Wicked Wednesday- Roads Not Yet Taken

Jessie: In Maine dreaming up new stories

bookshelf-1082309_1920As much as I love the mystery genre, both as a reader and a writer I sometimes consider what other sorts of stories I might like to tell. I wanted to ask all of you if you have ever considered writing a novel in another genre and if so, which genre would that be?

OneHundredYearsEdith: If I had time, I might think about writing magical realism – along the lines of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, whom I’ve always loved – or something eerier than I write now. Even though I used to read a lot of science fiction, I don’t think I have the energy to make up a futuristic setting. I dabbled in writing erotica a couple of decades ago (don’t tell my cozy readers!) but it’s not calling to me right now. I’m intrigued with the idea of writing domestic suspense, but frankly don’t have any ideas for a story so far.

Liz: The first novel I wrote, for my grad school thesis, was more in the women’s fiction realm. (Trust me, this one will never see the light of day, for good reason.) While I enjoyed writing it and getting to know my characters, I felt there was something missing. I guess I just need a good murder in my life. I do have a desire to write darker, and have been working on a suspense novel.

Julie: My first book attempt was an attempt at women’s fiction, but it was deadly boring. I dropped a body, and it got much better, so I think this is my genre. That said, if I could create a series like Harry Potter that transported generations–how thrilling would that be? I am also working on a stand-alone thriller–in the noodling/plotting stage now. I’m surprised how much I’m enjoying creating that new world.

Jessie: I would like to try my hand at a standalone that follows two storylines in two different time periods that come together for the reader. I love to read books like that from authors like Susanna  Kearsley and Kate Morton and would love to try writing a book that creates a suspenseful, time-traveling adventure.

Sherry: I have a partially written light romance — think Hallmark movie. But I’d also love to write a thriller and I have an idea for a lighter caper. If only there was more time!

Barb: I still have a dream of writing a traditional mystery series with a professional sleuth. I’m not quite ready to throw in the towel. Let’s call it the road not taken–yet.

Readers, which other genres do you love to read? Writers, which ones do you like to write?

Mindful Writing

By Kim in Baltimore, reading fascinating short stories.

A few years ago I joined a group called the Mindful Writers. Each year I attend two retreats, one in the fall and the other in spring, where I am able to write for hours in peace and take hikes and meditate. These have been some of the most glorious times of my life.

Last year the group decided to compile some of our writings into a book and the result is Into The Woods. All of the proceeds from the sale of this anthology will be donated to The Children’s Heart Foundation. I have invited Lori M. Jones, Ramona Long and Kathleen Shoop to the blog to share with our readers more about this wonderful anthology and why this foundation matters to our group.

Lori’s Story               .FullSizeRender (6)

In 2005, I was pregnant with what appeared to be a healthy baby girl. Then at a routine 24 week check-up, the doctor said, “I can’t find your baby’s heartbeat.” When the doctor finally did it was only at half the rate the heartbeat should have been. There are 40 known heart defects, and she was diagnosed with one of them – Complete Heart Block – which is a defect in the heart’s electrical system. She would need a pacemaker as an infant in order to survive. She is now 12, on her second pacemaker, and doing very well. But when she was a baby, I had no idea what her future would entail, or more specifically, how she’d handle being different. I dissected my emotions through writing which led to me being offered a contract for my first children’s book – Riley’s Heart Machine – about a girl dealing with being different from her peers because she has heart machinery.

I searched for a heart charity to donate some of the proceeds to which led me to discovering the amazing work of The Children’s Heart Foundation. I eventually became more involved with the charity, from chairing the Pittsburgh Congenital Heart Walk and sitting on the PA Chapter board and the national board to eventually leading the PA Chapter as its president.

Since writing Riley’s Heart Machine, I’ve traveled to schools delivering assemblies on Writing from the Heart and have published another book, Confetti the Croc, which celebrates our unique qualities. I also have written two novels, Renaissance of the Heart and Late for Fate.

One of the best gems I discovered in my writing journey was The Mindful Writing Group. Through the discipline of writing together, I was able to complete my manuscripts. More importantly, I have found my tribe!

The anthology means so much to me because it’s a full circle moment for me. This book was a chance to join forces with all of my tribe members and create one beautiful project. And then they told me the proceeds were going to The Children’s Heart Foundation, to help the very charity that was fighting to make sure my daughter and other children have a bright future.

Kathleen Shoop on why the anthology is titled Into the WoodsIMG_6751.PNG

Into the Woods was a natural outgrowth for us, The Mindful Writers Retreat Authors. We write together a lot – in person and online. After years of retreating together we decided it was time to create something, a sound bite of the variety of voices that make up the group.

An anthology is a fabulous way for authors to pool their energy into a project while maintaining independence in what each person produces for the book. The collection creates a unique and vibrant body of work that can be read in short spurts or in its entirety. The theme – Into the Woods – seemed like the perfect idea for The Mindful Retreat Authors’ first collaboration since so much inspiration, ideas and wonder has grown out of our times in the lovely woods.

Ramona Long on why she wanted to be the editor of this anthology

I volunteered to edit Into the Woods because I wanted to support The Children’s  Heart Foundation and this was a way I could do that. Like any anthology, working with a group of authors is always a learning experience, but I was particularly happy to work with this group because we are so closely bonded as Mindful Writers. We are all a part of one another’s stories, in a way.

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Dear Readers, thank you for joining us today. Please share your stories about a group or organization that is close to your own heart.

The Secret to Journaling

News Flash: Galen Hillers is yesterday’s winner of Edith’s ARC. Please check your email, Galen!

By Liz, enjoying the longer days already even though it’s still kinda cold…

Last month I wrote about some foolproof ways to find the muse when she seems to be hiding. One of those critical steps I mentioned is journaling. And I’ve since found that the thought of it scares some people.

I mean, it does sound kind of intimidating, if you haven’t been in the habit of doing it. Especially if you go into it thinking you have to write a certain amount of pages every day, or spend a set amount of time. I remember the first time I contemplated doing The Artist’s Way and committing to writing three morning pages every day.

I gotta tell you, it wasn’t an easy commitment. But once I jumped in and started, it was worth it.

But three morning pages a day aren’t the only way to journal. In fact, there are no rules about how to do it, as long as you do it.

So here are some alternatives to think about, if you’re still on the fence.

  • Use a guided journal. There are a ton of them out there, and they help you get your thoughts down and ease you into the process. From a simple gratitude journal (so many to choose from), to the popular Five Minute Journal, which asks you to write affirmations, gratitude lists, and document amazing things that happened to you that day, to a Bullet Journal, there’s no shortage of ways to get some thoughts down.
  • Go digital. If the thought of going to the bookstore, picking out a journal, maybe even getting really crazy and decorating it – not to mention the pens! – then go digital. Our phones are never far from us, so we may as well put them to good use. And there are really cool journaling apps out there now. The Five Minute Journal has a digital version. Journey is another good one. And if you want a written invitation to journal – seriously – try Dabble.me, the app that emails you at a time of your choosing and asks how your day was, and you can respond however you like. (Don’t worry, it’s private – just perfect for those who don’t like the whole pen and ink thing!)
  • Focus on appreciation. A foolproof way to get your journaling going and also boost your mood for the day is take that notebook with the blank pages and write about all the things you appreciate. I’m not talking about gratitude lists – I mean, actually writing out all the things that you love and appreciate, what makes you feel good, what makes you laugh and gives you a reason to get up in the morning. Write one thing and watch it build into the next, and the next. I learned to do this from Gabby Bernstein, and at first I thought it would be too hard. You know how it is when you’re cranky in the mornings and want to write down everything that makes you mad or upset? Yeah, that. But seriously, try it. It can lift your mood and change your whole outlook on the day.

And of course, you can alway just go old-school. Buy a pretty journal, or buy a blank one and put awesome stickers on it. Buy some fun pens – gel, felt-tip, pretty colors, whatever makes you happy – and write whatever comes to mind. You can set a timer, or not. Write until you feel like you’ve got it all out, or write two sentences and call it a day. However you do it, just start.

Once you’re in the habit, you won’t want to miss a day. Seriously. And you’ll start seeing results in other areas of your life – writing productivity or otherwise. Guaranteed.

Readers, do you keep a journal? What’s your process? Leave a comment below!

Writing With Spirit

By Liz, doing everything under the sun to call in the muse!

You may have noticed that I can be a little bit “woo woo.” Luckily I have Jessie to commiserate with when everyone else thinks I’m a little too crazy! But my woo woo-ness has served me well over the years, and even more so lately as I take on more writing projects and at the same time, think through what I want my future as a writer to be.

So many of us creative people have, at one time or another, experienced blocks to our creativity. These blocks could range from not knowing where to go next with a current project to being unable to start writing or creating at all, possibly because of something you learned as a child about creativity being shameful or unrealistic to pursue as your life’s work. Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way, calls these blocks “creative injuries.”

I experienced those creative injuries myself along the way, including an ingrained belief that writing was not something I could do for a living. I spent years writing only peripherally, and when I did finally take jobs that centered on writing, I wasn’t paid well (you hear me, fellow journalists??). Eventually, through a lot of work – and applying Cameron’s practices – I found my way to the page and, well, here I am.

But I was still missing something. Even though I was successfully writing two series, I was still struggling – with process, with procrastination, with plots. With taking myself seriously enough to expect more for myself and my writing life.

Until I remembered that writing is my soul work. Which meant that everything I need to be successful – and peaceful – is within me, and I simply had to tune into it. Once I started applying my “soul practice” to my writing life, everything started to change. I stopped procrastinating, started turning out more words daily, “found” more time where there used to feel like none was available, got more inspiration. As a result, my two looming deadlines aren’t causing me stress. I’m approaching my writing time with joy, and I’m confident everything will get done. When I think back to where I was a year ago – stressed to the max, racing to meet a seemingly impossible deadline amidst a spate of personal crises, getting barely any sleep – it’s almost like I can’t even remember who that person was anymore.

So here’s my five-step process for how I did that:

  1. Ask. Ask that place inside you – whether you call it the universe, your muse, God, your soul, it doesn’t matter – for help. Set your intention for creativity and inspiration. It can be as simple as, I need guidance today. Help me find the right words and put them on the page. And be confident you’ll be heard!
  2. Meditate. I know, going completely still and breathing used to seem impossible for me too. Especially with crazy writer brain, where other people are always talking. But I’m telling you – it works. Five minutes a day can totally change your writing life. You can use a guided meditation, music, or nothing at all. You can walk in nature and try to still your thoughts. I started using guided meditations by Kris Carr and Gabby Bernstein, and one of the key things I learned from them is that thoughts are always going to interrupt you – you just need to bring your attention back to your breath and your intention. There’s also a fabulous app called Insight Timer that offers both guided meditations and music to meditate by, whatever your preference. But really, you need to remember to just breathe.
  3. Journal. This is my other non-negotiable practice. Journaling daily can help you get out of your own way. By releasing some of those thoughts that won’t leave you alone, you clear the space for your inspiration to show up. I still use Cameron’s practice – three pages a day, and it can be complete crap. Doesn’t matter. Just get the clutter out of your head.
  4. Use affirmations. Yes, the way you talk to yourself really does matter. If you’re always saying, I can’t do this, I can’t meet this deadline, I have no imagination, my characters have nothing to say, I have nothing to say, I’m going to have to go work at the grocery store because my contracts will be cancelled any minute…Well, you get the idea. It’s much better to plant positive seeds, even if they feel like complete and utter BS at the time. The more you say them, the more they’ll stick. I created this affirmation for myself:

    Say your affirmation daily. Feel it.
  5. Have fun and be thankful. How lucky are we to be creative people? And we’re all creative. It doesn’t matter if you write or not. However you express your creativity, be grateful for it. And most of all, enjoy it. Often we as writers put too much pressure on our work. We need to get back to the joy. And really, what else is there?

Writing Solo? By Daryl Wood Gerber

Hi all! Liz here, excited to welcome back our good friend Daryl Wood Gerber, who has some fun giveaways today! Take it away, Daryl!

By Daryl Wood Gerber

Writing can be a very lonely venture. You have no one to talk to except yourself  (which some consider a little bit crazy)

Or your characters (which a vast majority considers bordering on nuts)  

Sparky1Or you might have a faithful companion. I have Sparky. He is the joy of my life. He loves coming into my office and simply “being there” to support me. He sits calmly on his pillow and rouses occasionally for a pet. He gazes at me soulfully whenever I introduce him on a live chat on Facebook. He stares at me scornfully if I ask to take yet another picture to post on Facebook.  LOL

If I need to lie on the floor to gather my thoughts (I think well with my eyes closed – it is not a nap!), Sparky “allows” me to pet him. That stroking motion really helps clear my head. Sparky3

If I need to pace the floor to come up with an idea, he follows me. Oy! I have to be extremely careful not to make a sudden turn. He’s so quiet, he could be my shadow. I have tripped at least a dozen times because of him. I’m really glad I never hit my head on a counter top. (Ooh, idea for a murder method.)

But I digress…

If I need to take a long walk to think, Sparky is always up for it. “Snap on that leash, Mom. Let’s go!” He doesn’t even mind if I bring along my cell phone and tape conversations that I want to insert in the book. I’m pretty sure he thinks I’m talking to him. Isn’t life all about him?

S2If I need to take a break and read someone else’s book, this is possibly his happiest moment of the day. We settle on the patio and he gets a treat and we listen to the sounds of nature, while I drink in the talent of another author.

Writing solo? Nope. Not I. I’ve got a writing partner. And the best thing is he thinks all my ideas are great.  (Hmm, must reconsider this last point.  It’s not good to have someone who thinks “all” your ideas are great. An author needs a constructive critic.)

Note to self: Get Sparky reading lessons and teach him to speak his mind.

Do you have a two- or four-footed pet that fills your days with love?

Daryl is offering a choice of any one of her books to one commenter.  Winner announced Friday! 

Daryl’s latest book, A DEADLY ÉCLAIR, the first in the French Bistro Mysteries, debuts November 7.

Here’s a sneak peek: 

Mimi Rousseau is throwing the bistro’s first wedding—the nuptials of a famous talk show host. She is sure things will go awry when the bride’s father shows up drunk to the out-of-towners’ dinner. By the end of the evening, things look sweet again…until the next morning, when her benefactor is found dead at the bistro with an éclair stuffed in his mouth. All fingers point at Mimi, whose loan is forgiven if he dies. It’s up to her to éclair—er, clear—her name before the killer turns up the heat.

DeadlyEclair


BIO:
Agatha Award-winning Daryl Wood Gerber writes the brand new French Bistro Mysteries as well as the nationally bestselling Cookbook Nook Mysteries.  As Avery Aames, she pens the popular Cheese Shop Mysteries. A DEADLY ÊCLAIR, the first French Bistro Mystery, comes out November 2017. Daryl also writes stand-alone suspense: DAY OF SECRETS and GIRL ON THE RUN. Fun tidbit: as an actress, Daryl appeared in “Murder, She Wrote.” She loves to cook, and she has a frisky Goldendoodle named Sparky who keeps her in line!

http://www.darylwoodgerber.com
http://youtube.com/woodgerb1
http://www.mysteryloverskitchen.com
http://facebook.com/darylwoodgerber
http://twitter.com/darylwoodgerber
http://instagram.com/darylwoodgerber
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NEWSLETTER: http://darylwoodgerber.com/contact.php#mailing-list

 

The End or Is It?

NEWSFLASH: CozyNookBks is the randomly selected winner of Linda Lovely’s book! Check your email – she’ll be contacting you. And congrats!

By Sherry where summer temperatures have returned even after Barb warned me if I put socks on last weekend it was the end of summer.

I see posts on Facebook all the time where an author happily announces that they just typed “The End” for their latest book. I have a confession. I’ve never typed it myself. I’ve obviously finished books, but for some reason I can’t bring myself to type those two little words.

Maybe I’m superstitious about it for some reason. I remember hearing author John Dufresne say at readings he won’t tell people what page he’s reading from because he might change the wording to make a sentence better as he goes along. And I always wonder when in the process other authors are typing “The End”. After the first draft? The sixth? The twelfth? Right before they turn it into the publisher?

I know my first draft isn’t the last one so it doesn’t feel like the end. It might be because even after I send it off to my editor at Kensington I know I’m going to get the copy edits which gives me another chance to polish the manuscript. And boy is there a lot to polish every time I get them back even though I feel like I’ve turned in a clean manuscript.

Even after the copy edits there’s that one final chance when the page proof comes. At this point the book has been type set and along with the page proof comes a warning to change only what is absolutely necessary. And that if you make too many changes you may have to pay for it. Gulp. At this point I’m pretty much making sure the punctuation is correct and words are spelled correctly. I might clean a bit here or there, but I always worry that I’ll do too much.

Maybe I don’t type “The End “because I don’t want it to be over or I think there’s more I could have done. Trust me, the minute I sent in the copy edits for I Know What You Bid Last Summer on Tuesday, I wished I had them back to read through them one more time.

I think in the end (pun intended) that typing “The End” is to final for me. Instead of a satisfying triumph it’s more about questioning if I did enough. Maybe it’s that insecurity that so many writers carry around with them that someone is going to point and yell “fraud”. Or maybe it’s like telling someone I love goodbye when I don’t want to. It could be part of the whole letting the story go out into the world where it will be judged, loved, hated, remarked on, or ignored.

I imagine typing “The End” sometimes. I’d do it with a bit of a flourish like when you finish playing something stirring on the piano and lift your hands from the keys. It would be in a great font. And then I’d delete it because I’m superstitious.

Readers: Do you type “The End”? When do you type it? And if you aren’t a writer do you ever have a hard time knowing when a project is finished?

Why I’m a Standalone Writer — Guest Lori Rader-Day

I am happy to welcome back Lori Rader-Day. We met at Left Coast Crime in 2014 when we were both debut authors. Our first books weren’t even out yet. Lori’s third book, The Day I Diedreleased on April 11th!

Lori:

[Movie trailer voice] IN A WORLD where the mystery genre is built upon series characters, Lori Rader-Day is a serial author of—standalones.

Hi, I’m Lori, and I write… standalones.

[Everyone chines in.] Hi, Lori.

[A voice from the back of the room] You’re safe here, Lori.

Am I? Am I really? I’m looking around and everyone else—wow, this is hard. Everyone else has a series. Some of them have two or three series. It’s easy to feel as though I’m not doing something right, you know? Like I am not a real mystery author, because I haven’t written a series yet.

Face it. Mystery readers love series. They are always going on about Miss Fisher and Vera and Dexter and Sookie and Longmire. I get it. There’s something great about knowing that the thing you like and have read or, since series books are sometimes turned into television, watched—there’s more! There’s more of this thing I really enjoyed! It’s all good news!

Publishers also love series titles. You know why? Because the marketing does its dang self when it comes to series books. Launch once, write into infinity, and your happy readers from the first book are likely to keep picking up later titles, as long as you let them know they are available. If new readers discover you later into the series, that’s also good news for your backlist sales. Again: all good news.

Wow, you guys are really turning me around on this—

[Voice from the back of the room] Stay strong, Lori.

[Deep breath] OK, right. There’s a reason I write standalones, even so. And the reason is—me. I like standalones. I like to read them. I like knowing that the book I’m picking up is the whole story, that I’m not missing three books prior to this one and hence a lot of backstory. I’m a little OCD on this. If I find a series book that I want to read, I can’t just pick up that new book. I have to go back into the backlist and find the first book. Why? Because I want the origin story. How did this character become an amateur sleuth? Why did they become a bounty hunter instead of a lingerie salesperson (Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum) or a private investigator instead of a lady of leisure (Catriona McPherson’s Dandy Gilver)? I’m not going to skip THAT story of all stories they have to tell. That’s the best one!

So there’s my own reading practices to blame. I will take a good standalone over anything, any day of the week. A fully realized story and character, where everything is left on the page and nothing “saved” for a future book is my kind of book.

Though I do like series books. When I find a character who has the potential to carry an ongoing story of growth and change, of course I’ll read that—

[Voice from the second row] She’s wavering. Do something.

But the real reason that I write standalones has nothing to do with my reading habits and everything to do with my own attention span.

When I was writing my first two published novels, I was working a day job. A demanding one. To get my writing done, I had to use my lunch hour almost every day of the week. I was turning down lunch invitations with real friends to go spend time with these fake friends I was making up. I had to make myself want to be at the blank page, or I wouldn’t show up there. There were just so many other things to do. Life easily gets in the way.

So I had to keep things interesting in what I was writing—giving myself fun assignments like two first-person narrators or a really fun character with bad behavior—but I also had to keep myself engaged with the next thing. As in, when I finish THIS manuscript, I get to write something completely different. I get to write The Brand New Shiny Idea!

The Brand New Shiny Idea cannot be a second book with the same character, you see. That’s not Brand New or Shiny enough.

I guess you can say I use the next book, the next standalone by definition, as the carrot at the end of the stick of writing my current project.

[Mumble from somewhere in row four] Heavy-handed metaphor alert.

There are just so many story ideas out there to be written, and the ones that occur to me have me hopping from one character to another, from one setting to another. For now. Someday I hope one of the characters I write gives me another idea—and then another one—for what she wants to do. I will welcome that turn of events. But until then…

[Murmurs from among the group.]

[Voice from the back] You can do it!

I am a standalone writer. Thank you for your support.

Readers: Do you read standalones? Have you thought about writing one?

Lori Rader-Day, author of The Day I Died, The Black Hour, and Little Pretty Things, is the recipient of the 2016 Mary Higgins Clark Award and the 2015 Anthony Award for Best First Novel. Lori’s short fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Time Out Chicago, Good Housekeeping, and others. She lives in Chicago, where she teaches mystery writing at StoryStudio Chicago and is the president of the Mystery Writers of America Midwest Chapter.