#Ryder’s Journal–Saturday August 6, 2011

I’ve been thinking of how I can manage to blog something everyday and finally came up with a solution. Starting tonight, my plan is to make an entry to my journa every day. The theme of this journal is the dilemma that authors face after we are published. Our job doubles. Now we have to write and we have to promote. 

So for tonight I’m just going to say that on Saturday, I don’t do either. At least not until sundown, when the Sabbath ends. I want these entries to be short enough so that you don’t mind visiting everyday and seeing what it’s like to face both challenges at the same time.

Since I’m working on a #trilogy, and the #first book came out in June of this year, readers will expect the second book next year. The problem is that it took me years to write the first one. Granted, I learned a lot in that process, but that doesn’t make the writing easier. And now I have to #promote book one while I’m writing book two. This is a bit overwhelming.

I used to be able to multi-task, but no more. My mind can only concentrate on one thing at a time. Tonight, I plan to work on the #plot of book two, which for me is a challenge in itself, since plotting is not my strong suit. Since bookstores and newspaper offices are generally closed on the weekend, I can only do #promotion online tomorrow. Or I could write. Whoa is me! What to do. What to do.

Come back tomorrow and see how it goes.

Trey and Georgia at Breakfast–Backstory for Ultimate Justice A Trey Fontaine Mystery

I thought I’d share this scene which was cut from the final draft of Ultimate Justice A Trey Fontaine Mystery. This scene shows the relationship between Trey Fontaine and his mother Georgia. I hope you enjoy it.

Trey changed into loose-fitting black jeans and a black tee-shirt, pulled his boots back on and headed out the door. He’d promised to meet his mom at her house. Looking at his watch, he was pretty sure of what she had in mind.
As he drove, he considered what might have happened to Samantha Warren. Assuming she ran a legitimate business and hadn’t done anything wrong, she might have learned of her daughter’s disappearance and decided to come looking for her. Or she might have met Prince Charming and decided never to return to her life as it had been.
He pulled up the long dirt drive to the front of the house and turned off the engine but didn’t move, his mind still working on the possible fate of the missing girls.
Trey looked at his mother’s home, the one she’d bought a few years ago. The perfectly groomed yard and white siding with black wood trim. That was the way he liked things. Black and white. And that was why he didn’t look forward to this visit. The only thing about Georgia Fontaine that was black and white was the outside of her home.
Trey’s mom was not the ordinary cop’s widow. She’d never re-married and he’d never even seen her with another man. As far as Trey knew, she’d never worked outside the home and for as long as he could remember, there had been a woman who came three times a week to keep the house in order.
Trey had called her Tuesday and told her he was in town on a case.
He found the door key on his ring and started to slip it into the knob. What if she’s not alone? The thought slowed him, but didn’t stop him. Whatever he found inside, he would deal with. He always had.
To his surprise, what he found was his mother standing at the sink, smoking a cigarette and gazing out the window. She wore a shiny bright blue tank top with thin straps over the shoulders and a close-fitting creme skirt that hit just above the knee. Her almost platinum hair was  short style, with every hair in place.  Made up to perfection. That was Mom.
“Well, it’s about time you got here. I’m starved,” she said, turning on the facet, dousing her cigarette. “Are you ready for some lunch?”
He knew what that meant. Crawdads. She slipped her feet into gold lame sandals with rhinestone-covered straps and wound her arm through his.
Georgia drove her red 57 T-Bird convertible to Willie’s Crab Shack. Trey smelled the crawfish before they reached the parking lot. His mom left the windows down and the car unlocked and they walked arm-in-arm to the dining room, the screen door slamming behind them as they entered.
There was nothing like Willie’s. Hardwood floors painted dark brown. Trey pulled out a mis-matched chair for his mom. He looked through the screen walls at the river, the water flowing gently toward the gulf.
Ceiling fans circling lazily overhead. Condiments consisting of Louisiana Hot Sauce, Reuben Peppers and Wasabi.
“Miller Lite,” his mother said.
“Hey, you’re driving,” Trey complained.
His mother unhooked the long decorative key chain from her belt loop and tossed it to him.
“Iced tea for me.” Crawfish and iced tea. Oh, well.
The waitress placed the bottle of beer, the mason jar of tea and two bowls of clarified butter on the plastic red and white checkered tablecloth. She returned with two bibs, two hand towels and a plastic tarp covered with boiled crawfish.
Both of them dug in, twisting and separating the tail from the head. Trey peeled the shell off in a circular motion to get to the sweet meat. Hot, tender and delicious. Then he pinched the tail, pulling the meat from it and discarding the shells on one side of the table. Juice ran down his arms to his elbows and puddled on the checkered plastic. His mother matched his efforts.
Despite the comfort of being back at Willie’s, he couldn’t keep his mind from returning to the missing girls. If he didn’t find something soon, this project would go back on the shelf. Not one shred of evidence had turned up to indicate foul play. Which probably meant there was nothing to find.
His mom wiped her face and took a long pull of beer, then grabbed another crawfish and repeated the shelling procedure. The beer made his mouth water but not enough to drink and drive. He swigged his tea and dug into the pile.
Shifting in his seat caused pain to shoot in all directions, but his mom didn’t know about his being wounded and he intended to keep it that way so he masked his moan of pain with closed eyes and noisy chewing. Even as good as Willie’s mudbugs were, they didn’t make him forget the sting.
Now that he’d spent some time with his mom, he could leave town without guilt and go back to New Orleans. A few more days of searching for the first piece of evidence in a possible case. With each new bit of information, Trey felt more sure there was really nothing to investigate. This assignment was a compromise to allow him to be on duty and not sit at a desk. It was the only way he could return to work.
Was there a killer on the loose, abducting young women, making them disappear? Or had Trey been sent on the proverbial wild goose chase to re-direct his energies and get his mind off the old case that occasionally tore open his soul?

My Favorite #Reference Books

This is the third blog of the Rolling Mystery Writer’s Blog Tours roll for Wednesday. The two blogs on this roll before mine were Nancy Lauzon’s and Katherine Wagner’s. If  you haven’t yet visited their blogs, the addresses are below, along with the other blogs featured today on the subject of Reference Books. 

And now, on to my article:

I have a lot of reference books, and I plan to list most of them at the bottom of this article. But I do have a few that I depend on for every novel I write.

First, I have an unabridged dictionary, a thesaurus, Allen’s Synonyms and Antonyms, The Elements of Style by Strunk and White, and Body Language by Fast. I don’t use these every day, but I know I have them, and they are vital on those days when my brain doesn’t function well. I think every writer needs these basic reference books.

Then there are my absolute must have favorites:

1. The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler.  I’m not a good plotter. But this book helps me to create a very nebulous skeleton of a plot. Others take more from it, and learn to plot according to mythic structure.  In addition, it has some great descriptions of mythic character types that help me shape my characters into believeable people. It has great examples, including the break down of several classic films/books to show exactly how the mythic journey works.

2. 45 Master Characters, Mythic Models for Creating Original Characters by Victoria Lynn Schmidt. To really round out those characters of mine, I use this book as well. It explains the mythic models, and adds supporting character types, gives examples of what those characters look like by use of book, TV and movie characters, and shows how characters change, according to their type.

3. The Writer’s Digest Character-Naming Sourcebook by Kenyon, with Blythe and Sweet. A character’s name is important. Both the given name and the family name. They speak to the character’s history and age, and sometimes personality. This book is indespensible.

4.Writing The Breakout Novel by Donald Maass. This books helps me take all the information I’ve gathered from the previous three, and create a strong plot and believeable, three dimensional characters. It discusses areas where the writing profession has grown and changed, allowing writers a freer hand in the creation of novels that used to be considered too complicated or out of the acceptable norm for publishers. It teaches advanced plot structures. Can’t do without this one.

5. The Power of Point of View, Make Your Story Come to Life by Alicia Rasley. This book helps me decide who’s pov to write in and what type of pov to use. It’s great for those who want to deepen the experience of the reader, to help the reader really get into the mind of your characters.

6. Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, How to edit yourself into print by Renni Browne and Dave King. Once I have that first draft done, this book helps me edit thoroughly. It reminds me of all those things that are so important to the polish and preparation of a manuscript.

These six books sit in a basket beside my desk, within arms length along with a few specialty books on language and mystery writing, which I will list below. The  basket also holds a few gold nuggets, primarily in the form of notes from classes I’ve taken from some of the best writers and teachers I’ve ever known.

Here is an additional list of books that help me on occasion, especially if I’m having issues I can’t solve:

  • The Plot Thickens, 8 Ways To bring Fiction To Life by Noah Lukeman
  • Novelist’s Essential Guide to Crafting Scenes by Raymond Obstfeld
  • Conflict, Action & Suspense by William Noble
  • The Crime Writer’s Reference Guide, 1001 Tips for Writing the Perfect Murder by Martin Roth
  • Cajun Vernacular English: Informal English in French Louisiana by Louisiana English Journal Special Issue 1992
  • Writing Mysteries, A Handbook by the Mystery Writers of America

There are writers out there with MFA’s and others with perfect memories, and some that just seem to have so much talent they don’t need guidence. I don’t fit into any of those catagories. I’m, for the most part, self taught when it comes to writing. The simple art of putting sentences together has always come easy to me. Storytelling is one of my natural abilities. But novel writing is a whole other animal that requires a lot more than what I have naturally, or as a result of education. I’ve found that I need a lot of help, and I’ve found that help in the books listed here.

Below is a list of the participants in today’s blog roll, which ends with John Hines. His blog not only has a great article on this subject, but also a plethera of articles, ideas and opinions. Please stop by and check it out. For information on previous blog rolls, see the other articles on this site dated July, 2011 and newer.

Nancy Lauzon–www.chickdickmysteries.com
Katherine Wagner–northernlightsgothic.com/blog
Ryder Islington–www.ryderislington.wordpress.com
John Hines–www.johnhines.com

Claim Your Village

You know the old adage: It takes a village to raise a child. Well it also takes a village to develop a writer. We may work in a field that requires solitude, but the truth is, we could never get a book written, revised, submitted, and published without some help.

Our families may or not be of help. We certainly need them, but sometimes the ones we love the most don’t understand our need to write. Most of us have a friend or two who support our desire and dreams, but we need more.

I added to my village by finding people online who appreciate what I do. I’m a member of a couple of yahoo groups. I joined She Writes and Writing.com, and took some classes where I met likeminded people whom I stayed in touch with.

Without people who are willing to critique our work, people who give us a pat on the back when we do good, and help us make our writing better when it’s just not what we want it to be yet, this job becomes almost impossible.

I’ve been fortunate to find a publisher and editor who are both professionals, well educated and experienced in the area of book editing and publishing. And they have taught me as much if not more than all the books and classes put together. And then there are the websites like Savvy Author and The Editor Devil, where I can not only learn how to hone my craft, but also can find others who are in the same boat.

I guess the point of writing this article is to encourage every writer to make friends with those who are like us, who understand us, and then don’t be afraid to ask for help.  Every writer needs to know and associate with writers, agents, editors, publishers, booksellers, readers and fans. No matter what level you are at as a writer, you need to spend a few minutes a day talking with others who understand what you’re trying to do, and how you feel. There are thousands of people out there who are willing to help you, or any writer who needs help. And in the long run, these are the people who will be your best supporters for success.

If you’re shy, or think it’s too overwhelming to get involved with Facebook or online groups, leave comments at blogs and websites. And by all means see if you can join a group or create a group in the town where you live. Put up a flyer at the library. Check out the high school and offer to help a young writer, or a group of them. There are ways to meet people who will be an asset to you, and people who need a little help in this endeavor we call solitary. So, don’t try to do it alone.  Claim your village, and then make sure to become a village member for someone else.

Revisions Are Finished But The End Is Nowhere In Sight

I remember clearly when I wrote THE END on the Ultimate Justice manuscript. And then there were a couple dozen revisions as I learned more about writing, and added layers of depth to characters and filled gaps in sub-plots. When it felt polished, I remember working on the synopsis and cover letter, and then the search for agents and publishers interested in the genre. And who can forget the rejection letters?

Then several editors were interested and I was giddy. The hardest part was over. I found the perfect publisher for me and my book. It was a great feeling. Finally, all that hard work would pay off. Ultimate Justice A Trey Fontaine Mystery was going to be published.

Then came working with the editor. Maybe the hardest part wasn’t over yet. But I was getting close. The revisions felt like they’d never end. But then the final revision was sent. Now, surely, I would be able to take a break.

Not so fast. The day I sent the final revision in, I was feeling pretty good. Until the next email brought a long list of things to do!  Now it’s my bio, and a headshot for the back cover. A blurb for the back cover.  Blurbs for the press kit. Ideas for a cover. A teaser for book two of the series. And I am to choose an excerpt of 500 -800 words to place on the website. Oh! And the website!

And now that I’ve written the teaser for book two, well…uh…I guess I better get crackin’ on book two!  My energy died a few weeks ago. My imagination is fried. My wrists are in braces and my back swears I cannot sit in a chair for one more minute. So, for now, I’ll go take a break. And then I’ll figure out how to start again.

Best Advice For Writers: BICHOK

Writers are always trying to improve themselves. Whether it’s the novice who nervously  asks advice, or the mid-list writer who takes a class every month, we writers know that we can’t sell our work unless it’s stellar.

I’ve taken classes, still do. And never pass up the chance to listen to successful writers, hoping for that kernel of truth that will help me be a better writer and ultimately, more successful.

Of all the the advice I’ve gained through the years, there is one thing that I’ve memorized and learned to live by. BICHOK: Butt In Chair, Hands On Keys. Writers write.

We can take classes, have meetings, talk to readers, make plans, plot, dream, do character sketches, create world. But if we are not writing, we are not writers. The best advice I ever got was to write. Don’t sit at the computer for one hour. Sit at the computer for 500 words. Even 500 sucky words will  benefit your writing. Because you can’t edit a blank page.

I’ve met some very prestigious writers over the years and loved talking with them, picking their brains, and hearing their stories. A wonderful author named Jean Walton once told me the story of a character who wouldn’t leave her alone until she wrote his book. And she also told me that writers write. An excellent critique partner named K. Sue Morgan had great stories about editors. And she never let me get away with sitting idle. Writers write. Kathryn Usher, a funny storyteller and writer once said she wrote on her lunch breaks, and even on her breaks, at work. She edited one story so much I didn’t recognize some of the scenes. She cut into it unmercifully. And told me she wanted to be successful, and that meant, writing, and re-writing.

Don’t be afraid to put words on the page. If you want to be a writer, get busy. Grab a notebook and pen, or a keyboard, and write. Write junk. If you can’t think of anything else to write, a story about your childhood will do. You have to start somewhere. Don’t be afraid.

For the most part, writers are a good lot. We’re willing to help each other. So if you need help, ask. But above all, write.

Meet Trey Fontaine, FBI Special Agent In The Upcoming Novel: ULTIMATE JUSTICE, A Trey Fontaine Mystery

While writing ULTIMATE JUSTICE, A Trey Fontaine Mystery, I pictured David Boreanez as FBI Special Agent Trey Fontaine. He is thirty-two years old, six feet tall, and has light brown eyes and dark hair.  Trey has been an agent for nine years. When he was twelve, his dad, a cop in his hometown of Raven Bayou, was killed on the job. His dad’s partner was Russell Coleman, who was featured in a previous article. Russell is Trey’s godfather. Russell has a new partner who brings back vivid memories for Trey.

Trey was a good student, a college football player, and a cop in Raven Bayou while waiting to be old enough for the Bureau. In college, he studied Linguistics and Ethnicities, so he can tell a lot about a person by their syntax, word choice, and accent, as well as being able to give an educated guess about ethnic origin.

He drives a Hummer called Streak. He has a distant relationship with his mother, who changed drastically when her husband, Trey’s dad, was killed.  He’s single, very career minded, and has no time for a long-term relationship.

At the story opens, Trey is on limited duty as a result of a gunshot wound, and playing handler to a female agent who is undercover at a local casino trying to get information on the whereabouts of several young women who have disappeared.  They are in his home town. He is strong and intelligent. I think you’ll find Trey Fontaine can be a really good guy. When he’s not being bad.