Pondering 2019

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Here we are, several days into 2019, and I haven’t made plans for this year. I’m not one for making resolutions, because even though I can be determined and steadfast, I rarely stay the course.

Long-term goals are easier to set. I’d love to blog on a regular basis again. I’d love to write over 1,000 words a day – or better yet, over 3,000 words a day. I’d love to take the time to read again. After reading 65 books in 2017, I logged a whopping eight books in 2018. I’d love to find the time for managing my business more efficiently. I want to handle social media and marketing in a more productive manner.

I need to limit my (escape) time playing Don’t Starve and hope the new edition of Don’t Starve Hamlet doesn’t hit the PS4 anytime soon.

All of my goals are realistic and doable. It’s worry and stress that keep me from accomplishing them, but I’m determined to mange that as well this year and make some forward progress.

We’ve reached the two-year point where Rich hasn’t been able to work. His health has recovered, but his back has not. I’ve been our sole breadwinner for seven months now, and I feel the pressure.

This brings me to sharing that I am coming up on an anniversary. February 8, 2012 was the day I sat down and tried my hand at writing. I can’t believe it’s been seven years. Honestly, seven years! It seems like just yesterday my family was laughing at me for even trying.

I would have never dreamed I would have sixteen books published by now, over 93,000 followers at BookBub, and sometime last summer, I crossed the $100,000 total earnings mark. That sounds really exciting, doesn’t it? It is – especially when I remember I only made $75 my first year. However, do the math. Averaged over six profitable years, it has been “helpful” income. I feel in my heart I can do better. I want 2019 to be a better year. I want to publish all three books in my new series, and I know I have one Two Sisters and a Journalist book in my head – two would be perfect. I get a tingly feeling of excitement just thinking about what I could accomplish if I can get my mindset right and forge ahead.

In other news, we have a new dog! We rescued Riley, a nine-year-old beagle/dachshund mix. He’s super sweet, well behaved, and an especially great companion for Rich. We think he wouldn’t mind riding on the motorcycle, because when Rich first showed it to him, he hopped right up.

riley_motorcycle

How are you doing with your resolutions/goals so far? What’s your number one goal for 2019? Does your dog ride a motorcycle?

Time Flies When You’re Having Fun

I must be having fun, because I can’t believe I haven’t been here since June.

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 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?

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

 

An Anniversary and Free Books

February8My anniversary is here again.

Three years ago today, I sat down and began writing my first book.

It’s been a wild ride. The ups are full of laughter, and I have a ball while I write. The downs have been rough, and I’ve wanted to quit several times. However, the downs fade away, and I always come back to writing with a renewed sense of joy and enthusiasm.

But enough about me. Here are some other things that also share the date of February 8:

Who can forget that “I’m Too Sexy (for my shirt)” by Right Said Fred peaked at #1 in 1992. (Oh, wait. We all can – and did.)

James Dean was born on this day in 1931. (I’ve never seen a James Dean movie.)

February 8 is National Laugh and Get Rich Day (Buy your lottery tickets!)

If you are an Aquarius, here is part of your horoscope for today. … aquarius“Just when you thought something was going your way, you realize it’s not going your way at all.” (Glad I’m not an Aquarius today.)

In 1994, Jack Nicholson used a golf club to attack a car. (The driver laughed and got rich to the tune of half a million dollars.)

On television tonight: The premier of Better Call Saul – a spinoff of Breaking Bad. Casablanca is on TCM. CBS has The Grammy Awards with host James Todd Smith. (I’ll be reading with The Grammys on in the background, because The Good Wife has been preempted – again.)

Finally, to celebrate my anniversary, let’s give away some books! There are ten books to choose from. You can see them all on my Breezy Books website. When you leave a comment here, tell me which one you’d like, and I’ll email a code to you from Smashwords. You can grab the book in the format of your choice for free! If you prefer to email your request to me, my email address is on my About page.

Have a great February 8. I am definitely going to do some writing!

BreezyBooks

Free Advice

FreeAdviceNot free advice for you. Free advice for me!

We’ve had some fun in the past trying to figure out a book cover or title. Let’s do it again.

In my Two Sisters and a Journalist series, all of the titles begin with the word Murder. The book I’m currently writing will have a lottery theme running throughout as Mama goes overboard buying scratch-off tickets. A murder will be connected to the lottery as well. There won’t be any jackpot drawings; everything revolves around scratch-off tickets. I prefer to keep the word Lottery out of the title.

So far, I’ve come up with these titles:

Murder Is A Numbers Game (However, I don’t really want another title that begins with “Murder Is.”)
Murder Unlucky
Murder Wins the Game
Murder Scratches the Game
Murder by Chance
Murder by Scratch

I’m leaning toward Murder Wins the Game or Murder Scratches the Game. Scratch is a term also used to cancel, eliminate, dismiss, etc., so I think it works physically and figuratively … but I’m not 100% sold on it. Which do you prefer? Or did you think of something else?

As for the cover … There are no people on the covers in this series. The backgrounds are less vibrant colors. I’m leaning toward a dusky green on this one simply because of the money/greed aspect of the story. (You can see all the covers for the series in the right sidebar of my home page.)

I’ve ruled out lottery balls with numbers. Mama has a lucky scratcher with a four-leaf clover in it, so I tried several four-leaf clovers on the lottery_ticket_bloodcover with a lottery ticket that has blood dripping from the top. Even with the blood, it’s cheesy enough to impart a “lighter mystery” feel, which is what I want. We all know I love cheesy!

However, I think I like the idea of a vault in the morgue, with the body pulled out feet first, and a lottery ticket hanging as the toe tag.

It’s hard to know what works until you see it. If you have any ideas, please share!

My standard disclaimer is to ask that you not be offended if I don’t use your idea(s), and please don’t expect anything other than a free book if I do use your idea(s).

Thanks for brainstorming with me!

P.S. – For all the friendly wisenheimers out there, whom I’ve come to know and love, Hunter will not be part of the title. Nor will any body parts. Thank you very much.

fourleafclovers

Creating Characters

ImageMany of the characters in my books were created from people I know or have known in real life. My mother recently commented that the characters in my new series remind her of our family. There’s a good reason for that, Mom.  Image

A few bloggers have made their way into my books in one fashion or another. The latest is my friend Jackie at To Breathe is to Write.

Last year, I was having a hard time completing Maple Leaf Hunter. I was afraid when it was finished, my writing days would be over. However, my blog post of May 15 tells how the idea for my new series came about. Here is part of Jackie’s comment that day:

“I TOLD YOU SO!!! I TOLD YOU YOU HAD MORE BOOKS IN YOU AND ONE DAY IT WOULD JUST POP OUT!!! … I am volunteering to be one of the sisters!!! or, one of the characters. hehehe. I just love the concept and can’t wait for the first book. Big hugs!!”

I responded:

“I can put you in the book as a character. A famous writer friend in the neighborhood!”

When I started writing the book, the new character was quick to surface. In the first chapter, Jackie rushed onto the scene as the town’s star journalist. A short time later, she muscled her way into the series title: Two Sisters and a Journalist. That wasn’t planned, but it works, and it still makes me laugh.

Real life Jackie portrays herself as a redhead in cartoons on her blog, she loves to cook, and Imageshe’s writing a novel. These same three things also describe the voluptuous Jackie character in my new series.

Here’s another snippet from my work in progress. This one highlights Jackie.

– – –

Before he could respond and defend Officer Collins further, Jackie rushed in like a whirlwind. She glanced around the room. I knew she was taking stock of our appearance and demeanor.

It was obvious she had dashed right over. Usually impeccably dressed, she was wearing sweatpants and a t-shirt, with a sweater thrown on for warmth. Blessed with boobs, curves, and flowing red hair, Jackie was a siren. Howard’s eyes were shining and bulging as he unabashedly looked her up and down before noticing the blue pie box in her hands.

She moved to the table to look the girl over, sidled up to the coroner, and said, “It’s been a while, Howard. I thought you might like an apple pie since you’ll be working late tonight.” Her voice was sexy. I bit my lip again. She knew exactly how to play the man.

“My favorite,” he said. His eyes returned to her chest. “I can’t believe you remembered.”

She looked over at me and winked. I was going to have a hole in my lip if I bit any harder. She pointed to the body and asked, “Was this you?”

I shook my head. “Not this time. She fell out of the trunk of her cab over by the railroad tracks on Maple.”

Image– – –

Jackie has interviewed me for her blog post today. I hope you’ll pop on over to say hello and read the interview. It was fun answering her questions.

Before you go, leave a comment and tell me how you come up with your characters.

Let’s Chat about Writing Dialogue

Not surprisingly, I’ve drifted away from blogs and social media lately. I’m determined to buckle down and finish Murder Is Where the Heart Is.

Because I wrote the book so quickly during National Novel Writing Month, over five thousand words have been tossed. There is a ton of rewriting yet to do. I’ll get there. I simply need to focus.

However, there is a special reason for posting to my blog today.

I originally started blogging to chronicle my writing experiences. For that reason, I want to mark another milestone. Today is my two-year anniversary of becoming a writer.

Woo-hoo! Break out the M&M’s!

I thought it fitting to pick a writing topic for this post.

I chose dialogue for two reasons. First, I enjoy writing dialogue. Second, my blog post of September 18, 2012 has page views every day. Is Your book Dialogue Heavy has been visited more times than any of my other posts.

In that post, I expressed my discontent with a book I had read that was packed full of dialogue. I wrote: I became weary of listening in on conversations. I was relieved when there were short bursts of description or information. The story moved too quickly with nearly all of it being told in dialogue. New characters came on the scene and added to the conversation with nary an introduction made.

I still feel the same way, but I also still believe that enjoyment or dissatisfaction with the amount of dialogue in a book is ultimately the personal preference of the reader.

Let’s move on today to writing dialogue. I have a few things to share.

When I first began writing, I realized the story was playing in my mind like a movie. It was easy to write what I was seeing and hearing. It’s still like that for me most of the time.

I read several articles about dialogue, and two simple things helped me the most.
– People don’t use perfect grammar when they speak.
– People usually use contractions when they speak.

Reading my dialogue aloud helps tremendously to hear if it sounds realistic or not.

I often envision favorite television or movie actors playing out scenes. My Jo Ravens character isn’t blonde, but at times, I envision her facial expressions, manner of speaking, and even her laughter, as that of Katherine Heigl’s. It worked perfectly as I wrote the following short scene from my work in progress.

– – –

(Quick setup: Jo is at a wedding reception. The adults are avoiding her.)

I sat at a table where two young boys were playing with handheld video games. The boys were oblivious to my presence until I popped the second meatball into my mouth. One of them scowled at me.

“Hey, you got me in trouble.”

My eyes widened. I held back a smile. “I did not,” I said.

“Did too,” he said.

“Did not.”

“Did too.”

I leaned forward, stared the kid down, and asked, “How did I get you in trouble?”

“Geez, lady, once you started laughing, I started laughing, too.”

The second boy finally looked up from his game and said, “Me, too.”

The first boy finished his tale of woe. “My mom pinched me to make me stop laughing. It hurt like crazy.” He lifted his shirtsleeve to show a small bruise.

I gave him a look of sympathy and mouthed a silent, “Wow.”

“My mom gave me the death stare,” the second boy said. “That kept me from laughing.”

I pulled my lips in between my teeth and bit down, struggling to hold back laughter. I finally said, “Well, you have to admit, the helicopter was pretty funny. So was the preacher taking a dive.” I raised one eyebrow, smiled at the boys, and nodded my head to encourage them to agree with me.

The second boy laughed and said, “I know! I’ve never seen a preacher move so fast.”

The first boy put his hand over his mouth in an attempt to stifle a laugh, but a sourpuss woman quickly extinguished it for him when she tugged his arm hard enough to lift him out of his chair and whisk him away. The second boy might as well have been tugged, too, because he was gone in a flash.

– – – Image

Dialogue. It’s my favorite part of writing.

Share your best tips. What helps you write dialogue?