I streamed this video on Periscope recently.
I streamed this video on Periscope recently.
With the release of my fourth Dog Park Mystery, It has been past time to ramp up my game. I hired the inimitable and incomparable Elizabeth Mackey to take my portrait of Julia to the next level and redo my covers to create a series brand for me.
I’m a painter. I’m not a designer. I am especially not a book cover designer, a discipline which involves much more than arranging text and images.
I love how she’s taken my paintings and added a fun, sassy edge.
She has also updated my audiobook covers:
And then there’s the new logo for my imprint, Two Pup Press:
How many ways are there to say, “I LOVE it!”?
This post is part of the My Writing Process blog hop. If you’ve never seen a blog hop before, it’s like a chain letter where you get to talk about yourself. Weeks ago, someone tagged my friend, Anna J. McIntyre. She tagged me and two other mutual friends, and then I went on a mad scramble to tag some authors who were willing to tag other authors.
Every Monday, a new and growing set of authors blogs about My Writing Process. You can follow the chain backwards or forwards. You can veer off onto new branches of the chain (do chains have branches?) It’s a great way to discover your favorite new read.
I’m writing Sneak Thief, my fourth Lia Anderson Dog Park Mystery (due out this summer). The title dog is Julia, a perfectly adorable Beagle with big brown eyes and a penchant for stealing. Her owner is Desiree Willis.
Those who read my first book, A Shot in the Bark, will recognize Desiree and her special connection to Lia, a connection neither she nor Lia is aware of. Desiree has a stalker. And then there’s murder, and . . . well, that would be telling, wouldn’t it?
My Dog Park Mysteries focus on the community of oddball relationships established at the park, so they are primarily cozy mysteries. But they have more suspense, thrills and heat than your typical cozy. While readers have classified my stories as clean romance, my characters do have sex. You might wind up inside a killer’s mind, or in a fight for your life. I’ll drop an F-bomb on rare occasions when it’s especially appropriate.
Lia is an ordinary person who starts the series well out of her depth. Murder changes her. You see her deal and you see her grow. Peter is a great boyfriend, but he’s got a few faults. Their relationship is a work in progress. The dogs are clueless about murder though their doggie antics have been known to impact an investigation.
If a character uses an electronic gizmo, the gizmo exists and is readily available and affordable. DNA results take weeks to return. Peter may pay out-of-pocket for private lab results when an investigation isn’t official, but he’s not going to jet off to Central America before breakfast to follow a clue. He doesn’t have the vacation time, for one thing.
Because it’s fun and challenging to create entertaining stories that include relatable characters and plausible plots.
I want books that are warm and funny, sometimes sexy (but never graphic) and occasionally scary, with some smarts thrown in. I found bits in other authors but never the whole package, so that’s what I’m looking for when I write.
I work best on my iMac desktop computer. I have an ancient, oak chair a friend rescued from somewhere, a stool with the legs removed for my feet, and a sliding keyboard tray.
I start with a premise and imagine how my characters will react to it. This stage also involves a lot of poking around on the internet. For my current story, that meant reviewing all kinds of surveillance gadgets and figuring out exactly how someone would use them.
A friend of mine has a shop where she overhauls flutes. I polish instruments for her. We’ll sit in the workroom and I’ll polish while she’s working on repairs and we pass the time discussing plot points.
When I have the initial scenes in mind, I sit down and start writing. I try to stay a few steps ahead of myself while I see where the story takes me. I have an idea where I want to end up, but I have to work out how to get there as I go along. I set up a calendar of events to ensure plot continuity.
I immerse in the story while I’m writing the first draft, neglecting friends, letting the laundry pile up and drinking lots of coffee. If I’m not sitting at my desk, I’m napping on the couch and letting the story percolate.
Once I finish the first draft, it sits for a few weeks before I do a read-through with a paper printout. I’ll scribble notes on it as I go through it. I stay off the computer at that point because I don’t want to be tempted to start re-writes before I’m done reading.
Once I’ve done the first set of revisions, I’ll hand it off to my first-stage beta readers. I’ll do the third draft using their feedback, then send it off to my second-stage betas. When I’ve incorporated the beta feedback, I’ll start chasing any remaining typos and tinkering. I’ll run it through a couple of editing programs. I’ll listen to it using text-to-speech while reviewing it word for word on the computer. I’ll read it again on my Kindle. Once I’ve done the best I can with it, I send it to my editor for the final polish. By the time I’m done, the book has had more than a dozen passes.
Be sure to check out author Anna J. McIntyre’s post from last week.
Between now and February 10, you can order a T-shirt featuring your choice of any of my eBook or audiobook covers. Check out my Lia Anderson Dog Park Mysteries to see your options.
Shirts are $20, shipping included. If you choose to order more than one sent to the same address, the price is reduced :
This is going to be a low-tech operation:
Your order will be final when payment is verified. Shirts will be shipped via USPS Priority by February 21. This sale is an experiment made possible my printer’s semi-annual discount.
I’m still getting the occasional hit on my Cover Dog Photo Contest posts from last summer. Thought I would let you know, I’m running another portrait contest. This one is a raffle to celebrate the launch of Maximum Security later this month.
It’s part of my online launch party on Facebook, Wednesday, November 20, from 7pm – 11 pm, EST. Participate in party activities to rack up entries. There will be lots of other prizes as well, but the grand prize is an oil painting of your dog from photos that you supply to me. No purchase is necessary to earn entries.
Go to the Maximum Security Launch Party Page to RSVP, and while you’re there, get your first entry by suggesting a caption for the photo of Buddy, a little troublemaker caught in the act of eating Grandma’s Christmas present.
If you’d like to study up for the trivia questions, half of these are from this sample of Maximum Security. The rest come from A Shot in the Bark and Drool Baby. Other activities do not require any special knowledge to participate.
Please feel free to invite anyone who likes dogs and mysteries – but then, who doesn’t?
I’m really excited about Maximum Security. It’s going to be another month before it comes out (November 21, Yikes!) and I can’t stand it, so I’m posting the first 10% here. This dog park mystery features my very own Max (yes, that’s her, above) as an escape artist (she’s playing to type). If you want to go straight to the dogs, skip the prologue and go to “Day 1.”
To get the PDF, click here > Maximum Security Sample
I hope you love it!
Here’s another picture, just because.
I’m having a hard time as a reader these days. Part of it has to do with becoming an author, giving me less time to read for pleasure and making me choosier as well as more critical of the books I read. Part of it has to do with reading the same series authors since the 90s.
For many of them, their story-lines have become preposterous, or they’ve gotten lazy and they’re phoning it in. I can tell because I still reread the stories that made me fall in love with them. James Patterson has become the McDonalds of popular fiction, farming out a dozen novels every year to a variety of short-order writers.
I was thrilled when the library phoned to say Storm Front was in. Thank God. John Sandford is still a reliable great read. I was in the middle of listening to Rough Country on audio, but happy to set it aside for the new installment in the Virgil (that F-ing) Flowers series.
I usually avoid reading the inside flap on authors I like because I want to be surprised every step of the way. This time I was riding in the car with a friend when I picked it up, so I took a peek. Turns out, Virgil is in pursuit of an artifact with calamitous religious implications smuggled out of Israel. A DaVinci Code knockoff? Not your typical Flowers fare, but what the hey, it’s John Sandford.
So I cracked the spine and turned the pages and found: “I wrote this novel with help from my partner, Michele Cook . . .” and she’s a journalist and screenwriter who never wrote a novel before.
I tried, I really did. I made it to page 60, but then I had to stop. It’s not a bad book, exactly. The writing is competent. If this were a college student, I’d give it an A. Not because I wanted to, because they did what they were supposed to. But it lacks the heart that makes a great book live.
I’m sure many people will be perfectly happy with the book. It’s just that it’s not John Sandford, whose ball-scratching masculinity sweats from the pores of every word. Sandford put the “F-ing” in Flowers. This Virgil is a paper doll in comparison.
I’m sure the rest of the book is competent as well. It’s just that I feel like someone gave me tickets to see Elvis and I got Taylor Hicks in a white jumpsuit instead.
Perhaps it’s not fair of me to judge a book I won’t finish, but my time is valuable and so is yours. If you aren’t picky, and you aren’t a rabid Sandford fan, you will probably enjoy this book. But I don’t think Sandford did Cook any favors by putting his name on the cover and setting expectations so high.
You’ve been warned.
Back in the day, long before I ever thought I’d write novels, a woman named Karen Shaffer invited me to bring my signature good-will guerrilla art project, New Leaf, to Abingdon, VA for an arts festival.
There I met her husband, Charles Vess. If you’ve never heard of Charles Vess, he’s an amazing illustrator who became disenchanted with drawing Spiderman for Marvel Comics. When I met him, he had just finished collaborating with Neil Gaiman on Stardust.
He told me he got tired of brawn being the ultimate solution in the comic book world. He went looking for stories that were resolved through ingenuity instead. Fast forward some years, and Stardust is made into a major motion picture featuring both Michelle Pfieffer and Robert De Niro. What does Hollywood do to this terrific book? They tossed in a lot of the POW! BAM! that Charles had turned his back on.
I enjoyed the movie and have watched it several times. I do not enjoy it more than the book despite the appearance of Robert De Niro in a :-X (sorry, can’t tell you. I don’t do spoilers).
As I was considering my recent review of Elysium, I remembered this bit of irony, and it brought to mind popular plot devices (read: lazy shortcuts) that disturb me as a mystery novelist.
One of the most over-abused practices: “If the pace drags, kill someone.”
This has become so popular that even romantic suspense writers such as Amanda Quick now litter their books with multiple corpses. When she started her writing career, one dead body would do just fine.
I’m not a prude about dead bodies. My first two books were about a serial killer (it says that, right in the blurb). But there just aren’t all that many serial killers out there, and ordinary, run of the mill murderers do not normally leave a trail of bodies behind them to cover up their crimes.
So I’m in the middle of novel number three, and I’m thinking about pacing without the easy device of gratuitous murder. I read some experts.
What do writing gurus have to say about plotting? There are variations on the exact wording, but the common wisdom is that “A plot is a series of disasters that get progressively worse as the book goes along until the triumph (or not) of the final confrontation.”
Seriously? I like to think my characters are smarter than that.
This makes me think about Patricia Cornwell, whose books I used to love until the exacerbating negativity finally got to me. The last book she wrote, I’d finally had enough. Within the first two pages, Kay Scarpetta is fuming about some bit of incompetence engineered by Pete Marino. She’s kept this guy around for twenty years with all the stuff he’s pulled and she hasn’t gotten rid of him? Why does everyone she works with eventually betray her? Is she that big a bitch?
And what about Lucy and Benton? Why do we never see her having a good time with the two people she loves most? Does she really love anyone? Why hasn’t someone sent her to the therapist she so obviously needs? This is entertainment?
So, yes, a novel needs obstacles or it isn’t compelling, or even real. But I like some triumphs and good times, too.
Other devices that annoy me: undetectable poisons that kill rapidly in tiny amounts, over-reliance on a network of readily available informants, silenced guns that are actually silent, same day DNA tests, and protagonists who have more money than God so they can drive around in fancy cars and fly to Bimini to pursue clues at the drop of a hat.
Edit: My friend, Jacques, just reminded me about duct-work large enough for a football lineman to crawl through. Doh.
Edit #2: More of a movie convention, but still worth mentioning: Endless thugs that multiply like tribbles, especially the ones who teleport in front of you, no matter how fast you’re going or how many times you’ve eluded them.
Where am I going with this rant? I have a small request to make. While I might slip from time to time, if I ever become reliant on such silly devices, please put a drop of that undetectable poison in my coffee and put me out of my misery.
Okay, so I recently published the audiobook version of A Shot in the Bark, and Audible sent me a few free codes for my personal use. And I thought, I don’t want to give these to my friends, they are the only people I can count on to buy my stuff. And I don’t know any audiobook reviewers (if you do, please let me know!) to send them to.
So that leaves raffling them off.
If you’re wondering what I’m talking about, click on the cover below to go to Audible.com, where you can listen to the first five minutes of Jane Boyer’s fantastic narration.
Are you hooked?
I was, the first time I heard Jane’s voice on her audio samples. And you can have more than 7 glorious hours (okay, it’s actually 7 hours and 42 minutes) of Jane bringing Lia, Peter, Bailey, Anna and the rest to life.
If you’d like the chance to win a copy for your very own self, click on the link below to go to Rafflecopter.
You’ll get entries for liking my Facebook page and following me on Twitter. You can get extra entries for tweeting once a day.
The contest runs through June 29th.
If all this seems like too much fuss, you can always just surf back over to Audible and shell out 17.95. But what fun would that be?