How to keep writing even when life gets in the way #WriterWednesday #AmWriting #WritersLife

I was planning on skipping today’s blog post. I’m visiting my parents to figure out some family issues. Not only is it a time suck (getting here took me nearly twenty-four hours!), but an emotional drain as well. Actually, emotional drain doesn’t sound strong enough. What’s stronger than a drain? An emotional hurricane? Is that a thing? As you can imagine, getting any writing done under these circumstances is difficult to say the least. Writing a blog post doesn’t seem like much of a priority either. But, yet, here I find myself sitting on the porch at my parents’ house typing away.

I sat down to write a chapter in my work in progress this morning and ended up staring at my computer. Ugh! How can I possibly work on a romantic comedy when nothing seems much funny at the moment? I knew I needed to get some words in. The last month hasn’t been great for my word count. Between being busy with life and family issues, writing took a back seat. Considering writing is my full-time job, I can’t exactly let writing take the back seat forever.

What to do? I turned to the twenty-minute interval. You can do anything for twenty-minutes. Even try and write comedy when you aren’t feeling particularly humorous. And guess what? It worked. Sure, it’s not my best effort ever. But first drafts are called rough drafts for a reason.

If you do try the twenty-minute interval, make sure to set an alarm and turn off your internet. It only works if you force yourself to concentrate for those twenty-minutes. Otherwise, it’s too easy to get distracted. Especially when you’re not in the mood to write.

What techniques do you use to write when life tries to get in the way?

 

10 Things I’ve Learned as a Writer #WriterWednesday #AmWriting #WritersLife

As I’ve recently released my 15th novel (Hide Not Seek), I thought it was a good time to reflect on what I’ve learned since I started on this writing journey.

1.Everyone thinks that a writer isn’t busy. I don’t have enough fingers and toes to count the number of times I’ve been asked by friends and acquaintances how I manage not to get bored when my hubby is off working.

2. A lot of people don’t read. Seriously, they don’t read novels. I am flabbergasted and confused.

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Say it ain’t so!

3. Readers assume that the main character of each novel is you only more funny, mad, sad, [fill in the appropriate adjective here].

4. Self-publishing is not for the fainthearted. If the prejudice against indie writing doesn’t get you down, then the sheer amount of extra work an indie writer needs to do to get noticed will.

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5. Finishing the book is just the start. Now you need to market the book and find readers. And somehow manage not to become discouraged and want to jump off a bridge.

6. There comes a point in every book when you think: I can’t do this, I don’t know how to end this, where do I go from here? Keep. Writing. If that doesn’t work, alcohol can drown out that little voice in your head.

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7. Always carry a notebook with you. You won’t remember that awesome idea you had in the middle of the night, in the shower, while on the bus, etc. You might want to remember a pen or pencil as well.

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8. Bad reviews are like getting a negative job performance review that everyone just watched on YouTube. And then judges you based upon it.

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9. Grammar is harder than I remember from school. Or maybe it’s just me wanting to start sentences with conjunctions, use hyphens instead of commas, and write dialogues like people really talk. What’s an Oxford comma again?

10. It’s okay to say you’re a writer even if you aren’t on the bestseller list. Yeah right. Still working on this one.

What about you? What have you learned on your writing journey?

Easter Monday in Holland #ExpatLife #LifeInHolland #ThisIsHolland #ExpatLiving

It never ceases to boggle my mind that the vast majority of holidays in the Netherlands are religious days. Not because there’s anything wrong with religion mind you. No, my confusion stems from the fact that the Dutch are distinctly not religious. According to CBS (the Dutch statistics bureau, not the television station), less than 50% of the Dutch population adhere to a religion.

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What else boggles my mind? The Dutch have no idea what most of these holidays are about. This past Monday was Easter Monday – a holiday here in the Netherlands. While the Wikipedia page explaining Easter Monday in English is extensive, the Dutch page states only the following:

Easter Monday or 2nd Easter Day is the day after Easter and is a holiday in a number of primarily Christian countries.

That’s it. C’est tout! Well, no wonder no one has a clue what the day signifies.

Easter Monday means a day off for most people. Nothing more. Nothing less. You’ll find the beaches packed, the dunes full of walkers out for a stroll, and bike paths overflowing with bikers out for a nice ride. In case you’re wondering, me, the hubby, and the dog were part of the crowds of walkers and bikers. I have the sunburn to prove it!

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The stores don’t even bother to close. Years ago, the only shops open on Easter Monday were furniture stores like Ikea. (Expert tip: Do NOT go to Ikea on Easter Monday. Just don’t do it!) Now, all of the shops in the city center are open. For many, you wouldn’t have even known it was a holiday. Unless you need to buy bread. Then, you’re in trouble as grocery stores were one of the few stores that were closed.

So, why has the Netherlands continued to maintain Christian holidays? There are plenty of other days in the year, which could be holidays. Liberation Day on May 5th commemorates the day most of the Netherlands was liberated from the Nazis. (I say most as Haarlem wasn’t liberated until May 8th and I’m just a tiny bit anal about details.) But Liberation Day is only a holiday once every five years. Which is just weird and kind of sad.

What do you say? Who’s ready to start a movement for secular holidays?

 

 

 

How the cover for Picture Not Perfect was born #WriterWednesday #AmWriting #CozyMystery

With Book 3 of the Not So Reluctant Detective series hitting the shelves last week, I thought it was a good time to discuss aspects of the previous novel in the series, Picture Not Perfect. In this post, I talk about developing the cover for Picture Not Perfect.

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As Picture Not Perfect is book 2 of the Not So Reluctant Detectives series, I thought the cover would be a snap to develop. In order to ensure readers recognize individual books in a series, the covers for each book in the series should be consistent. Sounds easy, right? Not so much. The development started out well enough. We kept the background the same as the previous book Finders, Not Keepers. We also re-used the library card in the corner, which features my name and the series name. Unfortunately, that’s not enough for a cover.

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The style for the title itself was easy. Well, at least it was easy after I finally figured out what to name the book. Naming novels is not easy, let me tell you. But that’s a story for a different day. I wanted to use a font that hinted towards the premise of the book and was reminiscent of the title – namely that a picture isn’t always correctly (aka perfectly) telling a story. I started researching fonts that resemble shattering. Within a few moments, I found the shattering glass font used on the cover. Luckily, my designer liked it as well.

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So now I had the title, the background, and my name with the series name. Those elements a cover does not make. Unfortunately. At this point you’re probably wondering why I’m this deeply involved in designing the cover. Isn’t that what cover designers are for? Yeah, sure, if you can afford one. My husband, who has self-taught himself graphic design, is the one who actually puts my thoughts into an actual cover. And while he’s awesome at putting my ideas onto paper …er… computer file, coming up with a conceptual design is not his area of expertise. Although to be completely honest, he’s willing to take a stab at it. I’m the one who may be a tiny bit hesitant.

stalker background for marketing images2I went back to the actual novel itself as I feel it’s important for the cover to hint at what the book is about (not just some hot guy to drool over). The heroine of Picture Not Perfect is harassed by the police as they believe she was stalked by the murder victim. The theme of stalking comes back again and again in the novel. A-ha, I thought, I can incorporate something about stalking in the cover. My excitement lagged after spending hours going through stock photos of stalking pictures. I couldn’t find what I wanted, but my idea was now firmly developed. I wanted a picture of my heroine, Melanie, being stalked. This is when my designed really shined. He took my idea and developed it into a cover, which was a relief as I was about to tear my hair out!

And that’s how the cover for Picture Not Perfect came to life.  What do you think? Did I maintain the same ‘feel’ for all covers of the series?

Should writers respond to comments on Facebook Ads? #WriterWednesday #AuthorToolboxBlogHop #BookMarketing

facebook 4 All writers know we shouldn’t respond to negative reviews no matter how strong the temptation is to explain yourself (or your book or your motivation) to the reader. But what about comments in general? Especially those pesky negative ones. Should a writer respond to those? In specific, what about comments on Facebook ads? These ads look like any other post in your Facebook timeline, which means viewers are free to like, comment, and even share. And comment they do.

How should you the writer respond to such comments? Ignore them? Delete them? Respond? Here’s my lawyerly answer: it depends on the comment.

Positive Comments. I’m a big believer in responding to positive comments. You never know where it will lead. You may turn a potential reader into a super fan. There’s no need to think up some fancy response to each positive comment. I use the same standard response – just to let the reader know I saw the comment and appreciate her.

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Questions. It doesn’t happen a lot, but you will get questions about the book. Make sure to check your Facebook notifications often in case the question is about different versions of the book. I often get questions about the availability of the book in other markets or other formats. I respond to those quickly – before the potential reader loses interest!

The Nasty Comments. This is a no brainer. Nasty comments that have nothing to do with your book can and should be deleted. The tagline for my novel Searching for Gertrude is: How far would you go for the woman you love? When I use this tagline for my Facebook ads, I inevitably get some man responding with a comment like: Not far at all! I have no compunction about deleting these types of comments. The comment has nothing to do with my book. Delete. Delete. Delete.

Negative Comments About The Book. Whether these should be deleted or not, is more difficult to answer. Many writers will tell you to delete them as you are paying for an advertisement and this is not helping you market your book. I, however, think differently. I believe potential readers have a right to hear what other people are saying. I also am well aware of readers now being cautious about buying books that only have raving reviews. (I admit – I’m one of those readers. Twenty reviews and all five-stars? Someone’s got a lot of awesome friends is what I think.) But should you respond to such comments? I have decided not to. I just leave them, hoping potential readers don’t take them too seriously.

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As should be obvious from the above, you can’t simply make a Facebook ad and then forget about it. How do you respond to comments on your ads?

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This blog post is part of the #AuthorToolboxBlogHop. This is a monthly blog hop hosted by @raimeygallant. Make sure to stop by the other author blog posts in this month’s blog hop to fill up your author toolbox! Just click on the graphic to take you to the list.

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My Review of The Song of Achilles #TuesdayBookBlog #AmReading #BookAddict

The Song of Achilles was oSong of Achilles 1ur April book club read. Although I like Greek mythology, I was hesitant to read this one. I can never remember all the different myths and boy are there a lot of Greek Gods. Who can keep them all apart? Add in the demi-gods and the characters from the Odyssey and you have a recipe for confusion – at least in my humble opinion.

Not only did I thoroughly enjoy The Song of Achilles, but I also found myself flipping through pages much faster than expected. Miller’s writing has a simplistic quality to it, which pulled me into the story and made reading a delight. She also has a way of sneaking in facts about the myths, which us mere mortals tend to forget, without sounding like she’s the teacher we know she is.

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In The Song of Achilles, Miller has made Patroclus, a minor character of Greek mythology, into the storyteller. Instead of a story about the great Achilles and his fighting prowess, we get a love story. A story about a man who will follow his love anywhere, including war.

song of achillesOur book club struggled with Miller’s description of the Trojan War. Although the war lasted ten years and there was incredible suffering, including rape, pillaging, and death, the suffering was glossed over in the novel. Personally, I wasn’t as bothered by this as the others. Miller did not write a story about war. She wrote a love story. And, as a love story, it was beautiful. I did struggle to understand what in the world Patroclus saw in the self-obsessed demi-god Achilles. But that’s how love is. It doesn’t see the imperfections.

Another issue our book club had was the lack of women in the story. Any women in the story are minor characters. They are obviously unimportant except for use as a sacrifice or war prize. My female-only book club didn’t like this one bit. I get where they’re coming from. I do. Really. But I’m fairly certain that most men in those times thought of women in the same way. It’s unfortunate, but this is a story told from a man’s point of view.

I recommend this novel to anyone having even the slightest of interests in Greek mythology.

 

In celebration of mysteries and thrillers, here are some of my favorite reads #MysteryWeek #AmReading #BookAddict #Mystery #Thriller

Whoo! Hoo! This week we are celebrating mystery week, which just happens to be one of my all-time favorite genres. I wonder why? (Wink, wink, nudge, nudge.) I thought I’d share some of my favorite reads as part of the celebration. Not my all-time favorite reads, because that’s impossible. Yes, impossible. Because who can possibly pick just one book as a favorite?? Not this book addict. Anyway, here goes.

Thrillers

I went through this period in the military where I was obsessed with military and spy thrillers. OBSESSED. I blame it on the PX that only stocked these sorts of books. Did they even have a romance section?

After the military, I went to law school and promptly became obsessed with legal thrillers. P.S. I won’t even go near a book with a lawyer in it now. Not even a romance. Nope. *Crosses index fingers in front of her and backs away*

Cozy Mysteries

When I wrote Murder, Mystery & Dating Mayhem, readers started calling it a cozy mystery. Huh. What is that, I thought. I started reading a ton of cozy mysteries and fell in love with the genre. (FYI: I just finished my third cozy mystery series)

Favorite Funny Mysteries

My all-time favorite genre of mysteries is the funny mystery. Okay, that’s not really a genre, but it definitely should be!

 

How about you? What’s your favorite genre in the mystery and thriller field? And what are your favorite books in that genre?