined it to be, since it blended with the landscape rather than protruded from it. He spent a few minutes admiring the bridge from several angles, then moved on to the Bethesda Terrace, which was positioned in front of the fountain and the lake.
Elijah took his time descending the staircase, running his hands over the stone carvings of animals and birds, which adorned the banisters. Such attention to detail was part of what made the park so special, a jewel big enough for the entire city to enjoy. He inhaled a deep breath and stretched his back, feeling alive for the first time in a long time. There were other things going on than the ghastly war, a fact he had forgotten. He glanced up at the clear blue sky and then shifted his gaze to the vast lake. The city fathers had been so forward-thinking when they’d taken possession of a swamp in the middle of the city, upon which no buildings of any size could be erected, and turned it into a huge park and lake. Central Park would be a showpiece for the city for decades to come, especially after it was completed. Why had it taken him a year to return? To appreciate its beauty?
Because he’d been busy trying to save the lives of the brave soldiers who had answered the call for service. Now, thanks to a woman named Pepper Brown, he was trying to save his own life. For the first years after Elisabeth died, he’d wanted to join her, and nearly worked himself to death as a result. He no longer wanted that fate, and he was now taking the first steps toward a future without her. He walked toward the fountain and the lake beyond.
The laughter of children made its way to his ears. He scanned the crowd. So many children, so many people. This had been a foolhardy mission on his part. If he was going to take the time to escape the hospital and meet Pepper in a park, he should make certain to set it up with her first and to have a clear plan. It was getting late, and he needed to return to the stable, pick up his horse, and ride back to the Bronx before dark.
The sea of humanity parted just then, and Elijah spied the one person he’d been searching for. Pepper, surrounded by her children, glanced up from them at the same time his gaze found her. Her lips curved in an even wider smile, and she waved.
The Bronx could wait awhile longer. 

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Sunday, August 23, 2015

Ready For Launch

Anyone who has a book for sale knows that getting the book published is only the first step in a very long, winding, ever-changing and sometimes costly, road. Marketing of your book is something you don't really think about when you're writing it and trying to find a publisher. But it's a vital part of any author's duties, regardless of whether you're an independent publisher, with a small press, or with one of the big boys.

My eighth historical in my series comes out on September 7. By now, I've learned a few things about what works and what doesn't. One of the things I'm cutting back on is the guest blogs. They all take time to write and post, and it's time that could be better spent. I'll appear on a handful, but I will no longer appear on three a day during release week, as I've done in the past. It's hard to tell what works and what doesn't in the best of circumstances, but if you start muddying the waters with multiple blog posts, you'll never know where those sales are coming from.

In addition to blog sites, there are review sites. I've got my favorites, those who have reviewed me in the past and were complimentary, so I go back to them each time. But review sites are a constantly evolving business, so I always try to find one or two new ones to solicit.

My checklist is pretty well in order for the upcoming release. My guest posts are written, my Advance Review Copies (ARCs) are out there now, being devoured (hopefully) by my reviewers, my website is being updated, I've started putting out announcements on Facebook about A Widow's Salvation now being available for pre-orders. I'm still contemplating doing some advertising specific to readers of historical fiction, so there's work yet to do. But especially when money is involved, I prefer to take my time.

In between doing all this, I can start to obsess over my numbers on Amazon. And work on Book 9, The Forgotten Debutante. A writer's work is never done, regardless of where you're at in the journey or how high you are in the charts.

So I'll keep my nose to the grindstone and see what happens this go-round. Happy Release Day!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Moving Things Around

Jigsaw puzzles play a big part in my life. I have found, when I'm having trouble with a scene, or a plot line, the best thing to do is to step away from the manuscript and work on a puzzle. Somehow, the mindless sorting of pieces, and then locking them together into an intricate pattern helps me sort through the plot possibilities of my story and I can then write the scene in its logical order.

This familiarity with jigsaws worked for me when it was requested that I move a scene in my most recent book, A Widow's Salvation, due out on September 7. I had to take that piece, that scene, out from its place in the story, reposition it, and then write around it to make certain all the edges matched up again, and that it locked together seamlessly into the story line.

Now, the puzzle pieces are invading my personal life. As most of you know, I've had some medical issues, and the decision was made to move my bed from the second floor. The only place it would fit on the first floor was my office–that sanctified space where all of my books have been written. Now, the desk is shoved up against the wall and my bed takes up most of the room. I'm still trying to get the edges to match up.

One thing that I've noticed, though, by combining my sleep and work space is that there is no hard and fast dividing line. If I have a scene rolling around in my head, or some social media I need to work on, I don't need to lie there wide awake and wait until morning. Now, I can just jump out of bed and be at my desk, my computer, in no time. Obviously, I need to work on control issues. And I need to sort out those jigsaw edges.

But I have to admit, in all my years of working for someone else, I never wanted to jump out of bed and go to work. I'll take a few ragged jigsaw pieces. Mary likes the fact that I can work from home. That's enough for me.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Open House

Most of you who follow this blog know my house in Oberlin is on the market. So today, we're having the first open house for it. We're frantically cleaning each room, putting a spit shine on every piece of furniture, emptying wastebaskets, tucking the extra dog bed out on the screened porch and running the Swiffer one final time over the floors. Then, we put fresh flowers in each room for added ambiance, turn it over to the real estate agents, and leave, hoping for a sale.

I can't help but compare it to the editing process. You knew that was coming, didn't you?

During editing, I go chapter by chapter over the manuscript as I format it, searching for overused words and phrases, making certain all the senses are represented equally and adequately, that I've added in description, visceral responses, some hopefully witty narrative, and given my characters solid reasons why they are resisting each other. I make certain I'm staying in one person's head throughout the entire scene. Taking care of the basics, sweeping away the heavy debris.

When I'm done with the hard edits, I'll go back over the manuscript a second time, reading it through from start to finish, putting a spit shine on each word, phrase, sentence. I look through the file of unused scenes to see if anything is worthy of being put back into the story, and if not, I empty the file. I clean each scene of extraneous materials by eliminating words and phrases that go nowhere, or add nothing to the story.

Then, I read it again. I run through the manuscript one more time, catching typos, extra commas, odd phrasing, making certain I have the same eye color for the hero throughout and that the heroine doesn't change her clothes mid-scene, unless she's supposed to. When I'm done with this read, I'll go back once more and see if there's any place I can add to the story to make it more effective. To add ambiance.

Only then do I consider my work ready for a publisher's eyes. If I'm fortunate enough to capture the eye of a publisher, they turn my manuscript over to their production department and the editing process begins again. By the time the book releases, I will have read it over and over at least seven or eight times, to the point where I have parts of it memorized. In the end, the manuscript leaves my hands, and I hope for a sale.

I just finished the final edits of A Widow's Salvation, due out September 7. It's now left my hands for good, and I'm hoping for a sale come September. Or two. Or two thousand. We'll see how it goes.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Back To Normal

One of the best things about being an author (at least in my opinion) is the multitude of types of work involved. Right now, I'm involved in the following:

1)  final edits for A Widow's Salvation–lots of tedious reading of line by line to catch typos, lost quote marks, and the like. It's scheduled for release on September 7.

2) I try to add 1,000 words a day to my WIP, the last book in the Cotillion Ball Series–the creative part of my day. The Forgotten Debutante, about Saffron Fitzpatrick, will be released in the Spring of 2016.

3) I check emails and collect my number of visitors to my website and blog–the strategic part of the day.

4) And I am lining up guest blog appearances, finding reviewers for my book, and deciding on which ad campaign, if any, will work best–the marketing part. I really love to answer the questions other bloggers pose to me. I never thought I'd enjoy that part of the business as much as I do. A pleasant surprise.

In my spare time, I am searching for a new house to live in, and we go out two or three times a week on a scouting mission.

And, there's always the other WIP, which I desperately want to finish by the end of the year. I found a model last year who is my inspiration for Raoul, or Lone Wolf. Maybe I don't want to finish the book because I'd have to remove the image?

If I run out of things to do, I have another workshop queued up and ready to go so I can become a better writer.

It's always something.

And I wouldn't have it any other way.

What are you doing this week?