“When it comes to writing, the journey is the point; the product isn’t.”
Those sage words were spoken by the multi-published author Julianna Holmes on her podcast. The statement stopped me in my tracks. I admit it: Up until that moment, I had always focused on the product. That is, getting my novels published and having my series appear in bookstores, shelved in libraries, and sold with online retailers. I mean, that’s the point of writing, isn’t it?
Well, no. Once I embraced Julianna’s words, I pivoted and concentrated on the actual journey. The first thing I realized is that a writer probably shouldn’t travel alone. Up until then, I’d been working solo on my mystery series for about ten years while also working full time. It was a very personal, private undertaking. So, why not open my manuscripts to others? Inviting people to join me in my journey has allowed me to embrace creative writers, join critique clubs, work with copy editors, and connect with beta readers. Their shared stories and genuine feedback have been incredibly refreshing while having a profound impact on my writing. I’ve found it’s delightful to belong to an ever-expanding group of talented, humorous, challenging, and caring individuals who all contribute to “the product.” One day, my community will also include agents, content editors, book cover designers, and publishers who will add more exciting new tools to my travel bag as I continue to grow as a writer. But I’m not worried about when that day arrives.
Recognizing that the journey is the point of writing made room for both humility and humor in my life. It allows me to remain a lifelong apprentice to the craft and to belong to a wonderful community of readers and writers. It has been a lovely, freeing notion.
He’s back – the hawk, that is. Last January I wrote about a hawk that appeared in my backyard…
…I stared outside. To my amazement, a mature hawk stared back at me. The hefty predator was patrolling my backyard in search of a morning snack. It was shocking on two levels. First, I’ve never seen a hawk in the backyard. We’ve lots of small birds that are fed seed daily but not the big hunters. Second, he was walking on the ground. I’ve only see hawks soaring across the sky, perched on telephone poles, or silhouetted on a weather-beaten farm fence which can sometimes still be found in the countryside; not strutting across a clipped lawn.
The hawk disappeared later that day. I may have seen him circling over nearby fields throughout the year but never again in my backyard.
He must have checked his 2024 appointment calendar because he landed on my lawn right on schedule: January 1st. There is no denying that he is impressive. Foreboding. The sparrows are packed into surrounding bushes, silent and trembling. The mourning doves pulled up stakes and waddled down the block. The cardinal grabbed his mate and took off for the nearby Dennys. The hawk just sits there: Watching. Waiting.
The online psychics claim: When you have a close hawk sighting, it's a sign from the spirit realm that you are ready to take on a larger, more powerful expansion and vision of your world. The hawk symbolizes a need to start looking forward, envisioning your path ahead, and perhaps preparing for a greater role in life.
Again, like my protagonist, Remy Lane, I don’t need the stars or psychics to tell me when to stop or when to go, but a swift kick in the butt is always appreciated. Recently retired, I find that it is all too easy to sit down and not move forward. Fortunately, I have a hawk who swoops in once a year to remind me that I am meant to be doing much more. It’s time to take on a fresh challenge.
After working on my manuscripts (a mystery series of four to date), I suddenly learned all about deep 3rd person POV with multiple characters. It was like heaven opened up and rained sparkly rainbows around me. I love this approach to storytelling and was somehow, quite inadvertently, incredibly close to it already. But not quite there.
I decided to rewrite all four mysteries from this perspective. It is a fascinating undertaking and also time-consuming as I must re-read each sentence to avoid head-hopping and omniscient (my former approach). Deep 3rd person POV is very intimate between the characters and readers. Engaging. Enthralling. It does force me to stop being omniscient which cut out some very revealing, tender inner thoughts of characters. I’ve had to re-embed those moments somehow and, what can I say – it’s a learning process.
I am so grateful to all those who have gone before me in the field of writing, lending their knowledge to improve my craft, and to those who are honest and brave enough to tell me when I am truly messing up. Merry Christmas to you all!
I live near the cliffs of Lake Michigan, one of the Great Lakes in the midwestern United States. The lake covers over 22,000 square miles and its shoreline view mimics the ocean. (No wonder my stories are nestled within a seaside community.) Lake Michigan may seem placid but dive down to the bottom and you’ll find a graveyard of over 2,000 shipwrecks. The water is twisted with trauma. In a nearby pocket-sized littoral cemetery, I found a broken, unadorned marker for three unidentified seamen who washed ashore in the 1800s when their ship sank. No one should die unsung, so I paused to honor them in my first book:
Smuggling was a dangerous business both on water and on land. “There’s a few of them from the Isle of Man buried here beside St. Elwick’s, their bodies washed ashore with none to claim them. It’s a sad thing to be buried with not a soul to mourn your passing.” Addie’s sad gaze rested on the churning sea.
-- Excerpt from The Stars Prevail
For some inexplicable reason, I am drawn to that tiny cemetery every fall to visit those lost souls. Last year, I found someone had kindly memorialized those unmourned men by erecting a fine headstone in their memory. The names were still unknown, but the loss wasn’t forgotten.
When I returned this year, I discovered that someone had doggedly researched historical records and finally identified the seamen. Their names appeared on a fresh headstone along with the names of two women who perished in a ship fire a year later:
Shipwreck of Sebastopol
(September 18, 1855)
Names of those lost:
James Clark, Wheelsman
Frank Forbs, 2nd Engineer
Morris Berry, 2nd Mate
Ship fire on the Niagara
(September 24, 1856)
Names of those lost:
Kate Haring – Age 11
Unknown Female –
Est. Age 35-40
I am so grateful for the determined researchers who discovered these lost souls after one hundred and sixty-eight years and also the generous investors who sponsored their group headstone.
For a stunning view of Lake Michigan’s sunken ships and insight on underwater archeology, try boarding this website: http://wisconsinshipwrecks.org
I’ve been trying to grasp the marketing madness that surrounds publishing/self-publishing and working with online resellers like Amazon, B&N, Kobo, etc. I’ve just set aside a book that explained, in painful detail, how Amazon’s algorithms work. The online book retailer has algorithms which instantaneously discern a book’s Sales Rank and place within their Bestseller Lists, Popularity Lists, Top Rated Charts, Hot New Releases, and Best Sellers by Genre which recalculate and adjust endlessly based on daily market activities.
Each list is a sliding scale that authors try to surmount to place their novels on top or at least somewhere within eyesight of the first few online pages containing book thumbnails that readers browse through when seeking a new read. Movement on those lists is made complex with reviews, perma-free debut novels, price pulsing, borrows, exclusivity policies, and promos run by associates like Ereader News Today, Pixel of Ink, and Bookbub.
Then there are paid ads…
Oh, the games we must play to get our work before the eyes of readers. With thousands of books being self-published globally, we really can’t ignore these marketing algorithms. Authors must scramble to keep their books from falling to the bottom of these lists, buried under other book thumbnails. So, we jump through the marketing hoops, build our email lists, post often on social media, and blog, blog, blog.
When do we get to write? I’ve four solid books for my series and desperately want to begin book five. I’m torn between the desire to write and the need to market. Finding a healthy balance eludes me. The irony is that I don’t expect to make money off my novels. I just want them read. Enjoyed. Shared. Sigh. I guess I’ll have to start playing some games soon.
Lying down, the Inspector sought oblivion, an escape from the dirt and crime he faced daily. Instead, he was plagued with a half-witted dream. The cosmos wept tears wrung from the stars. Icy pellets of light, melted by moonbeams. He stood at cliff’s edge, the sea pounding furiously below. The barren branches of a hawthorn tree loomed over him, backlit by the stars. Its sparse leaves fell at his feet, the fading foliage etched with words. He gathered the leaves, arranging their gibberish into sentences, desperate to read their secret. A sudden foul wind snatched at his shabby collection, lifting leaves from the ground, swirling their sentiments around his feet before casting the leaves out to sea – knowledge lost. Pressing his meager harvest between the pages of a book, Tremaine hugged the text to his chest before the next gale could carry it away. The rains came. The galaxy grieved a deluge.
Excerpt from The Tide Turns
It has been raining all day. At times, a deluge. While so many other places around the globe have been suffering from torrential rain and severe floods, my backyard is parched. Local weathermen predict rain in their questionable forecasts only to have it disappear before a drop of water reaches the ground. It has been a harsh summer everywhere as global warming takes its toll, punishing us for our arrogance.
People in China, India, and Australia have come to loath the sound of rain given their devastating floods. I’ve flung open my windows, willing to tolerate the chill just to hear the sound of raindrops. One woman’s curse is another woman’s blessing. I doubt we will ever recapture that healthy balance in nature again given global warming. I find the overarching ramifications unbearably depressing. Watching today’s rain. I just wish it could wash away the foolishness of mankind so that we could collaboratively strive to retain what exists in nature, perhaps recapture some of what we have already lost, and protect it all for future children.
While I’m working with a graphic designer on book covers, I’ve also been researching the marketing end of self-publishing. The more I know, the greater my ability to get my books into the hands of readers (or onto their Kindles).
Fortunately, the online community is loaded with suggestions on how to boost readership/sales, and very kind YouTubers offer their entertaining insights based upon their self-publishing experiences. With each book reseller (Amazon, Goodreads, etc.) operating under their own unique rules and differing formulas for royalties, I clearly need to be versed in marketing before putting my novels online or they will suffer a rapid demise.
For me, marketing is daunting but what new skill isn’t overwhelming in the beginning? I have stumbled upon a rather ironic fact in my marketing research. Authors are required to take their 70,000-word novel and boil it down to a 750-word synopsis. Then, we must whittle those 750 words down to an intriguing 225-word jacket copy. From there, we must further pare it down to a one paragraph pitch for online resellers and – finally – a one sentence tagline for the book cover. I’ve always been a fan of being concise, but this is a crazy challenge I'm taking on four times (once for each novel). It brings to mind Hemingway’s amazing story written with only six words: For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn. That man was the king of concise.
This blog is where I post my inspirations for each book in the Remy Lane Mystery series as well as behind-the-scenes tips, pics, and other tidbits. Feel free to click 'Read More' for in-depth posts.