Time Flies When You’re Having Fun

I must be having fun, because I can’t believe I haven’t been here since June. It seems like just yesterday James Patterson and I were discussing writing.

In July, I flew to Texas to pick up Princess Pancake and bring her to Ohio. What a whirlwind of playing with dolls, playing games, drawing pictures … and being loud just because we could. Everything in my life took a back seat while I played for five weeks.

CutiepieShortly before she left, Rich dug a hole in our old garden and made a fire pit. Not only did we have fun roasting hot dogs and marshmallows with our granddaughter, but we also spent a few Friday nights around the fire with our neighbors – the ones who moved into the house with the stairway to nowhere. I’m not much of a camper or the outdoorsy type, and I had no idea I would enjoy sitting around a fire so much.

firepitWe took a ride on the motorcycle. Yes, only one ride for me this year, and it was to visit with our friends at the horse manure ice cream stand. I have a knee acting up, so I haven’t been so keen to ride this year, but it sure was nice to feel the sun on my face and the wind in my hair again. We have a few ninety-degree days coming up, so maybe I’ll try to ride again.

In book news, I have a few of things to share.

5,000_WordsI read this book – 5,000 Words Per Hour: Write Faster, Write Smarter by Chris Fox – and found the information to be helpful. By putting Chris’ ideas into practice, I’ve been able to quit procrastinating and make steady progress on Murder Wins the Game. Not only will I be able to finish the book soon, but I’ll be able to complete another book I started this year. The $2.99 price for the Kindle edition of 5,000 Words Per Hour is definitely worth it, and if the iphone I have wasn’t a dinosaur, I would have purchased the app he wrote to go along with it.

Speaking of Chris Fox … when I was searching for information on his book, I stumbled upon his WordPress blog – Chris Fox Writes. One of his more recent posts is an inspiring post about time and how his attitude toward time affected his life. It’s very motivating. Give it a read.

bookreportFor those of you who are authors with a book(s) at Amazon, if you haven’t yet seen the BookReport tool – try it out. It’s colorful, accurate, and the ka-ching sound when you sell a book is a pretty cool. BOOKREPORT (click the Learn more link.) The program is free unless you have over $1,000 in sales during the month. The cost is then ten dollars for that month.

bookbubBookBub. Ahh, BookBub. BookBub is frustrating and awesome. I tried for six months to get an ad spot with them. I was turned down every month – once within two hours. I was thrilled when I received word in July that Murder Under Construction was chosen for a feature to run on August 15. The ad would run on a Saturday, and I didn’t know if that was good or bad, but I didn’t care. It was BookBub!

I’ve been blown away by the results. Since the ad ran eleven days ago, there have been over 100,000 downloads of the book (105,555 to be exact). Within twenty-four hours, the book reached #1 in the Amazon Free Store, #1 in Cozy Mysteries, and #1 in Women Sleuths. The book is still holding in the top 100 in the Free Store and remains in the top ten in the two sub-categories (as I type this). Out of thirty new reviews, twelve are five stars and twelve are four stars. This thrills me! I’ve had requests from several people to be added to my mailing list, and I’ve had more interaction with people who have enjoyed the books than ever before – many of them going on to read the Susan Hunter series. It’s been quite a ride.

Photo_Substitution_June2015

Now it’s time to get my head out of the clouds and get back to work. As with any good ad, downloads and sales will taper off, so it’s best to keep moving forward and write the next book.

That’s where I’m headed this evening – off to the pink room for some “writing sprints” ala Chris Fox. I’d like to knock out another scene or two today.

I’ll be back soon with my report on the second half of James Patterson’s lessons on writing.

How has your summer been going so far?

James Patterson and Me, Part I

James_PattersonI’m taking the Master Class, James Patterson Teaches Writing. It’s was a big decision for me.

I am firmly in the storyteller camp rather than the writer camp. Writing is a hobby for me. I have fun writing; it’s enjoyable. I simply start at the beginning and tell my story from day one to the end of the book.

I haven’t yet read books about writing, and to be honest, I don’t want to read books on craft. My eyes glaze over when I see articles on plot points, story arcs, and pacing. If I have to research writing, it will become work, and my hobby will cease to exist.

However … when I read about James Patterson giving twenty-two video lessons on writing, I thought that might be something from which I could learn. I wouldn’t have to read books; James could talk to me.

I thought I’d share a few of my notes and thoughts with you from the class.

The first forty seconds of chapter three were the most helpful to that point. Here is one item from James: “Write every chapter as if it were the first chapter in the book.”

I think that’s great advice. I flinch when I read that every word, every action, every thought should advance the story forward. I can’t do that. Sometimes my characters just want to sit down, take a breather, and have a piece of pie. I like that James says every chapter should propel your story forward. That makes much more sense to me.

Lesson five was Research. I like doing research – for my stories. I usually stop in the middle of what I’m writing to do my research right then. This goes against the usual advice to save research for when the book is finished, but I like to edit as I go, and research is easier for me when a topic is uppermost in my mind.

Along the same lines, James says in lessons six/seven (Outlines) that when you are writing, don’t think about the sentences (structure); think about the story. Write the story – get it down on paper. You can rewrite later.

I tried that once, and it resulted in a horrible mess of a book. It took months to clean it up, and the joy of writing evaporated. I’m not disagreeing with James; it’s simply a method that doesn’t work well for me.

I’m a daily editor. Before writing, I always read what I wrote the day before and make any changes or corrections I see at that time. Some days, I’ll read the entire chapter before – or even the entire book to that point, making corrections and changes as I read. The story is then fresh in my mind as I continue writing, and I feel my work is cleaner than when I left it the day before. When the book is finished, it’s much easier to edit, and there is very little, if any, rewriting.

James creates a detailed outline before writing. He presents outlines as crucial and an extremely important part of the writing process. Ack! I can’t do them. It would take me forever to think the book through to the end and put it in outline form. Once I began writing, my characters (my overactive mind) would then take the story in an entirely different direction from my outline, and I would have lost all that time spent outlining when I could have been writing.

Yet I’m not completely rudderless as I write. I use a large sheet of paper from a Crayola floor pad, and I create a calendar. As my story progresses, I add notes to the top and bits of information to the calendar as to what will happen on each day. The days fill up as the story progresses. A notebook accompanies my writing, and I jot down additional thoughts and ideas.

Here is the page for my current work in progress, Murder Wins the Game. The book is fifty percent complete, and you can see I only have events through one week. The book won’t end until sometime the following week. I have no idea what will happen until I get closer to those days.

book_four_map1Some of you may tell me there are programs for this – like Scrivener, but I like having this scribbled paper open beside me as I write, and I can drag it with me wherever I go when I write by hand, hence the crinkles and numerous folds.

Lesson eight was about writer’s block. I don’t struggle with writer’s block. My biggest downfall is simply sitting down to write and sticking with it. I’m easily distracted. James stresses the importance of being focused. Write anywhere no matter what the distraction(s) and focus on your story. Practice this ability to concentrate if you must.

The next lesson covered creating characters. I had to chuckle when he said not to hurt the pets in your stories. “People get ridiculously attached to the pets.”

First lines were discussed in lesson ten. For the most part, I’m happy with my first lines. Here are the first lines from my last book and my current work in progress:

If that was Mama banging on my front door, I was going to kill her and take my inheritance early. –Murder Welcomes You to Buxley

In exactly one minute, I was going to be a millionaire and quit my job as a private investigator. -Murder Wins the Game

I was so tickled when a reviewer left this comment about Murder Under Construction: “It is well written, has a number of twists and turns and the last line was an absolute cracker.” I think the last line of MUC leaves the reader with a smile on their face, and although this reviewer wasn’t a fan of the cozy genre, the last line made an impact on him. It was a good feeling to know I got it right.

First lines draw a reader in. Last lines leave an impression.

Lesson Eleven was Writing Dialogue. I like writing dialogue, and although James doesn’t say it, the most important advice I ever received about dialogue was that people use contractions when they talk, and they don’t always talk in complete sentences. It seems so simple, yet when we are writing, it’s amazing how many times contractions are overlooked and dialogue becomes stilted. The same thing happens when an unnatural complete sentence is foisted upon a character.

I’m to the halfway point of the lessons now, and I wrote a resounding HA! in my notes when I copied this final thought from James as he concluded his lesson on dialogue:

“Everything you write should be moving the story forward and moving the sense of that character forward. … If it isn’t, cross it out.”

Sigh. I’m stubborn. My characters are still going to eat pie.

cherry_pieSee you after the next eleven lessons!

www.masterclass.com

Slip Sliding and Clumping Into Action

tomatoesNow that the dreaded spring cleaning is out of the way, it’s time to be more productive. I’ve mentioned before that we live in a century home, which is a fancier way of saying the house is really old. It still has its original slate roof, and the sidewalks are some type of stone that is slippery when wet. I’ve landed on my bum on the sidewalk many times over the years.

The house is large enough for me to have more than one space for writing. You’ve already seen the desk in my office. The room used to be the dining room.

Desk1

Window to the left. Fresh air and sunshine available.

My office was the hub for my children’s book business for over sixteen years and for when I began writing three years ago. Now I do most of my editing, social media, and online time-wasting activities here.

After we cleaned out a “catch-all” bedroom upstairs and painted it a garish bubblegum pink for when our granddaughter visits, I claimed the little corner nook in the room for a quieter writing space. You already know I love the color pink (any shade), and the Minnie Mouse curtains and Winnie-the-Pooh desk lamp remind me of our granddaughter and make me happy. It’s so much easier to write humor when you’re happy. (Clap along!)

The ugly green carpet is original to the house. Probably from 1903. The granddaughter is too young to care, and I’m too old to care.)

The desk is a tad small, but as it was our son’s first desk, there is a certain amount of enjoyment in using it, too. By choice, there is no internet in this room, so there are no online distractions. I do most of my writing here.

I write at the table on our deck, too, but a funny thing happened on the way to the deck last weekend. I realized it wasn’t as enjoyable as writing in the nook upstairs. In the pink room, I can open the window for fresh air and look out over the center of town. Bugs, ants, flies, bees, and bird droppings are of no consequence. Neither are sun, humidity, and the dog running in and out of the house like a child. I rather think I prefer using the deck for relaxing and visiting with friends. My days of writing outdoors may be over.

deck2You might be wondering what any of this has to do with slip sliding and clumping.

That brings me to clothing. Specifically footwear.

I’ve established that it’s easier for me to write in a clutter-free environment and that it helps to have a place to write that is free from distractions as well as to give me warm, fuzzy, happy feelings. But what about comfort in clothing?

Oh, trust me. I’m comfortable. When I left the corporate world and donated all my business suits to charity, I found myself in a new type of uniform – tee shirts, jeans, and tennis shoes. Other than the colors, and buying new when the old wears out, the picture remains the same.

It’s been a fine uniform all these years – until Rich bought a pair of slippers for me. I haven’t worn slippers since I was in high school. I’m the type of person who gets dressed first thing in the morning, including shoes, and there are no pajamas until I’m ready to hop into bed at night.

hi-topThese slippers are so cute! Ciabatta hi-top booties. If you pull the sheepskin sides up and tuck them under your jeans, they double as boots, so you can run to the store and not look like you’re out in your slippers.

 

Rich likes shopping online. Shortly after the slippers arrived, a pair of boots showed up as well.

bootThese boots are so cute! I like the side-button closure, and they are better suited to running to the store and not looking like you’re wearing slippers disguised as boots. A side benefit is that I can walk on the wet sidewalks with no fear of falling. They are immune to the slippery stone! So are the booties. No more slip sliding on my bum.

So what’s the problem?

For the past three and a half months, I’ve been clumping around the house. Or shuffling. Or plodding. I’ve been lazy. The slippers and boots are flat-bottomed and not conducive to picking up your feet. I even “sound” louder when walking through the house.

A few days ago, I ran to the hospital to visit a family member. It was too warm for the boots, and I certainly wasn’t clumping into the hospital in my slippers that pretend to be boots, so I found my tennis shoes and put them on.

It was like magic. There was a spring in my step. I felt energetic. I was zippy! I hopped out of my vehicle and helped a man jumpstart his van in the hospital parking lot. I would have never done that in my slipper/boots.

Heavenly music plays.

I’ve made the decision there will be no more slippers or boots for me. I’m writing more words per day now, and I’ll have my next book ready in a matter of weeks instead of months.

So there you have it. Roughly nine hundred words to tell you that I’m more productive when I wear shoes during the day.

You may throw tomatoes at me now for taking up your time.

Or you can share what it is that makes you most productive. Or on the flip side – what thwarts your productivity?

Spring Cleaning

spring_ cleaning1Spring cleaning is for the birds!

I like a clean house. I even like the lingering smell of cleaning products. I just don’t like doing the cleaning. I’m a minimalist when it comes to cleaning. I do what’s necessary and leave the rest to Rich when he can’t stand it anymore. I love coming downstairs on a Saturday morning and realize the “kitchen fairy” showed up during the night, the dishes are done, and the kitchen is spotless.

However, we recently decided to have the house appraised, and when I found out the man was coming inside to not only take measurements but pictures as well, the spring cleaning was happening whether I wanted to do it or not. I couldn’t let there be a photo record of my lackadaisical attitude toward cleaning.

Cue the upstairs bathroom. Could any one family have any more problems with plumbing than we do? Our new upstairs toilet thought it would have some fun with us. I woke up one morning to a note on the lid – “Clogged. Do not use.”

The sink and bathtub weren’t affected. The clog appeared to be somewhere between the toilet and the common pipe they all shared on their way to the basement.

not_happy

Evil Clog

No problem. I am a master when it comes to unclogging toilets in this house. The water was clear, and I plunged a few times throughout the day. The toilet drained slowly, so I knew I was getting it. I poured hot soapy water down and plunged again. I heard the clog move down the line. Yay!

Oh wait. Now the bathtub and sink fill up when I run water in them. Time for the Drano Full Clog. Guaranteed to work!

So much for the full clog fix. Have I mentioned yet that we are on day eleven of living with this clog?

Two days before the appraiser came, Rich went to the basement and opened the drain cleanout. He had the foresight to put a wastebasket under the drain. Unfortunately, he opened Niagara Falls and missed the basket entirely. I actually thought that was hilarious. Thankfully, the water was clean and the floor in that part of the basement is dirt, so no harm, no foul. The clog had moved along far enough that it is now somewhere between the cleanout and the main line.

Side note: Rich, honey, just go to Home Depot and get a snake and be done with this.

cleaning_suppliesFor two days, I busted hump scrubbing, sweeping, dusting, and finding a home for every bit of clutter in the house. Rich only had to take the vacuum cleaner apart once to clear out its own persnickety clog.

I quit cleaning one hour before the appraiser came. Everything looked great and felt “sparse.”

The man showed up, raced through the house, and snapped only one picture through the doorway of each room. Poof! He was gone just that fast. I suspect if I had known there would be no real scrutiny, I might not have put so much effort into the cleaning, but, of course, I’m glad I did.

It’s so much easier to write when there’s no clutter. And when your son walks through the house and says, “Wow. Everything is so clean,” you know you did a good job (and you are definitely a bad housekeeper to begin with).

We’re having a day or two of warm weather right now before the snow shows up again this weekend. The birds have been spring cleaning outside. I hear them picking in our dryer vent, working under the eaves of the house, and quite possibly in one wall … but that’s another story.

Are you spring cleaning? How’s it going for you?

There’s no such thing as a free lunch …

But there is a free book!

I was thrilled to receive a notice from Amazon over the weekend that they have agreed to set Murder Under Construction to permanently free. They made the price change today.

Knowing I was ready to set this first-in-series book to free, I pondered the simple cover I had originally devised. With two more books in the series now, the first cover was too plain, and the title wasn’t in the same style as the others. I asked my cover artist to make some changes. With my bare bones idea, and her creative enhancements, I’m thrilled with the new cover.

Murder_Under_Construction_blog_4-2015I’ve mentioned before that my cover artist is my niece. She’s a graduate of Columbus College of Art & Design. It’s wonderful having an art major in the family, and I love working with her.

I’m busy with an editing project, and I continue to move forward with writing my new book. I may only write a few paragraphs each day, but I am writing!

If you haven’t yet grabbed a copy of Murder Under Construction, a humorous mystery, you can find it free at all major online eBook retailers. Links are conveniently grouped at my website: Breezy Books

I now have two books that are permanently free. Tell your friends!

photo_substitute_4-2015Update 03/24/2015 – 8:30 p.m.Murder Under Construction has broken into the top 100 free books in the Kindle Store at #97. It’s also #5 in Cozy Mysteries and #6 in Women Sleuths. I’m excited!!

Info Dump

springflowersRich usually reads my blog posts before I submit them. He will occasionally talk me out of one – like the last one I wanted to post. He said it seemed more a mishmash of information rather than a cohesive post. He was right, and I nixed it.

However, that gave me the idea to do a post consisting of random thoughts, so here we go …

The first item is a tough one: My brother passed away unexpectedly last week. He was a kind man who loved to laugh and loved to make people laugh. I considered doing a post about him. There are many funny stories to tell, but you didn’t know him, and you sort of had to be there for the funny, so I just want to put it out into the universe that he was a good man, and he will be missed. He was only sixty-one.

Age: In April, I am going to be sixty. I haven’t been shy about saying our son is now twenty-eight, and I am a grandmother, but I never mentioned that I didn’t have him until I was thirty-one. I think using Susan Hunter for my avatar may have given the wrong impression about the person behind the image. It wasn’t intentional. I simply didn’t have a current photo when I first began blogging, and I didn’t want to have one taken. I still don’t. Besides, I like the overall branding that came about for my books by using “everything Susan” and everything pink.

A public service announcement: When you are self-employed, be sure to watch your taxes. (Sad story deleted here.) The bottom line – just make sure you hold enough money back – and stop blaming your accountant for missing the big picture even though you told him last fall what your totals for the year would be.

Weather: Can we be done with winter now? I nearly fell on ice again yesterday. I’m ready for spring flowers, and I’m ready to start writing out on our deck again.

Books: I can’t stop reading. I’m sort of out of control. I finally read Creativity For Sale by Jason Surfrapp. This is the book in which I sponsored page 105. Remember? “Two sassy women from Ohio. One finds criminals. One finds dead bodies. They should meet. Books by Maddie Cochere – www.breezybooks.com

I’m still satisfied with the wording I chose, and I’m especially pleased that I was able to write the books and have the two women meet, thereby giving the ad substance. If you’re an entrepreneur, or looking to launch a business or website, or simply want to be motivated to work harder within your business, this is a great book to read. Jason has an engaging writing style, and I appreciated his willingness to share what worked and what didn’t as he embarked on his own creative endeavors.

Creativity_For-Sale1_smYes, that is a pathetic excuse for a snowman, but that is what Ohio is right now. Sloppy and messy, and we need more sunshine. Most people take a picture of the book on the beach or some other lovely locale. I’ve got nothing but the poor snowman with dog biscuit eyes.

Miscellaneous: I haven’t won the lottery yet, I think I’ve turned the corner on a bout of bronchitis, and I’m making spaghetti for supper tonight. I’m going to start spring cleaning soon. The spring cleaning might be a post of its own. I have a feeling it could turn into an adventure.

End Info Dump

Feel free to dump some info of your own into the comments!

A Tribute to Bo

Bo_LumpkinBo Lumpkin has been on my mind lately, and I’d like to tell you about him.

I first knew of Bo from following MsKatykins’ Spineless Wonders cartoon blog. I don’t remember if she pointed me to him, or if I began following him because I liked his comments to her. He seemed like a right nice fella.

Bo hosted two WordPress blogs: I’ve Been Thinkin’ -and- Gatorhead Comics. On I’ve Been Thinkin’, he posted his humorous stories and sayings, cartoons, and some of the beautiful copper jewelry he made. Gatorhead Comics was his cartoon site where I became familiar with Hank the Handyman, Kurt and Burt, Mildred and Aunt Edna, and Chester and Phil – both buzzards. His Geezerhood comics were some of my favorites.

His love of laughter and love of life came through in everything he wrote.

At first, I read and “liked” several of his posts. My first comment to him was after he made one small post: “I am writing this from a touch screen pad in St. Dominic hospital in Jackson. I came in by helicopter. Last. Night. It seems that so far I have survived another heart attack. I will try to keep you updated. :-)”

A smiley face! That was Bo. He put a smiley face after his news about having a heart attack – and obviously not his first one.

That was November 18, 2012. Over the next year, a friendship was formed. You couldn’t visit Bo’s blog without getting to know him and becoming friends. He was outgoing and caring. He was supportive, and he left great comments everywhere.

When I posted my story about ants, Bo commented: “Once I was standing outside the church when I noticed fire ants on my hands. I Buzzards_Bo_Lumpkinwas covered. I had to run inside to an empty room and take my suit off. I couldn’t get nekkid right there in the parkin’ lot full of people but I did think about it.”

When I posted about losing weight, he commented: “Way to go. Good luck with it. I have finally got my weight down to what I didn’t want it to get up to.”

When I was so stressed about writing and riding the roller coaster, he wrote a poem for me:

This roller coaster of which you mention,
Should never be a source of tension,
It is the ups and downs you see,
That fill our life with joy and glee,

Sometimes the train climbs with stress,
And the sudden drop is none the less,
But as we breathlessly dismount the train,
We look back with a sigh, “Let’s go again”

Some upside down twists and turns,
And oh, how our stomach burns,
We stretch and grow from all the strife,
On this roller coaster we call Life.
-Bo

When I gave away free copies of Windy City Hunter, Bo requested a copy – and read it! He delighted me to no end when he commented: “I finished “Windy City Hunter” last night and thoroughly enjoyed it. It was a great read and knowing that you wrote it in a month made it that much more fascinating. Thanks for the copy.”

He wrote a private email to me later telling me more reasons why he enjoyed the book so much and encouraged me to look for a print publisher. He was always incredibly supportive.

On November 1, 2013, I left a comment on his blog, but then I became busy with National Novel Writing Month and didn’t go back until December 12. I was absolutely heartbroken to find he had passed away shortly before Thanksgiving. I never met the man in person, but he was my friend, and I cried for days. I think it especially hurt my heart that I had no way to say goodbye to him.

I was writing Maple Leaf Hunter at the time. Susan, Mick, and friends were going to a hunting/fishing lodge in Canada. The owner was a friend of Mick’s from college. On the porch, sitting in a rocker, wearing a fisherman’s hat and overalls was the father of the owner’s wife – Beau.

Bo knew I was going to use him as inspiration for the Beau character in my book. He had already approved the idea that my character would tell anyone who would listen to him some of Bo’s sayings and stories.

I went forward and wrote Bo into my book as an elderly man (Bo was only 63), but I didn’t use any of his writings. I wasn’t comfortable to do so without him helping me choose which ones to use. The Beau in the book has a few humorous moments and a small part in the ending. I think Bo would have been pleased with how it turned out.

If you’ve read Maple Leaf Hunter, or if you read it at a future date, you now know that the Beau in the rocker on the porch was inspired by my dearly missed friend, Bo Lumpkin.

I’ll leave you with a few of Bo’s words that he wrote about his own life. It’s really everything you need to know about the man:

“Sometimes we can get caught up in life and make it a whole lot more complex than it really has to be. I consider myself one of the richest men in the world. I have a decent place to live. I eat way too much. I have two automobiles and both are runnin’ at this time. I have two great kids, three grandkids, the best wife in the world, and Molly (the super energized wiener dog). If I had to settle up financially tonight I would still have some of my stuff left because what I have is worth more than I owe. My health might be a little sub par but so far I have woke up every day for over 62 years. I don’t even have to wonder if there is a possum at the crossroads because I’ve got stuff in the freezer. Yep, all in all, I reckon Bill Gates and Donald Trump ain’t got it much better than I have it.” –Bo Lumpkin, February 20, 2013

Bo_Reading_Comics