3.18.2017

My Netflix Addiction

Some might call my addiction to Netflix bingeing a problem. I call it... Well, I can't argue with them. I can't watch just one episode of a show. Oh, no. My bingeing got so bad that I had to stay off Netflix for a while or wouldn't get any writing or housework or accounting....or anything done.

I'm ging to list the shows that I've binged to see how bad an addiction I have. So here goes:

Leverage
Burn Notice
CSI: Miami
CSI: New York
Criminal Minds
Forensic Files
Crossing Lines
Revenge
The Killing
Midsomer Murders
Bloodline
Blue Bloods
Death In Paradise
The Glades
Hawaii Five-O
Sherlock
Person Of Interest
Jack Taylor
Lie To Me
Broadchurch
Vexed
Hinterland
Reign
Wallander
River
Marcella

(I know I'm missing a few.)

There seems to be a pattern here. I'm obviously obsessed with murder and revenge, but that kind of goes along with my writing genre. Let's call it research. That was a good reason to watch all those shows, right? My theory is that even when I'm not adding word count on a manuscript everything I read, hear, and experience contributes to my writing. Yeah, let's go with that.

There's one more show that I've binged, but I don't know how it fits with the others. I've seen every single episode of Gilmore Girls. So how does that fit in with my suspense genre? Wait. Wait. I've got it. I'm researching characterization when I watch dramedies. Yeah, that's it.

So when I'm watching Netflix, I'm really writing. Whew! Now, I feel better.


3.11.2017

How My Family Copes With My Writing

This is the family. Left to right: Me, my daughter, my son, my son-in-law, and my husband.



This post is supposed to be about how my family copes with my writing, but I don’t think they cope with it.
Sometimes, I get a distant look in my eyes, and I stare at nothing. For a while, my son thought I was upset with him, and he would ask me if I was all right. I’d say, “Sure. I’m just writing a scene in my head.” Now, he just nudges me and says, “You’re writing again, aren’t you?” I’ll nod and then go back to my inner thoughts. He’ll shrug and leave me alone. We have an understanding.
It’s embarrassing to work out dialogue in my head. Well, it’s supposed to be in my head, but sometimes, it comes out of my mouth. People think I’m talking to myself, but I’m not. I’m putting myself in my characters’ heads. My family knows I’m not talking to people that aren’t real. Not really, because my characters are real to me. My daughter just ignores my odd behavior. She knows what I’m doing. (Thank God, for Bluetooth in my car because I can talk out the dialogue and other drivers think I’m talking on my cellphone. Sweet, huh?)
My husband gets my obsession with my characters. He reads all my books before I publish them, so he gets acquainted with them. We talk about them like they are real. Some of my best ideas happen when we are discussing why one of my characters did that stupid thing that they did. When he says, “Tess would do that, wouldn’t she?” or, “That sounds like something Gray would do,” I know he loves them as much as I do.
When I told my husband I needed to go down to south Louisiana to do research for my book series set along the River Road and in New Orleans, he helped me plan the trip. Once we were there, he made some great suggestions about where to go and what to do. That trip added so much to my knowledge of the setting for the book series.

I think my family isn’t just coping; they are supporting and encouraging my writing. They are right there in it with me.

2.25.2017

The Power of Words

Hello, my name is Denise, and I’m addicted to books. My reading addiction began when I was a teenager. My friend Brenda had begun reading Harlequin romances, and she let me borrow one. I was hooked from the first read. The emotional rise and fall of the plotline pulled me in and wouldn’t let me go. So I bought a few of my own, and we traded books for the rest of our high school years.
In the beginning of my writing career, I called myself a romance writer, but I don’t think that’s really what I am. In those old Harlequins, it wasn’t the romance that attracted me. I particularly enjoyed stories where something or someone sinister was lurking in the background of the romance trying to keep the couple apart. It was the conflict that hooked me. Would the hero and heroine overcome the odds to be together? The suspense always pulled me along to that moment when the couple overcame whatever obstacle they faced. Yeah, that was the moment that got me. The romance...that was just lagniappe.
The power of words has always fascinated me. The right words strung together can enlighten, entertain, inspire, frighten, soothe, motivate, or destroy. I’ve always loved the power of words, but lately, that power has begun to scare me. There have been a lot of powerfully negative words spoken or typed in the last couple of years. Not just here in the United States, but all over the world. Angry words. Mean-spirited words. Degrading and condescending words. Hateful words.
Sometimes, in the midst of all the ugliness, someone will say or write words that are encouraging or uplifting, but it is hard to find positive words when the world is inundated with so much negativity. At times, there is so much meanness that it seems that is all there is left. It’s overwhelming. I live with the constant awareness that something bad could happen any moment and change my life forever. The depth and intensity of the hate makes me want to crawl under my covers and hide from the world. But I can’t do that, can I? Isolating myself isn’t good for me or for the world I live in.
During the past presidential election in the United States, I have kept my opinions to myself, at least, publicly. My opinions are going to stay with me. This isn’t a harangue at either the right or the left. I’ve seen ugliness come from both ends of the social and political spectrum. No political ideology is immune from this disease.
Please, for the continued existence of humanity, if you engage in contentious or controversial conversations, I beg of you, don’t call those with whom you disagree ugly names. That’s not going to change their opinion or yours. All it does is make you look like an asshole, and it feeds the frenzy of anger and hatred that seems to be boiling over in the whole freaking world. So stop already. Before you tear someone else down because you really don’t have a good argument to support your shallow opinion, take a deep breath before you speak or write. Back away from the argument. Is losing your decency worth being right? Because words aren’t just words, they can be two-edged swords, not only cutting the one you attack, but stabbing and killing your humanity. Hatred, anger, and bitterness are the poison pills one swallows in the vain attempt to destroy someone else.

If you can’t manage to respect someone or their opposing opinion, at least, have a little self-respect.

7.02.2016

Write Every Day, They Said

The seventh book in the Haunted Hearts series just released on June 25th. I was editing it right up until the moment I had to submit the final version to Kindle by the end of the day on the 14th. I uploaded the final copy and sat back to relax.

A week before its official release, my family left for a vacation to Colorado. Since we were flying, I decided to leave my computer at home, to enjoy the trip, and to give my writing a short break.

Heresy, I know. How many times have veteran writers advised someone new to writing to write something every day? Too many times to remember. I was one of those writers. When someone asked for my advice about writing, I spouted the same mantra. Write every day, even if it’s only one sentence. If you don’t use it, you lose it.

So leaving the computer at home seemed a bit…unsettling. Would I lose my writing mojo if I took a couple of weeks off? Would my muse pack her bags and move back to wherever she came from? Would the lapse cause my release schedule to fall months and months behind? Would my readers forget me and find someone else’s books to love?

I learned a solid truth about writing while my computer had a little staycation back home. No. I wasn’t going to stop being a writer because I wasn’t recording the words that form inside my head. Writing is my life. It’s part of me. It’s not leaving me because I take a break.

Writing isn’t just tapping out words on a computer keyboard (or writing them out longhand if the writer is old school). Writing is a process that involves much more than drafting a manuscript. Good writing begins with inspiration, and inspiration can be found anywhere, anytime. The process continues when inspiration morphs into imagination. And finally, the work is halfway there when imagination emerges as creativity. The longest and hardest task is shaping creativity into a product that is publishable and readable.

I should have known better than to suggest that a writer should add word count every day. Sometimes imagination hasn’t quite reached the point of creativity. Sometimes it stays stuck in my head, percolating and simmering and baking into something worth putting into words. Yeah, a lot of the writing process stays in my head until it’s fully cooked.

How many times have I stared into space only to be jolted back to the moment by someone I know? “What are you staring at?”

“I’m not staring. I’m writing.” And I am. In my head. Setting the mood. Concocting the action. Considering potential dialogue. Twisting plot points and imagining character reactions. This is all part of writing. Important steps in the process that cannot be rushed.

Writing begins somewhere else besides the computer keyboard. Truth be told, some of my best work happens in the shower, or in the car, or I must admit, at my accounting job. So is it any wonder that the core of a brand new trilogy came to me in the Denver Airport at the tail end of our trip while we were getting ready to fly back home? (P.S. Have you read about the conspiracy theories surrounding the new airport? If you’re curious, check out the murals that were painted in the main terminal. Creepy. That might be the core of a suspense novel right there.)

Setting is so important to the mood of a book. My trips around the country have often inspired the locale for a book before I even start to consider a plotline. The Haunted Hearts series began when I spotted a creepy, abandoned house on a country road in Arkansas. Now, I’m working on book number eight in the series.

But this trip, I doubted if I would find much inspiration. I’d been to that part of Colorado many times. I even have an already published three-book series set in another part of the state. I thought I had milked all the inspiration out of the state of Colorado that I could manage. I thought my brain could take a little rest from working out plots and character sketches. Just for a couple of weeks.

But no. Inspiration hit me hard. Right there, while I was waiting for my husband and my son to come back to the table with our pizza. I scratched out a description for book one of the trilogy right there on a scrap piece of paper.

After I got home and typed the blurb out on my computer, inspiration settled into what the book will become, and the premise for all three books solidified. The writing began somewhere near Shadow Mountain Lake in Colorado, but readers probably won’t see the final story for months or maybe even years.

I can’t take a break. Writing is what I live and breathe. It’s a part of me, of who I am, every single day. Even when I’m not writing, I’m writing.

5.07.2016

Success Is Personal: Reflections On a Twelve-Year Journey

Everyone in author world has his or her own definition of success. Some define it as making six figures in royalties. Many want to be published by a big 5 publisher. Others want to be number one on the New York Times bestseller list. Still others are content selling a few copies of their book to family and friends. Whether seeking recognition in publishing, longing for feedback from readers, or craving the joy that comes with creative expression, most authors have at least attempted to define success.

Writing is my passion. Someone reading what I write is my dream. Success came when I finally made more money in royalties than I earned in accounting. If I am a professional writer, I can stop being a professional accountant. That’s how I define success: having the freedom to quit the day job, indulge my passion, and pursue my dream. Royalties mean books are being sold. That means someone out there is reading. Maybe that’s not your definition, but it’s the definition that is meaningful to me.

It’s been a twelve-year journey. I started this blog years ago with the title “Journey to Publication.” I changed the title to “Suspense, She Writes” when Still Moments Publishing released my first short story in 2012. At first, I labeled myself as a romance writer because Still Moments was a romance publisher. After a few years and a few releases, I realized that the title of this blog had always been a more accurate description of what I write. I love writing suspense. 

In 2014, I released my first paranormal romantic suspense novel and found my niche. After ten years of writing and publishing, I finally knew who I was as a writer. I had found the elusive voice that writers talk about—that quality of one’s writing that defines them as a writer.

Occasionally, an aspiring writer will ask me for advice on how to succeed in publishing. I try to give the best advice I can. The truth is I have no idea why my books began to sell. I have a few theories, but I can only guess. All I know for sure is that in January 2015 the first book in the Haunted Hearts series started selling, and it’s still selling. I’m grateful. It was my dream to be a professional writer. The success of the Haunted Hearts series has fulfilled my dream.

However, I am not at that place in my writing life, at least not psychologically, where I can boast about how I did it. I don’t feel comfortable giving how-to-succeed-in-this-business advice. When I do, I subconsciously, or maybe even consciously, wonder if I’m a fraud pretending like I know what I’m talking about when I really don’t. My success feels very much like being in the right place at the right time.

There is a subgenre of writing about writing, and some writers have been successful in publishing in that genre. I read their words, and I suspect those writing gurus are just as clueless about why they succeeded as I am. All of their advice is sound, but a writer could follow their advice and still remain unknown, unpublished, and unsuccessful. I'm sorry if that is discouraging, but it's the truth.

During these twelve years, there are a few things I’ve come to understand and I can state without feeling like I don’t know what I’m talking about.

1.     Very few authors are overnight successes. Actually, there probably aren’t any overnight successes. Authors who came onto the publishing scene with a breakout novel honed their craft for years before they had a successful debut novel.

2.     Fail proof marketing strategies do not exist. It’s all trial and error. Discovering what works is a process. Stubbornly sticking to a strategy that doesn’t produce results is a waste of time, money, and emotional energy.

3.     Not all “authoritative” publishing advice is valid. It’s like parenting advice. Some of it is great. Some of it, not so much. A few basic pieces of advice are sound. The rest is opinion. It takes time and experience to be able to determine the difference between advice and opinion.

4.     There are many paths to publishing success. Success has its own plotline and its own timeline, and it's different for every author.

5.     It’s the story. That’s it. If you have a sellable story, it doesn’t matter how well it’s written. Some of the biggest bestsellers have tons of reviews posted on Amazon about poor writing. Despite all the "authoritative" advice about making your story as good as it can be no matter how long it takes to get it right so you can compete in the marketplace, if the story doesn’t interest readers it’s not going to sell, which means no one is going to read it. I'm not saying don't insist on delivering a quality book to the marketplace. I'm saying don't count on the quality giving the book an edge over other books with better plots.

6.     Not everyone is going to love the story. Every book published is vulnerable to the one-star review. If the author hasn’t received a one-star yet, it’s coming. Wait for it. The negative review will punch the writer in the gut. Hard and without warning. It is survivable, and it doesn’t mean the writer is awful. One star reviews are not a sign the writer should stop writing. They are an indication that someone is paying attention.

7.     The more I learn, the less I know. This kind of sounds backward, but I find it to be true. The more I read and understand about the art and craft of writing, the more I feel like I have so much more to learn. Every new concept I discover strengthens and enhances my writing. A good writer never stops learning how to write better.

I cringe when I think about the first full-length manuscript I finished. I know now what I didn’t know then. The book was lame and the writing was terrible. You’ll never read that book because I don’t think I can revise it enough to make it sellable. Like I wrote before, I want people to read what I write, and I'm not fond of one-star reviews.

Twelve years ago, I told my husband about an idea I had for a book. The idea turned into my book Purgatory. We were coming home from eating out for our wedding anniversary. He says he remembers the conversation, where we were at, and how excited I was about the story idea. He’s good at remembering details like that. That idea was not the first book I completed. I think maybe it was the second or third full-length manuscript I finished. I'm still writing, and I believe my writing continues to improve. Twelve years has given me a lot of practice.


I have one piece of advice for aspiring writers. Do not let rejection, an unclear or uncertain path, or negative feedback discourage you from pursuing your writing goals, no matter how complex or simple they are. No matter how personal they are. No matter how long it takes to achieve them. Being a professional writer is a process, not a destination. Looking back on it, I was a professional writer twelve years ago. I just didn't realize it.
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