ROW80

winter and ROW80

winter and ROW80
Meme by K.B. Owen, via icanhascheezburger.com

Meme by K.B. Owen, via icanhascheezburger.com

Hi gang, hope you all are doing well!

Over here at Casa Owen, it’s been a crazy time. Orthodontia visits, snow, school cancellations, and a virus that’s out to show me who’s boss, have combined to derail my productivity this week. I plowed through (ha, get it?) as best I could, but my mental processes feel like mush right now. Wish I could be clever and all, but I’m waiting for my NyQuil dose…

Before I totally fade, let’s get to my ROW80 check-in; how did I do this week?

My goals:

1. Post twice per week on my blog: a ROW80 check-in on Sundays, and an original post mid-week. During my blog tour, my total weekly count will actually be three times per week, as I’m scheduled to guest post twice a week through the beginning of March.

Done! I am so fortunate to be part of a fab group of supportive blogging peeps. This past week, I guest-posted at the site of that thriller writing duo Bayard and Holmes about the “gotcha” moments that revealed the fraudulent practices of spirit mediums in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century. Later that week, I returned to mystery writer Susan Spann’s site, and (just in time for Valentine’s Day) talked about the Nazi plot to kill Winston Churchill with a chocolate bar. Lots of fun!

2. Visit, comment on, and tweet posts from ten bloggers each week.

Done! I either learn a lot or laugh my head off with these guys.

3. Write and publish three SocialIn posts during this 80-day period.

Published a SocialIn post several weeks ago about 19th century sledding. There are plans in the works to get my post on spirit mediums up on SocialIn to fill a gap in the schedule. We’ll see!

5. Exclusively dedicate four hours each weekday to writing the second draft of Unseemly Secrets.

This is where I was spinning my wheels this week. If any of you read last Sunday’s check-in post Is the map upside down? you’ll know that I was pulling together a visual flowchart of my plot elements for book #3 to see what things got dropped.  After a few false starts with powerpoint, I did manage to create a table of sorts to help me see the story’s concurrent plot lines. Let us just say that I’ve left some characters high and dry, and I have a lot of fixing to do this week. I wish I could have gotten to fixing it last week, but what the hey, at least I’m not skidding off my skis in Sochi for the world to see, right?

Mountains near Sochi, via wikimedia commons.

Mountains near Sochi, via wikimedia commons.

That’s it for me…at least we don’t have more snow on the horizon. Now if I could just shake this virus…

Hope your week is going well!

~Kathy

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Is the Map Upside Down? A ROW80 check-in

Is the Map Upside Down? A ROW80 check-in

Any chronic plotters out there?

*Raises hand*

image via wikimedia commons

image via wikimedia commons

When I plan a story, I make outlines, and outlines of outlines. I color-code, draw story arcs, reorder scenes, and so on.

Maybe it’s an occupational hazard for mystery writers, because we have to plant the clues, the red-herrings, and the obstacles. We need to know “whodunnit” (or at least, “who-coulda-dunnit”) ahead of time.

Yet inevitably, during the fever of the first draft as I’m doing dastardly things to my characters, I end up chasing them down rabbit holes of their own creation. Honest, the critters can really get away from you.

So I go with it, play around with the ideas that spring up during the writing process, and see what will happen. It’s sort of a plotter/pantser hybrid. It’s fun, and I’ve gotten terrific ideas from it.

That doesn’t sound bad so far, right?

Ah, but then we have to edit draft #1. That bad boy barely resembles the well-behaved outline Little Miss Historical Writer originally came up with. Neener-neener.

What’s a plotter to do when her creation goes rogue? I’ll tell you what I did in a minute. It’s time for my ROW80 check-in!

ROW80So, how did I do this week?

My goals:

1. Post twice per week on my blog: a ROW80 check-in on Sundays, and an original post mid-week. During my blog tour, my total weekly count will actually be three times per week, as I’m scheduled to guest post twice a week through the beginning of March.

Done! The blog tour seems to be going strong. This past week, mystery writer Nancy Lauzon threw a Book Shower for me (instead of a bouncing baby, it’s a new book), and I guest-posted at mystery writer Margot Kinberg’s place about the modern film portrayals of Dr. Watson. Lots of fun!

2. Send out three new email requests per week to book reviewers who have indicated they are available and interested in reviewing books in my genre (mystery).

Actually, I sent out 30! I decided to check my email list of people who had said they were a) going to read my novel; b) started my novel; or c) finished my novel. I sent individual and small group requests, crafted toward the people in question, explained the problem, and made my request. I’ve received very supportive and positive feedback, so I don’t think I’ve offended anyone. I was hesitant to do it for that very reason. So I’m taking this off my goal list, and will just keep my eyes open and ask when appropriate.

3. Visit, comment on, and tweet posts from ten bloggers each week.

Done!

4. Write and publish three SocialIn posts during this 80-day period.

Published a SocialIn post two weeks ago about 19th century sledding. I’m still getting the hang of it. I was originally shooting for another SocialIn post in mid-February, but I’m not sure that’s going to happen. We’ll see.

5. Exclusively dedicate four hours each weekday to writing the second draft of Unseemly Secrets.

Okay, so we’re back to the topic of dealing with my sprawling first draft. My answer? A reverse outline (or perhaps more accurately, a flowchart). I’ve been going scene by scene through my first draft and condensing each into a tagline, a “who” and a “why,” and color-coding it according to my plot/subplot story lines. This way, I’ll get a big picture look at it once again, and see where the dead ends are. I’m nearly done writing the excerpts, then will lay it all out on a big board.

flowchart

No, my story doesn’t look like this, but you get the idea.

That’s it from second-draft-land. How do you get a big picture perspective when things get complicated? (this applies to anyone, not just writers). I’d love to hear from you!

Until next time,

Kathy

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Did the writer see her shadow? ROW80 this week.

Did the writer see her shadow? ROW80 this week.

Happy Groundhog/Super Bowl day! Hope you are all enjoying a leisurely winter afternoon. Get cozy – I hear Phil saw his shadow. We have six more weeks, people. *sigh*

LOL groundhog

Meme created by K.B. Owen, via cheezburger.com

So, how did I do this week?

My goals:

1. Post twice per week on my blog: a ROW80 check-in on Sundays, and an original post mid-week. During my blog tour, my total weekly count will actually be three times per week, as I’m scheduled to guest post twice a week through the beginning of March.

Done! Last week I had an author interview with historical mystery writer Susan Spann over at her site, “Spann of Time.” The next day, I guest posted at mystery writer Elizabeth Craig’s site about that classic Holmes detective novel, The Hound of the Baskervilles. Lots of fun!

2. Send out three new email requests per week to book reviewers who have indicated they are available and interested in reviewing books in my genre (mystery).

I sent out two. I had other priorities and had to triage this week.

3. Visit, comment on, and tweet posts from ten bloggers each week.

I visited at least ten, but only left comments at about half of them.

4. Write and publish three SocialIn posts during this 80-day period.

Published a SocialIn post two weeks ago about 19th century sledding. I’m still getting the hang of it.  Will shoot for another SocialIn post in mid-February.

5. Exclusively dedicate four hours each weekday (probably in 2-hour increments) to writing the second draft of Unseemly Secrets.

Partially successful. I knew this week was going to be tough, with the kids off from school two out of the five days and a two-hour late start on another day because of bad weather, but I was really committed to making it work. I got 4 days of editing in this week, averaging 3 hrs each day. That’s better than I’d been doing, but I’m not quite there yet!

How is your Sunday going? Having fun at Super Bowl parties? Is the game the highlight for you, or are the commercials/possible wardrobe malfunctions what make for a fun time? I’d love to hear from you!

Until next time,

Kathy

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Simplicity, Writing, and Peanut Butter Cookies

Simplicity, Writing, and Peanut Butter Cookies

Hi everyone! Thanks so much for stopping by. How did I do this week in my ROW80 author goals? Well, the lesson learned seems to be simplicity. Let’s take a look!

My goals:

1. Post twice per week on my blog: a ROW80 check-in on Sundays, and an original post mid-week. During my blog tour, my total weekly count will actually be three times per week, as I’m scheduled to guest post twice a week through the beginning of March.

Done! Last week I posted Fine Dining, Mashup Style at Misterio Press. Martha Stewart and 19th century household expert Isabella Beeton, meeting through the magic of the internet. 😉 I’ve also been writing my advance guest posts – my blog tour starts this week! Gack, still have to write the sidebar widget for that.

2. Send out five new email requests per week to book reviewers who have indicated they are available and interested in reviewing books in my genre (mystery).

It was three this week, through Facebook and emails. The Goodreads sign-up doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, with only one request for a review copy. Disappointing. I haven’t gone back to the Amazon top reviewer lists yet, because they take so dang long to wade through. I’ve decided to revise this goal to 3 per week.

3. Visit, comment on, and tweet posts from ten bloggers each week.

Done!

4. Write and publish three SocialIn posts during this 80-day period.

Published a SocialIn post a week ago about 19th century sledding. That’s 38 sites! Lots of copying and pasting. I’m still getting the hang of it.  Will shoot for another SocialIn post in mid-February.

5. Exclusively dedicate four hours each weekday (probably in 2-hour increments) to writing the second draft of Unseemly Secrets.

This week was a bust, unfortunately. Had minor oral surgery, and the weather (insanely cold, and some snow) disrupted the kids’ school schedules again. But I have to get back to my draft, no matter what. In fact, I think I’m going through writer withdrawal…

I read a lot of advice blogs and articles about the craft and business of writing, and it can become a confusing mire. I got caught up in some of that this week. But I had an epiphany of sorts today (see? writing these ROW80 updates are super-beneficial!). Business cards, giveaways, promos, social media, reviews, Amazon sales rankings…yep, these are important, but they won’t make any difference at all if I don’t WRITE! I only have two books published right now. That isn’t much to promote or giveaway. Once I have more books out there, then I can tinker with giveaways and such, but right now the real business of writing has to be FIRST. It’s simple. I know – duh, Kathy. 😉

This week will be a real test of that, since it’s the end of the school quarter and the kids have a four-day weekend coming up. But I hope that by next Sunday, I’ll be able to report that I found a way to make it work.

So there you have it – my progress this week, if you can call it that. 😉

While we’re on the topic of simplicity, I’ll leave you with one of my fave super-easy cookie recipes. And it’s gluten-free, too. I know it seems weird that this could be a cookie when there’s no flour in it. But it really does work! And it’s delicious. I made it again this week when the weather had us cooped up.

Simpler Than Sin Peanut Chocolate Cookies (makes about 30 cookies)

(recipe from the The Cookie Bible)

pic by K.B. Owen

pic by K.B. Owen

 
1 cup extra crunchy peanut butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg, at room temperature
2 tsp vanilla
6oz bar of dark or milk chocolate, broken into squares

 

 

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 deg F
In medium bowl, combine peanut butter, sugar, egg and vanilla; mix well.
Roll dough into 1-inch balls, place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet.
Bake 12 minutes, remove from oven and place a chocolate square in center of each cookie.
Bake an additional 5-7 minutes, or until cookies are lightly golden around edges.
Cool 5 minutes, then remove to wire rack to cool completely.

pic by K.B. Owen

pic by K.B. Owen

A couple of notes:

  • It is very important that the egg be room temp; the cookie dough doesn’t set up as well if the egg is cold (a good rule-of-thumb for most recipes, actually).
  • I like to line the cookie sheet with parchment paper first (I hate washing dishes, and I’m paranoid about cookies sticking to the tray).
  • The cookie dough is very sticky, so I’d advise using food prep gloves or just a cookie scoop (sprayed with non-stick cooking spray). Thanks to my friend Deb for this tip!
  • It’s okay for the chocolate square to mush the cookie when you place it; the additional baking time will fix that.

How’s your January going? Do you have a favorite comfort food you like to make when the weather outside is awful? I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time,

Kathy

P.S. – This Tuesday, I’ll be over at Spann of Time, historical mystery writer Susan Spann’s blog. It’s the official “kick-off” to my Unseemly Pursuits blog tour. Susan has some interesting questions for me. I believe food, socks, and pets are involved. And oh, yeah, some questions about writing, too. 😉 Hope to see you there!

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Herding cats and ROW80

Herding cats and ROW80

Hi everyone, hope you’re having a great weekend. Time for my Sunday ROW80 check-in! So how did I do this week? I’d describe it as “herding cats.”

Created by K.B. Owen on cheezburger.com

Created by K.B. Owen on cheezburger.com

My goals:

1. Post twice per week on my blog: a ROW80 check-in on Sundays, and an original post mid-week. During my blog tour, my total weekly count will actually be three times per week, as I’m scheduled to guest post twice a week through the beginning of March.

Done! Still writing my advance guest posts, though.

2. Send out five new email requests per week to book reviewers who have indicated they are available and interested in reviewing books in my genre (mystery).

I think it was 3 total, actually. I signed up with a GoodReads group that reads and reviews books. You put your book in the queue along with a description, and then interested folks in the group will message you to get a copy. They agree to read and write a review of the book in 4 weeks’ time. I also queried two indie bookstores in my area and got a promising response from one. Haven’t yet heard back from the other one. When the additional paperback copies arrive that I ordered this week, I’ll be approaching several local libraries: our public system,  our middle and high schools. Educators I know who teach in our local school system have told me that they are always in need of engaging historical fiction.  Sounds promising, right? Here’s hoping.

3. Visit, comment on, and tweet posts from ten bloggers each week.

Done!

4. Write and publish three SocialIn posts during this 80-day period.

Published a SocialIn post this week about 19th century sledding. That’s 38 sites! Lots of copying and pasting. I’m still getting the hang of it.

5. Exclusively dedicate four hours each weekday (probably in 2-hour increments) to writing the second draft of Unseemly Secrets.

Well, this “cat” got away from me. I only got 3 out of 5 days this week, unfortunately.  A variety of errands and tasks had me scurrying in way too many directions. Still working on using my time more efficiently!

Speaking of herding cats, here’s a clip you might enjoy. It’s one of my favorite Super Bowl commercials:

As the one cowboy said: “I’m livin’ the dream.” 😉

Okay, there you have it: my progress this week. I hope you other writers out there have had a productive week, and the non-writers who may be reading this have had a good January.

Are you on track so far for your 2014 goals? I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time,

Kathy

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“Hit me with your best shot” ROW80!

“Hit me with your best shot” ROW80!

Hi, everyone!  Hope you’re having a great weekend.  Time for my Sunday ROW80 check-in!  So how did I do this first week?  As the above title suggests, I got “knocked around” a little…

 

Bennett sisters boxing, 1910 (approx). Wikimedia commons.

Bennett sisters boxing, 1910 (approx). Wikimedia commons.

My goals:

1. Post twice per week on my blog: a ROW80 check-in on Sundays, and an original post mid-week.  During my blog tour, my total weekly count will actually be three times per week, as I’m scheduled to guest post twice a week through the beginning of March.

Well, I got the Sunday check-in done, and while I didn’t post during the week (except for my Wednesday ROW80 post), I have been writing the posts for my upcoming blog tour.

2. Send out five new email requests per week to book reviewers who have indicated they are available and interested in reviewing books in my genre (mystery).  I don’t want to spam anybody!  And if you all have suggestions about reviewers to contact, I’d sure appreciate it!

Lots of time spent on Amazon’s top reviewers list, writing emails, and corresponding on Facebook with other writers to get advice.  After going through 10 screen pages of Amazon reviewers, I found three who looked promising (cozy mystery interests). Two of them have already shot me down and haven’t heard back from the last one. I joined a GoodReads group (thanks Sheila Seabrook for the suggestion!) that reviews author-donated ebooks, so we’ll see about that.  There were also two nice peeps on the “Murder and Mayhem Cozy Mysteries” Facebook group who have offered to read and review the book.  Thanks to those gals!  

I can see this is going to be a slow, time-consuming endeavor, though.

3. Visit, comment on, and tweet posts from ten bloggers each week.

I got a late start on this, but I hit 12 different bloggers and 14 posts!

4. Write and publish three SocialIn posts during this 80-day period.

Not yet, but I’ve narrowed down the possibilities of what topics to write.

5.  Exclusively dedicate four hours each weekday (probably in 2-hour increments) to writing the second draft of Unseemly Secrets.

I got “knocked down” a lot on this one.  With that lovely polar vortex we got last week, the kids’ school schedules were all messed up: late starts two of the days, and completely off from school another day.  It was the right call for the school to make, but it wreaked havoc with my writing time.  The good news is that I did get one day with a big chunk of uninterrupted time, and bearded the lion in his den…aka, opened the file I haven’t seen since early November.  More good news: the first draft doesn’t stink as badly as I feared! 😉

 

Okay, there you have it: my progress this week.  I hope you other writers out there have had a better week, and the non-writers who may be reading this have had a fab start to 2014!

I leave you with this wonderful slap-stick Carol Burnett compilation, set to Pat Benatar’s “Hit Me With Your Best Shot.”  Enjoy!

Until next time,

Kathy

 

 

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A New Year, a Polar Vortex, and ROW80

A New Year, a Polar Vortex, and ROW80

Happy New Year!  The start of 2014 is the perfect time to re-assess one’s goals, evaluate what worked well in 2013, and figure out what happens next. Throw in a polar vortex, which is socking most of the U.S. in a deep freeze that hasn’t been seen in two decades, and there’s even more opportunity to stay at home and roll up our sleeves.

Image from NOAA satellite, 1.6.2014, via NASA.gov

I think I see Florida in there somewhere…image from NOAA satellite, 1.6.2014, via NASA.gov

 

2013 was the year I threw my hat in the indie publishing ring, with the publication of my first two mysteries in the Concordia Wells series: Dangerous and Unseemly and Unseemly Pursuits.

A new cover for D&U! Both covers done by Melinda VanLone.

A new cover for D&U! Both covers done by Melinda VanLone.

But there’s still more work to be done – can’t leave Concordia pining for her next adventure!  So I’ve decided to start the year by participating in the ROW80 challenge.  For those of you who haven’t heard of it, ROW80 stands for “A Round of Words in 80 Days.”  It’s made up of fellow writers who support and cheer each other on over an 80-day period, as we post our progress on our measurable goals each week.

So let’s get to it!

My goals over the next 80 days:

  • Promote my new book, Unseemly Pursuits, through two means: 1) a blog tour of guest postings on other websites, and 2) requesting book reviews
  •  Revise my first draft of Unseemly Secrets.

I haven’t looked at it since finishing the draft in late October (too busy getting Unseemly Pursuits revised and published).  However, I know I’ll be dealing with a hot mess once I dare to open the Scrivener file.  We’re talking plot holes big enough to drive a truck through, people.

  •  Get more involved socially on the internet and better connect with the online community.  This will involve several steps: 1) breathing life into my dormant blog, which had been languishing from neglect until a couple of months ago; 2) visiting more websites each week, commenting, and tweeting the links; and 3) posting more regularly on Social In, an e-zine that’s published in three dozen cities. I’m going to start with once a month, with a short-term goal of bi-weekly and a long-term goal of weekly.

**I have some personal goals in addition to the professional ones – you know, eating healthier (cookies are my weakness) and exercising, but I’ll just report on the writing-related ones.  😉

Okay, let’s make all of this more quantifiable!

ROW80Measurable weekly goals (in no particular order):

1. Post twice per week on my blog: a ROW80 check-in on Sundays (I only intend to check-in once per week, although I know other ROW-ers do Sundays AND Wednesdays), and an original post mid-week.  During my blog tour, my total weekly count will actually be three times per week, as I’m scheduled to guest post twice a week through the beginning of March.

2. Send out five new email requests per week to book reviewers who have indicated they are available and interested in reviewing books in my genre (mystery).  I don’t want to spam anybody!  And if you all have suggestions about reviewers to contact, I’d sure appreciate it!

3. Visit, comment on, and tweet posts from ten bloggers each week.

4. Write and publish three SocialIn posts during this 80-day period.

5.  Exclusively dedicate four hours each weekday (probably in 2-hour increments) to writing the second draft of Unseemly Secrets.  No Facebook, email, or TweetDeck tabs open!  Be strong, Kathy. 😉

 

That should do it…wish me luck!

 

What are your goals for 2014?  What changes will you be making in your routine to make them happen?  I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time,

Kathy

 

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