Thanks to novelist Darlene Fredette for giving my forthcoming novel, Arborview, its first bit of early publicity. Darlene has dubbed this month February Fur-ever, and she’s featuring writers and their dogs on her cool blog, Finding the Write Words.
Please welcome novelist Julie Howard author of the Wild Crime series, who’s new novel Spirit in Time debuts today. Julie is a former journalist and editor who has covered topics ranging from crime to cowboy poetry. She is a member of the Idaho Writers Guild, editor of the Potato Soup Journal, and founder of the Boise chapter of Shut Up & Write. Learn more at juliemhoward.com.
Ask a writer where their ideas come from, and most of the time they’ll shrug their shoulders. I often find it difficult to backtrack and discover the source for a book’s plot. More often than not, I point to a glimmer of inspiration, something so faint that only I can see it.
My new release, Spirit in Time, is set in 1872 in Sacramento, California. I lived there for about ten years and loved this historical and vibrant city, the heart of the nineteenth century Gold Rush and a terminus of the Intercontinental Railroad. Great wealth flowed through Sacramento and this time was the dawning of what came to be known as the Gilded Age. California had only recently become a state and Sacramento was a swampy area of land caught between two rivers. The city fell victim to frequent fires and floods in its early years. Ingenuity and fortitude were key in making the land livable and today a metropolis of 2.5 million people.
I had already established a series that features ghost-hunting blogger, Jillian Winchester. I knew I wanted the setting for the next book in the series to be Sacramento’s Gilded Age. But then, where did the plot come from?
It’s difficult to walk around the older part of the city without seeing glimpses of the past. Victorian mansions, old brothels, decommissioned rail tracks, a cemetery both eerie and beautiful. Maybe a ghost whispered: Pick me.
Usually, with a plot or character, something sticks in my mind and won’t leave. The story demands to be written – sort of like a song that lingers in your head no matter how you try to shake it out. In the case of Spirit in Time, the old Crocker mansion was this inspiration. Now a museum, the Italianate Victorian structure was built by the wealthy and powerful Crocker family in the late nineteenth century, along with a massive art gallery to house artwork they accumulated over the years. And yes, there are those who say the place is haunted.
The rest was easy. A ghost. A little time travel. A mystery to be solved.
“Time travel isn’t real. It can’t be real. But ghost-blogger Jillian Winchester discovers otherwise when an enigmatic spirit conveys her to 1872 to do his bidding. Jillian finds herself employed as a maid in Sacramento, in an elegant mansion with a famous painting. The artwork reveals another mystery: Why does the man within look exactly like her boyfriend, Mason Chandler?”
Morality and sin live side by side, not only in the picture, but also within her. As her transgressions escalate, she races the clock to find the man in the painting, and hunt down a spirit with a disconcerting gift. But will time be her friend or foe?”
We’re happy to share this Cover Reveal for author Shirley Goldberg’s new novel, Eat Your Heart Out, the second book in her “Starting Over” series.
Two foodies, Dana and Alex, banter, sauté and tiptoe around each other. Except for the occasional smooch. What’s with that?
I’m sharing more of Eat Your Heart Out’s details on my blog. Read the blurb and click this link https://midagedating.com/to read an excerpt. Too soon for links, but I’m looking for ARC readers, so please keep in touch. Publication date coming soon!
Thanks to Debbie Taylor for her cover and the team at The Wild Rose Press for all their hard work!
Blur for Eat Your Heart Out:
“When a tyrant in stilettos replaces her beloved boss, and her ex snags her coveted job, teacher Dana Narvana discovers there are worse things than getting dumped on Facebook. Time for the BFF advice squad, starting with Dana’s staunchest ally, Alex—hunky colleague, quipster, and cooking pal extraordinaire. But when the after-hours smooching goes nowhere, she wonders why this grown man won’t make up his mind.
Alex Bethany’s new lifestyle gives him the confidence to try online dating. What he craves is a family of his own until a life-altering surprise rocks his world. He knows he’s sending Dana mixed messages. Alex panics when he thinks he’s blown his chance with his special person. From appetizers to the main course will these two cooking buddies make it to dessert?
Funny and bittersweet, Dana and Alex’s story will have you rooting for them.”
Hello and welcome to the newly updated Write Despite. Cathy and I have finally given our blog a facelift. Yeah, it was long overdue. Please poke around the redesigned pages, take note of our tweaked mission statement, and share your feedback.
To kick off the redesign, novelist Randy Overbeck shares his take on the care, feeding, and invaluable contributions of early-stage readers.
Take it away Randy:
I’ve spoken with a number of authors who have raised questions about beta readers. To clarify, when we say beta readers, we’re referring to readers who read an early manuscript, either in part or whole, and provide feedback. Some writers find these early readers unreliable, unhelpful, or sometimes even distracting.
For me, beta readers have been an integral part of bringing my manuscripts to fruition. Over the past several years, I’ve developed a process involving beta readers that has provided insights about my work I could never have gotten on my own. Along the way, I’ve learned a few lessons about what works—and what doesn’t—when it comes to beta readers:
You’re going to need more than one. I’ve found it helpful to have several individuals respond to my early work. Over the years I’ve cultivated a cadre of 10-12 readers. Since I want to learn how different readers might respond, it’s helpful to solicit multiple readers. I often get different perspectives and varying insights. I’ve also learned that some beta volunteers don’t end up actually reading my manuscript; life gets in the way, and I understand that. Recruiting several betas insures I can get the feedback I’m looking for.
Beta readers don’t substitute for a writer’s critique group. My beta readers are not writers; they’re readers. I don’t ask my beta readers to check my grammar—though there is usually one grammar Nazi in the group who likes to do this—improve my style or check on my voice or tense. I ask them to respond as readers, to aspects like plot and character or setting. Did anything catch their eye or stop them in their tracks or interfere with their reading?
Beta readers need to know what you expect of them. When I share a section of my manuscript, I try to be very specific with what I want betas to respond to. Along with the pages, they receive a set five to six questions. (As a long-time educator, my habit of giving homework lives on.) Of course, one of these questions is always very open-ended, so betas can share whatever they want to say. My betas seem to appreciate the direction, and I usually get the feedback I’m looking for.
Like everything else in life, beta readers do best with a set timeline. I’ve learned that my beta readers respond better when I give them an expected date to complete their review, usually about two weeks. Some will read the manuscript in a day or two and respond immediately, while others will wait until the “deadline” to finish their reading and respond.
It’s important your readers aren’t simply “yes men.” (Please forgive the gender blunder.) When I recruit beta readers, I try to make sure I have readers who will not be afraid to give me bad news. “That scene did not work.” “That description was too much. I found myself skimming to get to the action.” I’m careful to receive their responses, especially critical ones, in a positive manner. I encourage my betas to be candid and let them know that’s why I’m giving them an advance peak at my writing.
When possible, I try to give beta readers a chance to come together and discuss their reading and responses. (This was prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, of course.) Over the years, I’ve tried to arrange a get-together—usually after work at a quiet restaurant—for local betas. They seem to enjoy comparing responses and, once they start discussing aspects about the narrative, they often provide me more than what they’ve written down. Also, some betas simply like to tell me some things face-to-face.
I’m confident that insights from my beta readers have helped make my writing clearer, more engaging and more accurate. I acknowledged their contributions at the start of both my published novels. I wouldn’t dream of writing my next mystery without their feedback. And… I’m always looking for new beta readers, so feel free to reach out.
Is 2021 the year you’re finally going to buckle down and crank out that novel? If so, you’re in luck. Novelist and teacher Michelle Richmond has an online course designed to take you from inspiration to first draft, with help and guidance every step of the way.
Check out the details and get going! There’s a five-month and a nine-month option. Courses begin the first week of January.
Give yourself the gift of mentorship and invest in your writing this year.
Today we have a guest blogger. Please welcome novelist D.V. Stone. Her new novel, Jazz House, will be published in 2021.
D.V. has dabbled in many genres and published a slew of books. She’s got good advice including some seasonally appropriate editorial wisdom learned from a holly bush.
I’m what is referred to as a ‘Hybrid’ author. This means my books are both traditionally and independently published. I’ve published work across multiple genres. But whatever story I’m telling, my goal is always the same: to bring hope to the reader.
The authors and genres I’ve enjoyed over the years have, by turn, made me laugh or cry, or pushed me to the edge of my seat. In this spirit, I hope to do the same. I want my readers to sit and laugh, cry, scream, or just quietly contemplate.
So, what have I learned about writing and publishing over the years?
Perseverance and patience are critical. People ask all the time, “When is your book coming out?” Writing is a long process for me. I still work full-time outside the home in a medical office. There is a countdown app in my phone ticking off the days until retirement. I have so many ideas and parts of manuscripts waiting—especially one, in particular, begging me to finish.
Disappointment and rejection happen. The submission process can be a blow to your ego. You start out with stars in your eyes because you think you have something great. Then the first rejection comes. Then the second. And so on. You’ve got to learn to roll with it. It’s all part of the process.
Criticism and critique are important. Learn what you can from criticism and let the rest go. Don’t be a mule. If multiple people tell you the same thing about a sentence, structure, plot hole, or point of view issue, take a step back and really look at what you’ve got.
Editing and change are often frustrating and tedious, but they either make or break your book. There is so much to learn/know. Sometimes painful decisions need to be made. Characters you love may need to change. Sometimes vastly. Whole sections may need to be eliminated.
I love sharing this story about my husband, Pete. It’s an apt metaphor for the editing and publishing process.
Pete has a love-hate relationship with a holly bush in front of our house. For years he’s tried trimming it to keep it under control, but the bush seems to have a will of its own. One day Pete had had enough. Grabbing a saw, he dropped to the ground and cut it down.
Funny thing, a couple of weeks later, green started sprouting from the stump.
Editing a novel is like pruning a tree or a bush. In that initial rush of emotion, words pour over the page. Cohesion and logic take a back seat to growth. But once you take a step back, the delete key becomes your surgical scalpel, and critique partners, your nurses.
Sometimes my work is overwrought, and drastic steps need to be taken. Characters and scenes become casualties of the delete button. But the good thing is, if you have interesting characters, and are willing to listen and make the tough choices, your work can bloom beautifully.
Pete now carefully trims the bush to keep it from becoming the overpowering entity it once was. Not only is the holly healthier, so are the plants around it.
I have the most wonderful news. My new novel, Arborview, will be published next year.
Yes, you heard right. The contract has been signed. Final edits are underway, and so is the cover design. The Wild Rose Press, a well established and growing publisher, has purchased the rights, and I’m working with a super supportive and generous editor.
I’m still pinching myself. It’s a magical way to kick off the holiday season, and some good news to cap off a year that’s been so difficult for all of us.
I don’t have a release date yet, but it will be in 2021, and I’ll keep you all posted. While I’m on that theme, I want to thank the friends and colleagues who’ve helped me bring this book–which has been in the works for six years–to life. They know who they are, and I’ve got a hefty “Acknowledgements” section in the novel.
It goes without saying that Cathy has been on this ride from the beginning, through multiple revisions and moments of hair-tearing doubt. She is irreplaceable, and the best editor I’ll ever have. I’m not going to say I love her, because she already knows it.
Writing a novel is like running a marathon. You dig deep and push with all you have. Now we’re crossing the finish line.
It isn’t every day dreams come true. Thanks for being part of mine.
Here’s hoping the blessings of the holiday season–large and small–bring us all comfort this year.
A belated sharing of my recent Collegeville essay. I hope everyone is staying smart and staying safe. As we move towards a holiday season that promises to be like no other, remember: different doesn’t have to be less than. Unexpected blessings may unfold….and soon…
Cathy and I have some great—and most unexpected—news! Next year we’ll have short stories published in the same issue of Gargoyle Magazine. Not only are we thrilled to be appearing in this esteemed literary journal, we are amused and deeply grateful to appear side-by-side in print.
We’ve been friends for—gulp—thirty years. We’re former roommates. We puzzled our way through an MFA program together. We entered the publishing trenches. All along, we’ve edited and listened and supported each other. Cathy has been instrumental in my growth as a writer, and I think I’ve come in pretty handy for her, too. There are no friends like old friends.
Cathy and I will be saving Gargoyle’s Issue #74, scheduled to be out around Labor Day, for our grandchildren. We hope you’ll enjoy it, too!