Writer’s Den Interview

Jane Waters Thomas interviews authors in her series The Writer’s Den. In the March 1, 2017 telecast, Jane interviewed me about the writing process used in developing the Compass Crimes Series. The first book, South of Justice, came out in May 2016. North of the Killing Hand came out in October 2016. The “West” book is scheduled for release in October 2017. A link to the video appears near the end of this blog.

PLAN

I am a plotter, that is I plot out the entire story before I write to target research on particular topics and to prevent wasting time writing scenes that don’t move the story along. Pantsers, that is those who write by the seat of their pants, tend to think about a story and plot in their minds and then write in bursts of time. The process of transforming a story concept into published form takes years of practice and study of the craft of storytelling. No matter which process the author uses, the reader sees only the result.

RESEARCH

Man, oh man, the internet can connect me to experts and data in seconds! I enjoy the field-research phase of the writing process best because I meet wonderful experts and get to try new things–like field-stripping an M-16, visiting foreign countries, and living on a trawler for a while. What’s not to love when work is such fun?

WRITE

Technology has vastly improved the writing process. I’m not sure I would have had the fortitude to type and retype a ninety-four-thousand word manuscript with each revision on a manual typewriter. Today, a writer can use computerized document software like Microsoft Word, or Scrivener to create novel-length manuscripts. Changes, additions, revisions are simply keystrokes. Move a word. Move a sentence. Move a paragraph. Move a chapter. Easy peasy. Writers today don’t even have to be proficient at typing. I use Dragon Naturally Speaking software to dictate my first draft. Sure, it tosses in a completely inappropriate homonym occasionally, but I can dictate faster than I type, so my productivity improves with technology.

MARKET

To quote Author and Pilot Jamie Beckett, “Writing is an art. Publishing is a business.”

Vincent Van Gogh, one of the most influential painters in the world, did not earn a living a a painter. He lived and died poor. He was unable to sell his work. Don’t be the starving artist. Learn the industry. Learn the market for your work. Learn about marketing principles for authors. Find social media sites for readers, like Goodreads, and connect with readers.

Authors today are expected to manage both the art and the business elements to build a career. Gone are the days when the author drops off a manuscript at the publisher’s then deposits the advance check and tromps back home to start the next book, leaving all the editing, proofreading, formatting, cover art selection, copyright, typesetting, layout, printing, binding, distribution, and marketing for the publisher to handle.

Authors are expected to participate in marketing through book signings, social media, and more. Building a readership takes time. Tom Clancy didn’t quit his insurance job the day his first or second book was published. Diana Gabaldon, author of the Outlander series, had a tough time convincing a publisher to contract her books. Her stories combined historical settings, war, romance, time travel, suspense, and mystery. Publishers didn’t know where to shelve her books in bookstores, so they didn’t know how to place her books where her readers could find them. In time, readers found her stories and today the Outlander series has been made into an amazing televised mini-series.

Click on the picture to view the interview.

Jane Waters Thomas interview for the Writer’s Den.

REPEAT

My readers, God bless them all, have encouraged me in this long process. They show up at book signings from New Mexico to Florida. They buy my ebooks in the U.S., England, Canada, Japan, and Australia. Thank you, readers, for your purchases, your reviews, and for recommending my books to your friends. So on I go, writing the next one.

No TV Week 1

Television has brought me to the moon with Neil Armstrong, to Hogwarts with Harry Potter, and to the battlefields to witness war from a safe distance. It delivers world news as well as game shows showing people eating cave spiders. The challenge to live without television for a year is about better use of time. Television watching for me has become a mindless habit and a time suck. Can I meet this challenge?

I haven’t counted how many hours a day or a week were spent gaping at the screen, but even if it was merely an hour a day—that’s seven hours a week! How many times have I asked for more time in the day? Kinda scary to call my own bluff….

recycle bin after no tvDay 1 without television drove me to find things to do that I’ve been putting off, like sorting through a four-drawer shoulder-high filing cabinet for what to keep and what to jettison. We don’t need the warranty and maintenance records on the previous central air conditioner, or magazine and newspaper clippings from articles I’d published since college. Notes from a graduate class on Theatre Theory? Tossed. Lectures and syllabus from a writing course taught to middle-schoolers balled up and shot into the bin. Two points. Revisions of the police academy’s report writing classes I co-taught for three years with a detective and police lieutenant for the Polk Community College–gone. Fortunately the gents who man the recycling truck use a giant mechanical arm to lift the wheeled bins, or they’d be calling me unkind names.

Day 2, a Friday, and handsome invited me to the movie Unbroken. Some of you may say I lasted only one day, but this was a movie screen. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Day 3, after blowing dust off my iron, I ironed a few shirts to stay away from the tv. Later attended a Jewish wedding at a museum in St. Petersburg, Florida. Walked around the marina near the museum and saw dolphins playing among the anchored sailboats. Soooo much more fun that slouching in the sofa with a bowl of popcorn in one hand and a remote in the other. Could that be a contributing factor in my holiday weight gain? Hmmm.

No tv fly to VeniceDay 4, Handsome invited me to fly with him to lunch in Venice, Florida. Winds a tad too gusty for me, so he did all the flying. I haven’t piloted a plane in months, partly because the plane was in the shop for repairs, but also because my editing business picked up dramatically this year. Ahhh, the smell of avgas. The sound of the 550 Lycoming engine. I’ve missed you, sweet Centurion, N761XD.

Day 5, keeping up with dishes and laundry. Even filled the Keurig twice. Walked nowhere for an hour on the elliptical machine and then did yoga for thirty minutes. Instead of having television on, tunes played from my cellphone. Didn’t realize how visually oriented my life had become until the blinking screen turned dark.

Day 6, picked up pal Marylou Hess and rode down to Sarasota with a box of books for our mutual friend Martha Sibley George to sign. Martha’s first book is a beautiful historical set in WWII era. Martha has longed to publish her own book since college. What a joy to read Goodbye, Miss Emily at last.

Day 7. Finally have time to work on my own suspense trilogy. Round three of edits to streamline the structure and reduce the point of view characters from seven in early drafts to three. Thanks go out to critique partners: authors Melissa Hladik Meyer, KD FlemingCarol J. PostJamie BeckettJohn Foxjohn and the Lethal Ladies group. Your honesty and bluntness illuminate the flaws and guide the way to improving the stories.

Dear gentle reader, what would you do with an extra seven hours a week?