Back in the Saddle Again

As we enter quarter 3 of 2020, I’m finally getting back into the groove and picking things up where I left off before this year took a massive left turn into the scary land of Pandemicia. Before COVID-19, I was on track to launch the first three books of my debut cozy mystery series this fall and about to start launching a series of social media courses for authors.

*whistles and puts hands in pockets* Yeah, that’s not quite how quarter 2 went. On the bright side, I was able to focus on finishing my thesis (and master’s) so now I can re-focus on other goals without that on my shoulders.

Anyone else returning to some normalcy in your writing or life after the initial onslaught of the pandemic?

It feels so good to be thinking about writing and publishing again, and be able to share that with you all! I recently finished working with an amazing cover artist on my debut cover. I’ll be sure to share the cover in a future blog post and talk about the elements of cozy mystery covers.

Another good thing about the unexpected break from writing (can you tell I’m an optimist always looking for the bright side?) is that I have SUPER fresh eyes to read the current draft of my cozy. I’m sure that’s going to come in handy.

To be honest, I can’t really recall where I left off with it. It’s like life pre-COVID is still a blur. I know I was revising and working on a revision plan, but I don’t recall quite where I was going with everything. I’m going to take that as a blessing that I can now look at it with a new perspective and not be bogged down by old ideas. Hopefully the strongest ideas from before will return or I’ll get some new ones.

This week, I’ll be reading what I currently have and tackling a new revision plan. By the time my blog date rolls around for August, I’m sure I’ll have lots of exciting things to update you on with my indie publishing journey. Possibly new release dates picked out for early 2021 (because fall 2020 definitely won’t be happening at this point, haha), tales from Revision Land, maybe even talking about the process of working with a hired editor. So much goodness to come!

I’d love to hear what’s going on with you. Do you have any summer goals? Anything you’re happy to be returning to after some time away?

It’s Okay to Not be Productive Right Now

You’re probably thinking, ugh, not another COVID-19 post. 🙂 I wanted to post about something else – I really did. But, nothing came to me and that’s been indicative of writing life during quarantine.

For the first few weeks, I was working constantly. My day job is a communications person for a university and, as you can probably imagine, I was pretty darn busy. The days flew by while I operated in crisis communications mode. I was so anxious and stressed that all I could do was watch true crime shows, watch videos on TikTok (this app has been so helpful during quarantine) and do jigsaw puzzles.

Write? HA! Keep revising my debut cozy that I had planned to launch in the fall? Yeah right. Start drafting something new? Keep dreaming.

You know what? That’s okay.

We don’t need to be productive. We just need to survive a pandemic, you know?

I see so many social media posts about people beating themselves up for not accomplishing a million things during quarantine. But that’s not what we have to do. If that helps you manage your stress and anxiety, awesome! Or if trying to do a 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzle every few days helps? Do that!

Once the crisis slowed down on the work front, I was able to redirect some of my attention. I didn’t choose my books – that still wasn’t there. I’ve been working hard on finishing my master’s thesis (I should be done next month!) so I can cross that off my worry list.

I’m starting to look forward to writing again after 6+ weeks of quarantine. I’m holding off until I finish my thesis so I can pour my whole focus into revisions.

Will I still launch my debut in the fall? That’s doubtful but that’s also okay.

I’ve managed to get through the first couple of months of a global pandemic and that’s freaking awesome.

You have too and that’s freaking awesome. You’re freaking awesome.

How have you been coping with stress? I hope you’re doing well!

Launching my Journey to Indie Publishing

Last month I decided I’m going to go full in on publishing cozy mysteries and put my romance on hold for a while. I also decided I’m going to independently publish my cozies instead of pursuing traditional publishing.

You know what? As soon as I made the decision I felt relieved and lighter. I felt immediately relieved to take control of my publishing career. But it also felt weird. I’d envisioned a different path and a different genre for my career since 2005.

I think that all of my experiences led me to this point where I’m pursuing what really makes me happy right now and that’s writing happy little murder stories.

I’m going to take you all on this journey with me as I work toward launching my debut novel later this year. I’ll share decisions I’m making, challenges I encounter, tips and wins.

I decided to publish my cozies under a new pen name: Lisa Kinley. I’ve used Lisa Leoni as my romance identity for so long and I didn’t want to muddy the waters with another genre. Plus, Kinley is a Scottish name and I just loved the idea of adding another Scotland-related thing to my life 🙂

My release date isn’t settled yet, but I have a plan of attack to work toward that point. First priority is to get my debut polished as much as I can on my own. I’m in a developmental editing class and I think that’s going to help a lot. I’m also starting a self publishing course next month.

I’m planning to get several kinds of editing done so I can identify my strengths and weaknesses for future books. I’m also in the early stages of shopping for a cover artist. The prospect of working with someone to design covers for the stories in my head is so exciting!

I’m still debating launch strategies, but I’m currently leaning toward preparing the first three to launch close together then work on writing more in the series.

Getting ready to publish my books is exciting and exhilarating in so many ways. Deciding on the elements of my stories that are important to me has been fun. I want to write plus-sized protagonists and I can! I can write fat sleuths all the live long day. Also, I’ve always been entrepreneurial. I was the silly kid selling handmade bracelets in front of my parent’s house as a young kid. I should probably note that we lived on a cul-de-sac… Not a lot of traffic.

It’s also intimidating. Everything is on your shoulders and the financial start-up costs can be hefty when combining the editing and cover art. Plus, I’m responsible for my own deadlines which is going to be tough considering I’m very externally motivated.

All in all, I can’t wait to see how this year goes! It’s going to be fun to think about the progress I make as I come back each month to write in this wonderful space.

Do you indie publish? Any advice for a newbie? If you’re a cozy reader, what do you love to see on covers?

One more note (#ShamelessSelfPromo) – I’m also a social media coach for authors. I’ll be launching a class soon all about social media content strategy and helping authors figure out what to post on your accounts, how much to talk about your books, time saving tips, and more. I have an email sign-up if you want to be the first to know when it’s ready!

Real-life Brush with the Law Makes for Great Inspiration

Underside of a car

Last week was quite a week, let me tell you. On New Year’s Eve, I was working from home and my parents warned me someone was approaching. A knock at the door around 4:30pm got me to leave my computer.

I need to properly set the scene. I worked from home that day because I had dropped a desk on my foot while my dad and I were moving it the night before and I needed to keep elevating and icing it (which would have been hard to do at the day job office). I was wearing Christmas leggings covered in wrapped presents, ornaments and candy canes (reminder: this was New Year’s Eve). My hair was up in a bun, no make-up, wearing a couple of tank tops. You get the idea.

I answer the door and I see a badge.

“Are you Lisa?”

“Yes.” My mind runs a million miles a minute. Why was there a police officer at my door? Was I being sued? Is someone hurt – but who – my parents were with me.

“Is that your car?” He points to my red sedan parked on the street (so my parents could have my parking spot).

“Yes.” Then I start thinking my car must have been hit.

The DETECTIVE introduces himself and begins to ask where I’d been on Sunday night because “something had been hit and run over.”

In that moment, my mind completely blanked on what I’d done the previous few days. I told him I’d been at work the day before (Monday). I remembered running errands Friday and I told him I’d been at home all weekend.

“You didn’t leave? Not even to get groceries?” He said it with a smile and he was very nice. But that didn’t make it any less embarrassing to admit that no, I had not left my house for two days.

He then told me a man had been hit, run over, and then left there. He was in the hospital in critical condition. They had surveillance footage showing a red sedan, similar to mine. Oh, and it happened right by my house.

Spoiler: last I heard, the man is in stable condition and getting better. Yay! I’m very relieved and wish him a speedy recovery.

The detective even said, “He was wearing black at night. He would have been hard to see.”

I swear that at that moment I was questioning everything. I was a wreck. I knew I hadn’t done it, but I found myself checking to see if I still take Ambien and could I have been sleep driving (I haven’t had Ambien in years).

With all of the true crime I watch/listen to, I even found myself wondering if I was making too much eye contact, not enough, was I helpful, too helpful. Ugh.

I offered to let him check out my car and he took me up on it (as a second cop approached my front door).

I went back inside to put on shoes and a sweatshirt and tell my parents what was happening. My adrenaline was pretty well spiked at that point.

Grabbing my keys, I walked them out to my car where a THIRD cop joined us. I’m sure my neighbors had fun speculating why there were three separate police vehicles with their drivers talking to me.

The detective got on the ground and pointed his flashlight all over the place. I tried to make awkward small talk and ask how the guy was without sounding guilty. IT WAS A MINEFIELD. To even worry about sounding guilty when I hadn’t done anything wrong.

He said he didn’t see anything, but asked if I’d be willing to take my car to their shop so they could raise it and look more closely.

I mean, yeah, of course, anything to help the investigation and clear myself. I knew a good defense attorney would want to make sure the police did their due diligence in clearing all nearby cars that could be suspect.

But still, I was pretty freaked out.

The detective texted on New Year’s Day to make arrangements for me to bring my car in the day after that. The whole car checking took less than five minutes. I barely had enough time to tell him I write cozy mysteries and had some new ideas based on the whole experience.

It was a wild ride, folks. But when someone asks me where I get my ideas? Now I have a good story to share.

Also, I’ve decided to pursue indie publishing my debut cozy and I’ll be doing so as Lisa Kinsley. Super pumped! I’ll be sure to share my journey here as I prepare for my (TBD) launch.

Sick Days and Mysteries

I caught the crud over Thanksgiving and stayed home from work today. If I’m home sick, few things make me feel better than binging some mystery books, TV shows or movies.

Today, I’ve been bouncing back and forth between Investigation Discovery and Oxygen, watching lots of true crime shows. How do you like to spend a sick day? I’m enjoying some turkey noodle soup with turkey leftovers and homemade semolina egg noodles. Yummy!

I’ve also spent some time perusing cozy mysteries with various fall and winter holiday themes to add them to my wishlist. I love holiday themed books and shows. Hallmark Christmas romances? Halloween themed paranormal cozy mysteries? Yes please.

So, on this day where I’m foggy headed and being taken care of by my cats, I ask you for your recommendations. What are some holiday-themed books you’ve read or are looking forward to reading?

Here’s a picture of one of my cats *literally* cuddling me this morning. How cute is this ginger nurse?

Ginger cat with arm outstretched over human stomach, cuddled under human's arm