Train of Thought … right on track

Deadlines are often my mortal enemies. They hate me, and rightly so. I taunt them. I brush up against them in annoyingly familiar ways. I tell them their father was a hamster and their mother smelled of elderberries.
 
This behavior doesn’t make them go away. In fact, they seem to loom larger the more I harass them. They are angry, bitter little beasts that don’t appreciate my behavior in their presence. You see, I’m a procrastinator. Always have been. Was late for my own birth, and I’ve perfected the skill in the ensuing years. I had to run for the bus an unprecedented number of times during my school years. I had to stay up late in college the night before a paper was due. I left for work thirty seconds later than it would take the average person to get there. It’s almost like I don’t hear the clock ticking until the deadline is breathing down my neck.
 
Deadlines love this behavior. They start taking bets on me, that I’ll falter and miss the deadline this time. Sometimes they’ve thrown my self-imposed, internal deadlines at me as signs that I’ll likely miss a real deadline currently before me. But they don’t understand that I know the difference between a random, self-imposed deadline and a real, can’t-change-the-date deadline. I know because I routinely conquer the latter while allowing myself way too much slack on the former.
 
The proposed September release for my upcoming cross-country train trip book, Train of Thought, was a target date for my Indiegogo backers. I chose that month based on what seemed reasonable once I got home from my trip in mid-May. Setting the date with a month—but no specific date—gave me more than four weeks of leeway to keep that rather flexible, self-imposed deadline.
 
Meanwhile, the deadline demons know how crazy my summers are and were giggling with glee that this time they would win. What they failed to factor in was Beaver County BookFest on September 9. There was no way I was going to sit at a third BookFest table in a row with the same four books for sale. I needed a new book this year.
 
Add a real deadline I cannot change onto my self-imposed deadline and you’ve got one determined writer. Once I am up against a wall I cannot tear down, I always scale it just in time. Always. I procrastinate until the adrenaline kicks in, and then I dash ahead. The deadline demons keep forgetting that I have more than a half century of practice at this. Don’t try this at home, kids. I’m a professional.
 
They will never win.
 
I have approximately ten days to finish this book (including layout, which is already in place) in order to have physical copies here before September 9. That’s plenty of time, as long as I don’t clean the house or have a social life or get heroic with dinner prep for the next week and a half. Which is standard operating procedure around here even when I’m not on a deadline.
 
So, if you see me on social media sites at all over the next ten days, it’s only because I need to remind myself that the real world is still out there and hasn’t been nuked into oblivion by some little nutjob halfway around the world. Because that’s about the only thing that’s going to stop me from meeting this deadline.
 
Take that, deadline demons.
 
 

And the Beat Goes On . . .

This past week I released both the print and Kindle editions of my cozy mystery, The Scarlet Letter Opener. Not the first novel I’ve written, but the first novel I’ve put out there in the big, wide world.
And it feels a lot like watching your firstborn grow up, move out, get married … all those overused empty-nest clichés. It feels like all of them, but a lot more personal because, if your novel flops, you can’t blame it on anyone else but yourself. Nature, nurture, whatever. It’s all crap when you release a novel. Well, you can try to blame it on the cover designer or your beta readers, but that’s just a passive-aggressive device to avoid blame, and it’s not fooling anybody.
Anyway, a few of my trusted friends  [read: I’m pretty sure they’re not going to kill me in my sleep] finally convinced me that it was time to step up to the plate and shoulder the blame.
Wait… this isn’t coming out the way I had expected. Not really enticing anyone to read the book, am I?
Let me skip all the boring crap about how a writer’s creative yet blocked mind works and get right to the important stuff. The pertinent facts and rules:
1. The Scarlet Letter Opener, a cozy mystery, is now available on Amazon.com.
2. Please buy it and/or borrow it from Amazon.com.
3. If you buy and/or borrow it and enjoy it, please leave a favorable review on Amazon and/or Goodreads. Authors rely heavily on those reader reviews (especially the good ones).
4. If you buy and/or borrow it and don’t enjoy it, keep it to yourself, all right? Nobody wants to hear your negativity.
* * * * *
In other, semi-related news, another novel should be showing up within the next few weeks. This one’s a lot more serious. The cover reveal should happen later this week. Rules 2–4 above will still apply. You’re officially on notice.

The Writing Process

Well, how exciting is this? (That was a rhetorical question, so don’t even bother answering it.)
I was tagged by thriller author Catherine Lea to write about my writing process. I eagerly jumped at the chance … only to realize when it was too late that I really don’t have a process.
But let’s walk through my “process” anyway — if only as a negative example to the rest of you who might want to actually be successful someday…
I’ve got the bits and pieces (very large pieces, in most cases) of ten novels now. About half of those are actually written all the way through (in first draft form, at least). The rest are in a state of confusion or frustration, percolating in a [figurative] drawer somewhere until I can work through a sticky plot point or add a few more interesting characters to bolster the boring ones I currently see on the [figurative] page.
But, all but one of those novels has started at midnight on November 1 of any given year between 2004 and now. You see, I am at heart a terrible procrastinator. And, the only thing that has nudged me out of that slump has been National Novel Writing Month, which starts each year precisely at midnight on November 1 and ends with a whimper at midnight at the end of November 30.
At the end of every November, I have at least 50,000 words written on that year’s new novel project. Half the time I keep writing and finish the novel. The other half of the time — well, that’s where the [figurative] drawer comes in.
The two novels that are on the verge of seeing daylight (Secret Agent Manny and also The Scarlet Letter Opener) were both in the best shape at the end of their respective Novembers. So, those will be the first ones published.
A few other projects have special places in my heart but need a little more work — in particular, Do-It-Yourself Widow (which placed as a runner-up in Jerry Jenkins’s Operation First Novel contest a few years ago), and also Gray Area (the only non-NaNoWriMo novel in the bunch, which placed as a semifinalist in that same Jenkins contest a few years before that). We’ll see how quickly I can tidy those up.
Right now, as I work on Secret Agent Manny, my writing process looks like this:
  • Get up to feed hubby breakfast at 6 a.m.
  • Wave to hubby as he leaves at 6:45 a.m.
  • Head back to bed at 6:46 a.m.
  • Sleep until it adds up to something close to 7–8 hours of sleep.
  • Get up again, this time to feed myself breakfast and coffee.
  • Catch up on DVRed TV shows from previous night, if needed.
  • Head up to home office and go through bajillion emails from companies I have unsubscribed from thirteen times already.
  • Answer the 2–3 valid work emails.
  • Go back downstairs to grab veggies for guinea pigs, Bob and Frid, who have been wheeking at me from across the office ever since I got upstairs. Realize that I have just reinforced the wrong habit of coming upstairs without the veggies by doing it yet again today.
  • Look at clock. Panic that it is nearly noon already.
  • Shower. Dress.
  • Sit back at desk. Go through the half-bajillion new emails from other companies from whom I was sure I had unsubscribed back in 2010.
  • Continue with paid freelance work for other writers: typesetting, proofreading, copy editing . . .
  • Tell self I should take time to do my own writing once in a while.
  • Stare longingly across the office at the writing desk I set up two years ago — you know, the one I dust faithfully every week.
  • Sit at writing desk boldly. Feel invigorated and empowered.
  • Open diary program and tell it all about my day, which sounds suspiciously like the last entry in the diary program, from 2011.
  • Give myself a self-imposed deadline for finishing first draft of novel.
  • Talk myself out of self-imposed deadline because it’s not like I’m going to fire myself or anything.
  • From the office window near the writing desk, glimpse mail carrier coming up the sidewalk.
  • Squeal in delight that the mail is here, scaring Bob and Frid, and run downstairs to get the mail.
  • While I’m down here, do a load of laundry, start dinner, and mow the grass.
  • Weep uncontrollably at my own mortality.
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And this is precisely why Secret Agent Manny isn’t done yet.

50 Self-Published Books Worth Reading Contest! Go Vote!

Okay, friends! Please vote for my second book, Fork in the Road … and other pointless discussions, in this contest, where it’s been nominated in the Comedy category.

And, please feel free to share this link (and the instructions to vote for Fork in the Road in that Comedy category) on your own timelines! Voting ends in mid-May, but vote early so you don’t forget.

Apparently you may vote up to five times in each category, so feel free to vote early and vote often!

 

Vote for FORK IN THE ROAD HERE!

 

Kindle Edition on fire (so to speak)…!

One day out, and so far, so good on the Kindle edition for Fork in the Road … and other pointless discussions! Still awaiting word that the trade paperback version is available on Amazon (although I’ve ordered my own copies because I get certain privileges the little people don’t).

No, wait—the little people DO get those privileges, if they don’t mind ordering directly from CreateSpace instead of from Amazon. (CreateSpace can, well, create them immediately. A few more days for Amazon to catch up.) So if you’re dying for a print copy and don’t care about Amazon’s free shipping thing, you can order trade paperbacks here:

CreateSpace direct link for paperbacks of Fork in the Road

Otherwise, I’m okay with the one-day information on the Kindle edition, having seen this little page on Amazon just now (click the picture to see it bigger and better):

FITR-25-b

And now, I’m off to go see my dad for Father’s Day. And just because he’s so danged awesome. (Or should I saw “au-some”? No, I shouldn’t. It’s an old Au joke. There really aren’t any new Au jokes, though.)

Tomorrow I head off for the St. Davids Christian Writers’ Conference in Grove City, Pa. Once I’m back, I hit the ground running getting several of my NaNoWriMo novels tweaked and sent out in the big wide world….

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One down, one to go…

Well, finally …

3DBook

Fork in the Road … and other pointless discussions  is lurking around the CreateSpace ether, waiting to be cleared for takeoff. I’m obsessively checking my email inbox every twenty-seven seconds or so (give or take five seconds) so I can check the digital proof as soon as it shows up and approve the final layout.

It’s been a long time coming, but I can honestly say I am happy and relieved to finally have it heading out into the world. It clocked in at about 4,000 words more than Head in the Sand … and other unpopular positions. Many of the essays in Head in the Sand were written for contests or other venues (which makes for a bit of unevenness in a few spots), but everything from Fork in the Road was written with the book in mind.

Gotta give a shoutout to a few folks who saw me through this process with advice and helpful tips (in alphabetical order):
Chris Bowyer (who wishes to be known as Alan Smithee)
Lynne Gordon
Jerry Hatchett
Dora Machado
Lisa McClinsey
Fara Howell Pienkosky
Mel Rigney

I quite literally couldn’t have gotten here without your friendship and wisdom, lovingly shared. Thanks, guys!

In anticipation of Fork in the Road going live any second now [furtively checking email on the second monitor just in case… nope…], I’ve put Head in the Sand’s Kindle edition on sale for $0.99!

HeadintheSandPRINTfinal-FRONT-SMALL

CHEAP! CHEAP!   <——- CLICK HERE!

 

 

The print edition of Fork in the Road should be available in a few days. Once I approve the digital proof, I’m ordering my own copies to take to the St. Davids Christian Writers’ Conference next week. You guys can fight amongst yourselves for the privilege to order your own print copies while I’m gone. And remember to contact me for a free autographed bookplate for either print book! I’ll use an actual stamp on an actual envelope to mail it to you! (This offer void for Kindle editions. It makes no sense to put a sticker over your Kindle screen.)

Be on the lookout for upcoming posts with direct links to Fork in the Road!

The Next Big Thing: A Blog Hop

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Ah, a blog hop! I still haven’t quite figured out what it is, but I’m participating anyway. Read here, then hop away!

Below are my thought-provoking and informative answers to some questions a bunch of authors are asking and answering right now. And, I really do hope to have Secret Agent Manny out by late spring. Yes, of THIS year. Why do you ask?

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What is the working title of your next book?

I’m most excited about Secret Agent Manny, a comic pseudo-spy novel (more comic than spy, although the pseudo part would probably be the best adjective of the three if I’m being perfectly honest).

I have a hard time getting into a project (especially a large project) until I have a good title, and although I’m usually open to suggestions for titles, I also know it when I hear it. And, at the end of the day, I’ve usually come up with it myself. And then I can move forward.

I’ve been told I’ve got a knack for coming up with great titles. When a previous project, Do-It-Yourself Widow, placed as a runner-up in a national novel contest a few years ago, I was told that my title was the best of them all.

Now, if only I could get similar praise for the other 75,000 words in that project.

*

Where did the idea come from for the book?

Secret Agent Manny is my 2012 National Novel Writing Month project. The idea has to be credited to two writer pals of mine, James Watkins and Fara Howell Pienkosky. While at a writing conference last June, I got a disturbing phone call from my husband still at home, about a burglary there. As the writing conference progressed, Jim and Fara poked and prodded me into believing that my husband was actually living a double life as a spy.

Since Jim and I are both humor writers, and since Fara, though much more spiritual than I, has one of the best senses of humor in these parts, we escalated my poor husband’s imagined double-life to outrageous proportions the rest of the week.

By week’s end I knew I had to adapt their crazy (or not-so-crazy) ideas into a novel—a novel that starts out with a phone call strangely similar to the one I had with my husband that day: “There’s been an incident at the house…”

*

What genre does your book fall under?

I’d be more worried if you asked me what table my book fell under. But, to answer your actual question: It’s a comic pseudo-spy novel. Weren’t you paying attention earlier?
*

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

See, I don’t think there’s enough real spy action for this to be a James Bond movie, and I’m not sure the comedy translates all that well outside of book form … but since you ask, I’ll have to go with Oliver Platt for Manny and Mary Louise Parker for Amanda—but only if she’ll eat a sandwich or something first. That woman is too thin.

*

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

A bored wife with too much time on her hands begins to suspect that her quiet, mild-mannered husband is really a spy … and she inadvertently turns their lives upside down in her quest to discover the truth.

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Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

After years of telling myself that it was all right to self-publish the humor-essay books but not the novels, I’ve decided that God gave me a direct path to self-publishing even the novels: I’ve worked in the prepress publishing world for decades, and I have professional skills as a typesetter and proofreader. Why would I wait to see my book in print for years while going the traditional publishing route when I can wear all the prepress hats myself?

Life is too short to be traditional about this. Besides, within the next few nanoseconds, the term “traditional publishing” won’t mean anything anymore.

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How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

I’m still working on Secret Agent Manny, but the first 50,000 words are done—and now edited—and were originally written in November 2012, as part of NaNoWriMo. But, once I’m on fire about a project, I can churn it out quickly. I hope to have this ready by late spring 2013. Just don’t quote me on that.

*

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Ha ha ha. Genre. Compare. You’re so funny.

*

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

More kudos to those pesky friends of mine, Jim and Fara, for the inspiration. And once I went from just having fun coming up with reasons my husband is a spy during a writing conference to actively taking notes for a novel, the ideas just wouldn’t stop coming.

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What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

You’d be amazed at how differently you’ll look at your own spouse when you see just how many common household items and common daily routines you can call into question. All you need is a paranoid, suspicious nature and a little creativity, and all hell breaks loose.

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