Tuesday, November 4, 2014

My Insecurity For the Month of November #IWSG


It's time for another Insecure Writer's Support Group blog posting. IWSG was created by the awesome ninja captain Alex J. Cavanaugh, and you can find a list of all the other members of the group here
Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Alex's awesome co-hosts for the November 5 posting of the IWSG are: LG Keltner, Donna Hole, Lisa Buie-Collard and SL Hennessy!

What is my insecurity for the month of November? 

This month, I’m in good company. Everyone who decides to jump on the NaNoWriMo wagon sets themselves up for stress, doubt, pressure, and yes, insecurity! Some days, the burning question is, “What in the heck was I thinking?” 

In my case, the question isn’t just burning, it’s shooting flames sky-high. See, in November of 2013, I wrote over 50K words of a novel but later decided I wasn’t ready to move in that direction. I set up my own writer’s month from mid-June to the third week of July 2014, and wrote another 50K words. During August, September, and October, I edited the first draft, wrote a second draft and edited that. Next week, beta readers will begin to attack this second draft. Left with an opening, I decided to jump into NaNoWriMo 2014. 

Unfortunately, I was also scheduled for a panel discussion, an annual reunion, and a book fair, all cutting into my writing time before I even got rolling. Now, I’m running to catch up. Hence, the insecurity.

For years, I’ve insisted I do not work well under pressure. Slightly contrary to this belief, it appears I do better when I lay the pressure on myself. Maybe it’s when someone else is calling the shots that I tend to balk. It is a good thing that, as an author, I am now my own boss! 

Tomorrow, I think I’ll ask for a raise.
Are you doing NaNoWriMo this year? As Joey would say, "How you doing?"



Sunday, November 2, 2014

After All, It Is NANOWRIMO!

As my father once explained to me, my hometown of Two Rivers extends “Seven miles into Lake Michigan.” Two Rivers is known as “The Coolest Spot in Wisconsin” because of its unique location. We would be sitting in the backyard having a family picnic, wearing shorts and short-sleeved tops, when the wind off the lake would shift and the temperature would drop ten degrees at the snap of the fingers. Everyone carried a sweater or light jacket with them at all times.

Along the western shore of Lake Michigan 

There were other reasons my hometown was considered “The Coolest Spot in Wisconsin” also. Food, for one thing. Custard from The Custard Stand on the curve heading out toward the park; Port Sandy Bay Pizza; perch plates at Labor Hall on Friday nights; malts at the M&M near the edge of town after the dance or football game. Movies at the Rivoli or “Outdoor” theaters. Fishing on the Twin Rivers; swimming in Lake Michigan during summer; ice skating at the Washington Street rink in winter.
Our Christmas tree came from the back yard and all our vegetables came from our own or a relative’s garden. Also cool.

My childhood memories of Two Rivers may be flawed by the distance of time, but flawed in a good way, in a rose-colored glasses kind of way. I laugh about the scar on my wrist from when someone jokingly slammed my high school locker door on my hand; still cringe over the "tank" swim suits handed out for “Pool” during Phy Ed class; and will always associate the odor of lemon-scented air spray with my Science project, when I scraped a dead turtle out of its shell in Dad’s basement workshop. (Did I just reveal that deep dark secret from my past?!)
Writers are a fount of knowledge, interesting material buried deep in their subconscious waiting to be mined for a future story. So lay back, close your eyes, and let the ideas flow.

After all, it is NANOWRIMO!
When do the best ideas pop out of your head?

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Know Where You're Going -or- Wait 'Til You Get there?

It's NaNoWriMo time again! Do you know where you’re going, or do you prefer to wait ‘til you get there?

Is it better to know the theme of your novel before you begin writing? Should you have a handle on the protagonist’s internal problems so you can build your writing around that issue?

For myself, I find it easier to write out the story, beginning to end, then go back and see what theme emerged from the writing. In my latest WIP (before NaNoWriMo) my third sentence emerged as the metaphor that describes the novel’s plot and subplot. It wasn’t a perfect match after the first draft but become more apparent with the second draft. During the (ongoing) editing process, I started to adjust the story to fall into line with what I saw as the defining theme of the novel.

Enlightenment is an illuminating experience!

Where do you stand on the writing process, do you want to know the facts upfront or do you prefer to watch them unfold as your story grows? Do you consider your story’s theme while you write the first draft, or mine your work later for those enlightening nuggets?

Monday, October 13, 2014

A SLICE OF LIFE: Studying the Nature of People

My horoscope for today says I should “Study the nature of people today.” I interpret this to mean I should be more observant of my surroundings. This is good advice that has worked well for me in the past. 

In 1998, I decided to “become” a writer. After writing a few short stories, I started my first novel. An entirely new world opened up as I learned to see past the superficial fa├žade of scenery and society, a very slow process for me. My reward for continuing to search and research was an accompanying symphony of sounds, changing colorless events into neon-flashing experiences. 
Blood Red Hibiscus
at Queen Kapiolani Gardens in Waikiki
Everything didn’t immediately and perpetually start coming up roses, or a profusion of hibiscus. I suffered my share of what life offers all of us in our turn. Last Saturday, a close friend since 1969 died. He, and the multi-hued colors he added to the world, will be sorely missed. 

My stories reflect some of life’s unsolicited offerings of fate. Not as a means of purging myself of uncomfortable memories; after all, we are made of memories; but to explore how the process of forging steel applies to life. 

As a result, I look at people in a new light, not to judge but to enjoy. I hear the words they say as they mean to say them, filtered through their experiences, not through my own. All of this helps me to flesh out my stories while creating entertaining and multi-dimensional characters and plots.

In bite-sized excerpts, A Slice of Life introduces you to my writing, my protagonist’s interactions with life, and the people who share her experiences. The following excerpt includes a slice of protagonist Pepper Bibeau’s back story. 

A Slice of Life: Excerpt from FOR EVERY ACTION
In this diner scene, Pepper holds a conversation with Toby, a Chicago homicide detective she meets during an insurance investigation that leads to murder. 

“Ursula was proud of her heritage,” I said. “It’s sad to think prejudice might have played a role in her death.”
Toby sighed and we retreated into our own thoughts until restaurant activity intruded. As customers left, more arrived to place orders for the fresh catch of the day.
“What about your relatives, Pepper?” Toby asked. “Do they live in Chicago?”
“Just Uncle Fred, my mother’s brother.” I pointed toward the ceiling. “He owns this apartment building.”
“Fred Cane still owns this place?” he asked.
Surprised Toby even knew of my uncle, I didn’t correct his pronunciation of the family name. Ka-ne, two syllables, was the Hawaiian word for male, and the name of a Hawaiian god.
“How do you know my uncle?”
“It would be more accurate to say I know the building. Or at least remember it was set up for demolition back in the 50s until some guy got it dumped on him as a sales bonus.”
I smiled at Toby’s description of the windfall Uncle Fred had received.
“With the riverfront Marina Towers absorbing available tenant interest in the area,” I said, “Uncle Fred suspected the company had written off the building as a bad investment.”
“He did a good job of turning it around.”
“His on-site management attracted financially secure tenants, and later he used the Chicago property as collateral to purchase coastline properties around the country. He still oversees the rental units personally.”
“And you?” Toby asked.
His topic-hopping caught me off guard again. I took a moment to collect my thoughts.
“I live in Wisconsin,” I said. “I travel a lot for insurance investigations.”
“Wisconsin your home state?”
“More of an adopted state. My father’s family settled in Wisconsin. Dad was in the military, stationed in Hawaii during the late 1930s. He and my mom met in Honolulu.”
“And she was Hawaiian?”
“Yes. Well, hapa.” I almost laughed at Toby’s look of confusion. “It means part, part Hawaiian. She married my dad on the Big Island in the spring of 1940 and I was born in Honolulu the following year.”
“Hawaii to Wisconsin, quite a leap.”
Whether he meant the weather, the culture, or just the distance, I had to agree. 


Thank you for joining me today. The first novel in the Pepper Bibeau Mystery Series,
FOR EVERY ACTION, is on sale at Amazon.com for 99 cents.

If you have already read and enjoyed one of my novels, I would greatly appreciate your time
and effort in writing a book review for Amazon and/or Goodreads. 


Sunday, October 5, 2014

A SLICE OF LIFE - Chicago's Auditorium Theater: ResearchingANovel

Research for a novel can be an enjoyable task or a drudgery. In my case, research is always fun. While writing my first Pepper Bibeau mystery, set in Chicago, I walked the streets in and around the Loop for four days re-familiarizing myself with the area.
Auditorium Theater is the setting for one scene between my protagonist and her friend, Ursula. During intermission at a concert they attend, featuring Big Brother and the Holding Company with Janis Joplin, their discussion becomes a source of evidence in a murder investigation.
My experience with Auditorium Theater dates back to 1968 when I attended my first performance there, although it wasn’t to witness Janis Joplin launch a career. Then, in 2003, I returned for the aforementioned research and viewed a stage play from a beautifully renovated balcony.
Looking down at the Auditorium Theater stage.
The scene is so wide, I had to piece two pictures together! 

Constructed in the late 1800s, Auditorium Theater opened in 1889 and has hosted not only ballets, musicals, and concerts, but the likes of President Theodore Roosevelt and President William McKinley who gave speeches there.
An article in Friday’s newspaper (10/3/2014) prompted me to write about this topic today. The National Football League has decided to hold the 2015 NFL draft in Chicago, holding the event at the Auditorium Theater. The future of NFL football teams will be decided here.
As a Wisconsin-born football fan, I like football, lived and worked in Green Bay for over ten years (first in the early 70s and then at the turn of the century.) I don’t plan to attend the NFL draft in 2015, however.
If I do return to Auditorium Theater, it will be to see . . . oh, let’s say, Mikhail Baryshnikov reviving dance numbers from White Nights, or Liza Minnelli performing musical scenes from Cabaret. Suddenly, I’m compelled to compile a list of “What Ifs” performances I would love to attend at Auditorium Theater. I’m sure Janis Joplin would be at the top, along with the Beatles.
What is at the top of your “What If” list?

A Slice of Life: Excerpt from FOR EVERY ACTION 

The rain started just as we reached the Auditorium Building and we ducked into the lobby entrance on Congress Street. Marbled walls mirrored the light of chandeliers that hung from the narrow box-office ceiling. Ursula handed our tickets to an usher, who led the way to the second tier of the concert hall. Quickly settled, I was half-asleep when Ursula nudged my shoulder.
       “Tired?” she asked.
       “All the walking,” I said, yawning. “Sorry I made us miss the cab.”

She gave a short chuckle. “It’s okay, I was almost late myself. E.J. called just before I left the office.”

That opened my eyes. I wasn’t sure what to make of the statement and offered my question with some trepidation. “Are you two dating again?”

“Not quite.” Her voice held a hint of optimism. “He says he’s not sure our relationship is worth all the effort. I think he’s just scared to make a commitment right now.”

“Then why did he call?”

“He wants me to meet him after the concert, said maybe we could talk things over.” She tapped her thighs with closed fists. “I really want things to work out between us.”

I couldn’t understand why Ursula thought she needed E.J. Maybe a lifetime of independence hampered my ability to appreciate such a one-sided relationship. The lights dimmed and saved me from giving an inappropriate response.
      The theater darkened shortly after eight. Curious whispers rippled through the audience until a single spotlight provided illumination and a male voice came over the loudspeaker system. To the heavy background sounds of tuning instruments, he announced the band, “Four gentlemen and one great girl: Big Brother and The Holding Company.” The audience exploded with applause, cheering through a prolonged set of rock music while the one great girl, Janis Joplin, dominated the vocals.

During intermission, Ursula leafed through the theater’s concert program, then lingered over an advertisement for wedding rings.

“Do you and E.J. ever talk about marriage?” I asked.

She shrugged and changed the conversation. 

A bell sounded the end of Intermission and lights flooded the stage. The second half of the concert was filled with instrumental tunes and more foot-stomping vocals. The finale with Janis singing “Piece Of My Heart” brought the audience to its feet. Although the group’s music was new to me, I was already a fan.
* * * * *

The first novel in the Pepper Bibeau Mystery Series, FOR EVERY ACTION, is on sale at
Amazon.com for 99 cents.

If you have already read and enjoyed one of my novels, I would greatly appreciate your time
and effort in writing a short book review for Amazon and/or Goodreads.


Tuesday, September 30, 2014


The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day, a day to talk about doubts experienced and fears conquered, and also to offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling.

Our fearless leader, Ninja Captain Alex J. Cavanaugh says:
 Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!
Our Twitter hashtag is #IWSG
My awesome co-hosts for the October 1 special anniversary posting of the IWSG are: Kristin Smith, Elsie, Suzanne Furness, and Fundy Blue!

  Be sure to visit the
Insecure Writer’s Support Group Website!!!

After three weeks of traveling on the mainland, it has been difficult for me to get back into writing mode at home. Not so much writing mode, actually, as editing. My trip was mostly to do research for several projects, the major focus being on my latest novel. Now that the fun is over, I have to knuckle down. Applying the research to various scenes and chapters is the knuckle down part.
It hasn't helped that my calendar was packed with meetings and events for two weeks following my return. The final event was "A Taste For Books" silent auction to raise money for The Makiki Community Library, a non-profit, independent library that hosts our Sisters in Crime/Hawaii meetings each month. Delicious food, good wine, free books! And my auction-bid won a fine set of wine glasses and a pair of Hawaiian hand-dipped beeswax candles. No wonder I'm having a difficult time knuckling down!
My insecurity, and consequent (or is that subsequent?) inability to knuckle down, lies in how I feel about the plot cohesiveness of my WIP. It sounded great as I wrote the first draft, even held together through the second draft. Now that I am readying it for outside editing, suddenly this sounds dumb, that doesn't make sense, and the other thing definitely needs a complete rewrite.
When it comes time to open your work to criticism and editing, do you get the jitters like I do?

Sunday, September 21, 2014

SinC-Up for Bloggers: Sisters In Crime September Blog Hop

As a member of the national mystery writers’ organization, Sisters in Crime (SinC), and the Sisters in Crime/Hawaii chapter, I was tagged by a fellow "Guppies" author and blogger Linda Townsend, to join the September Sisters in Crime SinC-Up for Bloggers. We’re invited to answer questions about ourselves as an author. Here are the three questions I've chosen:

1. Which authors have inspired you?
Beginning with my early fascination for the mystery/crime fiction genre, I devoured the works of Rex Stout and Erle Stanley Gardner along with works by Agatha Christie that featured Hercule Poirot. I was never happier than when I discovered a new series such as those by Arthur Hailey, Robert Ludlum, and Michael Crichton. While living in Minnesota, I discovered John Sandford and his Lucas Davenport novels, then Michael Connelly, Sue Grafton, Jeffrey Deaver, Janet Evanovich, Nevada Barr, and Kathy Reich. I’ve read everything Stephen King has written, although I confess to reading only parts of Danse Macabre. 

When I started writing my own mystery novels, Sue Grafton and Michael Connelly became my main role models, setting the bar extremely high. 

2. If someone said "Nothing against women writers, but all of my favorite crime fiction authors happen to be men," how would you respond? 

I’d be happy to hear they read at all. Nothing makes me cringe more than the response, “Oh, I don’t read books.” Novels are written to entertain the reader, and people should read what they find entertaining. I would, however, suggest a varied diet in eating habits and in reading. Even if a reader’s favorite crime fiction authors happen to be men, it wouldn’t hurt to read a novel written by a woman writer every now and then, if only to solidify the original opinion of reading preference. Variety, after all, is the spice of life.

3. What books are on your nightstand right now? 

The print books on my “nightstand” are: Murder Casts A Shadow by Victoria Nalani Kneubuhl; The Pyramid by Henning Mankell; Last Lawyer Standing by Douglas Corleone, and The Queen and I by Sydney Lehua Iakea. 

On the “desktop” of my e-reader are several anthologies, including Fish Nets: The Second Guppy Anthology, that I'm reading to compare the writing of novels to short stories for an upcoming panel discussion. Also on the "desktop" are: Angel Hero by Lizbeth Hartz; Waverly by Walter Scott (my book club’s reading choice for September); Jump Start Your Book Promotions by RP Dahlke; and Embryo 4: Catch Me by J.A. Schneider. 

Some of the above authors are traditionally published, but the majority of my reading choices over the past few years are of independent authors whose works are available at Amazon.com including: Laurie Hanan, Sandra Nikolai, Rosemary and Larry Mild, Elizabeth Egerton Wilder, Karin Kaufman/K.T.Kaufman, and A K Gunn/Alain Gunn.

Blog Recommendations:

While I’ve invited some fellow authors to join in the fun of the SinC-Up Blog Hop for September, Part of the SinC-Up blogfest is sharing other blogs readers might enjoy. Please check out these wonderful authors, including fellow Guppy, Linda Townsend.

Linda Townsend, author of The Spirit Lake Mystery Series: http://lindatownsdin.com
Alex J. Cavanaugh, Ninja Captain of Insecure Writer's Support Group: http://alexjcavanaugh.blogspot.com/p/the-insecure-writers-support-group.html
Toby Neal, author of Lei Crime Series: http://tobyneal.net/
For further information about Sisters in Crime, Inc., please visit the site and tweet:

Tuesday, September 2, 2014


  Be sure to visit the
Insecure Writer’s Support Group Website!!!

Editing a manuscript after spending months writing enough words to call it a novel might not sound like a fun project. But think of the ego booster when you come across a word, a paragraph, or a scene that makes you gasp, "Wow, did I really write that?"
As you can see, I am now in the editing phase of my WIP. While there may be a few of those "Wow" moments, I expect more morments of, "Huh, what the heck did I mean by that?" I've marked one such area already in an early chapter and still haven't figured out what I was trying to say. I do suspect it sounded brilliant when I first wrote the words.
Another problem that pops up, often, is repeated words. I guess they sound so good the first time, I want to keep using them. Not the typing error: He went went to the store. More on the order of: Sally decided to make soup for lunch. Deciding she would probably enjoy a grilled cheese sandwich, also, she took out the bread. A decision about whether to have hot chocolate with the meal would have to wait.
Of course, it is your responsibility as a writer to laugh at your own mistakes, taking pleasure in actually spotting errors before the Beta readers get their hands on the MS and really embarrass you!
What kind of mistakes do you chuckle about when you're editing your first draft?
(I'm leaving for the airport in one hour for a three-week vacation on the mainland, so I'm not able to add the names of the co-hosts for September, but I will check in and visit blog sites.)

Wednesday, August 6, 2014


ALEX J. CAVANAUGH'S awesome co-hosts for the August 6 posting of the IWSG will be Sarah Foster, Joylene Nowell Butler, Lily Eva, and Rhonda Albom!

  Be sure to visit the
Insecure Writer’s Support Group Website!!!

Genre? Check: Mystery

Length? Check: Novel/75K

Setting? Check: Wisconsin

Protagonist? Check: Pepper Bibeau

Plot? Antagonist? Main Characters? Story Structure? Subplots? First Sentence? Motive? Method? Open with action or build to it? Prologue? Climax? Denouement? Epilogue? 

So many questions and decisions make the idea of writing a novel daunting. If every question had to be answered and every decision made before the writing began, there probably wouldn’t be any libraries or book stores. 

I reminded myself often that it wasn’t necessary to know exactly where I was going, and who did what at every turn, before I could write the next scene or chapter. Some days I wrote two thousand words, other days barely two hundred. On three days of the five weeks I spent writing the first draft, I wrote over five thousand words. Those prolific days produced accomplishments and memories that encouraged me to write another day. 

That’s all it takes, some encouragement to write for one more day, because you cannot write for two days at one time. 

Another trick that kept me moving forward was doing only small stretches of research. If I needed information to advance the plot, I would do a quick check on the Internet for details to assure that what I wanted to do wouldn’t paint me into a corner. Next month, I will learn the weight of a rifle loaded and unloaded, the exact distance from one county to another, and the correct bait needed to catch sunfish in June. Knowing a rifle fits into the story, the driving distance is feasible, and catching sunfish in June is legal, I could keep writing. 

What encourages you to keep writing?


Sunday, July 27, 2014


For the past six months, I wavered on which direction to take for my next writing project. 

Then I signed up for a five-day writers’ seminar in Honolulu, which took place on July 19-23, 2014 at The Makiki Community Library. The seminar guru/sensei, William Bernhardt, is the bestselling author of numerous books, including the Ben Kincaid legal-thriller series. His Red Sneakers Writers Book Series, five compact books in print and ebook format, go hand-in-hand with his seminars. 

Once I committed to attending a seminar for five days, I had to write a novel to present to the group for feedback and critique. I made the decision to continue my Pepper Bibeau mystery series with a fourth novel. I purchased Mr. Bernhardt’s Red Sneaker ebook series for kindle, and read each of the five books. Then I used the information from the first one, Story Structure: The Key to Successful Fiction, to outline my manuscript. 
See book link
to Amazon below
The five weeks preceding the seminar included writing, researching, writing, eating, writing, and sleeping. It was my very own, intense NaNoWriMo - all day - every day! My finished first draft contained 68K words, and was ready for critique. During the five-day seminar, I received suggestions, ideas, and direction from Mr. Bernhardt and the other seminar-ians (not theologists!) on ways to improve the content. 

Moving forward, I will use the information from the other books in the series as a road map to complete and edit the novel. 

Are you planning to start/continue/finish your novel this year? What is your process?
Link to William Bernhardt's Amazon Author Page:
Link to Story Structure by William Bernhardt


Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Wishy-Washy or What?

It's time for another Insecure Writer's Support Group blog posting. IWSG was created by the awesome ninja captain Alex J. Cavanaugh, and you can find a list of all the other members of the group here. 

The Insecure Writers Support Group (IWSG), started by ninja captain Alex J. Cavenaugh, is a monthly opportunity to share our writing fears or solutions and to offer encouragement to the other participants. (Co-hosts this month are: Krista McLaughlin, Kim Van Sickler, Heather Gardner, and Hart Johnson.) ...just picked this up from 's site!

Decision-making isn’t a problem for me, but sticking to a decision sometimes is. 

Last November, for NaNoWriMo, I decided to switch horses and write about a new protagonist. The fifty thousand words required to be “A Winner” flowed onto the page at regular intervals. Then I had second thoughts about abandoning my original protagonist and her storyline. 

It took several months to work through my indecision (okay, decision-making sometimes is an issue for me!) I finally came to the conclusion that I wanted to continue the story line of my original protagonist. I set up my own nanowrimo for thirty days between June and July. I am now over thirty thousand words into this novel. I’ve had to make at least a hundred decisions already concerning plot, characters, and setting. 

Each day more decisions are required, but I have my fingers crossed that the major decision to write the novel I’m working on now is my final decision. 

Are most of your decisions flat-out carved in stone, or are you often swayed to change your mind?

Sunday, June 15, 2014


Dialogue can be fun to write, like putting words into your characters mouth. I try to have my characters lay out the scene through dialogue whenever possible. It doesn’t always work in the first draft but when done right, it brings life to the scene.

Another purpose of dialogue is to give insight into a character without committing the dreaded act of “telling.” In the following excerpt from my novel, FOR EVERY ACTION, no words describe the detective’s effectiveness, yet certain of the character’s attributes stand out. As a reader, would you have confidence in the detective’s ability to handle his job?

The man wore a sports jacket of navy-flecked tweed, slightly frayed around the cuffs. Fine dust coated the tops of his shoes and he wore no hat. He removed a small notepad from an inner pocket of his jacket before glancing around the room.

“How may I help you?” Mr. Jaedelle asked.

“Sergeant Robertson, detective with the Homicide Division,” the man said, offering a business card. “I’m looking for a . . .” He stopped to consult his notepad. “I’m looking for Miss Bibeau. I understand she works here.”

“I’m Pepper Bibeau.” I stepped toward him with my hand outstretched.

After a slight hesitation, the detective reached over and gave me a firm handshake. But before he could say anything further, Gloria walked out of her office.

“Why are you here, detective?” she asked. “This law office doesn’t handle homicides.”

“I understand your concern, ma’am.” The detective removed a wallet from his inside breast pocket and displayed his Chicago police star.

Gloria made a show of examining the badge, then gave him a disapproving frown. He waited for her to step back before continuing.

“Unfortunately, it’s necessary for me to discuss details of a case with Miss Bibeau.”

Here are some links to other articles/book that deal with the use of dialogue to illustrate character traits:

How to show character through dialogue

Write Good Dialogue

Dynamic Dialogue: Letting Your Story Speak by William Bernhardt

If you have a moment, please check out my Pepper Bibeau mysteries on Amazon:


Tuesday, June 3, 2014


It's time for another Insecure Writer's Support Group blog posting. IWSG was created by the awesome ninja captain Alex J. Cavanaugh, and you can find a list of all the other members of the group here.

After writing and self-publishing three novels in my planned Pepper Bibeau mystery series, I allowed “second thoughts” to erode my confidence in writing a fourth. My marketing for the third novel never really got off the ground. I lost faith in my writing, in the worth of the stories, and in myself as a writer. It was easier to promote authors more imaginative than me and novels containing more important characters than mine. 

A lot of soul-searching followed the publication of my third novel. 

* Why had I chosen to set my stories in the near past (beginning with the late 60s and early 70s) after reading that such novels didn’t sell? Maybe it would be better to write stories occurring in the present. 

* Why was my protagonist a female with a backstory of service as a nurse in the Vietnam War? I had never been in the military, and current bestselling novels focused on action in Afghanistan or other parts of the Middle East. 

* Why did I think the life of an insurance investigator would play well in the Mystery genre? Such a career could never carry a series. 

Once I formed concrete questions to get a handle on my concerns, I considered answers to possible solutions. In November 2013, I used NaNoWriMo to test the theory of boosting my confidence by setting stories in present time. I wrote 50K words of a novel set in 2012. My main character’s backstory and career differed from my original protagonist. The surge of excitement I felt while writing the story compared to eating a new flavor of ice cream or wearing a new red silk dress. The macadamia nut chocolate swirl ice cream delighted my taste buds. The color and feel of the new dress affected most of my other senses. 

What the ice cream and dress didn’t do, and what the new protagonist didn’t do, was to satisfy my core wants and needs. My first love is vanilla ice cream: French vanilla, Country vanilla, Simply vanilla. Ready-to-wear clothes in tranquil colors suit me best. I relish the research required in developing a character whose story spans the years missed while I was “too busy living.” 

This insight resolved my concerns about why to write something “they” say won’t sell. 

For me, appreciation of a good mystery set in a familiar location generates motivation. My goal is to write mysteries that evolve in personally meaningful settings, for the enjoyment and entertainment of readers with similar interests. Book Four is now underway and I am more eager than ever to write the next Pepper Bibeau mystery.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Any Publicity is Good Publicity

Amazon has this relatively new promotion (Jan. 2014) called Kindle First. Each month, four upcoming kindle releases are offered for $1.99. I always look forward to reading the synopsis of each novel, understandably biased as it is written by the book’s editor. My choice for June is The Fracking King: A Novel. I might have leaned more toward the mystery, Supreme Justice, except for two reasons. 

The first reason is that I’ve followed the news about fracking within the United States and look forward to reading the author’s treatment of this controversial practice. The second reason involves a “review” submitted by someone who believes the author of The Fracking King: A Novel should do more research due to the spelling of a word in the book’s title (for the record it is spelled correctly.) The comment has led to a “review discussion.” 

First, let me say it is not my idea of entertainment to read critical remarks or faint praise meant to discredit an author’s work. Having been on the receiving end, I know the potential damage such a review can cause to an author’s self-esteem or credibility. Low-star reviews offering no substantiating insight, however, reflect the mindset of the reviewer far more than they reveal the worth of the book being reviewed. 

A reviewer’s opinion falls under the heading of free speech, a constitutionally guaranteed inalienable right. Opinion connotes view, estimation, belief, judgment, attitude, and outlook. Opinion does not signify fact, absolute, dogma, or law. 

Granted, at times I have decided against purchasing a book when credibly written low-star reviews outnumbered axe grinding low-star reviews. On the other hand, a large number of high-star reviews suggests to me that the author has succeeded in reaching their target audience, something all authors aspire to and admire in others. In that case, my responsibility is to determine if the book targets my interests.

A high-star review has never convinced me to buy a book that didn’t interest me, and no low-star review will ever stop me from buying a book I want to read. Therefore, are reviews worth anything more than unlimited entertainment and insight into the human psyche? Definitely!

Reviews confirm that people are reading the book and sharing their opinions with others. Contrary to popular belief concerning the “word of mouth” theory, not everyone who hears an opinion agrees with it. Some people like to form an opinion based on their own criteria. Whether they ultimately agree with the “word of mouth” opinion or reach a different conclusion, one thing still holds true.
Any publicity is good publicity.
This is my opinion on book reviews and publicity. I would love to hear yours.