Friday, September 4, 2009

Finally Finished -- With Draft One (and a dozen)

Whew! It took me forever to figure out "whodunit" in my third Marge Christensen Mystery (Who more than Wished You Were Dead?) -- I was three quarters of the way through before Marge discovered who the culprit was, and then I couldn't figure out how she was going to prove it. Every time Marge hit me over the head with an answer, I had to go back to the beginning again to make sure everything hung together.

I keep thinking I'll be smarter on my next book. I'll plan my characters, outline my plot, and know how Marge is getting from here to there. That way I can write straight through one draft before going back and revising. That's the way you're supposed to do it, isn't it?

But then again maybe not. Who's to say that if I plan it all out and know where I want to end up, Marge won't disagree and, in addition to reworking what is already written, I also have to revamp all my carefully laid plans to get where she decides I should go.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Critiques From Competitions

During my unpublished years, I often sent off the required number of pages of my manuscripts for competitions. I’ll probably do it again, in the hope that some judge will see wonderful things in my work and offer me the world. I guess it’s my answer to lottery tickets. I like to enter the competitions where they give feedback from the reviewers whether you won or not. I keep thinking those people must be wiser than I and if I follow their advice it will lead to someone offering me the world. These competitions sometimes give critiques by two different reviewers. The hope, I guess, is if you get two similar opinions you might be willing to put aside your ego and follow them to better writing.
The problem for me is that invariably, when I receive critiques from two reviewers, one loves the work and the other hates it. Sometimes for exactly the same reasons. But if I enter a competition where I get feedback from only one reviewer, that reviewer rarely likes my work. So I wonder: did I get the wrong reviewer?

Of course, I love the one that loves me. I think: that person understands me and what I’m trying to do. I bask in the glow of approval and wish the other opinion would go away.

Then I take a look at the other opinion. As with my editor, once I’ve finished whining about how misunderstood I am, I begin to look for what that person didn’t like and why. And that can be far more instructive, because, while I don’t have to agree with what the reviewer thinks I should do, I have to see why the criticism was made. Often, the same as with disagreements with my editor, I find that there is a third and better way altogether to handle the situation.

I do have a problem, however, with the reviewer who asserted that I should make my 47 year old protagonist younger – say mid-thirties – and maybe without the encumbrance of grown children – and maybe a boyfriend instead of a husband died in the previous book --so that she could have a romantic interest. Excuse me? Just how old was this reviewer?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Love Those Independent Bookstores

McClean and Eakins in Petoskey, Michigan not only advertised my appearance for a signing, they personally informed their mystery loving customers ahead of time and on the day of the signing that I would be there and they had already sold two of Why Did You Die In the Park? before my appearance. They steered browsing customers to my table to hear about my books. And they were just plain welcoming and supportive to me as the author.

The Seattle Mystery Bookshop allowed me to host my “Tea and Conversation” West Coast Book Launch even though I am an unknown, self-published author. This bookstore puts out a monthly list of store best-sellers, and my two books came in 5th and 9th among trade paperbacks the month of the book launch – a little extra punch for those looking for a good book.

Park Place Books in Kirkland, Washington, took four of each of my books on consignment sight unseen, because I was a local author when I wrote them.

And Horizon Books in Traverse City, Petoskey, and Cadillac, Michigan have allowed multiple signings for me as a local author, and they keep a stock of my signed book, as well as other local author’s books, on the shelves.

These are not the only independent bookstores that have allowed me to have signings, but these are examples of the kind of “above and beyond” treatment that motivates authors like me to steer as much business as possible their way. Remember to support your local independent bookstore!

Monday, March 9, 2009

New Book

I'm trying hard to do a better job of promoting the second book in the Marge Christensen Mystery Series. Since the first book came out I've learned a lot. But, readers like to read series in the order they were written, and those who first read this book and like it are already going to have the first two out of order. When the third one comes out I need to figure out some way to make sure people know it is preceded by two others, so they can get those first. That sounds a little circular, doesn't it??

Just got my first blurb back and it looks like the reader liked the book. She's one of the first "mystery reader" types to do a first read, so it means something if she likes it when she has read many other mystery authors. Word of mouth is more important for a self published author than one with the distribution power of a publisher behind the book, so I hope this round of ARC readings -- about ten times as many as I did with the first book -- will spread that circle.

But I still have to take the time to learn how to use the internet to sell my books. And I have to get them on Kindle. But thats a project for a couple months down the road, at least.

All this left brain activity does nothing to help me keep going on the third book!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

I am by nature shy and withdrawn, so, when I did my first book signing, I was nervous and tense. I couldn't imagine speaking up and trying to draw those passing customers over my way; they were obviously busy with something else.

But the refrain of a song kept running through my head: "Feel the fear and do it anyway." I took it as my motto. Before I knew it, I was greeting everyone who walked in with a smile, and asking everyone who looked at me if I could tell them about my book. Some smiled back and said no. Some stopped. Some listened. Sometimes they talked (not always about my book). Sometimes they bought a book, sometimes they didn't.

But suddenly I was leaving booksignings feeling good, whether I sold any books or not. And I started looking forward to the next the same way I look forward to social events.

Bring them on!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Where Have I Been?

Anyone who by chance is trying to follow my blog undoubtedly wonders where I've been for the last three months. Wondering what to write on my blog, that's where. I can't pretend to be expert enough to teach any aspect of writing or publishing or blogging. And some of the instructions I've read about blogging tell me that I have to have a "theme" or something readers of the blog come to expect so they won't be disappointed and stop reading. Well, sorry folks, I've given up on coming up with that. I'm going back to "Meandering" about anything and everything; then maybe I'll get something of interest in here every now and then. Lately all the buzz is telling me that now I need to "twitter". One more thing to worry about! Oh, my.