Avoiding the Circus -and- A Breakthrough

ImageDo you have a mundane daily routine? Does every day seem like the previous one? Do things never change?

That’s certainly not my life, but I sometimes pine for that level of “normal” – if only for a week or two. How in the world do you ever write with consistency when you have no routine?

When there were four dogs, a son, and a husband in the house with me, it was a three-ring circus every day. With three of the dogs and the son now gone (I kept one beagle and the husband), we are still having at least two-ring circuses.

Where is the time to write?

Yesterday was “the day.” I was determined to get down to it, and nothing was going to get in my way of writing.

Then my sister called. She needed a ride to the hospital for a CT scan. No problem. ImageThe trip to the hospital turned into two trips to the hospital, an Arby’s lunch run for a Reuben sandwich for me, one trip to her surgeon’s office, and then a third trip back to the hospital where she was admitted for emergency surgery. I arrived home late in the evening. She had her surgery today, and she came through it just fine. She’ll soon be as good as new. Yay for great surgeons!

But something happened while I was waiting for her at the doctor’s office. I thought he would see her right away, so I opted to wait in the truck and listen to the radio. Earlier in the day, in an effort to keep her distracted and make her laugh, I told her I was going to write my next series of books about a couple of weight-challenged sisters who solve crimes in their community. We laughed, but the idea intrigued me, and I thought about it again while I waited for her.

I found a little notebook in my purse. I started jotting down ideas for characters. Names, ages, married or not, kids, jobs, community, etc., and a first line that will never stand: I swear that body was hard as a rock when my butt bounced off it.

I began scribbling as fast as I could. I managed just under 1300 words before my sister Imagecame out. At home, I hurried to type the words before I would forget and could no longer read what I had scribbled.  The last line on this page is: “Sorry, Sergeant. She’s got a knife in her.”

This was huge for me! I’ve been afraid to complete the Susan Hunter series for fear there wouldn’t be anything else. I kept thinking Susan was a fluke, a flash in the pan, a one-hit wonder. Ha! No longer! Make way for a couple of fun sisters.

I’m not going to finish this first chapter just yet. I’m going to get back to Maple Leaf Hunter and enjoy writing the story. I’m going to keep an open mind that Susan just might show up again in the future – somewhere deep in a new series where she meets a couple of sisters via a Slimmers Weight Loss center.

Oh my gosh! Writing is crazy fun, and I continue to be amazed at how ideas pop up, rush in, and come together. Now, if I could just get my daily routine under control to make it all happen.

ImageEdited to add: Chinese was for dinner again tonight. I opened my fortune cookie a few minutes ago, and this one popped out!!  🙂

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When Blogging Takes a Back Seat

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Just kidding!

It was a big job to pack and ship over 1,000 books, but they were finally shipped last week. I am officially out of the used book business.

I know I’ve missed a ton of great posts, and I know I can’t catch up with all of them, but I have started to read blogs again and will try to go forward with some regularity of stopping by to see what you all are up to. Here are some of the things I’ve been doing the past couple of weeks:

~ We finally have new neighbors. I’ve been keeping an eye onImage the Stairway to Nowhere to see what they do with it, but there is nothing to report yet. The family has a well-behaved dog who looks like Carl, so I’m assuming (based on the dog) that they will be good neighbors.

~ I’ve rediscovered glass in our house. I’ve enjoyed reading Dianne Gray’s adventures as her family has moved a rugby club onto their property and is now restoring it into a beautiful home. It has been lovingly dubbed The RUC, and it has some wonderful features including some vintage windows. Rich finally convinced me that the window in the upstairs bathroom is an oldie but goodie, and there is not a plastic laminate over it; it’s 100% glass:

ImageAnd this window hides behind a shade in a spare room that is only accessible through the bathroom, so I rarely remember the window is even there:

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It’s double-paned glass with glass slats running up and down between the panes.

Image~ I read Carrie Rubin’s book, The Seneca Scourge. I enjoyed it very much. I stayed up until after 3:30 a.m. to finish it one night. I haven’t read a medical thriller in ages, and I had a hard time putting it down. Carrie, you made me cry in chapter six, and I had to grab a tissue while reading a few subsequent chapters, too. The funny thing was that no matter how many times the main character’s blonde hair was mentioned, I could only picture Sydney as Carrie! And Sydney/Carrie, you rock!

Image~ I read Matthew Iden’s book, A Reason to Live. I read it in two days, and thoroughly enjoyed this one, too. This style of book (murder, crime, suspense) is probably my number one genre to read, and Matthew didn’t disappoint. His main character of Marty Singer is likeable and easy to root for. A couple of events at the end of the book took me by surprise. I’m definitely reading the next two books in this series.

~ I’ve been cleaning and throwing things out. The room I work/write in has an echo now. I kind of like that. Most of the shipping boxes are gone from the house, but I still have to deal with packing peanuts and a few other packing materials.

ImageImage~ My hardcover books are finally on my bookshelves. The plastic shelving on the right holds the overflow. I’ve started reading A Decadent Way to Die by G. A. McKevett. She’s not a WordPress author, but I couldn’t resist the cheesecake on the cover of this one, and I want to hold a hardcover in my hands for a change. This book is in the Savannah Reid series of books. I’m only two chapters in, but so far so good.

Image~ I watched a marathon of Bar Rescue on Spike TV. It’s a bit like a train wreck, but I couldn’t look away.

~ I found a blog I must tell you about. Mr P’s Adventures. Mr P is a potato head! He has some Imagetype of adventure every day. The first time I saw one of his blog posts – happily orchestrated by Ohiophotogrl – I laughed out loud. I took the time to go back through the archives and look at every post from the beginning of the year. I was wonderfully entertained. The posts are usually short, and you can click an archived month and simply scroll down to see all the pictures and posts. You don’t have to click through to the actual post unless you want to leave a like or comment (which you will want to do as something will likely tickle your funny bone). The blog is family friendly, and your kids will enjoy seeing what each day holds for Mr P as well as to read his final daily comment: “Wonder what we are going to do tomorrow?” Please check it out!

~ I caught up with all of my business paperwork.

~ I’m nearly finished with an editing pass on Big Apple Hunter. I wanted to do this before Imagerepublishing with the new cover, and I’m happy that some small errors will now be fixed. But most of all, I’m finally ready to buckle down to continue writing Maple Leaf Hunter. My family is giving me pointers on Bigfoot creatures. Yes, that’s right. My two brothers believe in Bigfoot, and I’m putting one (or more) in my new book. Ghosts, a gorilla head, zombies, and now a Bigfoot. I’m still out of control!

Do you believe in Bigfoot? What do you do when your blogging takes a back seat?

Title for My Next Book?

ImageNew Year’s Eve was quiet this year. Rich was recovering from a nasty bug, so we didn’t visit with friends or family. We played some Dr. Mario, and I kicked him to the curb as I won nearly every game. I realize I should have gone easy on him as he wasn’t at his best, but my competitive nature Imagewouldn’t allow it, and I gloated and taunted him, and I let him know definitively that I was the champion of 2012!

With all of that winning adrenaline coursing through my veins, I sat down at my desk and gave some thought to the next Susan Hunter book. I was surprised at how many ideas came to mind, so I started mapping out scenes.

With 26 seconds remaining until the ball dropped in Times Square, I dashed over to the den, stood behind Rich’s chair, and kissed him on the top of his head at midnight. I love him, but I didn’t want his germs. I told him I would see him later, and dashed back to my desk. Aren’t I romantic?

At 2:30 a.m., I had my notes finished, and I realized I could start writing the book. I had most of the pieces.

I promise I won’t torture you by babbling about this book all the time, but I need some help. The titles of the books have all had a theme. Sushine Hunter referenced the nickname of the state of Florida; all of the other titles had city nicknames.

This book will start in fictional Carbide City, Ohio, move to Niagara Falls, then to Toronto, farther north to a hunting/fishing lodge, and finally back to Niagara Falls.

I don’t have a title. There are no nicknames that work for Niagara Falls or Toronto. I don’t think I like Niagara Falls Hunter – or Niagara Hunter, or Falls Hunter, or Falling Hunter. Sheesh.

There may be treasure in this book. Treasure Hunter Hunter. Oh, yeah, that’s good. /sarcasmImage

Oooh! I think there will be a Bigfoot in this book. Bigfoot Hunter. Sasquatch Hunter. Cue the Fonzie music.

There may be a rare coin(s), mules (like drug mules, but no drugs), muskie, sturgeon, bear, and frogs.

Susan will be meeting with an editor in Toronto to publish a children’s picture book entitled, Stuck in the Bushes.

I think that’s all I have to share at this time. Any ideas for a title?

Disclaimer: If you offer an idea that I like and decide to use, by offering it, you agree there will be no payment to you other than a free book when it is finished. If you offer an idea, and it doesn’t quite do it for me, please don’t be offended. Silliness is always appreciated here, but no vulgarity please. Also, remember that Zombie Hunter, Rat Hunter, Gorilla Hunter, and Flushing Hunter have all been suggested at other times and rejected. Thanks again for those suggestions, guys.

Ack! D’oh! Yikes!

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I’ve always believed my books were entertaining, and I’m grateful to the few people who read and enjoyed them before I signed up for Robin Coyle’s blog class – Strong Words vs Weak Words. Robin has a wonderful way of taking mundane, lackluster, weak words and rewriting them into expressive, action-oriented sentences. Her examples are usually tongue-in-cheek and entertaining. Here’s an example of her elimination of the weak word “put.”

I put my fingers in my ears to drown out Robin’s yammering. 

Have you tried earplugs? Better yet, try noise-canceling headphones.

Even with my fingers shoved in my ears, I could hear Robin’s incessant screeching.

She threw a curveball at me recently. She wanted me to look at exclamation points. What?! I love exclamation points! To be fair, so does she, and she uses them liberally in her blog, but not in her book. Sigh. I’ve been on board for the entire ride, but I got off at the exclamation point station to see what I could find out about this.

When did people start hating the exclamation point? So many questions are asked in my books, and they all end in question marks. Why aren’t question marks hated when their rounded little shapes are peppered all over the page? Because we have to use them, you say? Well, I have to use exclamation points.

I started searching and reading articles and blog posts that were written entirely about author and editor hatred of the exclamation point. A children’s book editor said any picture book showing up with exclamation points all over the place is immediately dismissed. I’ll concede that point. A picture book has both words and pictures to show excitement. But let’s take a look at what else I found.

“It pains me when I see them.”
“They take away from the message.”
“An exclamation point is the cheap whore of punctuation.”
“I can barely stand reading sentences that have this mark at their end.”
“Exclamation points, you see, are evil.”

Wow! That’s some pretty strong emotion against a proper piece of punctuation.

ImageHere are the standard uses of an exclamation point:
– an exclamation (“Wow!”)
– an imperative (“Stop!”)
– to indicate astonishment (“They were the footprints of a bigfoot!”).
– The exclamation point is sometimes used in conjunction with the question mark. This can be in protest or astonishment (“The bigfoot did what?!”)

I used the “?!” combination four times in book number two, and seven times in book number three. I didn’t even know it was an acceptable use. The double punctuation simply conveyed the emotion of the sentence, so I used it.

I haven’t read The Bonfire of the Vanities, but I do believe the book is still a hit with its 2,343 exclamation points. The book debuted in 1987. Maybe people didn’t hate the exclamation point so much back then.

I will not give up my exclamation points. Well, in my soon-to-be released book, I did throw out 29% of them – thanks to Robin – but I’m keeping the rest. Here is just one example of a keeper exclamation point:

“What’s this I hear about a secret passageway?” asked Larry before calling, “Trump!” and slamming his last card onto the table.

Without the exclamation point, Larry remains fairly calm and seated while slamming the card onto the table. With the exclamation point, he goes from talking calmly, to half-standing from his chair as he suddenly yells and is overly excited about winning the points.

ImageShould I have written all of that in the book? Should I have shown Larry getting all worked up in his seat over a card game? The exclamation point did the work for me, and the scene isn’t Larry’s anyway. I don’t want a lot of descriptive writing in my books. I want just enough to show the scene and allow my reader to take it from there. Exclamation points alleviate a lot of explaining and describing.

But I will also be the first to say I’m not giving advice to anyone. I’m just showing my stubbornness. Maybe when I’m a veteran writer, I’ll write a blog post laughing at my folly as a novice, and I’ll write about my naiveté and how much I now despise exclamation points. (But I doubt it.)

Big Easy Hunter is probably my favorite of the four books. It not only starts with dialogue (another perceived no-no), but the first sentence has an exclamation point:

“Stop it!” I whispered.

So there.