Category Archives: writing fiction

Almost Done Doing Mischief

WiP Report # 19

This morning—I’m very pleased to say—I finished the current draft of Mischief in March, the third in my Calendar Mystery series featuring mystery and romance in Kansas City, a place that could get downright deadly a hundred years or so ago. January Jinx, Fatal February, Mischief in March, nine other novels and possibly some short stories to follow, tell the story of Minty Wilcox and Daniel Price from newly met to newly wed and beyond. (We authors must practice our elevator speeches as much as possible.) Tomorrow I’ll start the final edit.

Overall, I’m quite pleased with this book. It’s very much the favorite among the ten or so novels I’ve at least drafted so far. The characters still surprise me and make me laugh or sometimes cry.

But I did have a  thorny problem to resolve in this draft. I went way too far in naming my characters.

At this point, I must thank those who read the first half of the previous draft of MiM, as I call it, and gave me helpful feedback: Ann F, Barbara O, Denise G, Joyce B, Peg N, and Valerie B.

Special thanks to Valerie for the effort she went to in creating the charts shown here. Whew! What a lot of work for her to do for another writer’s book, but what a help these charts were to me. As the first one shows, I introduced two-dozen characters in Chapter One. That’s a lot! As the second chart shows, I used names that started with the letter M thirteen times in the first half of the book! Yikes!

Once Valerie pointed out the errors of my ways, I addressed the problem.

1) I cut a number of characters from MiM altogether including characters who appeared in previous books, but didn’t in MiM.

2) I limited the number of characters appearing in any one chapter and tried to introduce them one or two at a time instead of all at once.

3) I only named the characters when they physically appeared instead of referring to them by name earlier.

4) I didn’t name minor characters like an elevator attendant.

5) By studying Valerie’s second chart, I identified the letters of the alphabet I used too often and the ones I hadn’t used much if at all. And so, the Sullenbergers in the earlier draft now are the Quillens and the book now has a Zappa and a Ziegenhorn.

Mischief in March will be out soon. If you haven’t read January Jinx, you can buy it for $3.99 at www.amazon.com/dp/B00HSSSBE4. You can also buy Fatal February for $4.99 at www.amazon.com/dp/B017081JHM. Please note, British friends, that Fatal February will be available for only £0.99 at www.amazon.co.uk/B017081JHM from February 27, 2017, until March 4, 2017.

Best, Juliet

Calling Long Distance in 1900

Making a long distance telephone call in 1900 was pretty complicated.

For instance, in Mischief in March, the third in my Calendar mystery series, when Minty Wilcox wants to make a call from Kansas City to her uncle Charles in St. Joseph, MO, she can’t just grab her cell or even pick up her home phone and do it. Instead, she has to go through a fairly long process.

1) A day or so before Minty wants to make her call, she goes to the Coates House Hotel to make an appointment. She also pays for the call up front. At 50 cents, or about $50 today, it was expensive, too.

2) In the interim between making the appointment for the call and making the call, the operator sets up the connections on the lines to the destination for the call. (When the first commercial telephone exchanges opened began providing service in 1878, the operators were young men or boys. They soon proved to be too impatient for the job, so by 1900 most telephone operators were women.)

3) The next day Minty returns to the hotel and goes inside a telephone booth, also called a “silence cabinet.” When the telephone rings, she picks up the earpiece from the wall phone. And finally, after the operator completes the connection, Minty talks to her uncle Charles.

We can count our blessings that long distance calling is so easy these days.

 

 

 

 

January Jinx, the first Calendar mystery, is available for $3.99 at www.amazon.com/dp/B00HSSSBE4 and Fatal February, the second, is available for $4.99 at www.amazon.com/dp/B017081JHM. Both eBooks are free from Kindle Unlimited. Look for Mischief in March coming in 2017.

Dare I Say Bah Humbug?

WiP Report # 18

What I’ve named “my week from H3LL” threatened to turn me all Scroogish as I began the annual trek through the holidays this year.

You see, during the first week of every month, I usually have four meetings and a lunch in addition to my usual weekly activities of attending an art class; teaching a novel writing class; self-maintenance like going to four Jazzercise classes; running a household; and continuing my career as a self-published author.

But the first week of December 2016 became a week from H3LL for me even though I cut a meeting and a class.

Here are the extra things I did during the first week of December 2016.

1) I went to lunch not once but twice. (I spent the second lunch worrying about completing chore # 4 listed below in a timely fashion.)

2) I copyrighted and promoted the last book in my Cinderella, P. I. fairy tale mystery series.

3) I participated in an indie author event. Here I am, dressed up as Minty Wilcox, the heroine of my Calendar Mystery series, with fellow indie authors Joyce Ann Brown and Terry Showalter at Readers World in Lees Summit, MO, on December 3, 2016.

4) Recently, we bought a new car that I licensed on December 5.

5) I had to appear for jury duty at federal court. (I’m happy to report that I was dismissed so that I didn’t have to cancel any more of my novel-writing classes.)

All these tasks didn’t help me at all as I struggled to find time for the goal I’d set for myself—completing the current draft of my WiP, Mischief in March, the third novel in my Calendar Mystery series.

To add to the stress of performing these tasks, even the fun ones like a very special holiday dinner book club meeting, I developed insomnia. My novelist’s habit of creating worst-case scenarios at every turn compounded the stress. (You don’t want to hear the worst-case scenarios I’ve come up with since Donald J. Trump got elected.)

Still, I hung in there and I completed it though on the second Monday of the month, not the first. At 102,000 words, this draft is a bit longer than I like. But I’m pretty pleased with it otherwise. (An early reader said, “Mischief in March had a delightful sauciness to it.” Thank you so much, Peg.)

So now I’ve cast bah-humbugs aside and set myself free to enjoy holiday tasks like signing and addressing greeting cards and decorating a tiny Christmas tree.

Happy holidays to all of you, my friends.

P. S. You’ll find Cinderella, P. I., First Case to Last for $2.99 and free on Kindle Unlimited at www.amazon.com/dp/B01MXC0MED

P. S. S. My New Year’s resolution is to cut way back on extra commitments in 2017, especially those scheduled for the first week of the month, so I can write more. What’s yours?

Kansas City’s New England Building

Looking for Old K. C., Part 1

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Checking out sites for my calendar mysteries, set in Kansas City around 1900, can involve quite a bit of sleuthing. Take the New England Building at 9th Street and Wyandotte in Kansas City, MO, for instance.

While working on January Jinx, the first in the series, I decided to put Price Investigations in the New England Building instead of the New York Life Insurance Building, mostly because the upper floors of the latter were closed to visitors. (Indeed, when my friend Sally O and I sneaked down to the basement to scope out the placement for the café that appears in January Jinx, the building guard stood on the steps and called plaintively, “Ladies, ladies.” Giggling, we did come back upstairs and out of the building.) But on a later junket, I was able to get inside the New England Building and go up the steps to the second floor though not inside any of the offices.

The New England Building continues to serve as the site for Price Investigations in Fatal February, the second in the series, but now that I’m working on Mischief in March, I have some questions about the offices that I didn’t answer in my initial site visit. In particular, I’d like to actually see the inside of the New England Building’s most famous architectural feature, the oriel on the southwest corner, to figure out what George Mathison, the manager of my fictional detective agency, might have put in it, or indeed if it’s actually available to put anything inside it.

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I’d tried to figure out its size from the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps and tentatively decided, given the 60’ by 118’ overall size of the building, that the oriel is about five feet across at its widest. But the map gives no details about the floors above the first.

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An exquisite poster of the building made from an article in the American Architect and Building News that I found online shows the basic layouts of four of the floors. But the text isn’t distinct enough for me to find out details about the offices. Besides, now that I’m revising Mischief in March, I’m finding that Minty Wilcox, the heroine of the series, needs to navigate around more of the building than just up the stairs or elevator to the third floor.

So, recently I set off to the Kansas City site of the State Historical Society of Missouri, located in 302 Newcomb Hall on the University of Missouri-Kansas City to look at their collection of architectural drawings that included the New England Building.

An aside: doing historical research is so much easier these days than it was when I started the project in 2004. (Yikes!) Now you can scan documents to a flash drive instead of printing them out on a library machine. Also so much has been digitized and made available online, like the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps, that you can download and print for free.

That’s the good news. The bad news about the scans of the drawings is they don’t have keys and most of the written info is too blurry to read when I blow the images up.

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Still, I was able to see inside the offices to figure out where the lights were and that most had little closets and sinks. Some suites had ladies and gents powder rooms. And after a quick referral back to the Sanborn Fire Insurance Map, I found that the building had steam heat. Comparing the office layout with the roof layout, which included chimneys, I figured out where the radiators were, so I now can appropriately arrange the furniture inside Price Investigations.

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See? I told you researching historical fiction requires sleuthing.

Unfortunately, there are two parallel dotted lines across the narrow entrance to the oriel that I don’t understand. I’m tentatively thinking there would be room maybe for the ever-popular Boston fern. But I don’t know for sure.

By now, you’ve probably noticed that historical fiction writers obsess over the smallest details. That’s because some expert out there might make a fuss online about a tiny error. And that mistake could destroy the old Kansas City I’m trying to bring to life in my calendar mysteries. So I worry about the tiny details.

And so if at all possible, I’d like to get inside the New England Building. This might not be easy because recently it was purchased for redevelopment as loft apartments. I’ll keep you posted on what I find out.

Best, Juliet

If you haven’t read the first two calendar mysteries featuring Minty Wilcox and Daniel Price from newly met to newly wed and beyond in Kansas City where living could get downright deadly a hundred years or so ago, you can buy them as trade paperbacks from Amazon or as Kindle eBooks:  January Jinx at www.amazon.com/dp/B00HSSSBE4 and Fatal February at www.amazon.com/dp/B017081JHM

Making Progress

WiP Report # 17: Mischief in March

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Shown here is the working cover for the third book in my Calendar Mystery Series. (I’m keeping what the actual cover will look like as a secret for now since it’s a spoiler.) I’m happy to report that I recently completed the draft of Mischief in March, well sort of anyway.

The “sort of” comes from my ending the current draft with an outline for the last twenty pages instead of writing those scenes. I’m not beating myself up about it though. I’ve been at this point with at least one previous book and it turned out fine.

What happened was recently I found myself making excuses to do other things (like mowing the lawn, which you know has to be desperation) instead of working on MiM, dear MiM, such a fun project it’s been to work on. I do this pretty often as I write, in fact, whenever my subconscious mind is trying to tell me something about what I’ve just written. But one morning recently I woke up realizing what the problem with the current WiP is. I won’t actually know which characters I need to put in the climactic parts of the book until I’ve revised the book from the start and found out who they are. Also, I need to do some on-site research on the settings before I can move my characters around in those places.

So I’m happy with my decision to stop work on MiM temporarily. It has freed me up to knock off some of the smaller projects on my master plan. For example, I’ve almost finished editing a large print edition of Cinderella, P. I. and Other Fairy Tale Mystery Stories.

But now Minty Wilcox, the heroine of the Calendar mysteries, is calling to me from the wings of my mind and tapping her foot impatiently. “Come back,” she says. “How could you leave me and Daniel in the lurch on our . . .” Well, that’s all you get, dear reader except the assurance that I’ll get back to work on Mischief in March soon.

Best, Juliet

P. S. Check out this trailer for the new audio book of Cinderella, P. I. Around the World narrated by the very talented Alyx Morgan.

 

 

Marching On

WiP Report # 17

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Sorry, but I couldn’t resist the pun in my title. You see, the current Work in Progress, the third in my Calendar Mysteries, takes place in Kansas City, a place that could get downright deadly a hundred years or so ago, in March 1900 and it’s called Mischief in March.

One of the most fun things about this WiP is working on it in springtime. Now I realize that probably daffodils and other flowers are blooming in 2016 three to four weeks earlier than they did in March 1900. Still, my heroine Minty Wilcox might very well see crocus like those pictured above blooming in a sheltered spot in front of her house.

Now, I must admit that I’m pretty far behind schedule on this book from where I’d hoped to be. My original concept for the series was to bring out a book a year during the month in the title. I managed to bring the eBook version of January Jinx out in January 2014 and the print version in January 2015. But I didn’t get Fatal February out until November 2015. (Sigh.)

Here are some reasons why I’m behind schedule.

1) If you’ve kept up with my periodic WiP Reports, you know that I wrote a 54,000 draft of Mischief in March during National Novel Writing Month 2015. But due to one thing and another, I didn’t get back to it until February 18.

2) And even then, it took me quite a while to regain my momentum. Tip to all you other writers out there: do it every day, so you don’t lose your momentum. So far my progress has been slow with an average production of 835 words per day. This is about half of the NaNoWriMo goal of 1,667 words a day.

3) As you might be able to tell from the photo of a corner store around 1900 below, I’m doing research as I go along. (In Mischief in March, Minty Wilcox, two of her country cousins, and the series villain visit a neighborhood grocery store similar to this one. Researching as I write also has slowed me down.

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But let’s shift to the upside here.

I’m telling myself that doing research as I go along might save me time in the long run since I’ll probably write fewer drafts than the ten or twelve January Jinx required. In fact, even though I did some research as I went along, Fatal February required only four drafts plus an overall line-by-line edit.

Some good news: last week my process sped up, and without even noticing, I blew through plot point 1, that is, the moment at which the hero (or heroes) begin the journey or the detective (or detectives) actively take on the case. That happened at 19,418 words on page 70. Multiply those stats by four and you get 77,672 words and 280 pages, a very nice size for a first draft. If I keep up the pace of 835 words a day, I should finish the current draft around the end of May.

If you haven’t read the first two in the series, January Jinx is available as an eBook at www.amazon.com/dp/B00HSSSBE4 and Fatal February is available as an eBook at www.amazon.com/dp/B017081JHM. Both are available as trade paperbacks through Amazon.com.

If you have read the first two Calendar Mysteries that tell the story of Minty Wilcox and Daniel Price from newly met to newly wed and beyond, please review them on Amazon and Goodreads. As the old wisdom goes, word of mouth sells. (Of course sex sells, too. I’m working on getting some sex into Mischief in March. Minty and Daniel are definitely up for it.) And online reviews are the 21st Century version of word of mouth, one kind at least. Just a few sentences of positive comments help and I would appreciate it very much. All the best, Juliet

Encouraging Feedback on Fatal February

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My dear friend and fellow writer Anne Bauman recently wrote me this letter of praise for Fatal February, the second calendar mystery. (I’ve omitted or rephrased here and there to avoid spoilers.)

Dear Juliet,

 Congratulations on Fatal February, another terrific read. Yes, I enjoyed it immensely, both as a reader and a writer. Between the lines, it reveals lots of work, thought, skill and care.

It seems to me that your characters were even better developed than in January Jinx, though the characters were well-done in [it], too. In the second novel I enjoyed the actions and especially the dialogue. Each character is distinctly developed as his own person.

Minty seems to be maturing and improving as a character. I like the way you played off [Daniel Price, the love interest] to help develop the personality of each. It helps the reader to see Minty more clearly as she interacts with the other characters.

Of course, I always enjoy reading about Kansas City around the turn of the century. Since my grandmother was a young woman at the time of your books, it’s pleasant to imagine what K. C. was like at that time and how it helped her develop her independence and self-assurance. I like the details you use to develop Kansas City as a character, too.

All in all, Juliet, you’ve created a masterpiece and I’m now looking forward to March.

Thank you so much, Anne. And I’m happy to tell you and other readers that I’m working on Mischief in March, the third Calendar Mystery featuring Minty Wilcox and Daniel Price in Kansas City, a downright dangerous place a hundred years or so ago.

If, dear reader, you haven’t read the first two in the series, January Jinx is available on Kindle at www.amazon.com/dp/B00HSSSBE4 and Fatal February at www.amazon.com/dp/B017081JHM. Both are also available as trade paperbacks through Amazon.com.

And if you like these books, please review them on Amazon and Goodreads. Just a few sentences help. I would appreciate it very much. All the best, Juliet

P. S. Didn’t my daughter do lovely work on the cover of Fatal February?

Phenomenal Flavia

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A Guest Post by Diann Markley

On Saturday January 16, 2016, at the meeting of the Mystery Writing Group of the Border Crimes Chapter of Sisters in Crime, my friend Diann Markley presented a thorough and very insightful analysis of Alan Bradley’s The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. Here are highlights of her presentation.

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley is the story of a precocious eleven-year-old girl living in England in the 1950’s. Bradley has several problems to overcome in making Flavia de Luce believable as an amateur investigator.

The police are neither incompetent nor comical, yet as with any main character, Flavia must be the one to solve the mystery. The author carefully sets up this outcome by having Flavia’s mother vanish in the wilds of Tibet while her father, suffering from wartime PTSD, is only peripherally involved with his child, leaving her free to come and go with little to no supervision.

And she does have transportation–an ancient bike she has named Gladys.

Having lived her entire life in the town of Bishop’s Lacey, Flavia has contacts and inside knowledge of the residents not readily available to Inspector Lewis. Flavia is quite willing to flip her braids and flash her braces to convince witnesses she is only a sweet little girl they can spill any secrets to. Then there is her understanding of chemistry and a lab in which to do experiments. These confirm her suspicions on how the murder occurred. It doesn’t hurt a bit that Flavia is the one to find the dying man but conveniently forgets to mention his last words to the police.

Altogether a great read on a winter’s day! Diann Markley

The Mystery Writing Group of the Border Crimes Chapter of Sisters in Crime meets on the third Saturday of the month. All SinC members are welcome. Here’s our schedule for the next two months.

February 20: Ann Friedman will lead a discussion of Ellis Peters’ The Raven in the Foregate.

March 19: Juliet Kincaid will lead a discussion of Alexander McCall Smith’s The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency.

If you’re a mystery fan, please share this blog with your friends and sign up through RSS to receive notifications for more blogs.

Best, Juliet

The Care and Feeding of Writers

Insights into the Life of an Indie Author

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Let’s say that you have a new favorite indie author. You loved the first two novels in her epic fantasy series filled with great action and fascinating characters, especially the sassy, yet dangerous female dragon that lurks in the river near the castle. But it’s been months and months since the last book came out. Where’s the third? Doesn’t she know how much you want to read it? What is that writer doing?

Believe me. She wants to get the third epic fantasy novel to you as soon as possible. But besides writing, revising, and editing that book, she’s running the business of being an independently published author. Her many tasks include book production and promoting.

At this point, you might say, “But wait. Can’t she hire people to do some of this stuff?”

She could, but quite possibly she can’t afford to. Sad to say, the world of indie publishing is like the Wild, Wild West. Mostly, the folks making money aren’t the folks out there panning for gold in the publishing stream, but the suppliers of goods and services.

And it’s fairly certain that your indie author is busy following at least some of these common pieces of advice: “You need a web site and you must post a blog on it once a week. Build your email list. You need author’s pages on Facebook and Goodreads. You have to tweet, link in, branch out, circle on Google, pin stuff up on Pinterest, post pictures on Instagram, and every once in while get a video of yourself up on YouTube.”

“But whoa there, indie author,” her advisors also say. “Slow down. Don’t get carried away. You can’t overdo the promotions because if you do, your emails will get marked as spam. You’ll be unfriended on Facebook and unfollowed on Twitter. Really you should only actively promote your work in every seventh email, tweet, or Facebook post. And anyway, you shouldn’t bother with any of this because it doesn’t work for authors to promote their own work.”

So what’s the poor indie author supposed to do? you wonder. How about this? You help her promote her work, so she can spend more time on that third book you long to read.

Here are some few simple things that will help her get the word out about her books and build a fan base for them.

1) When the author emails you about her new blog on her web site, forward the message to your friends to help her build her email list.

2) Subscribe to her web site, so you can keep up with her posts without her having to email you every time she posts a blog.

3) Retweet her tweets on Twitter.

4) Friend her personal page on Facebook, like her author’s page, and share her promotions with your friends.

5) Follow her on Goodreads and start some discussions there about how much you love her work.

Last and most important of all, review those first two epic fantasies on Goodreads, Amazon and other sites where she publishes her work. Here are some tips for your reviews.

1) Avoid spoilers. Instead, you might provide a pithy quotation that gives the flavor of the work.

2) You don’t have to say a lot. Two or three sentences are fine.

3) Judge the work within the author’s intention for it and its genre. For example, don’t slam a sweet cozy mystery set in a quaint little town with magical cats, patterns for knitted scarves, and recipes for chocolate cookies to die for because the book doesn’t have the mean streets and grit of the noir that you prefer.

4) Make sure you know what you’re talking about before you launch a negative comment about the writer’s expertise.

5) When you write a review, proofread it before you send it off. An error like saying “to much” when you should have said “too much” instantly discredits you as a reviewer.

6) Don’t nitpick. Instead, focus on what you liked best about the work.

7) We indie authors want only five-star reviews. But if you can’t honestly give an author that many, please don’t go lower than four stars.

Gentle readers, please know that writers are delicate creatures. We tend to dwell upon the few times we’ve been kicked instead of all the times we’ve been stroked. If you want us to continue to write the works that bring you laughter and tears, action and adventure, narrow escapes, heroes to admire, villains to scorn, stories to entertain you, and novels to make you wise, you have to nurture us.

All the best, Juliet

Currently, I’m promoting the audio book of Cinderella, P. I. and Other Fairy Tale Mystery Stories for grown-up, delightfully narrated by Alyx Morgan. It’s now available from iTunes, Amazon, and Audible. (It’s free when you join Audible.) You can listen to a sample at http://www.audible.com/pd/Mysteries-Thrillers/Cinderella-P-I-and-Other-Fairy-Tale-Mystery-Stories-Audiobook/B01977EVJ2/ref=a_search_c4_1_1_srTtl?qid=1450382804&sr=1-1

Twitter: JulietKincaid    Facebook: juliet.kincaid    Goodreads: Juliet_Kincaid

A Writer’s Year

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Among my collection of holiday socks, I have a pair that’s quite jolly, or maybe not so upbeat, depending on who’s looking at them. When I wear these socks, these socks say, “Ho Ho Ho Ho” to whoever looks at them. But when I look down at these socks on my feet, they lament, “Oh Oh Oh Oh.” (With these socks, as with many things in life, a lot depends on your point of view.)

But I’m happy to say, 2015 has been mostly on the “Ho Ho” side for me. And I’ve certainly been busy. Here are some highlights.

In January, I published the trade paperback version of January Jinx, the first in my Calendar Mysteries, set in Kansas City, a place that could get downright deadly a hundred years or so ago. You can find the eBook version of this novel at www.amazon.com/dp/B00HSSSBE4

Constantly scolding myself for being so behind schedule, I spent a lot of 2015 rewriting Fatal February until finally in November, I got it out as a Kindle eBook and as a trade paperback. On the other hand, as one of my friends observed, this book is really early for February 2016. (See? I told you. A lot depends on your point of view.) Regardless, the second in the series, it continues the story of Minty Wilcox and Daniel Price from newly met to newlywed and beyond. Both books feature the beautiful covers my daughter Jessica created for them. You can find Fatal February at www.amazon.com/B017081JHM

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Also in November this year I participated in the National Novel Writing Month and produced what basically is a 54,000-word brainstorm of Mischief in March, the third Calendar Mystery.

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Now I’m going to back up a bit to share a piece of “Oh Oh” news. In July Mysteryscape bookstore closed its doors forever. It still pains me to drive by and see that empty storefront on 80th Street in old downtown Overland Park, Kansas. It was genuinely an important part of my life, personally and as a writer. Cheri LeBlond and Acia Morley sold my books and provided a center for the community of local mystery readers and writers. We all miss the bookstore very much.

But I won’t end on that downer.

I am very pleased to announce that Alyx Morgan, producer/narrator, and I have made an audiobook of Cinderella, P. I. Fairy Tale Mystery Stories, now available from iTunes, Amazon.com and Audible. (You can get it for free when you join Audible.)

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Here’s the link to the trailer Alyx made for this collection of fairy tale mystery stories for grown-ups that features Cinderella, twenty years, three kids, and a few extra pounds after the ball: https://youtu.be/hvucXhry3SM

A final “Ho Ho” note: after the pre-diabetes scare of March 2014, this year I continued to make progress in getting back to normal. The scary symptoms such as a killer sweet tooth have disappeared and the score on my A1C test has declined. On the down side, I must say that eating right and regular exercise take a lot of time and effort. (As of today I’ve attended Jazzercise 202 times this year.) But all the work is worth it in keeping me healthy. For after all, I have at least ten more books to write.

For updates on what’s going on with me, you’ll find me as juliet.kincaid on Facebook and at www.julietkincaid.com.

Wishing you very happy holidays and hoping that 2016 brings you many more “Ho Ho’s” than “Oh Oh’s,” Best, Juliet