Tag Archives: writing

Writing A Sequel

When writing a series, don’t get into the “sophomore slump” with Book II. Writing the sequel may sound easy, but there are pitfalls to watch out for!

That’s the topic of today’s guest post over at Sm Blooding and Crew. Swing by and check it out!



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Guest Post Thursday

It’s Thursday! Visit SM Blooding and Crew to learn an important vocabulary word for every writer: micro-tension.


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Yes, I’ve invented a word. Rerailed.

Rerailed is the opposite of derailed. Derailed means, of course, that you got completely sidetracked from whatever you were supposed to do. Sidetracked? Off track? Derailed? I notice a lot of train metaphors here. Huh.

Derailed is no fun. It usually means unforeseen obstacles, aggravation, distraction, and then that nagging sense of guilt at bedtime that keeps you staring at the blades of the ceiling fan until 2 a.m., wondering if they’re going to buzz down and nip your head off for being such a lazy layabout who never gets her to-do list done.

Or maybe that only happens to me.

In any case, I figure if “derail” means your plans get messed up, there must be a word for when you get back to those plans and finally finish them. Thus, rerailed.

There are three simple ways to rerail yourself after a distraction, setback, obstacle, vacation, or apocalypse. Here they are.

1. Start your to-do list over.

If something distracts you from your to-do list, don’t try to get caught up on all of it the moment you get back. That breeds discouragement, and discouragement won’t help you. For instance, let’s say you had things to do every day this week, but you got sick Monday and Tuesday. When you come back on Wednesday, don’t try to do Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday’s work. Just start over with Monday’s. Or do Wednesday’s and find time to catch up on Monday and Tuesday later. The last thing you need when you’ve just gotten rerailed is to let a discouraging workload derail you again.

2. Follow the bread crumbs.

Some people (and I’m not naming names here, but let’s tentatively say that this might include me) can get out of “work mode” easily. One little distraction in our week, and suddenly we feel like goofing off for the next three days. The very thought of returning to work makes us slightly claustrophobic. Our breathing increases. We feel the urge to run screaming outside. If you are that sort of person, you may need a trail of bread crumbs to get yourself chained back to the desk chair. Start with a small task to complete in the next hour. One small task, and then you can quit if you want. When you’ve finished that one, see if you can’t get just one more done. Then another. You may get one thing done, or two, or five, before you really do give in and go outside, but you’ve gotten yourself back into work mode, and tomorrow morning it’ll be easier to return to the routine.

3. Get up early. Shower. Dress.

This may sound off-topic, but it’s especially important for those of us who write (and work) at home. This morning, I was heading back to work after almost an entire week off. Understandably, I doubted my ability to pay attention to work for more than five minutes. But I set my alarm for seven-thirty, got up, and put on a nice outfit. I gave myself a task which had to be started at 9 a.m. The act of getting up early and dressing nicely put me into work mode faster than a thousand pep-talks in front of the mirror could have. And here I am, blazing so far through my to-do list that I actually got to my blog, which is usually the first thing to suffer on days like this.

What about you? Any tricks to get your wayward schedule rerailed and off to a good start?


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Haunting Borders

Yesterday, all I did for the entire day was haunt Borders.

Borders is an excellent place to haunt. They have ready-made spaces for haunters–though admittedly, those spaces have become few and far between since they moved all the chairs back to the café section. They used to have chairs all over the place, but I think someone wised up to the fact that dedicated readers sitting in the café are more likely to purchase something than dedicated readers sitting out of range of the food smells.

So. My friend Lell and I haunted the cafe for nigh on to five hours. (Borders’ plan worked, by the way; we both bought food). During those five hours, I rediscovered the joy of working in large chunks of time. It ensures that you get more done. By the end of the day, I couldn’t believe how far I’d moved along in FLYNN’s editing process.

The best situation, of course, is if you can work for a long chunk of time with a friend. It makes the time go faster if you have another human to take short breaks with. Especially if that other human is receiving periodic updates from her sister who is stranded at the Dallas airport. It’s like getting little segments of a “to-be-continued” story as you are writing your own story.

We saw another of my friends there, by completely random coincidence, and that creepy guy I’ve seen before who I’m halfway convinced is a stalker. Only stalkers wear baseball caps over their eyebrows and peer at you from over the rim of impossibly tiny glasses, right?

All in all, it was a great day of haunting, and I highly recommend a bookstore haunt to any author wishing to get serious edits done. I think I will do it again next Wednesday. Hopefully minus creepy guy and plus Lell again.



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Plugging Away at Edits

I never thought I would become one of those grouchy editors who breaks your heart by telling you to rearrange your story! Okay, so I’m never grouchy about telling people that, and I really hope I’m not breaking hearts. But being an assistant editor, I have already run across some stories that are solid gold–if only most of the plot were shuffled around. Sigh. It’s hard to give that kind of advice because, as a writer, I know what it feels like to hear it.

I’m reminded of Anne Lamott and her anecdote about writing ROSIE. It’s one of the most inspirational stories a writer can hear about the need to tear up your story and put it back together. For anyone interested, it can be found in her popular book BIRD BY BIRD, which is a book of advice on “writing and life.”


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New Year’s Start on Queries, Editing

The holidays are finally at an end! Between Thanksgiving, preparations for Christmas, Christmas itself, and New Year’s, I’ve been off my regular schedule (writing and otherwise) for about two months straight. But now I’m back! And instead of making New Year’s Resolutions to foster new and better habits, I’m focusing on the habits I need to get back into. Here’s my list of things to do.

I’ll be back and blogging at SM Blooding and Crew on the second and fourth Tuesdays of every month (that’s beginning this coming Tuesday, everyone).

I’ll send out more queries of FLYNN. The first round (of course) did not produce results. Honestly, I would’ve been surprised if it did. But armed with my subscription to Guide to Literary Agents,I ought to find someone who wants to see the full manuscript.

After NaNoWriMo this year, I have a good start on the rought draft for FLYNN II. It’s official title is under construction. I’ll be doing more work on that in the following months.

Now on to my new ventures.

I’m entering the first 500 words of FLYNN into a contest at Kidlit.com, a very helpful blog written by an associate agent at Andrea Brown Literary Agency.

My friend Kristine Pratt (who I met at a writer’s conference back in ’08) recently started up her own publishing company, Written World Communications. She asked me to be a (volunteer) assistant to one of her editors! It’s quite an exciting venture. I review proposals, manuscripts, and also short stories for the magazine. We just sent a round of submissions to Pub Board, so before too long, I’ll begin the editing process with the chosen candidates! Not to mention that I may get to help with layout of the magazine, a field which I feel I could easily excel at but have never had the opportunity to become familiar with.

Oh yes, and I may also be getting a part-time-job. As in, one that will give me a paycheck. FLYNN and my graphic novel are already full time jobs in and of themselves, but, well….they won’t pay for a second car, now will they?

Stay tuned to this blog throughout the coming year. I’m excited about the prospects of 2010, and I hope you are too.



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Tuesdays With Tuesday–Week 3

Welcome to Tuesdays with Tuesday. For last week’s installment, go here.


So, my post is a couple of days late. Things happened this week–things I didn’t really want to talk about right away. But now events are escalating, and I have to write it all down to try and make sense of it.

On Monday, a detective visited our office. Yes, you heard right. An honest-to-goodness chain-smoking modern day Sherlock Holmes in a pair of worn-out loafers and a pressed white shirt. He had this dark brown mustache that bristled out under his nose, like one of those woolly worms you find crossing the road in hordes every autumn. It moved like a woolly worm every time he talked. I kept expecting it to crawl away.

He introduced himself as Detective Dawes, and called us into the break room one by one to talk about–what else?–Ike Cleavers. That’s all anyone in this office can think about these days.

Detective Dawes talked to Misty first, then some of the guys Ike worked with on his latest project. Then he called Penny back. After about ten minutes, she minced back out with small lines pinched around her mouth. When she sat down, her fingers fidgeted with the papers on her desk, but she didn’t really look at them.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

Her lower lip disappeared under the worried chewing of her teeth. It left a ruby red lipstick smear on her left cuspid. “He thinks Ike was in some kind of trouble,” she said.

“Legal trouble?”

She shook her head. “In trouble as in, had some kind of enemy.” She spoke the words low, glanced around, and went back to work.

I blinked, sat back in the chair to digest this. I’m no stranger to the phenomenon of making enemies. In this world, if you think for yourself even a fraction of the time, you’re going to piss somebody off, and you’d better just get used to it. The concept didn’t alarm me too much, though obviously Penny thought it tantamount to discussing the anti-Christ.

“Tuesday!” Misty shouted down the hall. “Your turn.”

I found Detective Dawes both professional and un-alarming. Unless you count the previously mentioned face-woolly-worm an alarming feature, which, arguably, you could. But he kept me quite calm and on track during his questioning. He started with how well I knew Ike.

“Not very,” I said. “He’d ask me to file something for him every now and then. Sometimes we said hi in the break room, or waved when he passed my house on his runs.”

“He lives near you?” Detective Dawes said. “How close?”

“A few blocks. You have to make a couple turns to get there.”

“So you can’t see his driveway from your home?”

“No,” I said, wondering at the weird question. “It’s way too far. Why?”

“We’re trying to find out if any strange visitors or cars have been to Ike’s house in the past few weeks. Do you ever pass by his home?”

Thus began a long process of digging for information about anyone unusual who might have contacted Ike recently. I was singularly unhelpful; Ike truly is not a part of my daily routine other than the odd hello at work.

“Detective Dawes,” I said at last, “may I ask what this is about? Where do you think Ike went?”

He sat up straighter, and the woolly worm twitched. “Mrs. Jones, to be perfectly frank, we think he might have been killed.”

I’ve no idea why I didn’t recognize this as a possibility in the last two weeks. I assumed Ike had disappeared on purpose, maybe gotten in a fight with a girlfriend or had a sudden personal emergency. I even wondered if he’d run from a huge debt owed to drug lords or something (because drug lords are so prevalent in mid-sized southern Illinois towns). The thought that he might actually be rotting in someone’s trunk had not crossed my mind.

Now I understood why Penny was so upset.

Luckily, the work day came to a close not long after my interview with Detective Dawes, and I scuttled home before I could do too much damage with my half-distracted brain.

But the thing that really upset me happened today, when I came home from work a few minutes ago.

I was on my way up the ramshackle staircase to our apartment when Mr. Chicory came out his front door. I think the metallic squeal of our apartment stairs draws him outside with the promise of conversation, because he always catches me, no matter how quietly I pull into my drive.

I hoped I could get rid of him by talking about something unpleasant, so I went for broke. “Hey Mr. Chicory. I found out today that Ike Cleavers was most likely murdered. He’s probably in bloody pieces in the back of someone’s car right now. Weird huh?” I said a silent prayer of apology for being so irreverent of the dead, but come on. It’s Mr. Chicory. I’m sure Ike wouldn’t mind.

“I heard something about that from his next-door neighbors,” Mr. Chicory said. “Though your version is a bit more grotesque.” He said this with an air of long-suffering, as though I had begged him to come out here only to regale him with gore.

I kept going up the stairs, hoping he would take the hint and go back inside. “Well, have a nice day,” I said. I was now high up enough to glance over his back fence at the mound of dirt still sitting unattended in his back yard. “You doing any more gardening?”

Even from halfway up the stairs, I heard the impatient sigh escape his nose. “Why would I be gardening in the middle of winter?”

“I don’t know.” I gestured to the mound of earth. “Why are you?”

Mr. Chicory’s head swiveled towards his back yard so fast I thought it would fly right off his shoulders. His eyes went wide behind those thick glasses, and he actually stuttered. “I–I see. You saw that, did you?” He eyed me where I stood on the staircase, then his glance darted again in the direction of the high fence around his back yard. His fingers laced together, and something about the quick gesture spoke of nerves.

I raised an eyebrow. What was his problem? Had he not realized that Jonah and I could see over his back fence into the inner sanctum of his precious yard? Just what was he doing back there that was so secretive any–

My eyes slid back to the mound of earth. Rectangular. About three by seven feet.

It suddenly connected in my head that the mound of earth appeared the weekend Ike went missing.

In slow motion, and almost against my will, I felt myself turn and lock eyes with Mr. Chicory. His watery black pupils stayed riveted to me from behind the glasses, and a slow line formed on his brow. For a moment, paralysis gripped my limbs.

“Well.” I forced myself to break out of the horrible moment. I moved my feet up the stairs, and forced a painful smile to my lips. “I guess you’re getting the ground ready for next spring then, right? My dad does that with his garden this time of year. Always helps a lot. Good thinking.” I turned and flew up the steps two at a time. “See you tomorrow.”

I slammed and locked the door behind me, but I swear I could feel his calculating gaze on my apartment windows. I was shaking so hard that I just dropped my purse and coat and everything on the floor and stumbled into the office. I sat in the desk chair, hunched over the warm radiator to think.

My dad doesn’t have a garden. I have no idea if tilling the soil in the fall is a common practice. But if it’s not, Mr. Chicory is going to know that I lied, and he’s going to figure that I lied so he won’t suspect me of guessing his secret.

To be honest, this whole thing is absurd. It’s a complete coincidence that just looks bad. Mr. Chicory and Ike hardly knew each other. There’s no reason to suspect that Mr. Chicory has Ike buried in his back yard. And that weird look Mr. Chicory gave me just now–well, he always gives me weird looks.

I hoped that if I wrote all this out, it would make me realize how foolish I’m being. But I don’t feel foolish. I feel like I’ve just walked in on a crime in progress. I’m the only one who knows. And Mr. Chicory knows that. And that means

Hang on, gotta go, I hear footsteps coming up the outside staircase!


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