Writing Plan for the Week

No server access? Get out the Underwood!

Not having a plan is like not having server access. You get nowhere!

According to my business card, I am a writer. So what should I be doing tonight? Well, it’s Sunday night, the wind from Hurricane Joaquin has barely touched us, and the rain has slowed to a fine mist. It has not been the best beach day but at least we in Seaview have not been tormented by flooding problems. Other parts of the East coast? Not so fortunate.

Aside from the three church services this morning, and the potluck lunch, and the trip to the Brown Dog Ice Cream Store in Cape Charles, and a nap, and a fine dinner of grilled cheese sammiches, what else should I be doing? Lucy Silag of Penguin’s Book Country published a blurb about treating your writing career like a start-up, akin to business management for writers. I’m not sure she had these line items in mind:

Watch latest episode of Dr. Who? Check.

Make a fresh pot of coffee and have a cup? Check and check.

Post the recipe from the potluck? Check it out here.

Plan the writing for the week?

[insert cricket noises here]

Shazbot – I knew I had something else to do. Let’s try this and see what happens:

Monday – AM: revise query letter.  PM: read Matterhorn, written by Karl Marlantes.

Tuesday – AM: check QueryTracker for agents accepting culinary mysteries. Or mysteries. Or anything.  PM: Keep reading Matterhorn.

Wednesday – AM: Twitter-stalk agents and see what they like (and don’t like) in a query. PM: Keep reading Matterhorn and take mental break – yoga class.

Thursday – AM: Make decisions on agent queries. Customize and send. PM: no spare time.

Friday – AM: Research publishing through Booktrope and Book Country. PM: Keep reading Matterhorn.

Saturday – AM: Try to finish Matterhorn. PM: Read out loud the first few chapters of The Milk Chocolate Murders (to get back into that frame of mind.)

Sunday – evaluate the plan and make a new one.

There you go. That should keep me busy for a while. Will this work? Maybe. Will I follow the plan? Perhaps. Is it better to have a plan than not have a plan? Definitely.

Do you have a plan?

If so, please do share. And I’ll make you a deal. You give a short synopsis (is that redundant?) in the comments and I’ll follow up next week with how my plan went. I’ll even ask you how your plan went. We could call it…writers supporting writers! Has a good ring to it. Hey, it has worked with the Book Country Buddy Program. It could work here, too!

Looking forward to your thoughts!

DJ

 

 

 

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An Interview with Author Janice Peacock

Leo Tolstoy once said art is “…indispensable for the life and progress toward well-being of individuals and of humanity.”

And judging from current events, we need all the art we can get these days. So what a rare treat it was to come across someone who excels in more than one creative field. I met author Janice Peacock through our participation in the Penguin / Random House online writer’s community Book Country. She is a fine writer of cozy mysteries that center on her “other life” as an award-winning glass artist.

Janice Peacock, mystery writer & glass artist

Janice Peacock, mystery writer & glass artist

Janice’s talent as a writer has been recognized by the literary world, and her first novel has just been released by publisher, Booktrope. Her second novel is currently in their production process so there is more to come!

Sad to say, due to my work schedule I was unable to attend her recent Facebook launch party, but I could not let this momentous occasion go by without asking her for a few words of inspiration. Read on, kind people. I present to you Janice Peacock, author of High Strung, A Glass Bead Mystery.

High Strung Final Cover Booktrope

You are an award-winning glass artist, with work on display in the permanent collection at the Corning Museum of Glass among many places. How did writing a mystery novel become part of your daily routine?

Several years ago I took at class at the Corning Studio in upstate New York. Since you are a cook, you may recognize the name Corning—they are the manufacturers of Pyrex glass baking dishes and measuring cups. While working in the studio, I had an epiphany—the perfect way to kill someone!

Janice Peacock & friends at the Corning Glass Studio

             Janice Peacock (back row, left side) & friends at the Corning Glass Studio

And while I didn’t have plans to murder anyone in particular, I decided that I wanted to write a murder mystery. As happens in life, it took me a few years before I sat down to write the story, but finally I did in November of 2012 during National Novel Writing Month.

Your main character is glass bead artist, Jax O’Connell. How much of you do we see in her? Run into any murders at the exhibitions you have attended?

There is a little of me in Jax, for sure. First, I’m a bead maker and have been for over twenty years. I love beads and making my own jewelry and I wanted to bring that joy to readers. Another thing that Jax and I have in common is that we love cats. Jax’s cat is a big grey fluff-ball with a bad attitude. Some years back, we fostered a litter of kittens that were just a few days old. I like to say “we took care of them when they were the size of gumdrops.” So, Gumdrop seemed like the perfect name for Jax’s cat.

But beads and cats aside, I think Jax has a desire to make things right, to fix what’s broken, and she’s driven—to find a murderer, to protect her friends, to lead the best life she can. And while I haven’t solved any murder mysteries, I do feel a need for things to be set right, for people to be held accountable for their actions. And, no, I’ve never found a dead body at an exhibition, and would probably faint if I did.

I know you have a second book in the making. Can you let us know when it might become available? And following on, do you have plans for more stories from the glass studio of Jax O’Connell?

Jax, Tessa, and Val will all be back in A Bead in the Hand, the second book in the Glass Bead Mystery Series. It will be released in mid-November this year. The third book in the series, tentatively titled Still Your Beading Heart, will be released in 2016.

As you become an internationally known, award-winning author, do you ever see the day when you won’t be making glass beads?

I think I will always make beads or work in glass in some way. I love words and writing. Even before becoming a novelist, I wrote professionally as an instructional designer in the high tech field. I often get tired of typing and watching words fly across my screen—words seem so intangible. I love going to my studio and getting my hands on real objects and making things that require a wordless part of my brain, allowing me to think about—to feel—colors, patterns, movement. I’ve always been a maker, and it is such huge a part of me, I can’t see leaving it behind.

Congrats on starting a relationship with Booktrope. They use a nontraditional business model, an almost flat hierarchy if you will. How’s the partnership coming along?

My experience with Booktrope has been wonderful. After they took me on as an author I was able to build my own team of professionals: a marketing manager, editor, cover designer, and proofreader. They have been a stellar team to work with on High Strung, and we’ll be working together again for A Bead in the Hand. The other thing I like about Booktrope is that I belong to a community of authors who share ideas and support to one another. Although I now have Booktrope to support me, I will still be working within the Book Country community to workshop my books and receive valuable feedback.

Finally, anything else you would like to add? Perhaps advice for struggling writers (or glass blowers since I know at least one who reads this blog.)

I read an article recently that referred to authors as artists and that thought has really stuck with me. I’m an artist working in multiple mediums: words and glass. So, my advice is the same for both kinds of artists: Do your work. Every day. Don’t just talk about your craft or read about it. Practice and learn. Make a hundred beads, write a hundred pages, repeat.

Thanks for taking a few minutes to answer my questions, Janice! I wish you all the best with your books. I have High Strung already and think it is a fun, captivating page-turner. And as for Gumdrop the cat? Well, let’s just say I know a cat here on the Eastern Shore that shares many of the same traits!

If you would like more information about Janice, her glass work, or her new series of mystery novels, you will find her on social media everywhere! Check out these links:

www.JanicePeacock.com

jp@janicepeacock.com

blog.janicepeacock.com

Twitter, Instagram: @JanPeac

www.pinterest.com/janpeac

www.facebook.com/JanicePeacockAuthor

www.JanicePeacockGlass.com

www.etsy.com/shop/JanicePeacock

 

 

 

 

Revision & the Post-Nanowrimo Reality Check

How many of you participated in Nanowrimo 2014? You know, the month of literary abandon where writers of all ilk try to pen at least 50,000 words into some coherent fashion – all during the month of November?

Thousands tried it. Thousands finished. You may be one of them!

And literary agents now cry during the month of December as their email in-boxes explode with submissions. Now, let’s give credit where credit is due: there could be a bestseller in there somewhere. Odds are against it. But it could happen.

And that’s why writers submit their Nano Novels.

Alas, the writer may be ready to be a bestselling author, but the story is not. Many (smarter?) writers use December to revise their draft. Good idea! But now it’s January. The revision must be ready to submit, right?

Here’s some advice from a long time Nano winner, me. I’m the one whose first novel is getting good reviews, but has yet to be traditionally published.

Wait.

Revise.

Wait.

Revise.

Wait some more.

Revise again.

Give your brain a chance to think about other stuff. I wrote a new novel (the sequel) while I was waiting. I put the first book up for critique on the online writer’s peer group, Book Country. I had a few beta readers offer me their opinion. All good feedback, even if not always what I wanted to hear.

The point is – good on you for writing a book in November. Most people could not do it. Ever. But don’t waste that effort. Revise it. Work it. Peer review it. Do something else and then come back and read it with fresh eyes. Trust me. It is worth it.

And eventually, you will find less and less to change. Finally, perhaps a year (or more) later, you will feel confident enough in the work to send it out.

And when you do, I send you my best wishes!

Now put down the draft and go read a book! Make a bucket list and check some things off! Go to the coffee shop and – gasp – talk to someone instead of hiding in the comfy chair typing away. You can do it, you know you can!

Give your book a chance to become as ready for the world as you are!

Against my Better Judgement

Just time for a quick note – if you haven’t “liked” Book Country on FaceBook you really should  do it soon.

In a matter of hours, the good people of Penguin’s online writer’s community will be announcing their next sweepstakes. I don’t know what it will be, but they treat us writers very well so one can only hope it will be on par with an autographed copy of the Gutenberg bible, maaaaybeeeee something slightly less, but we will just have to wait and see, won’t we?!

And it all starts on the Book Country FaceBook page.

So join the thousands of writers in the BC community. Post bits big or small of your work for peer review; read smatterings from up and coming writers. Heck, use their publishing options and enjoy life without having to deal with bloodsucking really really large self-publishing venues working in tandem with [redacted by lawyers.] And by all means peruse the many BC discussion boards, for as Bill Cosby once said, “If you’re not careful, you just might learn something.”

Now that I think about it, the more of you who “like” Book Country on FaceBook, the less chance I will win the sweepstakes. Against my better judgement I post this information. Promise me this, if you win – after you do your happy dance, and I know you have one – we all have one – just don’t right any vampire stories unless it has a vegan vampire in there somewhere.

Hmm. Now that gives me an idea…

 

 

Writing a book was the easy part?

After one total rewrite from third person to first person, and six more revisions based on feedback from readers (and one very, very nice editor!) I am satisfied my 80,000 plus word, cozy mystery, The Apple Pie Alibi, is worth your time and a few of your dollars in trade. It isn’t the next Sherlock Holmes novel, not even a Nero Wolfe tale, but it is a decent story with a beginning, middle, and end. The characters have arcs, the story itself has structure. and the protagonist undergoes a meaningful change by the end thanks in part to her battling her nemesis – no, not the killer, but her own ego and immaturity.

And it’s still a fun read.

So now for the hard part, meaning what happens next? Fortunately, I have some options. I could self-publish through Book Country. These folks have been awesome in providing feedback and the discussion boards are something to behold. If you are a new writer, I highly recommend checking it out. Good people.

I also have a line on an illustrator looking for work. And wouldn’t it be cool to put out a nice book with the extra creativity of an artist? I think so. If I chose the BC route, this would be up toward the top of the to-do list.

I could always submit the manuscript to the Minotaur Books/Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel competition. This has potential, and it’s free. Bonus points for the annual convention being not too far away from where I live. Huzzah, Amtrak!

Or I could bang my head against the wall a thousand times revamp my query and synopsis and go about trying to gain representation from an agent. Wait a minute. Do authors still need agents? Why, yes. Agents, while not as essential as in years past, still maintain the keys to many a gateway. And considering publishers, the bigger ones anyway, still prefer to use agents to reduce the size of the slush pile, why ignore this important avenue leading to publication and distribution? I would love to do this. Wouldn’t we all.

So here’s the gouge: I will spend the next few days thoroughly checking the entry requirements for the Minotaur/Malice Domestic contest to see if I can submit the manuscript and still shop it to agents. I believe this to be the case, but I need to see it in writing first.

Then, it’s off to QueryTracker, Writer’s Digest, and The Mystery Writers of America to investigate which agents and presses are interested in cozy mysteries and accepting inquiries.

This should make for a fun, and most likely sarcastic series of posts. What do you think?

Stay tuned, amigos.

 

Writers and Community – A Good Thing

One of my Creative Consultants.

One of my Creative Consultants.

Many envision the writer as:

– the loner

– the hermit who sleeps during the day and types at night on an old Underwood portable

– the person no one has actually seen, yet like Bob Newhart, has Moo Goo Gai Pan delivered to his door at Thanksgiving instead of having the traditional holiday feast. Okay, that was a stretch. But I loved the episode.

In the morning? The woman who owns the house finds a small bag of trash sitting outside the writer’s door.  The rent check is taped to the door, just above the knob. The fortune from the cookie is crumpled up, and it sits next to the empty bag from Number One China Inn. A wine cork rattles around the empty rice container.

And most people think this paradigm works for writers. I am sure Stephen King must work in this manner, as does J.K. Rowling/Robert Galbraith.

Really? This only works in the movies. And if the writer is a man, then add an ex-girlfriend into the mix, as well as an unscrupulous agent or gambler. If the writer is a woman? Well, Hollywood hasn’t figured that out yet. I am sure they will eventually, as long as a thin and voluptuous actress can play the part.

In real life, writers need community. I associate with several. In the past, when I lived closer to them I was a participating member of the Hampton Roads Writers. Now I keep up with social media maven/writer/tribe leader Kristen Lamb, who has written quite a few books for writers about the need for community. Need to know about “how” to write or what “not” to do? Her group, the WanaTribe, is for you. And they are just plain quirky enough to be a real fun bunch. I have also recently joined the Mystery Writers of America. There is much to be gained here from these professionals.

Life wasn’t all kittens and puppies, though. At one time I posted material on another online writer’s web-community, one which shall remain nameless, but it did not work out too well. It was poetry heavy and novel light; but this was not the problem. The issue was the members would read your posted material, then add a comment such as “I loved your work. It was awesome! And here’s a link to my latest and greatest material. Thanks in advance for reading it!” The whole site was a self-serving vehicle to get as many people as possible to “like” your work and post comments about how great you were as a writer. When you didn’t reciprocate? You were taken out of the loop and no one would read your new stuff. And if you posted constructive criticism? It never went well.

I became the online hermit for a while after that experience. And I don’t even like moo goo gai pan.

Then I found Book Country, a writer’s community sponsored by Penguin Books. At the time they were looking for a second round of beta testers so I volunteered. No regrets since.  All genres welcome and there’s a map page to steer you toward the one you want. Diverse discussion boards are included, covering everything from the business of writing to character development to software and tech updates. The site moderators are very engaging and take Book Country and the members seriously.

I have been workshopping my latest novel on Book Country for a few months. The feedback I have received has been invaluable. I still have a ways to go before I would consider the novel “done” but it is at least readable for now. In fact, I was blessed with a gift from the site editors – my novel, The Apple Pie Alibi, was chosen as one of the editor’s picks for June – and they did a short interview with yours truly.

For a guy like me, being introduced on their website (and their Twitter feed) as “Mystery Writer D.J. Lutz” was very affirming.

And it all happened because I decided to stop ordering the moo goo gai pan and come out of the room at the top of the stairs.

If you are a writer, don’t just report on life – be a part of it. Join a writer’s community. If you don’t have one, try Book Country. Or find another. The point is – writers can become better writers by learning from other writers. And that means joining a community.

Put down the chopsticks and get going!

The New Weekly Writing Plan

It’s been a while since I have spent time with WordPress; not your fault, it’s me, not you. No, really. Me. The whole way.

So where have I been? No, not jail. In fact, here’s a quick recap of my life since we last met:

Writing, work, family, writing, work, family, writing, work, family. (Just kidding. Food was in there, too. And wine, but I digress.)

So where are we at with the novel? In the process of rewriting the completed “Apple Pie Alibi” from third person into first person. It’s going slower than I anticipated since I am also reading it out loud as I go.

By the way: reading your work out loud is a great way to spot poor writing. Just saying.

This week’s writing plan? More of the same. Writing from 5:00 – 6:30 AM; work from 7:00 AM to 4:00 PM. Add in an hour commute on both ends and I’m left with a few hours with the family. On the weekends, I try to spend time on Saturdays reading the works of others (Book Country gives me an ample supply of emerging novels.)  Sundays? A day of church and rest. Except today…

New agenda items: I’ve added my Twitter feed. Between that platform and the FB page, you can stay up to the minute on my culinary exploits and writing progress. For more details on the cooking, see the new page above, Exploding Potatoes!

Enough for now. With diligence, the rewrite will be done by the end of April. Then it’s decision time: query or self publish? Thankfully, I’ve got time to ponder that one.

Until next time, keep writing, everyone. If we don’t, who will?