Saturday, July 30, 2011

Week In Review, July 30 - Book Release, Cowboys and Aliens, Mandarin Pancakes

And... I'm back!

I am making some changes to the blog, and one of the first ones is to have a "week in review" post every weekend. I've always liked these kinds of posts on other blogs. I find when bloggers do such a post, those are the posts I never miss. So, I suppose we should all write what we love to read.


I am so far behind on this, it's just not funny. However, since I got two weeks socked out of my schedule in the middle of this dare, I am adding a week to the end of it. We'll see what I can do with two weeks and three weekends.

One of the things that has burst forward is an old idea I had for a Mick and Casey story, which I call "The Scoundrel's Confession." It was inspired by O.J. Simpson and the idea of a notorious killer being able to confess after being cleared of a crime. I could never get a latch onto it before, but now that it's working, it unfolding with all kinds of layers, into a rich story. I think it will end up a novelette, rather than a short story.

Book News

The paperback copy of Have Gun, Will Play is out! Almost. Even though Amazon's Create Space is the publisher, it appears to be available on Barnes and Noble before the page is up and ready for orders on Amazon. Hunh? What gives? Who knows? Once it's actually up and functional, and the e-version is associated with the paper version, I'll do some promotional stuff, like maybe giving away a signed copy or something.

Changes in the Blog

I will not be posting every day any more. The blog has evolved beyond the "small pan" of mere reporting dare progress, and the daily posting isn't necessarily good for the blog or me any more. The point of the blog is to help my writing, so.... I will be posting three times a week, and extra times as the mood strikes me. Every weekend I'll post a week in review post like this. It will include a writing update, and I will also keep the word counts in the sidebar. Then on Tuesday and Thursday, I'll post regular blog posts. When I get back to the interivews, those will appear on Fridays. If I get excited about something, I'll post on additional days.

At the Movies

Cowboys & Aliens is a grand film. The western has always appealed to me more as a mashup with other genres than in its pure form. (Hey, I write a mystery westerns. Whaddya expect?) I've never liked movies about nasty evil monster aliens. But good grief this works. The only flaw is more a trade-off than a flaw -- in bringing the two genres together the story gets a little squeezed, moving sometimes too fast from emotional point to emotional point, because there has to be room for the strangeness too. I mean, in a traditional western, there tends to be more room for silence and scenery, and for processing what's going on. In a monster movie, those silent moments are not processing moments -- they're tension moments. Cool, visceral, lurking danger moments. Favreau manages to balance these needs, but the pacing feels a little odd because we get half as much grandeur and half as much big scares.

Which, I think, makes it work. Most modern audiences don't sit still well for the grandeur moments these days, and those of us who aren't specifically fans of big scares really don't want to sit through more than necessary. You get a good taste of both without excess on either. I would say that the only reason this is a flaw is that it makes the geography seem a little less vast, because the characters move through it too fast. They don't seem to have to ride very far before they bump into something or someone.

However, Favreau clearly did listen to the lessons Spielberg gave him in John Ford visual geography. The horizon is almost always at the top of the screen, both dwarfing the characters, but also giving a slight sense of claustrophobia. The other thing he seems to do is boost the saturation on the colors, over the traditional western look. The landscape is not just vast, it's alive and vibrant, almost dreamlike.

This movie is a great example of an ensemble cast (as the best westerns AND monster movies are). There is just as much of a balancing act going on here -- with the supporting cast almost like that landscape, rising up and enveloping the stars of the show, their colors too a little over-saturated and vivid. Here again I am a little sorry that some elements feel rushed. I'm glad that we aren't subjected to too much detail on yet another town living in terror of a tyrant, but I sure wish we could have seen a little bit more of the chemistry between Harrison Ford's tyrant, and Adam Beach, as the young man who sees through to the good in him. We get to see some of that good for ourselves, but we don't get to see how Adam Beach sees it.

There is some cringe factor here, but not nearly as much as you usually get in a modern monster movie. It is appropriately PG-13.


I'm really enjoying the Kindle's ability to let me read LOTS of books at once. I tend to do that anyway, but what happens is I lose track of the physical copy of a book, and then I forget and eventually give up. I also like to read shorts and magazines, and it's really nice to have all of these at my fingertips all the time.

This past week I finished Agatha Christie's collection of Miss Marple stories "13 Problems" or "13 At Dinner." This is actually two collections put together of short stories with one particular conceit: People exchange mysterious stories after dinner and challenge each other to solve them. These are armchair stories at their finest, and maybe were part of the impetus to write "The Scoundrel's Confession," which is largely a kind of drawing room story about something that happened a long time earlier.

I'm currently reading Dorothy Sayer's "Clouds of Witness" and Deb Geary's "A Modern Witch."

Video clip of the Week

Monty Python and the Battle of Pearl Harbor

Tasty Food of the Week

After Cowboys & Aliens, we headed over to our favorite authentic Cantonese restaurant only to find that they were still closed for renovations. So instead we went to the Taiwanese place, which has a more limited menu, but is the only place in town to get certain things. We noticed they'd added a few things to the menu, including a new dish referred to as "Beef Crepe" or "Onion Crepe." I don't read Chinese well enough to sort it all out, but it looked like the Beef Crepe was actually jian bing -- a large flat pot sticker, often called a "Chinese Hamburger." Which is tasty so we ordered it and found it was something rather different.

It was a homemade green onion pancake -- not the thin crispy frozen kind some restaurants get and fry up, but the thick, chewy flexible kind -- fried golden and wrapped around some stewed beef with a lot of hoisin sauce, lettuce and onion (and maybe some cilantro -- but that may have just been the sauce). God that was good. The thing to remember is that the dough they make for those hearty green onion pancakes is the same stuff that is supposed to be used in the Mandarin pancakes used to wrap Peking Duck or Mu Shu Pork. Many restaurants just use flour tortillas and steam them. Its not at all the same. This was a huge treat.

We are so lucky to live in a town in the middle of nowhere which also happens to have a large Asian population.



On Tuesday I will post something long, thoughtful and important, I just don't know what it will be. (I wrote a bunch of such posts in rough form over this summer. Gotta see which ones I want to polish up this week.)

See you in the funny papers.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Baked Ham Joke and The Problem with Legacy Issues

As I continue my blog hiatus, here is the Tuesday Joke -- The Baked Ham Joke:

Once upon a time, a mother was teaching her daughter the family recipe for making a whole baked ham. It was the very best ham anybody had ever had so they always followed that recipe carefully.

They prepared the marinade, scored the skin, put in the cloves, and then came a step the daughter didn't understand.

"Why do we cut off the ends of the ham?" she said. "Doesn't that make it dry out?"

"You know, I don't know," said the mother. "That's just the way grandma taught me. We should call grandma and ask."

So they called grandma and asked, "why do we cut off the ends of the ham? Is it to let the marinade in, or what?"

"No," said Grandma. "To be honest, I cut the ends off because that's how my mother taught me. I added the marinade step later, because I was worried about the ham drying out. Let's call great grandma and ask her."

So they called the assisted living facility where great grandma was living, and the old woman listend to their questions, and then said.

"Oh, for land sakes! I cut off the ends because I didn't have a pan big enough for a whole ham!"


The lesson of the first story is this: Traditional publishing is a small pan. So are the tastes of your first mentor, and what you learned in college. You can do great things that fit inside them, and that may be where you want to be. But if you've moved beyond them, how many things are you still doing, subconsciously, to fit inside a pan you no longer use?

And here's another story in the same vein. This is a true story:

We had a student aide who, like so many of the students in a community college, was a "mature learner." She had done some hard living in her time -- including a period of her life when she'd had to move from apartment to apartment in search of the cheapest rent. It seemed like they were always packing and unpacking. It got so that they just didn't unpack anything they didn't immediately need. One day, when her life had settled down and she was in a house where she stayed for a while, she decided to go through the oldest boxes, and she found one box which had been moved, unopened, from one home to another from the very start.

She opened it, and what was in it?


Not junk. Not stuff she wished she had thrown away a long time ago. It was actual trash which she HAD thrown away a long time ago. Food wrappers and packing material and tissues. She'd put it in a garbage bag and set it aside to throw out as she left that first house... and some helpful soul had kindly packed it in a box for her and stuck it on the truck.

And for a decade she toted that box of trash with her from house to house.


The lesson of the second story is not about external things, but internal ones: Habit and Pride are a pair of helpful friends who will pack up your trash and make you take it with you. You can't really see it, though, until you open the box. And you only open the box when you catch a break and want to clear things out.

For instance, for me, I think this blog has been evolving away from my original purpose. And it's reached the point where I need to do a reboot. Not a radical change in what you see as readers so much as a major change in how I think of this blog. I'll talk about it more later when I start up again in a week.

In the meantime, I am finally able to get back to writing. I'm doing editing and assembly work on the W.I.P. and that involves a lot of effort for only a small amount of word count -- so I'm trying to put in a certain amount of work on that each day, and then devoting the word count to fresh fiction which I can get a little more momentum on.

I've written about half of a new Mick and Casey short story (or novelette -- we'll see how it goes). It was an old idea, but I never could make it work to my satisfaction because Mick and Casey did not really take part in the action. They were brought in as observers/witnesses. But I figured out how they could take a more dynamic part in the story. Also, Harry Lowe is involved, and we may get to meet him in this story, although I don't think he wants any part of the actual action.

I have also figured out how I just might be able to fit the story of how Mick and Casey met -- which is a straight out shoot 'em up Western screenplay, not a mystery and Mick is a secondary character -- into a proper mystery that fits in the series.

AND, I finally got the print version of Have Gun, Will Play up and approved. They have not processed it yet however, and I do not see it on my author page yet. I will announce with much hoopla when it's available.

See you in the funny papers.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Update and The Unemployed Manager Joke - Whatever Works

This has not only been a horrible week for writing, it's been a horrible week for even keeping track of what I wrote. I think I wrote a couple of 200 word bits here and there, but I don't remember when or which ones they were. I did paste them into the document -- so they're not lost -- I just don't know which ones I've counted and which I haven't.

Between the heat wave, and family, and hormones and a whole lot of other things, I am utterly exhausted. Or was until this evening. Tonight I am entertaining myself by doing a Magic of 100 exercise -- generating ideas for holiday mystery and crime stories. This is a good time of year to be thinking up and starting those Christmas stories to post on the blog and such. (It's a little late for submission to traditional magazines -- though some webzines and such might have a short enough time frame. Also, one can always start a round of submissions in January.)

I'm thinking of collecting a bunch of these ideas into a "Writing Prompts" book. It might even be something fun to do quarterly -- like a little writing magazine.

In the meantime: here's the joke of the day:


So there was once this company which had a problem with cronyism. The most useless of their upper managers had hired too many useless middle managers, who had in turn hired too many assistant managers. The administration costs were killing the company, so they decided to fire the deadwood.

Among these managers were two guys we shall call "Tweedledee" and "Tweedledum." Tweedledum figured the best way to keep his job would be to take credit anywhere he could, and he plastered his name all over every project he could find, even those he had little to do with. Tweedledee, on the other hand, was just a tiny touch smarter, and so he preferred to keep his head down, and he quietly made sure he took his name OFF every project out there.

And so, of course, Tweedledum got fired for wasting the company's resources on idiot projects (one of which was Tweedledee's idea). Tweedledee, on the other hand, managed to keep his job because nobody could blame him for anything.

But Tweedledee felt bad about it, so when Tweedledum's unemployment ran out, he gave him a job putting new siding on his garage.

Tweedledee came home that night and saw that the work was about half done, which he thought was pretty good for a guy who had been behind a desk for 15 years. And overall, the job looked well done. However, as Tweedledee watched his friend working away, he noticed something odd:

Tweedledum pulled out a nail, and examined it carefully, and then threw it away. Then he pulled out another nail, and examined it. He examined very nail before using it, and he only used about half of them. The rest he threw away!

"What are you doing?" said Tweedledee. "Those are expensive nails."

"It's a defective batch," said Tweedledum. "Half of them have the sharp point on the wrong end."

"You idiot!" said Tweedledee. "Those nails are not defective! They're for the other side of the building!"

So what is the lesson here?

"Whatever works."

You might be a little smarter than these guys, but the plain fact is, none of us understand everything that happens around us. Nobody knows everything. We're all idiots at something.

Throwing the nails away was a stupid thing to do. It was wasteful, and it may show another reason why Tweedledum lost his job.

On the other hand, even if Tweedledee did not fully understand how nails work either, it was frankly, kind of ingenious to decide to use the "faulty" nails on the other side of the building. The nails get used, the siding gets installed. No waste.

Tweedledee may have kept his job because nobody could blame him for things, but that odd ingenuity gave him an ability to get things done even thought he was not really equipped to do it. It's like Red Green says, "With a little ingenuity, any tool can be the right tool."

See you in the funny papers.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Konrath on Being Deliberate

Sorry about skipping the joke today. My mind has been blown by a lot of interaction and memories and stuff due to the family gatherings.

However, I had to stop and post about Joe Konrath's post today. He puts great words to something I've always believed in my gut, but I have always been too distracted by detail to get the big picture.

Be Deliberate.

What he's talking about is probably the most important thing about being a writer -- or artist, or human. As a reader or viewer or customer, you're passive. This magic happens for you and it seems like magic. But that magical experience comes from deliberate choices of the creator.

Beginning writers do not have the skill to be fully deliberate about everything they do -- every detail. And many writers get to rely on that. They like to imagine some magical inspiration or something doing the work for them. And that makes them lazy.

But a master is deliberate about everything. And if you want to be a master, you should start being deliberate before you actually make it to master.

This relates obliquely to one of the things I talk about a lot. Konrath mentions the fact that most people seem to assume anything they don't like is a mistake -- and writers who aren't deliberate about what they do feed this prejudice because, well, if you're not deliberate, a lot of what you do IS an accident, even when it's the best thing you do.

Over the past few years I've talked here quite a bit about things like nurturing your darlings rather than killing them, and about the value of Mary Sue, and about how legitimacy is overrated.

Conformity is a natural instinct, and a convenient one -- we can do things without the work of deliberation when we just go along with what the group mind says is right. As often as not, the group mind is pretty good at things like, oh, avoiding danger and surviving. But it takes nonconformity to invent new things. And nonconformity means you have to be deliberate. You have to think for yourself.

If you are nonconformist, it's not an excuse to skip the work of being a conformist. Nonconformity is more work, not less. Nobody has beaten a path for you. The whole point of nonconformity is that it's worth the extra effort.

(I say this because so often people jump for nonconformity as an excuse to escape the rules. Because after all, getting published the traditional way is such hard work.)

But one of the big jobs of being a nonconformist -- something Konrath touches on -- is that you have to be able to shake off criticism. I don't mean just ignore it. I mean that you have to be able to listen to it and not be bothered or swayed from your path.

Some criticism is directly useful -- this this is actually very rare once you are actually writing "deliberately" as Konrath describes it. That is, if you have sufficient command of language to do what you intend to do. At that point, it is extremely rare for someone to be able to give you specific info on how to do what YOU want to do better. It happens, but not that much.

A lot of criticism is indirectly useful, though. What it does is give you a view of how other people think. How they see things. Who your audience is and is not. This is the element of criticism which is not only most useful, but is also most overlooked. You aren't learning about you, you're learning about them. Since writing is about communication of your deliberately chosen adventure, understanding your audience is critical.

The key is reaching that point where you are actually deliberate about all those choices. That's the tough part.

Anyway, read Joe's post. It's nice to see him posting about craft, since he spends so much time on business and I think we need a little more of this.

See you in the funny papers.

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Turtle Joke - and an update

A friend of mine loves to tell this story.


THERE WAS THIS family of turtles who were going on a picnic. They packed up a wonderful lunch of really great sandwiches and also some bottles of pop and chips and stuff like that. The littlest turtle was so excited about this picnic, but being the youngest, he was always worried about being left out.

So the family sets off for the picnic grounds but soon after they leave, they realize they forgot the bottle opener. So big brother turtle turns to the littlest one, and says,

"Hey, run back and get the bottle opener."

"No!" says the little turtle. "I know how this goes. You'll all get to the picnic grounds and then eat all the sandwiches before I get back."

"We won't," says the big brother. "We'll wait here until you get back."

"You'll still eat all the sandwiches," says the little turtle. "I know you will. You always do."

"No we won't," says the brother. "We won't touch them."

"Yes you will! You always do!"

By this time everybody's getting hot and bothered, and mom turtle intervenes.

"Junior, got back and get that bottle opener. NOW!"

So the little turtle pouts and turns toward home. The other turtles sit in the shade and wait. And wait. And wait. It takes forever. Pretty soon it's noon. And then it's past noon.

And still the little turtle doesn't show up

"What's taking him so long?" says one turtle.

"He's pouting," says another.

Pretty soon it's later in the afternoon, and it's too late to hike all the way to the picnic grounds anyway. The turtles decide to give up on the whole thing and just have their picnic right there. They pull out the sandwiches and start to eat.

And just then, the little turtle, who had not gone home at all, but was hiding in the bushes the whole time, watching, jumps out and says:

"Ha! I KNEW you would eat those sandwiches while I was gone! I knew it!"


One lesson of this story might be that you get what you expect. If you really believe something will happen, you will act in a way that brings it about -- for good or bad.

I think there is another lesson of this story, though: When you obsess about things which are out of your control, you take your eye off the ball and you destroy everything. If that little turtle had stayed on task, the picnic would not have been ruined.

And regarding the subject of Staying On Task:

Since Tuesday, I haven't had a lot of word count on The Man Who Did Too Much, but I have made a lot of progress. I have finally got all the pieces together and found a way to structure them and get them organized.

I was a little overwhelmed with this, I think. But I found a method which worked: I set up folders for each chapter, and I gathered all the notes and versions and scene snippets into each folder. If I had notes for multiple chapters I cut and pasted the various parts in to separate documents to put in the right chapter.

I did this in a cold and practical way -- just organize, don't decide. Except, of course, I naturally did have to make decisions as I sorted this stuff out. Where's the chapter break? When I cutaway to another character, should I cut that scene in among this sequence, or have it happen in the next chapter? Is there a way to simplify that? Do I need another scene here? And just like when you clean out a garage, there comes a point when you are no longer overwhelmed. At first you do the easy decisions, and then harder ones. As things get into place, you see where other things go.

The other great progress I made in the last couple days is I got a clear vision of the next couple stories for the series.

THE MAN WHO STEPPED UP, in which an old woman dies from a fall on the poorly maintained stairs in her house -- even though she promised George she would not use those stairs until he could come back and fix them. (It's also possible that this could be called THE MAN WHO SLIPPED UP, but even though he does physically slip -- and later when she slips, he feels like he slipped up -- what he actually does is step up when others don't. I'll have to see.)

THE MAN WHO RAN AWAY, in which George takes the job of being the fox in a "clean boot" fox hunt -- that's when the hounds and riders hunt a human being through the woods. (I don't have a murder yet for that one -- but I'm assuming that either George or the hounds find a body. But maybe that's the expected thing -- and I need to come up with a twist.)

My biggest problem is that now... The Family Has Landed! I will be wrapped up in family events for the next week. (Plus it's the end of the semester again!) I think I have worked out some pockets of writing time, however. We'll see what happens.

On Tuesday, I'll post a classic old joke which you should know, if you don't already. And I'll let you know how far I've got with the story.

See you in the funny papers.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Creating the Cover: At Last A Cover For My Hardest Book!

(For new readers, this is a continuation of my series about creating a cover. Most of this post is a "standalone" but you may want to catch up with my first post in the series, about using Amateur Illustration as a Brand.)

I now have eight books, each with a completely different style of cover. And I have two more coming which will have completely different styles yet. And the genres of the books are also all over the place. So much for branding....

And yet a part of this is the learning curve. The books have somthing in common: my voice. And what I'm doing now is finding my visual voice. And this week I think I've found it, at least for my most "off-genre" books.

The Wife of Freedom is my toughest book to put a cover to. It's all genres and no-genres. When I sat down to write it, I deliberately threw off the idea of publication. I knew I wanted to write something without world-building or historical detail. I wanted to write a pure story. It's like a play on a stage -- with good costumes and props, but if the actors don't touch it, it either isn't there, or it's a dim painted backdrop which suggests more than it shows.

I wanted to do this partly as a reaction against the fashion of the time, in which setting overwhelmed everything in a story. In fantasy and science fiction, it was all elaborate world-building and magic systems, in historical fiction it was all time period and setting. Not that I'm against these things. It's just that it got to be the Monty Python spam sketch. Publishers needed books to be longer and bigger, and were demanding more stuff in every kind of story. And everywhere you went, everybody was pushing it, workshops talking about how important it was to include more "spam" in every dish. Writers pushing each other to find ways to slip more in. It was almost like an loyalty oath or something. Those who didn't like it, were lectured on being lazy or unsophisticated. I began to feel like I was in a cult.

But there was another reason I wanted to cut the story free of those kinds of expectations, and that was what was really on my mind: I really like folklore and traditional storytelling. Fairy tales don't take place in a specific kingdom. They have no historical accuracy or even consistency. They're like dreams -- they use what's useful and throw the rest away. And I wanted to capture that but in a regular story.

And it still might have been okay if I had written it as a fantasy, but I didn't have a story to tell about magic. I had a story about people.

Ah, but how to explain to anyone just what the heck it is? It's not a fantasy (though it takes place in an unreal world), it's not an historical (though it is like an historical), it's a love story which is decidedly not a romance.

And given all of the above (especially since I wrote it to be NOT publishable), it was the obvious choice to self-publish when I first heard about Kindle publishing.

Except, your first book is your "learning experience" book. Yikes! Blurb and cover are a real challenge for that book! I first did the obvious with a classic painting (public domain). Then I tried going for symbolism with a coin-like image. (After all part of Mary's problem is that she is seen by others as a symbol more than as who she is.) But the art really didn't convey the concept, and it just looked ugly.

But heck, it's not a book which sells much anyway. Maybe once every two months. No Big. Just forget about it.

The along comes this series of blog posts: The Misplaced Hero cover and all my efforts to come up with a brand for it. So there I am, studying period samples, and WPA posters and sitting in on these lectures in the Digital Illustration by a wonderful illustrator.... and things start clicking. And last week, the big click happened.

I had just posted last week's post about WPA posters, and that very next day, the lectures were on color. And we were looking at examples of connotations and denotations of color, and color schemes and the various kinds of contrast and balance -- like contrast of hue, or contrast of value or contrast of saturation.

And one of the examples was a logo with a child sitting in a tree. It was a stylized silhouette, and the foreground and background were just two different values of the same or similar hue.

"Oh," says I. "Oh! Wait...OH!"

I had this flash of the "Save Your Eyes" poster from last week's WPA post. That background bit with the workers in silhouette in a darker yellow-orange, separated from the paler yellow background only by hue.

And suddenly I had this experience like on the TV show, CHUCK, where the intersect kicks in and all those relevant images just go flashing through Chuck's head and he suddenly knows what he needs to know. (And he always comes out of the flash saying, "Oh. Oh! OH!" like an eager monkey.)

Flash. My main character, Mary Alwyn is like that child in a tree. Flash. The whole story is designed to be like a play -- like the plays the WPA sponsored. Flash. Her husband is a writer of political tracts. Flash. Politics, woodcuts. The WPA is the wrong period, except (biggest flash) it can't be the wrong period, because there is no period. If anything this story is supposed to be like one period filtered through the eyes of many other generations. COOL!

But the intersect kept working for me, because after I got this designed, I began to worry. Is it too much like where I'm going with The Misplaced Hero and other Awarshi stories? They're really going to look similar compared to the different style of the Mick and Casey covers, and my mystery covers. What can I do to separate them?

And that's when the final thing hit me.

They may not be the same series, but they sure are the same genre. Yes, the Awarshi stories are more swashbuckling and Mary's stories are more melodrama -- but both come from the same well. They both come from an imaginary dream place which is not magical or fantasy, but not realistic. Built of old-fashioned genres and remembered images rather than facts.

Of course I should brand them the same way. My other books -- the mysteries, and a fantasy I have coming out this fall, have at least one foot planted in a commercial genre, so they should have covers which at least suggest those genres. Mary Alwyn and the Misplaced Hero are their own genre -- and it's good that they feed off each other.

A while ago I posted about being a newbie and a neo-pro, and how you gain perspective as you go. This goes for covers and branding too. You have a single book, and you worry about presenting that book. You have a second book, and you realize that you should have planned ahead, because that first cover was tough, and matching it will be even tougher. And as you get more books, you begin to think beyond that, and see how your worries didn't matter. And maybe you see something you overlooked in part of your overall brand.

So in that neo-pro post, I quoted Dean Wesley Smith stating that he wasn't accepted as a "real" pro until he had ten published books, and he didn't understand why until he'd written ten more. This is like that. You can't see the whole picture until you get enough pieces.

When you've got a lifetime of all different sorts of things scattered all over your career like I do, it's really nice to see those pieces start to fall into place. It takes time, and you begin to think that big picture is kind of a myth, a holy grail. Something you'll never really see.

It's lovely when you actually start to see it.

As I said in the last post, I'll be taking a break from posting for a couple of weeks. I'll just post Write-a-thon updates and jokes every Tuesday and Friday. I may post some art if I have something new, though I won't talk about it until August.

See you in the funny papers!

Oh, and you can check out The Wife of Freedom and its new cover at Amazon's Kindle Store, or at Amazon UK, or in multiple formats at Smashwords. (It is also available from Barnes and Noble, Kobo and the Sony Bookstores, but the cover hasn't filtered through yet.)

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Write-A-Thon Week 2 Update -- and Upcoming Vacation Time

Okay, it's early crunch time, on the Clarion Write-A-Thon. I'm a little behind where I want to be, at an average of 877 words a day so far, but if I meet my daily goal of 1200 words a day for the rest of the dare, I'll make the total goal.

My main disappointment is that I've been making my goals not by working on the W.I.P., but by writing on whatever project comes to mind. While, on the one hand, I am excited about what appears to be a hard-boiled mystery novelette featuring a human detective inspired by my cat, that's not what I need to be writing right now.

I am making progress on the W.I.P., though. It's just slower than I'd like because I have so many generations of drafts, and I realized I needed to ditch some foolish revisions and go back to the original premise. That actually does make it all easier... but I still have to figure out which pieces are which.

Plus, I've been having a nice sales pick up on Have Gun, Will Play, and some extra interest in Mick and Casey, so I really need to get at least "Devil In A Blue Bustle" done. It's a novella which I think will end up relatively long and meaty (it's at least half done now), and it's a fun story. (A mysterious woman in blue snubs Mick and Casey when she comes looking to hire a desperado. They aren't sure whether to be insulted or not... until the woman is found dead, and the bewildered man she hired instead of M and C is caught standing over her with a smoking gun. Something went very wrong with the job. Or did it?)

And I have family arriving and the upcoming memorial gathering.

So I need to declare a cut back on everything I can -- and this means a severely reduced blogging schedule. (Reduced? Not suspended? No, just reduced....)

On Tuesday, I'll post about the inspiration and creation of my new cover for Wife of Freedom, how it fits the book, AND fits in with my plans for branding myself with my own style.

Then I'll be posting a joke every Tuesday and Friday, along with the update numbers of my write-a-thon progress, and a little lesson related to each joke.

  • Tuesday, July 12 - Creating The Cover - New Wife of Freedom Cover
  • Friday, July15 - Update and the Turtle Joke (and a lesson about expectations).
  • Tuesday, July 19 - Update and the classic Pony Joke (with more on expectations).
  • Friday, July 22 - Update and the Unemployed Middle Manager Joke (point of view, and when the fool is right)
  • Tuesday, July 26 - Update and The Roast Ham Recipe Joke (and why it's good to let your internal editor interrupt once in a while).
  • Friday, July 29 - Update and The Hunting Accident Joke (and thoughts on following directions).

On Saturday July 30, I will begin the last week of the Write-A-Thon, and I'll also start getting back to a regular blogging schedule.

See you in the funny papers!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Blogging for Writers - Some Thoughts

Blogging for writers is kind of a love/hate thing.

On the one hand, we're these crazy people who sit alone and live in an imaginary world. Antisocial, reclusive, hermit-like, shy, introverted, whatever you may wish to call it. On the other hand, what we do is all about communication. We're all about talking (since written words are just a very recent development in the evolution of language). It's like we're hard-wired to be shy extroverts, or non-shy introverts.

On a practical level, writers blog to reach out. We may be reaching out to readers to promote our books, or to other writers to keep from going insane alone in our garrets. Or we may be just, you know, writing. Writing is what we do, after all, and blogs are a creative outlet too. A different kind of outlet from fiction, but definitely a part of that calling.

No matter what your original purpose, though, in the end your blog becomes your baby. You want it to thrive. And you want it to fit into your life in a way that's never a chore.

That's one thing I can say about this blog, unlike the other blogs I've had, even writing ones, it has never been a chore. It has been difficult at times, keeping the beast fed, but I never lose track of what this blog is about, because it's right there at the top of the page -- the definition of a novel dare.

It's nice to have subscribers, but this blog is not about getting subscribers. It's nice when someone buys a book after they read something here they like, but this blog isn't about promoting my books. It's nice when somebody learns something or is inspired by something I post, but that's not the prime directive here either.

This blog is an open journal of my writing life. Thoughts, fears, and most especially progress.

But with that, things come full circle. The key component of a writing dare is the public reporting of progress. The more people watching, the more public the success or failure, the better it all works. So in the end, I have the same goal as those who blog as a marketing tool:

I want this blog to succeed.

With that in mind, here are strategies I've been musing about lately.

1.) Blogging regularly.

Because of the Novel Dare basis of my blog, I chose to post daily here. And that is supposed to be a key to building your blog's ranking and popularity, too. It sounds challenging, but I find it's actually easier to keep up, than posting two or three times a week. Why? Because if you have to post something every night before bed, you never forget. It becomes a habit. When it's intermittent, though, that habit disappears.

But daily blogging also works against you for two reasons: the blogger gets tired, and the readers get tired. This past Tuesday night, I meant to type up a quick variation of this post, and my mind simply went to guacamole. It happens. So I went for the blogger's secret weapon, videos of cute kittens and puppies.

This spring I started a new strategy: using a regular schedule so I could prep post ahead, and limit how much heavy lifting I have to do. I think that was starting to work, and I will go back to that when this write-a-thon is over. But I am rethinking the daily blogging aspect....

...Well, I'm rethinking daily blogging in theory. Not in practice yet. "Hey, I should cut back on posting!" says I, and then I sort out what I really want to post: I like to write about three "think pieces" each week. And I want to continue the interviews, and I definitely want to do the story day and the story notes, and preview of coming posts ... gee, that's right back to seven days a week.

Still, for Fall, I'm looking at ways to consolidate what I'm doing. Maybe my stories and story notes should be blended with the "think pieces." I'm thinking of continuing the series with The Misplaced Hero, where I blog my decisions as I go. But this time, I'd post the chapter itself the day before the main post. However, I want to finish writing the whole thing before posting any of it, so people can read the whole thing if they want. Because preparing for the ending is a part of the process and I don't want to subject people to spoilers without them having a chance to read the story first. (I also think it might be interesting for people to see me planning for one ending and then changing it.)

In the meantime, I will be cutting back more severely on this blog for the next couple of weeks. (I'll mention more about that tomorrow, when I post a preview.) Not only is there too much going on in my life, but I feel the need for a reset. I suspect readers need a break sometimes too.

2.) Time of Day for Posting

I've been watching traffic patterns, and thinking about how when you post, news goes out, via RSS, and on people's Blogger Dashboard. And on many blog rolls, the links are in order of most recent post. So maybe midnight to 3am EDT is not the best time of day to post. I am going to experiment a little with scheduling posts to happen at 8am EDT instead.

And there is the related question of when I tweet or announce a post on a forum: different times of day get different traffic. I like to do this as soon as a post is up, because it's convenient, but I'm thinking about that.

I don't know how many others think about this, but since Google allows you to schedule posts, I don't have to post just when it's most convenient for me. I can just schedule it then and let it post while I sleep. It would be nice to have a little data.

3.) Search Engine Optimization? Nah. (Well, okay, some.)

I did SEO writing for a while, and the one thing I learned is that, unless you're trying to sell crappy products to suckers, most SEO techniques are pointless. Google is always changing the algorithm, and working to counteract manipulative techniques anyway.

And besides, if you do some research on keywords related to fiction, you'll find that there just is no optimum way to use keywording to capture the bulk of the audience.

Which isn't to say that SEO plays no part at all in building an audience for a blog. After I wrote the rough draft of this post, a relatively new blogger posted on Kindleboards about his successful efforts at SEO. He was using a technique that Google considers to be mildly "blackhat" (so I'm not going to describe it unless I do a post which can go fully into the pros and cons) but he wasn't taking it far and he was getting some extra search traffic from it. Not enormous search traffic, but more than a blog of that age should get.

And he was tapping into what search engines are really about: subject matter.

4.) Subject Matter.

Write about things close to your heart, and odds are those things will be close to the heart of your core audience. One caveat for writers, though: It's easy for writers to obsess endlessly about things like, oh, that great controversy -- whether to put two spaces after a period or one. Most readers don't give a flying hoo-ha about such things. You do that all the time, and you will only have writers for your readership.

Which isn't to say you shouldn't write about writer things. I write about writer things, and will continue to do so, but it's always good to remember what interests you as a reader as well as a writer. Characters, plot twists, favorite books. If you're reaching out, then reach out.

And if you write about an interesting variety of things -- especially if they aren't subjects with hot keywords -- readers will find you via search engine on those oddball topics.

One thing I'm planning to do as a more regular thing is talk about food and writing. Cooking and eating have a lot in common with other creative endeavors and they also make a great model for your relationship with the customer. People want food for more than the caloric intake: it's an event which occurs in their mouths. Just like fiction is an event which occurs in their heads.

This not only should connect with writers and non-writers alike, but the fact is, many mystery readers are foodies. That's why there are so many food related cozy series. It's always good to trust your gut. What you love, people who are like you will probably love it too, even if the connection isn't obvious.

Anyway, tomorrow I'll post more about my upcoming blog break, and the next day about creating my new cover.

See you in the funny papers.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Index to the Secondary Character Interviews So Far

I think I should take Tuesdays and Thursdays completely out of the writing cycle. (Of course, as soon as I do, two things will happen. One, I'll have my best writing day ever on a Tuesday or Thursday, and all the other days of the week will come up with great excuses to be exempted too.)

But I got some things done. I took my brilliant inspiration for the new cover of The Wife of Freedom, and put it into action. I have now uploaded the new covers on Smashwords and Amazon, however I expect it will take a very long time to trickle through to all of the other bookstores.

I'll talk more about this new cover in the Creating the Cover post on Tuesday.

I also did some good brainstorming, but so far have not come up with a good twist for Max Sparks' P.I. story. (Yes, I did name this detective after my cat. Like my cat, he is short in stature, and has the attitude of a feline, and courts the freckled and slightly zoftig goth barrista Maude, but he is human.)

In the meantime, I'll give you an indes to the Friday interviews I've done so far. (Some of them being Wednesday interviews.)

These are short interviews with authors about a secondary character in their books. I think secondary characters give you a real feel for the flavor and meaning of a book, and are a wonderful thing to talk to authors about. While these are mostly mystery/crime writers, there are some other genres sprinkled in. Some of the authors are indies, and some are traditionally published (and some both).

Here is a list of the interviews so far:

I hope you have been enjoying these interviews as much as I have. I have a backlog of authors who are interested in doing this (and a number who have already given me preliminary answer to the first basic questions). However, I really do want to work on better follow up questions -- to get deeper into the nitty gritty of what these characters do for the story, for the other characters, and even the author.

And that takes time and attention, so I'm taking some time off from the interviews for a while. I might start up in August again, but I know it's a slow time for people reading blogs, so the authors might just as soon wait for September.

In the meantime, I'll keep updating the dare regularly. On Saturday I have a think piece on writers and blogging -- why we blog and some strategies toward making a better blog, even when you're not doing it for the sake of success.

See you in the funny papers.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Old Pictures

The reason my word count has been fluctuating wildly is that I've got so much material already written, and I'm organizing it so that I can start fitting it together.

One interesting thing I've noticed: Every time I sit down, I plan to knit some pieces together and find a hole that needs to be filled so I have a nice list of scenes to work on. What actually happens is that I fail dismally (because I should be doing that after the writing session, not before -- which just makes me feel overwhelmed) and eat a bunch of chocolate, and then charge on off on some other scene that I just realized I need to write.

So the plan works, but never the way I intend it to.

The other thing that has been occupying my time is that we're having a memorial gathering up north this summer for my father, who died in November. I am trying to sort through the mass of family photos we have and scan as many as possible before we go up north. Then we can give photos which really belong to others in the family to them, and we can also make duplicates for people who want them.

And here are a couple of pictures for your pleasure viewing.

The first one is me and my dad in 1964. That little critter I'm carrying is a stuffed horse, which my grandmother made for me. He is not the first one, who was a brown corduroy horse with saphire button eyes, named Housie, but I can't identify this one. The next picture is me about to get on my VERY FIRST PLANE! To fly all the way to Quebec! That was two years later in 1966, and in my arms is a little sack with quite possibly the same horse sticking out of it.

And the third picture is me and my mother with my first actual horse -- Tony -- the day after our first horse show in 1970. You can't tell but I'm bracing myself, because Tony believed first and foremost that humans existed to be head scratchers, and he could throw you across the pasture with an enthusiastic rub. Tony, btw, was a buckskin, which was the same color as Housie. (But Tony didn't have blue eyes.)

Tony had free range of the farm when we were home, and he often followed my dad when he went out to work in the fields. And that other picture illustrates why I grew up to be a writer. Okay, it was Halloween. But my dad would have enjoyed it if he could dress like a pirate all the time.

My sister and her husband are putting together a book for my dad's memorial event this summer. I scanned a bunch of pictures and sent them to her, and she called me back.

"There are no pictures of US with Daddy," she said.
"There's the one with him stabbing you," I replied, seriously.

That, apparently was not what she had in mind. Luckily I'd found another stash of pictures.

Here we are below in winter in 1962 with our trusty yellow and white "Metropolitan" which I always thought of as a kind of saddle-shoe car. And then five years later when we were living in Quebec. (My dad claims that that little Metropolitan got he and my sister there on like two bucks of gas.)

That second picture was taken at the Plains of Abraham. My sister was obsessed with The Sound of Music that year. I was utterly obsessed with that canteen you see on my lap, but I honestly don't remember why. (Probably some story my dad told me about crawling through the desert with only a drop of water left. Or maybe dying of thirst when the Nazis shot a hole in your canteen. One thing I can tell you, I made sure that darned thing was full, even if the water did taste terrible.)

I still have some word count to do yet tonight, but I should have the sidebar updated by the time this posts in the morning: See you in the funny papers.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Wednesday Update:Too Tired to Think of a Title

Today was a very fruitful day at the day job. I had to get up early to go in and proctor a make up exam for a student, and then troubleshoot another student's laptop. (I think I have resolved her issues, though she had neglected to tell me that the problem was with Painter Elements which is not the same as full-blown Corel Painter - and don't know about it's quirks.)

And while sitting in on the digital illustration lecture today, I suddenly realized what I needed to do with the cover for Wife of Freedom. I may talk about that on "Creating The Cover" next week. The WPA posters were part of the inspiration, too.

But I forgot to bring home the sketch I did.... and maybe that's a good thing.

I've still got way too much on my plate. I'm slowly disentangling only to find layers and layers of things I need to do -- just in life. Oy, I got a back log. Ten years of a hostile work environment will set you back so much further than you think.

Still, in the past few days I've had some of the best writing days I've had in a while, along with some not so good days. The key, I think is to keep plugging.

And you've noticed that I'm pulling away from blogging a bit for the duration -- trying to streamline everything to the benefit of my writing. I was going to talk about that tonight. That is, specifically about some blogging ideas and experiments I have in mind, but I very nearly fell asleep at the keyboard.

I guess I'll talk about it later. In the meantime, I've only done about 300 words today on the W.I.P. (Choice words, great words, but partly in the wrong point of view. Whoops.) But for now I will leave you with a video for your entertainment.

A kitty giving a puppy a massage with silly dubbed voices:

See you in the funny papers.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Creating a Cover: Looking at WPA Posters

Some may be wondering about how long it's taking for me to do a cover for a 99 cent novelette, which hasn't even been written yet. It doesn't actually take that long to do a cover. I'm doing two things here -- I'm using this as a jumping off point for various subjects, and I'm also going through the creative process of developing a brand.

The period for this alternate world story is what I call "Golden Years of Silent Movies" or approx 1914 to 1927. But it isn't an actual historical so I'm not worried about evoking an exact year. Going for general Art Deco feel is the main thing.... and it was a little later that Art Deco really hit the pop culture end of design.

And for ebook designers in particular, it doesn't hurt to look at the wonderful posters by the Works Progress Administration (later Work Projects Administration). Most people these days don't know too much about the WPA. You may live in a town with a post office built by it -- although that old building may have been converted to a restaurant or something else by now.

During the Great Depression, the WPA acted as form of stimulus, hiring people to do works for the public good of all kinds. Not just building roads and buildings, either. One fun story I heard in grad school is that there was a program to provide manual labor for archeaological digs for colleges. Later on, some of the road construction managers complained that their workers, whenever they found an artifact, would set up a grid system and carefully record all the finds in the road way! (Unfortuantely, in later years, archaeologists came to realize that just recording the locations of items wasn't as important as a whole lot of other things they could do in studying soil, etc. And it probably would have been better to not dig the sites at all. The roadways, though, they would have been destroyed anyway.)

Among the creative people the WPA hired were writers, musicians, actors, jugglers, and yes, artists. The writers and musicians largely went out and recorded folkways and oral histories (and unlike the archaeology, much of what they recorded would have been lost if they hadn't done so). The artists, though, made posters. All kinds of posters, safety warnings, travel posters -- lots and lots and lots of travel posters. The idea was to help small communities struggling in the depression.

The posters were largely woodcuts, with simplified colors and style, and are largely a lesson in design. This safety poster is a lesson in itself. Everything about it is clear, even in thumbnail. The goggles at the center make a striking image. They are the only white in the image other than the unprinted boarder, and where they aren't white, they are blue -- which is the compliment, or opposite color to the predominant orange of the rest of the image. You don't even have to read the subtitle "use your goggles" because "SAVE YOUR EYES" and the goggles themselves are all the reminder you need.

This poster is an interesting one color-wise. RGB monitors notwithstanding, the primary colors of reflective material (i.e the real world) are Red, Yellow and Blue. Those are the inks used in this poster. It is one of the basic color schemes. This poster, though, evokes two other color schemes. One is complementary -- where you stick to two colors which are opposite each other on the color wheel. Blue and orange are complements -- and though the inks used here are red and yellow, they are mostly blended to make orange, or in the case of the face, with a little black to make brown. The other color scheme that it evokes to me, though technically it isn't, is split-complementary. That's when you use complementary colors, but instead of using an exact complement one one end, you use close colors on either side.

This travel to Sea Cliff poster is another that feels like both a primary color scheme and split complementary. They've fiddled with the basic colors, pushing the blue toward purple (which would be the opposite of a yellow-orange) and then pushed the red a little toward orange.

The main thing about this one is the really dynamic design. First there's the dark foreground of blue and black, a foreground with an active human figure in it. Dark and cool colors recede, and "feel" like background. The background here, though, is vibrant -- almost jumping out at us with its brightness. It really makes us notice the negative space.

And, of course, there is a further aspect -- one most people would notice right away: the figure of the human is also leaping, as across a chasm. He hasn't landed yet, so even though his back foot is on the ground, there is nothing supporting him at the moment. Nothing to stop his fall. We expect him to make it, but he isn't there yet. This is like the moments of tension I talked about in my post about N. C. Wyeth and that image from Treasure Island.

I have more examples I'd like to talk about, but I don't have time this week, so I'll just end with one more point which is important to ebook cover creators: The fonts. In both cases here, the fonts are quite simple, and the most important element ("Sea Cliff" and "Save Your Eyes") is legible even when you shrink it down to sub-thumbnail size. They both use fonts with some style to them, however. It's just a more subtle style.

The Sea Cliff poster has more text, but not all of it has to be visible in a thumbnail. In this case the title and the dynamic image are likely to make you look closer, at least if you are interestd in travelling to cliffs by the sea.

As you see, I am posting this at midday, rather than at midnight the night before. Since I'm not posting as much for the duration of the dare, I'm going to experiment a bit with the time of day of postings. I'll tell you why in the Wednesday Update post.

See you in the funny papers.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Write-A-Thon Update plus Thoughts on Writing Speed and Momentum

So far today I wrote 1100+ words, and I'm not done for the night.

It took me approximately 2 hours to write those words, in a concentrated session at MacDonalds. No distractions, all prepped up and ready to go, just writing. That may not be my maximum writing rate, but I wasn't slacking or blocked.

I bring this up because there is a bit of a debate going on at Dean Wesley Smith's blog. He has written an excellent series of posts running some math comparing what different daily goals can do for you. His post about how you too can write Four Novels A Year is a little more heavy on the numbers than my post on the same subject a while ago: Produtivity, Dreaming About What You Can Accomplish.

Most of the commentors agree with the point of the math on Dean's post, but an awful lot of people get stuck on his estimate of how much you can write in an hour. He uses 750-1000 words as an example.

"But I don't write that fast!" says a few people. (And obviously, I don't either.)

But that's not the point. He's using that as an example. The point is that you plug in your own numbers and you see what you can achieve if you stop screwing around. What could you accomplish if you add one hour a day to your writing schedule? Or a half hour? Or a two hour session once a week?

What if every time you bumped into someone who was wrong on the internet, you didn't pause to argue with them, but instead spent that effort on writing? What if you used the time you spend tagging and schmoozing and checking your analytics on writing instead? What about the time you watch cable news, or one of those endless cable TV reality shows which play in cycles for hours (you know the ones "The Most Dangerous Designer Auction Finds")?

Going to your kid's school play? Worth it. Watching a new episode of Diners, Drive-ins and Dives? Well, okay that's worth it too. But how many of those other activities are actually worth the time not writing? Especially if you think those "marketing" activities are necessary... Guess what? They aren't. You can do those later, after you've written more, when you have a shot at making more money off your writing because you have a lot of books out there.

But back to the subject of productivity and my own writing speed....

Yesterday I had a migraine. I was sick, blind and stupid. And yet it was the most productive writing day I've had in this Write-a-thon so far. Was it because being sick, blind and stupid is somehow good for creativity? No. Good lord, no.

The reason I did well was because of momentum.

I'm working on a project which was on hold for a while. It's 2/3 done (I think) and a mess of notes and different versions. I can't just sit down and write missing parts, because frankly, I don't remember what is missing. Did I actually write down that scene I thought of when driving to work in February? Or did I just think it?

Plus I have been in the habit of blogging and writing stuff for work, not real writing, so for the first few days of the dare, I found it really hard to wrap my mind around the W.I.P., but really easy to think about other non-fictiony sorts of things.

I had no momentum.

After a few days of tearing my hair out (including one day I didn't write any fiction at all, and another in which I wrote on some other story) I finally got things in order, and got my habits back in place. And once I'd done that, I could write even though I had a migraine.

Now, here's the secret lesson. An object at rest tends to stay at rest, and an object in motion tends to stay in motion. It takes energy to try to get an object at rest into motion -- but once you've got it in motion, it's easier. At least if you don't stop.

And here's the second secret lesson: when a BIG object is at rest, it is not only harder to get into motion, but if you try to get it into motion at full speed, what happens? You spin your wheels.

So if you have a large project (like a novel), and your writing speed is not that fast, and your writing habits aren't all that well established, then the key is to start slow and steady. You MUST keep it up. If you don't want to stall out, you have to keep going.

One thing you can do to get your writing speed and endurance up is to write shorter fiction. It doesn't matter if you are not a natural short fiction writer, or if you don't like short stories. You don't have to read them. You just have to write them. There is no better exercise for building up your skills and endurance than something you can finish in a sitting or two sittings or even five.

Anyway, tonight, I have another writing session yet to do, and I have a choice. I could burn forward with my momentum and far exceed my daily goal, or I could go for that long haul, and just write a little more, and instead do a little more prep work so I don't run out of fuel and lose the momentum I have.

I'm going for the second choice. It gives me a margin for error. If I'm better prepared, with a better idea of where the story is and what it needs next, then I can have a good writing session no matter what else happens. Even if there is an idiot on the internet. Or we make a day trip to Zingermans tomorrow. (Zingermans? Worth it. Let's just get that clear.)

Tomorrow I also have a the next cover illustration post, when I'll be looking at some more classic posters and cover art (and even some clip art) to get some inspiration for my color choices and overall look.

See you in the funny papers.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Weekly Preview and Update

The first symptom of a migraine, for me, is raging stupidity. Which means it took me all day to realize, "oh, I have a migraine." Like, five minutes ago. (To be fair to me, it's also a day to be sleep-deprived, heat-stressed and allergy-ridden.)

All the same I had a good session in the afternoon, and I'm currently taking a break from my late night session. So far I've got 1063 words, and I should get more done. (Especially if the Tylenol kicks in.)

I was stymied for a while this evening when I realized that a certain exchange between my characters was the ideal lead-in to a certain major scene. But it was also an even more ideal lead-OUT for the scene. I blithered and blathered too long before I realized my brain was not in any state to make such decisions. (Now that I realize that, though, I start to wonder if maybe the lead in and lead out could be like bookends, one version going in, and then the same thing happens differently on the way out -- kind of capping the scene? Or maybe I just need to make up my mind.)

So anyway, the posting schedule for this week:

Every Day: word count updates.
Sunday: Write-a-Thon Update
Tuesday: Creating The Cover: I'll look at more examples of posters and covers to help choose colors and drawing style.
Wednesday: Write-a-Thon Update
Friday: no new interview, but I'll post an index of all the interviews done so far.

Maybe it's just the migraine talking, but I think I have to cut back and really just concentrate on the writing stuff for a while. And that's why I am putting off the secondary character interviews for a week or two. I've got some preliminary answers for more interviews, but I want these posts to be more than form questions. I need to actually read what the authors say, and send some thoughtful follow up questions so we can dig into that particular character or story.

See you in the funny papers.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Character Friday: J. R. Lindermuth

Sometimes a secondary character brings some balance to the story, and opens up possibilities.

Today, John Lindermuth will tell us about Flora Vastine, a rookie police officer in his mystery series about retired detective, Daniel "Sticks" Hetrick.

Camille: Why did you create Flora?

John: Flora warranted no more than a few paragraphs in Something In Common, the first of my Sticks Hetrick mysteries. Of course she wasn’t a police officer then and had only a minority role in that novel. In fact, I didn’t even see her as a recurring character at the time. In Cruel Cuts I had need of both another protégé for Hetrick and a love interest for Corporal Harry Minnich. Flora, who had expressed interest in a police career in the first novel, fit the requirements for both needs.

Camille: What makes her so special to you?

John: Flora is young and energetic. She has enthusiasm and genuinely cares about other people. Occasionally she makes mistakes and gets in trouble. All of which make her very human. Even in the darkest of crime novels characters need to have interest in a little more than just catching the villain in order to be fully developed. In the earlier novels Hetrick was still mourning the loss of his wife, Sarah. Flora and Harry were the obvious choices for adding another element to the stories.

Camille: So would you say, then, that the positive element Flora provides allows you to go darker with Hetrick himself?

John: I don't know about darker, but Flora's example might be the impetus for some changes in Hetrick's life. At the end of Being Someone Else he's embarking on a new relationship with Anita Bailey and accepting a job as county detective. We'll have to see where that may lead.

Camille: Do you have more planned for Flora?

John: Since then Flora has become a major player. In fact, she warrants nearly as much space in Corruption’s Child and Being Someone Else as does Hetrick. She’s demanding equal presence in Practice To Deceive (which will be the fifth in the series).

For more on the "Sticks" Hetrick series, check out John Lindermuth's author page at Whiskey Creek Press.