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Writing When You are Busy


Writing When You are Busy

In the early days of this blog, I was filled with positive energy. I was so happy to FINALLY publish my first book that the first posts encouraged everyone to carve out whatever time they could to write, to follow whatever dream someone had.

While I still believe in following one’s dreams, my enthusiasm has tempered. I am in the midst of a months-long project at work that will radically change everything at my workplace. It is monumental. With such a daunting task ahead, I am frequently exhausted at the end of the work day. The last thing I want to do is sit down in front of my laptop and write.

I have developed a much more realistic habit that might help you too. For Christmas, a good friend of mine gave me a leather-bound journal. (It was really sweet, because I have wanted one for a long time and never told anyone.) When I fill the pages, I can remove the journal inside and replace it with a fresh one.

The journal is a great size. I keep it in my purse. Whenever I have an idea or story thread for the Through the Mist series, I can jot a note in the journal.

Sometimes, I only have time and energy to write passages in the journal. For now, that’s good enough. I still feel as if I am pursuing my dream of writing, but with a realistic approach. It’s all about finding a way to achieve a dream, while living in the real world of boring jobs, deadlines, and stress.



New Releases Coming Soon!

If you don't follow me on Facebook, I invite you. I tend to post the first updates there.

The book writing/editing is coming along well. To catch you up, I decided to split the sequel into two parts - a novella, titled "Through the Mist: Adrift," and the actual sequel, "Through the Mist: Reunion."

The story in the novella needs to be told. I feared, though, that it would bog down the sequel if I used it as the opening part of the book. 

I plan to release the novella at the end of June 2018. Fair warning - it has an abrupt ending. In fact, if I read it, I would probably scream, "What happens next?!!" Don't fear - the sequel will be released in early August 2018, if not sooner. I hate it when books end with a cliffhanger, and the reader must wait for sometimes YEARS before there is a resolution. As a new writer, I understand why that happens. As a reader, it drives me NUTS.

As always, thank you for going on this journey with me. I will keep you posted when the new books come out. Happy reading!



Bring in the New Year

I am ready to bid 2017 goodbye. What a year! I always try to look for the positive and present it to you here and on my Facebook page. I figure you have enough bad stuff to read. Why add to the dark cloud of negativity? The year 2017 was a doozy, though.

As I look ahead to the new year, I am excited for the challenges to come with the book. I am putting the finishing touches on the sequel, Through the Mist: Reunion.  I know I have said this many times. If you are a writer, you know how tough the process is. Just when you think you are done, you spot something that is not quite right and want to change it. At some point, though, you must say “Enough!” I am nearing that point.

I plan to try advertising with the novella, Through the Mist: Adrift, and the sequel, Through Mist: Reunion. I did not advertise Through the Mist: Restoration. Frankly, I was thrilled that I finally wrote a book. It was a huge personal accomplishment. If anyone read it, it would be a small miracle. Several of you did, and I am eternally grateful.

I encourage each of you to find something this new year to bring you similar joy and gratitude. I felt as if I wasted many years saying “someday, I will....” If we learned anything from 2017, it was that “someday” may never come. Do not put off living your life.

You don’t need a grand gesture. Sprinkle in a few attainable goals like eating half a donut instead of a whole one or taking the stairs today instead of the elevator. We should celebrate the small victories as much as we do the big ones.

Here’s to a new year filled with health and happiness for all!



Life Gets in the Way

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to win the lottery? I do not regularly buy a ticket, which makes it hard to win. Still, on those rare occasions when I do, I always fantasize about walking into the office and quitting my job so I could stay home and write full time. In fact, I have made it publicly known that, if I win the lotto, I am out the door. It was written (in jest) into a project plan once – what would we do if she won the lotto? It made for much-needed bit of levity in a tense situation.

Until I win the lotto, I must squeeze in writing time whenever I can. We have a massive project ahead this month. At the same time, I have made the decision to change directions for the sequel (more on that in a bit). So, it comes to this – work on the book or work on the blog. Since I doubt anyone waits with bated breath for the next blog post, I chose the book. For the month of August at least, I will only post to the blog when I have something really important to say.

I encourage you to visit my Facebook page. I will regularly post there because it does not require a lot of effort and has a more relaxed tone. If you have not visited yet, you will find a lot of pictures of food. A girl must eat!

Now, about the sequel….

It’s big - too big. As I mentioned recently on Facebook, one criticism of the first book involved pacing. When I read the sequel, I see the same pacing problem. It takes 16 chapters before something big happens. Those 16 chapters are critical to the story, but do you really see that when you are slogging through them? Probably not. I fear that, if left as is, you might toss the book from sheer boredom.

I have decided to take that section of the book and turn it into a novella. Then, when Through the Mist: Reunion begins, it will be maybe a chapter of material, and – BOOM –the action starts. Of course, I will mention a little bit of the back story from the novella but not much. If readers really want to know the full story, they can read the novella first and then start the sequel. The detail people get the whole story. The folks who want action can skip the novella altogether. Everybody wins (I hope).

Could a better writer find a different solution? Sure. If you have suggestions, I would love to hear them. Seriously –I really would.

So, until my next blog post – see you on Facebook!



Get On With It!

Walkies with my dog require paying attention. We begin the walk with a run, then come to an abrupt halt for a tinkle. Her nose dictates the speed of the walkie – from slow strolls where every blade of grass is sniffed to brisk walks on the scent of some beast who dared to cross the pee line. Eventually, I grow weary of the manic pace and ask her to pick a speed – run or walk. Nothing in between. (She ignores me.)

An element of writing is the same for me. Setting the right pace makes all the difference. As I edit the sequel, Through the Mist: Reunion, I watch closely for scenes or even sentences that grind the story to a halt. I am much more aggressive in this book than I was with the first one. With Through the Mist: Restoration, I held tightly to certain scenes until the very end. At long last, I cut them, and the story was better for it.

At this point, I fear the first section of the book will meet a similar end. It just isn’t working. Since this section determines whether or not you will keep reading, it must have the proper pace. Otherwise, you will stop reading and will not get to the juicy stuff that happens later in the book.

Of course, the real challenge here is that the first section of any book usually lays the groundwork for the story. The reader needs basic information. Who is this person? Why is she acting this way? What happened in the last book, because I don’t know why I should care about this story? I must give you as much information as I can, yet at a pace that will keep you interested.

Solving this problem is much more fun than the silly stuff that happens at my day job. Thank you for your continued patience as I continue to edit the sequel. I have said it many times. I want to give you something worth your time and money.

If any fellow writers are reading this post, I would love to hear your thoughts about how you tackle this problem.

Happy reading!



Popcorn Fiction

I love to put M&Ms in popcorn. The combination of salty and sweet is irresistible. Sure, it makes a great snack, but I need more than that for a satisfying meal. Sadly, candy and popcorn are not part of a balanced diet.

I view fiction the same way. Some books are meant to uplift, to challenge a reader’s pre-conceived notions, to educate – you know, the kind of book that ends up on Oprah’s book club lists. These types of books often win prestigious awards and may be described as life changing. Books of this type certainly have a place in a balanced diet of the brain.

Then, you have what I call “popcorn fiction.” Like a snack, it is meant to satisfy a craving and may not provide life-sustaining sustenance. Still, it sure is fun to read, isn’t it? Who doesn’t like a snack every now and then?

I plant my books solidly in the "popcorn fiction" category. I frequently read these types of books because I have enough reality in the real world. I love to escape into a story that may not challenge me on an intellectual level but will be fun.

If you are looking for an escape and possibly a laugh or two, please pick up my book, Through the Mist: Restoration. I am currently working on the sequel, Through the Mist: Reunion. While it does have a few serious moments, the overall story is meant to be fun.

Then, when you are ready for fulfilling fiction, check out any number of serious works on Goodreads or any other reader site. I envy the writers who can dedicate themselves to such amazing work. Their writing is far superior to anything I could ever hope to do. And, that’s perfectly fine. In life, we cannot live on candy alone. Sometimes, we must eat a salad.



In Case You Missed It

If you do not follow me on Facebook, you may have missed it. This week, I finished the first draft of the sequel, Through the Mist: Reunion.

The story took me in some interesting directions that I had not intended for the original plot line. It will be interesting to see if some of the events make the final cut. At this point, I will start at the beginning of the story and fill in all the details. The current version is dialogue heavy in spots. A few threads are not fully developed so they seem wildly implausible as written. Also, the beginning is just stupid, to be blunt.

I am glad the first draft is done, though. That’s a big part of the battle. I still have a goal of publishing the sequel this fall. I will continue to provide updates here and on Facebook.

In the meantime, I would love to hear from you. Let me know if you have any questions about the first book, Through the Mist: Restoration; the writing process; or any other topic. Thanks for reading!



Make it Look Purdy

Writing the book seemed like the hardest part of producing Through the Mist: Restoration. Oh, I was so wrong! After I finished the book, I still needed to format it for publishing and design a cover for the book. In this blog post, I’ll share a little bit about my experience and offer some insight into what I plan to do for the sequel.

Let’s tackle formatting first. In a nutshell, your “publisher” will want your book to be submitted in a format that fits their format. I published  eBook and paperback versions of my book. I used Amazon for the eBook. I used CreateSpace for the paperback. Both vendors had different formats, so I had to create two different versions.

In both cases, the vendor provided a template and instructions about their preferences for margins and other things. When you produce your book, ask the vendor if they offer similar information. It will make life easier for you and hopefully allow you to quickly publish the book.

For design, I decided to produce the cover on my own. I think I have fair design skills, so I used Adobe InDesign to create the eBook cover. The knife and tartan blanket are mine. I took the photo on my sofa. I then loaded it into InDesign and did a little work to produce the final image, which I uploaded to Amazon.

The current cover on the paperback was a template available on CreateSpace. I used the previously-mentioned photo and tweaked it a bit for the paperback.

Now, how do I really feel about doing all that work myself? Well, here’s a succinct answer: it sucked! It felt like torture. After spending so much time writing the book, I just wanted to publish it. It was agony to spend endless hours on the format, to submit and resubmit the work again and again. Ugh! Torture!

The cover design was somewhat fun. I enjoy photography and design. I just didn’t like flipping through templates and trying to find “the one.” And, let me say – I am not satisfied with the template for the paperback. There is a major flaw on the spine of the book that annoys me every time I look at it. I will fix it one day, just not now. The memories of that tortuous process are too fresh.

So, why did I do all the work myself? Again, another succinct answer: money. I did not want to sink a lot of money into a book that might not sell a single copy. I am careful with my spending. I could not justify it.

What are my plans for the sequel? I will probably hire someone to do the formatting for me. I feel more confident that the sequel will sell enough copies to justify the cost. With the first book, I devoted entirely too much time on something that did not fulfill me. I could have used those hours to work on the sequel! The trick will be to find the right person at the right price. I am sure you’ll hear all about it on the blog.

For the design, I am still on the fence. I enjoyed working on the process. I could hire someone to create the cover art for me, though I already have the picture in mind. We will see. For me, I see more value in paying someone to format the darn book.

I have said it a million times. You must set a budget for publishing your book, or you will needlessly spend thousands of dollars. Self-publishing is supposed to be fun. It is okay to hire people to handle the aspects you find boring or beyond your technical abilities. Just be prepared to pay for it.



Budgets: Editing

As I work on the sequel, Through the Mist: Reunion, I am already thinking about marketing the book. The first book was a real eye opener about all the extra work required in self publishing. I thought writing the book was the hard part. Oh, no, the business side is even more difficult.

Writing is such a creative process. I found it a bit difficult to switch off the creative side of the brain and turn on the business part when the time came. I would like to avoid the same mistakes when the sequel is released.

I have talked in the past about the importance of setting a budget. I do not consider myself an expert on the topic, but I can offer some insight into the kinds of things that weigh on my mind right now. For the next three weeks, let’s explore three items that should be considered for your budget: editing; formatting and design; and advertising.

Once the book is complete, you might ask yourself whether or not you should use professional editing services. A person can edit your book for everything from grammatical errors to story problems. It is up to you how far you want that person to go. More importantly, how much are willing to spend for the service?

In my case, I paid $100 to have the first 25,000 words of my book reviewed for content only. I am so glad that I did. She identified a major problem with the opening and suggested a different approach to the prologue. As a result, I completely rewrote the prologue and scraped the first eight chapters of the book. In my opinion, the end result is better than the original.

The Internet is filled with people who offer editing services. Do your research carefully. How many books has this person edited? Have you read any of those books? Exactly what services are offered for the fee you will pay? How quickly will the person return the edited work? Do they provide a contract stating that your work is your own? This last question is important. You don’t want someone to steal your idea!

So, what are my plans? Honestly, I am still undecided. I read the first book, Through the Mist: Restoration, and found a few typos. If I had hired an editor, I would like to think that he or she would have found those mistakes. I plan to follow my own advice and see what’s available and how much it costs. Check this blog. I am sure I will write about it when I make the decision.

I plan to devote some amount of my budget to editing. After all, loads of grammatical errors or a sluggish story will disgust readers. I want people to read my book and feel happy, not angry at the mistakes! Consider adopting the same strategy when you publish your first book. Keep writing



Book or Blog?

This week, I had a choice. Work on the blog...or work on the book?

As you can probably guess, I chose the book. I am in the thick of the last section. Our cast is back at Castle Fion. Far from being a wrap up, more action takes place there. With luck, I will pull all the pieces together.

Stay tuned!



Is it a Hobby? Or, Is It a Business?

We are fortunate to live in an age when you are no longer dependent upon a publishing house to fall in love with your manuscript and publish it. You can use a myriad of online resources to publish your book, in eBook and/or paperback format. It can be an incredibly daunting experience. It is important to decide upfront if the project is a hobby or a business. The answer to the question will lead you down two entirely different paths.

A hobby is something that you do at a leisurely pace. You are not specifically seeking profit. If you do make a little money, that’s great; it just isn’t your goal. You might spend some money to participate in this activity. Depending upon the hobby, you might spend a little – or a lot. Still, it is discretionary spending. If you must decide between your hobby and feeding your family, you would give up the hobby.

A business, on the other hand, requires time, money, and energy. Your goal is profit. You devote hours to create and market a product. You make the investment because you want this endeavor to be a success.

Now, some would say that you can have both when it comes to writing. If that is your passion, yes, in theory. The old adage “find something you love, and you will never work a day in your life” is a wonderful concept. How many people do you know who have actually achieved that goal? Not many.

The brutal truth is that, while you can self publish your own work, you must decide how you will treat the task. There are literally millions of books out there. I compare publishing my first book to casting a pebble in the ocean. I always came to my original question: is it a business or a hobby?

When I published Through the Mist: Restoration, I quickly realized all the work was on me. I didn't have a publishing team behind me that would market the book, schedule interviews, create advertisements, maintain social media outlets, et cetera. I had to decide how much work I was willing to do.

The process was filled with a lot of uncertainty. Through the Mist: Restoration was my first book. I had no idea if it was good or if anyone would even buy it. I did not want to invest a lot of time or money into the “business” side of things. After all, my main purpose was to finally write a book.

I have not sold millions of copies. I haven’t even cracked 10,000 yet. It is a tremendous success to me because I have sold thousands of copies, something I never imagined would happen. I am amazed that even one person bought the book!

I have spent some money to create a website and buy books for research. I devote time to posting to my website and Facebook in addition to the hours spent writing the sequel. I have not spent any money on advertising , though. I have not contacted various parties to write reviews for the book or sought other means of promotion.

Why? Because I am still learning! I am trying to sort out what I did right, and what I could have done differently. I am researching the various outlets for promotion. In short, I am learning the business side of the endeavor. It turns out that writing the book was the easiest part.

So, what is the takeaway from this rambling blog post? If you are a writer who wants to self publish, I suggest you take a hard look at it. You can spend a ton of money and get no results. You should prepare yourself for that possibility. Then, decide how you want to approach this. If it is a hobby, don’t sink thousands of dollars into it unless you can lose that money.

If it is a business, research, research, research. Most of us do not have a marketing background, a wealth of industry contacts, and unlimited funds. Design a plan. Figure out how much time and money will be needed to execute that plan. Then, be prepared for a long road. If you are very lucky, the plan will work brilliantly and quickly. Do not get discouraged, though, if it takes time to gain traction. Remember, your book is one of literally millions out there.

Before I end this post, I do want to mention one thing I did right. I became a Goodreads author. It was free and easy. My sales jumped after I did that. I don’t understand why but am so glad!

Good luck to everyone out there. Remember, writing is meant to be fun!



Based on a True Story?

Were any of the characters in Through the Mist: Restoration based on real people? Well, not exactly.

The villain, Richard MacDonald, was based on the spirit of someone I know. The character does not bear a strong physical resemblance, but his attitude  is very similar to this particular person’s personality (or lack thereof).

His sister Cairen embodies the spirit of two people I have encountered in the last several years. They were as deceitful as she is. It was fun to write the character with those women in mind.

One character is solidly based on reality: the little white dog in the stable. My dog has missed quite a few belly rubs and had more than a few walkies delayed because of my writing. She deserved a mention in the book. She may pop up again in the sequel – you never know!

When she was surrendered to a nearby shelter, she had baggage: her two puppies. They had been adopted, leaving my sweet G at the shelter. She is the sweetest dog who has brought so much joy into our lives. She is feisty, intelligent, and fun.

Speaking of fun, I must mention the horse, Angel. The real Angel was not a horse. She was our next door neighbors’ dog, who appeared one night outside their house. She was a small white puppy, soaking wet and cold.

She annoyed my dog with her constant desire to play. She always wanted to lick G’s eyebrows and whiskers. Every morning, she would sneak up to our house and wait outside the basement door. She knew when G took her morning walkie and wanted to join us. When she died unexpectedly last April, she left a huge void. For months afterward, G would climb the steps at the neighbors’ house and look for Angel.

Writing has given me the opportunity to have a good laugh while I satirized people I hate. On a far more positive note, I have also enjoyed capturing the sweetness of two wonderful dogs. I hope you have fun on this journey with me.



Puttin' on Airs

Whenever someone pretends to be someone they are not, we call it “puttin’ on airs.” Writing fiction is a form of that expression. After all, I do not live in the early 1800s and certainly do not have a fancy castle. Still, I wanted to avoid going too far with the pretense.

I have read several works where the author was very particular about language and its correct use. For example, a novel set in Scotland might use Gaelic words or expressions particular to the dialect of a region. If an author can pull it off, great for him or her! When it is done well, it adds richness to the story. However, when it is poorly executed, it stops the story in its tracks and leaves the reader confused, angry, and/or disgusted.

Unfortunately, I do not have a team of scholars and editors who can assist me in proper usage. I did not want to take the chance of ruining the story. In my work, I do not attempt it unless I know with absolute certainty I am correctly using a word or phrase. As a result, my use of Gaelic is very careful and deliberate in my books.

I do have bits of Gaelic that have special meaning to the story. In the prologue, the chieftain’s name is Ailig. I stumbled upon a name translation that said it was Gaelic for “Alex” or “Alec.” I thought that would be a nice tie-in for another important character in the book. I won’t spoil the story and say who.

Another bit is the name of the valley where the village in the prologue and, eventually, the inn are located. I toyed with different words and phrases. They all danced closely to Outlander, though. I wanted something unique. While flipping through a Gaelic dictionary, I found a few words and cobbled together this name: Gleann A’bunadh. The word “gleann” is obvious; it means glen or valley. “A’bunadh” can mean “of the origin,” “from the origin,” or “original.” When you read the book, I hope you see the meaning there as well.

The final two pieces of Gaelic are a personal joke. The town is named Deoch, and the castle is Fion. According to my handy dandy English to Gaelic dictionary, Deoch means “drink.” Fion means “wine.” I giggle a little when I write those names.

I am sure a Gaelic scholar will be quick to correct me if I have incorrectly used any terms. Please do! I need all the help I can get!



The Damnable Misery of It All

Like me, you have probably heard a variation of the expression, “Do what you love, and you will never work a day in your life.” I have always scoffed because wouldn’t we all make that choice? Unfortunately, reality dictates that we have bills to pay and must choose jobs that (hopefully) make ends meet.

For a couple of days this week, I finally understood what that expression meant – and that’s the damnable misery of it all. I attended a seminar about business writing. While the topic may have been geared toward business, the subject matter was writing. I felt invigorated and inspired. I had an opportunity to create, to learn. It was wonderful.

And then I returned to work on Thursday.

It is disappointing to finally know what it is you should be doing with your life and not be able to do it. I am not whining. This is an acknowledgement. I know there are people right now who are in this situation and will likely always be in it. They are talented. They are smart. They just did not win life’s lottery. So, they will spend their days emptying your garbage, cleaning your office, preparing your tax return, teaching your children, et cetera.

I try not to be so melancholy in my blog posts. It’s just tough sometimes. What do we do?

Well, we write a blog post at 1:30 a.m. because we cannot sleep. We pick up a pen and work on the story that will not leave the brain. We raise a paint brush and put paint to canvas. We create for our own sake.

We keep pushing forward because we have no other choice. On your death bed, do you want to regret that you never wrote that story or painted that picture? Who cares if no one else in the world ever reads it? Who cares if you are not published? Sometimes, all we have are the few moments where no one dictates to us. We control this little world in our imaginations.

I may be depressed about my job or other things in life. I refuse to let anyone take away my imagination. It’s free, and it’s all I have. It’s all you have too. Keep writing. 



Budgeting: Your Time

Sadly, I do not make enough money (fingers crossed, yet) to make a living from writing. It is a wonderful dream to have. We live in the real world, though, and need day jobs.

Juggling life’s responsibilities with your desire to write is a daunting task. You will fail miserably from time to time. Give yourself a break. No one is perfect.

I admit that budgeting time is challenging. When I come home from work, I am tired. I have the usual tasks to do –take G. for a walk, make dinner, do laundry, whatever. By the time I have a moment for me, it is almost time for bed. How am I supposed to write? I don’t have all the answers but can offer my three best tips:

Casseroles are your friend. When I get “in the writing zone,” I don’t like to stop. If I can whip up a casserole, toss something into the slow cooker, or defrost a dish from the freezer, I am a happy girl. Google “make ahead” recipes. Or, better yet, support another writer by purchasing a cookbook about slow cooker recipes. Fix a healthy dish rather than zap a frozen dinner. You need nutritious meals to feed that imagination!

Carry a notebook. You never know when you might have an idea or need to jot down a few pieces of dialogue for a scene. You can buy an inexpensive wire-ringed notebook or a nice journal. I used a cheap notebook for the first book. I bought a pretty purple journal for the second one. It made me feel like a “real writer.”

Schedule time to write. We schedule everything else in our lives. Why shouldn’t we set aside some time for writing too? You don’t need copious amounts of time – five minutes a day is better than nothing! At some point, though, you will need to set aside a chunk of time if you want to make real progress. Start the habit of creating time, though; otherwise, it will never happen.

Remember what’s important. I love writing. It gives me an opportunity to finally do something I have always wanted to do. Still, when I am on my death bed, which will I lament more – that I did not finish writing one last scene or that I did not spend another moment with a loved one? I have lost too many loved ones (furry and human) over the last several years. I try to find balance between writing and living. Yes, it is hard. Very, very hard.

Just like everything in life, you will struggle with time management. There are not enough hours in the day to accomplish everything. You will do a great job one day, only to fail epically the next. I know those words are not encouraging! I would rather be brutally honest, though. Give yourself a break and do the best you can. Above all, remember that you must try to carve out a little “me” time, even if it is just five minutes. You are too important not to give yourself that gift.