Writing & Coffee – what perks your work?

What's your order?

                                                  

Having just posted my second novel, The Milk Chocolate Murders, up on Book Country for workshopping, I can now refocus on the tweaks needed on the first novel, The Apple Pie Alibi. If all goes according to plan, APA should be ready for submission (again) by September 1. That timing allows me two months to outline the third book of the trilogy, The Wedding Cake Witness, in time for the next slog known as Nanowrimo.

Throw in a commission to write a 5 minute piece of classical music (not as easy at it sounds) and I once again find myself very busy. This will take much coffee.

Speaking of coffee…

I have always wondered if genre dictated coffee choice. In other words, do writers in the mystery genre prefer straight espresso, or perhaps (as I do) an Americano? Do romance writers like, I don’t know, one of Starbuck’s new drinks? A caramel cocoa crunch frappuccino maybe? Just guessing. I have no idea what a romance writer typically orders.

Hey! What about a totally unscientific poll?

Comment below with your genre and favorite beverage, be it coffee, tea, or something stronger. There will be no prizes, but rest comfortably with the knowledge you have helped to further define your genre in a new, and tasty fashion.

Let’s here from everyone! <clink!>

Too many books? Puh-shaw!

The first stack of my BTR pile, aka Books To Read.

The first stack of my BTR pile, aka Books To Read.

“Book Blogging” seems to be a popular topic now, which means I’ll probably try it in a few years. I may be an early adopter as far as tech toys go, but when it comes to other trends, I am usually a day behind and often a dollar (or more) short. Case in point: I only recently started to tweet here. Still getting the hang of that one. Pinterest? Fairly new, but on there here. As for Instagram? So far, not enough days in the week left open. But I digress from the original thought – what is this book blogging anyway and should I do it?

Simply put, book blogging is where you read a book and then post a review. Sounds easy enough. Of course, as my old marketing professor would say, it’s always about dollars and cents. True, many book bloggers, once they reach a certain level of readership, will start to receive ARCs, or advanced reader’s copies from publishers. The idea is you get a free book before the general public can purchase one, and the publisher and author get free and early advertising which, in a perfect world, increases sales.

There is a dark side, however. Maybe not exactly dark. More like a dim side, I guess. Depends on your point of view. Affiliate sales are the little links and ads the reader might select after reading the review. Click on the link enough times and the blogger receives a few pennies. Click on the link and then actually buy a book? The blogger gets a small percentage of the sale. The more popular the book blog, the more likely you will see these affiliate sales links.

Is this bad? Not really. For some bloggers, this is necessary income. The rub comes in when a blogger pushes a mediocre book as “a must read” in hopes of gaining those affiliated sales. Should this happen? No. Do most book bloggers participate in such deception? No. But does it happen? Well, as one man once told me – if you can think of it, then someone on the Internet is doing it and making money by doing it.

As for me? I would love free books. Who wouldn’t? But until I get through my “just had to buy this book and I’ll get to it soon, really, I promise” pile, I’ll need to beg off this book blogging trend. As they used to say – ain’t got time for that. See how timely I am with the popular catch phrases? Told you.

Any way, if book blogging is your thing, more power to you. I’ll try to stop by and read a few of your reviews. Put a link to your site in the comment section and I’ll help spread the love.

Until then, in between writing recipes for The Milk Chocolate Murders, and outlining the follow-on book – The Wedding Cake Witness, I will stick to reducing my collection of BTRs – books to read. The photo at the top should tell you how long this may take. And that photo doesn’t include the books I have stashed at work to be read at lunch. Or the other books sitting in the bedroom. Or the unabridged volume of work by some guy named Poe.

As soon as I get through these books, I’ll consider acquiring more. Unless I find myself in a bookstore, in which case all bets are off.

Don’t wait up. This could take a while…

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!

And now I’m published!

The World Unknown Review, Vol I

The World Unknown Review, Vol I

Shameless self-marketing post:  One of my noir-ish humorous shorts was chosen for the first volume of The World Unknown Review, with L.S. Engler, editor. Containing 11 short stories and one novella, this new literary review features authors who have an impressive publishing background, as well as those (me) who are just breaking into the business.

My story? Titled The Crucible, this tale is a slice of life featuring an English teacher at an exclusive private school. Distraught with the futility of his efforts, he receives a ray of hope in a promotion to headmaster, only to see…well, you will have to read it for yourself.

If you are a teacher, you can probably relate to this story. If you aren’t, you very well may be one of the characters!

Yes, I’m excited! And you should be, too. Eight clams and some change for the paper version (huzzah for an editor who wanted to make a traditional book!) and just under a dollar for the Kindle version.

If only there was some occasion where you could use a new gift. Hmmm.

Now, back to my happy dance!

What’s genre got to do with it?

You can't have too many books. No, you can't.

You can’t have too many books. No, you can’t.

This is the second in a series of posts written to motivate you and help you prepare for November’s National Novel Writing Month, or as it is called in the vernacular: Nanowrimo 2014!

Have you a favorite genre? If you look at your bookshelf, are the majority of the books of the same ilk? Nowadays, I guess a better question would be more concerned about the books on your tablet or eReader, but the concept is the same.

People tend to favor a few genres over all others. Some people love mysteries and romances, but will never entertain the thought of reading science fiction. I know one person who is a strict non-fiction’er. Hey, it works for them.

Me? I tend to go with mysteries, although I do like thrillers (and there is a difference.) I have read science fiction in the past, as well, enjoying the thought-provoking, fact-based drama created from the imaginations of the writers. I also appreciate non-fiction, as long as it is not slanted with the agenda of the writer. But romance books? Yes, they are a top seller, but still – not for me; and please don’t ask me to write any. It would suck be bad. Very bad.

As a writer, you don’t need to worry about genre – unless you want your readers to come back.

Genres come into being once someone creates a literary form to which the readers can relate. And by that, I mean they enjoy reading the form well enough to buy and read the books. Again and again.

Readers shop for whatever appeals to them. If they love to read romance novels, they might look at the Harlequin website, perhaps even the Carina Press site, since it is the eBook haven connected to Harlequin. If Carina puts out your book for sale, and people buy it thinking it is a romance novel, your protagonist (usually the girl, but not always) better end up with her knight in shining armor by the end of the story. If they aren’t getting married, they better be well on the way. End your tome with the boy skipping town with the protagonist’s best friend, leaving her a crying mess? Expect complaints. Expect sales for your second book to be lower.

But wait. Isn’t this blog series about preparing for Nanowrimo?

Yes, it is. And genre has a lot to do with it. As a writer, either new, old, “aspiring” or published, you must know the basic forms used in your chosen genre. I write mysteries. Cozy mysteries, in particular. If you are not familiar with the form, these are stories with a few essential rules. First, there must be a crime, preferably a murder, and it usually will have occurred either at the start of the story or just before the story begins. There also will not be any real graphic violence, cursing language, and most definitely no overt sexual themes and descriptions. Think Angela Landsbury and her television show, Murder She Wrote. Even better, it’s Agatha Christie. There, I think you get the picture.

If I were to write pages upon pages of forensic minutiae regarding Chef Pierre’s fatal knife wound from The Apple Pie Alibi, and then go on to give you a kiss by kiss commentary on Winnie and Parker’s activities when she discovered him sitting in his patrol car outside her house late one night, well, it might sell books, but it would not be correctly advertised as a cozy mystery. Publishers spend time (meaning money) on advertising, marketing, cover design, and more, trying to convince the general reading public to purchase a book. If the cozy mystery is really a contemporary adult-themed thriller, the money, more correctly stated: the publisher’s money will not have been used to the best extent possible. No one will be happy.

You are the author. You need to know what genre you are writing. Think of it this way. Would you go to a surgeon who doesn’t always know the names of the sharp tools at his disposal? “Excuse me, nurse, please hand me that pointy thing over there, you know, the one next to that shiny thing?” I don’t think so.

Pick a genre, read the genre, and know it inside and out. Preferably before you start writing!

I do not wish to say you have to choose one genre and never stray from it, but for Nanowrimo purposes you will need to write in just one genre.

Trust me, agents and publishers will look at you with a big, nasty stink-eye if you present them with your Regency Romance Steampunk Mystery Novel containing elements of paranormal western ninja themes.

How to learn about your genre?

This is the fun part. Go to the library. You know, it’s that old building with all the books in it? Since the Dewey Decimal System may be foreign to many of you, I will not bother with numbers such as 813.087, especially since the fiction section tends to be separated from the rest anyway. But, if all else fails, ask the person behind the desk. They are probably a librarian and they love questions like “Where can I find [insert name of author, title, subject]? “ And if you find a card catalogue? Now we’re talking! Browsing through the drawers is more fun than shopping for shoes. Of course, I hate shopping for shoes, but that’s not the point.

Okay, go ahead and do a search on the computer. Be that way.

Anyhow, check out a few dozen books in your chosen genre and start reading. After a while you will see a pattern of recurring themes. Make note of these and put them to use once you start outlining your Nano-novel.

The point is: you can’t write what you don’t know.

Of course, if you are brilliant, you may want to create your own genre. But that’s a story for another day.

Genres. Pick one – know one – write one!

 

Next up: Why the main character must be awesome – but never perfect.