Next Big Thing Blog Tag

Happily, my dear friend, the talented writer and artist, Julie Williams, tagged me in the Next Big Thing interview series. It’s been called an international tag game among writers. One writer tags another writer to answer interview questions about an upcoming book or other literature project. Here are my answers:

What is your working title of your book?

Focused on Murder –A Spirit Lake Mystery

Where did the idea come from for the book?

I wanted to write about Northern Minnesota, where I spent much of my childhood. So far, I have three Spirit Lake Mysteries in different stages of development. Focused on Murder is completed, Close up on Murder is being revised, and I’m nearly finished with a second draft of Exposed.

What genre does your book fall under?

Traditional mystery/thriller

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

When I read, I prefer to visualize the characters in books without too much detail from the author, but Claire Danes’ character from Homeland comes to mind for Britt, only taller and physically very fit. Adam Beach would be great as forest ranger, Ben Winters.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

When photojournalist Britt Johansson stumbles across the frozen body of a co-ed in the wilds near the US/Canadian border, it sets her off on a hunt for the killer, putting her into the crosshairs of an international crime ring investigation.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I’m ready to make this happen, and I’m open to all possibilities.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

The first draft took about a year. The second draft has taken another year because I stopped to write a first draft of Exposed during NaNoWriMo.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I like Steve Hamilton, John Sandford, William Kent Krueger, Louise Penny, Denise Hamilton, Kate Atkinson and Jim Lynch. Jim Lynch isn’t in my genre, but his characters and settings are wonderful.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I love Northern Minnesota and wanted to pay homage to the Native American culture of that area, the weather, lakes, small towns and people. It’s my way of keeping in touch with my roots.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Photojournalist Britt Johansson will push the limits to keep the bullies of this world from winning. Ben is a forest ranger dedicated to protecting the national forests and all the creatures in it. Too often, that means keeping the two-legged creatures from using the forests for their dirty deeds.

My books are also about family and community—not always pretty. I’ve chosen a small-town setting because it’s a microcosm, but shameful secrets and selfless actions happen among humans everywhere, city, suburb, or slum. Even though my mysteries are about the horrible things people can do to each other, they’re also about the everyday heroes who tip the balance and enhance our lives—the people who pay attention to us, see our flaws and love us anyway.

I hope you’ll check out the excellent authors I’ve tagged, members of Sisters in Crime and my mystery critique group.

Overcoming Resistance on Your Writing Journey

I bought the book, The War of Art, Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles, by Steven Pressfield for a young artist/musician and seeker. I skimmed it and thought the references to war and battle would be attractive to a male. And he loved it. He even read parts of it to me that he thought I’d like. And I did, so I bought a copy for myself and read the entire book in one sitting. I’ve read a number of books about writing motivation, so some of it was familiar, but every time I read something like this, or re-read, it reaches a new place in me that needed to hear it. There were many such places in this book.

The book is written in three sections: Part One, Defining the Enemy; Book Two, Turning Pro; and Book Three, The Higher Realm. Here are a few gems on resistance:

“Resistance is most powerful at the finish line.” It’s true. Right now, I have a finished draft of my mystery, Focused on Murder, and have sent it out to exactly one agent. This section turned a light on my resistance. I fooled myself into thinking there weren’t enough hours in the day to research agents and send out queries and synopses when I wanted to take on the 50,000 words in one month NaNoWriMo challenge. I’ve done great with that and have a first draft of a brand new novel, but my finished novel sits.

Resistance and Procrastination. “Procrastination is the most common manifestation of resistance because it’s the easiest to rationalize. We don’t tell ourselves I’m never going to write my symphony. Instead, we say, I’m going to write my symphony, I’m just going to start tomorrow.”

Resistance and Unhappiness. “As artists and professionals it is our obligation to enact our own internal revolution, a private, insurrection within our skulls.”

Resistance and Healing. “Remember, the part of us that we imagine needs healing is not the part we create from; that part is far deeper and stronger.” The part we create from can’t be touched by anything our parents did, or society did. That part is unsullied, uncorrupted; soundproof, waterproof, and bulletproof. In fact, the more troubles we’ve got, the better and richer that part becomes. The part that needs healing is our personal life. Personal life has nothing to do with work. Besides, what better way of healing than to find our center of self-sovereignty? Isn’t that the whole point of healing?”

I hope you, too, find something in these words that helps you in your writing journey.

Storyboarding Ideas for NaNo

It’s day thirteen of the NaNoWriMo challenge. My head has been down and fingers flying over the keyboard, and now it’s time to step back and plan ahead.

My characters, setting and first act are in place, I know how it’s going to end and most of the plot elements, but in order to tell my story in a way that will engage my readers and keep them guessing but not confused or bored, I need a guideline.

I prefer a visual roadmap so outlining is not for me. In the past, I’ve used the Mary Carroll Moore W and liked its simplicity and the help it offers with ascending and descending action.

Last March I attended Alexandra Sokoloff’s workshop at Left Coast Crime and immediately bought her book, Screenwriting Tricks for Authors. The grid is more complex but Sokoloff offers lots of good tips and advice.

Most recently, I read a blog post by an author in my Sisters in Crime chapter, who draws the scenes on her storyboard. I’m not an illustrator, but I’m going to try using a combination of Sokoloff’s index card/sticky note method and include drawings of key scenes.

Who says a writer can’t be creatively organized and crank out 1700 words a day? I’m always interested in hearing what works for other writers, and would love your suggestions.

Confuse Your Writing Muscles

I’ve been attending Kaia F.I.T., a women’s exercise program three mornings a week and am now on my fifth week. The philosophy is to confuse the muscles for improved strength and tone. You won’t find giant exercise machines jammed into the room. Sometimes we work with jump ropes or resistance bands or kettlebells or even huge tires. We run, do lunges, sit ups, squats, pushups and all variations of body work, sometimes individually, or with partners, and we often move from station to station, constantly changing from one type of exercise to another. The sessions work our brains as well, keeping track of variations in sequences and repetitions. Afterward, my body aches and yet I feel great because I’ve done something I didn’t know I could do. And I’m getting stronger every day.

What does a woman’s exercise program have to do with a blog about writing? I wondered what would happen if I applied the same philosophy to confuse my writing muscles.

Writers are advised to stick to a writing routine and never let anything deter us. But what if we mix it up and create a writing schedule that changes direction at intervals? I’m going to try it for one week and see what happens.

For example:

  • If you always journal in longhand at 7 am, head to the laptop and do a prompt or write a nonfiction piece
  • If you’re working on memoir, mystery, romance, literary, sci fi, historical, or poetry, do something entirely different like postcard fiction or flash fiction for twenty minutes
  • If you always write alone, call a friend to write with you
  • If you don’t have any writing friends, join a group
  • If you’re in a group, go on hiatus
  • If you write at a desk, take your laptop to the sofa or stand at a counter
  • If you’ve never done NaNoWriMo before, do it. You can start anytime

After a week, check in with yourself. Have you stretched your writing muscles? Are they a little rusty from disuse? Does it feel good to surprise yourself?

In the effort of full disclosure, I can’t take credit for jumping into a rigorous exercise routine all on my own. My daughter talked about how much fun it was and how all ages of women were involved. She encouraged me and invited me to a couple of tryout sessions, and when I was discouraged, she told me everyone had a hard time at first and that I was doing great and she was proud of me.

And that brings me to my last suggestion for today’s blog. If you don’t have someone in your life who pushes you a little, encourages you and believes in you, find someone like that or be that person for yourself.  Now get out there and get confused!

NaNoWriMo Begins November 1

Back in Feburary I posted a blog, How NaNoWriMo Changed my Writing Habit and in it I talked about how easy it was for me to keep to the writing schedule during that month. I thought I’d changed my usual habit of procrastination for all time. Not exactly!

Last week in my Friday writing group, I wrote this piece about procrastination in response to one of our prompts:


Boot up laptop, organize notes, open novel

Get coffee

Make two trips back to kitchen to perfect ratio of coffee to soy creamer

Sit at laptop. Find page 246

Old girl’s toenails click on hardwood, white muzzle appears at office door

Fill her food dish, add one tab Benedryl , one-half tab arthritis med, one-half tab pain med

Sit at laptop

Coffee is cold. Trip to kitchen to warm in microwave

Old Girl has spit out her meds

Wrap a chunk of last night’s chicken breast around pills and pop in her mouth

Sit at laptop

Read first sentence of Chapter Twenty. Too many prepositions. Reword it

Read again. Too choppy. Add prepositions, but not as many

Check emails. Friends tell about new haircut, how the kids are doing, how busy they are

Respond to emails. Tell friends about weekend plans and new gray sofa

Look at clock. Close gmail

Read first page of Chapter Twenty. Decide that it should be part of Chapter Nineteen so cut and paste

Check Facebook. Niece posted adorable photos of new twins. Six political commentaries, a hs classmate so proud in his camo outfit, shot an Elk and posted photo of its severed head. Delete photo

Check time. Close Facebook and resume editing novel

Old Girl whines for a walk

Close laptop, find shoes, jacket, key

Slow circuit around block takes longer every day

Open laptop

Chapter Nineteen no longer ends on a cliffhanger.  Delete last change and add back to beginning of Chapter Twenty

Stomach growls

Read paper with breakfast

Check time. Open laptop

Redundant third paragraph on page 292. Reword

Phone rings. He asks, How’s the writing going?

She says, Worked all morning. Need a break!

NaNoWriMo starts in two days and I’m gearing up to write again. I’m hoping for a repeat of my good record last time. If you are doing NaNo this year I’d love to hear how it’s going for you. I plan to blog about the process as the month, and my writing progresses!