My book is published!

It’s been a TON of work, but the self-publishing process is a learning experience, and if you’re a jack-of-all-trades and a DIY’er like me, it’s a natural fit. I’d spent so many years incubating this book–and then actually writing it–that I didn’t want to wait years more for it to be chosen by a big five publisher, and then a few more years to go through the process and get on the market.

My paperback proof
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Mystery Writers are Always Hot

I just watched Charlaine Harris’ keynote speech “Mystery Writers are Always Hot” on Sisters in Crime Palmetto Chapter’s Mystery in the Midlands conference online, which they kindly opened up to anyone around the country to attend for free. And WOW, what an uplifting presence she is. I even got my question answered first on the chat! I asked about writing a single POV versus ensemble like the Midnight, Texas series. She also spoke of the challenges of writing with “Covid Brain.” When asked if she’s a plotter, a panster, or a flashlighter (which neither she nor I was totally certain about the definition of, although I had some idea), she said she’s definitely a panster. “When I sit down and write ‘page one, chapter one’, I have no idea what’s going to happen. Other than somebody’s gonna die. Or maybe a lot of people!” she said with a laugh.

But I think what spoke most to me was her saying “dare to take the challenge of writing the book in your heart, not the one you’ve already read.” She emphasized uniqueness as being the key factor in books she’s read that stick with her, that are memorable. If they are written to a formula, they’re forgettable.

“I think everyone wants to know who done it, why done it, or how done it.” And other than that, make it yours.

Thank you Charlaine. You’ve made me want to continue machete-ing my way through final edits on my multiple POV (one of which is a horse) why-done-it mystery paranormal suspense.

Climax and Denouement

Right now I’m running the climax scenes of October’s Fire through my critique group, the Inkwells. I have been working on this for so long that I can no longer really see what I’m doing on the page. That’s what the critique group helps with. Even before we meet, before I get any feedback on a piece, the moment I hit send on the email, I get new insight, the ability to read it with fresh eyes.

So now I’m trying to see if the post-climax chapters still make sense with the last-minute plot twist I added to the climax. And yes, it pretty much does, I just need to add a sentence or two to allude to the plot twist, and there you go. Although I don’t consider my book to be the cleverest, there are still some surprises right down to the end.

But what order do I want to reveal those? It will be over quickly, nobody wants to keep reading long after a big exciting final battle, so I just have a few very short scenes answering questions, reuniting people, and showing Fairy Glen return to (semi) normality. All in all about 5% of the book. But the order of the reveals will still matter. What have I given up by revealing things to the reader before the character knows? Is that as suspenseful as keeping it secret from the reader? I think so. I think the type of suspense I’m going for is the kind where the reader does know more than the characters, so they get worried for them.

And then of course there’s the epilogue, (which I’m not calling an epilogue), that ends on a cliffhanger for the next book in the series. Is that cheating? I hope not. How is it any different than including the first couple of chapters of the next book as a sample?

We’ll see what the Inkwells say.

Avoiding the Ick

For a long time I’ve been revising my first book in the Fairy Glen series, October’s Fire. Sometimes I’d get to the point where I was banging my head against a wall. Good advice says put it aside and start work on another project. When you’ve finished something, even if it’s not perfect, move on to the next thing.

Okay, that sounded like a good idea. And my brain was bursting with ideas for future books. I knew that November’s story would involve the women on horseback doing search and rescue for a missing girl, maybe more than one missing girl or woman.

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Beta Readers

I’ve had a few friends read my book, but I got some detailed feedback recently from a good friend who reads a lot of mysteries and read my book in less than a month. I trust her feedback because although she cares about me she has no problem being honest.

Part of the thing with beta readers is that they are kind of like shrinks–they can tell you things you knew deep down but were choosing to ignore.

During my drafting phase, I’d have to say the thing I struggled with the most was plot.

And now that I’m doing seemingly endless revisions, the plot is still my biggest bugaboo. It makes me wish I knew what I was doing when I started! But then again, if I’d waited til I knew what I was doing, I never would’ve started. Catch 22.

My critique group has been enormously helpful in this, along with my research into writing craft, and little by little the pieces fall into place.