Nano Nano to You


Yesterday a friend asked me why I participate in Nanowrimo.

“You don’t need it,” he said.

I have thirty-eight published novels, and I stopped counting the short stories when I hit one hundred.

“I need it,” I replied.

Because I want to have thirty-nine published novels.

Admittedly Nanowrimo won’t net me that published credit, but it gives me a push in the fall when I need it. The year winding down, writer fatigue ratcheting up, Nano arrives at a good time. I know a lot of published authors who participate in Nanowrimo. Sure, it might have started as a challenge to newbies… and I think it is awesome for new writers… but it is a relevant exercise for all authors at all levels.

The challenge is fun.

It instills a deadline.

There’s a support group. And there are marvelous advice columns that accompany it in your email in-box.

I’ve challenged a lot of friends through the year to join me. Some of them take me up on it. Others say they don’t have time; too much going on; etc.; etc.; etc.

This year it would be easy for me not to participate. My editing schedule is choked. I have family obligations. Honestly, I don’t know if I can hit even close to the 50,000 word mark.

But I’m gonna give it a helluva try.

I’m outlining the third Piper Blackwell novel. I’ve seven chapters sketched…out of likely forty. I’m following the Nano rules. Outline ahead of time. Start writing November 1. I won’t have the whole book outlined by then, but I hope to have a dozen chapters sketched.

Yeah, I’m gonna give it a helluva try.

Join me?


Two Cents for New Writers

You can consider my two cents wheat pennies…it feels like I’ve been in the writing business that long.

I spent about twenty years giving writing seminars and programs in the summer…at conventions, schools, museums, on-line. Summer and into the fall seems a good time for writing classes.

My advice has changed since I started that. “Back in the day” there wasn’t the e-revolution, and your route to getting a novel in the bookstores was traditional publishers or self-publishing. The e-explosion changed that. More than a million books are published every year now, and a new writer has to compete with that.

On the proverbial one hand it is easier to get published. There are a lot of small press publishers, and there’s the do-it-yourself avenue. Sure, there are still the traditional big New York publishers, but they are far far far from your only option.

The whole publishing dynamic is different. Today, you can’t be “just a writer.” Remember…one million books a year. You have to be a social media guru, a marketer. You have to promote or your book will go nowhere. I recently read an article that said the average book sells 250 copies or less. If you don’t want to have an average book, you have to spend time putting you and your books out there.

I had an e-conversation with my current publisher the other night. She pointed out that for the past two years book sales have been down down down, that some small publishers are closing. They were also talking about this issue at a recent mystery writers’ convention I attended.

Maybe individual book sales are declining because the number of books published are increasing. Some think sales are dropping because people are reading less and spending more time with computer games of various stripes. Many people I know admit to reading less.

Not a good sign for either newcomers or veteran authors.

So…back to my two cents.

My advice is to write every day. Every. Day. It makes you better. You can’t finish a novel if you only write when you feel like it. Join a writer’s group…because often that improves your craft. Network with other writers and editors; they’ll point you to which publishers and agents are looking. Don’t quit your day job. Unless you become a sensation and get an amazing advance, writing isn’t terribly lucrative. Don’t rely on it as your only income.

I’m a full-time writer. But I supplement it with editing novels on the side, and mentoring college students. Writing alone won’t cut it. Plus, my husband works full-time and has insurance.

So…write every day and don’t give up. Don’t let rejection notices get to you. Don’t let “one million books published a year” get to you.

I saw a posting on Facebook, a youngish writer who announced to the world that he was giving up, throwing in the towel. So many people were commenting under his post that he should stick with it, persevere, soldier on. I nearly typed: good luck on your next endeavor. But I stopped myself and scrolled on. His voice is one less writer to compete with in the slush pile.

One cent: write every day.
Another cent: don’t give up.
…not if you really want to be a writer.

Hey, it is Nanowrimo time. Give it a shot.

Take A Look At My Office

My Cacophonous Mess

So they asked what my office looks like.

Depends which office.

Late spring through early fall my office is my screened-in back porch. I have a big table I found on sale at Wal-Mart, and a comfy desk chair (also on sale). For five hours everyday I take my laptop outside and write write write…or edit. It has a dog door so my dogs can go in and out to the fenced backyard as they please. It is the best office in the world, eh? It’s not pretty. The porch looks run-down, the indoor-outdoor carpet old; it was like this when we bought the house. I’ve put up nice window blinds, fans, and I know better than to try and replace the carpet. I have four dogs (don’t ask…that’s for another story). Oh, I work more than five hours a day, but I have to spend a couple hours in my indoor office to keep my parrot company.

My inside office, a dedicated room with file cabinets, beautiful walnut desk, and a desktop computer, is a cacophonous mess. Here’s the deal. I have a parrot, as I mentioned in the paragraph above, a miniature macaw that’s roughly 30 years old. The best place for her is the office, where she can’t bite friends who come over and where she isn’t too close to a wall to chew on it. I give her freedom, open her big cage, she can go in and out as she pleases and clamber around on top and play with toys. The walls in my office were never repainted when we moved in (don’t ask…that’s for another story), and so she can’t really hurt them. I spread newspapers out all around this big cage to protect the old carpet that wasn’t replaced when we moved in. My husband figured it was just an office, right? It didn’t need to look nice. Sigh.

I have four dogs. And sometimes they shred the newspaper under the bird cage, like they’re making confetti for a parade. Dogs gotta have something to do, right? And sometimes the dogs go nose-to-nose with the parrot and they have interesting conversations (really). The parrot talks, sings, scolds the dogs, and tells them “shut up” when they bark. The dogs squeak toys and play…always in my office, as they want to be with me. So my office is noisy. I’ve learned to tune it out. And it’s a mess…newspapers, errant bird seeds, dog toys everywhere.

A cacophonous mess. And it’s wonderful. It’s colorful. It’s lively. I am not lonely here. I am never lonely when I write.

Now…I do clean up my office; once a week. Wag fingers at me if you must. But I’m a writer and so I will write write write, edit, toss tennis balls, take my pug for a little walk, then write write write. Picking up my office happens once a week.

It’s wonderful, my cacophonous mess. Life is better with dogs. And I’d rather have the dogs than a tidy office.

My office is also filled with narrow bookcases containing interesting and eclectic reference books about medieval garb, food in the Middle Ages, knights, trees, fish, rocks, word origins, dictionaries, and a thesaurus. Oh, I almost forgot…Italian aviators in WWI, WWII slang, a dictionary of battles, and forensics.

My decor is finished with Beanie Babies. I started a tradition with my first novel, I bought a Beanie Baby pug dog to celebrate. I could hardly justify buying one otherwise. I have 38 dog Beanie Babies on shelves around my office and across the top of my desk.

Because I have 38 books published.

I’m currently shopping the 39th, and I’ve started on the 40th. I found some Beanie Babies on eBay…they’re in a little bag in my office…waiting to join the rest.

The Dead of Night
Order The Dead of Night on Amazon by clicking HERE

The Dead of Winter
Find The Dead of Winter on Amazon by clicking HERE

And my Amazon author page HERE

Bad Pottery and Good Friends

When I lived in Kenosha, Wisconsin, I took pottery classes from an amazing instructor who taught out of an equally amazing museum.

I made amazingly bad pottery there. Seriously. I crafted a “hand-built” teapot that was crooked and couldn’t pour. And some other ugly dishes. My buddy Vicki took the finished pieces home so her husband could shoot them at the gun range.

On one occasion, our pottery class made “hand-built” bowls that when glazed all prettily would be auctioned at a charity event called Bowls and Books (or something like that). I didn’t want to know what my bowls went for.

Anyway, the “books” part of the event intrigued me, and I discovered that I could lease a dealer’s table and hawk my novels. Fate waltzed in. Chris Verstraete, a local author, leased the table next to mine. We chatted. I invited her to the Kenosha writer’s group, and we became good friends.

Chris sent out a newsletter today…she has a GREAT newsletter. You can subscribe HERE in the middle of her webpage. She mentioned my new book in it, The Dead of Night, a Piper Blackwell mystery. She’s mentioned my books before and has hosted me for guest blogs. Chris is incredibly supportive to other writers.

So I wanted to thank her publicly for all her support. Writing is a tough business…SO MANY BOOKS, more than a million, are published each year. We writers try to claw our way up the stack to catch a reader’s attention. Chris is one of those fine folks who helps others with the clawing.

I know authors who get acidic when their fellows experience success, and who do nothing to promote another writer…perhaps out of fear it will lessen their own chances or take away a potential sale.

Then there’s Chris. Everyone should have a Chris Verstraete in their writing life. Chris pens zombie tales, sometimes mixing them with historical mysteries. She has a vivid and blessedly twisted imagination. HERE is a link to a lovely mystery-history-romance novella, her latest release, The Haunting of Dr. Bowen.

When I moved from Kenosha to the middle of a cornfield in Illinois, Chris came over and helped me pack. How wonderful that bad pottery led to a lasting friendship.

Many other authors have also helped me through the years. I can’t name them all in one blog post, but I will list a few here, as I am in a thankful mood today. I’ll get around to more fine folks later.

Steven Paul Leiva, smooth wordsmith from beautiful, enviable California, wrote an insightful article on Ray Bradbury for a magazine I edited. He’s reviewed some of my novels, including in The Huffington Post. I’ve read many of his books, not sure which one is my favorite, as they are all very different. I was charmed by IMP. HERE is the book that introduced me to him. And HERE is his Amazon author page so you can look at his offerings.

Beth Vaughan writes smoochy books filled with sword fights and magic. HERE is her Amazon page. Beth chats with me every weekend, about dogs, cats, fireballs, mimics, and writing. Always about writing. Her advice has helped more than one of my characters get out of trouble.

Donald J. Bingle co-authored The Love-Haight Case Files with me (which won three Silver Falchion Awards). Don, a retired attorney, provided invaluable insights into wills (for a novel I wrote), and airbags (for a different novel). HERE Is his Amazon author page.

Raymond Benson (yeah, NYT Bestselling author of James Bond books) was kind enough to read a manuscript for me, offer suggestions, and blurb it. Cool beans, eh? He has a new novel releasing on the 10th, The Secrets on Chickory Lane. I had the great fortune to read it in advance. WOW.

Jonathan Maberry thankfully blurbed my latest book. I pre-ordered this upcoming JOE LEDGER novel. I love Joe Ledger.

Faith Hunter blurbed the book and hosted a blog. And Faith graciously allowed me to be in her Rogue Mage anthology: Tribulations.

R.L. King provided an excellent blurb for my most recent mystery book, and so did Beth Terrell (Jaden Terrell)…I have two of her private detective books sitting on the shelf in my office. Her next will be set in Alaska…brrrrrrrr.

Writing is a lonely calling. But fellow authors can make the journey better, especially those souls who support each other…who celebrate and lift you up instead of put you down. Those authors who revel in the success of others…they are the ones I am fast to read. The works of those authors find their way to the top of my to-be-read stack. I should be getting that Joe Ledger at the end of the month…looking forward to the read.