Sunday Funday, writer style


Yes, I have already switched notebooks for my bullet journal. Now, I’m in a faux Midori, traveler’s notebook style. It allows me to keep all my separate notebooks in one place – I have my trackers, my dailies, and my writing. 

Ah, writing. 

Things are not going so well there. Depression clouds many things, and I don’t mind telling you: I’m in a great fog right now. So, while words are elusive, planning goes in bits and fits. 

Today, I’m looking at setting. It’s a cozy series, so I need a small town. None of this small community within the big city for me. (Which I do enjoy, btw, and am not disparaging – I’m just not familiar with big cities!)

Now, small towns? Those I know. But I absolutely do not want one of the super tiny villages in Illinois. No, I want something a bit bigger – more attractive, more touristy. 

I found list of ten small towns in Illinois. Narrowed that down to five. And then had to make it four because one is just too small. 

At least, I think it’s too small. It’s something like 963 for population, I believe. It’s Elsah, Illinois and it’s absolutely  beautiful. And perhaps Hollis will find she has a cousin there, eh? 

Now, I really wanted something in central, Illinois but I’m not certain that’s feasible. But, I continue to compile a list. By the end of the week, I will have made my choice. 

Here are the contestants: 

  1. Galena
  2. Lebanon
  3. Fulton
  4. Greenville
  5. Nauvoo

Oh. I thought I started with five, but it appears I had six. 

What’s your setting research like? 

The trouble with first lines 

There’s so damn much pressure to have it be perfect. Even more so, perhaps, than just about every other piece of your book. And it isn’t that I disagree with this sentiment – not exactly. While I don’t know if any one spot of a novel is more important than another, I know that if I don’t hook my readers, they’ll put the book down and not pick it up again. 

But is it so extraordinarily important that I am agonizing over one damned sentence? Not the scene. Not the chapter. Not even the paragraph. 

One stupid sentence. 

Do you have this same issue, or is it just me? I still haven’t nailed mine down, though I’m working on it. 

(yes, by working on it I mean anything but…)

Chapter One – Where did it go?

So, it’s Wednesday – the day I’m supposed to update you on the goings-on in my current work-in-progress. Only, there’s not been much progress on which to report.

I’m trying to layout Chapter One right now – there are 5 things I need to cover in the first chapter –

  • disclose the crime
  • plant some clues and/or red herrings right away
  • introduce the sleuth, and reveal just enough of her background to understand her world
  • ground the reader in the time and place
  • begin with a dramatic event (whose? The victim? The sleuth? decisions)

So clearly,  I can absolutely disclose the crime at the start of chapter two, perhaps the very, very end of chapter one. Because let’s admit it – that’s a tall order for chapter one, isn’t it?

Also, in what order do I wish to plot these?

So, that’s literally what I’m staring at right now…

What’s your first line?

I love #FirstLineFridays. I love being introduced to your stories, being sucked in with just that one sentence. And yes, we all know there are some that are more memorable than others. I previously shared my favorite first line, and that sentiment hasn’t changed.

I love Jane Eyre. And that first line is forever a standard I cannot live up to. *sigh*

Here is what I have so far:

From an early age, I considered myself an above-average observer.

Exactly. It’s… lackluster. Boring.

I am currently reading the Stormy Day box set. First of all, I highly recommend this. It’s currently on sale, too. Second, here’s the first line of book one:

The hand-painted snowman on the vase kept his coal-black eyes trained on me.

OK. Perhaps that is only marginally better than mine. And by marginally, I likely mean leaps and bounds.

What about A Baron for Becky, by Jude Knight? (As an aside, I will be hosting a book club for Jude, featuring this specific book. August 6. The book is only $.99 right now, and I would love, love, love for you to join me. Just let me know you’re interested!)

In the nursery, the two little girls waited, sombre in their mourning blacks.

Oooh… much better. Not exactly delightful because we have children in mourning, but still… it’s lovely. And I think it really does what the opening sentence is supposed to do – it draws you in, hooks you. It begs the question: why are these girls mourning? Whom are they mourning?

Mine does not do that. It needs work. Lots and lots of work. But I’m still in the planning stages – and finding planner heaven with my bullet journal! (There’s a group on FB, you know…)

Share with me – what are some opening lines from what you are currently reading?

Oh, and I’d love to share this with you. I doubt they are all first lines, but they are beautiful all the same.

31 Most Beautiful Sentences – a link. click it. I dare you.

I especially love this one –

I was as unburdened as a piece of dandelion fluff, and he was the wind that stirred me about the world.

 

Where did my productivity go?

I mean, seriously. I started this whole Bullet Journal thing because it’s supposed to help. And it does help me focus on what needs done. I’m just not doing everything. Because with or without this damned thing, I’m still a slacker.

And I have to stop. I mean, who cares if I note that I’m going to do these 5 things if I don’t actually do them? Well, I do. With school coming up, I need to be back in productivity overdrive.

Did I mention yet that I cannot wait to start my fall classes? I’ll be taking two tax classes. EXCITED!!!

Yes. Seriously.

So, it’s Wednesday, and that means it’s Work-in-Progress. Over on Jude Knight’s website, she’s talking about servants. Specifically, the servants of her characters. Jude is a wonderful historical romance author – and I’ll be hosting an event for her 16 July. Let me know if you’re interested in attending. I can probably link the Facebook Event on here.

But see, I switched my focus from historical romance to a cozy mystery set right here in Springfield, Illinois during the early 20th Century. We open in 1918, although the series will veer into the 1920’s. Turns out, my fair city has a rich history of gangs and bootlegging.

So, while my main character comes from a wealthy family, she is peacefully estranged from them, and has no servants. Oh, she’s well enough off – and receives a stipend from her father – and she owns her own book shop. She does, after all, have to be able to travel and investigate the murders. Plus, as I was writing her, she revealed that she owned this shop and did not talk to her family. Running from a tragic event, of course.

But if we don’t have servants, what do we have? Well, mob bosses have hired muscle, naturally. And they don’t play an important part in my book, but the exist. I mean, I’ve written the confession (no tells, sorry) but not much more than that, so perhaps they do play an important part.

Anyway. Here’s a hint at what’s to come. (Naturally, I’ve already changed a bit of this, so I feel fine sharing!) And please remember this is 100% raw, unedited nonsense scribbles!

I briefly admired the Pullman attached to the end of the train, but it was nothing to get too excited about. Daddy had one, and mama always tried to get me to use it for my buying trips. I preferred the anonymity of a public car.

Two more men in that public car. I found the last public car almost completely empty. Two large men sat at the rear, largely ignoring each other. Each read the morning paper. Rather, they pretended to.

Hired muscle, each of them – likely for the owner of the Pullman. I recognized the air of self-importance about them almost immediately.

Lefty stared at me over the fold of his paper, careful to avert his eyes when I dared meet his gaze. Righty had no such subtlety. He put the paper down and stood. With a grace not usually seen in one so bulky, he moved to where I stood.

I was unable to suppress the smile that spread across my face. Lefty remained unknown, but I had known Righty most of my life.

“Newton Jones. What a pleasure.” It would not be. Newton only worked for one family since leaving our small town up north.

“My apologies miss, but this car is full.”

I detected the moment recognition set in. The tough guy act shattered, and he flashed a quick smile. “Surely it’s been too long, Miss H – ”

“The car is empty, Newton.” I gestured widely – we had yet to be joined by another person, and the ticket girl had indicated this car was fully available.

“It’s for your own good, miss.”

Of course it was. But I was tired of being told what was good for me. In the end, I won – but only because the train started moving, and there was nothing to be done. I was stuck in the car closest to my uncle’s biggest rival – the man who most hated me and my family.

So there you have it. The first official excerpt from my newest piece. It’s rough, but it’s fun. I hope you enjoy!

Tell me, what are you working on this week?

 

Just. One. Book.

Throwing Chanclas

Just. One. Book.

I live in a town of 1200 people in the Northern Sierra Nevada –where it meets the Cascade Range near Mt. Lassen National Park and about two hours drive northwest of Reno, NV.  Two hundred of that population is students. Over the years as the population dwindled after mines closed, then mills–nothing except tourism and retirement have emerged as ‘industries.’ Many businesses have closed down and with it many things we take for granted—like libraries.

The local junior/senior high school has not been able to purchase new books since the 90s. Some of the “check outs” for old books are in the 1980s. There are no books by people of color in the library. Hardly any books by women are in the few book cases except your standard Austen and Lee. It’s an uninviting place. There hasn’t been a librarian for nearly a decade. And volunteers weren’t allowed. The…

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Hazel Marie Rossini

So, it’s Wednesday. That’s code for “Work-in-progress Wednesday”, aka What I’m Working on Now…

Truth me told, not much. It’s like I’m still reeling from school, and I’ve no idea what’s going on or where I’m going.

I have a character, as the blog title would suggest. Born 21 February, 1897, she is the fictional depiction of my maternal grandmother , who was also born in 1897. Because I am from a 2nd marriage, my grandmother was almost 80 when I was born, and I didn’t know her too well. By the time I came around, she was old and frail – and she had just lost a husband and already buried her daughter. I don’t want to say she was bitter, but that’s what I remember.

And now that my father is gone, I feel as though there is no connection there any longer – there is no one with whom I can discuss my grandparents. (Which is not true as I have an older half-brother and half-sister who could totes fill me in, were we close.)

But this is still something that bothers me.

So what does any nominally sane person do? Why, they fictionalize their Grandmother, of course. So, there you have it.

Now, characters have backgrounds, and Hazel is still revealing herself, although she is totes going to settle down with an Alfred at some point. I do know she’s hiding something BIG when she comes to town because she calls herself Ellis Bell, but she has not yet revealed the specifics.

Have I mentioned yet where my series will take place? Here. Right here in Springfield, Illinois. I am going to have so much fun digging into the history of my hometown 🙂 Let me be frank  – I am not sure where/how to start researching so TIPS ARE APPRECIATED. But, I suppose the first thing to do is save up the $80 and invest in a library card… I get a half day at work every other Friday in June, July, and August. Guess that’s what I’ll be doing with my time until my husband is off work 🙂

So, that’s what I am working on. I don’t have anything to share about it, though. No words, at least.

What I can also share is that I am still digging my Bullet Journal. I’m 3 weeks and 3 layouts in, and I think I’ve been too fancy pancy about it. I create with words, not doodles and fancy lettering. So when I start August, I am going back to a more minimal approach. As I become more comfortable, I will share pics.

Have I told you what the Bullet Journal is? Well, let me just share these links instead. They give you the best rundown.

Here is the original site. This is Kara, and she might be a genius. Shh. I didn’t tell you that. There are a ton of other sites. Most of them are full of beautiful lettering and doodles and color and… all the things I am not. And it’s spawned a bit of bullet journal envy in me, which is immature and petty, and just so… beneath me. So, I sat my ass down today (I mean, I was at work, so…) and listed why I want the bullet journal:

  1. productivity *
  2. efficiency *
  3. timely assignment completion for school
  4. budget free time
  5. writing goals

* These are also my buzzwords for the year at work. I’m doing pretty good, I think. I hope. oh, now I’m concerned.

Anyway…

I then asked, what do I want to track?

  1. blog posts – when, what, etc… I mean, I am FAILING you guys, and I need to be more productive.
  2. writing goals – will I track chapters or words, though? Not sure yet.
  3. weight loss
  4. habit tracker (this is amazing and helfpul) – here is Kara again, this time guest posting on Bulletjournal.com.
  5. savings goals
  6. daily water consumption
  7. gratitude
  8. No Spend months (although this could just be part of the habit tracker, come to think of it…)
  9. goals – daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, etc…
  10. class assignments
  11. positive quotes (because I’m trying to be more positive and not such a Negative Nancy)
  12. Bills – I have them on a monthly calendar right now.

So, I’m in love with this because I get to customize it 100% to what I want. And it requires some inner reflection – what works, what doesn’t. What should I keep, what can I do differently.

And frankly, I highly recommend it.

Oh, and I’m now on Instagram. @LauraMichaela_Author. So far, it’s BulletJournal and nature photos. #sorrynotsorry

Also! I had this question – do we, as authors, owe it to ourselves to read the stuff that is getting totally slammed in reviews? Is that part of being a better writer – the reading of the bad to see what NOT to do? I would love your opinions…