Tuesday, October 26, 2021

And Another In-Person Event


I parked myself and books under a tree.

Until Covid, the Springville Community Club put on a most popular outdoor event, The Apple Festival. Two years in a row it was cancelled, but this year they decided to try again, this time giving it a new name and only doing it for one day.

Though they didn't have as many vendors as in the past, there were still lots selling all sort of things, goodies to eat, (behind me, the local store was selling Tri-Tip sandwiches and had a long, long line), crafts of all kinds, plants, clothing, yard sale stuff. There were activities for the kids.

I judged a pumpkin decorating contest, and helped judge a costume contest.

While manning my booth, I was visited by old friends I hadn't seen in years, met a Facebook friend I didn't know, and a new mom in town and her daughter bought 13 of my books. Before the day was over I'd sold 18 books all together. Made back the money I'd paid for the space at the event and more.

According to our local newspaper, more than a 1,000 people attended.

I have one more in-person event lined up, the annual two day Holiday Boutique at the Porterville Art Gallery, November 5th and 6th.This one is always fun and a table and chairs are provided. Since it's inside, the weather doesn't matter. 

I've also been asked to give a presentation next year at one of the Community Club's regular meetings.

Yes, things are beginning to get back to normal, and I'm loving it.


Wednesday, October 20, 2021

The Curse of the Blank Page

by Janis Patterson

This isn’t a post about writers’ block. I don’t really believe in writer’s block. The mind is always going, always creating, always fabricating, always dreaming. There’s no shortage of ideas or knowledge of exactly where your story is going to go.

No, this is a post about ... I don’t know. Ennui is as good a word as any. I have two books both almost finished. I know just what needs to happen in both of them. I also know exactly what is going to happen in two more books that are both about half finished. (Yes, I almost never have fewer than four projects going at once. Weird, I’ve been told, but this is the way I have always worked.) Pages of dialogue flow through my mind. Descriptions of settings are firm in my mind, some of them clearer than actual places I have physically visited.

So what is the problem?

Ennui. Or perhaps accidie.

I guess I just don’t want to write the words even as they are yammering in my brain. I sit down at the computer, open the current file and sometimes get a couple of hundred words done before being startled to find myself playing a killer game of solitaire MahJongg or working an electronic jigsaw puzzle - both guilty pleasures. Or finding that I really need to clean the gasket on the dishwasher with a Q-Tip to make sure it’s really clean - right now! (If you saw the perpetually chaotic state of my kitchen you’d know how insanely weird that is.) 

In talking this phenomenon with my writer friends I’ve been given the usually sage diagnoses/advice to burn out (take a couple of hours or even days off), to adjourn for a session in the hot tub (which I do every morning and have for ages), of boredom with the project (I have four going, remember, all in different genres), to relax and read more to refill the well (done that, and lack of ideas/settings/plots is not my problem) and to get a physical checkup to make sure nothing physical is wrong with me (done that, all okay).

No, I have come to the conclusion that the problem is me. I don’t know what it is, but it comes from me. I’ve been a professional writer of one kind or another for most of my adult (and some of my younger) life and have always - always! - made my deadlines. I’ll make these too, but it will probably be a close thing. At my age the inevitable thought of retirement comes to mind, but even in this weird time it is met with horror and denial. I love writing and honestly can’t think of anything else I’d rather do. (Except be a movie star, maybe, or an astronaut... see? My imagination is alive and well and overactive to boot.)

It would be tempting to blame this condition on the plague hysteria that has destroyed our lives for the last year and a half, but that’s the easy way out. To be honest, my life didn’t change that much from pre-plague life to current plague hysteria. I have always worked at home. My commute is from the kitchen to my office, which is just the length of the house. 

No matter how enthused I am when I wake up in the morning (after coffee, of course) and rush to the computer, by the time I get there and turn it on, finish with my emails and go to Word I just sit there and stare at that big blank screen, and that big blank screen just stares back at me like some omnipotent empty eye. I know what I should be putting down - my characters and my actions are ready and I’ve been polishing them in my head all night - but suddenly I realize I need to scrub the refrigerator right now!

Perhaps a part of it is a kind of fatalism, a foreknowledge that it will be a waste of time. The money just isn’t there. My sales have fallen so far down the return is minuscule, hardly worth the electricity it takes to run my laptop. Of course, I don’t write just for the money, but it is a consideration. The old reward-for-value thing - in other words, no reward, no worth. And that’s a hard thing to face, especially for one who used to make respectable money. What has changed? The market or me?

I’ve even thought of changing formats when I write, though I’ve used a word processor/computer since the early 1990s. While I loathe writing anything by hand and absolutely refuse, I have thought of digging out my old manual typewriter, but realize that would take too much energy. Besides, I’d have to clean out the storage closet where it lurks in the back with the other things I keep for sentiment’s sake. Then I would have to put everything back, and by then it would be time to fix supper.

I apologize for dumping on y’all, but several people have asked me when my next book would be out and quite frankly I don’t have the slightest idea. Sigh.

So - it all comes down to ennui (boredom) or accidie (sloth), and both devolve on me. Apparently the only cure is discipline, something I have always been lacking. But I will get better. I promise. Besides, The Husband has promised me a blow-out steak dinner at our favorite steak house when I get back on track. It should work. Hey - I can be bribed!

Friday, October 15, 2021

Trusting Readers

by Linda Thorne

On my scheduled post in April, I wrote about letting go of my second book, admitting semi-giving up, but with one catch. On occasion, I can't resist tinkering with it. I don’t know what will happen long-term, but I needed to shake that burden of guilt that goes with leaving a loosely completed manuscript sitting in draft form. 

To complete my debut novel, Just Another Termination, I practically lived at critique groups and every time I got stuck in my writing, I left one of those meetings knowing what I needed to do. With my full-time job and husband’s health, I’m no longer willing to spend my off-time at critique groups away from home. This has taken its toll on my writing.

Last weekend I was paging through my current manuscript, A Promotion to Die For, and began moving segments of plot from one section of the book to another, making changes. I was rewording some of these sections when I noticed something a critique member would  likely have caught if I'd taken these pages to be critiqued. I’d been giving readers more information than they needed, writing down to them as if they were not as savvy as me at catching the storyline. I took out some details that could be brought up later, if they ever needed to be explained at all, and the scenes read so much better.

Readers need to enjoy the story, love the characters, and get it. I believe this occurred in my first book; that is, if those who read it were honest with me. I’ve enjoyed books where I have room to guess and make my own assumptions. In many cases, I'll find out later whether my guess or assumption was incorrect when the writer explains what she previously left unsaid. Sometimes I finish a book without some parts being clarified, holding onto my original presumptions. Does it really matter if what I thought differs from what the writer had meant? Often not since the reader will view a scene, situation, or character differently from how other readers do, including the writer.

I’m sometimes thrown off by an unknown word, term, gesture, or activity obviously familiar to the author, but not to me. I prefer the challenge of figuring it out or, at least, getting the gist myself for what’s happening rather than to be fed a detailed account.

I enjoyed that moment last weekend, looking over my neglected manuscript and, at the same time, discovering a problem that gave me a topic for this Make Mine Mystery post.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Slowly But Surely, It's Coming Back


Someone was asking me a question.

The Porterville Art Association hosted me for a talk and book signing last Saturday at their Art Gallery.

They've never closed during this pandemic continuing with their art classes and spotlighting various artists and their works. 

I was invited there last year too. This year I spoke about the Importance of Setting in Fiction. I don't think there were any aspiring writers in attendance, mostly it was people interested in hearing me talk about my books--among them were a couple of my friends. 

It was a small enough group that people could keep space between them. Some wore masks, others didn't. 

I brought a small sampling of books--my latest one, of course, THE TRASH HAREM, and I also had a copy each of my first books, two historical family sagas--and they both sold.  I did well, considering the small size of the group.

Next up, is a one day Fall Festival held in my own town of Springville. It is taking the place of the big Apple Festival which  hasn't happened because of Covid. This event will be much smaller that the other one. I have an ideal spot. The hard part is getting set up because I need help to do it.

After that is the Holiday Boutique, a two day event at the Porterville Art Gallery. I love doing this one because it's inside, the table and chairs are provided, and they usually have a steady stream of customers.

I love hanging out with the folks who run the gallery and yes, I do buy some of their gifts on sale. Plus it's a good time to really take a good look at all the paintings.

So, it is really coming back, and I'm happy.

By the way, I'm also having a .99 cent sale on Kindle for Angel Lost, it's going on all week.


Marilyn who writes the RBPD mystery series as F. M. Meredith