Search Your Memory for Writing Ideas by JL Greger

bugme5Good fiction, even fantasy, needs bits of reality—locations, facts, or emotions, which are relevant to readers. Often authors introduce reality into their fiction by using their memories—personal, and probably slightly biased, facts. I guess a purist would say memories and facts are often distinctly different. I don’t want to argue the point today.

 

Before I wrote The Good Old Days? A Collection of Stories, I talked to dozens of people about their memories, especially of their childhoods and adolescences. Thus each of my stories has a different perspective, but they all address historical or social problems in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960, a time that many refer to as the good old days.

 

I hope as I tell you about the memories which triggered my stories, you’ll remember details from your past or your family’s history that would enliven your writing.

 

Shoes is a story about child abuse. Instead of describing characters’ facial features, I described their shoes. The person remembering her third grade classroom was shy; her teacher was an authoritarian (a kind word for bully). The student seldom lifted her head in class, so her main memories were of the floor and shoes. Many readers may be surprised to learn how colorful and varied women’s shoes were in the 1950s.

 

How did students find information for school reports before the Internet? They used encyclopedias, but most were expensive and only in libraries. Then, A&P grocery stores offered a different volume of the Golden Book Encyclopedia each month as a sales gimmick. How Old Is the Earth? is a tale of how the increased availability of information changed lives. The story also evokes memories of a time when cotton/polyester wasn’t available and all cotton school uniforms were ironed daily. (Not a fond memory.)

 

Do you remember your first bra? (Sorry guys, you missed that experience.) Did it look a bit like Madonna’s costume with two cones of foam strung together with straps? Enjoy the humorous memories in I Look Like Papa.

 

Many towns in the Midwest and New England are awash with grand Victorian ladies (large houses with endless brightly-painted decorations). As an old man remembers his glory days as a high school athlete in Dirty Dave, he also reveals secrets about domestic violence in these so-called nice homes.

 

Then there are old photos. Do they reflect the past or are they attempts to paint an alternate reality? The answer varies in my vignettes. I’ll let you read Thanks for the Memories and Double Exposure and decide.

 

Did I spark any of your memories? We all have memories usable in fiction. Perhaps, you remember with horror a car accident or the death of a love one. You could use your painful memories of you raw emotions to make a scene in a novel memorable to others. Maybe, happy memories could add humor to your books.

 

The Good Old Days? A Collection of Stories is available (paperback and Kindle) from Amazon: covergoodolddayshttp://amzn.com/1537743813

 

 

Bio: Writing this collection of stories gave JL Greger a chance to get to know old friends better and to make new ones. Typically she writes medical mysteries and thrillers: Murder…A Way to Lose Weight (winner of 2016 Public Safety Writers Association [PSWA] annual contest & finalist in New Mexico/Arizona Book Awards), I Saw You in Beirut, Malignancy (winner of 2015 PSWA annual contest), and Ignore the Pain. To learn more, visit her website: http://www.jlgreger.com.

WRITING WHAT YOU QUESTION By Lea Wait

leaonwiscassettownpier          One of the basic rules for authors is to “write what you know.”

My eighteenth book (Dangling by a Thread) is being published this week, and I understand that rule. I often write about the State of Maine, which I know and love. In my Shadows Antique Print Mystery series my protagonist, Maggie Summer, is an antique dealer, as I was for more than thirty years. In last month’s latest in that series (Shadows on a Morning in Maine,), Maggie, a single adult, adopts an older child – something I did four times.

So – yes – I’ve written what I know.

But I’ve also written about a lot of things I wanted to know.

I asked myself … what if ….

Parents of a man who’d watched their son die of AIDS decided it would be a mercy to

kill others with that disease so they would avoid suffering? (Shadows at the Fair)

An elderly woman with Alzheimer’s started talking about the secrets she’d kept for the past eighty years? (Shadows on a Maine Christmas)

A family that has defined itself as descendants of a famous artist discovers an 1890 diary that tears that assumption apart? (Shadows of a Down East Summer)

A woman disappears when her daughter is ten, leaving the girl to believe she’s been deserted. And then, seventeen years later, the mother’s body is found? (Twisted Threads)

A traveling girl spiritualist draws crowds during the first two weeks of the Civil War, and then the two teenage boys who publish the local newspaper decide to prove she’s a fake? (Uncertain Glory)

A boy loses his leg in an 1819 farm accident, but refuses to accept that his life is over? (Wintering Well)

And, in my latest book, Dangling by a Thread, what if a man isolates himself on an island off the coast of Maine that has no water, electricity or heat … and refuses to leave?

For all these books, research and imagination were key ingredients to creating credible characters and plots.

The idea for Jesse Lockhart, the hermit in Dangling by a Thread, came from a man I’d seen when I was ten years old. Townspeople called him “The danglingbyathreadcomp300Character.” I didn’t know his real name until decades later. Like Jesse, he lived on an isolated island off the coast of Maine. Like Jesse, he rowed into town occasionally for food and other supplies. I never knew that man’s story – but, at ten years old, when I first saw him, I imagined what it might be.

And when I imaged Jesse Lockhart, I gave him reasons – reasons to choose to be alone, and reasons to isolate himself on an island.

Jesse is a fictional character and, no, I don’t know what it’s like to live alone without modern conveniences. But I knew people had done it … still do, I suspect. Imagination plus research created Jesse.

My readers will let me know whether I succeeded in bringing him to life.

 

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shadowsonamorninginmaineMaine author Lea Wait writes the 8-book Shadows Antique Print Mystery series, the most recent of which is SHADOWS ON A MORNING IN MAINE, and the 4-book (so far) Mainely Needlepoint series, the most recent of which is DANGLING BY A THREAD. She also writes historical novels for ages 8 and up, and her LIVING AND WRITING ON THE COAST OF MAINE is a series of essays about her life as a new wife, new author, and full-time Mainer, and includes tips for other writers. She invites readers to friend her on Facebook and Goodreads, and to check her website (www.leawait.com) for links to free prequels of her recent books, and more information about all of them. To be on her postcard or email mailing list, write to Lea at leawait@roadrunner.com

 

Sleuthing Duos by C. T. Collier

ct-collier-authorAs I wrote the fourth and final book of my romance series (pen name Katie O’Boyle), I prepared for my next series, murder mysteries set in Tompkins Falls, NY, the same location as Lakeside Porches, and revolving around troubled Tompkins College. The mysteries would be whodunits and they would fall into the subgenre of academic mysteries. I wanted a pair of sleuths, complementary equals, not a detective and sidekick, to work in tandem to solve the murders. Neither would be a professional crime solver (PI, police detective, for example), and they’d be a married couple.

 

Having articulated that for myself, I went back to work on the last romance, Waking Up To Love, and found the plot had changed in an important way. It always had a villain, whom I imagined to be a likable character. But now, the more I got to know him, the more devious be became. He turned Kyle and Lyssa’s journey toward true love into a roller coaster ride, a dangerous one. His tricks ultimately inspired Kyle and Lyssa to set aside their squabbles and act as a team, in order to look more closely at what the villain and his buddies were up to. While it wasn’t murder, it was an infraction that negatively impacted the college and destroyed one faculty member’s academic career.

 

Wait. Two smart people, Kyle and Lyssa, acting as a team, doing what? I’d found my crime-solving duo!

 

Fresh from Waking Up To Love, Kyle and Lyssa stepped into the role of investigative partners in The Penningtons Investigate. It was clear as I drafted the first book in the series, Planted, that neither Kyle nor Lyssa ever would become a detective. Lyssa thrives on her career as an economics professor at the college, and Kyle embraces his role as CEO of his own computer security business, Pennington Secure Networks. However, circumstances arise that require them to work as a team to solve a murder, because the killing affects them personally and impacts the college in some way.

 

When I told my loyal beta readers about my concept, they came back with big smiles. “Are they going to be like Nick and Nora? Tommy and Tuppence? Hart to Hart? MacMillan and Wife?” I loved the question! Why not learn from and play off sleuthing duos from series I’d loved and maybe a few I’d never heard of?

 

I watched old movies, TV series (anyone remember Mr. and Mrs. North?), and updated versions of classics like Partners in Crime. My research took a big step forward when a librarian friend handed me a June 20, 2015, article published in The Guardian: “Perfect partners in crime: Tommy and Tuppence,” which gave me a taste of still more crime-solving duos.

 

Unlike many couples in crime fiction, Kyle and Lyssa Pennington are equal partners in solving any murder they tackle. Lyssa, the economics professor, is a natural for “following the money story,” which proves to be essential in unraveling each mystery. Similarly, Kyle’s expertise with technology gives them a leg-up with manipulating all available data as they search for patterns and discrepancies. They are different but equal personalities as well. Where Lyssa is sensitive and intuitive, Kyle is logical and capable of intense concentration.  They are united in their goals but divergent in their paths to the answers. Neither can determine “whodunit?” without the other’s input.

 

How do they see themselves? Here’s an abbreviated exchange from an early chapter of Planted, the first book in The Penningtons Investigate. On their lawyer’s advice, Kyle and Lyssa have undertaken a door-to-door canvass of their new neighborhood, apologizing for a shooting in their backyard. Oh, and sleuthing while they’re at it:

 

“Ready, Mr. Pennington?”

“Ready, Mrs. Pennington.”

“I like being on your team,” Lyssa said with a wink. Script and clipboard at the ready, they crossed Seneca Street to the first house on their block.

. . . after a difficult encounter with their first crotchety neighbor . . .

She put a plus sign in the final column for 50 Seneca Street.

“Ah, a secret code. What does the plus sign mean? Clearly not ‘warm and fuzzy.’”

“Hah. It stands for successful damage repair.”

“Meaning, he doesn’t hate us as new neighbors?”

“Exactly.” She had penned ‘Mr. Jonas’ in the Name column, and ‘Tuttle 20 years?’ in the Notes column.

“Good work, Watson,” Kyle teased.

“What Watson?” Lyssa elbowed him playfully. “Miss Marple, I’d say. Oh, I should add a comment that we’ve invited him for iced tea.”

“But Jane Marple was solo. We’re more like Nick and Nora, don’t you think?”

“Weren’t they sloshed a lot?” Lyssa said with a laugh. “I’m sober, don’t forget.”

“Right. Tommy and Tuppence perhaps?”

“Not sure. I’ll have to reread those.”

 

The lively banter between Kyle and Lyssa is a device for processing clues and brainstorming next steps and talking through possible murder scenarios, and it’s also a vital source of humor in a series that deals with murder. Readers have picked up on it as a hallmark of the series, and a few have likened the Penningtons to Nick and Nora, which compelled me to reread Dashiell Hammett’s classic The Thin Man. The experience was different as an author, and truly fascinating. Having savored Hammett’s extraordinary whodunit, I can’t imagine Kyle and Lyssa putting away gin the way Nick and Nora do. And I can only aspire to write a plot as clever and baffling as Hammett’s.

 

With five semesters left in Lyssa’s contract as a Visiting Professor at Tompkins College, there are more murders to come in the Finger Lakes village of Tompkins Falls. Each of the murders will affect both Kyle and Lyssa enough for them to unite as a team to figure out “whodunit?” Solve it they will, using their diverse talents and their trademark humor.

 

planted-book-coverBOOK BLURB:

 

It’s Monday of spring break when Professor Lyssa Pennington’s backyard garden project unearths a loaded revolver. With no record of violence at their address and no related cold case, the Tompkins Falls police have no interest. But the Penningtons and a friend with the State Police believe there’s a body somewhere. Whose? Where? And who pulled the trigger?

 

Planted is book one in the mystery series, The Penningtons Investigate.

 

BUY LINK: http://tinyurl.com/h2f2xeh

 

AUTHOR BIO:

C.T. Collier was born to solve logic puzzles, wear tweed, and drink Earl Grey tea. Her professional experience in cutthroat high tech and backstabbing higher education gave her endless opportunity to study intrigue. Add to that her longtime love of mysteries, and it’s no wonder she writes academic mysteries that draw inspiration from traditional whodunits. Her setting, Tompkins Falls, is a blend of several Finger Lakes towns, including her hometown, Seneca Falls, NY. Entirely fictional, Tompkins College is no college and every college.

 

AUTHOR LINKS:

 

Website: https://drkatecollier.wordpress.com

Facebook: kate.collier.315

Twitter: @TompkinsFalls

 

How I Finished My First Novel (After Years of Trying) by Heather K. Duff

heather-k-duffA few years ago I sat down on New Year’s Eve and wrote a letter to myself—to be opened a year later. It was a heartfelt letter filled with my hopes for the coming year. Figuring prominently was the aspiration to finish my first novel. I expressed frustration with my lack of success in this area, but mostly I encouraged myself to finally FINISH.

Reckoning Day loomed before me. Would I disappoint myself again?

Sadly, yes.

And the next year.

And the next.

Seven years after beginning, I finished my novel, The Wrong, and recently published it in July, 2016.

Why this year? What made the difference?

It wasn’t by chance. It wasn’t by intention. (I’d been “intending” to do it all along.) There were several factors that figured into the equation, several people whose encouragement and faith in me spurred me on. I am convinced, however, that one key decision propelled me to the finish line: I found a writing coach.

I wasn’t looking for a coach. I was looking for an answer that had eluded me for years. Why can’t I finish? Along with this novel, I had many other The-Wrong-web-HKDglorious starts. But where were the finishes?

I did some research on writing coaches and something stood out among all the other benefits. A good coach will help you identify obstacles and get a plan for working through (or around) them. I needed someone with another vantage point to look not only at my writing, but my career. I connected with a writer friend who had been “coaching” me since we’d met. I asked if she might consider formalizing that arrangement. We discussed the particulars and moved forward.

We scheduled our first meeting for January and set up weekly word counts. I didn’t need my coach to necessarily read the work and provide feedback. It was enough to know I had 8,000 words to deliver by midnight Saturday every week…until the novel was completed.

Once it was finished, my coach, Jessica Ferguson, gave it a read. She identified trouble spots and provided insightful feedback. By May, I had a finished book, ready for publication. Thank God (and thank you, Coach!).

 

How Does My Coach Help Me Now?

 

I took a small break from writing after I finished the novel—partly to focus on book promotion, and partly to refuel the creative engine. My coach has been an invaluable resource in this stage of the process as well. Her knowledge of the publishing industry, her knack for asking the right questions (when I start wandering after rabbits on obscure trails), and her desire to see me succeed, all serve as gentle guidance along the way.

There is another benefit of having a coach that runs deeper than aspiration and achievement. Writing is lonely business. Most writers I know don’t mind the solitude. In fact, when inspiration calls from the depths, we joyfully answer by leaving family and friends behind—if just for a while. Those moments alone are rich and precious. And yet, I found myself alone in ways that left me lonely. I expressed this as: “I need someone to be in it with me.” I wasn’t sure what I was asking for when I had that epiphany. But today I am sure I have found it.

If you need someone in your corner, someone with clarity of vision, someone to identify the obstacles you can’t see and classify the ones you can, consider a writing coach. We all have friends and influences within the writing community, but a formal, professional relationship with a writing coach just might be the strong foundation for your next level of success.

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Author Bio

Heather Duff is a freelance web designer passionate about helping others share their work (dreams, ideas, creativity) with the world. She enjoys serving on her church media team, working behind the scenes in the fun—and sometimes frantic—world of church media. She has a great affection for coffee and good friends, especially when combined. She writes mysteries and fantasy fiction. Heather recently published her first mystery novel, The Wrong.

 

Author Website: http://heatherkduff.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/heatherkduff

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Heather-K.-Duff/e/B014ZD0B0G/

Coaching & Marketing Website: http://creativecoachingandmarketing.com

 

BEYOND RECOGNITION By Ron Corbin

RonBioPhotoThe Best Book I Never Wrote

 

I was born and raised in LeRoy, Kansas (pop. 500), a small farming community in the southeastern part of the state. Located on the Neosho River, I had a great childhood, with almost every day emulating the adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. I wrote a collection of short stories about my childhood twenty years ago and presented a copy to each of my children so they would know what “ol’ Dad did as a kid.” It was titled, “Why All the Elm Trees Died.”

 

And the “answer” contained within that title was… that as a mischievous child I got so many whippings with an elm switch, that the all the bark was stripped from the town’s trees and caused them to die. Actually, all the trees did die dues to a disease of some type, but my kids think it was from dad’s spankings.

 

Writing Controversial Topics – Good Or Bad Idea?

 

Personally, I think writing on controversial subjects are good for promoting sales. It’s like people discussing politics. People who agree with your ideas will likely recommend the book favorably, just like they do in voting for a certain elected official. And those who don’t agree with your writing will talk about or complain to their friends, which I think that inadvertently promotes your books to those who want to see for themselves. In either case, it gets people talking about your literary intrigue.

 

What Makes Your Book/Series Unique?

 

Like most memoirs, many “unknowns” were shared in my book. One aspect of writing this was that it served as a means of closure for the survivor’s guilt I experienced for thirty-six years.

 

Primarily though, following a training accident of one of their helicopter crashes that killed the trainee, I obtained a copy of the transcripts for the department’s accident investigation findings. With this document, writing my book exposed a city and/or department cover-up, supervisory betrayals, and botched techniques in the LAPD’s Board of Inquiry post-accident investigation. As an example, although the NTSB investigator on scene submitted a formal report of the accident. Yet as the instructor pilot and sole survivor of the accident, here it is forty years later and I am still waiting to be interviewed by the NTSB.

 

Written and published so long after the fact, it was also a way of explaining to my fellow pilots and observers of what really happened on that fateful day. Knowing that a lot of rumors and speculation as to what caused my helicopter crash circulated among the officers assigned to the air unit, I wanted a little vindication. Being thrown “under the bus” by the chief pilot without being able to defend myself, writing Beyond Recognition was a way to tell “my side of the story.” It also provided some truthful answers to the widow of my trainee who had been misled as to what happened.

 

Lastly, in my book I shared some details as to how I coped with the recovery of my burns, physically, mentally, and emotionally. Optimistically, I would like to think that it will provide some means of hope to other burn victims or trauma survivors; even though there is a long road to recovery, that life does have something left for them.

 

Your Favorite Promotion Strategy

 

With my burn scars plainly visible on my arms and face, this is to my advantage as it typically causes notice from all people that I come into contact with. Although few inquire as to my injuries, it gives me the opportunity to discuss my helicopter accident, which leads into the mentioning of my book. Then I can leave a business card promoting my book, or tell them where they can order it. This works at most of my daily activities; doctors’ and dentists’ offices, auto mechanics, grocery stores, etc.

 

Being from Las Vegas, I also had some personalized “casino chips” designed that displayed my book cover on one side, and the URL to my Website along with a photo of an LAPD helicopter on the other. I have passed-out these in lieu of business cards. And they seem to be a more favorable option in generating attention.

 

I have also provided, for people who buy my book, a raffle contest. The award being a chance to win one of my other book anthologies.

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Beyond Recognition is a “fact-based account” of the memoirs of Ronald Corbin, a former Army combat helicopter pilot and Vietnam veteran who FinalCoverDesignbecomes a Los Angeles Policeman, and eventually a pilot for LAPD’s Air Support Division.

Compared to other pilots in the unit who had received their flight training from local airport operators, Ron’s’ military training and unique combat flying experience as a “Slick” Huey pilot, and his wide background as an instructor pilot in various helicopters, goes beyond recognition of some of the old timers at Air Support. He immediately becomes the target of jealousy by the unit’s chief pilot, Joe Claridge, whose animosity leads him to do everything he can to undermine Ron’s reputation, and ultimately “railroad” him out of the unit.

However, Ron’s flying ability is eventually recognized by the ASD Captain and Training Sergeant. He is selected to become an instructor pilot in the unit, much to the objection of Joe who feels that Ron hasn’t had enough experience in the unit. After becoming one of the unit’s instructor pilots under Joe’s supervision, Ron soon finds himself going head-to-head with Joe over differences of opinion in training objectives for new police pilots. Ron quickly grasps the fact that Joe is nearing the end of his career and is actually afraid to fly. To hide his fear, Joe bows-out of certain missions that may be a little more “hazardous.” The stress Ron goes through with Joe causes Ron to have flash backs of some of the fear and horror of his Vietnam flying.

After an aircraft accident that claims the life of Ron’s police pilot trainee, Jeffrey Lindenberg, and one which puts Ron in the hospital with 70% burns, the LAPD Chief of Police assembles a Board of Inquiry into the cause of the accident. Joe sees his opportunity to seek jealous revenge on Ron by feeding misleading statements to the Board investigators that suggest blame on Ron and Jeffrey. The investigation eventually evolves into a “kangaroo court” and seeks to place unjustified blame on Ron. But the Board’s exercise in “finger-pointing” quickly backfires as Ron exposes a “cover-up” that has corporate and City attorneys scrambling to make a settlement.

What Makes My Series Unique? by Amy M. Bennett

IMG_6271The mystery genre, perhaps more than any other, is subject to certain formulas or patterns that each storyline must follow. But, with so many series available—whether mystery or another genre—how does an author go about making his or her series stand out from the rest?

There are tried and true formulas for certain genres that shouldn’t be rejected out of hand, mainly because there is a huge market for them. This is especially true of the mystery genre, especially the sub-genre known as “cozy” mysteries. That includes having the main character run a business, usually a struggling one inherited from a family member, in a small town (choose a bakery or quilting shop or a bed and breakfast) and an element of romance, particularly a romantic triangle.

In my Black Horse Campground series, Corrie Black is the owner of a campground she inherited from her father after he succumbed to cancer. I had done extensive research trying to find a unique setting for my series and, after my husband and I became enamored of camping in KOA campgrounds that had cabins, I realized it would be the perfect way to have my main character meet strangers in a small town, without stretching the imagination too far. There is always the danger, when writing a cozy mystery, of what has been referred to as “Cabot Cove syndrome” (my apologies to Angela Lansbury and “Murder, She Wrote”): how do so many murders occur in such a small town without people leaving the town in droves? In a vacation-destination setting, strangers are an accepted part of the landscape and it is more likely for the main character to find herself involved in the drama and danger of meeting new people every day. Being in a campground places the setting in a rural area, which gives access to wide-open spaces as well as having a town and all its conveniences nearby. And living near and working in a vacation resort town, I had the knowledge to make the setting ring true, plus the added bonus of being in a location that gets very little notice in fiction!

I also made sure to include “real life” elements to make my fictional setting ring true. Bonney County and Black Horse Campground only exist in my FCAttheCrossroadimagination and on the pages of my books, but I chose to set them near actual locations in south central New Mexico—namely the Ruidoso area in Lincoln County—in order to give my books local flavor. Therefore, my fictional characters do frequent places that really exist in the Ruidoso area, places with which I am familiar and like to visit as well.

The romantic element—in particular the love triangle—can be a bit trickier. It’s difficult to maintain a romantic triangle for a long time without creating annoyance in readers. They want to know who “wins”! In addition, it runs the risks of making the characters seem wishy-washy and tiresome, which is definitely not how you want readers to perceive main characters. In the Black Horse Campground series, Corrie’s romantic interests are old-flame Sheriff Rick Sutton who, for reasons which are unclear, broke off his relationship with Corrie in high school and married a woman who subsequently left him after the birth—and death—of their daughter. What creates a complication is that Rick, like Corrie and the majority of the residents of Bonney County, is a devout Catholic. While Rick and Corrie both seem willing to accept a life-long platonic friendship, everything changes when J.D. Wilder, formerly with the Houston Police Department, shows up and becomes a serious contender for Corrie’s heart. Of course, J.D. comes into the picture with his own set of baggage—including a wife who died while trying to get him killed—so the triangle is set. The key to not making a love triangle tiresome is for the author to know when to quit. Though I am currently working on the fifth book and the triangle is not resolved yet, I am already outlining the resolution to this particular element of my series… while allowing the series to continue!

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Amy Bennett, author of the Black Horse Campground series, has spent eighteen years working full-time as a cake decorator for Walmart Supercenter in Alamogordo, NM, and part-time as a “vino slinger” for Noisy Water Winery in Ruidoso, NM, for the last five years. She lives in a small town halfway between her jobs with her husband and son.

Website: http://www.amymbennettbooks.com/

Blog: http://amymbennettbooks.blogspot.ca/

Publisher’s website author page: http://oaktreebooks.com/AuthorRoster/bennetamy.html

Amazon link: http://www.amazon.com/Amy-M.-Bennett/e/B00EG3EPT4/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1467074683&sr=1-1

AFTER THIRTY YEARS–WHY AM I STILL A WRITER? by Radine Trees Nehring

100_0766-BWe’ve all heard for years that rejection by agents and publishers can be a huge problem for writers. Relief came with the development of self-publishing technology. Details on the numbers of self-published books vary widely, but range up to one third of all books available today. However, with so many books available, (2,700,245,640 individual units sold in 2014–and that 2 is two billion), it’s obvious bookstores and libraries must cut stocking lists to a manageable size. So where do they start cutting? Self-published books are the first things cut or ignored completely. Yes, it is possible for a self-published author to achieve stocking in their home area stores, but stocking is iffy otherwise unless something about that book has brought it into general public interest.

One problem? Self-published books are too often full of editing mistakes. We writers can rarely edit our own books successfully. For one thing, we read what we think we said. We read what pleases us, not realizing our readers may not “get it” or will be just plain bored. And, of course, there can be appalling grammar and spelling mistakes. Fortunately, these days, self-pubbed writers are more aware of potential problems, and many are wise enough to hire an independent editor or, at least, to work with a good critique group. But the stigma sticks and, in many cases, is still justified.

What about those of us who sell books to publishers with editors who help catch problems, assuming the quality of the book has passed potential inspection by a publisher and/or agent? Of course we must present the best book possible and here, too, a critique group or independent editor can make the difference between acceptance and rejection.

And, after the book comes out, bringing it to public attention is–for the most part–done by authors, not publishers, whether that publisher be Random House or Granny’s Garage Press. Statistics say a large percentage of published books do not sell more than 250 copies per year. To enhance promotion, some authors hire a savvy independent publicist who will help get the word out well beyond an individual author’s reach.

So, on our own, and with any help we can add, we promote–largely on line. Honest truth?  On an average day in my office I spend up to five hours on promotion, especially when a new book has just come out. I get the question “WHY?” when new authors hear this.

For each book, I write a marketing plan made up of many avenues of promotion, including an active on line presence. I think you can figure out why that’s important. Yesterday’s advertising methods have most often been replaced by reading on a screen, especially a tiny hand-held one. So I write guest blogs and, when I can get to it, my own blog on WordPress. I post to groups like facebook and twitter. I update information on sites like DorothyL, and Goodreads, plus groups I am part of–Oak Tree Press, Sisters in Crime, and Mystery Writers of America. Taking advantage of all the ways there are to get news out about my profession and my current products–novels–obviously takes a big hunk of time out of my day. I am not alone in this. Other authors talk about the fact that promotion, instead of the act of writing itself, takes too much time. (This is especially difficult for parents and those who have a “day job.”)

All this information is not exactly cheering. So, why do so many of us continue writing and submitting?

Some time ago newspaper editor Richard J. Cattani offered this advice to potential writers: “Your writing should begin with motive, not process.” Okay, process is what I have been talking about. But what about motive? Webster says “motive” is “a need or desire that causes a person to act.”  That FC - A Portrait to Die Forsounds like an ordinary human life. Well, what about book characters?

As a mystery writer, I believe that, when evil happens and my characters react to it, there is a truth in the background waiting to be discovered. Of course book people will be the ones to do this–after I discover in my thought-file ways to resolve the challenges I have placed before them. Often I do not know how an issue will be resolved when the problem is presented but, over the years, I have learned the answer is there and always appears when needed. Do other authors work like this?  In my own case, I knew what the art crime would be in A Portrait to Die For long before I became aware of how it would be brought to light and what the result would be. A writer uses imagination, intuition, and inspiration for problem-solving. We have a deep interest in the human condition and the world we live in, and we do our work on a highly intuitive level, noticing, pondering, sharing, and, quite often–at least in my case–hoping we are sharing solutions that may be helpful to our readers while we offer them adventure and entertainment.

For me, that’s a great motive for being a writer.