Gathering my Thoughts

When a new year comes around and I’m starting a new book, it just feels right. My desk is clean. Something I do the end of every year is make sure my desk is tidy and ready for the coming year. (I also do it between each book/project) It wipes away what I had been working on and makes a clean slate for the next project.

This first project of the year is book 9 in the Gabriel Hawke series. I enjoy writing these books. They are set, mostly, where I grew up and have a unique character who I feel I can tap into better than my female protagonists. I don’t know why, but Hawke flows from me without doubts or self recriminations that the character isn’t this or that.

This book will push me and my character. He and his significant other are going to be pushed to their limits trying to help a wounded person and survive a blizzard in the Wallowa Mountains. I have my research books stacked up and have started reading them. I have even ran some tests in our snow to see what blood looks like when it first drips onto the snow. I took photos and studied the spot for about four days, until our snow melted. I know what my character will see or be on the look out for when they follow the sparse drops of blood from the bleeding person who left a dead body behind.

Blood experiment

Several of the scenes have played over in my mind since I came up with the premise of this book. I have sat down and discovered who the person they are following is and who the dead person was. I wrote out the chain of ideas for scenes. Once I do some more research on snow conditions and animals that would be accessible for food or to follow to stay warm, I’ll start writing the book this week.

While some people don’t like to have a “road map” or outline to follow when they write, I’ve found, after the last Spotted Pony Casino Mystery that I “mapped out” that it helped me to know my story better when I started and while I didn’t stick to the road or route I’d mapped, I felt I had a stronger book throughout because I knew a bit more about my characters and who I wanted to highlight as possible suspects.

As yet, I don’t have a title for book #9 in the Hawke books. I’m waiting to see what animal makes sense that is out in the winter and would work for the premise of the book. I’m a writer that either has the titles before I start the book or I come across it as I’m writing. It looks like it will be the latter this time.

If you have any thoughts on a winter animal put it in the comments and I’ll look up its habits to see if it might work.

At the moment I have Churlish Badger being made into an audiobook as well as the Shandra Higheagle Mystery book, Homicide Hideaway. But what you really need to know is through the month of January, if you like audiobooks, Book 1 in the Shandra Higheagle Mystery series, Double Duplicity is $1.99 at Authors Direct.

If you don’t have the app it’s easy to download and free. This audiobook resource gives me and the other authors using it more royalties than the other audiobook vendors. (and my books are priced lower here.)

Ideas Knocking at My Creative Self

There are times, like now, when I wish my creative self would take a vacation. However, I also don’t really want all of my creative self to go away. After all, I need that part of my brain to help me write books.

It’s the part of my brain that comes up with story ideas that could take a rest. While going through the final edits on my newly released Gabriel Hawke book, Churlish Badger, I came up with the premise for the next two books in that series. Which is awesome because that means I will have two more books in that series. 😉 The bad part is I’m so excited about them, it’s hard to concentrate on the Spotted Pony Casino book, House Edge, I’m writing now. Sigh.

I can never seem to write as fast as my ideas hit. An idea can come out of nowhere in seconds, but a book takes a good month to prepare and research, then another three (without interruptions) to write. That means, I have about two more months of finishing House Edge, to do the research for the next Hawke book and start writing it in February, if all goes as planned.

When it is written, then I’ll start on book 3 in the Spotted Pony Casino Mysteries, Double Down, which I started the premise for it in House Edge, which made me want to start on that book…. Yes, it is a never ending cycle for me. I get excited about the next book in a series, then have to wait to write it because, (oh, now why did I decided to write two series at once?) I have to write the next book in the other series.

I’m sure there are other writers out there nodding their heads. Yes, we understand, there are those of us who can’t work on one series at a time. Heaven forbid, we should get bored of that series and not want to write the next book. So we juggle, two, or three, or more series at once to keep the monotony of writing about the same characters all the time from becoming tedious.

As Churlish Badger publishes and House Edge is being written, I have three more books churning in the back of my mind. This is how I have spent most of my writing career. Always writing with two to three books on the back screen of my brain, fading in and out, as I dissect the new characters, plot, and setting. And I do the research for the next book while I’m writing another. If only I could plug into my brain and have it all pour out onto a computer screen.

Churlish Badger

Book 8 in the Gabriel Hawke Novels

An abandoned vehicle…

A missing man…

Oregon State Trooper Gabriel Hawke discovers an abandoned vehicle at a trailhead while checking hunters.

The owner of the vehicle never arrived at his destination. As Hawke follows leads, he learns the man was in the process of selling his farm over the objections of his wife who said he would only sell over her dead body.

Continuing to dig for clues, Hawke turns up two bodies buried on the farm. Who killed the two and why keeps Hawke circling for answers, backing the killer into a corner.

Buy link:  https://books2read.com/u/mZZx2l

Not Just a Pretty Face

I’ve been taking online workshops through the International Thrillerfest Online school. While a couple of topics are ones I’ve attended workshops on before, each presenter has their own unique spin they bring to it. Which means, I have picked up a few new tricks and things to try.

The first one was a workshop by Adam Hamdy on Pacing. While I had learned about most of what he talked about before, it was his discussion on how he went from a pantser (someone who just starts writing with no idea where they are headed) to someone who does plot out the book in a basic way. Not an outline or thorough scene by scene . He writes the tag line then expands that a bit, then expands that a bit more, until he has 5-7 lines for each chapter with the action or external plot of the story and maybe some of the internal plot that will play out.

I decided to try this for the latest book I’m working on. I’ve always known my beginning, a couple of plot points in the middle, and my end, but when he said by taking the time to do this step speeded up his writing process, I thought it was worth a try. And the last book I had so many interruptions, I’d repeated myself in several places- which was discovered by a beta reader.

It took me two days to discover what my book was about, write up my suspect list, and write the 5-7 sentences per chapter. This is just the investigation, or external plot, that will be brought up in each chapter. After starting the book, I added in a new secondary character who will help add more dimensions to my main character and also add more internal conflict in House Edge, book 2 in the Spotted Pony Casino Mysteries.

And you were wondering where the title of this post came from… A bonus workshop we received dealt with what mystery/suspense/thriller readers look for in a book cover. I found the information insightful. So much so, I sent an email to my cover designer to redesign the first three covers in the Spotted Pony Casino Mystery series. I have Poker Face published and available to the public but it is the first book. I decided it was best to get it and the next two I’d had made to get a consistency in the series from the beginning.

Here are the books I had made before the workshop:

These aren’t bad and convey a bit of the story. However, the survey taken by a marketing firm who works with all the big publishers and some of the larger writing organizations said that mystery/suspense/thriller readers don’t care if the image on the cover is anything like what’s in the book. They read the title first. They want a title that catches their imagination and is a play on words. Check- my titles do that. They don’t like people/faces on the books. They don’t mind shadowy figures and prefer covers that look like a puzzle. They want to see creepy, mysterious, or action depicted on the covers. And they prefer a description of the type of book: Mystery, Thriller, True Crime, Action Adventure, Suspense not A Novel.

And these are the new covers:

Simpler images, in-the-face title, and the word Mystery is easier to see than in the logo that sweetened the look of the books. These covers also leave more to the imagination.

I’m glad I had this workshop now and not a year from now when the fourth book would be coming out.

And I’m thankful I went with simple covers on the Gabriel Hawke books and I have a play on words for the titles.

It might be just a book cover, but it is the face of the book I want to draw readers into. So while pretty is nice, I want a cover that exudes mystery, intrigue, and a reader can’t pass without at least taking a peek inside.

What do you think of the change of cover?

I think your character is getting old and senile.

That is what my oldest daughter, one of my beta readers, said to me while reading my latest draft of the next Gabriel Hawke book. I laughed and asked why. She mentioned two things that were not my character’s fault. They were mine. So it is the writer and creator of Gabriel Hawke who is getting senile! LOL

Actually, this last manuscript, I found myself having to reread the last two or three chapters every time I sat down to write because I would have days in between being able to write. I lost the flow of the story and the events. Even though I also write about three or four chapters and then go back and on a notepad write down all the significant events that have to do with the murder or investigation they are doing.

I also have a calendar white board that I put small sticky notes on each day with the significant information that is discovered that day. It helps me keep track of the length of time the book plays out over and what forensics information could be coming in.

With all of these “cover my backside” in place, I still repeated things and had my character saying things that he’d already said. Yikes!

Now I know why I didn’t pursue my writing career until my kids were older. Right now we have our oldest granddaughter living with us. We have been attending her volleyball games and I’ve been taking days to go trail riding with other grandkids. I’m spending time with family and my writing is suffering. But I would rather have that than my family suffering.

While the Hawke book is off with my beta readers, I started fleshing out the next Spotted Pony Casino Mystery book. I did something I have never done. I made a 5 page outline of sorts. I wrote five or less sentences for each chapter pushing the plot of the story along. I didn’t add in any emotional or sub plots, but I’m hoping those will come naturally as I write and the outline will keep my story flowing without repeating and backtracking. Because until this granddaughter graduates in May, I will be busy with her and her school functions as well as having fun with the grandkids down the road.

If you are a writer, do you plot or do an outline before you start a book? Have you ever discovered at the end that you had repeated information?

Readers, have you ever read a book that repeated information or made the main character seem lost?

The Illusive Word

Early on in my writing, I would have times when I’d be writing along and…nothing. I knew what I wanted to say but I couldn’t find the word I wanted. That was before I was writing on a computer. I would pull out my dictionary and look up a word similar to what I wanted. And hopefully by process of elimination, the right word would reveal itself.

After attending my first RWA (Romance Writers of America) conference, I learned that every writer needs a dictionary( which I had), a thesaurus, The Chicago Manual of Style, and the book Goals, Motivation, and Conflict by Debra Dixon. I went home and found those books at my local bookstore and they have been on my shelf. I even purchased a newer version of The Chicago Manual of Style this year.

my shelf of reference books

As you can tell by the ratty cover on the thesaurus, I have used it a lot. Even when I look up a word through Word Docs, I will end up going to the book. I sort through word after word, until I come up with the one that makes the sentence show what I want.

My falling apart thesaurus

There are days it feels like I stop my momentum more than I write. On those days my brain doesn’t spit out the words I want and I hunt and hunt. Then there are days I don’t touch any of the books as my fingers fly over the keys moving my story along with the precise words I need to convey the scene.

I know I will be going back and editing the story and could just put in what I want to say in parenthesis and move on. But my brain won’t let me. I have to have the exact word or I can’t move on with the story. Although there have been a couple of times when the right word couldn’t be conjured up with all my reference books. Then I do put down what I want to say in parenthesis and come back to it when I do the edits, hoping the brain is more engaged that day.

I think the need to have the “perfect” word is a curse to writers. I’m sure I’m not the only one who can use up writing time hunting down the illusive word that is on the tip of my fingers but can’t quite manifest in my mind.

For me, this is a second behind editing as the hardest and most dreaded part of writing for me. How about other writers? Do you also struggle at times to find the right word? Readers, have you ever read something and thought, “this word would have been a better choice?”