Here’s to Bob

Bob just published his first novel! Yay!

And I had the pleasure of taking that journey with him, from the minute he sat in my Advanced Creative Writing class with at least one completed manuscript and a whole lot of determination.

To be a writer you need those three things: determination, some pages with words you wrote upon them, and a tribe. That’s my tribe, above: I’m sitting next to Bob, next to Tom, next to Vernie.

That writing class was Bob’s tribe for the moment. We writers move around. I don’t even teach college anymore; I write full time now. Neither Bob nor I were published when we met.

How Bob Baker became a friend of mine is pretty straightforward. I recognized his talent. I encouraged him. I was apparently nice enough so that he felt okay emailing me after our school semester was over. I was confident enough in his talent to invite him into my writing group, and he was confident enough to accept. Thus, a tribe was formed.

My writing group–it’s a small group, just four of us–came about through many offers for participants on my part and much comings and goings on the part of others until we settled into a fine quartet. We’ve been meeting there or four years now once a month with 10-20 pages each. We spend five hours tearing each other’s work apart giving each other constructive criticism and talking about writing in general. Publishing, too.

When the group began, we had two published writers and two unpublished. Bob has rounded it out so that now with the advent of Hiding Tom Hawk we are all published, all quite pleased with ourselves. And my best advice to any writer is to find your tribe. There’s no mystery to getting published. Practice and show your work to a few trusted souls and follow the well worn path that the internet is very happy to set out.

Here's to you, Bob!
Here’s to you, Bob!

I’ve got a book about it. I wish I could give every one of you a copy but it sold out in print although there’s a newer edition of Your Words, Your Story anyway with the whole scoop on indie publishing, and whether you are published by a traditional press or as an indie, (and I’v been both) nothing will ever feel better than holding your first book in your hands.

To help say congrats to Bob, I will send free copies of both e-books, mine and his, to the first three people who comment today. And thanks for reading about my lovely band of merry writers.

Down With Love

Not really. It’s just…I’ve spent my writing career trying to hone my romance skills. I’ve had a lot of help from editors along the way. I know how to do it, It’s just…I don’t want to do it. Or, when I’m using the part of my mind that makes stories, it’s using me, and it’s taking me off course into unchartered water. My mind likes to play. It likes to explore. It likes to try new things. It likes a mess of character named Lily.

I’ve started my third book with Lily as a character and this time she gets top billing. In fact, I don’t think I’ll use any other point of view but hers. After a book with four POVs, this is a challenge and also exciting. Although it’s too soon to tell if some other person might just insert themselves into the story and demand a voice. I’m pretty sure Lily will not have a romantic interest, although that is also too soon to tell.

As I jot my way through the first draft on a sort of working vacation, Lily’s solving a murder she stumbles on in the course of her private investigations into the affairs of married people. Spouses who suspect their other half of cheating hire her to get it on film. She does it because she’s building her business and right now that’s the work she’s being offered.

She doesn’t have time for love. And that makes me feel a bit unmoored. I’ve had a love story in every book I’ve written. This is the tenth, at least the published tenth. Or I hope it will be. I’m not sure I can cut it as a mystery writer with no love story stuck in there. One reason is because in my real life, love is huge. I don’t know how people get along without it. Of course I don’t know how to solve a murder either, but that doesn’t stop me from trying to figure it out.

There’s something about raising the bar of what I can do on the page that excites me. I did that, now can I do this? I’ve actually got a lot of plans that involve my writing life. One is the part about going out into the world and signing books at events around town. I don’t do much of that, but I’m going to start. The other is finding a new agent. Maybe. Then there’s Sleuthfest, the big mystery conference in Miami, where I’m heading today.

Learning new things has always turned me on. Plotting the perfect murder. Diagramming a mystery worth the read. Letting Lily be who she is, a young woman intent on finding herself before she even thinks about finding love. And then there’s the whole thing about presenting myself and my work to the public in ways I have not tried before. But that’s an entirely different set of skills. I’m not into teaching workshops. I just retired from teaching and need to give that a rest. But I can hold events that are a little bit different, outside the normal way of things.

This is where my Mac classes come in. The geniuses at Apple have promised to help me learn to make movie trailers. That will be my signature signing event. Showing the trailers, chatting informally about writing. Letting people ask questions. People love to ask questions and I like a dialogue.

I’ve got a steady old love in my life, and he’s great. But what really excites me these days is learning new tricks. Love, well, that’s just old hat.

Photo on 2-26-15 at 8.15 AM

Evolving Character

colt3.FullSizeRender-3A blue moon ago I wrote a 17 year old girl named Lily Van Slyke into Blue Heaven. At the time, she was very troubled, but she didn’t have a gun. When Blue Heaven became the first of The Blue Lake Series, I knew I’d bring her back someday. And back she came, in book three (Spring 2015). It’s five  years later, so she’s legal and lethal. She has her reasons. And this time, she really got to me. I mean, she did before, but I was able to give her closure. This time, she didn’t want shit to do with my plans for her. She didn’t want closure, she wanted her own series. That was not going to happen; I’m still writing the Blue Lake books.

But Lily managed to almost maybe steal the book from the intended main characters. I still have to see about that. I might have to cut her down to size some. For now. Because I found myself doing odd things, like researching the kind of gun she would buy for self-protection. It’s not the vintage 38 Colt above, it’s a tiny new girly gun. 9 mm. Even though that’s my hand holding one, I don’t know much about guns. But Lily does, so I will have to learn. Got my first lesson this weekend. 1. Make sure the bullet holder thingy is empty before pointing. 2. Unlock the safety. 3. Do not put the gun up next to your eye to “sight” the target. 4. Be prepared for a loud bang and some kind of recoil that sends your arm flying up after you shoot.

But that’s with the Colt, which belonged to Al’s grandfather. He was a private investigator. That is the only job he ever had in his entire life. He was also a single dad who raised Al’s mom on his own. Quite a guy. I only just found out about him this weekend. It was like Lily was saying “See? You can do this. It’s in the family.” Well, yeah, but…

The gun was not the first thing that Lily pushed me into…she has an answer for every objection I come up with. Like the whole mystery writing thing. This summer, I signed up for a conference in Florida (I live in Michigan) for mystery writers and I kept thinking “I have until December to cancel because I am not a mystery writer.” It’s almost December. I still have not cancelled. Also, when registering for the conference, you had to choose what kind of mystery writer you were. I had no idea. So I checked off P.I.

Random? I just don’t know. I have pieces of Lily’s first book written down. Most of it is in my head. I’m not going to talk about it. I’m still waiting to see if this whole thing will blow over and I can go back to writing domestic dramas. But sometimes, characters evolve and writers have to follow.

Coming Soon

Today I finished the final draft of Natalia.  Do you recognize her? That’s her mom, Gypsy, to the right. Natalia’s having a rest over the holiday weekend before one final read-through, copy-edit, and beta-read by Marla.

Natalia is different: my first published novella. She will be indie, but I’m unsure how to market her. Natalia’s all grown up, well, 15 anyway, and coming into her Paradise Powers full-on and fast, saving 17-year-old Melissa from a Dark Initiate who may or may not be part of the local Rom community.

So there is YA. There is NA. There is paranormal. There is mystery. How the heck do I market that? I am thinking NA because Melissa falls in love with Dave and there’s a full-on love scene. All suggestions on how to present this one welcome.