Thursday, May 10, 2018

Author Presentation at Celebrate


Getting ready for the presentation
Last Sunday I gave an author talk to Celebrate Virginia’s mystery book group, the Page Turner’s. They in turn invited the community, which resulted in a wonderful turnout. Now, I’m not so na├»ve to think they were all coming just to hear me! Members of Page Turner’s provided Finger Lakes wine, crackers and cheese as accompaniments to my talk. 

 
 After a brief background introduction, I shared information on what is involved in writing – anything. The number one ingredient is passion. Whatever they are writing, they need to be passionate about their subject. That will make the writing fun, and readers will sense it. What do you wish to accomplish? What is the story really about? And this question will come up multiple times throughout the development of the work. Because the characters will change, the plot will change. To keep yourself on track, you have to keep asking – what is this story about?

I then went into decisions an author has to make: Genre, main characters, plot line (s), time frame, setting, and will you be a plotter (outlining) or pantser (just write and see where it goes)?

I shared some funny stories about how my some of characters took over, and the results of their demands. And when you type “the end” it isn’t. You need to have beta readers, and you need to edit, edit, edit. (But know when to stop.)

Listen to the music of your works, I told them. If the words and sentence structure are correct, the words will be like music to your ears. If not, then a sour note will be evident.

I finished by explaining the latest in the publishing world, why I chose to self publish, and the marketing process. Yes, you have to have a social media presence.

I think everyone had a great time – at least they told me so – and I think I gave readers a better understanding of how books come about.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Finger Lakes Book Tour


Lansing New York Community Library
After a book is written, edited, and then published, an author has to prepare to market their book. Actually this preparation should have begun months earlier with the development of a social media presence alerting readers a book is coming and providing teasers to keep readers on the edge of their seats while they wait for publication.

An important step in marketing is meeting readers, and that is done through bookstore appearances and signings and presentations at various venues, such as book groups and libraries. I met a lot of readers this past week when I gave a forty-minute Keynote presentation at four rural Upstate New York libraries. It was wonderful to be greeted by so many readers and to be able to share my writing journey with them. I answered a variety of questions about the writing and publishing process. One of the attendees was about ten years old and when I asked her at the end of my presentation if it was helpful, she said, “Yes. I’m just thinking about what I have written.” I told her there were handouts at the back with a list of things I have learned, and I hope she was able to grab one.

Creative poster at the Ulysses Philomathic Library - "with a candlestick"

An important part of my tour was my hubby who drove me around and was responsible for getting the laptop hooked up to each library’s projector (we brought our own projector just in case), and my sister-in-law who listened to the same presentation four nights in a row (I suggested she bring a book after the first night – she did not – she enjoyed listening and learning a little more each evening). She set up the book table and sold them before and after the event. That was a godsend as it freed me up to answer questions, talk with people, and sign their books. My sister-in-law intended to keep track of the number of books sold, but she quickly learned that they go so fast, there was no way she could do that, talk to people, and make change.

Engaging with the Lansing Library attendees
 A week before the tour I contacted each library director to confirm day and time, A/V requirements, whether there was a screen (or blank wall for projection), and whether I would be allowed to sell books. Normally an author donates a book to each library where the presentation is given, but in this case, I had already donated several of each to the Finger Lakes Library System.

I returned home energized about the next Caitlyn Jamison mystery. I know there are many readers waiting.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Learning the craft of writing - A Writer’s Journal


In a recent Writers Digest interview Kristin Hannah stated she probably does more than ten drafts of her books. She also shared the fact that she had worked on one book for over two years and ended up throwing it away. These revelations startled me, a beginning writer, but the comments were also comforting. This craft of writing is a long and challenging journey. But one of great joy and satisfaction when you can make the words work. When you are able to share a part of yourself, your passions, your ideas.

To capture my ideas, passions, and helpful hints I keep a writer’s journal for each book. The first page has a working title and some plot ideas. Since this is the second Caitlyn Jamison mystery, I have bios on the main characters. The supporting cast will be developed as I go along. The second page has the publishing stats of the first book, i.e. margins, pagination, author price (I learned the more pages in the book the lower the royalty-Fatal Dose is about 40 pages longer than Unexpected Death, so my royalty for Fatal Dose is about 40 cents less.) I also jot down the ISBN number of each book and the number of pages in each.

On the following pages I continue to jot down plot ideas, and introduce characters. Plots change as the characters are developed, so my “Idea” entries change as the book progresses. I also make note of reminders as to scenes, plot structure, use of senses (2 or 3 in each scene), and a constant reminder: What is this story really about? Why should readers keep reading?

While working on the third book, I am busy marketing the first two. Those venues with contact information is captured in my journal. Also captured are books with citations that I use for research.

When I get well into the story I start tracking my word count. I keep a listing of each day’s progress with notes on what needs to be done.

When I get stuck, I review the notes in my journal. It is a way to see how my thought processes have changed as the book matures.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

The Dreaded Middle

It has been a long time since I posted on this blog, which means I have been working hard on my third Caitlyn Jamison mystery! My new website: memaki.com also has a blog, plus a short blog called "Caitlyn's News," in which I keep readers informed about what she is up to as her new adventure progresses. So, counting my genealogy blog, GrowingupinWillowCreek.blotspot.com, I now have three blogs, "Caitlyn's News" and a website to keep fresh, in addition to making progress on the third book. Whew!

Last week I hit the dreaded middle of my new book (working title: The Missing Waterman). Actually I was over halfway when I came to a screeching halt. I spent several days (and nights) wondering where I had gone awry. I liked the plot lines, and I liked the characters, so why couldn't I make the story go forward?

The answer came to me in the middle of the night: the story sequence was in the wrong order. The way I decided to fix that was to start over. Yes, with 0 word count. I started a new document in which I copied chapters from the original document, but placed them in a different order. I took pieces of chapters and put them where they worked better. I've left the fluff behind, and now have a work-in-progress that flows much better and the prose is tighter.

Utilizing the advice from the book, Make a Scene, I will go through those new chapters to make sure they fit the criteria. I then will put each chapter through WritingProAid, a software product that is an incredible editing tool. I want to make sure my base is solid before I go much further with the story. 

And that is the life of a writer. Always learning, always trying new ways to come up with an enjoyable story. May your writing give you much joy.


Saturday, January 6, 2018

Scenes Provide the Framework



I am reading Make a Scene by Jordan Rosenfeld, a book I highly recommend for every writer. It is a whole new way for me to look at and evaluate the scenes in my book. I had just started the first chapter when I grabbed my writer’s journal to take notes on how I should reorganize my text. The book is that good.

Ms Rosenfeld begins by defining the functions of a scene as “…the essential DNA of story: They are the individual ‘cells’ of information that shape the essence of the story …” From that overall description, she delves deep into the core elements of writing scenes, and then describes the various scene types.

She outlines the most important questions for each scene:
“Where are my characters in the plot? Where did I leave them in the last scene and what are they doing now? *What is the most important piece of information that needs to be revealed in this scene? *What is my protagonist’s goal for this scene? *How will that goal be achieved or thwarted?”

My writer’s journal notes from the first few chapters of Make a Scene instructed me to flesh out the undesirable character, Vince Russell, mentioned in the first chapter. The book reminded me there are always two sides, and I should tell Mr. Russell’s side of the story. He, too, has hopes and needs. Vince now has his own chapter, when before, he had a paragraph buried in the first chapter.

I realized I had stereotyped some of my characters. That’s wrong, and I have now reworked those scenes to better reflect the people and their culture.

I had not described the setting enough, and I find that is an ongoing process. It is part of the process where I have to slow down, delve deep into my characters and where they are in order to describe the setting they are in. This is not easy for me, but I’m working on it. Yesterday I enjoyed creating the town of Ingram and I hope my readers will enjoy it as well.

Keeping in mind the advice Ms. Rosenfeld provides in her book, I am crafting each scene launch carefully and strategically, and asking myself, what is each character’s role? By following this recipe, I have already reworked the first couple of chapters, and am looking forward to reshaping and fleshing out the later chapters.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

A Story Needs Passion


Sydney, my muse and advisor
An article by Deb Caletti in the latest Writers Digest caught my attention. In fact, I stopped reading and put the magazine down. The article gave me pause.

She said the first thing she asks her students before embarking on a writing project is to write down – What’s the point? As writers we learn about developing characters, plot, POV, pacing, dialogue, and the importance of editing, but the most important element is, in her words, “your own deep and personal connection to what’s on the page.” And that is when I realized that what I have developed so far in my third book is a story, but not a passion.

Ms. Caletti goes on to say, “The most important thing you can do, truly, is write the book that stirs your heart and disturbs your soul.”

I had to reevaluate what I was passionate about in my third mystery. The first two books had issues I was passionate about, and there were times when I couldn’t type fast enough. The passion and energy flowed out of me at such a fast rate my fingers couldn’t keep up. But not this time. And I thank Ms. Caletti for reminding me that feeling the story is of upmost importance.

I realized that what I am most passionate about is delving into each character, getting to know them, and to see how they react in various situations. I am also passionate about how Caitlyn deals with the cold case she becomes passionate about at a time of high stress in her job and family.

Is there more? The article prompted me to talk things over with my muse, Sydney. I asked her that all-important question—what am I passionate about? We came up with several more things, and I have to figure out how to work them into the story.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Website Development


I had put off developing a website thinking a blog would be good enough—until the November 11 CRRL Writer’s Conference. As I listened to the speakers, and participated on the panel on publishing and marketing, I realized it was time to develop a website presence.

We had purchased website software several years ago, so I had the tools at hand. And I’ve found that I enjoy creating websites and Keynote presentations. I worked on my pages, took a break, came back and added more information, took a break, and that was how my day went last Thursday as I put together the information I felt readers might enjoy.

I had a bit of a time getting the site published. That is not a seamless task and after many failed attempts, a live chat finally gave me the critical information I needed for success. But the site is up now, hosted by A2 Hosting, a reputable company – another goal.

In the process of getting the site hosted, I read a great article on Jane Friedman’s blog about what a website should cover. From that article I went back in and made adjustments to my site. Once published, I asked my daughter-in-law to review. She made some good suggestions, like putting my contact information next to where the books can be purchased if someone wants to purchase directly from me for a signed edition.

I will be posting tidbits about how the next Caitlyn Jamison mystery is progressing, and other writing and publishing things I have learned along the way.

Please visit my new website at: memaki.com