NOT YOUR USUAL SUSPECTS

A group blog featuring an international array of mystery, suspense, and romantic suspense writers. With premises and story lines different from your run-of-the-mill whodunits, we tend to write outside the box.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Little Book That Could by Shelley Munro


Not long after I was published, my editor suggested I write a short story of around 15,000 words. Up to that point all the books I’d written were around 50,000 plus and this was much shorter. My first reaction was sure! I mean, how hard could it be? Writing is writing, right?

The idea part was easy since I’d been dying to write a paranormal romance featuring feline shapeshifters. While many authors and readers thought werewolves were the best things since sliced bread, I dreamed of glossy black leopards. Full of enthusiasm, I dived into the story and wrote about the small country town of Middlemarch. The town is also home to a community of black leopard shifters and suffers from a shortage of marriageable women. In order to attract women to the district the community decides to host the inaugural Middlemarch Single’s ball. (The town of Middlemarch is a real place and the idea for the Single’s Ball hit our news, which is where I stole it from. The ball takes place this year around Easter if you’re interested in attending.)

The shifter community hopes the women might exert a calming presence on some of the young males. Saber Mitchell, the oldest brother in the Mitchell family, wants at least some of his unruly younger brothers married off since their shenanigans are giving him gray hair. Unfortunately for Saber, the trap springs on him. He takes one look at an attractive lady dressed in red and muscles everyone else aside.

Pleased with my effort I sent the story off to my editor and settled back to wait for the contract offer. An email duly arrived, but the reply wasn’t what I hoped. My editor liked the story idea and the characters. She loved the setting and the humor I incorporated, but there was way too much plot for the story length. Would I like to rewrite the story into something longer?

Back to the drawing board. By this time I’d fallen in love with the characters and the town of Middlemarch myself, so I set about lengthening the story. Scarlet Woman doubled in length by the time I’d finished, and my editor said yes to the revised submission. Yay! Readers enjoyed the story and wanted to know what happened to the rest of Saber’s brothers. The Middlemarch Mates series was born and turned into twelve books, all set in the town of Middlemarch.

Since my first short story attempt, I have learned a thing or two and have managed to write several successful short manuscripts. I do find them tricky, though, and struggle to keep my plots to a bare minimum. Writing Scarlet Woman taught me a lot about writing short even though the book itself is novella sized. I like to think of Scarlet Woman as my little book that could.

If you enjoy erotic romances about family and small towns make sure you grab your free copy of Scarlet Woman (free from Ellora’s Cave, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and All Romance e-books from 28 Jan to 10 Feb 2013) and also Lightning Strikes Twice, which takes place at the same dance as Scarlet Woman (free from Ellora’s Cave and All Romance e-books)

Do you enjoy reading shorter length stories? Do you enjoy writing them?

Shelley Munro lives in New Zealand with her husband and a rambunctious puppy. She's currently hard at work on contemporary story that coincidentally features family and small towns. To learn more about Shelley and her books visit her website.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Maintaining Focus


As we near the end of January, and resolutions are falling to the wayside faster than people can line up to sue Lance Armstrong, I've found myself struggling to maintain focus. I feel like I'm wandering around in a murky fog instead of charging up the proverbial mountain.

Part of the problem is the cold, dark days of January. (Yes, I know that the days are now actually getting longer again, but the frigid temps have meant I've gotten outside less than usual, hence, less light in my life.)

Another part of the problem is that life has been fraught with stumbling blocks. These are swallowing up the emotional energy I usually use to keep myself motivated.

Lastly, I'm overwhelmed by the goals I've set for myself. I hope to accomplish more this year than ever before.

I've been using a few methods to keep myself focused and I thought I'd pass along what's worked for me in the hopes they might help someone else.

1) I'm publicly blogging my progress on my personal blog.  It probably sounds like the most narcissistic activity imaginable, but I find that "putting it out there" is making me more accountable.

2) I've planned out my work schedule for the year.  In the past I've plotted it out for 3 months at a time. Seeing it all laid out over the course of the year is helping me to remember how important it is to finish things on time.

3) I'm making it a point to try new things. I've started posting timed free-writes at Ten Minutes to the Universe. I hiked with new people in a new place (fun!).  I ran with a running group (epic fail, but at least I tried).  I'm doing a TON of new stuff in terms of my writing career (like the Confessions Blog Tour I did to market Confessions of a Slightly Neurotic Hitwoman).

All the little jolts of excitement/fear that accompany saying "yes" to new things, is helping to combat my overall malaise.

So how are you doing with your resolutions? What tips do you have for staying focused?  Share! (Pretty please, because I need all the help I can get!)

Friday, January 25, 2013

Curse that blank page!



I opened this page and looked at it for about half an hour, then I realised I was looking at the subject of the blog.
That’s right, the blank page. It’s either a curse or a blessing. I’ve always looked on it as a curse. I’ve spent several delirious weeks developing a story and characters, and I have my notes on another piece of computer paper.
That blank page terrifies me. Will the story translate well on to the page, or will it die a death? Or will I have to fight to tell the stories, stop part way through when the characters turn out to be different than the planning said they were?
More often than not, the latter is what’s happening to me. I have a very tight deadline coming up, and I haven’t finished the book. But that’s because I had to stop when the character revealed hidden depths I really wanted to explore. I could have written the story fast, the way I’d planned it, and hit the deadline with time to spare. But I didn’t think that would be doing justice to the character, or the story. So I stopped and spent a long time thinking. Around a week. That’s why I write fast, because usually, I’ve worked through the story before the dreaded blank page appears. But I seem to be entering another level, because I often want to stop and, if not take the plot in a different direction, then work it through a bit deeper.
Plus, I suck at writing beginnings. Endings—piece of cake. I know them and the story by then, and so I know when I’ve written the last sentence. They want me and the reader to go away so they can get on with their lives. It’s a hill a writer has to get through. Invariably I start writing, and it goes now. I’m getting better, but then, after fifty-odd books, it’s about time I did. When I first started, I used to write out what I wanted to, backstory, planning meetings, all that—then I’d delete it. I needed to write it to get going. The reader didn’t need it, though, so out it went. I’ve seen published books with those scenes in, and wondered why the editor didn’t get tougher, but perhaps the author fought for them. “How will the reader know that my hero is a dragon shifter if I don’t tell them?” Maybe when he does the dragon thing, they might. That’s what teachers of writing mean when they say action, not words, is needed. Don’t tell, show. It’s much more exciting.
Beginnings I have great problems with, which is probably why sending in the first three chapters of a book isn’t a good idea for me. My editors have to work with me to get it right. Once that’s sorted out, I’m away. I love middles, when everything is getting unravelled, and endings, when it works out, but beginnings—no.
So yes, the blank page. I seem to have filled this one. See what I mean about beginnings?

Lynne Connolly

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Inspiring Works


Have you ever read a novel that inspired you? I’ve read some that made me want to listen better, help more or just be a better person. As a writer, I’ve come across several books that make me say, ‘I wish I could write like that.’ I’ve discovered metaphors and thought, ‘why couldn’t I have come up with one that good?’ My favorite (no surprise) is suspense. A well-written suspense is better than extra icing on my birthday cake!

Right now I’m reading Gone Girl now by Gillian Flynn and let me tell you, this is one well-written book. There are a few big plot twists and some really shocking moments in the mystery. The story is captivating and the writing close to perfect.

The story is told from two points of view, both done in first person—Nick Dunne, the husband, and Amy Dunne, the wife. Amy’s is written as her diary. I don’t want to give you any plot spoilers here, so all I will say is Nick and Amy see things very differently. The author lets the reader think they know what’s going on, only to pull the rug out from under halfway through the book.

I must add that the authors here at Not Your Usual Suspects are a very talented group. And although none wrote Gone Girl, they have written some really terrific suspense stories. I’ve read a bunch of them and am in awe of the skill of many members.

What suspense books have you read that kept you on the edge of your seat? 

Monday, January 21, 2013

What About After?

Recently at my blog, I was talking about dreams. Not the kind that wake you up in the middle of the night, but the ones we chase during our waking hours. As I wrote about not giving up, another aspect of realizing a dream came to mind. The afterward part.

So let's say you've worked really hard for a lot of years to... oh, I don't know... write a book. Then you write a few books. Then you SELL those books? You realized a huge dream. Now, in actuality, you're LIVING the dream, right? But what happens if there's a side to the dream you never realized. The stressful, I-can't-do-it-all side. Then that very thing you struggled so hard for is now crushing you with stress and heartburn. (Okay, I don't actually have heartburn, but some people do.) Now what? Is it possible to find that place where the pressure doesn't intrude with your creative side...when you don't think about the end result, but instead find that happy place where the words flow and the stress melts away?

(Thought I'd include a pic of one of the things that helps ease MY stress.
Here's my cuddle monster,  Zachy. Mr Zen.)




How do you do it? No matter what your dream? How do you avoid or deal with the stress of the journey or if you're lucky... the aftermath?

Friday, January 18, 2013


                

Eeep! You caught me.                                        

                       confess.                                 

                                                       I admit it

                                     I am NOT a multi tasker.

                It dazes and confuses me. There, I said it and I feel better. 

               My best effort at MT’ing is listening to a book while I do house or yard work. Oh! I can’t drive and listen. I get lost in the story and next thing I know I’m in the middle of a field and have no idea where I am.  I can’t write and be on facebook or twitter. No sir. My agent says don’t do it if it isn’t fun. Eh…That’s the problem, it is fun. I get so caught up in what other people do, I do nothing.  I can’t cook and write. Well I can but, the smoke detectors go off.  Grrr.  I can do laundry. At least the wash part gets done. Then I frequently have to run it through again because three days later the clothes still haven’t been put in the dryer and are a tad sour smelling.
              Tried writing and watching the football playoff games with no sound this past weekend. Had to stop. Found three totally inappropriate football references in a scene. I want to read all the blogs I see posted. Heavy sigh. Just not possible.
              What confounds me is the people who are on every social media group known to man and every email loop posting constantly about their daily routine. They work outside the home, manage a house and family and still they put out five books a year.  Really? How do they do that?  Add to all of it promo and reports of soaring sales and I am totally overwhelmed by what they are doing to the point I’d decided to admit my short coming, stick my fingers in my ears and sing lalalalalal shutting it all out.   
              But wait… It seems if you don’t do all these things you can’t be successful. I LOVE writing. But if I spend too much time with this other crap it drains my creativity and desire to write. Am I doomed and a disgrace to my gender?  I’m making an effort to daily include social media- with a time limit. Also spend time on learning my craft and or researching. Spend more time engaging in life. Reading. Writing.  

Take pity on a slow, easily distracted writer who can’t multi task and share how you do it? (I mean multi task.)  

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Snow, Ice and. . .Murder?: Winter Themed Mysteries

Winter's here and what better way to pass the time than curling up with a hot mug of cocoa and a great mystery/thriller! Here are some wonderful winter themed mysteries to pass the time until spring.

Bury Your Dead-It is Winter Carnival in Quebec City, bitterly cold and surpassingly beautiful. Chief Inspector Armand Gamache has come not to join the revels but to recover from an investigation gone hauntingly wrong. But violent death is inescapable, even in the apparent sanctuary of the Literary and Historical Society— where an obsessive historian’s quest for the remains of the founder of Quebec, Samuel de Champlain, ends in murder. Could a secret buried with Champlain for nearly 400 years be so dreadful that someone would kill to protect it?
A Spoonful of Murder-When Lucky Jamieson inherits her parents' soup shop, By the Spoonful, she realizes it's time to take stock of her life. Should she sell her parents' house or move in herself? Does she really want to run a restaurant business? And what about her grandfather Jack, who seems to be showing signs of Alzheimer's? But her life decisions are moved to the back burner after an icy blonde tourist is found frozen to death behind the soup shop. and Lucky is bowled over when her soup chef, Sage DuBois, is led out of the kitchen by the police. As suspicion and speculations snowball, Lucky decides that the only way to save her employee and her business is to find out herself who iced the tourist--and landed her chef in the soup...
The Snowman-One night, after the first snowfall of the year, a boy named Jonas wakes up and discovers that his mother has disappeared. Only one trace of her remains: a pink scarf, his Christmas gift to her, now worn by the snowman that inexplicably appeared in their yard earlier that day.  Inspector Harry Hole suspects a link between the missing woman and a suspicious letter he’s received. The case deepens when a pattern emerges: over the past decade, eleven women have vanished—all on the day of the first snow. But this is a killer who makes his own rules . . . and he’ll break his pattern just to keep the game interesting, as he draws Harry ever closer into his twisted web. With brilliantly realized characters and hair-raising suspense, international bestselling author Jo Nesbø presents his most chilling case yet—one that will test Harry Hole to the very limits of his sanity.
Death Comes Silently-Business is slow for Annie Darling's mystery bookstore, Death on Demand, as winter rolls into Broward's Rock, South Carolina. To boost her sales, Annie decides to host a book signing for the island's resident writer. During the signing, Gretchen Burkholt, a fellow volunteer at the local charity shop, Better Tomorrow, leaves Annie multiple voicemails about scandalous news she's dying to share. So, when the event wraps up, Annie heads over to hear the latest scoop...only to find Gretchen dead on the floor, an axe by her side. Annie, with the help of her husband, Max, uncovers a mysterious plot involving an overturned kayak, a stolen motorboat, a troubled love affair, and a reckless teenager. Annie will have to keep her eyes peeled and use every trick in the book to track down a cold-blooded killer in the dead of winter.
The Ice Princess-Returning to her hometown of Fjallbacka after the funeral of her parents, writer Erica Falck finds a community on the brink of tragedy. The death of her childhood friend, Alex, is just the beginning. Her wrists slashed, her body frozen in an ice-cold bath, it seems that she has taken her own life. Erica conceives a book about the beautiful but remote Alex, one that will answer questions about their own shared past. While her interest grows into an obsession, local detective Patrik Hedstrom is following his own suspicions about the case. But it is only when they start working together that the truth begins to emerge about a small town with a deeply disturbing past. 
Enjoy!
Angela ; )

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Best and Beautiful


The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched - they must be felt with the heart.

Helen Keller

 

 Having resumed work after a year long sabbatical, I’m newly conscious of the creative process. Until I was dealing with burn out, creative process wasn’t anything I really thought about. I just wrote.

 
I don’t say that I wasn’t conscious of craft, or that I wrote the way I did when I was a kid or even a fledging pro. I could crank out five thousand words a day if I had to – there were days I did eight -- but naturally the longer I wrote, the more I understood about craft and what I was doing, the more time and care I took. The words came more slowly, but they were better words.

 
It wasn’t until the desire to write anything at all – ever – faded that I knew I was in trouble.

 
Oh, I still thought of stories – I have a notebook full of story ideas I jotted down during my sabbatical. I even outlined a few of them. But the desire to write them, to apply that intense and extended concentrated focus for the length of time it takes to produce a story of any length…no. The idea actually filled me with dread.

 
And yet I missed writing. I thought about writing all the time. Everything I watched, everything I read, practically everyone I talked to was viewed through the lens of potential fodder for fiction. Writing is a strange profession. It’s not one of those jobs you can switch off at the end of the day when you turn off the office lights.

 
Being a writer isn’t just something you do. It’s something you become. It’s your way of viewing and, more importantly, processing the world.

 
In my case it was also my livelihood, so my inability to write had alarming implications. Even though I couldn’t handle the idea of writing, I couldn’t think of anything else I wanted to do with my life.

 
But that’s the beauty of time off, time without pressure. The months passed and slowly but surely the desire to write returned.

And so I’m writing again, but this time I’m conscious of the creative process, the mechanism of inspiration – and how fragile and finicky that mechanism is. I find myself jumping from project to project as the urge takes me, and I’m surprised at the things that spur the desire to write. Music, in particular, has a powerful effect on me. Not merely in sparking the story telling instinct, but letting the emotional tenor of the song even influence the development of the story.

 
Case in point. Right now this song by Lifehouse seems to define the main character in thriller I’m working on. The story is about an FBI agent who teams up with a small town sheriff to try and catch a serial killer. But it’s also a story about finding your place, coming home…even if it’s to a place you’ve never been before. The song has become a kind of talisman for the story.

 
 

What about you? Out of all the potential ideas for stories that occur to each of us each day, what inspires you to choose one? Do you find yourself choosing a particular item as a kind of charm to represent your project?

 

      

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Alternate Universes, or Why I NaNo


NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, is in November every year. I’ve done it twice now. Both years, I’ve been grateful to follow the madness with the holidays, a month notorious for not getting a lot of writing done. I need December to recover.

Partly, it’s the intensity of the work. 50 thousand words is the goal. I’ve averaged about 30k.

Partly, it’s being forced to learn something new. Writing is a habit of mind and my habits are fairly ingrained. 

To increase the number of words I write in a given period, I have to change how I write. Don’t stop and mull. Don’t go back and revise. Keep moving toward the conclusion.

I thought I understood the rules. Then, I participated in my first write-in. Write-Ins are the writer version of boot camp. Nano peeps gather in libraries, coffee shops, hotel lobbies, under the street light on the corner …and they throw down. Give it all you’ve got, and then a little more.

At my local coffee shop, we cram into the back area near the outlets. Some clever woman brings a power strip to increase our options. Every seat is taken. Laptops up-light a wicked blue glare onto faces intent on screens, arranged back-to-back and side-to-side. Picture an impromptu storytelling factory.

Write-Ins last a few hours. They offer the chance to focus on your work, surrounded by people who support your goal. There’s a buddist word for this: Tsonga--a group with like intension.  Tsonga is good to have when you are doing something as crazy as attempting to write 50k words in 30 days.

Write-Ins feature lots of fun exercises including “word wars.” These are timed writing exercises. The object is to write as many words as possible. Everyone competes. The winner gets bragging rights.

Now, I’ll admit right here, I hate competing. Sports, Top Chef, class rank—you name it, I hate that kind of stuff. Count me out, if there’s gonna be a fight. I’m Ferdinand, sitting under a cork tree, smelling flowers.

But I entered the NaNo universe with an open mind and a plan to try new techniques. I was curious. How fast do I write? How many words could I write in 15 minutes?

“Word War?” Okay. I’ll play along.

This is how I met my nemesis: Alternate Universe Julie.

I took the last seat available at the Write-In, and pulled out my battered, ancient PC. This machine takes a good 10 minutes to power up, run its start program, open Word, open a file. My husband has been known to ask, “Light the coal under the PC?” in the morning, meaning: Shall I start your computer for you now, so it’s ready to go by the time you finish your coffee?

Hey. Don’t hate on my old girl. She gets the job done. I started her up & set up my name tag.

The young woman across from me watches, curious. Her eyebrows squeeze a little frown, as if she’s wondering what exactly I’m doing over there with the coal. Her name tag hangs on her computer: Julie.

“Hey,” I say. “I’m Julie, too.”

She nods but I’m not sure she can hear me. She’s wearing candy red Dr Dre headphones. Dark haired with perfect China doll bangs, she’s working on the thinnest, sleekest Mac I’ve ever seen outside the Apple store. Maybe 20 years old, she’s a tiny thing. I can hardly see her when she ducks behind her screen.

Six feet tall, light haired, well over 40 and working with a technological dinosaur, I am suddenly aware we two Julies are operating in alternate universes.

I dig around for the grey, ratty earbuds I saved from a recent plane flight and jack into my Glee soundtrack.
Somehow, I’m betting Alternate Universe Julie is an Indie Music Girl.

We all get down to work and after an hour or so the Write-In Host calls for the first word war.

“Make a note of your current word count. 15 minutes! Go!”

Hmmm, okay. I can do this. No…don’t correct! Keep going. Hmmm, what’s the word I want? No! Just throw in any word. Ok, how about rutabaga? Very funny. No! Don’t erase!...

“Time’s up! How many words?” Host points at me.

Uh oh. I know I’m not great at this yet. “648?”

Host gives me a Special Olympics smile, then points to AU Julie. “How about you?”  

“1726.” AU Julie looks as if this was a bit of a disappointment. She’s done better.

I blink a few times. I can’t even type that fast, much less string together sentences that have both subjects and predicates.

Paradigm shift. People can write that fast? Splutter, splutter. My brain tries to absorb this.

If I wrote that fast, I could write 5, 10, 15 thousand words in a day….I could write a book a month. I could write George R.R. Martin style and still produce multiple books before I die….

“Great! Next word war in 30 minutes.”

What would it take to write that fast?

Well, I’d have to take a typing class for one thing. I’m a self-taught, hunt-and-peck girl. More importantly, I’d have to have a plan. Not just write my way into the scene. I’d have to know who, what and where I was going.

This is the greatest lesson that NaNo offers: there are other ways. There are alternate universes. And you can go there.

By our final Word War of the night, I was ready. I picked a clear destination for the scene and committed to getting to that resolution as fast as I could.

“This will be a 5 minute war. Go!”

I wrote like a fiend. I wrote with a focus and intensity I’d only blundered into before on those great writing days every writer lives for—the days you find your flow, your groove, your bliss.

“Stop!” The Host turned to AU Julie first this time. “Total?”

“539.”

I check my word count and report, “282.”

That’s almost 300 words in only 5 minutes. Not that much less than AU Julie, percentage wise. Holy cow, I’m in the ballpark! The Host gives me a thumbs up.

“But—” AU Julie pulls off her headphones to clarify, “I was on ebay during that one.”

“During the Word War?” the host asks.

“Yeah. I bought a snake. And a cage. And some other snake stuff, you know.”

“You bought a snake?” Our host sounds confused.

“Yeah. I like snakes. A lot.”

Cue the awkward silence.

Until I jump in with, “Cool.”

She smiles at me, a little shy. I smile back.

That’s when it hits me.

This is the reason I NaNo.

For the stories. 

Monday, January 7, 2013

Contract With Myself




 

 

2012 pitched me a screw ball, throwing my writing for a loop. After working in an office for most of my adult life, my job changed to an alternative work environment, meaning I work mainly from home.  Fortunately, my writing discipline served me well as I ‘report’ to the office every day at a certain time.

 

However, the reverse wasn’t true; the change didn’t serve my writing.  My writing room became the day job office.  My work as an attorney had never been a nine-to-five job in the first place, but leaving a physical office helped with the switch to the writing brain cells. Turning around in the chair from one desk to another sucked as a transition.

 

 What I didn’t realize until I met a few fellow authors for a holiday lunch was the effect of social deprivation.  After spending hours of solitude, I turned to going out more with friends.  I never knew how important interaction with people was to me.  Time previously spent writing turned to competing on a trivia, scrapbooking, cooking, or simply doing a jigsaw puzzle over a glass of wine with friends. 

 

The benefit has been a priceless deepening bonds of friendship; the downside is -0- writing.  Soo…with the new year, I am going back to basics by making a contract with myself: to get up earlier to write.  Before I go to bed, I will set up my laptop on the dining room table.  In the morning, after I walk my dog, I will hit the keyboard until it’s time to go to ‘work’.

 

This routine will leave evenings and weekends to have fun with my friends.  Obviously, page production will take a hit.  When I became serious about writing, I kept a page count so that when I did sell my first book, I was able to estimate realistic deadlines.  I will go back to tracking.  Together with my agent, I have set a first quarter writing plan of action.

 

New Year, new game plan.  

 

What writing goals have you set for yourself?

 

: ) Carol Stephenson

http://www.carolstephenson.com

 

Friday, January 4, 2013

A New Year...and I am late!

We have all heard of the struggling actor or actress who has waited tables and swept floors--all to pay the bills and fund their fantasies of grandeur. The same applies for authors. Authors are often associated with glamour, pink fuzzy slippers, and pool boys.  Alas, I am here to report that is not the case.  My slippers are not pink and fuzzy!

When a 'day job' consumes an author, you wonder where they get the inspiration to sit down at night (or 5am in my case) and write. It's simple. They are mentally ill. In a good way. :)  Authors have a sickness--a little worm in their head that only rests with the written word. Just last night I found myself running over to the laptop, typing the next paragraph in my book, and then running back in the kitchen to turn off the boiling water.  I ran back to the laptop, typed a sentence, and then drained spaghetti.  But each sentence was one step closer to closure.

Many mornings I wake up and wonder where the pool boys are?  Because aside from the written word, pool boys are the next inspiration!

Whether you are an author, a veterinarian, a cable installation technician, or a software technician...how do you juggle the demands?

Maureen A. Miller (who is feverishly trying to finish the sequel to BEYOND in the midst of life's madness!)
www.MaureenAMiller.com

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Maintaining Focus


As we near the end of January, and resolutions are falling to the wayside faster than people can line up to sue Lance Armstrong, I've found myself struggling to maintain focus. I feel like I'm wandering around in a murky fog instead of charging up the proverbial mountain.

Part of the problem is the cold, dark days of January. (Yes, I know that the days are now actually getting longer again, but the frigid temps have meant I've gotten outside less than usual, hence, less light in my life.)

Another part of the problem is that life has been fraught with stumbling blocks. These are swallowing up the emotional energy I usually use to keep myself motivated.

Lastly, I'm overwhelmed by the goals I've set for myself. I hope to accomplish more this year than ever before.

I've been using a few methods to keep myself focused and I thought I'd pass along what's worked for me in the hopes they might help someone else.

1) I'm publicly blogging my progress on my personal blog.  It probably sounds like the most narcissistic activity imaginable, but I find that "putting it out there" is making me more accountable.

2) I've planned out my work schedule for the year.  In the past I've plotted it out for 3 months at a time. Seeing it all laid out over the course of the year is helping me to remember how important it is to finish things on time.

3) I'm making it a point to try new things. I've started posting timed free-writes at Ten Minutes to the Universe. I hiked with new people in a new place (fun!).  I ran with a running group (epic fail, but at least I tried).  I'm doing a TON of new stuff in terms of my writing career (like the Confessions Blog Tour I did to market Confessions of a Slightly Neurotic Hitwoman).

All the little jolts of excitement/fear that accompany saying "yes" to new things, is helping to combat my overall malaise.

So how are you doing with your resolutions? What tips do you have for staying focused?  Share! (Pretty please, because I need all the help I can get!)

Thanks for the inspiration!



I've started 2013 on a positive note. 2012 was a good year for me professionally and I'm hoping for the same - or even better (yes, I'm greedy) - from 2013. As I'm in a positive frame of mind, I've been thinking about how lucky I am to be a writer. There are so many things I love about it. I mean, how many people can sit with their feet up, a glass of wine to hand, staring out of the window while convincing everyone that they're working hard? How many adults can get away with having imaginary friends without being locked up?

There's another reason I love being a writer though and I only really thought about it during the festive break. It was when hubby and I made a very rare trip to the cinema to see Life of Pi. I haven’t read the book yet, and all I knew about Pi was that he survived a shipwreck and spent months at sea sharing a small lifeboat with a tiger called Richard Parker. I was curious and, hey, I love tigers.

 (Image: Life of Pi)

During the ten minutes or so before the film started, noise levels were pretty high as people chatted away and fought their way through buckets of popcorn. The lights dimmed, the film started and – well, my jaw dropped open. The couple sitting behind us talked all the way through the film. All the way through it! Loudly! Four young girls sitting in front of us did the same thing. Three people sitting on hubby’s left spent the entire two hours munching on various things and rattling paper bags.

The film ended, the lights came on, and several of us stared at the floor in horror. Empty sweet bags, chocolate wrappers, popcorn and drinks cartons littered the floor. It was disgusting. I was horrified to think that, before anyone could see the next showing, some poor soul had to clear up the mess left by those rude, selfish, inconsiderate people.

People were complaining that the film had been ruined for them. Hubby was muttering all the way home about how he'd struggled to keep his temper under control and how he'd felt like committing murder. I felt sorry for everyone who'd had their day ruined. Me? I realised that my experience had been enriched by those ignorant people. They're my bread and butter. They cause conflict. I wondered about their homes (presumably very messy and littered with rubbish). I wondered what sort of relationships they had with their neighbours. Before you knew it, I had a great set of characters and half an idea for a murder story. I could have kissed those inconsiderate morons.

As for Life of Pi, it's a wonderful film. If you haven’t seen it, you should. It’s about so much more than a boy surviving at sea with only a tiger for company. I found it inspirational. It brought yet another reminder that authors are among the luckiest people alive. We start with a blank page and we’re allowed to create any world we choose.

Odd to think that a trip to the cinema can prove so useful and so inspirational. And on that note, I’ll wish each and every one of you a happy, peaceful, successful and inspirational 2013. May all your dreams come true!
 

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

WELCOME TO 2013 WITH NYUS!


HAPPY NEW YEAR
from the authors of Not Your Usual Suspects.

Thanks to you all for following the blog, our books and our adventures!

In 2012 we've enjoyed bringing you best-selling books with wonderful characters and intriguing plots full of suspense, drama and romance. We've shared successes and setbacks, how we write, why we write - and why sometimes we struggle to write at all! We've discussed fiction techniques, smiled and sighed over family tales, and shared holiday highlights.

Our team has grown, so have our publications, we've mastered more social media (or tried to! *g*), joined more online and homegrown critique groups, and dipped our toes into self-publishing. We've been staunch supporters of new initiatives through Carina Press and other publishers, and online ventures such as the Amazon Author Page and Evan Jacobs' Authorgraph, where you can request a virtual autograph from your favourite ebook authors.

We've also shared the great I-SPY series - informative and fun posts on your favourite fiction. Over the last year, there's been a series of posts on writing the gay mystery with Josh Lanyon, and single posts on useful topics such as Research, Free Association, Online Marketing, A Writer's Library, takings books to Audible, and being a Successful Hooker (!). We'll be continuing these posts through 2013 - make sure you bookmark the blog so you don't miss them!
 



And now, to start the year off with a groan, albeit rueful...

What were YOUR favourite Christmas cracker jokes in 2012?


Where does Father Christmas go to recover after Christmas?
An elf farm.

What did Cinderella say when her photos didn’t arrive on time?
One day my prints will come.

What do you call two happy mushrooms?
Fun guys.

What happened to the man who stole an advent calendar?
He got 25 days.

What does Father Christmas do when his elves misbehave?
He gives them the sack.

What do you give a dog for Christmas?
A mobile bone.

What’s brown and creeps around the house?
Mince spies.

What do witches use to wrap their presents?
Spello-tape.

What do you call a train loaded with toffee?
A chew chew train.

Why couldn’t the skeleton go to the Christmas party?
He had no body to go with.

What do you call 2 rows of cabbages?
A dual cabbageway.


Christmas and New Year entries collected and posted by Clare - any pictures that haven't been provided by the authors have been chosen by me, and any queries about them can be directed here.

Dumb Witnesses

No, I'm not being politically incorrect!  By Daryl Anderson I'm using the word dumb in its original meaning, as in being...