“Write Stuff Down”

An Indie Author Reflects on Senior Moments

Three of us dedicated senior hoofers have gathered near the back of the exercise center after class. We’re all 60+. (Well, to be honest, in my case, it’s 60++.) We’re all normal weight and short but not stooped over from osteoporosis. We all take at least three classes a week, so we’re far more active than the USA norm.

But still the issue of senior moments comes up. “Why . . . ,” says J. “My husband told me something yesterday and a half hour later I couldn’t remember what he said, so I had to ask him again.”

I almost parrot something I heard on NPR or read in the AARP Bulletin about the nerve endings or whatever in our brains not holding onto information like they used to. But frankly I don’t recall enough of it to talk about it, so I keep my mouth shut.

Friend D says, “I write stuff down. That helps me remember. I write stuff on calendars, things like that.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” I don’t say since that would be rude. I do say, “Jess and I keep a calendar on the kitchen wall.”  My daughter and I put our appointments, classes and meetings on the kitchen calendar, a sort of plan for the household. But I also put my appointments, meetings, and classes on the engagement calendar Jess gives me every year. I put my daily to-do lists on that calendar, too.

The mention of calendars sends my friend J off into a lovely riff about the calendars her daughter gives her every year with pictures of the grand kids at Christmas, at Easter, probably summer vacations too though if she says it I don’t hear it because I’ve drifted off into a memory accompanied by considerable self-flagellation on the subject of writing things down. (I do that a lot.) Besides jotting down my daily to-do lists on my engagement calendar and print-outs of monthly calendars, I often put to-do lists in the journals I’ve kept since January 1986. Recently I created a checklist to use to track my social media activities.

And then I keep special lists, sort of like flow charts, of steps in the processes of doing new things in my journal or the backs of printouts of my work. For example, recently my daughter helped me with the cover for the paperback version of my most recent work, Old Time Stories. Specifically she told me how to work with some basic Photoshop tools. Before she started, though, I said, “Wait! Wait! Let me write that down.”

So, I wrote down her instructions in my journal, or at least I thought I did. The next day when I tried to work on that cover without her help, I couldn’t find those instructions. What I did find in my journal were many to-do lists, mostly of the same six things over and over again. (You know, some times you can go too far with writing stuff down or following any good advice, for that matter.)

So, I thought that maybe I wrote it on one of the pieces of paper littering my desk. No luck there either because I had a little throwaway party the other day to clear my computer desk. I must have had a mental lapse (aka a brain fart) and put the notes in the recycle bag.

Regardless, I had to take up my daughter’s time for her to repeat the instructions. This time I did write clear notes in my journal. What’s more, I made a frigging tab with a sticky note so I wouldn’t lose those notes. I also transcribed the notes into my typewritten log to help me remember those instructions the next time I need them.

So what’s the big deal?

It’s like this. Senior moments like these strike terror in my heart that I’ve begun that long slide into oblivion. But maybe I haven’t . . . When I was weeping about forgetting the instructions my daughter gave me, Jess said, “That’s not a senior moment, Mom. It’s a technical moment. Anybody can have them.” Thank you, sweetheart.

Here’s the cover for the trade paperback version of my new book (currently in process).  It’s the first one I’ve done more or less on my own. You can pre-order the eBook version from now until its publication on August 29, 2018, for only $0.99 at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B07F4JL8D5

 

WiP Report 8/8/18: Fear of Failure

I am very happy to report that I finished editing OLD TIME STORIES, my new collection of six mystery short stories and eleven nonfiction pieces about the people and places that inspired the stories. And this past Monday I posted the digital version on Kindle Direct Publishing in plenty of time for the 8/29/18 publication date.

Promptly I moved on to the next phase of self-publishing: producing the print copy, filing for the copyright, and creating postcards to promote it.

For the first time so far, instead of producing the trade paperback through Create Space, Amazon’s publishing wing, I started the process through KDP, a time-saver since all the basic information about the book like title, author, description, etc. went right over to the paperback file. I even downloaded a template for the cover of the 211-page book.

But then the process came to a screeching halt.

With individual short stories like “The Barn Door” and “Detectives’ Honeymoon,” I’ve expanded my indie author skills to include simple eBook covers. But as yet, I haven’t done the cover for print versions. And my daughter, who did the covers for the previous paperbacks in my Calendar Mystery series, currently is as busy as a button on a back house door, to quote my dear old dad. The template intimidated me.

So I said to myself, Fine. File for copyright, something I’ve done in the past, though not recently. But when I went on line to do it this time, I got hung in the form.

Again, I said to myself, Fine. Do the postcards. I did the front of the cards some time ago, but darned if I could remember how I did it. So when I tried to put the jpeg for the text side of the card four times on an 8½” x 11” sheet, I failed about six times.

At that point, I got anxious and started finding excuses to do something else, anything else. I scheduled my exercise class for the middle of the day even though I know that meant I wouldn’t get back to my writing in the afternoon. I went on a junket to the drug store and the pet store, though I didn’t really need to. I checked my email, Facebook and Twitter accounts. I played Spider Solitaire over and over. And then, thank God, it was time to start dinner and I could cruise through the rest of the evening without beating myself up for being such a failure.

For please be mindful that any lapse for an indie author of an advanced age is a sign that brain rot has set in and it’s down hill from here.

A collection of six historical fiction mystery short stories and eleven nonfiction pieces about the people and places that inspired the fiction, the digital version of Old Time Stories is available to pre-order for only $0.99 cents until August 29, 2017 at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B07F4JL8D5

The Case of the Mysterious Back Pain

Lately, due to back pain, I’ve gotten behind on my current Work-in-Progress,  a historical mystery short story called “Detectives Honeymoon.”  Now, back pain isn’t unusual for indie authors. Lots of you out there are indie authors, so you probably know what I’m talking about.

But my recent back pain isn’t the typical lower back pain that comes from sitting and typing for long hours. I’ve had that kind and I don’t get it much anymore because I’ve got a special chair with two cushions in it.

Oh no, this new pain was up under my right shoulder blade. It felt like some big guy stood behind me and jammed his index and middle fingers into my back. At its worst, my back started hurting within the first half hour of starting my morning writing session. Plus, one day when I was driving home from an afternoon exercise class, the pain of keeping my hands and arms on the steering wheel at two and ten was so intense it reached eight on a ten-point scale, way past the point of being able to ignore it, just short of my screaming out loud.

So I tried to figure out what caused it and how to fix it because, honey, I’ve got lots of stories and books to write before I shuffle off this mortal coil. I tried adjusting the height of my special desk chair, took both pillows out, put one back in and then the other. No help at all. I switched out my special chair with a kitchen chair. That didn’t help either. I quit using weights at my exercise class. I even took the Spider Solitaire app off my phone. Zip effect.

So finally I broke down and went to see a nurse practitioner at my doctor’s office. She said the problem was muscular not a case of bone scraping bone. That was somewhat good news. She told me to keep taking Ibuprofen, up to six a day, and apply heat or cold. I hated the cold, but the heating pad felt good. Unfortunately, I don’t really have a way to write with the heating pad on my shoulder.

These things worked, along with walking, but only for a while before really I couldn’t stand to type for more than half an hour at a time without the pain getting to me.

But then one day, at my exercise class, I had an epiphany about the source of my back pain when the instructor lifted her right arm, crooked at the elbow, and twisted around to her right. “Now,” she said. “You should be feeling this right where your bra strap crosses your back below your shoulder blades.”

“Aha!” I said to myself. “That’s exactly where my back is killing me!” And now that I know what caused the injury in the first place, I’ve quit doing that part of that particular exercise.

Now, I suppose you want to tell me that I wouldn’t have had this problem at all if I didn’t dance for exercise. But I’m an endorphin junkie who enjoys the rush I get dancing four times a week. I get an even bigger rush when my characters make me laugh or cry. So I’m very happy to have solved this mystery and I can keep on writing that story and all the other stories I have in  mind.

Best, Juliet

Writers’ New Year’s Resolutions

Like many others, I’ve been looking ahead to the new year and trying to settle on some goals for my writing. At times, this seems like an invitation for me to gallop off in all directions, as the saying goes, or worse yet, spin my wheels in familiar ruts. So I’ve asked for help from my writer friends. (Thanks, everyone!) Here are their resolutions in order of receipt.

Peg Nichols, a dear friend and fellow knitter, offered this charming resolution: Sitting, knitting, gives me space to dream up plots, invent characters, construct grammatically-correct sentences and paragraphs, but because of snide, snarky criticisms from my so-called friends—who are just jealous of my New York Times bestsellers successes (or will be if ever I get there)—I am limiting my knitting goals to only those articles I can achieve with the garter stitch. If you can’t understand why this will greatly simplify my knitting (as opposed to purling) and encourage my writing, ask any of your other knitter friends. Also, I’m going to be more diligent about keeping my ink well full to the screw top, and my quill pen sharpened. (I gave up trying to find more ribbons for my typewriter several years ago.)

Mark Scheel, author of The Pebble: Life, Love, Politics and Geezer Wisdom and the blog series on The Grant Journal and Scriggler, said, Well, sounds like fun. I don’t make resolutions anymore as most I’ve fulfilled. Those few I haven’t I’ve given up on. Ha. But try this one: “To not yield to the lazy temptation of allowing day-to-day distractions to override one’s writing schedule or the focus on one’s present writing project.”

Theresa Hupp, author of historical novels Lead Me Home and Now I’m Found and the forthcoming Forever Mine, all set in the American West, gave these three New Year’s Resolutions (goals) for 2018: 1. Publish my third historical novel, Forever Mine (a first quarter goal). 2. Draft a fourth historical novel (the first draft to be written and reviewed with my critique group by the end of the year. I only have a vague outline done now) 3. Invest in my writing by marketing my books more vigorously, including with paid advertising based on a budget (throughout the year, and I’ve already started!)

Denise M. Hartman, author of Killed in Kruger and the Blanche Binkley mysteries, resolves to start a new murder mystery in 2018 after releasing the last Blanche Binkley book in March of 2017. It is time to begin again!

Well, I guess I’ve passed the buck long enough, and so I must offer my New Year’s resolution. Juliet Kincaid resolves to have something new, free, or discounted available for my readers every month in 2018. So far I’ve lined up specific projects through August and I hope to launch the first book in a new series this fall. Sounds like I’d better get cracking, don’t you agree?

What’s your resolution for 2018?

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

For mystery and romance in old Kansas City—that could get downright deadly a hundred years or so ago—try Juliet’s calendar mystery novels and short stories. Click on the Calendar Mystery page for details.

It’s NaNoWriMo!

Just a quick note to say that I won’t be around a lot November 1 through 30 because it’s National Novel Writing Month. Best, Juliet

The Business Girl

Earlier this year when I was working on Mischief in March, the third book in my calendar mystery series, I decided to find out if my heroine, Minty Wilcox, could have read the Ladies’ Home Journal in March 1900. So I launched a Google search and found out that sure enough she could.

In doing so, I stumbled upon a book called The Business Girl in Every Phase of her Life by Ruth Ashmore. Based on an advice column for young women in the Ladies’ Home Journal, the book first appeared in 1898. Written in the voice of a sympathetic older woman, it offers the business girl advice on twelve issues. These include behaving properly in the work place, getting along with her boss, living away from home, forming friendships, taking care of her clothes, and managing her money.

Now, one of the things I love about researching and writing historical fiction is making happy discoveries like this one. In this instance, I soon realized that Minty Wilcox, newly graduated from high school in 1898, would have read The Business Girl. And she would have taken its advice to heart in her decision to become a stenographer/typist, so she could help with the household’s finances and to make her own way in the world.

The real Eureka moment came for me when I realized that my great-aunt Melicent Perkins, on whom Minty Wilcox is based, undoubtedly read The Business Girl. Born on June 22, 1880, Aunt Melicent graduated from high school in 1898, went to business school, and then to work for the Daily Home News newspaper in New Brunswick, NJ in 1900. She worked there until she retired sixty-seven years later as the executive secretary/treasurer. She never married, perhaps because she, like the business girl Mrs. Ashmore addresses in the preface of the book, never met “her ideal” or because she had too many family responsibilities to wed.

(I have quite a different future in mind for Minty.)

I have two photographs of my aunt Melicent when she was young. Here she is, looking eager and perhaps a little nervous about her future when she graduated from high school, and some time later, looking serene and confident as the business girl.

Mischief in March is available for free for your Kindle reader from May 11 through May 14, Mother’s Day, at www.amazon.com/dp/B06XR1STRN

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?

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

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