Posts Tagged ‘Writing’

It’s official, I am a published Author!

Coming from a family of cops, when people close to her start dying, Billie Bly realizes that, she too, bleeds blue.
My New Book

My publisher surprised me by getting my new book, Bleeding Blue, online in time to take advantage of the after Christmas new e-reader and Ipad audience looking for a good read.

The print version is due out in mid-to late March and I will have a Launch party for my friends and the public with a reading and signing of purchased books. Its been a long time coming and I have a hard time believing it’s happening.

You can download and read Bleeding Blue from Amazon if you have a Kindle or PC or Smart Phone  and Tablets, just follow the red links if you need to download the software to read books.

You can also download my book on your Ipad, Sony Reader, Nook or other platforms by searching for the title or by going to Smashwords.

As a teaser to new fans, I am offering my short story free again, with the hopes people will read it and want to purchase Bleeding Blue for $7.99.

Check out Billie Bly in my short story, Death Fits Like a Glove free Dec. 28-30th on Amazon.

It has gotten several Five Star Reviews. One person told me she couldn’t go to sleep after reading it, because if was so suspenseful.

Here’s the Dust jacket info on Bleeding Blue:

P.I. Billie Bly’s physic tells her she will stumble upon a murder, but neglects to mention she is to be the victim. Maybe her psychic doesn’t want to give her more to worry about with a million dollar lawsuit looming and a missing client who doesn’t want to be found.

She is determined to learn who wants her dead and why as people start dying around her. The trail leads deep inside Portland’s City Hall and involves a mayor who wants to be governor at any cost; his mistress, who wants to tag along with or without her city auditor husband; a city commissioner who hires a P.I. to spy on Billie; and an ambitious cop lurking in the background waiting for his opportunity for advancement.

The pressure mounts as the Mayor attempts to put Billie under house arrest for her own good; and an assassin tries to kill her in a drive-by shooting, narrowly misses blowing her up with her car and garage, and kills a chief witness at the Portland Pirate Festival.

When the cops start a manhunt for Billie’s former partner, whom she still has a crush on, as their main suspect, she decides one of them must die to unravel the truth.

Will her psychic prove to be right after all, or will Billie finally flush out the killer responsible for the murders of four people? It comes down to a late-night shootout with a vicious killer on a Portland riverfront to learn why she must die.

One of the things a beginning novelist must do is send out queries and receive rejections.
It seems my whole life I have always had to face rejection. I have been in sales, real estate, and represented people as a union steward.
I seem to always put myself right square in the middle of rejection. But that is part of life, I guess.
It’s how we respond to rejection that makes us who we are.
As writers, if we avoid it, we don’t do ourselves any favors. As potential authors, if we continue to put our work out there and it is rejected, it does have an overall effect on us.
I remember after sending out queries to many agents , wondering if I was in over my head. I was at Bouchercon in 2005 when I met Jonathan Grant, author of the Lovejoy mysteries, and practically a modern-day Agatha Christie in England.
We talked, and he offered to read my first novel and critique it. (more…)

If you plan to enter your book in Amazon and CreateSpace‘s fifth annual book contest, you’d better write the best damn query letter you’ve ever written. According to the rules, the first cut, which is 1,000 from the 5,000 total entered (in each category), will be judged on query letters alone.

Amazon, of course, is partnering with Penguin books and first prize is a $15,000 advance and a book contract. The two categories are fiction and young adult fiction. Entries are accepted beginning Jan. 23 to Feb. 5 or until 5,000 entries are received in each category.

Of course any time you write a query letter to an agent it should be as good as your book. Agents look at your query and consider your voice, story concept, and writing ability all in the query. I bet you thought they made their decision on the first three chapters or so of your book.

No. First you have to send them those chapters. And before you can do this, you must piqué the curiosity of the agent or editor.

The basic structure of a query is not difficult. It should be written in present tense. It should grab the reader’s attention. It should be representative of the agent or editor’s needs or expertise. It should list your publishing credits, if any, or any professional experience you may have which would show why you are the best person to tell your story.

You should tell the agent your genre, that it is finished, how many words it is, and if you are working on a series. The story outline should be in your writing voice, bring up some enticing questions, include a brief synopsis, and set the place and time (historical or if it is not set in current era).

The letter should be less than a page and should leave to reader wanting more . . . just like your first chapter.

Okay, I’m going to attempt to write an example here. Don’t judge me to harshly because I just decided to do this:

I am submitting my finished book, a mystery thriller, about 86,000 words. I’m working on a sequel where Billie Bly, P.I., stumbles upon a mad bomber using an online dating service* to troll for his victims. (*I changed this because I have a high concept idea I don’t want to share).

P.I. Billie Bly’s psychic warns her someone will be murdered today, but neglects to tell her it will be Billie.

As she walks down the sidewalk in the busy Pearl District of NW Portland, she sees two men grab a boy and pull him into a warehouse. She draws her gun and follows carefully when shots ring out.

She finds the boy lying in what looks like a pool of blood and looks for the shooter. When she looks back the boy is sitting up with an evil grin and a big gun, and he shoots Billie.

She’s left for dead, but is found by a white-bearded man she calls God and whisked to the hospital where her heart stops twice. The day she finally gets out of the hospital her younger cop brother is murdered during a second attempt on her life.

Billie vows to avenge her brother’s murder, but is met with resistance at every corner. Her former partner and boyfriend heads the investigation and puts her under house arrest as a material witness. The suspects include the mayor of Portland, who doesn’t want Billie snooping around; the mayor’s mistress, a buxom brunette who is married to the city auditor; a seedy con after revenge of his own; her former partner and boyfriend; and her assistant’s new boyfriend, an undercover P.I. who inserts himself into her investigation.

As she tracks down her brother’s killer, she is nearly blown up in her garage, she falls three stories escaping from a villain, is shot at by a sniper at a Pirate Festival, nearly run off a mountain road, and shot in a showdown with the villain.

If you have interest in my story, I will be glad to send it you.

Okay, first sentence I establish I am submitting my book, its length, the genre, and that it is finished. Yes, agents get queries from people with works-in-progress. I also indicate I am working on a second book because they want series character’s in mysteries and will want to set up a multiple book contract with a publishing house no matter what genre in fiction.

In the story synopsis I try to set the hook in the first sentence. What? She dies in the first chapter? (Read on).

Did you notice I wrote it in present tense? This helps grab the reader and avoids a passive query.  In the second paragraph, I show a call to action and tell the reader where the setting takes place, in Portland’s Pearl District.

In the third paragraph, I name the suspects briefly and set up a second call to action, her brother’s murder. I tell the reader she faces many obstacles. In the last paragraph, I summarize the peril my heroine will face.

Then, I attempt to close the sale, suggesting I am ready to send my manuscript. I have one agent in mind who has a pretty good blog I’ve followed the past year and subscribe to. I will probably mention it to her and thank her for some of her tips (likely one specifically) to show a personal connection.

That’s it. I didn’t do too bad, although I would probably go back and rewrite the obstacle and attempts on her life paragraphs.

One last thought. You should be ready in the event and agent or editor requests a synopsis, along with manuscript chapters. If you haven’t done one, don’t freak. The suggested length is five to six pages, unless otherwise requested (double spaced, single if you have a lengthy story). It should be a basic outline of the highlights of your book, of course written as well as your book and in your voice. Present tense is a good idea here too.

That’s all. Send it out now. Feel free to use the links below to find your agent:

One of the benefits of being in a critique group is you get to hear some cool stories.

Such is the case in my experience with Doneva Shepard. She was in one of my earlier critique groups and she used to spin yarns that were hardly believable. But in her case they were true.

Doneva was 16 when she sewed this cowgirl outfit. It is the one she wore when she was crowned Queen of the 1952 Molalla Buckaroo Rodeo.

She is one of those people things seem to always happen to. It started when she was young, during the VanPort flood. She was 11-years-old when it hit in 1948. Her family owned a farm along the Columbia River, and her father left her alone to round up all of the family’s farm animals and get them to higher ground as the Columbia River overflowed onto her property. Her dad left her in charge while he went to help his friends. She did so all by herself.

Now it should be noted she was a cowgirl. Four years after the VanPort flood she was named Queen of the 1952 Buckaroo Rodeo in Molalla. This modest title rocketed her to national fame.

She and some other Rodeo queens around the nation were invited to Madison Square Garden to do a series of rodeo shows. She was on television, in newspapers and met many famous people. I’ll let her tell it in her own words:

I was lucky enough to have travelled with the Rodeo as a Rodeo Queen in the 1950's...representing Oregon. I was Queen of the Molalla Buckeroo, 1952, then travelled with Roy Rogers and Dale Evans and the Cicsco Kid and Pancho that year, representing rodeo as (don't laugh) "Rose of the Rodeo" (pre-Miss Rodeo America). I appeared at the Madison Square Garden rodeo (the old one) and Boston Garden pro rodeo. Hy Peskin, the famous sports photographer did a news story on me for the insert in the Sunday Paper, it was called "This Week" back then, now it's called "Parade". The title of the story was "Queen of the Oregon Trail" because I lived right on the Oregon Trail in Troutdale, OR.

"Happy Trails to you" brings tears to my eyes...Dale Evans wrote that song and we sang it in the arena of the old Madison Square Garden arena, with the Sons of the Pioneer, every performance of the rodeo in 1952. The last night of the rodeo as they dimmed the lights and the light shone on the big mirrored ball...sending sparkle-dust everywhere...I realized it would be that last time in this lifetime I would be together with these wonderful people and I could hardly sing..tears were rolling down my cheeks. Roy and Dale were everything they portrayed, the finest inspirational, wise, loving people I ever knew! I was with them the year their baby, Robin died. Dale was writing her book "Angels Unaware." I was 16 yrs old at the time.

Doneva told about being with Dale Evans during the evenings at home as she wept over her child’s death, and they prayed. I felt privileged to hear all of her tales, and she has scores of them that left me shaking my head. For example.

She had a producer from Hollywood trying to sign her to act in a movie. “We have someone in mind, but she can’t play a piano,” she told Doneva. “You would be great in this movie and you can play the piano.”

Doneva was young and beautiful, but she had suffered fame in New York City for a month and felt the crush of adoring fans when she traveled with Roy Rogers, Dale Evans and Cisco and Pancho, and she didn’t want to live that kind of life. The Hollywood movie producer chased after Doneva for months, dangling an attractive movie contract. Doneva remained steadfast: she did not want to be famous. She had had her time in the spotlight.

The producer finally relented and signed the other person to the contract, even though she couldn’t play the piano.  Grace Kelly became famous beyond belief and married the Prince of Monico.

We all cajoled Doneva. She must get her memoir finished. These stories needed to be shared.

I went to visit her in the hospital this week. She has been fighting cancer for the past year and a half. The disease finally got the upper hand against this 75-year-old woman who always dealt with the world on her terms.

She was upbeat as always and has come to terms with the inevitable. Although seeing her, I don’t think she will go quickly or quietly.

I just wish her story were finished so the rest of the world could laugh and shake their heads at her tall but true tales. I count myself lucky to have heard them, as do the other members of my former critique group.

We all have stories to tell. In the back of my mind, I hope I get mine told in my lifetime. This urgency drives me to work harder, but knowing I did my best,  I will be happy with the result no matter what it is.

In the meantime, I continue to write and enjoy the stories I hear in my critique group.

And I am grateful for having friends like Doneva.

Doneva had hundreds of pictures taken of her during her trip to New York as a Rodeo Queen. Here is one taken for an ad. A Life magazine photographer became enamored with her and took pictures of her in Oregon and New York for the magazine and other publications. 
English: Hands collaborating in co-writing or ...

Revising is Monotonous at Times

I’m tired of revising!

E.B. Shrunk, author of “The Element’s of Style,” said: “The best writing is rewriting.”

If this is true, my current novel is some of the best writing I’ve done. I am starting to understand what some authors mean when they say they are tired of this book or that character. After a while the story seems lost, replaced by vignettes with your characters acting out a scene in his or her life, the plot to them, still unknown, and to the author feeling mixed up going backward and forward in time.

How can this story, which seemed so full of life and creativity in the first draft, now feel like its characters are mired in mud and muck, never to see the best seller list?

I’ve heard of writer’s block–which doesn’t really exist– but this feeling of Writer’s Weariness needs a place on the shelf of clichés, for it is real. It is what happens when the author spends too much time revising and not enough time creating. One tried solution is to put it away for a while (two or three months) and attack it refreshed.

But this doesn’t work when you are on a deadline, even if it is self-imposed, to finish it and send it into the hands of an enthusiastic agent, if one can be found. For me, Writer’s Weariness occurs when I am too focused on revisions and not working on something fresh.

Two months ago I took time to write a 12,000 word short story, featuring my heroine, Billie Bly. It was fresh and good and the three revisions only took a few weeks. My critique group reviewed it enthusiastically and gave some much appreciated suggestions, which I embraced, revised, and sent it off to Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine with the group’s blessing.


Creativity Spawns Enthusiasm

That was two months ago. Since, I’ve outlined another short story, but not written a sentence. I also outlined a new book, which I have high hopes for. I was so excited I wrote the first chapter and then put it away to slog over my current novel’s revisions.

My original plan was to spend a two days each week revising, two days working on short stories, and two days writing my new novel. After I finished the short story, I discarded my plan in order to finish my damn book. Seemed like a good idea at the time.

Having written this, I am bound to return to my original goal of writing six days a week, two revising, two on my new novel, and two on a short story.

You see, what also happened when I worked on revisions only is my enthusiasm for writing waned, and I was barely revising two days a week. I also took two weeks off entirely using the holidays as a rationale.

I may not write on my prescribed schedule 100 percent. I may miss a day writing here or spend an extra day revising there, but I am sure my enthusiasm will return and I will write more than two days a week.

The cure for Writer’s Weariness, then, must be variety. Do the hard work of rewriting, but give your brain something fun to work on too.

Portland Creative Conference - 2009 Cre8con

Larry Brooks believes strongly in planning. (Image by Scott Huber)

Are you the kind of person who makes lists?  You know, grocery lists, “to do” lists, household chores lists, Christmas lists.

I hate making lists. I prefer to keep it all in my head. I’d rather walk through the entire grocery store and down all the aisles and figure out what I need. Sometimes my wife gives me a list and I have to navigate the store by departments, making sure I get everything she has on the list.

And there is always some ingredient or item I’ve never heard of, so that takes me twice the time in the store to track down everything on the list. Then I can start on my stuff. But because I’ve worn myself out, I become disoriented and can only pick up the things I can think of off the top of my head.

I write the same way. I don’t make an outline. I have a general idea where I want to get (what my story is about) and I ramble down the aisles of creativity, led my protagonist, other characters, and villains and pick up the necessary items to write my story.

So when I chaired a workshop recently for Oregon Writer’s Colony featuring Larry Brooks and his take on Story Engineering, I didn’t think I’d enjoy it much. He called me out during the workshop, suggesting I was a Pantster (person who writes by the seat of his pants).

Then he said something that made perfect sense to me. He said if you plan out your story in advance, you know where you are going when you sit down to write it. This enables you to write a publishable story in one draft. Almost!

You see I’m on my fifth draft of trying to make my current novel polished enough to sell. So when he said that, a light bulb went on over my head. I’m sure if I had a mirror at the time I would have seen it illuminate.

I could divide my story into scenes, plan the scenes according to Plot Points and Pinch Points and other standard story structure devices and write to each scene. This intrigued me because I can see myself doing that and in so doing, writing much tighter and concise. And shortening the timeline for writing a book.

So this week I’ve divided my writing schedule into three parts. Revising my current novel, plotting my next novel (which has the potential not only to be bought, but to be a best seller–yes I am that high on the story concept), and to work on another short story.

I’m using Larry Brooks’ Story Engineering techniques on the new novel and new short story. It’s painful because I want to be writing and taking the time to draft the outline according to a certain structural format is tediously hard work. But it is working. My short story outline is nearly done and I’ve only worked on it this weekend.

It will be the second one with Billie Bly as the heroine. I sent the first one to Alfred Hitchcock magazine October 26th. It was just inside the 12,000 word limit. By using the outline I hope to limit this one to 8,000 words.

The new novel will take longer, but I have some good ideas and some research should help spark more ideas.

I didn’t go into the mechanics here on story engineering, but you can check it out on Larry’s blog at . This link goes to Day 31 of Larry’s 31 days to prepare for NaNoWriMo, an annual writing ritual to get people into the first draft of a book in 30 days in November.  If you search his blog and start at Day 1 you will gather some excellent writing tips.

For me, this information is the missing ingredient to my grocery list. And I don’t mind making a list anymore if means success in a shorter time period and a better story.

The Portland Aerial Tram in Portland, Oregon. ...

There might be 60 people inside this tram buying my books and there are two trams.

Have you thought about your marketing for when your book get’s published. If not, how come? Marketing is widely left up to the author these days.

Publishers will do some PR for you, but unless you are on the Best Seller list, they expect you to carry your own weight. Heck they expect that even if you are on the BS list.

I attended a book launch last week because it was a member of one of the writing groups I volunteer for and because I wanted to learn how it was done. I attended one a few years back and it was a standup affair in a wine shop, serving–you guessed it–wine.

The one I attended last week was held in a church. it was a good venue. There was a large lobby where people circulated, bought books, ate deserts and punch, and the author shook hands.

Then, we were ushered into the pews and the author read a few portions from her book and left us wanting more. I guessed if the turnout was meager, the whole thing could have been done in the lobby. Since she had upwards of 120 there, we moved to a larger area..

I asked one of the people how they knew the author. Turns out she was a friend of the spouse, and she was curious.

One of the questions I always ask myself, is if I held a book launch would anybody come?  I think they would because writers seem to have this aura among readers. Whenever I tell them I’m writing a book, they inevitably say, “I’d like to read it, when it’s done.”

Tip:  Always write their name and contact info down when they say this.

Here are some random ideas I’ve thought about to get people to turn out:

1. Put together an email list of my former real estate clients (they all know I write), former chamber members, writing colleagues, friends and family, former co-workers. Email them at least three times prior.

2. Post it on Facebook, Twitter, Craigslist, etc., and send invites. Ask people to send it to their friends.

3. Write a PR news item (I’m a writer, right?). Send it to all news media, from the biggest to the smallest. Put it in the church bulletin.

4. Have a contest or incentive. i.e: Bring a friend to the event, put your name in the pot, and the author will draw a name at random. If you win, the author will use your name as a character in his next book. Give a book away in a drawing.

5. Pick an interesting venue–some place where people might want to go anyway. A restaurant, a book store, the aerial tram that goes from the waterfront to OHSU at the top of the West Hills (my hero rides on down from the top of it and it holds 60 people.) You get the idea.

6. Have food. Lots of Food. Good Food. Wine? Advertise it: We have Good Food!  Food brings people out.

7.  Invite a local community college radio station or public radio to attend and broadcast or cover it. After all, you are a local author.

8. Schedule interviews on local radio stations prior to the book signing.

9. Ask colleagues to write a review of your book, including when the book launch happens. I know of two or three people who write reviews for the large daily paper in Portland. They are authors themselves.  Invite blogs to review your book: See Blog Tours on this blog.

10. Promote it with Writing Associations. Willamette Writers and Oregon Writer’s Colony (in Portland) offer free web space on their web pages for authors to plug their book and WW also does bulletins. If you’ve been volunteering in writer organizations you will know where these opportunities exist.

11. Make It Fun!  How? That’s up to you. But make it a happening and let people know it will be fun.

12. Spread announcements out to all bookstores in your city. Ask if you can circulate or post a flyer.

So those are the ones I came up with just sitting here. Can you add other ideas? Think inside and outside the box. Comment and share your ideas.

I must be a believer in Critique Groups. Now I am in two of them.

I have been in my first critique group for four years now. Rather than subject them to a rerun of my last book, I joined another group. Now I’m doing a first draft of The Hollywood Detectives and revising Bleeding Blue in my new group.

When I finished my first book, The Big Bluff, I did so in a community college-sponsored critique group and it served me well. However it cost me $60 a term and so after five years, I decided to form a volunteer group.

I rely on feedback from fellow writers to help me with such things as reality in my female protagonists, believability, continuity, and final editing. They point out when I lose a character half-way through the book, or need to bring Portland scenes more into the book, or maybe that I have characters with sound-alike names that may be confusing to the reader.

They also give positive feedback for things I have done well, which gives me the adrenaline to keep going.

The biggest thing they do is keep me writing. I must have a chapter ready to go every two weeks. Sometimes I don’t make that deadline, but more often I do.

I’ve written myself into a bit of a corner with two groups. Now I must have something for each group and both meet on Friday afternoons. One week I write like mad and the next week I revise like mad (from the suggestions given by my group). You would think I wouldn’t have to work so hard since I have a draft finished on Bleeding Blue, featuring Billie Bly, P.I. Well, I find myself revising before I take it to the meeting. We leave a copy at this one and so all commas, typos, and structure is analyzed and I don’t want it to look too sloppy.

In my other group we read out loud, but now we are looking at doing the leave a copy thing to be critiqued at the next meeting.

One of my readers wondered why I haven’t written in my blog lately. The fault here lies in my scheduled time to work on my blog–Friday afternoons, after my critique groups. I think I need to choose another day.

How do you get in a critique group? That can be difficult. I’ve tried Meet-Up groups online, the bulletin board at Willamette Writer’s website, networking with other mystery writers at conventions and trying to get invited.

Everyone is looking for a critique group, but no one is looking for new members. The answer, it seems, is you must start your own group. Meet-Up is not a good place, I’ve found: 50-60 people will join, but a different group of 2-4 will show up each time.

I would advertise with other writing organizations, be skeptical of using Craigslist (you don’t know who you are talking with), and look around to other writers you already know. I’m stilling kicking myself for missing an opportunity a few years ago at Willamette Writer’s Conference. I was in a workshop for mystery writers and there were thirty people, I networked with one or two people who lived out-of-town, but could have passed a sign up sheet for people wanting to join a critique group. Or at least worn a sign on my back. “I need a Critique Group.”

Another venue is author readings. Many writer’s will go to hear a “how to” talk on writing. This is a place you can network and find potential members. Also go to membership meetings of various writing organizations, In Portland we have Willamette Writer’s, Oregon Writer’s Colony and Friends of Mystery. I think there is also a Romance Writer’s organization here. Volunteer to get deeper inside the organization. This will put you in touch with people who are serious about their craft and give you opportunities to meet serious writers who will give good critiques.

Now I’ll leave you with a parting comment from the many agents you will talk to in the future: “Are you in a critique Group?”