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.)

Novel Basics on Sale

Let Dr. Juliet Kincaid talk you through her unique method of brainstorming a novel with twenty cards in the first part of Novel Basics. Then follow through with her expert guidance on time management, as well as drafting and revising a novel. Altogether, Novel Basics provides a compact yet complete practical guide to writing a novel, whether it’s your first or your fifteenth.

In this book, I describe the novel as a tool of infinite possibilities, a sort of Swiss Army knife with a million blades. And I view the book as my legacy for future novelists no matter who you are or where or when you write your novels.

Novel Basics is on sale today until March 31, 2019, as an eBook at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B07K2LXFRP in the US for only $0.99 and in the UK for a penny less than a pound at http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07K2LXFRP . It’s also available in print (9781730833991) for $8.99.

Here’s a teaser.

Cozy Historical Mystery on Sale

MISCHIEF IN MARCH

Book 3 in the Calendar Mystery Series

By Juliet Kincaid

 

 

Excerpt from Minty Wilcox’s Journal

11: 55 p.m. on Friday, March 23, 1900

It’s shortly before midnight on the very last day of my life as a single miss. Or so I hope and pray.

Right now, I’m sitting on the floor way up at the top of the house in the storeroom where Mama and I hid my wedding gown. We even put it under lock and key.

When we got it up here, we draped it on Mama’s dress form surrounded by old sheets so the train wouldn’t get dusty from the floor. My wedding gown is beautiful and white, its bodice encrusted with pearls and its skirt covered with lace. And it gleams like a ghost in the light of the lantern I’ve set on the floor next to me as I write what will be my last installment in my investigation into all things Daniel Price before our wedding day.

But what if something happens to my wedding dress or the flowers in my bouquet or the fine new suit Daniel is supposed to wear or the wedding ring he’s supposed to give me?

What if the wedding doesn’t go off as planned?

Or the wedding goes off, but what if we don’t set off on our honeymoon on time or even at all?

Oh, that man I’m supposed to marry tomorrow. He can be so aggravating. He still hasn’t told me where we’re going on our honeymoon. That doesn’t seem fair after I’ve warned him time and time again that he’s to keep no more secrets from me. It makes me wonder what else he hasn’t told me about himself that a girl needs to know before she gets hitched to a fellow.

Not knowing where we’re going for our honeymoon just adds to my jitters about the whole thing.

What if we don’t get to the church on time . . . or at all?

So many possible slips between the lip and the cup, rum punch cup if Papa and my brothers have their way.

I tell you one thing I know for certain and for sure. If the least little bit goes wrong with Mama’s plans for the wedding, she’ll have a conniption fit that might even lead her to blaspheme right there in church in front of God and everybody.

This makes me smile, but really I shouldn’t.

So much could go wrong. So much has gone wrong already leading up to our wedding day, so many unexpected events, so much mischief, some of it amusing and good-spirited and some of it malicious . . .

And then there’s the murder and Daniel in jail for committing it.

<> <> <>

As their wedding day rapidly approaches, Minty Wilcox still has many questions about her fiancé Daniel Price.

Did he really kill a man?

What else is he hiding about his past?

Why has he never told her he’s rich?

And for goodness’ sake, where are they going on their honeymoon?

<> <> <>

Amazon Review of Mischief in March

The Groom is Going to Jail? So much to like about this book. First, Minty Wilcox, a decidedly modern miss, determined to find a place for herself in a business world dominated by men, but who fears her fiancé is keeping secrets from her, including where he plans to take her for the honeymoon. And the fiancé, Daniel Price, chief investigator of the Kansas City branch of the detective agency founded by his grandfather, who faces the likelihood that he will be forcibly walked into jail when he had been planning to walk his bride down the aisle. Certainly not the least are the incredible historical details of Kansas City in the early 1900s, rich with descriptions of well-known buildings and shops and places like Emery, Bird, Thayer to grab a quick bite. Since the letter carrier delivered Mischief in March to my mailbox, I haven’t been able to put it down.

Another Amazon Review of Mischief in March

Beware of Relatives . . . Minty Wilcox is in love and is anticipating her wedding while still learning new things about her husband-to-be. Meanwhile, sisters, brothers, cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents – tons of folks start arriving for the up-coming nuptials. Mystery and mayhem ensue. Minty investigates, and family members help while Mother becomes tense over all the wedding plans. Another fun Calendar Mystery.

 

Mischief in March is on sale for only $0.99 at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B06XR1STRN and only £0.99 at http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B06XR1STRN from March 13, 2019, through March 19, 2019.

WiP Report: Life Happens, Part 2

Living My Life

Today I was going to write and post a really long, extensive follow-up to last week’s whine-session subtitled “Feeding the Cats” about my bout of illness, injury and insomnia. But frankly this week I don’t have the time because, for one thing, yesterday I made a proposal to Border Crimes, the local chapter of Sisters in Crime, started by notable writer Nancy Pickard, of how we might go forward in the future.

That’s part of the point of this WiP. Life happens. Things come up. I care about what happens to our chapter of Sisters in Crime, and I don’t want it on my conscience that it suffered because I didn’t pay enough attention to it at a critical time.

In the past I haven’t always done that. One of my deepest regrets is not attending the funeral of a friend two or three years ago because I was embroiled in working on a book and trying to get it done. I don’t remember which book exactly, but I still feel guilt and regret for not properly saying goodbye to dear Barbara J.

So here’s the bottom line. I have lots of projects I could do. I always have. And so I have to choose. When I first began the Calendar Mystery series shortly after I retired in 2004, I thought I’d whip out all twelve books, one for each month of the year, and publish one a year. At that rate, I would have finished them in 2016. It’s now 2019, and I’ve only reached April and that only slightly, in a short story called “The Shackleton Ghost,” that appears at the end of Old Time Stories available now in print and as an eBook exclusively from Amazon. Since it’s impossible for me to write, edit, produce, publish, and properly promote a novel in ten weeks and get it out by the end of April this year, I’m setting the Calendar Mysteries aside at least for now. Maybe next year . . .

This year, I want to reboot an older series I’ve already published and return to a project I first completed thirty years ago. (Yikes!) Meanwhile, I hope to do things like going to my exercise class at noon today and to this evening’s book club meeting. (We’re talking about Kate Griffin’s Kitty Peck and the Music Hall Murders and I’m looking forward to hearing what my friends say about it.) Maybe once my Physical Therapist is through working on my sore right arm and left hip, I can resume my art classes. There are always day-to-day chores like buying for, preparing, eating and cleaning up after meals, occasional chores like cleaning the home office which I finally did yesterday, and everyday pleasures like walking around the neighborhood on a beautiful afternoon.

Also I’d like to be there to help an ailing neighbor or a group in need. I want to go to a friend’s funeral even if that means setting aside my writing or not posting on Facebook or my website regularly. In other words, live my life. For after all, life happens – until it doesn’t.

WiP Report: Life Happens, Part 1

Feeding the Cats

Our little panther Safa boy Bombay (on the left) isn’t a picky eater and chows down on dry food. But last March his sibling Honey girl (on the right) quit eating and became terribly thin. Thus began our attempts to keep her alive. (FYI: with our current budget, taking the cats to the vet isn’t an option.)

The staff at the local pet store probably got tired of me when I came in, and with their help chose a can or two of food to try. Over several weeks, we tried out at least a dozen different kinds. Most I took back because Honey stuck up her kitty nose at them and traded them for other kinds to try.

It took weeks and weeks until we finally discovered the magic ingredient that would pique her appetite – pork liver. Even then we had to narrow the choice to certain recipes of the brand we finally settled on. For instance, she won’t eat the hairball formula at all and the spayed and neutered only occasionally, but others like the aging formula she gobbles up so fast we have to supervise her eating so she doesn’t promptly barf the stuff right back up again. (Sorry for the graphic detail.)

Just finding the right food didn’t end the saga of feeding the cats. No indeed, it took many weeks to develop a system of feeding Honey that seems to satisfy her. Here’s the current one.

Around 6:30 AM, she begins her campaign of yowling at one or the other of her two Mommies, the young Mommy in her bedroom in the front of the house or the old Mommy in the bedroom in the back.

Some cats have a pleasant, euphonious meow. Honey has one of those high-pitched Siamese screeches about as dulcet as dragging fingernails down a chalkboard. She starts with that and progresses to vaulting the sleeper back and forth. If her prey still resists those attempts, she resorts to sneaking her paw out with nails slightly unsheathed and pricking the Mommy lightly on the nose. The thing, though, that always gets the old Mommy (me) out of bed is her purr. I can’t resist it and will get up at last to feed her.

The Mommy serves Honey a quarter of a three-ounce can of food four times a day. It must be thin slices in gravy because she eschews the (cheaper) loaf style in the six-ounce cans because 1) she doesn’t recognize that style as edible and 2) she won’t eat food from a can opened the previous day. We heap the tender morsels in a small puddle of gravy in the middle of a bowl. It has to be a perfectly clean bowl, not one that contains even the tiniest bits of an earlier serving that might be hard and dry. Before serving the cat, the Mommy covers the can containing the unused food with plastic wrap and then covers the can with a fresh bowl, so ants don’t get in it. (Note: we can’t refrigerate the food because Honey won’t eat cold food.)

So then the Mommy serves the quarter can of whatever to Honey and meanwhile tops off the bowls of dry food that Honey’s brother Safa happily munches on whenever he wants to. (Note 1: This kind of food must be a single layer or the boy won’t eat it either. Note 2: Sometimes the girl eats the dry food too, but only after she’s had her tender slices of pork liver in gravy.)

The food Honey will eat isn’t cheap. Indeed, it costs up to $1.72 per can or around $50 a month. But this Mommy will not let it be said that the cat died because we were too cheap to buy food she would eat.

Okay, let’s go back to the title of this WiP Report, which presumably has something to do with my Work-in-Progress. Indeed it does. You see, when we started dealing with this issue last year, Honey was getting us up at five-thirty if not earlier. (You try explaining the change from Daylight Savings Time to Central Standard Time to a cat.) The young Mommy usually can get back to sleep after feeding the cats, but not me, the old Mommy. So gradually I got sleep deprived. For example, the week of October 21 – 27, 2018, I averaged 5 hours and 39 minutes. (Even my usual target amount of sleep of 7 hours and 15 minutes is well below the 8 hours and something others in my age group average.)

Then I injured my right shoulder and my left hip, probably for going after my exercise routine too hard. After that I got sick. I had a cold in November while I wrote a novel for NaNoWriMo2018 and an even worse cold at the end of December and the start of January. It was torture for me to get a decent night’s sleep rolling from my sore shoulder to my sore hip and coughing hard whenever I tried to sleep on my back. And so I got bronchitis in February.

I’m happy to report that I’m feeling better now that I’ve paid a couple of visits to the doctor’s office, got some medications, and started visiting a physical therapist. But you know what? It takes time to be sick and get physical therapy and all that stuff. And all of this interfered with my writing schedule.

 

Suffice it to say here that I’m now feeling more like myself and I will tell you about some of the decisions about my writing that I’ve made in my next WiP Report.

Best, Juliet

St. Valentine’s Day 1900

A Kansas City newspaper suggested an avian theme for Valentine’s Day parties in February 1900 like the one described below.

Minty stepped back from the dining room table that she’d just finished setting with Mama’s best china in the rose pattern . . .

A pair of turtledoves made of stuffed cotton and feathers hung from the two chandeliers. In the middle of the table sat an elaborate nest made of interwoven twigs and filled with hard-boiled eggs. More eggs would follow for the dinner since after all Valentine’s was the birds’ mating day . . .

In front of each plate stood a place card Peach and Eddie had made in sets of two: pairs of doves and canaries to sit on the side of the table closer to Minty, larks and blue jays on the other, and cardinals split between the head and the foot of the table.

Minty patted her pocket that held the folded red paper heart Peach gave her when she got home from work in the afternoon. On it Eddie had written a verse about blue jays, not Minty’s favorite birds, too noisy, but she had to admit their plumage was lovely . . .

To find out whom Minty’s brother and sister paired her with, buy FATAL FEBRUARY, Book 2 of the Calendar Mystery series, for only $0.99 today through 02/19/19 at www.amazon.com/dp/B017081JHM

“New China Special”

In “New China Special,” a Memoir of a Marriage, a brief, intimate piece that combines personal memoir with creative nonfiction, a mother shares with her child a series of vignettes – all related to Chinese restaurants in some way – about events that occurred before the child was born or not old enough to remember.

 

 

Here’s an excerpt from the first vignette:

Outside in the fire lane, your daddy waited in the Beetle, my first car. (I hate to say it, but I can’t remember its color now. Peacock blue? Emerald green? One of those.)

I slid onto the passenger seat as your daddy put the car in gear. He drove straight down the fire lane, right off campus and down the avenue due west eight blocks. In Huntington, WV, laid out along the Ohio River by a railroad engineer in the 1870’s, this meant the university and the restaurant were precisely eight-tenths of a mile apart.

On the way, your daddy said, “Bet I can do it faster than you.”

“Bet you can’t,” I said.

Your daddy parked a couple of spaces past the restaurant and we scooted out of the car.

The green pagoda sign was on and New China was serving lunch.

My stomach growled as we sashayed arm in arm in the door between the display windows. The one on the right contained what looked like an orange tree, only tiny. Sometimes its scrawny branches held white blossoms or knobby little fruit. The left window featured an arrangement of packaged Taiwanese tea and fossilized egg rolls.

Menus tucked under his left elbow, the maître d’ met us by the front counter. “Hello, how are you?” he said, stressing the lo and the you.

The maître d’ was a middle-aged Asian with a nearly bald head. He wore a gray cotton jacket over his shoulders that rounded forward and tan pants. As we walked by him, he bowed and launched his usual question after us: “Uh, a booth or a table?”

He should have known the answer. We always asked for a booth. In New China a booth was a little room made of rickety partitions about seven feet high and, for a door, a curtain on a rod across the opening. (He didn’t know the reason why we always wanted a booth. At least, we hoped he didn’t know.)

“New China Special” is now available for only $0.99 as a Kindle Short Read at www.amazon.com/dp/B07ND5F9X9 (and it’s free on Kindle Unlimited.)

Thank you, Library of Congress

This isn’t the blog I intended to post today. In fact, yesterday I drafted a WiP Report about my life finally getting back to normal after several months of dealing with illness, injury and insomnia. Yesterday I was able to follow my normal routine of getting up, doing my yoga routine now supplemented with exercises supplied by my physical therapist, getting dressed and going on a walk – all before breakfast. Well, it was too slick underfoot to walk outside farther than the end of the driveway, but otherwise I started my day with what used to be my normal routine.

Not so today . . .

It was after eight when my daughter came in to find me, my hacking cough returned, still in bed as I listened to a story on NPR. Local schools have cut back on the entrees they offer the kids for lunch from two choices to one in case the government shutdown drags on until March when they’ll run out of funds.

Earlier I listened to a woman who last year became a paralegal for a governmental agency, something she was pleased with and proud about. Now, having trouble paying her rent and keeping food on her table, she doesn’t trust our federal government anymore.

This makes me very sad. My dad was a civilian employee of the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers for twenty-three years, a job he was proud of, a job that allowed him to provide well for our family and fund a comfortable, secure retirement for himself and my mom. Flash forward to January 2019 and one wonders if this sort of thing will still exist post-Trump and how many federal workers will be left.

One can hardly blame the 10% of federal employees currently unpaid who call in sick because they don’t have the money for gas to get to work or for childcare while they’re gone. Or they have to put the landlord off again, so they can buy food. Or they don’t want to take out a disastrous Pay Day loan and their local credit unions haven’t yet stepped in with interest-free loans.

But I’m thinking that our federal workers are much better people than our current president, and more steadfast and conscientious than he is by far. I have some evidence for this statement.

As some of you know from reading my past blogs, I register the copyrights of my work through the Library of Congress though other indie authors don’t. These include my most recent book, Novel Basics, a compact yet complete illustrated guide to writing a novel. I filed for the copyright online early in November. Usually, it takes about three months for the application to be processed. But I figured that this year the Library of Congress would be completely shut down, so it would take months and months before I received the certificate by mail. If the FBI is running out of copy paper because of the shutdown, I thought that surely the Library of Congress has run out of money for postage even if anyone is still working there.

But to my surprise the certificate of registration for Novel Basics came this past Saturday, somewhat ahead of the usual three-month time span. Thank you, dear Library of Congress, for restoring my faith in our federal government and those who work for it.

 

 

Novel Basics is available in print for $8.99 from Amazon and as a Kindle eBook for $3.99 at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B07K2LXFRP  (And you can read it for free on Kindle Unlimited.)