More from the Moving Files

Liz here, with more from the moving files. 

I used to have a giant desk. I loved it, too. It was from Pottery Barn and apparently 10 or 11 years ago when I first moved to Connecticut I believed I needed a desk this large in order to fulfill my dream of becoming a “real writer.”‘

One could say it helped, although secretly I know better – most of my books have been written in my bed with the covers over my head, crying through another deadline crunch, but you’ve all heard those stories before. The point is, if I’m going to write, I’m going write with or without a ginormous desk.

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So now I have an adorable, small desk. Which I love, and I do write at it a lot. But it also meant that when I moved, I had to clean out the many drawers associated with having such a large desk, and figuring out how to shoehorn in all the things. I threw a lot of things away, but I realized something I’d only had a sneaking suspicion about before this: I’m a junkie for notebooks and writing utensils and basically any kind of office supply. And notebooks are apparently just as hard for me to get rid of as actual books.

Some things I found: An entire stash of reporter’s notebooks – unused. At some point, I’d been in a phase of “needing” those old-style, 3- or 5-subject spiral bound notebooks, so there were a few of those. Then there was the stack of legal pads, in both letter size and the smaller size – not sure where those came from.

Then there were the items from my Levenger phase – the full-sized notebook with only one or two pages filled out that I’d planned to use for those character bibles. And the smaller sized ones that I planned to carry around with me for brainstorming purposes. Then I apparently turned to Moleskin to solve all my writing problems, so I have at least three empty journal sized notebooks to help me with all that plotting I’ve been meaning to do. (As a side note, I have been using one for plotting – it even came to the Wicked Cozy retreat with me last week. Aren’t you proud?)

And then there were the pens. Good grief, all the pens. From my multi-colored ballpoint phase. My gel pen phase. My black pen phase. Lately, I’m into the Flair pens, so have those in every room. And Post-its! Of every shape and size. Since Dead Fred is my go-to post it guy lately, I had to think long and hard about what I need.

So like with the books, I had to make some decisions. There was no room for all my notebooks in my new desk, which has four small shelves. Since my days of reporting are pretty much done, I gave up my Steno pads. All the legal pads, gone. The old-school spirals – I have to confess I kept a couple brand new ones, but mostly gone. I kept my Levengers and Moleskins. And the Post-its – I do use them for my day job, so they got a reprieve. Anything journal-ish went into a special place, since I do a lot of journaling. And it eliminated the need for them at my desk.

So, another task (almost) conquered. What do you think?

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Readers, anyone else have a must-have writing tool or other desk necessity? Or just a ginormous desk? Let us know in the comments!

Pasting up a Vision

Edith here, during the busy month of May! The Saturday night activity at the recent Wicked Cozy Authors retreat was to create a vision board, so I thought I’d share how that went for me.

I’d never made a vision board, but several others among us had, and reported that they’d had success in having certain visions come to fruition. So I said, Sure! We each brought a stack of magazines to cut words and pictures out of. Liz, Jessie, and Julie brought boards, markers, glue sticks. Barb had a collection of stickers.

I wasn’t quite sure what to do, but Julie said, “Cut out what speaks to you.” Okay, I could do that. It was fun to see the wide array of magazines we each brought to the table, from self-help to mystery publications to the newspaper’s Sunday magazine to a community college catalog (admittedly on nice paper with cool graphics), and more. It was fun to sit around leafing through, cutting out, and chatting as we passed along the publications.

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Then we got out the boards, glue, and stickers and began assembling. Yes, adult beverages might have come out, too. Hey, it was Saturday night!

board assemblycropEveryone’s turned out different, of course. At the end we shared some of the details of how our visions were manifested in paper. I think mine (an in-progress version visible in this picture) came out more a statement of where I am and what I value rather than where differently I might like to aim my life, but I’m fine with that. And I included a couple of aspirations – Anthony Award, anyone?

 

Readers, have you ever created a vision board? In paper or digitally (because, of course, that’s another way to go)? Did you see direct results?

Guest: Lynn Cahoon

Edith here north of Boston, enjoying some actual May weather, finally. We have H&H jpegwritten about writers’ retreats several times on this blog, and the core Wickeds just returned from our annual Maine retreat. Let’s welcome guest Lynn Cahoon back on the blog, and hear about when she took herself on a retreat. She also has a new mystery out, Hospitality and Homicide, which sounds fabulous, and she’s giving away one e-copy to a randomly chose commenter here today!

Lynn: Thanks for having me over today! I got to meet several of the Wicked Cozys at Crime Bake last year. Such a fun event!

The Writer’s Retreat

I write a lot about writers. And readers. And bookstore owners.  People I like to hang out with as a person.  And when we hang out, we talk about setting up a magical event called a retreat. I know people who do this. (One is a Wicked.) You see posts filled with pictures of a lovely, deserted cabin on a seashore or up in the woods. Or even on top of a skyscraper in a big city.  And, if they’re doing it right, a message saying “I’ll be off line for a while.”

But I had never taken the time to do my own retreat.  My life is busy with a day job, the writing gig, a husband who likes to visit our lake property often, like every time he can. Driving somewhere to lock myself up and write? It seemed indulgent.

IMG_0660Until I went to Chicago for Printer’s Row. I had a panel and was signing afterwards. Two hours out of a weekend committed and I had a deadline the next week, but I also had a hotel room reserved in a lovely place.  I flew up on a Friday after work, ordered room service for dinner, then opened my laptop. By the time I left on Sunday, I had over 10,000 words and was ready to cross the finish line.

I loved it.

I didn’t get out much that weekend, except to the MWA booth for my event, but my mind soaked up the atmosphere of the hotel, the sidewalk café where I ate dinner, and I watched a group of friends talking and catching up which turned out to be IMG_0681part of an opening scene for the next book I had on deck to write.

By taking some time away from my desk and my computer, I filled the writer well inside me.  And the room service was delicious.  I’ve got another retreat on the books for 2018 and I’m planning time at my next convention to treat at least part of the week as a retreat. I’ve learned the magic.

In Hospitality and Homicide, we find Nathan Pike, a well-known mystery author taking his own writing retreat.  I understand Nathan Pike’s need to get away from his normal life to write his next book.  And having 24-7 access to Greg who’s the South Cove head detective would be a huge bonus, curtsey of our friend the mayor.  No one counted on Nathan writing the murder scene that happened just days after he arrives in town. And no one expected Nathan to work out the how-to details on a ride along with Greg.

Readers: Have you taken a break from real life to fill your creative well? Remember, one random commenter will win an e-copy of Hospitality and Homicide.

A visit to the serene coastal town of South Cove, California, could make anybody feel refreshed and inspired. But as Jill Gardner—owner of Coffee, Books, and More—discovers, some folks won’t live to tell about it . . .

Mystery author Nathan Pike checked into South Cove Bed & Breakfast to compose a compelling novel, not commit murder. But things get real when a rival B&B owner ends up exactly like the victim in his draft—undeniably dead. As Nathan prepares to complete his magnum opus behind bars, Jill’s the only one who can prove his innocence and deconstruct Cahoonthe plot of a twisted killer!

Lynn Cahoon is the author of the NYT and USA Today best-selling Tourist Trap cozy mystery series. GUIDEBOOK TO MURDER, book 1 of the series, won the Reader’s Crown for Mystery Fiction in 2015. She also pens the Cat Latimer series. A STORY TO KILL, and FATALITY IN FIRELIGHT are available in mass market paperback. She lives in a small town like the ones she loves to write about with her husband and two fur babies. Sign up for her newsletter at www.lynncahoon.com

 

 

Footloose

Jessie: In New Hampshire where the rain is pelting down.

above-1839587_1920Are you an enthusiastic traveler? Or do you prefer to stay closer to home where things are familiar? Did you feel one way about travel in the past and now are of a different mind?

Until a few years ago I was not a cheerful tourist. I dreaded the flights, the packing and the feeling of never quite knowing where I was or how things were done in an unfamiliar locale. But I married a man who gives absolutely no thought to throwing a few things in a bag at midnight to be on a long haul flight to Asia the next morning. I truly wanted to be a breezy jetsetter like he is, but the fact was, I was not.

Eventually, I sat myself down for a chat about it and asked whatever bits of one’s brain send out the sorts of worried signals mine always broadcast about travel, what was the real problem. It turned out it was one of longstanding.

My family moved several times when I was a child and as I was an extremely shy kid I absolutely loathed the upheavals. New friends, new environments, new school cultures. The goodbyes. Wondering if you will ever make it back. All of it left me in knots. Travel, on a subconcious level at least, felt the same. Even the packing and lugging things about.

As soon as I uncovered the reason I was so worried every time the opportunity to buzz off across the globe came up I was able to chat with myself about all the ways travel was not the same as moving house. I convinced myself with ease that a passport, a credit card and an age of majority make all the difference.

So, this weekend I am flying off to Scotland to visit one of my children. We have a place to stay for five nights but the rest of the trip is up in the air. The only two things I know for sure are that I fly back out of London and that I am really looking forward to going.

Readers, do you love to travel? Where is your favorite place to go? If not, why not?

The Juggling Act

By Julie, looking forward to a long weekend writing

Dear Readers, do you like hearing about our writing or publication process? If the answer is no, I am so sorry. You’re not going to love this post. But if the answer is yes, buckle up. I’m appointing you all my accountability partners.

I have two books due this year–one on August 1, one on December 1. I spent January plotting them both.  I set up a schedule. I put my plots in Scrivener, and started on the second book in my Theater Cop series (the one due August 1). I hoped for a pre-Malice finish of the first draft. Missed it by a week, but hit it on Sunday. With A Kiss I Die (working title) is clocking in at 75,000 words so far. I am determined to give both manuscripts time to breath, so I can read them with fresh eyes. Trust me when I say this isn’t my norm, so I am happy I met this first self imposed deadline.

Top binder, A CHRISTMAS PERIL, ready for copy edits final round. Bottom binder, WITH A KISS I DIE, ready for first read before I send it out.

Top binder, A CHRISTMAS PERIL, ready for copy edits final round. Bottom binder, WITH A KISS I DIE, ready for first read before I send it out.

What I neglected to add into the schedule was the arrival of copy edits and proof pages. Both have been done for Chime and Punishment, which will arrive in bookstores on August 1. I got the copy edits for A Christmas Peril, my first Theater Cop book, which will be published September 8. They are due next week, and then the proof pages will come in. According to my schedule, the book that is due December 1 should be started soon so that a draft is done while I am working on With A Kiss I Die (working title) edits.

Then there will be launches of Chime and Peril. Two series, two names, one woman.

How lucky am I that I have the great good fortune of juggling all of this? Very, for sure. Even luckier because Liz (aka Cate Conte), Jessie (aka Jessica and Jessica), Sheila (aka Sheila, but with many series), and Edith (aka Maddie) have been down this path before, and I can learn from them. The imagination part isn’t the difficulty. It is the switching gears to the publication process that makes my head spin.

2017 trading cardThis weekend I will be working on the Theater Cop series, books one and two. Here’s the printed copies. Very soon there will be post its, sheets of paper, and highlighter marks marring both manuscripts.

So, dear readers, this is where I need your help. Would you mind if I keep you up to date on this journey over the summer? Will you help keep me honest? I’ll post updates on Twitter and Instagram, let you see how it is going. Next month I’ll tell you the story of the trading card I created, including the picture of me.

I will send you some updates on Instagram and Twitter, and I’ll check back next month.

Dear readers, should we lay odds? Am I going to keep to my writing schedules? Or am I going to go off the rails and be writing for Thanksgiving?

Looking Back and Looking Forward

Sheila, on the road somewhere between Bethesda and home.

Recently I took a hard look at my website and decided it was time for some changes, even though the design was only three years old. But a lot has changed for me in that time.

When I first started writing, everyone said, “you need a website.” So I made a website, all by myself. There are plenty of programs and templates out there, and it wasn’t particularly difficult at the time. Actually I’d had a website for years before that, when I was managing my own genealogy research business, and it worked well enough to attract enough clients so I didn’t starve.

But the world of computer technology moves a whole lot faster than I do, and I was not prepared to deal with the changes. I found a professional to do it for me, after looking at a lot of other people’s websites to see what I liked.

It was fun back then to decide what I wanted to include, since the website is possibly my first or only introduction to readers. When you have a limited number of pages, how do you decide what parts of you should put out there? Your books, of course (although there weren’t many when I first set up the site). How to get in touch with the author. Where you’ll be appearing. Pretty pictures, because people like pictures, not just big chunks of text.

But somewhere in there you have to tell people about who you are. How do you make yourself come across as a real person to someone who happens to click on a link or who sees one of your books on a shelf? Who are you, and what face do you want the world to see? That’s harder to put together.

Of course I put in a section on genealogy, because that’s one of my passions, and it runs through almost everything I’ve written in one way or another. Who and where we came from made us who we are today, on some level—biological, cultural, historical. But how does that matter in your own life now? I’m allergic to ragweed (thanks, Daddy), and I have soft teeth (my mother’s contribution), and I have a knack for handcrafts (my grandmother’s gift). And I love to read (I can thank a lot of ancestors for that one!)—I don’t know if that’s genetic, but I certainly grew up with plenty of readers and books.

But readers don’t want to know about my teeth. I hope they’re more interested in the roundabout story about how I started writing at all, and how I found I couldn’t stop. And why I write what I write.

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The old version

When I was putting together the new website (with the help of my talented designer Maddee James), I was surprised that it came out much simpler than the old one (just look at the difference between the former header and the new one). When I created that last one, I had no idea who I was or where I was going as a writer. Over the past few years that’s come together in a more focused way. I’ve learned a lot. And now I think that visually for a website, less is more. Fewer pictures but more interesting ones. Short paragraphs that hint at a deeper story (come talk to me at conferences if you want more details!).

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The new version

How would you define yourself with only a couple of paragraphs and a handful of pictures? (If you have trouble answering this, you’re not alone: I asked my husband and he had no idea where to start.) Or make it simpler: what are the three most important things in your life, that you would want to share with other people?

[To those followers who aren’t at the Malice Domestic conference this weekend and who leave a comment here (I hope you will!), I’ll be traveling most of Monday, but I promise I will read your comments!]

Malice Domestic- Where are the Wickeds?

The winners of the two advance reader copies of A KNIT BEFORE DYING are ASHLEY CATE and TOMEKA. Please contact Sadie through her website, http://www.sadiehartwell.com and let her know where to send your books. Thanks, everyone, for playing along!

Jessie: Having a great time at Malice Domestic with all the Wickeds! 

Since all of the Wickeds are busy as can be at the conference today we decided to post our panel and signing schedules here on the blog. We hope to see many of you while we are here!

Friday

*Barb– Simply the Best: The Agatha Nominees for Best Contemporary Novel, 1:00-1:50

*Edith– Making History: The Agatha Nominees for Best Historical Novel, 3:00-3:50, Anthology Signing 9:00-10:00

*Jessica-Making History: The Agatha Nominees for Best Historical Novel, 3:00-3:50

*Barb, Edith and Jessica – Opening Ceremonies 5:00-5:30

Saturday

*Sherry– What’s Your Line?, 9:00-9:50, Signing 11:00

*Edith– Make it Snappy: The Agatha Best Short Story Nominees, 10:00-10:50, Signing 11:00

*Julie– Little Shop of Murder, 11:00-11:50, Signing 5:00

*Liz- Small Town Murder, 11:00-11:50, Signing 5:00

*Barb– Signing 11:00

*Jessica-Signing 11:00

*All the Wickeds will attend the Agatha Awards Banquet, 7:00-10:00