2nd Check In

I am on a crawl! <– That seems like a more appropriate representation than I’m on a roll.

So I did manage to get a little work done this week, while attempting to muscle through some extreme jet lag. I began working on trying to make my main baddie look more bad and I feel like I got a solid start. At first I thought I would need to change his characterization, but in rereading some chapters I realized that changing how I emphasized (or in the case of what was there before, didn’t emphasize) the chain of evidence had a significant impact in how bad/guilty the baddie looked. I will enhance the character a little as well, through a couple of specific actions (and that’s next), but I don’t need to do quite as much as I originally thought. My goal is to finish with these changes by the end of the this weekend. If it wasn’t for some neglected household projects, that would probably be super easy. But I have a couple of things that now need urgent attention.

Also, I noticed that even though I previously stated that I have six major changes to make, it’s really eight. I missed one from one of my readers and I forgot that my chapter headings directly relate to my timeline (again) and that the timeline is out of synch. Fixing the timeline is always a doozy of a cerebral exercise.

The other thing that is worth noting, now that I am getting serious about finishing Mercury & Murder, is that I decided to take a little time and update the page for it. It’s not flashy, but it is now accurate — including my new, real, target date for publication, so check it out: Mercury & Murder.

Couldn’t Sleep

That’s unusual for me. Normally, when my head hits the pillow I am out. I sometimes joke that I can sleep on command. But not this week. The past couple of nights I can’t stay awake when watching TV with my son at 7:30-8:00. I go to bed at 10:00 or 11:00 and I’m solidly out for two hours. Then, I have trouble getting back to sleep.The last couple of nights it has taken a couple of hours, but tonight I didn’t get back to sleep at all. I tried everything — reading, warm milk, the other side of the pillow, the other side of the other pillow, watching TV. Nothing. So I’ve finally given up. I was going to get up in half an hour to do some work on Mercury & Murder, so I guess I’ll just get an early start. That feels nice and productive, but man the afternoon today is probably going to be brutal!

1st Check In

Better late than never, right??

As I mentioned in my 2015 Plan, I have a highly, ahem, achievable goal of blogging once a week. For those of you keeping score, I may be revising that to be a goal of “averaging” one per week.  Which, no doubt, will result in a flurry of 20 posts the last week of the year. At any rate, this is my first check in, albeit a tad more than a week late.

One point of clarification, I wrote in that post that I had 5 of 6 editing tasks left on Mercury & Murder, but in actuality #1 was (insert Monty Python voice –>) not quite done yet. I discovered on my trip that I still had a few chapters to reread at the beginning of the novel. In fun fashion, I accomplished that task over a beer in Tokyo’s Narita airport.

Reading a draft of Mercury & Murder in Tokyo's Narita Airport

Reading a draft of Mercury & Murder in Tokyo’s Narita Airport

With an assist from a nice long plane flight, I did make it through the second task. This was basically enhancing the relationship between my main character and his girlfriend by increasing their interactions and the build-up to a crucial scene. When I finished that I actually felt really good about it and wanted to immediately share it with some of my readers. I resisted the urge, being somewhere over the Pacific at the time probably helped. Of course an hour later I was second-guessing myself anyway and wondering if maybe I shouldn’t do more. I do think it’s good enough, but it is always a challenge to figure out when to stop tweaking.

So this week I am on to task #3, which is giving a little more umph to my baddie. I don’t have a clear picture of how I’m going to do that yet, but I’m sure I’ll figure something out.

One more thing that I want to note — a friend texted me the following this week: “Hey! When’s the next book coming out?? I genuinely loved the first one.” The first thing I want to note is that whenever someone texts, tweets, e-mails, or posts a review about how much they liked my book, well, I am amazed, flattered, grateful, and a little buzzed. It is indescribably cool to get unsolicited positive feedback on my work. Thank you. And I must say that that type of feedback is encouragement that sticks to my ribs like a good meal. That’s the reason that I’m blogging tonight and that I’m going to be getting up early to write this week.

Note number two, is simply the timeframe with which I responded. Optimistically, 4-6 weeks, particularly if I got good work done on the trip back from China (didn’t quite hit that mark). Or 2-3 more months. Yes, I can already hear somebody groaning over the 2-3 months, but to be clear, that’s not to finish content, those dates are to when Mercury & Murder will be on sale. Also, personally I really want to hit the 6 week mark, not the 12 week mark. But either way, I need to get cracking.

2015 Plan

As I sit down to write this, I’m suddenly struck that a 2014 Review and a bit of an Update are probably in order just as much as a plan for this year.  Okay, I’ll do both of those later this week. But, in the interest of staying on task, let me sketch a plan for this year.

  1. Publish Mercury & Murder (BC 2). I’ve got 5 out of 6 edits left on the current draft and a close reading to follow. If I use my time well, the book should be ready to upload by the end of the month. If I’m realistic about the actual constraints of the space-time continuum and my lack of superpowers, mid-February is probably a better bet.
  2. Blog once a week. No real reason I can’t sit down once a week and whip out a few hundred words to keep everyone updated. It’s a good healthy goal to get me back into my groove and keep me there. In fact, this post is really the start of it.
  3. Publish BC3 (tentatively, playfully titled Chocolate & Wet Suits)Okay, that really is a stretch goal since I managed not to get BC2 out last year. But, I’m 25,000 words in, the major part of my house project is behind me, and I think it’s just (barely) do-able once I get my groove back.

So, with a little bit of luck, and a lot of discipline, what you can expect from me this year is two books and 52 blog posts. There will probably be more along the way, but I think that’s a good set of goals for the year – I’ll be quite happy if I can hit that.

So Why All of the Silence?

As some of you have noticed (and even asked), what’s up with the writing and why has the blog gone silent? It’s simple-ish. Really. I bought a house. Technically a fixer-upper. Now to be clear, not a fixer-upper in the rat infestation in the basement, crumbling foundation, WFT-OMG, vane of things. It’s more in the yard is a jungle, and the color selections were Pepto Bismal pink, salmon, purple, and what-were-they-thinking green, vein of things. Maybe you already see where this is going.

So, I took some time off work to work on it and the first day of the project I’m having lunch with two of my best buds and I ask them how I get rid of the odor in the house. “Gotta tear out the carpets.” I hadn’t planned on that, but it was easy and fun – out they went. While staring at the subfloor for hours doing the interminable job of removing the leftover staples, I found myself staring at what I now determined to be the crappiest bathroom floor I had ever seen. Its only redeeming value was that it covered the 1974 turquoise barf-pattern, original flooring. I took the bathroom apart and all of that came out as well. Then, although I had only planned to take the popcorn ceilings down in the two rooms I had planned to paint, once I got started I discovered it was easy. So, naturally, I did all five rooms upstairs and the hallway. Turns out the post-removal sanding is the hard part. My shoulders still ache.

Somewhere in the midst of trying to sand, fix, caulk, and tile, I moved my son and I in. Into temporary quarters in the den and bonus room, while I attempted to put the upstairs back together. Technically, the upstairs is mostly back together at this point – we’re sleeping upstairs and both bathrooms are half working. But I still need to move some furniture up, do lots of unpacking, and some finishing work. By the way, that’s the short version of the story.

So from the end of June until now, weekends and evenings and some very late nights, have been consumed with the project and the only work I’ve done on Mercury and Murder is to reread it.

At first I was okay with taking a break from the writing. It was supposed to be a short break and I did need to fix up my house and get my son and I settled into it, after all. But the scope expanded, then expanded again. The weeks moved into months and here I am three months and two weeks later and I’m feeling actual angst at not having worked on the book in three+ months. It could have been out by now!!

Now that the angst of needing to write has finally overtaken the angst of needing to finish the house and starting today I’m going to be nibbling on both. I don’t have a firm re-revised date for getting the book out, but December 1st feels semi-realistic, so I’ll aim for that and see how the next ten weeks go.

Back in the USA

Not to be outdone by a picture of Mercury & Murder near some five-hundred year-old French ruins, one of my Beta Readers took the book to an exotic spot in Durham, NC.

Mercury & Murder at the James Joyce Pub

Mercury & Murder at the James Joyce Pub

The James Joyce Pub!

Well, it is Durham. And you read Finnegans Wake, right? :-)

Cheers to my Beta Readers. Thanks for reading Mercury & Murder, thank you for your feedback, and thank you for continuing to answer my ceaseless questions. I truly appreciate your help. I am plugging away on the book and looking forward to releasing it (fingers crossed) July 1st.

 

Beta Goes to France

So what do you do if you volunteer to be a beta reader for a novelist? Why you take the book on holiday to France, of course!

Mercury & Murder Beta in France

Mercury & Murder Beta in France

Now I’m not saying that if you get a chance to read one of my betas that you’ll get a trip to France, your results may vary. But, if you happen to have a vacation coming up, it does seem like an ideal time to read (Shameless Plug Warning –> particularly one of my books!).

So my good friend Beth, from Jersey (England), read Murder & Mochas and volunteered to be a Beta Reader for Mercury & Murder (Book 2 of the Beowulf Chronicles). As luck would have it, I finished just in time for her holiday in France and she took the book along with her.

Mercury & Murder Beta in France

Mercury & Murder Beta in France

The ruins in the background are of Les Tours de Merle, a castle in the commune of Saint-Geniez-ô-Merle, in the Corrèze département of France. It was a feudal fortress from the twelfth to fifteenth centuries, and a historic monument since July 30, 1927. At one time it included seven castles, two chapels, and village. Probably some people as well. And it exchanged hands, at least once, during the Hundred Years War.

I must say that it feels pretty cool to see my, not-yet-published, book globetrotting already! To top that off, not only did Beth take the time to read it and provide me feedback, but she also took it on her vacation. I feel honored!

The good news is that she liked it. She liked it more than Murder & Mochas and she liked it so much that she read it in one evening! In general, the feedback has been that this one is better — better plot, better pacing, more polished, etc. Good to know that I’m getting better (I think that’s how it’s supposed to work). That said, I’ve still got a lot of work to do before I finish up Mercury & Murder, but more on that in my next post.

Flipping on the Light

It’s appropriate that my last post was on the eve of my week off to write, since I have taken this week off to write. Here’s a quick recap:

I didn’t take that week off. I found out that my company was about to let some people go in a restructuring and I cancelled my vacation. I did not get let go, but my department did get hit hard – that shook me up. For a while. At this point, for both me personally and my department I think that there is an opportunity for some very positive change and I am starting to look forward to it. For the past month or so, I must say, this writing hobby has seemed entirely secondary.

On the writing front, the work hit a full stop and then I nibbled at it on and off. During one phase of nibbling, I did manage to finish the beta for Mercury & Murder. I didn’t make all of the changes I had planned, it was more of a merger between making most of the significant ones and feeling the need to put it in the hands of my Beta Readers. So a couple of weeks ago, after missing the deadline, the delay line, and the new deadline, I sent it off to them. I’m aiming for feedback – Wow next weekend already.

As for book 3 (tentatively titled Chocolate & Wetsuits), my real target for the week, I’ve got the first chapter done – yay me! A chunk of that was done in a moment of true inspiration when I realized that volunteering to read something at my writers group meant that I actually had to have something to read. It got better reviews than I was anticipating and one significant flaw was discovered. That said, I need to finish outlining the book and write as much of it as possible this week. Ideally, I would like to finish it around the time that I get feedback on Mercury & Murder, but I don’t see that happening at this point.

I’ll keep you posted.

My Week of Writing

Begins . . . Now! I feel like my next sentence should be, “That is all.” But I’m chatty, so it won’t be. :-)

I took off next week to write. Technically, I’m supposed to be getting Mercury & Murder out to my beta readers today or tomorrow, but I’m a little behind — we’ll see how that goes. Then I’m supposed to start on BC3, tentatively titled The Heist. My goal is to get BC3 done while the beta readers are reading Mercury & Murder (BC2).

At any rate, the goal is to get jacked up on caffeine and spend the next 7 days writing. Fortunately, the weather has conspired in my favor. It has been one rainy, chilly, nasty winter day out. A make me some soup and curl up under a blanket with some tea type day. So I don’t really feel like doing anything other than staying in. That’s good. We’ll see if it holds when the spring weather breaks in tomorrow.

I’ll try to make some quick updates along the way, but that’s enough idle chit-chat. Here I go.

Mercury & Murder Cover

I am so stoked to be unveiling the cover for Mercury & Murder, book 2 in the Beowulf Chronicles series.

Mercury & Murder

 

What do you think??

Once again, I had the fabulous Abel Valdivia create my cover and he did a bang up job. This time, though, instead of going to him with an idea mostly worked out and then dragging him through endless back and forth to create the picture I had in my head, I let him do his magic. I simply told him what the book was about and a few of the ideas and images that were central to it and said, “show me what you think it ought to be.” The final version is a very minorly tweaked version of what he produced.

I couldn’t be happier, both with the result and with the ease with which he created a great cover for the book. There is something so damned exciting about seeing the cover — helps to make it real. Now I just have to finish the book!!