Guest Post

HAVE A BOOK TO PROMOTE? Lyrical Pens welcomes guest posts. Answer a questionnaire or create your own post. FYI, up front: This site is a definite PG-13. For details, contact cjpetterson@gmail.com cj

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Bouchercon 2016 and true characters

cj Sez: Bouchercon was amazing. I heard there were about 2,000 people there. The first lady I met at the check-in desk was from Aukland, New Zealand. I met a panelist from Wales, and another from Iceland, and still others from England. On Saturday, on my way back to my hotel for the day, I spoke with a lady from Toronto, Canada. And those were just a few of my encounters. I can’t imagine how many countries I missed.


Fans of best-selling authors were everywhere, and on Saturday, they were en masse. Michael Connolly interviewing Harlan Coban in a crowded-to-the-walls ballroom was a highlight for me.

And, and, and there were two ballrooms filled with tables and tables and row after row of books…made me feel like a kid in a candy store whose mother had given her a quarter to spend.

If you can swing it, mark your calendar: Next year in Toronto, October 12-15, 2017.

Today, I’d like to chat briefly about the amount of preplanning necessary to bring a scene to life and ultimately the story. Every chapter ought to answer these questions: Who did what when where why and how? Ultimately, any novel with a satisfying ending has answered them as well.

Let’s start with who and what. Character and conflict. Almost always an intriguing scene/story begins with the action of a character in conflict, either on the page or in some narrative. This is true whether it’s a memoir or a mystery. To be interesting, to be the character a reader can relate to and commiserate with, s/he needs conflict.

Conflict doesn’t have to be an argument or a threat. It can be as simple as having a flat tire when s/he gets ready to leave for work. Knowing how a character should react to any and all conflict is an author imperative. Since the conflict is stronger when it’s internal—a part of their personalities—authors need to spend time creating characters’ bios before they start writing.

What makes characters the way they are is the same thing that makes real-life people the way they are.

Where were they born? When were they born? Any siblings? What was the home situation like? Is s/he a loner? If so, what caused that? Are they vain? Ego-driven? Church-going? Each one of these questions has the potential to cause conflict, and conflict is what is needed for a great novel. And for the real emotional drama, there needs to be internal conflict...conflict that arises from the way these people look at life. 
  
The hero and heroine—just like all of us—have habits that were decided long ago…before your story started. The hero may have decided that no one is going to help him succeed. If anything, they’re going to help him fail, so he has to look out for himself. His way of dealing with that is to never trust anyone. As a character in the story, he must react that way in all of his scenes until the story’s character arc changes that attitude. The heroine may have become the proverbial middle child who thinks the way to succeed is to become the center of attention. She will always say and do things to achieve that goal unless her character arc changes.

Remember though, lengthy backstory dumps are both disrupting and unnecessary. Readers are carried along on the characters’ actions.

When you're building conflict into your characters, you have to know who they are and what they want and how far they’ll go to get what they want. The answers are an ideal place for the conflict to begin

Okay, you-all guys keep on keeping on, and I’ll try to do the same.

cj

PS: Got your perfect Christmas present right here—for you and the BFF who loves reading a good story. Choosing Carter is in the bundle of six romance novels, “More Than Friends,” launched on Sept 19—it’s available until February 2017 for 99 cents. It’s not too early to be thinking of Christmas presents, and here’s hours and hours of entertainment for less than a buck! Check it out and after you’ve read them, please leave the authors an Amazon review. Thanks.

cjpetterson@gmail.com
Choosing Carter  -- Kindle  /  Nook  /  Kobo   /  iTunes/iBook

Deadly Star --  Kindle  / Nook  / Kobo

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

GUEST C. T. Collier talks about a mystery writer's learning curve

cj Sez:  Lyrical Pens is happy to welcome a guest post from author C. T. Collier today. C. T. (aka Kate) blogs about how she went about learning to become a published mystery writer.



In January five years ago, I made a decision: instead of waiting for retirement to take my writing seriously, I’d set aside one hour a day and make steady progress toward my goal of publishing not just a murder mystery, but one I was proud to put my name on. It would be well written, well crafted, and engaging. It would fit with the marketplace, embrace the history of academic mysteries, and honor the tradition of mysteries back to the Golden Age of Murder. Tall order, especially since none of the novels I’d dashed off in prior years had come close to satisfying the tenets of the mystery genre and only one had gotten a nibble from an agent.

I needed basic training in character development. I needed to develop a professional network. And I had to make friends with conflict. My first giant step forward came when a writer friend invited me to tag along to a writer’s conference. Three days later I was armed with Debra Dixon’s Goal, Motivation, and Conflict; I had pitched my concept for a small-town series to a well-respected agent and received invaluable feedback; and I had joined a national association.

Since a fair number of mystery and suspense writers started their careers as romance authors, I chose to do the same. I used Dixon’s classic as my foundation, selected RWA workshops that addressed my weaknesses, and entered contests specifically for feedback to gauge my progress toward publishing-ready.

Slowly my small-town concept developed into a series of four romance novels, Lakeside Porches under the pen name Katie O’Boyle. Each book was an improvement over the one before. With book one, I found a publisher. With book two, I tackled an arrogant abrasive protagonist ripe for transformation. With book three, I placed in a contest. With book four, I tangled with a villain.

At the conclusion of Lakeside Porches, I had a body of work I was proud of and
a good start on a spinoff series of traditional academic mysteries. My protagonists from book four, an academic married to a technical guru, grew into a sleuthing duo in The Penningtons Investigate, set in the same small Finger Lakes city of Tompkins Falls, NY, with a college riddled with intrigue.

Still, writing a mystery required new discipline and resources. I chose as my second foundational work The Elements of Mystery Fiction: Writing the Modern Whodunit by master of the craft William G. Tapply. I took workshops and classes in creating suspense, cybercrime, and crafting the mystery genre. With a favorably critiqued first draft in hand, I engaged an outstanding editor and made significant revisions with her feedback.

Now writing under my own name, C. T. Collier, my first mystery, Planted, launched in July and is enjoying a modest and positive response from the market. It’s been a suspenseful and satisfying process, with more twists and turns still to come.

C. T. Collier was born to solve logic puzzles, wear tweed, and drink Earl Grey tea. Her professional experience in cutthroat high tech and backstabbing higher education gave her endless opportunity to study intrigue. Add to that her longtime love of mysteries, and it’s no wonder she writes academic mysteries that draw inspiration from traditional whodunits. Her setting, Tompkins Falls, is a blend of several Finger Lakes towns, including her hometown, Seneca Falls, NY. Entirely fictional, Tompkins College is no college and every college. 
Facebook: kate.collier.315
Twitter: @TompkinsFalls

It’s Monday of spring break when Professor Lyssa Pennington’s backyard garden project unearths a loaded revolver. With no record of violence at their address and no related cold case, the Tompkins Falls police have no interest. But the Penningtons and a friend with the State Police believe there’s a body somewhere. Whose? Where? And who pulled the trigger?

Here’s the link to buy Planted, the first in The Penningtons Investigate: http://tinyurl.com/h2f2xeh

cj Sez: Thanks, Kate, for the wonderful details about your path to mystery writer. You are one determined author! Congratulations on the release of your book, and best wishes for great sales and wonderful reviews.

I hope Lyrical Pens visitors will take a moment to leave a comment below and let you know how their experience compares with yours.


Okay, you-all guys keep on keeping on, and I’ll try to do the same. And before I forget (as if), the bundle of six romance novels, More Than Friends, launched on Sept 19 and is available until February 2017 for 99 cents

It's not too early to start thinking of Christmas presents, and here's hours and hours of entertainment, including my Choosing Carter, for less than a buck! Check it out and after you’ve read them, please leave the authors an Amazon review. Thanks.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

New launch, Pensters Group, and Bouchercon on the agenda

cj Sez:  My romantic suspense Choosing Carter is part of  the More than Friends bundle of romance novels that hits all the outlets tomorrow, Sept 19, at 99 cents! That’s six, count ‘em, six romance novels for under a buck!


Hours of entertainment for 99 cents . . . the best and cheapest price in town.

And when you’ve finished reading a book, please take a few moments to leave the author a review on Amazon. We’d love to know what you think. 

***
Last Saturday, I was honored to speak to the Pensters Group, a marvelous group of writers who meet in Fairhope, AL. I was also asked to judge the entries into their monthly contest … poetry and prose.

What a treat to read the efforts of some seriously good writers, and how difficult it was to select the first, second, and honorable mention entries. At the end of their 2016-2017 year, Pensters plans to publish an anthology comprised of the top three entries for each month, so these authors will soon be able to claim a publication credit. Congratulations to all!  

You can find out more about Pensters at www.pensterswritinggroup.com and on Facebook at PenstersWriting (select the one with the circle symbol, their brand-new logo).

I’m feeling a bit maudlin today. Not sure why. Maybe it’s the heat and humidity that keeps dragging on in Mobile dragging me down. Whatever the reason, I was surfing through some old posts and found one in July 2014 about my grandson heading off for his first year of law school. This summer, he headed off for his final year. As in 2014, the event reminds me how fast time really does fly when you’re having fun. 

I moved to Alabama to be near my grandkids, and don't you know, they grew up. (sigh) Too soon, I say. Not soon enough, says he. I miss the hugs, giggles and piano concerts and know they will be far between from now on because next week, he flies to Alexandria to interview for a clerkship with one of three Federal Magistrates. Should he be successful, he might be in Iowa or New Mexico or New Orleans ... which is the one I'm hoping for because it's only a couple of hours away.


Doesn't matter where the future takes him; to me, he will always be the dark-eyed cutie ready to save the world. (And he's going to kill me for posting that photo again.)

Okay, that’s all for today. I'm heading home from New Orleans and the awesome Bouchercon—my first one ever. All the presenters and honored guests were simply a fabulous list of who’s who. I was excited to be among the fans.

You-all guys keep on keeping on, and I’ll try to do the same.

cj
cjpetterson@gmail.com
Choosing Carter  -- Kindle  /  Nook  /  Kobo   /  iTunes/iBook
Deadly Star --  Kindle  / Nook  / Kobo

Amazon Central Author Page:  http://amzn.to/1NIDKC0

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Guest Jacqueline Vick: Lyricist, scriptwriter, mystery writer

cj Sez: Today’s wonderful guest post is by author Jacqueline Vick. Jacqueline graciously agreed to answer some nosy questions about her path from childhood lyricist to published author . . .


and  . . . and  . . . and for Lyrical Pens visitors who leave her a comment, she’ll draw a name out of the computer hat for someone to win a book.  Read on!

cj: When did you realize you wanted to write novels?

   The first thing I ever wrote was a short song about a pony. I don't remember it, but I'm sure it was brilliant. (I was five at the time.) When I moved to Los Angeles in my twenties, I naturally got into scriptwriting. I joined a few professional associations and went to meetings. I really can't remember when I started writing mysteries. However, I went to the "Love is Murder" convention in Chicago and fell in love with mystery writers. In my experience, they are the most generous people on earth. When you write, community is so important. It's great to find people you like. I gave up scriptwriting and moved to mysteries.  

cj: Are you traditionally published, indie published, or a hybrid author?

   I had a few agents request my first novel, but no takers. As I grew in my writing, I went back to that novel and realized that it hadn't been ready to send out to agents. (We're so enthusiastic when we finish that first novel!)  I entered the rewritten version in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel contest and was a quarter finalist. Around the same time, a traditionally published author decided to switch to self-publishing because she wanted her books to come out more often. Traditional publishing can take up to two years. I thought this was fantastic advice, and with the advent of Create Space, I chose the indie route. With cutbacks at the major publishing houses, most authors have to do their own marketing anyway, so I didn't see the benefits of being traditionally published. I hire an editor and a cover artist for each book. I've picked up the rest through classes, the many resources available on the internet, and old-fashioned trial-and error.

cj: Plotter, pantser, or pathfinder?

   Since I write mysteries, I plot. I need to know what my suspects are doing at the time of the murder. It's like putting a puzzle together. 

cj: How do you decide on character names?

   I often go back to my grade school classmates for last names.  My poor, unaware, grade school classmates.  (cj Sez: That’s a neat idea I’m going to confiscate.)

cj: Who are your top three favorite authors?

   Rex Stout, Agatha Christie, and Robert Barnard.

cj: If you could have written any book (one that somebody else has already wirtten), what would it be? Why?

   Death by Sheer Torture by Robert Barnard. It's hysterical and clever. I wish I was that clever.

cj: What’s on the horizon for you?

   I'm finishing up the third Pet Psychic mystery, and the second Harlow Brothers mystery is in the works.

   I'd love to offer a free book to your readers. I'll draw a name from those people who leave a comment and they can choose either an ebook or paperback version of A Bird's Eye View of Murder, which is the latest Frankie Chandler, Pet Psychic, mystery. (cj Sez: How generous!)


   Jacqueline Vick is the author of over twenty short stories, novelettes and mystery novels. Her April 2010 article for Fido Friendly Magazine, “Calling Canine Clairvoyants,” led to the first Frankie Chandler Pet Psychic mystery, Barking Mad at Murder, followed by A Bird's Eye View of Murder. Her first Harlow Brothers' mystery, Civility Rules, is out in ebook format and paperback. To find out more, visit her website at www.jacquelinevick.com


 Everybody loves Aunt Civility's etiquette books, though the reclusive author doesn't exist. Short-tempered Edward Harlow, the man who makes appearances as her official representative, writes the books, with his brother, Nicholas, acting as his secretary. The duo arrive at the isolated Inglenook Resort for Edward's latest appearance, and when a dead body turns up in the room next door, Aunt Civility's official representative is in danger of losing his manners. Will an association with murderthe ultimate unpleasantnesssully Auntie's reputation and endanger Edward's livelihood? Nicholas will do whatever it takes to keep the boss happy, but as the body count rises, so does the secretary's chances of becoming the next victim. (Buy at  http://amzn.to/2c0xbiy


cj Sez: Thanks so much for stopping by, Jacqueline. Civility Rules has an intriguing premise and is definitely on my ToBeRead list. I’m a pathfinder suspense writer, so reading and analyzing your book is sure to help with the plotting I need for the mystery I want to write . . . it sounds exciting.

Readers, be sure to drop Jacqueline a comment and get on the list for a chance to win one of her books.

That’s all for today. You-all guys keep on keeping on, and I’ll try to do the same. (I can hardly wait to see who wins that book.)

cj
cjpetterson@gmail.com
Choosing Carter  -- Kindle  /  Nook  /  Kobo   /  iTunes/iBook
Deadly Star --  Kindle  / Nook  / Kobo
Amazon Central Author Page:  http://amzn.to/1NIDKC0


Sunday, September 11, 2016

Another day that lives in infamy

cj Sez: When I look at the pictures and videos of the events of 9.11.01, I feel the same anguish and fear and shock and anger as I did when I watched them unfold. The feelings have dulled in some ways and intensified in others because this country is still facing the threat. 


I pray for comfort and strength for the families of all those who died. And to all the first responders who intensely carry the emotional and physical scars of that day, I raise those same prayers and send my thanks for your heroism. You are awesome.
  

I want to write about critiques again today because they are a must for serious writers. We’re way too close to our manuscripts to be subjective. Despite our best intentions, we can’t judge/proofread/edit our own words, at least not thoroughly or objectively. We read past things because we “thought” them. Obviously the reader will know what we mean, even if the words aren’t on the page or are wrong. Objective critique partners are able to find missing words, poorly constructed sentences, punctuation errors, missing story threads, plot holes, and all those other etceteras that the subjective writer misses.

Finding compatible critique partners is hard, sometimes very hard. Shared likability and a mutual respect for expertise are required by, for, and from each other. But the manuscript deserves and needs critiques, so connecting with a critique group is definitely worth the effort. Some organizations have on-line critique groups so you don’t even have to leave your computer.

Members of critique groups generally have different strengths and areas of expertise.
One might be a whiz at line editing. Another might offer insights into story structure. Still another may be great at recognizing any plot weaknesses. Or character flaws. Or the dreaded middle-of-the-book sag.

There is yet another type of critiquer that can be incredibly helpful. That’s the one who perhaps isn’t so technical, but who points out the things that elicit their visceral reactions. What they laughed at, what they got scared of for the character, where they cried, got lost, what they did or didn’t “get” or where they were tempted to skim over paragraphs or pages. That kind of emotional information is invaluable. These are the comments that point the writer to where s/he’s succeeding or where s/he’s failing to communicate the desired story. These comments can represent the similar reaction of the writer’s intended audience.

A caveat: Writers should consider critiquers’ comments as if they were values on a bell curve. The comments that are similar (and bunch up like a hump in the middle) could need another look. The outliers on either end of the curve (the one or two strange or obviously subjective comments) can probably be disregarded.

Whether your work is critiqued in chunks (as I like to do) or you wait until your manuscript is complete, find some fellow writers to read it over. Trade yours for theirs. And the more eyes on the manuscript, the better. I formally belong to a critique group and occasionally trade whole manuscript critiques with other members of the Guppies…the online chapter of the international Sisters in Crime organization.

Something to remember, though, is that there really are rules for critiquing. The most important one is: Be kind. Second: Find a way to start your critique with something positive. (Writers have fragile, creative egos, but you know that.) But also be truthful. It won’t help any writer if you praise something that is poorly written. I truly understand that no one likes to hear their baby manuscript is ugly, but speaking from experience, if we’re going to be successful writers, we have to develop a rhino hide to deflect unwarranted as well as warranted criticism and agent rejections.

I’ll leave you with an offer:  I’ll be happy to provide a brief/written critique to the first five writers who eMail me the first three pages and the last three pages of Chapter One of their work-in-progress.  Rules:  Copy and paste the pages within the eMail (no attachments). The formatting might be lost, so use asterisks or extra line spacing to separate the first three pages from the last three.

In the meantime, you-all guys keep on keeping on, and I’ll try to do the same.

cj
cjpetterson@gmail.com
Choosing Carter  -- Kindle  /  Nook  /  Kobo   /  iTunes/iBook
Deadly Star --  Kindle  / Nook  / Kobo
Amazon Central Author Page:  http://amzn.to/1NIDKC0


P.S. Mark your calendars: “More than Friends,” the bundle of SIX romance novels that includes CHOOSING CARTER is scheduled to launch Sept. 19. After you’ve read then, and when you get a chance, be sure to stop by the authors’ Amazon pages and let us know what you think. I look forward to reading your comments. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Guest post by author J. Arlene Culiner

cj Sez:  Lyrical Pens hosts a guest post today from a wonderful storyteller, J. Arlene Culiner. And if you don’t believe me, just read the fascinating story about the birthing of her new novel.

 “Thanks, cj, for inviting me to Lyrical Pens so I can tell everyone about my September 5th release: The Turkish Affair. And, today, I’ve decided to take up the thorny subject of how long it takes to write a book (a thorny subject indeed).

   For me, completing a manuscript can be a battle: sometimes words flow; sometimes, it’s the desert. I dream of goals — a thousand words a day and several months to completion — then have nothing to say after chapter six. Sometimes I’m disgusted with the whole project and stop. So I’ll make a confession: The Turkish Affair took thirty-three years to write. Yup. That’s right.

   Here’s the how, why, when.

   Unlike my heroine Anne Pierson who fled to Turkey to escape a humiliating past, I longed to abandon predictability. Once footloose and fancy free, I was now living in France with a successful businessman husband. Life was easy, reasonable, comfortable. Normal. Stultifying. Where was the adventure? What about challenge, excitement and danger?

   I soon pulled up stakes, went to Turkey and began living with B. We had no conversation — he knew almost no English; I had no Turkish. He was a hard-working archaeologist; my life was frivolous: days spent with my new friend Suzie, chatting in caf├ęs, sailing out to sea, hammering away at grammar books and wondering how to make money. B. finally sat me down at a desk in the archaeological museum (an ancient crusader castle perched over the turquoise sea) gave me a job listing recent finds: jars, figurines, shards. It was fun at first; it sparked my interest in archaeology. But, after a while, it became boring. Time to move on.

   Like my heroine Anne, I eventually spoke reasonable Turkish and was working in central Turkey with a Turkish guide, Asim, and translating for tourists. It was a wild area, with Siberian winters and heavy summers. And dangerous too: the police were untrustworthy and violent; there was political unrest; there were frequent arrests. When there was no work, I took buses and trains to other places; once, with a Turkish friend, I went out to an unexcavated Hittite site on an empty plain. There, an armed guard, a dreadful man, dangerous and obviously mad, followed us, demanding baksheesh at gunpoint. If I survive this, I remember thinking, I’ll put him into a book.

   Another time, traveling southeast by bus, we pulled off the main road and into an archaeological site. We were only there for a few minutes, delivering a package of some sort. And staring idly out of the window, I caught sight of a man ambling in the direction of a tumble of pillars and ruins. He was lean, supple, and the bright sun caught the golden blaze of his hair. Who was he? An archaeologist? But, with a puff of noxious smoke, the bus roared to life once more, and we headed back toward the main road. That blond man’s image remained with me over all these years: he was slated to become my hero, the archaeologist Renaud Townsend.

   Twenty years later, I was living in a mud house in an eastern Hungarian village but traveling back and forth to Romania to research the book I was writing (Finding Home in the Footsteps of the Jewish Fusgeyers), trying to learn Hungarian, preparing a major photography exhibition and investigating murders that had taken place in 1946. My partner, H., worked and lived in Vienna, and only showed up every second weekend — it was a long drive away. Not knowing enough Hungarian to communicate with locals, I decided to amuse myself by writing a second book, a more light-hearted one. The story had to be very different from the history book I was working on; it had to be a romance; it had to have a foreign setting with archaeological sites; it had to include the characters I’d collected in Turkey: the blond man, the nasty guard, Asim, slothful Apo, Komiser Bulduk.

   And so I began the first draft of The Turkish Affair. And each time H. showed up, I translated the newest chapter into German and read it out to him. H. loved the little game. So did I; I had become Scheherazade. I even finished the whole manuscript. Then forgot about it.

   Life had changed again. I was back in France.

   This winter, thirteen years after the Scheherazade episode, I remembered the manuscript. I looked it over, winced, sighed, nodded. Then re-wrote it entirely, refining the language — years of writing is the best apprenticeship — basing the mystery on what really happened on one site, adding information about the long-vanished Hittites and including true stories — yes, I did actually travel to the coast with B. and several other archaeologists when they were called in to authenticate ancient coins; yes, the places I describe really do exist (the names have been changed).

   Then, in June, I sent the finished manuscript to Crimson Romance. And they wanted to publish it. How’s that for a long story?”

About the author

Born in New York, raised in Toronto, J. Arlene Culiner has spent most of her life in England, Germany, Turkey, Greece, Hungary and the Sahara. She now resides in a 400-year-old former inn in a French village of no interest and, much to public dismay, protects all creatures, especially spiders and snakes. She works as an actress, a photographer, a contemporary artist, a musician, writes mysteries, history books and perfectly believable romances. Her heroines are funny and gutsy; her heroes, dashingly lovable; and all are (proudly) over the age of forty. You can reach her at any of the url addresses below.

The Turkish Affair book blurb: 
Anne Pierson was a top-notch Washington journalist until a liaison with the wrong man implicated her in scandal. Years later, she's hiding out in backwoods Turkey, working as a translator near the ancient Hittite site of Karakuyu, determined to keep her past a secret and avoiding personal relationships. But her quiet little world is turned upside down when she meets American archaeologist Renaud Townsend.

When Anne's reputation links her to stolen artifacts and murder at the dig site, their budding romance comes skidding to a halt. To clear her name, Renaud and Anne must learn to trust each other. But is there enough time to give love a second chance?

Published by Crimson Romance
https://www.amazon.com/Turkish-Affair-J-Arlene-Culiner-ebook/dp/B01KGO49XS
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/J.+Arlene+Culiner


cj Sez:  Wow! Thanks for a great story about your lifetime of exciting adventures. Here’s wishing you thousands of sales and wonderful reviews for The Turkish Affair

Got a question? Please drop it in the comments section below. We’d love to hear from you. In the meantime, you-all guys keep on keeping on, and I’ll try to do the same. (And don't forget to watch for the “More than Friends” romance novel bundle set to launch Sept 19.) 
  
cjpetterson@gmail.com
Choosing Carter  -- Kindle  /  Nook  /  Kobo   /  iTunes/iBook
Deadly Star --  Kindle  / Nook  / Kobo

Amazon Central Author Page:  http://amzn.to/1NIDKC0

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Do or do not

cj Sez: I’ve been saying for a long time . . . way too long a time . . . that I’m trying to learn how to write a mystery or I’m trying to learn how to write a YA story. In fact, I said it just the other day. Then I saw this meme:


It reminded me that I know better. And have done better. It has always been my habit that if I want to learn how to do something and have set an achievable goal, I have done what’s necessary to reach it. In other words, if I really want to do something, I will do it.

I once had a wild hair thought and decided I wanted to go white water rafting. When I was 50, I took six weeks of swimming lessons and then spent 5-1/2 days with 12 strangers on an Outward Bound rafting trip on the Yampa River between Colorado and Utah. I had a great adventure, made some interesting friends, and still don’t know how to swim.

When I first wanted to learn how to write, I enrolled in a creative writing class at a local community college. I flew to San Francisco and spent three days immersed in Robert McKee’s Story screenwriting workshop. I grabbed a bunch of how-to books. I read novels and read some more.

Over time, I discovered I was drawn to the books of Robert B. Parker, Elmore Leonard, John Grisham, James Lee Burke, Robert Ludlum’s Bourne series. You know the kind, heavy on the action and adventure with a smattering of sex. When I relocated to Mobile, I took a continuing education class at the University of South Alabama (“Storming the Walls of the Publishing Industry”), wrote seven paragraphs based on a prompt from the instructor, and, with a positive response written on the paper, decided I was ready to write.

Writing in vacuum doesn’t work. I thought my premise was wonderful, the words and structure perfect. I wrote crap. There was no brilliant beginning, middle, or end. There was only a quasi-beginning, a sagging middle, and an unsatisfying end. And I couldn’t even edit out all the punctuation errors because I would read right past them.

So, I joined a writers’ group and a critique group – a couple of critique groups, in fact, in order to get the kind of varied writer/reader responses I might get should my novel be on a library shelf. I went to conferences and writer retreats and workshops. My first short story was published in an anthology 2008, my first novel in 2013.
 
By the bye, the Parker, et al., novels are called action adventures and thrillers. My publisher likes to call what I write romantic suspense. I consider mine more Jane Bond than romance, especially Deadly Star.

Right now, all my stories and novels are traditionally published, but understanding that the publication world is a fickle place, I have taken an intensive class in self-publishing and, should I decide to self-publish, have tons of back-up/how-to reference materials—and many writer friends I can call on who have already gone that route. And you know what? It feels very good to know that I have prepared myself for the option.

There is a song lyric I heard recently that, paraphrased, tells me I can spend my days living my dream or spend them trying not to die. I don’t see any hope or laughter in the latter. I have spent my life getting older (that’s a good and fortunate thing), and taking a class of some kind to get smarter. I had forgotten about how good that felt. The Yoda meme reminded me. 

I must own the task. I will either do or do not.

The point I’m trying to make is that, whatever it is you want to do, you have to make your “want to” a real goal in order to succeed. For me, that means reassessing my want-tos. I will either learn how to write a YA, or I won’t keep it on my writing plate. I will either learn to write a mystery, or I won’t. "Trying" would only allow me to test the waters to see if it might work out. I don't have enough allotted years left to waste them trying. 

With that in mind, I am barreling ahead with reading and analyzing mystery stories. I entered twenty pages of my work-in progress in a mystery writers contest, hoping to get the same kind of feedback that incentivized me to change my first love story into a romance

Today’s lesson: Set a goal. Put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and write it down. You might be surprised at how far you can go.

Okay, I’ll climb off the soap box, but I really would like to know: What’s your literary want-to?  

Be sure to stop by Wednesday for author J. Arlene Culiner's fascinating tale about the birthing of her novel, The Turkish Affair.


cj Sez: You-all guys keep on keeping on, and I’ll try to do the same.

PS Reminder:  Choosing Carter is part of the six-book bundle, “More Than Friends,” set to launch Sept 19, available at all Crimson Romance outlets for the next six months. Think of it . . . Six romance novels for (gasp) 99 cents. Yowza!

cjpetterson@gmail.com
Choosing Carter  -- Kindle  /  Nook  /  Kobo   /  iTunes/iBook
Deadly Star --  Kindle  / Nook  / Kobo
Amazon Central Author Page:  http://amzn.to/1NIDKC0

Do or do not

cj Sez: I’ve been saying for a long time . . . way too long a time . . . that I’m trying to learn how to write a mystery or I’m trying to learn how to write a YA story. In fact, I said it just the other day. Then I saw this meme:


It reminded me that I know better. And have done better. It has always been my habit that if I want to learn how to do something and have set an achievable goal, I have done what’s necessary to reach it. In other words, if I really want to do something, I will do it.

I once had a wild hair thought and decided I wanted to go white water rafting. When I was 50, I took six weeks of swimming lessons and then spent 5-1/2 days with 12 strangers on an Outward Bound rafting trip on the Yampa River between Colorado and Utah. I had a great adventure, made some interesting friends, and still don’t know how to swim.

When I first wanted to learn how to write, I enrolled in a creative writing class at a local community college. I flew to San Francisco and spent three days immersed in Robert McKee’s Story screenwriting workshop. I grabbed a bunch of how-to books. I read novels and read some more.

Over time, I discovered I was drawn to the books of Robert B. Parker, Elmore Leonard, John Grisham, James Lee Burke, Robert Ludlum’s Bourne series. You know the kind, heavy on the action and adventure with a smattering of sex. When I relocated to Mobile, I took a continuing education class at the University of South Alabama (“Storming the Walls of the Publishing Industry”), wrote seven paragraphs based on a prompt from the instructor, and, with a positive response written on the paper, decided I was ready to write.

Writing in vacuum doesn’t work. I thought my premise was wonderful, the words and structure perfect. I wrote crap. There was no brilliant beginning, middle, or end. There was only a quasi-beginning, a sagging middle, and an unsatisfying end. And I couldn’t even edit out all the punctuation errors because I would read right past them.

So, I joined a writers’ group and a critique group – a couple of critique groups, in fact, in order to get the kind of varied writer/reader responses I might get should my novel be on a library shelf. I went to conferences and writer retreats and workshops. My first short story was published in an anthology 2008, my first novel in 2013.
 
By the bye, the Parker, et al., novels are called action adventures and thrillers. My publisher likes to call what I write romantic suspense. I consider mine more Jane Bond than romance, especially Deadly Star.

Right now, all my stories and novels are traditionally published, but understanding that the publication world is a fickle place, I have taken an intensive class in self-publishing and, should I decide to self-publish, have tons of back-up/how-to reference materials—and many writer friends I can call on who have already gone that route. And you know what? It feels very good to know that I have prepared myself for the option.

There is a song lyric I heard recently that, paraphrased, tells me I can spend my days living my dream or spend them trying not to die. I don’t see any hope or laughter in the latter. I have spent my life getting older (that’s a good and fortunate thing), and taking a class of some kind to get smarter. I had forgotten about how good that felt. The Yoda meme reminded me. 

I must own the task. I will either do or do not.

The point I’m trying to make is that, whatever it is you want to do, you have to make your “want to” a real goal in order to succeed. For me, that means reassessing my want-tos. I will either learn how to write a YA, or I won’t keep it on my writing plate. I will either learn to write a mystery, or I won’t. "Trying" would only allow me to test the waters to see if it might work out. I don't have enough allotted years left to waste them trying. 

With that in mind, I am barreling ahead with reading and analyzing mystery stories. I entered twenty pages of my work-in progress in a mystery writers contest, hoping to get the same kind of feedback that incentivized me to change my first love story into a romance

Today’s lesson: Set a goal. Put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and write it down. You might be surprised at how far you can go.

Be sure to stop by Wednesday for author J. Arlene Culiner's fascinating tale about the birthing of her novel, The Turkish Affair.

cj Sez; Okay, I’ll climb off the soap box, but I really would like to know: What’s your literary want-to?  You-all guys keep on keeping on, and I’ll try to do the same.

PS Reminder:  Choosing Carter is part of the six-book bundle, “More Than Friends,” set to launch Sept 19, available at all Crimson Romance outlets for the next six months. Think of it . . . Six romance novels for (gasp) 99 cents. Yowza!

cjpetterson@gmail.com
Choosing Carter  -- Kindle  /  Nook  /  Kobo   /  iTunes/iBook
Deadly Star --  Kindle  / Nook  / Kobo
Amazon Central Author Page:  http://amzn.to/1NIDKC0