Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Don’t be afraid to be a fan

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I emailed a writer I’d seen speak at a writing conference to tell her how much I’d enjoyed her presentation. Thankfully that writer wrote back, we met at a local diner, and an amazing friendship was born.

Why am I sharing this?

Because without her, there would be no Hitwoman books.

She was the person who, while we sat in a cafe, cared enough to tell  me I should write using “that voice” (my snarky one) instead of writing the dark stuff I was working on at the time.

That one sentence changed the path of my writing, even my life, and I’ll be forever indebted to her for caring enough to utter a truth I may not have even wanted to hear.

And to think, if I hadn’t reached out to her after the conference, we never would have met.

I learned this lesson about not being afraid to tell someone you like their work about twenty years ago, from someone who is now one of my best friends.

We were both taking a Creative Writing class for adults at a high school. She ran after me across a dark parking lot (we still joke about the fact she’s lucky I didn’t do her physical harm in the name of protecting myself) to tell me how much she’d enjoyed the sample of my work I’d read aloud.

Now that I know her, I love her dearly, but back then I wouldn’t have spoken to her if she hadn’t approached me first. She’s a beautiful, open, gregarious, charming Southern woman. Basically my complete opposite, lol, and yet we became the best of friends. In some ways, we’re even more unlike each other twenty years later (she doesn't even write anymore!) but our friendship remains.

I became friends with a playwright because I admired his work.  We both got different things out of our friendship and I firmly believe that it was through him that I learned how to write "funny". We've since drifted apart, but I'm so glad that I told him what a fan I was. The rewards were amazing.

When I think about it, I don’t have a heck of a lot in common with most of my closest friends.  We don’t live the same kinds of backgrounds or lives. We don’t share many interests or belief systems.  What we do share is a common “fandom”. We think there’s something amazing about each other.

That’s why, when I see or meet someone I think is exceptional, I try to tell them so. Sure I probably come across as a wee bit stalker-ish, but I know that the best way to connect with someone special is to start the conversation.

Tell me Killer Friends: Do you have any friends that you were once a fan of?

In case you missed it, MUST LOVE PETS 2, which contains A WOOF IN SHEEP'S CLOTHING is now available. 
7 stories for 99 cents...perfect for gifting to someone who could use a pick-me-up.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Where Has September Gone

So far September has been a month of settling back into routine. I've been making the rounds talking about my newest romantic suspense EXPOSED. It means long pants and new boots. Never miss a reason to buy new footwear! 

There are leaves to be raked. It means less grilling and stocking the freezer with chili and cabbage rolls and soup. I love making soup. My mom is coming over Friday to supervise the making of the cabbage rolls...

It means the return to a regular writing schedule. To that end, my writing group has began a month long writing challenge. We post goals, inspiration, and results on our private Facebook page. Everyday the one in charge has been posting Pixar's Rules of Storytelling. 

The characters of BETRAYED are taking shape. The plot is advancing. I'm thinking goals, motivations, conflicts. 

Sneak Peek:
          “Is there somewhere we can sit and talk?” Hillary Alton Davenport, cut throat criminal lawyer, asked with a tone that implied he’d managed to disappoint her yet again.
Mike glanced at Elizabeth, who was barely recognizable. Her softness replaced with blood red lipstick and a dress that had corporate office woven into the fabric. Gone were the dangling earrings and loose skirts. Gone was the girl both brothers had fallen in love with in high school, the woman he’d sacrificed everything for.
His stomach rolled.
“Sit. Please.” He escorted them to the couch and secreted a deep breath. Then he adopted the pretence of waiting. There was no rushing her. She’d let them all stew until she was ready. It amused her. The power she welded.
So he gave her a moment, and took one for himself.

What does September mean for you?

Friday, September 25, 2015

Death Row

A couple days ago, I watched a show detailing the last 24 hours of a death row inmate. (Not any specific one. Just in general.)  I found it fascinating.  Naturally.

Did you know that the viewing rooms aren't like on TV?  They're not a gallery with theater seating. There's no seating at all. Everyone stands.

There really are phones inside the execution chamber, though.  Two of them, in fact.  One is a line to the governor's office.  The other is a line to the attorney general.  Either one can halt the execution.  Sometimes, though, it might only be halted for an hour or a day.  To me, that would be kind of cruel.  Waiting is bad enough.  Waiting to find out when you'll die?

Last meals are an interesting thing.  Typically, the condemned is allowed to request one last meal of his or her choice.  They went through a short list of who ate what, but I don't remember it now.  One famous serial killer asked for and received two tubs of mint-chocolate chip ice cream.  One - Ted Bundy, I think - had eggs and hashbrowns and coffee.  One wanted cheeseburgers and fries.  Another one asked for 4 BLT sandwiches.  That last one tried to circumvent the process of execution by taking his own life the night before.  He took a bunch of tranquilizers he'd 'tongued' (hidden under his tongue and then spit out after the guards left and hoarded).  They pumped his stomach and his execution was rescheduled.  The chef ate his BLTs.

Texas has ceased to give their death row inmates a choice of what to eat as their final meal.  They get whatever the general populace is eating that day.  That makes sense.  The victims didn't get a fancy dinner and a whole lot of hoopla before they were executed.  :shrug:  

I think if it was me, and I had a choice of how I was executed - and I guess some of them do get to choose - I'd pick death by guillotine.  It's quick and it's certain.  One executioner they interviewed said he'd prefer the electric chair because it's quicker than lethal injection. 

If I had a choice of last meals, I don't know what I'd eat.  Scallops maybe.  In the end, it doesn't really matter, does it?

What would you chose as a last meal?  What about manner of execution?

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

How much money do YOU make?

Personally, I've never asked anyone that.

I don't ask my doctor, or my garbage collector, or my best friend.

I may have wondered, heck, I may have even tried to look up a ballpark figure, but I've never ASKED anyone that question.

As a writer, I get asked that ALL THE TIME. I've been asked it twice already this month.

And I know I'm not alone in the experience because other writers complain about it bitterly too.

I won't speak for others, but on my personal list of IRRITATING THINGS WRITERS HEAR it falls at number 3, behind: "I have an idea for a book, but I just don't have the time to write it" AND "Are you published?"

I did an informal survey about it on Facebook this weekend. (If you're not a FB friend, you should consider becoming one...I'm right here)  I was surprised to learn that some people in other fields have had to deal with same question, but almost all writers had.

Is it a secret?

Is it anybody's business?
Hell no.

I did however like someone's suggestion of just saying, "not enough".
Or maybe I should just bore them to death with the WHOLE answer which includes really boring stuff like production costs, self-employment taxes, being self-insured, and significant work hours.

Tell me Killer Friends: Have you asked that question? Have you been asked? How do you feel about it?

Monday, September 21, 2015

When Reading Gives You The Shivers

The first day of fall is right around the corner. The center of things is shifting. Change is in the air. I love fall, with its pumpkin everything, cozy clothes, and cooler evening walks. Canada geese are honking their way south. My crockpot is dusted off and in use. A new television season is about to start. Hello, Blacklist! I've missed you.

There's a chill in the air. And you know what pairs nicely with this new season. Books about things or someones that go bump in the night. There's nothing like the advent of autumn to remind a person of those possible monsters under the bed or chainsaw wielding madmen. It's the perfect time to read something that makes you shiver.

Get your scare on!

I'll never forget reading The Shining as a teenager. I was a wreck for days. Good times, baby. Or the time, again as a teenager - only this time recently moved away from home and living by myself, when a group of us watched a long ago version of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It took sleeping with the lights on and binge reading a Harlequin romance to get me through that night.

The week I read Carrie? Blocked.

These days I save my chills and thrills for romantic suspense, suspense, thrillers - psychological or otherwise, and mysteries.

You can find mention of all those types of books here. Written by present and past bloggers of The Killer Chicks.

What type of stories get your heart racing?

Friday, September 18, 2015

Happy and Positive

Our own lovely JB Lynn has been doing a little something awesome on Facebook recently.  Every day, she posts a status talking about the positive things in her life.  And she invites her follows to post something that makes them happy or thankful in the comments. 

Frankly, some days I see her post before the caffeine has kicked in and I'm stymied to come up with a single thing.  Not that I'm in a bad mood or that I'm feeling unhappy or negative, but the brain isn't functioning on all 8 cylinders yet.  Once the brain kicks into gear, I can find things.  Because there are always things.

Simple things like I'm awake and breathing. Everyone I love is happy and breathing. I have a roof over my head. I have food in the house.  I clothes on my back. 

Some days it's hard to see the happy and the positive.  I get that.  I think we ALL get that.  But the more you focus on the unhappy and the negative, the harder life is to take. 

I know this girl.  She's a cashier at the local store where I shop.  She's like 20, appears to be healthy, has a job and a home, seems relatively intelligent... And she's miserable.  She makes me sad because she spends so much time focused on the negative in her life, I'm surprised she can crawl out of bed in the morning.  She also makes me sad because I know that negativity feeds on itself.  And if her attitude doesn't improve - or she doesn't learn to hide it better - she's going to lose her job. Which will make her more negative, which will prevent her from getting or keeping another job, etc.  It's a spiral.

'Life sucks' is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

She makes me sad partially because I used to be just like her.  OMG, I was such a Negative Nelly in college.  Bleh.  Then one summer, my attitude improved.  I don't remember why.  I only remember that it improved so much, I had people comment on what a change it was.  And after I got a promotion at work, my boss told me he never would've considered me for the promotion before because my attitude sucked. 

Just a little something to think about. 

So, yay for JB and her happy/positive list!  And for her daily reminder that we all need to look for those things in our own lives.  Even if a shitstorm is raining down on you, there probably a pretty flower growing somewhere for you to see.  Focusing on the flower, believe it or not, will help you weather the shitstorm in the long run. 


Wednesday, September 16, 2015

How my lack of walking is hurting my writing

I like to walk. I really like it. So much so, that I've mostly walked four half marathons.

Unfortunately, I haven't really been able to walk for the last couple of months due to knee surgery.

This is totally screwing with my writing process. 

My "normal" life consists of a walk for a mile or two every morning with the dog. This is important time. It's when I mentally review what I wrote the previous day and what I want to write that day. Sometimes I spend the majority time fine-tuning a single line or paragraph. Other times I replay a scene in my head until I've "seen" exactly how I want it to play out.

My creative day starts with that morning walk.

Except lately, it hasn't. 

And I'm struggling because of it.

I've found it much more difficult to prime the pump of my creative juices without physical movement.  Frustrating.

I know I'm not the only writer who uses walking to help them think. Poor Stephen King was doing just that when that idiot plowed into him back in '99.  :-(

I'm also a compulsive pacer when I get stuck. I turn on some tunes and pace the length of a room until a solution presents itself. (This form of walking is hard on the dog. Unlike other mutts I've had, she stubbornly refuses to leave me alone while I pace. This results in me repeatedly ordering her to lie down, which in turn results in her looking at me like I'm the meanest human in the whole entire world.)

But now I can't pace for any length of time.

Still, I was convinced things were getting better. I'd finally gotten back to walking around the lake. 

That is until yesterday, when my physical therapist told me I was walking too much.


What's an antsy writer to do?

Tell me Killer Friends: What kinds of tricks do you employ to get through YOUR work?

Monday, September 14, 2015

Marketing Mode!

Marketing. That nine letter word that makes my head spin.

Some words on marketing. Not from me because I have no idea what I'm doing, but from a 'professional'. 

7 Ways to Engage Your Customer's Reptilian Brain. It sounds terrifying, but it's actually very interesting, to me anyway. Not only from a marketing perspective but from a customer point of view. Be warned though, she uses some extreme marketing examples that some might find disturbing or even offensive. 

Must work though and has to be part of the reason why companies spend a bazillion dollars on those Super Bowl commercials. Makes me think of my favourite commercials and why I like them!

If you only knew how many times I watched this! I'm still laughing. 

Aren't perfume commercials the craziest? Also, Charlie Huunam fan here. Like... yeah. Counting down the days until I can see him playing King Arthur. 

Find me at my blog where I'm giving away a $25 Amazon gift card and a sweet, little red leather wallet to celebrate the release of my latest romantic suspense, EXPOSED. Your chances of winning are very good! 

What are some of your favourite commercials?

Friday, September 11, 2015

Remember and Live Your Life

Yeah, I'm the Killer Chick responsible for this day's post.  This is cross-posted from my other two blogs, but I think it bears repeating...

I don't need to tell you what day it is.  But I won't admonish you to spend a single second in silence, remembering what those butchers and assholes did fourteen years ago.

Remember, certainly.  How could one ever forget?

But do not bow your heads.  Honor the fallen by holding your head up.  Take up arms in your own way by living your life to the fullest.  Walk around with your face uncovered and your soul free from guilt.  Play music.  Look at art.  Draw. Sculpt.  Write books.  Dance.  Have sex.  Drink, if you have a mind to - alcohol, coffee, rainwater... Do whatever it is that they say you can't do without breaking one of their asinine rules.

Be free and celebrate your freedom.

Don't let them have even one inch of your life.

A moment of silence?  Fuck that shit.  Live your life and be free.

Shout it from the rooftops.

"Oh, say can you see by the dawn's early light, what so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming?"  I see it.  Do you?

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Looking back, Looking forward

Killer Chicks has been around for five years.  That kind of blows my mind.

Unfortunately two of the original three Chicks, Jennifer Hillier and Joann Swanson, have moved on and done some amazing stuff, but I'm still hanging around.
Jennifer (who has a new release out next month, WONDERLAND -- pre-order it now) and Joann aren't our only former Killer Chicks.

We also had Clarice Wynter (aka Jennifer Colgan) gracing our ranks for quite a while.

And now I'm lucky enough to share this space with B.E. Sanderson who just released Wish On One Hand and Karyn Good who will be releasing EXPOSED on Friday!

Talk about an awesome group of ladies!!

I just re-read our very first post. Check it out here. (We even had our own video-- thanks, Joann!)

You'd think that five years isn't that long a time, but when I looked back to see where I was, I barely recognized myself.

If you read my part of the post, you'll be able to figure out that this took place BEFORE I sold CONFESSIONS OF A SLIGHTLY NEUROTIC HITWOMAN...maybe even before I'd sold THE FIRST VICTIM.

I keep pinching myself. That was only five years ago? It feels like a lifetime.

I'm definitely a different person.  A better person. And part of that is because of the wonderful ladies who have helped to carry the Killer Chicks banner.

I propose a toast to Jenny, Joann, Jennifer, B.E. and Karyn:  Thank you, ladies!

Tell me Killer Friends: Have you read any of our books? Can you remember what YOU were doing five years ago?

Monday, September 7, 2015

The Writing Zone

Maybe it's because I'm getting ready to release EXPOSED on Friday, but I'm thinking about voice these days. Most likely my brain is making the switch from marketing to writing. I haven't done much writing these last couple of months, but I can feel the need building inside. Great timing too, because my writing group starts a writing challenge this month.
"What writers hear, when they are trying to write, is something more like singing than like speaking. Inside your head, you're yakking away to yourself all the time. . . . What you are trying to do when you write is to transpose the yakking into verbal music; and the voice inside, when you find it, which can take hours or days or weeks, is not your speaking voice. It is your singing voice--except that it comes out as writing." (Louis Menand, "Introduction: Voices." The Best American Essays 2004. Houghton Mifflin, 2004) 
There's a magical zone I reach when I'm writing and it is an awesome place to be. Sometimes it's happens during the first draft when things are spilling out and kind of sort of making sense and you know it's good stuff. Other times too. But my favourite zone happens during the editing process. Usually around the second or third go round. You know exactly what each character would say, how they would react, you know their secrets, their strengths and their weaknesses. They know everything about them. And you can make them do anything. 

Any. Thing.

Okay, as long as it's fits their character and the plot.

Damn, that's a great feeling. Speaking of voice and writing and making music...

"And they came in waves. Streams of animals pouring like some liquid over the hilltops, expanding, contracting, spreading across ridge crests and passes. We followed for as long as we could each day, were overtaken when we camped for the night, and dragged our leaden limbs out of frosted sleeping bags in the morning, to start a day of trying to keep up, all over again." Karsten Heuer from first weeks Being Caribou

Also, I might be a tiny bit addicted to the reality television show, Life Below Zero found on the History channel.

Pre-order Links For EXPOSED:

What's your favourite zone to be in?

Friday, September 4, 2015

Searching for the Right Book

I don't know about all of you, but I read a bit from most genres.  When it's time for me to pick up a new book, I usually ask myself what I'm in the mood for - romance? mystery? SF? Something funny or something serious? An old favorite author or someone new to me?  Then I hit the shelves or flip through the Kindle to see what might strike my fancy.

Sometimes, I look at everything I already own and can't find exactly what I want.  You know how it is - you're hungry, but nothing in the house sounds good, and you could really go for a hot fudge brownie sundae, but you're too lazy to make the hot fudge or the brownies.  When this situation arises - the book one, not the sundae one - I hit the interwebs and my favorite place to shop for books.

But let's face it - it's still not the easiest thing in the world.  It's not like when I used to go to Borders - wander the stacks, pull a book off the shelf to see the cover and read the back, and find something sparky.  I mean, the online stores do an excellent job of showing me what might be similar to what I've already bought.  Like this?  Well, try that.  And I've found some good books that way.  But no.  I'm talking about when I have a taste for something unlike what I've recently purchased.  Cuz sometimes I have a taste for scallops, but I haven't had scallops in forever (or maybe because I haven't had scallops in forever) and so the online store doesn't know I like them.  Ya know?

That's where the ol' search thing comes in.  Have a taste for something like that book you read about the veterinarian in Australia who makes housecalls in the Outback?  Search veterinarian Australian outback.  And maybe throw in humor, if it's humorous, or adventure, if it's adventurous.  Tada. 

But that's where some authors fall down a little.  We only have 7 'keywords' available to make our books easier for the readers to find.  (I put quotes around it because it's also key phrases and not just single words.)  And from what I've read, we're not using those keywords effectively. 

If you've written a military thriller set in Iceland where the retired female officer hero has a puffin and works as a clown on the weekends, that's a lot of keyword fodder there.  BUT if you've already but your book in Thrillers > Military, you don't need to waste your keywords on those two.  The book's already going to be in that search.  From what I understand, you want to use those items that set your book apart from other military thrillers.  'Female protagonist' would be a big one - because, let's face it, there aren't a lot of those in military thrillers.  Then you have to ask yourself if puffin would work, and it would - but it's too narrow.  'Pet bird'... 'unusual pets'...  Think about what the readers would be typing into the search box.  Think about what you might use to find a book like yours.  Go to the retailer and see what different searches yield, and if your book is already published, see where your book lands on the search results. 

'Genie suspense' landed Wish in One Hand at the top of the search, btw, which is a good thing. 'Supernatural suspense with dogs' landed it at the fourth one down - also good. If you try a search where you think your book ought to be and your book isn't on the first page or two of results, you need to think about refining the keywords.  The broader the search - 'supernatural suspense' for instance - the farther you're going to be down the list unless your sales are already totally awesome and then you probably already have what you need.  That particular broad search put me too far down to bother with.  :shrug:

Anyway, it all depends on what you're looking for as a reader and what you're trying for as a writer.  Keywords are called 'key' 'words' for a reason. 

What keywords do you use to find books to read?  What keywords to you use to help readers find your books? 

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Building an Artist Manifesto

I have a business plan, but I don't have a manifesto.

But I recently read a bunch of them here and now I'm thinking maybe I need to write one and post it to motivate myself.

Here's how my business plan starts:

"I write entertaining, fast reads full of humor and unexpected twists…or really twisted bad guys."

and how it ends

"Don’t forget: Have some fun!!!!!!!!"

which I thought was pretty good, but now I'm thinking in my manifesto I need to come up with some great statements like these:

"If you don't like something change it."  The Holstee Manifesto

"Be boring.  (It's the only way to get work done.)"  Austin Kleon

"Do not feel absolutely certain of anything."  Bertrand Russell

"Identify what's important to you."  Leo Babauta, Zenhabits

"Go. Make something happen."  Seth Godin

Things of my own I might add:

Shut up.
Shut up and listen to the world around you.
Shut up and really listen to those in your life....those who care and those who only claim to care.
Shut up and listen to your gut. Your heart knows what's best.

It's better to try and fail, than to squash your own dreams.

Safety can equal stagnation.

Tell me Killer Friends: Do you have a manifesto? What advice would you add to one?