Monday, September 17, 2012

Hello! It's been a very long time - way too long, I fear. And you have my apologies - no excuses, though. Let's get started.

First, the long awaited (I hope you've been waiting ;-)) third book is almost finished! UNPLAYABLE will be available on Amazon for Kindle and at Smashwords late next month - October.

Why the long wait? Life interfered. As it always does. Some good and some not so good. A visit to the beach with the grandkids - good. Not being paid for months of work - bad.

What? you thought authors and writers lived the high life off royalties from their books? Well, some do, but most of us don't. Most of us have to hold down full time work to supplement our habit - that would be the writing habit.

The economics of publishing are a dose of cold reality. And, with the publishing world changing so quickly, well, a writer has to move fast. I'll take up the changes in the industry in a later post. Today, let's talk about the creative process.

First, you need an idea, Fortunately, I've never been short on those. And, with the Langley Chase ladies, I've already got characters, so don't need too much development on those. Except for some back story, which seems to develop as the books are started and then finished. Plot is the next barrier, ah, challenge. But, for this discussion, let's assume that your favorite author has the idea for the book, has characters, and a plot - she knows what is going to happen.

All she has to do is sit down and write, right? Right! And here's where life interferes. Family schedules, jobs, kids, keeping a house reasonably liveable-in, vacations, cooking, shopping, keeping up with the news - all these things take away from writing time. In fact, these interruptions have been known to absorb all the time available! It's a funny thing that many writers, once they get down to writing, are willing to do a lot of things instead of write.

So, you schedule time for writing, just like you would a doctor's appointment. And you write. And sometimes it turns out good, sometimes just OK, and sometimes you write dreck. Regardless, once these good, OK and dreckish pieces are put together in a first draft, there's editing, adding, subtracting, changing, rearranging - writing a book is like a giant puzzle you have to solve.

More later. I'm off to write!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Writing through tough times, Part II

The world is a funny place - both funny ha-ha, and funny peculiar. In this case it's the peculiar part that I'm addressing. (Ever notice that the last half of peculiar is Liar? Hmmmm.)

Anyway, the job hunt has taken a very fast and very interesting side road. And it happened lots faster than I expected. I got a job. Boom! Just like that. Well, with a lot of help from my friends. It helps to have friends. As Malcolm Gladwell said in his book THE TIPPING POINT, connections to other people are often the way to success. Or something like that.

Bottom line, I'm now an official Consultant. For a small company that wants to do business with the Federal Government. And I start on Monday!

Which brings me around to the writing thing again. Remember in my last blog I mentioned having all this free time to write? Well, it seems that the universe had other ideas and I'm back to writing at night and in the wee hours of the morning. Which is more like scheduling meetings than just sauntering over to your computer with a mug of coffee or tea any old time you feel the urge to whip off a few quick paragraphs. No, it's more like work. In fact, it is work. Writers who produce pages a day and a book in 4 months, have to write every day, whether they're in the mood or not. Butt in chair, hands on keyboard (or pencil/pen in hand and paper at the ready) and then WRITE.

A colleague once told me not to worry if what I was writing was crap, just get the words on the screen. You can always go back and edit. Interestingly, the mere act of putting words into sentences tends to wake up the old creative muse and once the juices are flowing, well, good things happen.

So, new job. The cats are happy; now they don't have to go on a diet. I'll continue to write. I may not get to 10K words a day, but I might make it to 1K.

(If you haven't read any of Gladwell's books - THE TIPPING POINT, OUTLIERS, and BLINK - I would recommend them. Interesting, and different, ways of looking at the world.)

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Writing through tough times

Auspicious happenings this week at Langley Chase Central.

First, a confession: I have a "real" job that supports my writing habit! (As soon as I hit the NYT Best Seller List, maybe I can retire, but not yet) As a consequence, I am subject to the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune in the business community which, this past week, included being part of a rather massive lay-off at the company that, until Monday, employed me.

Surprisingly, I'm not overly upset about this. Yes, I know the economy is struggling and yes, I know it's difficult finding a job, but here in the Washington D.C. area, it's slightly easier. If I had a clearance, like my character Connie does, I could walk into just about any of the large government contractors and they'd snap me up. Unfortunately, I don't.

I do have a finely developed set of skills, however, and I should be re-employed before the end of the year. That's the plan.

But, what to do in the mean time?

Write, of course! It's a gift, having time, uninterrupted (except for interviews!) time to write. A couple of months ago, I tried the writer's equivalent of a 10K race - 10K words in a weekend. If I were in a particularly creative mood, I could make that 10K words in a day. Ten thousand words is a lot. While there is no typical output for authors, mine averages a couple of hundred words at a session. To keep writing for 10,000 words - that's HUGE!

And, that's what I'll be doing in between interviews. That and cleaning my house thoroughly. Write a little, clean a little, write a little, clean a little. It's got a nice rhythm. And the new mystery will be done in no time.

(A quick reminder. The contest to win a $10 Gift certificate to Amazon is over on Dec. 10 - keep those registrations coming! You can enter at simply by signing up for the newsletter. Come on, you know you want to. Just do it.)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Travel vs Research

If you've read TRUMPED, you know that the mystery is set in Bruges, Belgium. We picked that place because it is a) outstandingly beautiful, b) loaded with places to visit, places to eat, and places to hide, and c) at least one of us (me) had been there. A long time (almost 10 years!) ago. So, following up on an idea in my last post, traveling does enlarge your world and, for a writer, stores great locations for stories. And, since location, location, location works for writing as well as real estate, location is generally considered another character in the book.

For Bruges, however, memories and pictures of my one-day excursion weren't enough. And that's where research came in.

In order to get the tone of the place right, I dug around in my badly organized library for all the books I'd bought while I was in Belgium so I could review where I'd been and see if the Langley Chase 4 should also go there. I discovered that I hadn't seen nearly enough of Bruges and was tempted (ha!) to book a flight so I could visit all the places that we put into the book.

However, day job and pocketbook realities made that plan dissolve. (Yes, I have a day job that supports my writing habit. More on that later.)

So, I headed to the internet where I found too much information. Somebody really needs to invent a better search engine so you don't get 4,872,989 sites to search. Not all of them related to Bruges, either!

What I found very helpful were visitor comments on travel sites, reviews of restaurants, or comments on various sights, observations about the people. Since these are from real people who have been there, such reviews provided insight that added to my own and helped make the writing - particularly the descriptions of the city - more real.

For descriptions of Frances' house, I went to various Belgian Real estate sites and walked through a ton of houses for sale - virtually, of course. The back yard of Frances' house was inspired by a gorgeous home, on a canal, for sale for a mere 1.8 million euros. The front of Frances' house, with all the windows and window boxes, came from combining a couple of house-fronts. What did writers do before the internet? Libraries?

Maps were another extremely helpful writing aid - they kept us from sending our characters to a location that they could never reach in the time allotted. Plus, the streets in Bruges are a delight - lots of interconnecting lanes and tucked-away alleys.

I guess where I'm going with this is you don't have to have traveled to the location of your book to make the location a vibrant, real character in your book. Helpful to establish a base of reference, but not entirely necessary.

But, it's a lot of fun!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Travel Expands your Thinking

I read an article in the Washington Post (WaPo to those of us who are in the know) by Vern Yip, decorator of Trading Spaces fame, about traveling. His premise is that his design ideas are refreshed, inspired even, by extensive travel. He was discussing his latest trip to Marrakesh and how colorful the souks are.

It got me to thinking about travel I have done, both abroad and in the US. Even a quick drive into Southern Virginia gives you a window on a different way of life - especially when compared with the crazy, traffic clogged world we live in here in NoVA (Northern Virginia for the uninitiated). Anyway, travel always makes my world expand and then shrink a little. Expand because I meet interesting people, see interesting things, eat interesting food. Shrink because places that were just names in a book at one time are now real and I Have Seen Them.

Have you been somewhere cool lately?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Name that Blog

The Langley Chase Bridge Club Mystery Blog

Oh, come on. Of course the Internet needs another Blog. Seriously. This one will be entertaining, informative, insightful, funny, educational and always opinionated. However, Langley Chase Bridge Club Mystery Blog is simply too many words for a Blog Name. We’ve come up with a couple of choices and would love your help. Which one do you like best? You need to be signed-in in order to vote or to post comments on the blog, so be sure to do that. This poor blog desperately needs a name!

Blog entries will be regular (say, once a week at least) beginning in December because I'm a bit busy at the moment. I do have a book to write, remember. Langley Chase Bridge Club Mystery 3, working title: Unplayable. If you come back to the blog regularly, you'll find out a little bit about what the Bridge Club Sleuths are up to in the next book.