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Writing, Reading, and Work

writer writing

Post Killer Nashville Conference: I left the conference bursting with writing motivation. Couldn’t wait to get started with my new project and then life slams a pie in my face. We had 5 hours of overtime last week. We have 10 hours of overtime this week. I work four ten hour days to have a three day weekend every week. I do this to allow me time to write. Today it didn’t happen.

Since I can work from home sometimes, I decided it was bad enough I had to work on my day off and there was no way I was going into the office to do it, so I got up at 5:30 and was sitting in front of the computer at 6:15 in my pajamas. I thought I would work until 12:15 and then only have to work one extra hour a day to finish my overtime before the weekend. Then I got to thinking that next weekend is a holiday weekend and I really didn’t want to work late on Friday, so I decided to work an extra hour. Well per company guidelines, if you work longer than 6 hours, you have to take a lunch. I ran down to the kitchen to see what I could fix fast. Looked like I was down to peanut butter and jelly but the bread was a little iffy, even if I toasted it. So I ran back upstairs, pulled off my pajama bottoms, put on the shorts I’d worn the day before, a bra, and my pajama top – no need to put on clean clothes to run to the fast food drive through and besides I couldn’t fit in a shower and lunch too. Ran a brush through my hair and took off for the drive thru. Hurried home, ate my lunch at my desk while I continued working.

But then, I got stuck on a piece of work that took me 15 minutes into the next hour. I figured I might as well work another hour and then only have 2 hours left to finish before Friday. So my plan to be done by 12:15 PM stretched out to 2:45 PM. When I was done working for the day I hurried up and showered and dressed. This is why I could not work from home every day. I felt like a sloth.

I really wanted to start either working on my new project or edit a little of my manuscript I finished before my trip to Nashville but I couldn’t with a good conscience sit down to write until I made a trip to the grocery store. I then remembered that I would be working late a couple nights this week and for my husband’s sake decided to make him a nice dinner tonight because who knew what the rest of the week would hold. 11 hour days do sometimes wear me out.  I hurried to the store, came home, stuck a ham in the oven, and then turned on Netflix. I know, I could have sat down and started working on my book but I really needed a little break.

By the time I finished watching my show, it was time to finish fixing dinner. We ate and then I did the dishes and then I remembered I wanted to get my weekly blog post out so here I am. It is now going on 9:00 PM and I have no energy left to write. But I will. Since I only have two eleven hour days and two ten hour days this week, I am sure I will get something done. If not, I have saved my weekend. Since it is a holiday weekend, I am fairly sure I will have all three days free, rarely does the company allow us to work overtime on a holiday because it is time and a half. My only fear is that we will have ten hours of overtime again next week and I will then lose one of the following weekend days to overtime but I won’t know until Thursday. I will think positive thoughts that somehow the overtime will vanish and I can reclaim my days off.

In the meantime, I have been developing my new project a little. Writing notes down about the characters and plot ideas. Here are the things I know. I want to develop a mystery series. I want my protagonist to be a female private eye. I haven’t decided on her name yet but here is the background so far. Her mother died when she was a child. Her father raised her alone. He was a cop, so she followed in his footsteps. He died while on duty and she questions his death. She questioned the wrong person and lost her job so now she is a private investigator. This idea didn’t come from a headline in the paper or a television story, it was just an idea that I’ve been mulling around for a while.

My first story will be about a missing teenage girl. There will be a continuing thread about her investigating her father’s death. I plan to use the title – Finding Faith. The missing teen is named Faith and I hope to use it for both her name and my protagonist finding faith in herself, somehow. It is a working title. Publishers don’t often use the working title but for now, I like it.

Here is one of my research books I will be using, one of many. Robert Randisi edited this book and I think he also founded The Private Eye Writers of America. I sat with him and his wife at the Saturday night awards dinner at Killer Nashville. He is a very prolific writer. He has written a book a month since the 1980’s. To be honest, he looked really tired that night. Even if I could, I don’t think I would want to push myself that hard but if it’s working for him, I can’t knock it.

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And here is what I am currently reading. Some how I do find time to read. I think it’s essential to any writer to read. While work and everyday life seem to suck the energy from me, reading helps motivate me and Julia Keller is one of my favorites. I think this is her fourth. It is set in West Virginia, her protagonist is a prosecutor who isn’t trying to convict someone, she’s trying to convict the right someone so she conducts her own investigations while going to trial. I don’t know that much about the law and whether every thing is correct but I do know her books are a pleasure to read.

Last RAgged Breath

If you write, how do you begin a project? Do you start with the plot or the characters? Feel free to share your methods. I am truly interested in the craft of writing. I think it is amazing that someone can come up with a story out of no where and everyone seems to have their own system.  I think it can take a writer a long time to find what works. I also think it changes. Each project is a little different and what worked for one book may not work for the next.

Well it’s bedtime and tomorrow I have to do it all over again.

Until next time, keep writing and reading.

 

A Conference Saved My Blog

Killer Nashville Panel1

I just got back from Killer Nashville – a mystery writers conference and it breathed life back into my flagging writing career. I not only am thrilled to be starting a mystery project but I also felt the need to bring life back to my dead blog.

This is going to be just a brief post. I have been gone for way too long. Short story, health and life issues pulled me away. Now life is much better and I miss blogging. I plan to ease back into this, hopefully a blog a week. All about writing depending on what is going on around me at the time.

I am an avid reader so will continue to read and review books just for the love of reading and maybe helping readers find stories that I enjoyed.

I hope to write about the craft of writing as I continue to write my novels. As I get further along in this adventure I hope to look a little more at the business end of writing but to be honest, I have to wait until I have a little more experience with that part of it. I will share my experience as I write my own novel, what stage I am in, what I am doing, what’s working, what isn’t working, and looking for suggestions from my friends who write and read my blog.

I hope to continue author interviews because I feel there is so much to learn from those who have already been there, done it.

I am also hoping to bring back the joy of blogging.

And oh by the way, that big dude in the middle is one of my local writing friends and mister in crime – Stephen Brayton, talking about how to use your day job to feed your writing career – in more ways than one. You can check out his book – Alpha – set in Des Moines with a protagonist who is a detective who is also into the martial arts.

For now keep reading and writing!

Virginia

 

 
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Posted by on August 22, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

Writing with a Few of My Friends

Winter snow 2015

“Molly the pit bull used to sit in the chair just behind me while I worked at my desk. She never commented on the writing, but since she loved everything I did, her presence did give me a sense of (unearned) security about it.” Billy Mernit

As you can see from my photo looking out my office, I am spending the day inside. It has been snowing since yesterday evening. Last I heard we were supposed to get 10 inches. I think we’ve passed that prediction. I have been having a very enjoyable day at home, catching up with laundry, reading, and writing.

I belong to a closed on-line community – The Perley Station Writer’s Colony. I have only actually met the one person who started this group. The rest I have come to know, a wee bit, online. We are there to share ideas and motivation and several times a year we do something that we call Writer’s Camp. We started the first one for this year today. It runs for the entire month. We set our own personal goals. They can be whatever we feel we need. We don’t judge, we just support. I am getting back into the habit of writing and it feels good. When I am not writing, I feel off. Unless you write, you probably wouldn’t understand. But I feel like I am again in a good place and writing is an important part of my life.

I easily write short stuff, stories, articles, columns but when it comes to a large project, I get overwhelmed and abandon them. This is the year that I plan to stop that bad habit. This year I want to complete at least one project but would like to complete more. That will entail more frequent writing so my goal this month is to write every day. I am using a book – 90 Days to your Novel. It has a daily chapter of advice and exercises. It starts out with 28 days of questions to answer regarding your story. You do it by free-writing for five minutes with each question. He suggests you write for two hours a day by doing the daily assignment as well as additional questions that can be found at the back of the book. I am committing to doing the daily assignments. That takes me at least an hour. I do feel that the questions are helping me with the story. They guide me so that I dig into what the story and characters are really about. On day 29 I will actually start outlining.

I have tried Nanowrimo over the years and have completed a 50,000 word projects but when I got done with it I always felt like it was just 50,000 words – never something that could ever be a story.. I am willing to take longer to develop a story that really has some feet on it. And I think by starting out this month writing every day will help me to develop that habit.

The writer’s in this group are at all levels. Some are published, some are not. Even though we haven’t met, they feel like friends. So like the quote above, they give me a sense of security. We don’t judge but we are there for each other to answer questions and to cheer each other on. I do have the feeling they could be like a pit bull from the quote above, grasping and never letting go until you do reach your goals. I am so grateful that Theresa invited me to be a part of this group. I feel as though I belong and that is a good thing. So this month, I will continue to press ahead and even when February is done, I will keep moving forward one day at a time until I get to the end of those 90 days. When I reach that goal with a completed project, I know my writer friends will be there to help me celebrate.

What else have I been up to?

Well did I say I’d been reading? I finished a friend’s book this week. “Yip/Tuck”. A cozy mystery by my friends Sparkle Abbey. I have known them for many years. We belong to a couple local writer’s groups and I am very proud of their success. In the last few years they’ve published through Belle Bridge Books six novels and they have a contract for two more. I would love to have something like that to show for my effort. Because I’ve watched their success, I know it’s possible, so I keep writing…

Do you have something you do to keep moving forward with your writing projects? Do you have someone to support you and make you feel like it’s all worthwhile? I feel like this is my year to shine. I know it will take a lot of work and I feel like I’m ready. Is this your year? How are you going to make it happen?

Until next time,

Virginia

 

 

 

 

A Few of My Favorite Reads

Books Read2

 

“Reading usually precedes writing. And the impulse to write is almost always fired by reading. Reading, the love of reading, is what makes you dream of becoming a writer.” – Susan Sontag

Often when I find it difficult to write, I read. I have been dealing with some life changes, some health related and probably the most difficult was my brother’s death. He was in home hospice for several months before he died this past December. I tried to spend as much time with him as I could while working full-time and trying not to neglect my husband and kids.

I wanted to write but my heart wasn’t in it. During those months when I did have some spare time, I spent much of it reading. That has always been my favorite escape.

As you can see I got through quite a few since September. I discovered some new authors and caught up with some of my favorites.

I have been a fan of Jodi Picoult for years. “Breathing Time” is her newest and it was fantastic. It was one of those stories that surprised me at the end. I thoroughly enjoyed it and would recommend it to anyone. The twists and turns will keep you up late.

Dorothea Benton Frank was an AVID (Author Visiting in Des Moines) author this past year. I picked up a couple of her books and because she talked so much about “Sullivan’s Island”, I bought it even though it was not her most recent book. She said there is a scene in there that actually happened so of course I had to read the book to find out what she was talking about.  I can’t tell you about the scene here, I really think you need to let her tell you about it. If you get a chance to hear her speak, do it. Her stories are women’s fiction – set in the south.

Mary Kay Andrew’s “Christmas Bliss” was one of my holiday choices this year. I love her books. The characters are spunky and you never know what they are going to get into. She is another author I have read for years.

I discovered a new author to me – Julia Keller. I read a couple of hers – “A Killing in the Hills” and “Bitter River”. She has a third out and I plan to get it as soon as I get my to be read pile down a little bit more. Her stories are set in the Appalachia area. Her protagonist is a prosecuting attorney who has a teenage daughter and an ex-husband. Her stories are a little more nitty-gritty about the side of life that isn’t so pretty. She has won awards for more than one of her books. If you like suspense, you will like these.

I met an Iowa author –  Heather Gudenkauf. I had read her first book a while back – ” The Weight of Silence” and didn’t realize that she was from Iowa. This time I read – “These Things Hidden” Her stories are well crafted and will keep you guessing. She also is a great speaker. It was one of those really cold Iowa winter nights that she spoke at the West Des Moines library. I ran into some writer friends and it was so worth it.

My Sisters in Crime group has a book exchange every year at our Christmas party. We share a book that we really liked. This year I got one that had been on my wish list for a while. William Kent Krueger’s “Ordinary Grace”. It was just as wonderful as I thought it would be. His protagonist told the story of a murder that happened in his hometown when he was a boy. It is no wonder he won so many awards with this book.

The last book on my list is from one of those authors that I have been reading since his first in the series. Alan Bradley writes cozy mysteries with a little girl sleuth named Flavia De Luce. It is set in England in the 1940’s and they are so cleverly written. I have reviewed some of his books here before and I continue to look forward to each new one. This one was “The Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust”. If you like cozy mysteries, you have to check this series out.

One of my goals is to read more this year. I can’t count all of these toward my goal but I am starting with this Alan Bradley novel as my first for this year.

I read for pleasure but I also read because it motivates me to write. I read novels and books on the craft of writing too but novels are what I turn to most. What do you read? Do you set reading goals?

This year I also want to review more, not just here but on Goodreads, Librarything, and Amazon. Do you know that reviewing a book could be one of the best things you could do for your favorite authors?

I hope you add at least one of my suggestions to your to be read pile.

Until next time,

Virginia

 
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Posted by on January 23, 2015 in What I'm Reading

 

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Unlock Your Dreams With a Little Help From Your Friends

Turn Key Solutions_1

“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospection.” – Anais Nin

I have jumped back into my writer’s groups this year. Yesterday was the first meeting of 2015 for both Iowa Romance Novelists and Sisters in Crime. Both meetings involved setting goals and preparing ourselves for the journey of completing a new project this year.

I am Co-President of IRN and so will be very involved with that group this year. Our theme for the year is Finish the Book. We had a presentation that helped us identify the different things that may be holding us back. Way too many to list here but I thought it was interesting that even the published authors struggled with many of the things that are keeping the rest of us back.

Each month we will focus on a different aspect of getting our book done. We also have a new reward system set up. We have a list of goals to choose from. We choose only the ones we want to focus on. They have to be a little stretch and they involve several categories from reading to attending classes, conferences, workshops, writing so many minutes a day or pages per day, critiquing, and many others. If we accomplish 4 of the 12 listed goals, we will get a $10 Amazon card, 6, $25, and 10 $50. It looks to be an interesting year.

My Sisters in Crime group started out the year with Creating a Dream Vision. Our new President Jordyn Meryl brought all the supplies and members brought plenty of enthusiasm and magazines. Jordyn also brought each of us a VIsion journal. We spent the afternoon cutting out inspirational images to paste onto our Dream board. It could be just to help you with your life dreams or for your manuscript. I chose to start making it for my current wip. Will maybe post a photo of it when I get done.

All in all it was very inspirational. Today I have managed to make my list of characters and start my book bible. That is the binder I use for my project. I will continue to do character sketches this week and aim to have them done by next Friday. I printed off photos of my characters for both my vision board and my book bible. Plan to hang my vision board next to my desk. By end of month, I plan to have my outline complete so that I can start writing with my online campers, a closed writers group at Perley Station Colony Writers in February. I plan to set a weekly writing goal and get the first draft done as quickly as possible. I don’t plan to have it totally done by the end of February though. Iwill give myself at least a couple months for the first draft.

Have you started any new projects for 2015? Do you have any pre-writing rituals that you use before you start writing?

Are you struggling along on your own and would like some help? If you are in the Central Iowa area, IRN and SINC are always looking for new members. IRN meets the third Saturday of each month at the Urbandale Library this year from 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM. We have monthly programs, critique, and we are there to help and support. SINC meets the same day each month at Smokey Row Coffee Shop from 3:00 to 5:00. You can visit but if you are interested in becoming a member, you will need to join the National Organizations as well as the local chapter. Writing can be lonely, we can help.

Until next time,

Keep writing!

Virginia

 

 
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Posted by on January 18, 2015 in Novel Writing, Writing a Novel

 

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Bite by Bite…

Bite by Bite…

BIte by Bite

 

What can I say. I abandoned my blog. I have not been out here in so long that I figured when I came back it would be dead. I was wrong. People have continued to check in and I feel bad that I haven’t had anything new for them to see.

I have not given up writing. I continue to work on different projects and this is the year that I will complete a novel and attempt for some kind of publication.

I did not mean to abandon my blog but I have been dealing with some scary life issues. My close friends know what has been going on this past year but as you can see, I survived.

I plan to blog as often as possible. I would like to start out posting something once a week and then see how it goes. Call me the come back kid. What can I say, I missed my blog.

The Bite by Bite theme describes my goal this year. I only have one goal and that is to complete a novel length project. Since writing a novel is such a huge task, just thinking about it can be overwhelming. I am fine until I think of all the work and to be honest it scares me.

Over the years I have heard other writers describe the writing process. They say it is the same as eating an elephant. It can seem impossible. But if you do it one bite at a time, it becomes possible. I happened to find this calendar and journal on Amazon with the elephant on front. It was developed by a writer and has goal setting information for how to break down your goal into smaller goals that are easier to achieve. It helps you feel good about the process along the way instead of waiting for that big reward at the end of the year.

I am not going to make blogging one of my goals but I will post each week about my journey.

Just so you won’t be too bored, I will post about what is going on with the different writing groups that I belong to and also some more author interviews and book reviews. I have been reading a lot this past year and I have met some very interesting authors. I was fortunate enough to attend a few writer’s conferences and would love to share whatever might be of interest.

My first bite for my goal this month is to finish my character sketches and my outline for my current project. It is a romantic comedy with a few characters who won’t seem to go away. I decided the only way I will get any relief is to tell their story. Next month I plan to participate in an on-line writer’s camp with a closed group I belong to called –  The Perley Writer’s Colony. We have these camps several times a year. Unlike Nanowrimo, we don’t have to write 50,000 words. We each set our own goal and then post our progress on our Facebook group page. We can ask questions, work out things when we get stuck and motivate each other to reach our individual goals.

I love to write and I am also interested in the writing process. Since I am in the pre-writing stage of my project, I would love to hear from you. Do you pre-write or do you just sit down and start typing? How do you start a new project? Do you outline? Do you know your characters and how well?

If you are published and would like a featured interview, please let me know. I am always happy to help out a fellow writer.

Keep reading and writing – until next week.

Virginia

 

 
2 Comments

Posted by on January 13, 2015 in What's Happening, Writing a Novel

 

Writing Prompt – What if?

What if you wake in the night to the sound of tapping, look outside your window and see a bloody hand print, reach for your phone and it is dead…

 
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Posted by on April 2, 2014 in Uncategorized

 
 
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