Writer’s Block

Is there such a thing as Writer’s Block? Or is it merely an excuse for poor planning? Because if you’ve properly laid the groundwork for your novel, you should know exactly where the story is headed. Some writers are pantsers and not plotters, and their novel writing experience is a meandering road that will eventually lead to the end. Whichever way you tell a story, the middle might become a muddle where the road ahead is obscured. But this doesn’t have to happen if you retrace your steps and build on whatever is already present.

Writer's Block

In terms of writing the story, I don’t believe Writer’s Block exists. Even when faced with the complexity of writing a novel, we can break it down into baby steps. One hour of writing, one page, one chapter. We keep going until we are done. However, in terms of lost confidence or too many outside distractions, it can definitely be real.

Loss of confidence comes from a variety of sources, such as a bad review, a publisher who rejects your next option book or dumps you altogether, a line that is cancelled along with all its authors. You might feel lost, doubting your talent and questioning which way to go. But if you’re a career writer, you’ll either ignore that nasty review and celebrate the good ones instead, or you’ll pick yourself up and find a new publisher or will decide to try the indie route.

Outside distractions can be another major cause of Writer’s Block. Disastrous world events can become huge roadblocks. Our writing becomes insignificant in the face of these catastrophes. Storytelling seems meaningless, and yet we have to remember that books offer comfort to our readers. It’s our calling to provide escapism and entertainment during troubled times.

Personal events are much more difficult to ignore. Some writers find sitting at the computer to be comforting during personal crises. Others find it impossible to write. That’s okay. We need to allow time to process what has occurred, and hopefully, someday the muse will return.

Speaking of minds, in my fiction writing classes, I advise writers to examine their character’s life space to get to know them. This is what’s in the person’s head at any given moment in time. For example, three items are occupying my mind right now that are blocking my creativity.

Because of Covid 19, I hesitate to start a new project when each day brings the possibility of getting struck down by the virus. I have to avoid the news and shut out the dire prophesies in order to get anything done.

Another big energy drain is our desire to move to be near our kids. We’ve been packing, getting rid of stuff, looking at houses on Zillow every day. After living here for forty years, this isn’t easy for us.

The business of writing is also taking up a large portion of my brain. I am still working on reissuing the remainder of my backlist titles. After these are done, I’d like to bundle them into box sets and run price promotions. These require a learning curve as well as more time and effort to put them into action. In fact, I could focus totally on marketing and never write another book. And what about those standalones buried in my desk drawers? Are they worth publishing?

Physical problems can be inhibiting. People with pain may be unable to focus. Surgeries require time to heal. Along with health concerns come aging issues. How much longer will we be able to keep writing? Is it worth the effort to start a new series? How many more books will we be able to finish in our remaining years, and is that how we want to spend them?

Yet being a writer is who we are. We write stories because it fills our time, satisfies an inner need, expresses our creativity and gives our days purpose. We hang out with other writers and contribute to the writing community.

Does Writer's Block really exist? #amwriting #writetip Click To Tweet

We’ve all been distracted by these problems and somehow we’ve found our way back, often to even greater success.  I suspect the secret is what I’ve told aspiring authors. Focus on the writing first thing each day. Shove aside anything else on your mind and spend an hour on your writing project. Then let the world flood your mind.

What advice do you offer writers struggling with these issues?

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Using Models for Settings

Using Models for Settings

In creating the setting within a setting for your story, it’s helpful if you can model your site after one in existence. Then you can transplant the real place into your larger story and alter the details to suit your novel. Writers may find this easier than making up a site from scratch. It doesn’t work all the time but can be helpful when you find just the right place. Or sometimes, it’s a real place that inspires you to write the story.

This happened to me with EASTER HAIR HUNT, #16 in the Bad Hair Day Mysteries. The overall setting is Broward County, Florida. But the mystery itself takes place at Tremayne Manor, a historic mansion privately owned but open to the public for special events and guided tours.

I modeled this estate after Hillwood Estate, Museum and Gardens in Washington D.C. I’d been entranced by this former home to heiress Marjorie Post when we visited a number of years ago. We had delighted in having lunch at the café out by the formal gardens, strolling the manicured lanes and touring the historic house with its Russian treasures. I love this place, and so I transformed it into Tremayne Manor for purposes of my story. It helped that I had bought a booklet there describing the house and its contents.

Here’s an excerpt from my story:

Marla had only gotten a quick glimpse of the interior at her arrival. The entry hall at the front had faux stone walls, a crystal chandelier, and a grand staircase leading to the second level. Portraits of famous Russian royalty adorned the walls. Marla had gotten a kick out of it, since her own heritage went back to Russian aristocracy before the Revolution.

Voices rose in laughter from the dining room as Marla followed Lacey through a series of rooms. The guests appeared to be ignoring the turmoil outside. Then again, the action was happening back toward the tree line, so it might not be visible from their window view.

“I wish I’d taken the guided tour of your house,” Marla said as they passed into a room containing built-in, lighted display cases holding fancy porcelain dinnerware.

Lacey halted to regard her with a proud smile. “My husband’s grandmother became interested in Imperial art when she visited Moscow and St. Petersburg. Many of these pieces come from dessert services used by Catherine the Great. They bear the insignia of Russia’s most elite orders. The Queen would give dinners each year to honor the people who’d earned knighthoods.”

“These little cups are cute,” Marla said, examining a set emblazoned with silver stars.

“Those are my favorites. The ice cups were used for sorbets and custards, and I have a fondness for gelato. But come, I must see if this egg is truly from our collection.”

They passed through several rooms that would befit a palace with their ornate furnishings and valuable artifacts. Marla wondered why more security measures weren’t evident. She’d noticed the guard patrolling the interior, and each room had video monitors, but what about motion detectors and infrared lasers like she’d seen in movies?

Lacey headed directly to a tabletop display case in the center of one room. “Oh, my Lord,” she said, staring in disbelief.

“What is it?” Marla peered at a label that said the items in the case were made by Carl Fabergé, the famous jeweler commissioned by Russian royalty to make precious works of art. Three jeweled eggs rested on individual stands inside the glass case.

Uh-oh. One of them didn’t look right.

For SHEAR MURDER, I took one of our favorite places in Orlando named Harry P. Leu Gardens and transplanted it to fictional Orchid Isle as the site for a wedding. We’d strolled the lovely grounds at this fifty-acre botanical park and I used my memory, as well as a site map, to describe the intimate details in the story.

Reaching an intersection, Marla examined the signposts. Even though she had been here last night, she couldn’t remember which way to go. She aimed to find the Bride’s Cottage, where Jill was getting dressed.

Lugging her bag full of supplies, she swiped at her forehead, beaded with sweat. Her lavender gown swished about her ankles as she swatted an insect, cursing the humidity. She’d left behind the other bridal attendants, still primping in a private room across from the banquet hall. They had the benefit of air-conditioning, while she sweltered in the afternoon heat.

An evergreen scent pervaded the moist air, likely from the pine needles used as mulch. Colorful orchids mingled among the tropical foliage along with red crotons, pink pentas, and Chinese fringe flowers. Dense growth peppered the area, broken by a trickling stream. Alongside the path, green liriope acted as ground cover while moss-draped live oaks and laurel fig trees provided shade. Ferns, palms, and bromeliads competed for space.

The wedding would take place in the gazebo by the Rose Garden. Should she go left or right? She couldn’t remember if the wedding site was by the Floral Clock or the House Museum. Listening to birds twittering in the branches, she discerned voices coming closer.

“Chill out, babe. The ceremony hasn’t started yet. And anyway, I’m not the danged wedding photographer. My job is to cover the event in conjunction with the park’s debut, remember?”

“So why are you in such a hurry?” a sharp female voice replied. “It can’t be because you want to see the matron of honor, is it? Her husband is here somewhere. You wouldn’t want him to see you having an intimate tête-à-tête.”

“Get off my case, Hally. Focus on what you do best: observing other people and criticizing them.”

The couple rounded a corner and fell silent when they spotted Marla. Her quick glance detected the man’s scowl and the woman’s taut expression.

In my Drift Lords tale, WARRIOR ROGUE, I used Himeji Castle in Japan as a model for the enemy fortress in the story. I’d never visited, but I got the information I needed from the Internet. This castle fascinated me with its complexity. Short of visiting in person, I scoured online for layouts and details and then set my characters at the fictional Shirajo Manor.

At the top of the stairs, she spotted the manor, rising in the near distance. Multiple towers surrounded it. She assumed that site to be their destination.

Prodded in the back with a painful jolt, she stumbled forward toward another gate. Instead of opening to a path again, this door led inside a building.

“Leave the Drift Lord here.” Their commander indicated the wood plank floor in an empty room. The soldiers dumped him on the ground. “You four stay here and guard him until we get further orders. I’ll take the woman to General Morar.”

“What if she has the same power as the other one of her kind?” Gwarp said. He was the shortest among them with tufts of dark, spiked hair on his head. “We’ve heard rumors, Leytnant Bosk. If they’re true—”

“She would have already killed us. See for yourself.” Bosk squeezed her arm, making her wince in pain. “She’s nothing but a puny female.” The officer leered at her, his whiskers nearly poking her in the face. “Maybe the general will give her to me after he’s done questioning her.”

“Not if his wife has any say. Dr. Morar is likely to want this one for her experiments.”

“Too bad, then there won’t be anything left to enjoy.” Grasping Jen’s arm, Leytnant Bosk dragged her toward a spiral stone stairway. “Come, we have to get through this maug building before we can access the citadel.”

TRIMMED TO DEATH has a fall festival with a bake-off contest at a local farm. This was modeled after Bedner’s Farm in Boynton Beach. We’d explored this farmer’s market as well as the U-pick sites and this became Kinsdale Farms in the story.

The sun beat down on her head as she traipsed from one site to another without spotting her quarry. Francine didn’t seem to be anywhere around the main buildings or vendors’ alley. Marla had even sped through the petting zoo and kiddie area, peeking inside the bounce house.

Maybe Francine had taken refuge in the sparsely populated fields. The crowd tended to congregate near the festival tents. Soon the judges would gather on the makeshift stage to announce the winners from the day’s competitions. Country music from the band was still going strong, but the musicians should be winding down soon.

Wait, what about the open shacks behind the marketplace building? Marla had passed various sheds on her way in from the parking lot. They held empty crates, farm equipment, and a variety of tractors. Francine could be hiding in their vicinity. But when Marla tromped over, she didn’t see any sign of her target.

Had anyone else finished the game? Marla meandered over to the registration desk and asked the lady in charge. Nobody had turned in a finished card, the woman told her with a puzzled frown. Usually they had a winner by now.

A pit of worry gnawed at Marla’s stomach. Where could Francine have gone?

These are only a few examples. As you see, if you need to visualize a place where you will set a scene, it’s a lot easier when you have a real site in mind. Then you can alter the details to suit your story’s needs.

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What are some places you’ve used as models in your books?

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Cliche Alert

When you write your first draft, it’s okay to forge ahead and write whatever channels through your mind. The next sweep through will give you the opportunity to eliminate those clichés you planted along the way.

Cliche Alert

I’m preparing to reissue The Drift Lords Series, and my cliché alert meter went into full mode back when I did my initial proofread for Warrior Lord. Here’s what I found then and how I changed these phrases. When writing your novel, try to stay in your character’s head and think of analogies relevant to her mindset. In this case, my heroine owns a pottery studio and is a down-home girl from Arizona. Erika ends up battling evil trolls and demons along the way to finding true love.

OLD: Erika sensed his withdrawal from the way his shoulders tensed and his jaw tightened. Had she done something wrong? She hadn’t said anything when the man next to him commented on his attire. Perhaps he’d detected her negative opinion of his costume. Sure, it looked great on him, but he stood out like a sore thumb. If he was hoping to avoid attention from their enemy, he’d gone about it the wrong way.

NEW: Erika sensed his withdrawal from the way his shoulders tensed and his jaw tightened. Had she done something wrong? She hadn’t said anything when the man next to him commented on his attire. Perhaps he’d detected her negative opinion of his costume. Sure, it looked great on him, but he stood out like gold among clay. If he was hoping to avoid attention from their enemy, he’d gone about it the wrong way.

OLD: As soon as the group passed, she eased open the door. A peek outside told her the coast was clear. She slipped into the corridor, Magnor following as stealthy as a jungle cat.

NEW: As soon as the group passed, she eased open the door. At Magnor’s nod of consent, she slipped into the corridor. He followed, moving with the stealth of a ninja.

OLD: She couldn’t help the pall of depression that settled over her shoulders like a shroud.

NEW: She couldn’t help the pall of depression that settled over her.

Sometimes it’s best to just eliminate the cliché. It also helps to make a list of terms familiar to the protagonist’s career. That’s how I came up with this change:

OLD: Magnor had grabbed her hand, and he let go as though she’d given him a hot coal.

NEW: Magnor had grabbed her hand, and he let go as though she’d given him a firebrick from her kiln.

OLD: A wave of despondence hit her like a punch to the gut.

NEW: I decided to keep this one. It won’t hurt every now and then to use a cliché so do your best and don’t worry about the rest.

When writing your novel, be on the alert for cliches and change them to enhance your character's viewpoint. #amwriting #writetip Click To Tweet

You get the idea? The self-editing process gives you the chance the rake through your words and make improvements. Clichés are only one of the problems you’ll be searching for as you read through your manuscript. Be sure to check those clichés at the door before submitting your work.

 

Homework for Writers

What is homework for writers? It’s when you need to learn something new, and instead of going the easy route by asking writer friends for answers, you do the research yourself. It’s okay to ask for advice and input but don’t expect to learn everything there is to know.

Homework for Writers

Where Should You Start?
Listserves can be a great source of information. Join your professional writing organizations, set your posts for daily digests, and scan the topics. Any time something pops up that you might use one day, copy and paste the information into a file. Then when the time comes, you’ll have a rich source of data that you can mine.

Blogs, podcasts, and webinars are another great source. So are your group’s newsletters, writing workshops and conference classes. Collect all the data and file it for when you need it. I’ve done this with just about every marketing topic I’ve ever needed to address.

Launching a New Venture
So now you are ready to get started self-publishing or putting your indie book into print or applying for a BookBub deal or trying an Amazon ad. Scour through your information on the topic and eliminate any links or material that’s outdated. See what applies to your situation. Then organize your tasks step-by-step. This gives you control and is more manageable than facing the entire job, which can be overwhelming. Once you’re ready, you need to ignore the fear of failure that might be holding you back and take a leap into the unknown.

Examples
On the loops, I’ve been reading about authors who get wide distribution for their audiobooks via Findaway Voices. I have corresponded with a few of them regarding the switch from exclusive to non-exclusive on ACX. That’s the first step to do if you’ve paid up front. As instructed, I also downloaded the audio chapters for each of my four audiobooks.

Next, I went onto the Findaway site and wrote down their requirements. Figuring my books would work, I requested the change from ACX support and am waiting for this to go through. Then I’ll do the upload to Findaway. At that point, lots of new promotional opportunities will open. I have notes on these also. My goal is to gain new listeners and hopefully get into the library market with my audiobooks. It’s all a big gamble, but then, what isn’t in this business?

I am also approaching my first sale with trepidation. Now that all of my mystery backlist titles are on board, I can start doing price promotions. But the idea seems overwhelming. You have to set a date, book ads around that date, notify the vendors, create memes and ads. It’s a lot to do, not to mention social media blasts to get the word out.

The only way I can approach this adventure is to be supremely organized. Again, I’ve studied my files, reviewed blogs on the topic, asked other authors how they’ve done it, and then wrote a step-by-step guide on what to do. I rechecked links on ad sites that might have gone defunct since I started my files and picked the best places based on what other authors have mentioned.

And that’s how we take the next step forward. We listen. We research a topic. We verify links and search out new ones. And we move forward. There’s no magic bullet for what you want to do. You have to collect the data and organize it to suit your needs. It’s part of the business of being a writer. Do. Your. Homework.

Writers need to do their Homework #writingtip #writingcommunity Click To Tweet

Share with us one of your goals that will be a new experience or that you’ve managed to accomplish on your own.

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A Writer’s Job is Never Done

Authors have all sorts of administrative tasks, from answering emails, to fielding workshop requests, to creating book ads, to keeping up with social media and writing blogs. These behind-the-scenes duties can keep us busy from morning to night.

A Writers's Job is Never Done

When I’m in a creative phase, the writing comes first. But right now, I am taking a moratorium from writing to get these other jobs done. Yesterday, I spent the morning updating all the buy links on my website. This was necessary since I’ve added my full-length Bad Hair Day mysteries to Ingram. Readers should be able to order the entire set in print at their local indie bookstore. The paperback editions are also available at Barnes and Noble, but they have to be ordered online because they’re coming from another distributor.

Meanwhile, I finished the final proofing for my first futuristic romance trilogy that required substantial editing. I’d written these traditionally published books years ago and needed to bring them up to my current standards. These will need new covers and reformatting. Hiring a cover designer is next on my agenda. If I have to help search for images, that could take hours. At least I already have a concept in mind for each series. I’ve also asked ACX for my audiobooks to go non-exclusive so I can put them “wide” in terms of distribution. Once I get the rights cleared, I’ll kick this project into gear.

Price promotions and box sets are on the horizon also, but these will involve a learning curve. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a while but had to get all my books uploaded first.

A Writer's Job is Never Done #amwriting #writingcommunity Click To Tweet

As you can see, these are full-time tasks. Once they are completed, I can move on to new works. Or maybe by then, this virus will be gone and I’ll want to enjoy life and being a grandma. Who knows? At the moment, we have to take things day-by-day.

Thankfully, as a writer, this doesn’t mean much in the way of adjustment. Our normal routine is to stay home in front of the computer. Since we are in forced isolation, we can get even more done if we focus on our work and not the daily news. So batten down your hatches. Make a list of all these nagging tasks you’ve been meaning to do as a writer. And get to work! Use this time to your advantage. What will be the first item on your list?

Story Dream – The Jewel in the Eye

Story dreams can inspire writers to write entire books. These can be vivid tales that we don’t want to let go when we wake up. We have to continue the story to its fitting end.

Mine are usually in the scifi/fantasy genre, although on occasion I’ll have one in the mystery or suspense arena. Circle of Light, my first published book and winner of the HOLT Medallion Award, began with a dream. It was so exciting that I didn’t want the dream to end. I had to finish it, and I did. This led to two more books in my Light-Years series. Scenes in Silver Serenade also were inspired in this way.

Dreamer Fantasy

Now there’s this one. It could easily be adapted to my Drift Lords series, which still needs the final three installments. I left it as a trilogy but with more to come. My attention turned to mysteries, but obviously this genre is still on my mind. So here is the dream. Let me know if you’d want the story to continue.

Enter the Dream

I watched this dream as though it was a movie. I am in it and yet I am not. A man is strapped to a table and about to be stabbed through the heart with a dagger. He is inside a temple where he’d attempted to steal/recover an ancient relic. The temple’s keepers have captured this Indiana Jones-type hero. He figures he’s a goner, but at the last minute, someone stays his assassin’s arm.

This person says he’ll save the hero but only under one condition. The hero must marry his daughter. Heck, why not? the hero thinks. He can figure a way out of it later. He agrees, and the rescuer asks for his word. Our hero has a stalwart reputation for integrity. He offers his promise to comply.

His rescuers whisk him aboard the savior’s ship. Before he can think of a way to escape his pledge of honor, the wedding commences. He stands beside the presiding authority at the far end of a gallery filled with seated guests. While presenting an outwardly calm appearance, he wonders why the father must force a man to wed his daughter. The woman must be truly ugly. As though to confirm his theory, she appears in her bridal gown fully veiled. He can’t see through the thick gauze. The veil remains on during the ceremony until its conclusion when he is told he may kiss the bride.

Wedding Couple

This is the moment of truth. He steels himself to face her and not betray his emotion.  But as the slender woman raises her veil, his mouth gapes in astonishment. She is the most beautiful creature he’s ever seen! She has long wavy blond hair and features that could have been carved by angels. He kisses her soft lips and is smitten by her beauty.

Blond Woman

They stride down the aisle to booming applause. What’s the catch? Does she turn into a werewolf at night? Is she a vampire who will use him as her next victim? Or is this beauty itself a glamour spell, and she’s hideous in her true form?

After the wedding feast, they retire to their cabin. The girl is shy about disrobing. Maybe she has horrible scarring from some childhood event. But no, her skin is smooth as silk and her body as desirable as his ultimate dreams.

She seems ashamed of an insignificant birthmark and claims it is the mark of a demon’s spawn. According to her people’s legends, at the age of thirty, she’ll turn into a monster that devours its young. Her parent’s story reinforces this belief. Her mother was said to have been visited by the devil because her husband was away at war when she allegedly conceived. The baby’s birthmark confirmed the superstitions.

Yet the heroine doesn’t fully believe this tale. She’s heard rumors of a ship in the harbor around the time the conception would have taken place. Could it be her mother knew of a secret exit from the castle and she’d met with a man from this vessel? How else could she have gotten pregnant when she’d been barren in the ten years she had been married? Had she been the one to spread rumors about a demon conception to allay suspicion about her infidelity?

The heroine means to discover if she is another man’s child. If the hero helps her with this goal, she will aid him in finding the coveted Jewel of the Eye. He needs this treasure’s power to right a terrible wrong that was done years ago. And so their quest begins. It turns out that the Jewel in the Eye is the hero’s new bride. She has a power….

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So what do you think? Write the story or let it go? Have you ever been inspired by a dream?

 

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Adding Front and Back Material to Your Book

Today we’re discussing adding front and back material to your soon-to-be self-published book. This is one of the advantages of indie publishing. You can add whatever bonus materials you want. In terms of Front Matter, less is better. You’ll want readers to access the first chapter as quickly as possible for the “Look Inside” feature on Amazon. So what should you include? Here are some options:

Front Material may include:

Cast of Characters
Copyright Page
Dedication
Family Tree
Map of Setting
Story Blurb with Review Quotes
Table of Contents

If you have a lot of characters, a cast of characters might be useful to the reader. Or it might discourage them from reading the book if they think it’ll be hard to keep track. I’ve had feedback both ways from fans.

The copyright page contains the book title, author, year of copyright, publisher imprint, statements about fair usage and permissions, ISBN numbers, and a Library of Congress number. Some of these are optional and some are not. We’ll discuss these choices more in another post.

Maps are always popular as are family trees. These could be offered in the back of the book rather than up front to save space. Same for the Dedication. A Table of Contents is critical for a nonfiction work. For a fiction work, this will be added when you upload your mobi or epub file to the different distributors.

Back Material may include:

About the Author + Social Media Links
Acknowledgments
Author’s Note
Book Club Discussion Guide
Call to Action for Newsletter and/or Reviews
Character Timelines
Excerpt of Sequel
Glossary
More Books by [Author] with Buy Link
World Building Details

After your story ends, you’ll have the chance to add bonus materials, such as a list of your books in series order, an excerpt of the sequel, reader discussion questions, research notes and more. Here you can put a Call to Action for your newsletter and/or reviews. Regarding buy links, keep in mind that certain vendors don’t like you to mention other sites. You’ll be safe if you use the book page on your website. Otherwise, you’ll have to change the buy link for each distributor.

Adding Front and Back Material to Your Book #indiepub #writingtips Click To Tweet

General Formatting Notes

My personal preference for e-books is to format my work in Times New Roman 12 pt. font, 1 inch margins, indent first line 0.33 inches, Widow/Orphan off, single spacing. I put a page break at the end of each chapter. The first paragraph of each chapter or after a space break is flush left. Your formatting source might advise something different. You can also upload your Word file to one of the third-party aggregators like Draft2Digital and they’ll do the conversions for you. More on this option another time. Next we’ll discuss Buying and Assigning ISBN numbers.

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Previous Posts on this Topic

Preparing Your Book for Self-Publishing

Why Self-Publish Your Book

 

Musings During the Virus

Being safe at home isn’t a hardship for a writer. We are used to long hours with our story characters as company. Many of us, during normal times, wish for more time to write our novels. However, now that we have this opportunity, it’s difficult for us to concentrate on a story in a fictional world that no longer exists.

Fortunately, I still have ten backlist titles to get online for your reading pleasure. Four of them are my former Five Star mysteries, books ten through thirteen in my Bad Hair Day series. The other six are earlier romances. My very first book, Circle of Light, features a plague that sweeps the galaxy. It’s very appropriate to today’s situation, but I want to get the whole Light-Years trilogy ready to go before hiring a cover artist. Here are the original covers from Dorchester. I’m working on book two right now. Yes, I wrote as Nancy Cane in those days.

Circle of Light by Nancy J. Cohen   Moonlight Rhapsody  

These books, being my earliest, require heavy self-editing to bring them up to my current standards. I am, in a way, grateful for this time to work on these books. It helps me escape the reality of what’s going on outside. And when fear threatens to steal my ambition, I tell myself that these stories help other people to escape the world we’re in together.

And so you can escape, too, whether it’s through books, TV shows, audiobooks or movies. If you’ve never listened to an audiobook, now is the time. It can be soothing to hear someone read you a story. I especially like the way a good narrator does the different character voices. Or maybe you prefer doing jigsaw puzzles or have craft projects you’ve always wanted to do.

It’s important to connect with friends and relatives via phone or online chats so you talk to someone each day. This will help you feel less isolated.

God bless each one of you. I am grateful for your support and friendship which means everything to me. I’m not too inspired to write blogs these days, so you may not hear from me for a while unless I decide to republish some of my earlier posts. You can always follow me on my other social media channels until then. Or let me know what you’d like me to discuss here and I’ll do my best to comply.

Let us all get through this safely. Eventually, things will get better. Our world has seen plagues before, and we have the best scientists researching in their labs. Please stay home and be well. Feel free to offer your suggestions for keeping sane in the comments section.

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Booklover’s Bench monthly book giveaway starts tomorrow. Click Here to enter April 1-18. 

NOTE: My writing workshop on “Self-Publishing Made Simple” scheduled for April 25 at 2:00 pm at the Alvin Sherman Library at NSU may be moved online. Keep watch here or on the original site for more details: https://nova.libcal.com/event/6616179 

Knickknacks Reveal Character

You can learn a lot about your story characters from the knickknacks in their house. Consider this topic when enhancing characterization in fiction writing.

Knickknacks Reveal Character

As we are attempting to declutter our shelves, I’m wondering why I collected so many souvenir drinking glasses, paperweights, candles and rocks. Yes, rocks. There’s also my wonky pen collection, a box full of troll dolls that I am loathe to give away, and letter openers. What do these things say about my personality? You tell me.

  trolls2

What can they say about your main character? Perhaps your heroine presents a tough exterior but has a collection of hair ornaments. Or your bookish hero hides a fascination with antique hunting knives. Maybe a sidekick is a cat fan and has decorated her house with cat-themed throw pillows and handmade ceramics depicting cats. For inspiration, check out those unsolicited catalogs you get in the mail.

hair ornament   ceramic cats

Be specific about what type of reading material your character keeps around. Does the heroine read steamy romances but pretends to disdain romance? Does your hero stick to instructional manuals because fiction isn’t real? What if the woman he’s interested in collects unicorn figurines? Will there be a clash in their interests? How about the pages of the magazines or books? Are the corners folded in, the spines bent, or is there a bookmark inside?

What secret longing do these objects represent? How about art? What does your heroine hang on her walls? Does your hero prefer sports memorabilia or does he have an interest in wall clocks? Maybe he hasn’t an eye for design and mismatches colors, while your heroine reads interior design magazines and believes everything should be coordinated.

pens   

It’s fascinating to view the items inside another person’s house. You can see what they enjoy collecting and learn more about them. It also gives you an idea what to get them for a gift. So next time you visit a friend or relative, take a stroll around and see what’s inside their curio cabinet, adorning their walls, or standing poised on a bookshelf.

Even owning nothing of a personal nature makes a statement in itself. Have fun delving into the intricacies of your protagonists’ hobbies so you can describe the collection through their eyes. It will give an added dimension to your story.

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Writing Goals Revisited 2019

Each year, I set goals for my career as a published author. In December, I’ll examine these writing goals and take stock of what I’ve accomplished. January is the time to set new goals for the year. It’s important to perform these tasks so you have a path to follow. I divide my writing objectives into two sets – Creative and Business. We have to work on both of these in our careers as professional authors. So let’s see what I’ve gotten done. I hold myself accountable to you, my readers.

 

CREATIVE GOALS

Reissue remaining backlist titles – PARTIALLY DONE

The following Author’s Editions were released this year. Each one takes a couple of months to complete with manuscript preparation, proofreading, formatting and cover design.

Died Blonde – March 5, 2019
Dead Roots – March 26, 2019
Perish by Pedicure – April 23, 2019
Killer Knots – May 21, 2019

Write and publish A Bad Hair Day Cookbook – DONE; released on Nov. 19, 2019

Any new book release requires a lot of work, from launch parties to blog tours to social media to reviews. A couple of weeks at least should be reserved for the prep work. The blog tour carries on for a couple of weeks past the release date and involves guest posts, interviews, articles and excerpts. These have to be written as part of the launch sequence. Reviews have to be recorded, reviewers thanked, and quotes added to online sites. Once all this is done, social media posts need to continue even as you turn your attention to the next book.

Write and publish Easter Hair Hunt, #16 in the Bad Hair Day Mysteries – IN PROGRESS

I wrote the book, revised it, did the edits, and sent it to beta readers. My cover artist almost has the cover done. This release is slated for March 10, 2020. Meanwhile, I’ve written the posts for a virtual book tour. Final proofreading and formatting come next before the book will be ready for pre-orders.

Publicize Large Print edition of Trimmed to Death from Wheeler Publishing – DONE; released on August 7, 2019


BUSINESS GOALS

Enter latest releases in writing contests – DONE

Carry on with newsletter, blogs and social media – DONE

Update website – DONE

This year, we converted my site to Managed WordPress, updated the theme, switched over my blog to my website, and added Office 365 email. These are things that hopefully don’t have to be done too often!

Bundle books into box sets – NOT DONE

This has turned into a bigger project as I have my cover designer updating all of my earlier mystery covers to be compatible with the later ones. At a glance, the covers need to have the same overall appearance in terms of font, text placement, color palette and series logo. Plus, there was an unexpected development with Five Star announcing they’ll be returning rights at the end of this year. That means we’ll have four more books to do. So this project has to be carried over to next year.

As you see, some things got done and others are incomplete. These will be added to my goals for 2020. And that’s the subject for another post in the new year. How did you do with your goals in 2019?