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!>


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.

Willie Nelson meets Jethro Gibbs?


Leroy Jethro Gibbs has rules. A lot of rules. Willie Nelson? Not so much. Leroy also slaps the crap out the back of Tony and Tim’s head, more so Tony than anyone. Willie? Again, not so much. And what does this have to do with anything?  Stand by for change… I booted up the laptop this morning and before Blood Lust could load, another novel started typing on my screen. In an hour I had the major characters, several minor characters and a pretty decent story arc written down. Written down, as in typed and everything. All those years of Top P. slapping the backs of our brain housing groups must finally be taking their toll  paying off.


So what to do? Abandon 10,000 words? Hardly. But they are on hiatus for now, for I must follow this trail to the end; see where the rabbit reemerges. That’s all for now. Be surprised. I was. I still am. More wine. I think the real issue was one of crafting a book as opposed to letting the book write itself. This new one is going faster than Willie Nelson writing On the Road Again.  I hope to post the first few chapters on the new Book Country writer’s site in the next week or so. Get some cookies, too.


And head slaps? Nothing much to do about writing, but it did remind me of Gibb’s Rule #50: Always go with your gut. And in this case, I think I will.


The mason jar is empty… The Mistress awaits.




A Writer’s Weekly List?

Well, it’s Sunday evening here on the Eastern Shore of Virginia and that means we are all very tired. Being exhausted on a Sunday just comes with the territory of being married to a pastor, I guess. Today was okay for me, but it was non-stop for her since she did three services in two churches then hit the road for a three day conference in central Virginia. All I have to do now is pet-sit three puppies and a cat, plus water some plants – as long as I don’t forget. Come to think of it – maybe we’re even. No, I got the better end of this schedule.

I should probably have Siri add “water the plants” to the reminder list on my phone.

Speaking of lists, you may have noticed that we all live by lists: to-do lists, grocery lists, birthday wish lists, top ten lists, even bucket lists. I know a guy who works in the television and motion picture industry, and every Friday evening he sends out a note to his peers, asking them to list what projects they are working on at that very minute. In case you ever wanted to know, Hollywood tech people seem to work into the late hours of the night, even on Fridays, editing what has just happened or setting up for is about to happen.

This parallels writers, I think, since we seem to write whenever we can – even if it is on a Friday night.

Some of us like to recap what we have written over the past week. I suppose I could do that – I wrote a decent opening line to Blood Lust and a few paragraphs to start it off. I also posted the non-profit’s quarterly corporate newsletter to the social media sites. And this is all well and good but the problem I see now is that I know what I have already done.

Isn’t it more important to know what you intend to do?

Here’s my writer’s to-do list for this next week:

– Complete the first chapter of Blood Lust. (Maybe this is more of a wish-list entry?)

– Create a new recipe for Exploding Potatoes; then cook it, take the photos and write the post. Hint: it involves tater tots!

– Write the script for the corporate presentation. This is a work thing, not a personal writing thing. But it is still writing.

– Organize and hopefully delegate some of the writing requirements for the non-profit’s next event. Deadline is the week before Memorial Day so the clock is ticking.

– Write the next writer’s to-do list, with a recap of how this week went.

I think that should about do it.

Lists. Do you have one? Are you successful at completing your lists? Are you sick and tired of lists? I may be by the end of this week.

Stay tuned…







Are you a writer?


Do you consider yourself a writer?

Maybe you have just completed Nanowrimo 2011 and have a 50,000 word novel saved in your cloud.

Does that make you a writer?

Maybe. It all depends on you, really.

Here’s the deal (and remember, I am no expert, so take this for the amount of money you paid to read it.)

Yes, I think you were a writer during the month of November.  I certainly was.  Now, keep going!  Take the daily discipline you acquired to write that epic novel and apply it to the finishing process. Fix those wandering plot points. Make those tenses agree. If you don’t do a little bit every day, the novel will never get in good enough shape for someone besides mom to want to read it. Or (gasp) pay for it.

Don’t know how to edit your own work? Easy.  Enroll in an MFA program. If you can’t wait that long, or afford the money or time, you can always read (for free!) about form, structure and editing from others already successful as writers. Many of them have blogs. I personally prefer to read Sue Healy’s blog (editing) and the Warrior Writer (structure.) Just go to the tag search and type in “writing” and you will find a plethora of assistance.

The point is: writing is fun, but quality writing takes work. Not the painful, stab me with my red stapler type of work, but the with enough effort this will be really cool when it’s done kind of work.

So congrats to you for finishing Nanowrimo!

Now take a few hours off, drink some wine, then start writing, or editing. Or both.

Want to see a writer’s wishful thinking? Check out my wip page. I’ll be busy for a while. Or drinking a lot of wine. Or both.

Are you a writer?

I hope so. I need the company…


Software, Dolphins & Newman? Oh, my!


Image by bernie.levine (trying to recuperate) via Flickr

Only 12 days until NaNoWriMo madness. I should be farther along in my planning, but alas, my story concept has only a beginning and an end. It’s that darn middle part, missing in action. Just like last year!

Maybe I should download some writing software?

I have a program in mind, WriteWay, created by the husband of Lara Adrian (a well known and published author in the urban fantasy/sci fi arena.) It looks promising and quite a few successful writers use it. Not that expensive, either.

While I need all the help I can get, I can’t help but think of my daily commute across the 18 mile Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. Naturally, for safety’s sake, one should really keep one’s eyes on the road when driving over water. Drive off the bridge (it does happen) and you will find the Bay starts at 60 feet in depth and gets deeper in spots. Of course, as Paul Newman would say, the fall will probably kill you, so why worry?

Dolphins. That’s why I should worry.

You see, it is very common to get distracted by pods of dolphins swimming under the bridge. Too many distractions and wham! You just hit the guardrail and over you go. So much for getting to dry land!

Writing software, for a computer geek like me, may be too distracting. I can see it now, spending hours and hours of writing time playing with every little function of the software. Before you know it, it’s November 30th and all I have is my opening sentence: “Crap,” she said, “is that his intestine?”

Okay, that’s not my first sentence, but you get the picture.

So, who uses software to organize and write?

What are the pro and cons as you see it?

And I haven’t totally dismissed getting a new ribbon for the Underwood…

12 days. Yikes.