“But Wait!”

A Progress Report

Since my cataract surgery, I’ve been saying “But Wait” to myself a lot.

“But wait! Don’t you have to put your glasses on before you can see to walk around the house?”

“But wait! Don’t you have to take your contact lenses out before you put those eye drops in?”

 

“But wait! You mean to tell me those green socks you wore to match your green jammies have been light blue all the time?” (And what other surprises lurk in my sock drawer?)

Apparently, I’ve been walking around in a soft, sepia fog for many years. (This isn’t a particularly bad thing for a writer of historical fiction, though.)

On the other hand, I used to say, “But wait! Wasn’t that your turn?” as I whizzed past the place where I was supposed to turn. But now I can read those street signs from half a block away.

So after my cataract surgeries, I’ve had to make small, odd mental adjustments to the changes in my vision. But I also have to admit that I’ve probably never seen as well as I do now.

Eye Drops

A Live and Learn Blog

This coming week, I’m scheduled to have cataract surgery on my right eye and the left eye the week after that. Now this is a rather alarming prospect in itself. How come? Well, it’s like this. As a fiction writer used to creating all sorts of nightmare scenarios, I can think of an abundance of things that can wrong. The information sheets the eye clinic sent me home with don’t help since they include complications like losing an eye. I’m not sure an eye patch is really the fashion look I’m after though maybe a black satin patch with sequins . . . ?

The info sheets also list major risks that include a droopy eyelid. Oh great! My eyelids are already so droopy that when I went for my eye exam last October, the technician at my regular optometrist’s office took at least two-dozen pictures of my eyeballs in one test before she thought she got a good one. For another test, she called in another technician who grabbed hold of the back of my neck and tried to pry my eye wide open with her other hand, thus blocking the camera.

These exams turned to be such an ordeal that when I finally saw my doctor, I said, “Oh gosh, I think I flunked my eye test.”

Nice guy that he is, the doctor merely smiled and said, “You’re fine.”

Nervous about the surgery, I put out a call to my Facebook friends and they were quite reassuring as in “easy peasy.” So I’m feeling a little more relaxed about it. Still I have a problem. In the build up to the surgery, I have to put eye drops in my eyes. This wasn’t immediately easy since I had to take a pair of manicure scissors to the plastic on one of the tiny bottles of eye drops just to get it open. (What is it with these companies that make the containers they put eye drops, food like mini quiches, juice, and other things in that it’s such a struggle to open them?)

But here again my droopy eyelids were problematic. There I stood in front of the mirror in my bathroom trying to drop the once-a-day stuff in my right eye. And it’s cloudy and it gushes out and I feel it on my cheek. Plus extra comes out of the vial that I have to wipe off. This stuff isn’t cheap. Those three tiny bottles shown above altogether cost $75. So I worry about wasting the eye drops, having to buy more, and also being scolded by the eye surgeon for not properly preparing for the surgery.

The first two applications of the other pre-surgery eye drops ended up on my cheek as well, or mostly anyway. Thank goodness for my daughter. She suffers from chronic dry eye and so she’s developed a method for dropping liquids in her eyes. She gave me an eye drop tutorial. She tilts her head left when she wants to put eye drops in her right eye, puts the tip of the bottle close to the corner of the right eye but not against it, and squeezes the vial. I tried her technique and sure enough, most of the drop went in my right eye instead of rolling down my cheek.

So this whole saga goes to show you that old dogs can learn new tricks. Plus it’s really great to have a kid and friends that care. Thanks, everybody!

 

P. S. January Jinx, Book 1 of my cozy historical mystery series, is only #99cents athttp://www.amazon.com/dp/B00HSSSBE4 and a penny less than a pound at http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00HSSSBE4 today through Tuesday January 7, 2020.

A bit more time . . .

Just then a hullabaloo erupted outside. Men shouted. Horses neighed. A dog barked.

In the kitchen, Gerta shouted, “Frau Vilcox, Herr . . .“ But a cat squalling, a dog baying, and a man swearing drowned out the rest of what she said.

As Mama smoothed her hair and smiled, Minty sprang up from her chair. “What’s going on, Mama?” Minty asked just before Sergeant the cat sprinted into the dining room and sailed onto the table. As he sprang for the plate rail, over went the bottle of rosewater. There was no help for the scent streaming across the oilcloth, but Minty caught an oyster plate the cat dislodged. Minty set the plate on the table as a beagle pranced and howled by her feet.

“For goodness’ sake, King, sit!” Mama commanded and the dog promptly did. Mama righted the perfume bottle and dropped a handful of cotton fluff in the puddle of scent.

“Good god, Laura.” A man of medium height with broad shoulders under a black leather coat appeared in the door. He had blazing blue eyes and a wind-burned face below a battered brown sombrero. You’ve got this place smelling like a French whorehouse.”

“Back in town so soon, Thomas?” Mama asked coolly.

“Papa!” Minty hurled herself out of her chair and at her father who hugged her and then pulled her around to his side.

 

For lots more fun, mystery, and romance in Old Kansas City with a bright business girl and a dashing detective, you still have a few more hours to get the BIG boxed set of my calendar mystery series for the low, low price of $2.99 at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B07QDKF413 or £2.99 at http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07QDKF413

 

Bargain Fiction

Get real Black Friday and Cyber Monday bargains in a boxed set.

The Calendar Cozy Historical Mystery stories and novels by Juliet Kincaid tell the story of business girl Minty Wilcox and dashing detective Daniel Price from newly met to newlywed and beyond in Kansas City, a place that could get downright deadly a hundred years or so ago.

The boxed set includes January Jinx, Fatal February, Mischief in March, and the bonus short story “Detectives’ Honeymoon,” all for only $2.99 at www.amazon.com/dp/B07QDKF413 and £2.99 at www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07QDKF413 from 11/28/2019 through 12/03/2019, many pages for your holiday reading pleasure. Happy Thanksgiving.

Praise for JANUARY JINX

Book 1 of the Calendar Mystery Series

The delightful, creative, and charming January Jinx introduces a terrific character in Minty Wilcox, a good old-fashioned cozy mystery persona who will surely be able to carry the planned-for series. It’s Minty who drives the readable narrative, and author Juliet Kincaid keeps the pace steady and fast at the same time for quite a readable experience . . . The unique setting of 1899 Kansas City is full of flavor that never overwhelms the story and the characters. With a terrific, original, but still comfortable series concept, there are certainly big things afoot for Juliet Kincaid and Minty Wilcox’s Calendar Mysteries.

 

 

 

A Brief History of Plot

Some of you have asked me about terminology I’ve used recently in my Tuesday #writingtips and #writetips. Or possibly you’ve wondered about my using an inverted check mark to represent plot, so today I’ll explain an excerpt from Novel Basics, my compact yet complete guide to writing a novel.

Note: my illustrations may appear a bit unfinished because one of the points I make in Novel Basics is that writers can jot down the basic  ideas they need to start a novel on twenty 3″ X 5″ index cards in about ninety minutes.

A Brief History of Plot

Way back in 4th Century BCE, the Greek philosopher Aristotle gave the first guidelines to plot structure when he said that a tragedy needs three parts: beginning, middle, and end, later called Act 1, Act 2, and Act 3. He also stated that the beginning isn’t necessarily preceded by any significant action, the middle grows out of the beginning, and the end grows out of middle. A successful plot might contain a surprise like some sort of shift in the action or finding out a secret from the past.

This very simple statement belies all the variations, refinements, arguments and applications to assorted kinds of storytelling that have developed since that time. Those variations included that of Horace, a Roman poet, who later said that a play needed five acts. Both Aristotle and Horace were talking about stories performed on a stage with live actions. Some differences and divergences of how plots were structured came about with the novel.

One of the earliest ways extended fiction was structured was the still popular picaresque plot, so named because Miguel de Cervantes used this type of plot in Don Quixote, first published in 1606, in which the hero and his sidekick, a rascal or picaro named Sancho Panza, go on one adventure after another.

The picaresque plot tends to have a bunch of episodes loosely strung together, that is, just one darned thing after another. You might recognize it from the very popular Fifty Shades of Grey. (Honestly, I haven’t read that novel. But a friend of mine read the first few chapters and reported that the book seemed episodic to her.)

Charles Dickens structured The Pickwick Papers, first published in installments in 1836, in similar fashion though he did frame the adventures with an overall story about Pickwick’s wedding proposal to a woman who sued him for breach of promise for not following through at the end of the novel.

I’ll omit some of the other variations of plot structure and skip to Syd Field’s Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting, first published in 1979.

Field said that successful movies tend to have three parts: Act 1 that runs for about thirty minutes (about thirty script pages), Act 2 that runs sixty minutes (about sixty pages), and Act 3, that runs to no more than thirty minutes. Field also says that a successful movie has six essential scenes.

Not long after that, Robert J. Ray in The Weekend Novelist described the structure of a novel as similar to Field’s paradigm, but with more pages in each act because the novelist must put much more on the page than the screenwriter does. Suffice it to say that the plot of a novel needs several scenes, six or even as many as nine including scenes that cut up the large Act 2 into manageable parts.

Scriptwriters are often so precise about bringing in the essential scenes that you can time them. “Hey, hey, wait for it. Wait for it. Ah, here comes Plot Point 1, right on schedule at minute 29.” Novelists generally aren’t so precise about hitting the plot points, but still successful novels usually place these important scenes at fairly regular intervals.

Somerset Maugham, author of almost twenty novels, once famously said, “There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.” That hasn’t kept other writers from writing books on the subject and coming up with more rules, up to ten in one instance. My own take on this is that the novel you write tells you what it needs and wants to be as you write it, including decisions on structure. For example, although the classical template might dictate otherwise, Suzanne Collins divided The Hunger Games into three parts, all about the same length: Part I–138 pages, Part II–106 pages, Part III–130 pages.

As for myself, a writer primarily of mystery fiction, I prefer a more logical plot than the picaresque novel has, not one darned thing after another, but a tightly connected chain of events: that is, one more thing happens because of what happened before and the whole situation getting more and more complicated until things come together in a big scene in which the whole situation gets resolved.

My favorite representation of plot is the inverted check mark with the three major acts and the six major scenes overlaid on it because this diagram shows how the action and the tension of a well plotted novel build to the highest point of intensity in the book that’s resolved before its end.

Instead of thinking of plot structure as a formula, think of it as a skeleton, the bare bones on which you need to build your novel.

 

Novel Basics is available in print for $8.99 (ISBN: 9781730833991). The digital version of Novel Basics costs only $0.99 from October 9 through October 15, 2019–just in time for you to use it to prepare for NaNoWriMo 2019–at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B07K2LXFRP and £0.99 at http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07K2LXFRP

 

Tuesday Writing Tip 08/13/19

This is one of my personal favorite cards from my Novel Basics method of brainstorming a novel with 20 index cards. Tuesday #writingtip #writetip: If you have trouble choosing between first person (I alone remain to tell the tale) and third person (The only remaining survivor of the shipwreck, Ishmael . . .), TRY BOTH.

 

 

You can get your very own copy of Novel Basics in print for $8.99 from Amazon and other sources, and digital at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B07K2LXFRP

 

The Once and Future Book

A WiP Report

I’ve reached midpoint of my current Work in Progress. (I think. I hope.)  So I’m taking some time to reflect on the book I’ve worked on – or at least thought about –  since the 1980’s when my daughter and I participated in activities of the Society for Creative Anachronism, “an international living history group with the aim of studying and recreating mainly Medieval European cultures and their histories before the 17th century” (Wikipedia).

In the years Jess and I were active in the SCA, we made many friends; enjoyed the group fantasy of wearing weird clothes, sometimes eating strange food at feasts, speaking an offbeat version of the English language; attending events like  Kris Kinder in December; and learning arcane skills such as transforming fleece into yarn with a drop spindle.

But when I decided to become a part time writer in addition to my full time job as professor of writing at a local community college, and my family responsibilities, my leisure time vanished.

Yet over the years, my mind has returned to the concept of setting a mystery novel at least partly if not completely inside the world of a Renaissance Festival and/or inside a group somewhat similar to the SCA. Some times I called the book Death in Shining Armor and sometimes Die by the Sword. Currently, I’m working on the fourth version, or maybe it’s the fifth, again called Death in Shining Armor.

I wrote the first version of Death of Shining Armor with a young female police officer as the protagonist in the early ’90’s. In 1993 I received a review of the book by a published author who  also  belonged to the SCA, so sarcastic and scathing I felt like I’d been beaten after I read it. As the daughter of a belittling mother, the ex-wife of a belittling husband, and a teacher of writing, I abhor that sort of feedback. I would never permit it in my own classroom. But since those voices in my head echoed that of the reviewer, I abandoned the project.

Later in the 90’s I returned to the book with a female private detective from a family of investigators. I actually got an agent to shop this version around to publishers, but she didn’t manage to sell it. So I moved on to a completely different project.

Still intrigued by the concept, I returned to the project some time in the ’00’s, but gave the book  a young female protagonist in peril who wasn’t an investigator at all. This version I called Die by the Sword. I abandoned this version and a tweak I tried of it in 2017. I think what bothered me most about that version was that I’d bashed some of the characters in it based on people I have known, something I said I abhorred, that is , critique the crap out of them without allowing them to do the same to me.

But apparently this is the book that won’t die. And so about six weeks ago I picked the suspense version up again. And it’s going better. I’m doing a better job of letting the supporting characters live their own lives. In contrast, I’m finding points of identification with the protagonist that help me sympathize with her more. Another thing that might help this version is I’ve set in 1988 instead of present day. (What fun!) Another thing that seems to be helping is the confidence in my own work I’ve gained from my experiences as an indie author since 2011. I’ll keep you posted on how my once and future book is going.

Meanwhile, to keep up with what I’m doing, friend me on Facebook where I’m juliet.kincaid and JulietKincaidauthor2016, follow me on Twitter where I’m JulietKincaid, and occasionally check out my Amazon Central Author’s page at www.amazon.com/Juliet-Kincaid/e/B00DB4HWRG for new publications.

My most recent published work is a boxed set of my first three Calendar Mystery books and a short story featuring a business girl and a dashing detective and set in Kansas City where living could downright deadly a hundred years or so ago. You can get your own copy at www.amazon.com/dp/B07QDKF413

P. S. When you read my work and if you enjoy it, please write a review and post it on Amazon and/or Goodreads. Just a few words, perhaps about what you like most about the book or story, would help. And I’d really appreciate it.

 

 

Transitions Take Time

A WiP Report

The closet in my bedroom in our little house isn’t big enough to accommodate my entire wardrobe, so this time of year I move my dark blue and gray sweat pants, my flannel shirts, my black and my brown fleece hoodies from the back of the house to the closet in the home office at the front of the house. I usually park my winter clothes on a chair while I haul out my spring and summer jackets, lightweight and colorful slacks and shirts (orange, peach, bright pink, yellow – oh joy!) and a skirt or two. I hang them on the door while I fill the front closet with items I won’t wear again for six months or so.

But the transition between winter and spring has been hard this year because of the late snowstorms and cold weather we’ve had around here. So some of my fleece pants and jackets have made the trip across the house two or three times.

My transition between writing projects has been prolonged and difficult as well.

Originally, I planned on continuing my cozy historical Calendar Mystery series set in Kansas City with an April book. I’ve had a very strong idea for this book for more than a year. But life-happens events gobbled up the time I needed to write that book and finish it this spring. And so I stopped working on it and set my sights on writing a book to bring out in fall that would start a new series.

Even that took several weeks because I dithered among three possible ideas, all of which involved books that I’ve already at least drafted: a science fiction novel set in a dystopian, matriarchal society that I wrote in 1986, a vast historical novel set in the Ancient World that I completed in 1989, and a series of academic mysteries that I’ve been fooling around with for years and years in one form or another. Characters from all three projects have called to me lately, the big historical especially, so much so that I hauled out the old notebooks and boxes of manuscripts for that project and put them on the shelf where my calendar mysteries lived for so long.

If I gave the heroine tiny feet like Cinderella and put dragons in the series, I’d make it into historical fantasy, and it might sell quite well as such. I could call the first book in the series The Spoils of War and market it as the next Game of Thrones, yet somewhat softer to suit my largely female readership.

But when I read Madeleine Miller’s marvelous novel The Song of Achilles, I began to doubt my ability to come up with enough detail to make one novel, let alone a series, come alive and sing. I also had problems even figuring out where in the future world I’d put the characters and action of the dystopian novel.

Then suddenly at last it became spring. And looking out my kitchen window as I washed dishes one evening, I admired my crab apple tree in bright bloom through the pergola. And I thought, if I write the contemporary mystery series, I could set it in my neighborhood. That way, I’ll find details everywhere.

And so, I’ve began brainstorming a new version of Fall into Murder, a contemporary cozy mystery that I drafted during my first participation in National Novel Writing Month in 2014. I’ll keep you posted on how it’s going.

Please note that I’ve put together a boxed set of the first three novels of my cozy historical Calendar Mystery series that tells the story of business girl Minty Wilcox and dashing detective Daniel Price from newly met to newly wed and beyond in Kansas City, a place that could downright deadly a hundred years or so ago. It’s now available to pre-order for only $3.99 at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B07QDKF413

 

Old Dog, New Tricks

A WiP Report

Recently I read Chris Fox’s Relaunch Your Novel, filled with tips about making money from one’s backlist. So I decided that it was the perfect time to bring out a boxed set of my first three cozy historical mystery novels plus a short story that follows the last novel. Little did I know (as cheesy fiction says) that I’d need to add a couple of things to my skill set. One of these required lots of trial and error and the time to make stupid mistakes and to fix them.

Assembling the text for The Calendar Mysteries Books 1 – 3 took little time since I just had to put together the most recent text files for January Jinx, Fatal February, and Mischief in March, plus “Detectives’ Honeymoon” with appropriate front and back matter. The latter now includes a promo for Old Time Stories, Book 4 of the series. Being finicky that way, I also ran a complete spell/grammar checker.

But then as what seems to be my habit, I got in a hurry and loaded the text onto Kindle Direct Publishing before realizing that I forgot to do a Table of Contents. And when I tried to do that, I discovered that the method I used for the trade paperback versions of my publications didn’t actually provide live links in the eBook version to the items listed in the Table of Contents. So I dug out the manual to Word and found out how to do that.

Learning how to create a 3D cover took lots more time. I started by looking at models on Amazon. I did some sketches of the front cover I wanted and flew them by my daughter who did the covers for the individual novels. And then I tried to find a template on KDP. No help. So I Googled the topic to find instructions. As usual, I found services that would do it for me. But it’s a matter of dollars and cents that I do everything involved in publishing myself. A video I watched went by so fast it didn’t help. Then I found a slide show that helped quite a bit – except for that author’s blithe assertion that I could do a 3D cover myself in five minutes. Oh sure. Now that I’ve figured the process out, I still think that I couldn’t do it in five minutes even doing a much simpler cover than I designed. It had ten elements: three 6” by 3” background panels, three thumbnails of the book covers, a box for the text, and three spines for the novels.

Also I found confusing the dimensions in pixels that the author specified for a 3D boxed set cover. Luckily, when I went back to one of the models I’d found and when I measured the thumbnail, I saw it was 2” by 3”. Then I had an aha-moment and realized the 3D cover for the boxed set had to fit inside the 6” by 9” rectangle KDP requires for covers. So then really all I had to do was decide on the dimensions of the cover and the spines, put them together, and skew the corners in a bit for the proper 3D effect. (Tip: With Photoshop for a Mac, go to Image > Transform and click on Skew.) That’s another skill I added to my set. (FYI: I settled on 4.5” by 9” for the front, and .5” by 9” for each novel spine.)

But when I printed out the cover, I thought that the text for January Jinx didn’t show up well on the dark garnet colored spine, so I started the whole cover almost from scratch, brightened the bottom panel, and the spine panel. Then again I got in a hurry and put the three cover panels together in the wrong order in the background, so I had to redo that. And then when I redid the spine section for January Jinx, I made the font too small and had to redo that.

With all my trials and errors, I ended up with 57 different files in that folder, including both jpeg’s and Photoshop versions. (Tip: when you get all done, make a new folder for the final text and cover files. This will save you a lot of time scanning those filled folders to see which one you need to publish.) I really have no idea how much time I spent on this. And it’s still not perfect. But I’ll no doubt be faster the next time I decide to do another boxed set (unless it’s been so long a time that I have to relearn the whole process).

 

The Calendar Mysteries Books 1 – 3 is now available to pre-order for the initial price of only $3.99 at www.amazon.com/dp/B07QDKF413 That’s a great bargain for a book 972 pages and 256,836 words long.

 

Calendar Mysteries Book 4 only $0.99

Even though Old Time Stories is Book 4 of my Calendar Mystery series, you can read it as a standalone since it fills in the gaps before, between, and after the novels in the series.

Here’s an FYI from July 4, 2017, about “The Barn Door,” the first short story in this collection of fiction and nonfiction. It placed third for the top free short reads, just after something by some guy named James Patterson!

Here’s a review of “The 9th Street Gang,” another short story in Old Time Stories: “If you wish for something pleasant to get your mind off the lately awful news, delve yourself into the story of three little hoodlums that steal this story from the endearing main characters and enjoy the tidbits of Kansas City history.”

The collection ends with a never-before published short called “The Shackleton Ghost.” Old Time Stories costs only 99 cents in the US at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B07F4JL8D5 and a penny less than a pound at  http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07FJL8D5 today, 04/03/19 through Sunday 04/07/19. (This book is also available in print from Amazon.)