Writing on the Run

This is just one of the many positions I found my new writing desk in as we tried to figure out where we could put it while the kids were here. They’re coming tonight! I’m excited! When we bought the desk, we didn’t expect anyone would come down this year because of Covid. But everybody got shots in arms quicker than we knew and they are not afraid to fly! (I will wait to fly myself until full bar service is restored.) My six year old grandson is bringing his parents and we have a fold out twin bed for him plus the queen-sized bed. The room is small and it just fits those beds, a night table and a suitcase stand. There’s a corner television.

We’re leaving for Michigan soon after they leave, so I had already packed my current work in progress and other files until we’re back in Michigan. We just needed to move the desk from the guest room as it was in the only spot I could fold out my grandson’s bed. So first we tried to put it in our bedroom. But it was a little too long for the wall. I knew at least one of us would run into the sticking out sharp corner in the middle of the night. So Al positioned it like this until we could move a few things around in the living room. We decided it would stay in the living room, because it’s really heavy, and also I really loved that desk because of the large work surface.

Loved, past tense. Al had moved it within a few feet of the space I’d cleared for the now empty desk. My grandson could do his drawing there! I had all the supplies he needed: art paper, markers, stickers…then one of the sides cracked. It was a pretty sturdy desk, especially the expansive wood top. Had a nice subtle curve to it. It would have looked nice. But the sides weren’t super strong. Al could have fixed it but we had ten million things to do before the kids came in and also he just didn’t feel like it. We’d bought it for $100 at our favorite consignment shop, so it was not a great loss. It was one of those pieces of furniture you can break down pretty easily and that’s what he did.

I moved Ben’s art supplies to the coffee table:) But we probably won’t be home much. He can’t wait to go to the beach. And also the dinosaur park in Plant City, where they have over a hundred life-sized and realistically painted dinosaurs, which are his favorite. I’m so excited for my family to be here and then when they leave I can’t wait to get home to Michigan, where I can bring out my book-in-process again. It still needs a lot of work.

We have another big project waiting for us back in Michigan, so I’m not sure how many pages I’ll stack upon the hundred or so already finished. Although I do have an intact desk in Michigan, in fact, a very nice writing room I really love, there. If I could bring it to Florida, I would.

Research Rewards

This is one of the books I’m using to research my second book in the “Jane in St Pete” series. When I decided on an amateur sleuth series, I made Jane a retired art lecturer because I thought the research would be fun. And it is. I’ve read three books about Frida. A biography, then a book of her portraits, and finally this one, her diary. The diary plays a key role in the mystery.

But my interest in Frida Kahlo goes beyond researching my novel. I’m a devoted fan of her work and admire most everything about her short, painful life. There’s a painting, watercolor with colored pencils, from the diary that shows Frida consumed by fire in the midst of greenery. The title, Te Vas? No. Alas Rotes, translates to “Are you going? No. Broken Wings.” The diary Frida kept in the last ten years of her life, when for medical reasons she was mostly confined to her home near Mexico City, is a made thing. There are drawings, paintings, and poems along with some actual diary entries.

I’ve just ordered a few more research books, not on Frida, because in the Jane in St Pete novels, I don’t want to overwhelm readers with art. As with all research in fiction, you don’t want to do an info dump. This can be tricky, as I always find one more thing I want to say about Frida. A light touch works better for the reader and the book.

Free Creative Writing Manual

CHBC

I have been wanting to have one of my books on my website in a free PDF format for a long time. I have published ten books and some of them are still under contract with my publisher. That’s fine, I have a a few self-published books and they are mine to use as I see fit. I decided since this site is all about writing, the logical choice is my first book, which is a creative writing memoir and manual.

In this book I was trying to do something that would help my creative writing students, who wanted to write all sorts of things: song lyrics and scriptwriting were the two most popular The way I structured my creative writing classes, my prime goal was to have everyone write a completed project, something that they could publish. And I wanted it to be of their own choice, whatever form. There was no book for that, so I wrote it.

I have no evidence of this, but I believe many writers search around a bit before they find their chosen form. I started with song lyrics and poetry, went on to short stories, dabbled in book reviewing, blogged my heart out and tried again and again to write a novel. So I had some experience in many of my students’ chosen forms. Not scriptwriting, but I had read screenwriting books by Linda Seger because they work for novelists too. I still dip into Seger’s Making a Good Character Great when I need inspiration.

Another thing that helped me teach creative writing was the number of workshops and conferences I’d been to, not to mention all the books I’d read on how to write. There’s a list of the best of those how-to books at the end of the book. The reason I say it’s a “memoir/manual” is because I wove my own writing experiences and some of my writing to use as examples through the book. I covered a lot of ground.

Just last weekend, I was at a conference and mentioned I was putting my writing manual permanently free on my website. She said “That’s the book I need” so I gave her a card. I hope for some of you, this might be the book you need, too. You can find a link to the PDF on the first page and on the book page, too.

This Writer’s Worth

I just returned from a writer’s conference and the news is not good. Writers, say the workshop leaders, will not make much money. They need to keep their day jobs. Another item in the negative column is this: writers must do their own promotion. This means we need to learn how to market our work if we want anyone but our mother to read it.

These are two things I already knew. I have been writing for a long time and I’ve witnessed the landscape change. I remember one long-ago workshop leader saying that the culture rewards writers in some incredible ways. Well, those days are gone. Everyone now has the opportunity to publish their writing. The variety of ways to do this would take a weekend workshop. I’d attend that one, because I suck at marketing.

I have often moaned on this very blog that I’m a writer, damn it, and I just wanna write. Well, if the conference this weekend did nothing else for me, it made me realize that I have to stop thinking that way. I can hire someone to market for me, or I can do it myself. But do it I must. Because I do want more than just my mother (who is scandalized by the sexy bits) to read my work. And I would like to make money. Readers=money.

My publisher did a little marketing thing with Amazon Kindle’s “free” days for me a month or so back. I tried to help by hiring Book Bub to advertise my “free” book, plus tweeting and writing Facebook posts. Hell, I took my business card to lunch and passed it out to ten women I hardly knew, saying “hey it’s free!” People love free.

I looked at my numbers after that. I gave away 45,000 books. I also made it to #1 on the top Amazon lists. All books. All romance novels. All contemporary novels. I was #1 on the free list for all of those. And I stayed on the paid lists for a while. I made some  money, which is what marketing is all about. Selling books, making profit. The month I partnered with my publisher to market this way, I made more money than I had in any quarter at any time with any of my five books.

I know I’d still write if I didn’t get paid. I might write and decide not to market. I write, not just for money, (although money is nice) but because it helps me make sense of both myself and the world spinning around me. I feel lucky to have this thing in me that needs to write, no matter what. It has enriched my life in ways too numerous to mention. And that is the real worth to this writer.