Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


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Blueprint to a book

I took a chance last weekend and planted the garden during the two nice days we had in a series of rainy ones. Needless to say, the very next day we got 2+ inches of rain. Not sure yet how much I’ll have to replant, and of course I forgot to take pictures. That’s on the agenda for next week’s post. Besides, maybe some stuff will start coming up by then (provided the seeds didn’t get washed away. Sigh.)

So I thought I’d give you a look-see into my class. Because of the trouble I’ve been having with Book 2, I decided to take an online course to both hold me accountable (since it’s being taught by my writing teacher and I don’t want to disappoint her 🙂 ) and lead me through the process.

I’ve been doing pretty well with my process–which has evolved somewhat–since I started drafting novels in earnest. I’m not counting the two I did before I seriously aimed at getting published. But Book 2 has been giving me fits for a long time. Part of it is because I wasn’t getting the story quite right, and part of it, I think, is because I would really like to work on something else (which I just figured out. Yeah, I know, it takes me a bit, but I think my Muse has been getting frustrated and just wants me to write something.)

The online class is called “Write Your Novel Fast and Sure”. Perfect! It walks you through the process of building and shaping a novel, from the famous (infamous?) core problem that the protagonist has to solve, to the “promise” you as a writer makes to your reader, to the plot points of the story.

It’s a blueprint, breaking the project down into manageable pieces. Honestly, I’ve never broken a story down like this at this stage (I’ve done it once the story is written in order to make sure it hits the important stuff). I usually “write” the story in my head, then put together a “story bible” with specifics like character bios, setting details, and a rough summary/timeline of events. Breaking this story down reveals some of the things I was getting hung up on, like having a big conflict between Sierra and Quinn. Stepping back, that won’t work because of the characters themselves, the type of people they are. They might get frustrated with each other, but a major conflict needs a major flashpoint between them, and there isn’t one of those in this story.

First, the core problem of the story, or as I’ve heard it said, the story “goal”. What does the main character have to do? That ties in with the “promise” to the reader, which goes back to what a reader expects from the genre. Since this is a mystery, the goal is to find out who killed the victim and why. The promise to the reader is that there will be at least one dead body, and someone will figure out what happened. Wrapped into this is stuff that is part of the “story bible” (and in case you are wondering, there is a nice post about story bibles over at Story Empire), like characters, setting, and timeframe.

Then on to your character’s journey through the story, making sure they hit the “plot points” along the way. There are about as many interpretations of plot points as there are writing craft books about plotting, but they all hit on the same ideas: the inciting incident, things start going wrong, the midpoint crisis when the character thinks about giving up, more things go wrong, the good guy and the bad guy have it out (aka the climax), and the wind-down (aka resolution).

I’m at the first five pages assignment, and struggling with the setup. Since this is only book 2, I have to anticipate readers who have not read book 1 (if this was book 10, I wouldn’t have to reintroduce everyone again). So, trying to introduce the main character, the primary costars, the victim and what he means to the main character, the timeframe, and the setting, all in the first five pages, is bogging me down. I have more characters to introduce in those first pages than I did with book 1, so that’s a challenge. Do I describe the costars? How much? Can I wait to give those details until later? How do I establish that the story takes place in 1993? Am I really starting at the right place?

Ugh. It’s a draft. If I keep reminding myself it’s a draft and I’ll be changing it later, it helps. A little.

This novel-writing stuff seems harder now than it used to be, since I learned more about story structure. I feel like I have to analyze everything to make sure it hits all the specs on the “template”.

Maybe it’s time for a little ditty about Jack and Diane–no, wait, I mean Alex(andra) and Kieran. Or Kenna and Shaw. Or Erinne and Sean. Or a scene or two for the elusive urban fantasy my Muse keeps tossing my way. Just to take a break from Sierra and Quinn.

It feels like summer is here. The gnats are out. Flowers are blooming. The grass needs to be cut. The kids are home for the summer; well, my daughter is home, my son is home for the weekend. To all those who have been in the path of Mother Nature’s not-so-nice weather, stay safe!

Enjoy your weekend!

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Book launch party = success!

APL event 4.

Last weekend I held a book launch party at our local public library, the first of this type of event I have ever done.

Yikes. I wasn’t sure what to do or expect. Thankfully a bunch of my writer friends *waves* have done this sort of thing before and posted about their experiences. The impression I got from other writers is that everyone kinda does their own thing.

How do you plan this sort of thing when you’ve never done it before?

You don’t. I knew I wanted to read the first chapter of the book. Other than that, it was “make it up as I go”.

It was a good turnout, even if half of the people there were relatives (some of whom came from the Twin Cities, no less). Having worked at the library, I recognized most of the locals. The library is a small-town library, with enough room for maybe thirty chairs comfortably, and almost all the chairs were filled.

APL event 3_cr

I drafted my daughter to take pictures for me, but didn’t know what to tell her to take pictures of. She did miss the airplane-shaped cookies the library director made for the event. Those were cool, and everyone liked them. The library director had a new grandbaby arrive the night before the event, so she missed out (but she got to see her first boy grandbaby!)

After introductions, I read the first chapter of my book, which is short enough to read and ends with a cliffhanger.

APL event 1

Then questions. My daughter (actually, my hubs fed her lines) asked a bunch when no one else did, so it was a nice Q&A session. Afterwards, people mingled and bought books. There were a few people I haven’t seen for a while there, so it was nice to catch up a little with them.

The best part was hearing how much people enjoyed the book. Few of the attendees had read the book, but one patron, who is a voracious–and discerning–mystery reader, loved it. She is someone who won’t hesitate to tell you if she didn’t finish a book or doesn’t like an author’s writing. She is great word-of-mouth advertising!

The local newspaper guy was there, so I also got my picture in the paper.

paper photo_crAll in all, it was a great event. We invited family over to our house afterward to visit for a bit (and bribed them with pizza 😀 ).

Our local library and the library league are great at sponsoring  events like this, and bringing in authors. We have had Marc Brown (Arthur children’s books) and the authors of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day), as well as many others, do presentations. Check in with your local library league to do events at the library. I mean, where else do booklovers go if there isn’t a bookstore handy?

This weekend I’m heading to a local indie bookstore with a reputation for supporting local mystery authors for a signing event with a fellow member of our Sisters in Crime chapter. It’ll be another first for me, but I’m looking forward to picking my fellow author’s brain a bit on setting up signings at other bookstores, which he’s been busy with since his second book came out early this year. I have to set up more author events, and it’ll be nice to get some tips.

And SPRING! The trees are getting green, the grass is super-green, and I saw tulips blooming yesterday. The local greenhouse has flowers out now. There’s nothing like those bursts of color after a long, gray, and dreary week. I stopped in to pick up seed potatoes and onion sets, because last year I didn’t get there early enough and all the potatoes and onions were gone. I’ll go back to get seeds and plants in a few weeks once hubs gets the garden tilled.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

zoey_cr


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Writer = yes, marketer = not so much

Hope everyone had a good Easter/Passover/Spring or whatever you celebrated (or didn’t). The weekend was gorgeous here, all sunny and spring-like. Family, food, and got to catch up a bit with the in-laws.

I think Winter is still trying to steal the spotlight, though. Forecast for today: wintry mix. C’mon, already. Give it up. Go on vacation until Turkey Day.

Everything is getting nice and green. The trees are starting to put their leaves on. I can’t wait until they start flowering. There’s nothing quite like driving through town with trees flowering. Roll down the window and smell the beauty!

Now that Easter is over, I get to put more time into marketing *cringe*. I know it’s a necessary part of the process, but now that I’m getting back into the writing groove, it’s taking time away from what I want–need–to do. Write.

One step at a time. I have to break things down into small bites, or I get too overwhelmed. This week I did an interview with a local podcaster who talks to Minnesota authors. That was fun, and we did it at the library in the city where I work (I  think I found a great new place to focus 🙂 ). She said she would let me know when the podcast will “air”, but not until later in May or June.

Today is Book Launch Party day! The local library director has been super in organizing this (yes, this is the library I substitute at) with ad announcements in the local paper, and even put the announcement on the light sign outside the city offices on the main drag into town:

light sign 1_crMy name in lights!

It’s my first book launch party, and the library director has never held one; even though the library has hosted a number of authors, there hasn’t been a launch party. When I checked into how to do a launch party, everyone does things a little differently. One of my Writing Sisters had some great ideas that will be fun.

A number of my family members plan to be there, and some local friends. I’ll draft my daughter to take pics. So what does one do at a launch party? I figure the usual author stuff: introduction, how long it took to write the book, where the idea came from–the questions I’ve been asked most often so far. Read a chapter, and hold a drawing. I’m testing the idea of having a prize that might translate to online giveaway drawings. I’ve got these:

drawing cups kona If you have read the book, kona coffee is in there. I haven’t done any online drawings yet, but I’m thinking a mug and coffee might be a good prize. What do you think? I also have other items to give away for promo stuff online, but I haven’t had a chance to look into doing that. It’s on my list. I can always do something with my newsletter–which I haven’t kicked off yet, either. Sigh.

When I found out today is Independent Bookstore Day–man, I could have set up something today at a bookstore. The Midwest Indie Bookstore organization is running a passport sort of thing to encourage people to visit independent bookstores over the summer, so they have a nice, convenient list of indies in MN, WI, etc; I can approach these stores in the future.  Next week I’m doing an author signing with another mystery writer at a local indie. He’s visited a number of bookstores, so I’ll get some info from him.

I’ll let you know how things go today. I’m not keen on being the center of attention. I know I need to write more books to keep the momentum, and I’m struggling with putting that into the mix of full-time job and part-time book promoter. I’m still behind reading blogs, so I’m sorry about that. I’m trying to catch up 🙂

Enjoy your weekend! May your spring flowers start blooming!

zoey couch1


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Busy … But at least it’s SPRING! #amreading #mystery #newrelease

Celebrating!

It’s been a busy week+ since my book release. Whew! And bonus: I got my books the day some of my readers (the ones who pre-ordered) got their books. There is something about holding the book in your hand to make it real.

Then there’s the whole “deer in the headlights” thing when the first person asks you to sign their copy of your book. First it’s: OMG, seriously? Then it’s: What the hell am I supposed to write?

And my awesome blog release tour hosts have helped spread the word since last week. If you haven’t stopped by their sites, here’s the list again:

March 13: D. L. Finn
March 18: Betsy Kerekes
March 19: Staci Troilo Audiobook Release Day!
March 21: Joan Hall
March 25: Jacqui Murray
March 27: Mae Clair

I still stare at my book in a state of near-disbelief. It’s been a bit scary, because as an introvert, I’ve always tried to stay in the wings. It’s much quieter there. The problem with that, though, is it doesn’t encourage people to buy your books, which is kind of the point.

It’s real!

“Congratulations, love.”

I start to turn, but my Muse stops me. Instead he picks up a book as he drops an arm around my shoulders and pulls me into him. Today he smells like rain with a trace of earthy loam. Spring.

“It looks good, love.”

“Thanks. People seem to like it.”

He gives me a squeeze before letting me go. “And they should. It took you long enough.”

Do I detect a hint of scolding in his voice? “Hey, there are writers out there whose first book took twice as long as mine did.”

He sets the book back in the box with the others. “Uh-huh. There are also a lot of writers out there whose first book took half the time.”

“Your point?”

His eyes narrow. “Your second book better not take as long as this one did.”

I manage–barely–to avoid rolling my eyes. “I know, I know. And you know I’ve been trying to write Book 2 ever since I signed the contract with my publisher.” Seven rough drafts so far. Seven! I’m working on the timeline again. I need to start rough draft number 8. “But you know I also have other stuff to do in the next month.” Not the least of which is spring cleaning. Ugh. We host Easter for my husband’s side of the family. And taxes. And I need to finalize my session handouts for the upcoming Writers’ Institute.

There is still time to register! Click here!

My Muse rests a hip on my desk, arms crossed. “Are you going to work with me more this time?”

“Are you going to stick around instead of jaunting off to who-knows-where?” I counter.

“Are you going to sit your ass down behind the keyboard and write?” he counter-counters. “I’ve been here, love, but I can only stir up the creative energies for you. You have to write it.”

I can’t hold back this time. I roll my eyes. “Yes. I have been sitting …”

He waves a finger, cutting me off. “No. I mean, sitting behind the keyboard, no distractions. You have to re-establish your writing spot. You know it. I insist on it.” He stands, towers over me. “Got it?

“Yes. I’ve got it.”

He’s right, and since I haven’t done anything to set up my son’s room as a writing office yet, I’ll have to go back to my old spot.

Busy schedule coming up. I know there are a few other blog release tours going on, and I’m trying to keep up with them; I apologize that I’m so far behind. I’ve also got a few reviews to write, and some other promo stuff to experiment with.

And SPRING! Woo-hoo! Crossing my fingers we don’t have any late-season snowstorms like we did last year. This year looks promising, except for all the flooding. We are fine where we’re at, and I can get to work without a problem, so it’s good. I should start some kale and maybe a few tomatoes and peppers this weekend, so they have time to get big enough for the garden. I’ll keep you posted.

Have a wonderful weekend!


What? I can sit here.


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It’s HERE! #mystery #aviation #amreading #newbook #releaseday

Trade Paperback and Ebook (Camel Press, 2019)

Happy Release Day!

Join me in welcoming my debut novel into the world!

Sierra Bauer, aircraft mechanic, struggled against personal tragedy to reclaim control of her life and her aviation career, but when she discovers a frozen body in her inspection plane, she must prove her innocence and uncover the key to exposing a deadly aviation conspiracy before she becomes the next casualty.

It has been a long couple of years, from the time I signed the contract with my publisher to today. And before that, a few years of writing, revising, and revising some more.

Whew!

Follow me over the next couple of weeks as I tour through the blogs of some generous hosts. This writing community of ours is incredible, with writers supporting and encouraging each other. I want to extend my sincere gratitude to those who are letting me use their blog for a day to promote my book. THANK YOU!

Visit these blogs on the dates listed to learn more about Murder in Plane Sight :

March 13: D. L. Finn
March 18: Betsy Kerekes
March 19: Staci Troilo Audiobook Release Day!
March 21: Joan Hall
March 25: Jacqui Murray
March 27: Mae Clair

Order at     Amazon     Barnes and Noble     IndieBound