Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Mixed Feelings

Yesterday my daughter and I loaded up some books we'd decided to put up for adoption and went on an investigative trip to the newest bookstore in town. 2nd and Charles is a part of BAM, I believe, but they deal mostly in used books and other media merchandise.

You bring in your used stuff, fill up one of their bins and then browse while they decide how many pennies to give you for the things you've spent nearly an entire paycheck to purchase. It only took them about half an hour to add up my offerings and give me a little store credit. They kindly will give you cash or twice the cash amount in store credit.

Browsing through their shelved books is kind of like being in BAM. Very difficult to find anything. They have a separate scifi and fantasy section but you'll find lots of those books misfiled in with all the other books. There's a separate romance section but you'll find lots of romance books shelved with all those other books. There's a few shelves of what I think are mystery or suspense but you find some books from certain authors there and in with all those other books. All those other books are just about every genre of fiction you can imagine.

The prices are pretty good but it's best if you have a certain author in mind while you look around. Their used movie section is pretty good and I found two season of Stargate Atlantis pretty cheap. I remember now why I loved the early seasons of that show. My daughter found a few nonfiction books but nothing that she wanted. So we walked out with some store credit in our pockets and a few items of interest.

But I also felt a little guilty. I love bookstores but 2nd and Charles is a case of the 'big guys' moving into a role that has kept some smaller book dealers open, the used book market. Some of those little stores have so much character and the people running them are true book lovers. Going into that big impersonal store felt like a betrayal of them.

The best thing about 2nd and Charles is that it is in a big mall and there's an Auntie Anne's Pretzels right next to it.

What do you think about BAM moving into the used book market? Have you been to a 2nd and Charles yet? Love Auntie Anne's very fattening and delicious pretzels?

Monday, June 24, 2013

What Works for You?

I try to visit a lot of blogs. Most of them are writers but not all. The writers are in all stages of their careers and the content of their blogs vary.

A few of them use their blogs mostly to promote their own books though all of them feature fellow authors now and then. Often they share snippets of their work in progress or of a completed book.

Some writers use their blog to share information about writing, publishing and promotion. Sometimes links to other sites are included. Blogs like these are great for other writers no matter if they're published or still finding their own path to that destination.

Some blogs are composed of a variety pack of author promotion, reviews, and even contests and trivia. I'm terrible at trivia but I always feel victorious when I get even one answer correct.

Other blogs can be a surprise every day with personal tidbits, sharing of opinions and philosophies and any other old thing.

I enjoy all those types of blogs. My blog is a bit eclectic. I sometime promote my own books or someone else'. Usually I have something to say about writing though it's generally only my opinion or taken from my experiences since I don't consider myself an expert in any writing area. Once in a while, I'll do a blog that isn't about writing at all though I generally don't get too personal. And I've vowed to use my blog more to thank and promote friends' books.

Cate Masters has helped me so many times as I navigate the murky waters of being a writer. She's very prolific and also tackles a number of different sub genres within her books. I've shared a table with Cate at a few local book signings and she as gracious in person as she is online. Betting It All, her recent novella release, has one of the loveliest covers I've seen in a while. Check out her blog and the current blog hop she's running.

I believe if you're going to stick to blogging and post regularly you have to do what works for you. Don't try to copy a blog that is very successful but has features you won't feel comfortable writing about. Be comfortable and blogging will be enjoyable and easier.

So what kind of blogs do you visit? How would you categorize your blog? Do you know Cate? Isn't she lovely?

Friday, June 21, 2013

No Dumb Down

As a reader I love books that challenge my intellect. I read a lot of historical fiction and the more real history I learn the more I love the book. I read lots of mysteries and suspense. Nothing keeps me turning pages like the clever weaving of clues and connections. Science fiction and fantasy? Create a world or science that sounds plausible and stays in my thoughts for days or months until your next book comes out.

Even better, introduce me to a new word, not a big show off word, but a rarely used word that is perfect for the scene. I have a little spiral notebook that I write down words that I like and intend to use one day when they fit perfectly. Whatever you do, don't dumb down the prose to fit me as a reader.

People who read books are smart. If a reader opens a book expecting a historical mystery in the time of King Henry VIII, keep the facts straight and teach me a little history woven within the plot. If you're writing science fiction, give me a little real science to make the fictional part more believable. Challenge the reader whenever you can. Never underestimate the intelligence of the people who might read your books.

Have you ever put a book down because it insulted your intelligence? Have you ever read a book where you felt the author was showing off by using big or obscure words when a simple better word would do? Do anything special for this longest day of the year here in the northern hemisphere?

Friday, June 14, 2013

Thank Others

I'm taking a short break from blogging next week for my first little summer getaway. I don't believe I mentioned that earlier this week, my husband and I celebrated 31 years of wedded bliss. With our fifth and sixth kids now enrolled in college, one finishing up next May, we've had some lean financial years. We've stuck together through thick and thin and not matter how thin, my husband has always supported my writing. I've tried to be as supportive of his activities. But in case I don't say it enough in private, I'll say it in public. "Thanks, dear."

Yes, I call him dear. We're going to celebrate our anniversary and Father's Day by going out of town, on Monday. We're still paying a lot of tuition so we vacation on weekdays when rates are cheaper.

This writing journey has involved a lot of help and support from others. I plan on thanking lots of people over the next few months. Today let me thank a very successful writer who has given my so much advice over the years. Not only about publishers, but simple things like questions about word processing programs, web tools and promotion.

Natalie Damschroder has a blog at Indulge Yourself. She writes for a variety of publishers and is a very active member in CPRW, the local chapter of RWA. And she's so generous with helping writers just starting out. She will answer any and all questions and do whatever she can to help others' careers along.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Daily Writing Goals

If you google 'setting writing goals' you'll find lots and lots of advice, most from more successful writers than me. I can only share what works for me.

When I first started, I received a lot of advice on setting goals involving word counts. One thousand words a day, five thousand words a week, thirty thousand per month, two books per year, lots of numbers. And I try to make those numbers though that's not how I set my goals day by day or writing session by writing session.

I set goals by scenes or chapters. Sometimes they might be 10K or 1K. By finishing a scene, I feel like I've moved the story forward no matter how large or small the word count. Then I usually walk away, do chores, sleep on it, do some shopping, all the while thinking on that next scene. When I sit at the keyboard again, I'm ready to dive into the next scene. There are occasions when I already have that next scene ready in my mind. Those are days when the numbers really add up.

Some people have a certain amount of time to write and their goal is to spend that time wisely. I'm not sure how that works out.

But if you're not meeting the goals you set for yourself, perhaps you need to look at different styles of goal setting. Not making your word count? Try setting scene goals.

Do you set goals by words count? By time? By chapter or scene? What works for you?

Monday, June 10, 2013

Full Time !

Yes, the countdown clock is going. I'm officially retired after 34 years of teaching high school. Those last days were hectic and lots of fun. The four younger teachers in my department took my fellow retiree and me out to lunch one day, gave us wonderful cards and gifts. I have a stack of cards and letters from my students, many that choked me up but none that could wipe the grin from my face. On that last day I received lots of calls from my family, hugs from my peers, including the school superintendent, and walked out of that school building with no regrets and lots of plans.

During that last hectic week at school, I also received the (hopefully) last round of edits for First Dragon from my editor at Crescent Moon Press. So between all the smiling and hugging, I worked on those edits, tried to keep up on blogging, facebooking and get in a few new pages on The Queen's Heiress, the follow up book to The Marine's Queen

In fact, I spent the last week fulfilling one of my retirement intentions. Keeping multiple projects in the air. And I loved it. Writing easily could have captured more than forty hours during that time. It was wonderful. So edits are done and sent back, 5K done on WIP, and blogs are ready for the week. I have a lot of little things to accomplish but also time for the WIP.

Besides all the in person kindness I received on retirement, Alex Cavanaugh kindly congratulated me on his blog. It was like another hug just to make the day complete. Thanks, Alex.

I know many people will be taking holidays over the  next few months as will I. I'm looking forward to a quick, trip to the Jersey Shore next week. The second week of July, we're heading to Colorado. I'm not sure how much I'll be in touch. Now that I'm a full time writer, I have to wonder when exactly the days off are.

What are your plans for summer vacations? We did stay-cations last year, very cheap. Are you setting some writing goals for the summer months?

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

InSecure Writers Support Group

Thanks to Alex Cavanaugh for starting the IWSG. The first Wednesday of every month, a feisty group of bloggers share ideas, hopes, a few cheers and other tidbits to help each other along.

Though I'm retiring soon and hope to have lots of writing time, I think every person trying to make it in this often frustrating business has to address the problem of time management. As a teacher, I always expected myself to get lots of writing done during the summer months. But last year was the first summer when I actually fulfilled that expectation. The previous years, it seemed the more time I had the less I accomplished. I've heard other writers say the same thing. They do better when they know they only have a few hours rather than the entire day.

Full time writers I've spoken to have described how they establish a regiment of how much time they spend on social media, on email, on promotion and then actual writing time. Some set aside certain times of day to do each thing. It works for them.

I recently read an article in a writing publication from a very successful author where she spoke about how to manage your writing time. She believes in the 'lock the door and stay in the chair' philosophy. Her one statement was to never leave the keyboard to do the laundry. It stuck in my mind because I do the laundry while I'm writing on the time. Some is in the dryer as I write this post. And that works for me. When I'm not sure how I want to say something, I go throw the towels from the washing machine into the dryer. Or I may go chop some veggies or make a cup of tea. I step away from the keyboard and do mindless chores that allow me to ponder.

My point is that reading all the opinions and advice articles in the world, including mine, may not solve your time management problems. You have to find the method that works for you, in your situation, with your personality, your outside responsibilities and that will help you meet your goals.

Have you tried following someone else's advice on time management? Did it work for you? Is time management a problem for you?

Monday, June 3, 2013


How focused are you when you write? Do you need perfect quiet? Do you need a clear desktop? Can you close a door and shut out the rest of the world or even just your own household?

I grew up in a large family, four sisters and two brothers. The only desk in the house belonged to my dad and none of us were allowed to use it. I usually did my homework sitting on the floor or on the sofa. The TV would be on and my brothers and sisters would be around doing their own homework or arguing like siblings do. I learned early on how to tune out what was going on around me. It served me well through high school and college when I could read and study no matter what was going on around me.

As an adult with four children, I think I've grown in my talents of concentration. Entire conversations go on around me, sometimes directed  at me, and I might never hear them if I'm reading, writing, or working on this blog. And on the flip side of that, I actually work better when I have a little noise to ignore. I almost always have a movie, Netflix or a DVD, running in the background when I write. (Season 1 of Hell on Wheels right now) I concentrate better. My early training I suppose.  I do tend to pick a video that will fit the mood of what I'm writing. The Marine's Heiress is in a pretty dark, dangerous place right now.

Don't forget today is the official release day of James Garcia's Seeing Ghosts. Check out his facebook page. 

Today is also the last day I have to actually teach at school. The next four days are just babysitting and clean up. A few of my classes choked me up as we said our goodbyes last Friday, but I managed not to cry. Mostly I've been smiling a lot.

How are you at focusing while you write or read? Are you lucky enough to be able to lock a door and leave the world outside? Do you ever set the mood for what you're writing with music or a movie? Do your family or your friends ever get irritated with you because you tuned them out when you're reading or writing?