Connecting During Covid

I thought I would be so much further along on my Covid marketing plan. But then I got sick. Not sure yet if I had the actual Covid or just a potent blend of sinus, cold, and flu. Getting blood test tomorrow. Getting results who knows when??? Still, even sick for a few weeks, I did manage to make this little promo image on Canva, and Linda, who you met last week when we swapped blogs, has promised to show me how to do more. Like a story.

Also I did my Facebook Author Chat. I was so happy my voice wasn’t nasal and I did not cough! It was fun and easy but not so fun or easy to upload the video to my site. I checked the link at the start of this paragraph and it will take you to the chat. (Maybe only if you are on Facebook?) I watched it after we stopped talking and noted that I did not mention my new book one time. Not once! I didn’t show the book cover or even mention the title. It was just talking with other writers. Pure fun, which is the best sort of promotion.

In case I have not said it enough due to Covid or whatever I had (my husband gave it to me, whatever it was) the title of my new book is Jane in St Pete. That link will take you to Amazon to buy the book, but you can also buy it on Nook and iPhone. I bought my first Kindle book (by Karen McQuestion) on my husband’s iPhone in 2007 because I didn’t have a Kindle or an iPhone and I was excited about this new KDP program Karen was talking about.

I kind of knew that promotion for this book at this time would not be a whirlwind of success. Besides getting sick and writing the next book in the Jane series, I am also taking care of doctor appointments that had to be postponed when I got sick. Doctors do not want you in their office if you even suspect you have Covid.

What happened after that was I had to wait a few additional weeks for another appointment. It’s an important appointment, additional tests necessary because the first test had a bit of a shadow. I knew I’d be worried (worried is my middle name) the whole time I was in Florida this winter if I waited for Spring to take that test. I’m sure it will turn out to be nothing. Anyway.

We were supposed to leave for Florida December 2. Yes, in two days, now postponed two weeks. My biggest book promotion was going to be in Florida, in St. Pete, where the book is set. That may not happen now. The venue where I was to have a book signing is closed. Due to Covid. I’m glad I gave myself a talking to before the book came out. It’s okay if this is not the book launch of my dreams, despite what my horoscope may have predicted.

There will be other books and other signings and probably even other video chats. Which I really wanted to embed right here. Maybe next time.

Author Talk

I’ve never done a Facebook Live author talk. These are the things we writers do now. I’m a little nostalgic for a book festival or a conference or a signing. That will all be coming back, just not for this book. Not yet. Linda and I have done a lot of that kind of promotion together. A few highlights: We did a book fair, an author signing involving 20 authors in a huge store full of beautiful furniture and clothing and other things, and at least one conference (probably more than one) when we were both in the same writer’s group.

Then there was the reader’s festival in Alpena, a cute little town northern Michigan with indie bookshops and lots of readers. We took our husbands on that trip and stayed at a rustic lodge and had dinner in a great restaurant in the middle of the forest. We took a horse and carriage ride to view elk. It was a fun weekend. Plus we were helping our books.

We did a signing together at one bookstore, then we were on a panel discussing topics of interest to readers at a second bookstore/gift shop. There was a Q & A. I love a good Q & A, especially with a friend.

This Facebook Live event came about being Linda and I both have books out now and we were talking about how in the heck we were supposed to promote them. We came up with a few ideas. Linda was going to set up a Facebook Live Chat, which is how she found Jenifer from Pink Panther Magazine, who kindly offered to host us.

Turns out, long ago, Jenifer was a creative writing student of mine. And she’s now a successful author! It was great talking to her again. Our official talk is on Friday and if you’re my Facebook friend, I invited you. Even if we aren’t Facebook friends (I don’t have my author page on FB anymore, but that’s another blog post…) you can sign up to view the event at 4 pm this Friday. So, as weird as this time is for everyone, including writers, good things happen anyway.

Hope to “see” you Friday.

Jane in St. Pete Release Day!

Jane fires her agent, retires from the art lecture circuit and moves to sunny St. Pete, all on a frenzied whim when her not-very-beloved husband unexpectedly dies. She fixes up her condo, meets her mom for lunch and finds new friends. When one of them is murdered, she uses her knowledge of art to help the local police solve the case. Also, she falls in love with a homicide detective.

Of course she falls in love. I have never written a book, published or unpublished, that does not have a love thread. And I’ve tried. That’s just where my heart goes. Talking with friends, trying to figure out if my new series is really cozy. We came up with edgy cozy. Because you do see a body in the second book (still writing), there is blood, and I have procedural characters. Edgy cozy. If it was not a thing before, it is now.

Read it on Kindle, Nook, iPhone or in print now. Meanwhile, I’ll figure out how to market my book online. I did one Zoom presentation a while ago, and I wasn’t entirely happy with it. I was not in control, I’d do it different. If I knew how. Also I’m learning Canva so I can post nice photos. Marketing during Covid sure is different!

My writing partners: Vernie, Bob and Tom. I’m next to Tom.

Where Ideas Come From

“The Charming Criminal” is a short story that led to a novel that led to a series. The criminal, George, charmed me so much I had to use him in my upcoming novel, Jane in St. Pete. I insisted, despite one critique partner asking me “Why is he in this story?” and another teasing mercilessly, absolutely sure that George and Jane were going to become a couple, never mind Jane’s being almost old enough to be his mother. 

I had other plans for George. By the end of that book (due out this fall) I knew I was going to write a series and George would be a recurring character throughout the series. At the moment, I am busy writing Book 2  of the “Jane in St. Pete Mystery” series. But this short story, written a few years ago on a whim, was the beginning of it all. 

Writers, you never know when or from where inspiration will strike. I thought I was just writing a silly story during a time when all my ideas for new novels had dried up. I was just practicing until I got back to the real business of writing novels. Then George came along and made Jane in St. Pete a better story. Sometimes you have to trust your instincts despite what well-meaning critique partners might say.

If you pay attention and write faithfully, words will show you the way. I actually got the idea of George from a movie. In the film, the guy was a criminal, but he was also a good guy. I wondered if I could do that. Since my protagonists are always female, I knew he wasn’t my next main character. But I wasn’t writing, so I took it on as a lark and as a way to continue practicing my craft until a new book showed up.

A few years down the road, the result of that idea is a short story and a new series of mystery novels. One idea leads to another. Simple as that.

September is my website’s birthday. Since 2002, I’ve done something for my readers during the month of September to say thank you. This short story should be FREE on my landing page in September, if not before.

Character Arc

In three weeks, Al, my husband, is retiring from his career of 40+ years in the same building, with the same company. We’ve been married 35 years, so as long as I’ve known him, he has gone to his job every day. In that time, I’ve changed jobs six times. What this means is that I am not good at working for others. I dislike anyone having authority over me. Al is the opposite. He thrives in his work community and the bosses love him.

How will this play out in real life for us when he is finally home and does not have a place to go to that makes him feel secure, special, important and needed? His job does all of that, because he’s made himself valuable to the company through the years. Now I’m going to have to help him find similar rewards in retirement. I know it’s really up to him, but what’s a spouse for if not support and love? I gotta be there for him.

Books demand the same thing. You gotta be there for the book every day for many days, many hours of every day. Unlike Al, I take a day off writing once or twice a week, but it’s kind of like eating sugar. If you eat sugar one day, the next day you’ll want it again. If I take a break from writing one day, the next day it’s easier to take another break. Then another. So for me, I need to write (almost) every day or I lose the flow of the novel.

I have only recently realized the full extent of what a big deal this is, for both of us. Before this realization, I assumed Al would be like me, happy to be away from the grind, better as the boss of his own life, a better life having fun (finally!) with me. And he still might surprise me. He has so many projects he’s put off over the years, begging for him to start. Being together as a couple is the biggest project of all. Al has more often than not worked six or seven days a week.

We are in for a major adjustment. Ironically, my main character is in the midst of an even bigger adjustment. Her husband died unexpectedly and she went off the rails a bit, retiring from a job she loved, selling her house, moving from Detroit to Florida. She’s really not dealing with any of it, because, well, there’s a murder she has to help solve.

I set my deadline to finish this book as December 31, 2019. That’s Al’s retirement date. Three weeks. And I just finished my final chapter. Should be perfect timing. Except. I just chopped 20K from my manuscript. Why? Because they were boring. They didn’t move the plot forward or build character arc. In fact, my character’s arc is flat. I have not yet gotten to the heart of my character’s inner story, which has a major effect on her outer world.

How can an arc be flat, you may wonder. Well, it’s called avoidance. My character has some difficult changes to adjust to, kinda like I do in my own life. Many of them involve dismantling her former idea of what her life had been. She got some things wrong and now she needs to fix them so that her life can go on, better than before. That’s character arc. For a book to be satisfying (at least to me) a character has to grow, change, and learn something about herself during the course of the novel.

I pretty much skipped those parts. I write crime novels and my focus has been on the murder and whodunnit. I’m not sure I’ll write another 20K words in three weeks. I’m not even sure my character’s arc plus the subplot around it (which I also gave short shrift) needs to be 20K. I won’t know until I write it. The book will be as long as it needs to be for me to get that satisfaction of my character gaining wisdom and being happier for it.

Maybe writing my character’s arc will help me with my own major life change. Wish me luck! And have a happy holiday season.