Frequently Asked Question: As you look back on 2017, with all its successes/failures, if you could backtrack, what would you do differently?

insecure2bwriters2bsupport2bgroup2bbadgeToday’s question comes from the Insecure Writers’ Support Group … and it’s both good, and difficult to answer.

I think I would have begun doing additional/different appearances earlier in the year than I did.  I realized a need to expand my calendar, and started with a few local conventions/events.  I didn’t know much about them, but was invited to participate by the con holders and figured it couldn’t hurt.

From this decision came a great realization:  I cannot do back-to-back events.  I had one in Campbell, Calif. one weekend, and one in Modesto, Calif., the next.  Even though they were not far from home, it was just too much to manage.  So, the great lesson here was no more than one event per month.  My current health situation means I need some time in between events to rest up and restock — not just on books, but on self-care.

Also, while convention sales can be hit-or-miss no matter who or where you are, I realized that I need to find some appearance opportunities that are more in line with the direction my own work has taken rather than sticking with a given show because “I’ve always done it.”  When your writing takes a different direction, your audience changes.  Sometimes, economic realities have to trump … especially when you’re laying out your own funds to purchase sales space since there’s no publisher behind you to handle the initial expenses.

And yes, sometimes you’ll lose money … which you won’t know until you try a given show.

In any event, the bottom line remains that I would have expanded my horizons sooner and planned a little better based on my own health situation.  So, that’s what I’m working on for 2018.  How about you?

 

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FAQ: Win or not, do you usually finish your NaNo project? Have any of them gone on to be published?

insecure2bwriters2bsupport2bgroup2bbadgeThis question comes, once again, courtesy of the Insecure Writers’ Support Group.

I’ve only done NaNo twice — once in November 2016, and earlier this year in the April “Camp NaNoWriMo” edition.

On neither occasion did I finish my project.  I used the time to motivate/focus on finishing the first draft of Bayou Fire … and didn’t accomplish that goal until December 29, 2016.  The book was published on May 1 of this year.

In April, I worked on some of the short stories that will make up whatever I’m really going to call Bayou NonStandard Time (it’s a working title … sometimes the real ones take a while to show up).  No joy there, either; I knocked out about 10K words.

I signed up this month, and I’ll be using the time to both write and build BNST.  It will at least give me an idea of whether the project is viable.

Frequently Asked Question: Describe Your Writing Process

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The current view from my computer.  Photo by the author.

This truly is the one I think I get more than any others.

I suspect that my process is a little different from some of my peers.  Many of them go to coffee shops to write, or have pristine little corners where they do their best work.

My process is a bit like Method acting; I tend to become somewhat immersed in the location and period I’m writing about.  I listen to music from the period, visit places whenever possible, and read books set in that time and place (fiction and non-fiction).

I also have a bulletin board over my desk that helps with this.  For example, I’m writing several stories set in Memphis and Mississippi for Bayou NonStandard Time (you can read my posts written directly from Memphis here and here, ), so I gathered some paper ephemera during my trip and just put it up over my desk.  This replaced the New Orleans display that was there for more than a year.

The only non-related images you’ll see on the board are the pic of my school horse, Maisey, from about 10 years ago, and an autographed photo from actress Karen Dotrice.  Like me, she’s actively involved with animal rescue … which she attributes directly to her work on The Three Lives of Thomasina.

I also have a little file with maps, books on my shelves and eReader, and access to the internet if I need to double-check something.  I have learned to limit my research to a specific timeframe with the exception of double-checking; otherwise, I’d never write a word.

I am not sure why this method works for me, but it does.  What works to help keep you in the story you’re writing?  Please share in the comments.

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Frequently Asked Question: Have you ever slipped any of your personal information into your characters, either by accident or on purpose?

faq-2027970_1280Today’s question comes from the Insecure Writer’s Support Group newsletter, and it’s a good one.

Authors are always admonished to write what we know.  This means research, one way or the other … because it’s about your experiences.  You either already know about something or you need to go learn it.

The answer to this question, in my case, is that I’ve included some of my personal experiences, but not necessarily my personal information.  Does that make sense?

25908261I was still an active equestrian athlete when I wrote In The Eye of The Beholder … which features a woman whose job at the Opèra Garnier was to ride horses in some of the mid-show spectaculars that composers put in their productions.  They were desperate to get opera-goers to look at the stage and not one another; in the late 19th Century, people went to the opera to see and be seen, not so much for the performance.  My experience in dressage allowed me to write intelligently about what those performances might look like, what kind of equipment was used, etc.

M&M frt Verson 1Another great example is Bayou Fire.  I love to travel, so I was able to incorporate notes about some of the places I’d been into Diana Corbett’s work as a travel writer.  My love affair with New Orleans stands out loud and proud, too.  One of the decisions I made early on, given my determination to put atypical characters front and center in my work, was to give Diana the same autoimmune disease with which I’ve made no secret that I live:  Hashimoto’s disease, which creates antibodies that destroy the thyroid.  It gave me an opportunity to put a real-world problem into my character’s life, which would affect many aspects of her work and behavior.  Thyroid disease affects approximately 60 percent of the population, so it wouldn’t be surprising to have a given character live with it from a statistical perspective alone.