14 Murder, She Wrote Tips for Balancing Your Writing Life, Part Two

Believe it or not, it’s time to get back to “14 Murder, She Wrote Tips for Balancing Your Writing LIfe.” March 9, I shared the first half of those tips. I promised you seven more. So let’s not waste any time. Here is Part Two of …

14 Tips for Balancing Your Writing Life

Jessica Fletcher, best-selling mystery novelist in the fictional Murder, She Wrote television series, had to manage the many facets of her writing life just as we do,  That included not taking, but making …

  1. Time to write. We often saw Jessica sitting at the kitchen table of her home in Cabot Cove, pounding the keys of her typewriter. As she attempted to beat the publisher’s deadline for her new novel, she refused to be interrupted by all but dire needs. Later, in her New York apartment, she turned to writing at a computer  … and sometimes dealing with computer problems. Even Jessica had computer problems. Unlike us, they usually led to solving a murder mystery.
  2. Time for research. Do you remember Jessica poking around in the book stacks at a library? Or searching for information online? How about interviewing experts and visiting her novels’ settings to ensure the accuracy of her stories? I especially liked the scene where she made up a dummy to be the “murder victim” in her WIP (work in progress) and then acted out the scene to make sure the imaginary bullet’s trajectory was possible.
  3. Time for conferences. Every writer from beginner to published needs to spend time at writers’ conferences and seminars,and Jessica was no exception. Of course, when she showed up to network with other writers, or meet with her agent, editors and publishers, she invariably wound up involved in a murder mystery. I have to admit that with all the conferences I attended, not once was anyone threatened, much less murdered. So, you are not only safe going to a writer’s conference or seminar, you will love it. Here I am with three friends at Write-To-Publish, John, Cindy, and Kris.
  4. Time to teach. And how about those criminology classes Jessica taught at a college in New York? Or when she spoke at a writer’s conference? She not only became adept at writing and at solving crimes, she shared her knowledge with others. She also occasionally made time to read unpublished writers’ stories, offer suggestions, and encourage them to continue their pursuit of publication.
  5. Time for readers. No matter how famous  Jessica became, she made time for her readers. Time to autograph books. Time to speak to fans gathered at a meeting to hear her read from her newest novel and share some interesting facet of the writing of it. I loved the time she wound up involved in solving a murder mystery when she stumbled on a Jessica Fletcher fan club whose members had read all her books. Here I am, signing a book for Nancy who was kind enough to attend my novel’s book launch last year.
  6. Time for business. Yes, Jessica met with her editors and publishers, but she also had to stay on top of her investments. She was one of the authors who actually made a living writing her novels! No doubt she also had someone to take care of tax matters.
  7. Time to pray. Imagine my surprise at catching an episode in which Jessica prayed. You know the routine, Against a pressing deadline, we get stuck. There she sat at her typewriter, frustrated. Suddenly she folded her hands in prayer and looked heavenward. Yes, even Jessica had to pray to make progress with her WIP. I like to think that she, too, knew the importance of prayer to succeed in writing well.

And there you have it … the last of the “14 Tips.” I hope you enjoyed them. The truth is: fictional author or not, we all have to face similar challenges in our writing lives.

What biggest challenge as a novelist have you faced and, hopefully, overcome?

 

Missing in Action?

Missing in action? Yes, the last time you saw a post was the end of May, and I truly apologize. You are important to me.

But, sometimes life takes us by the hair and drags us wherever it wants. Have you ever felt that way? Well, that’s exactly what happened over the last two months while I was mysteriously ill. Finally, this past Sunday, whatever-it-was let go.

And I’m so glad to be back with you once again!

You all amaze me with your wonderful support. Within the past twenty-four hours, another five-star review of Her Deadly Inheritance appeared on Amazon: “Loved this book! The opening line to the last line keep you turning the page.”

What encouragement as I’m now physically able to work on the edits requested for the second novel by my editor at Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas, Darla Crass. Once those edits are approved, LPC will set a release date for this novel. When that happens, I’ll be sure to answer your frequent question, “When is your next novel coming out?”

In the meantime, thank you so much for making Her Deadly inheritance a top-selling novel on Amazon since it came out last year, I’m so grateful to you and to the Lord.

Contract Signed for sequel to Her Deadly Inheritance

“When is your next novel coming out?” Bless you, dear readers, you’ve been asking that question since Her Deadly Inheritance released in January last year.

Good news! We will soon know the answer!

Today I signed the contract for the sequel to Her Deadly Inheritance. According to the U.S. mail, publisher Eddie Jones at Lighthouse of the Carolinas will receive the three copies in Pennsylvania on Tuesday, May 30.

As soon as managing editor Darla Crass lets me know the new novel’s projected release date, I will pass that happy information on to you!

Thank you for your continued interest. You are great encouragers.

Selah Award Winner: Her Deadly Inheritance

Tonight was a night to remember! Her Deadly Inheritance–the novel that had taken me years to write–won the Selah Award for “Fiction: First Novel.”

Though unable to attend the gala Awards night at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference, I watched at home in Wisconsin through live-streaming, clapping for every recipient. It was such fun! I had plenty of friends who were up for awards. Suddenly I heard my name and jumped back in my office chair. Me? My novel?

It seemed too much to take in. Yet publisher Eddie Jones was running onstage in my absence to receive it. Yet I couldn’t help but remember of all who helped make this incredible honor possible.

My deepest gratitude to the One who makes all things possible. My thanks also to:

  • the hard-working the staff at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference
  • coordinator Eva Marie Everson who organized the contest
  • contest judges who put in many hours
  • Eddie Jones at Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas
  • editors Rowena Kuo and J. Christine Richards
  • agent Jim Hart
  • my two critique groups
  • and my faithful prayer team

God bless you all!

Happy Mother’s Day!

Just want to wish you all a …

How blessed we are today to remember the mothers in our life …

For those who have loved and nurtured us–whether a mother who is still with you or one who has passed as mine did last year, a grandmother who gave that extra measure of loving care, a mother-in-law who has loved and cared for you as a beloved daughter, or another woman in your life who has loved and inspired you.

 

2017 Selah Awards: Her Deadly Inheritance Is a Finalist

Exciting news! A few hours ago I received word that Her Deadly Inheritance is a finalist in the 2017 Selah Awards.

Eva Marie Everson, contest director for the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference, wrote, “Congratulations! Your work was up against quite an impressive list of other works … but your work is a finalist for the Selah Awards.

We are attaching a seal for you.”Selahs_Seal_Finalist_2017 - HDI

Her  Deadly Inheritance will compete in the “Fiction Genres: First Novel” category, and I couldn’t be more honored. Winners of the contest’s sixteen categories will be announced at the BRMCWC dessert banquet in Spilman Auditorium on Wednesday, May 24 around 7:15 p.m.

Edie Melson (author and social media expert) and DiAnn Mills (award-winning and best-selling author) are the co-directors of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference.

Congratulations to all of this year’s Selah Awards finalists!

Author Cindy Huff on Fascinating Facts about Life in the Old West

So excited to welcome author and friend, Cindy Huff, whose debut novel, Secrets and Charades, releases today! I read and loved this historical romance which is full of action, surprises, and a very touching romance. Be sure to check out how to win a free copy of Cindy’s novel at the end of this post.

Before Cindy shares some of the fascinating  research that helped to bring her novel alive, here’s the back cover copy to give you a bird-eye view of her story’s characters and plot.

Jake Marcum’s busy ranch leaves him no time for courting, and his wounded heart has no place for love. When battlefield nightmares disturb his peace and his tomboy niece, Juliet, needs taming, somehow a mail-order bride seems like a logical solution.

Dr. Evangeline Olson has no idea her niece is writing to a rancher on her behalf, and she sure isn’t interested in abandoning her medical practice for a stranger. But when an inheritance threatens to reveal a long-buried secret, she travels west to become Jake’s wife.

Jake soon realizes Evangeline is more than he bargained for, especially when her arrival causes a stir in the community. As the two try to find their way in a marriage of convenience, their fragile relationship is further tested by cattle rustling and kidnapping. Can their hearts overcome past hurts to create a real marriage?

And now … here’s Cindy!

Beth, I’m delighted to be back. The timing is perfect for sharing interesting the things I learned in my research. I love Jake and Evangeline and the crew of the Double M. But their story would be so flat without the research that helped to build my story world.

Beyond the internet

Before I created my story, I spent a few months reading books because the internet is not as detailed. When I googled female doctors in the 1800’s, I found some information. But the library, used books on Amazon, and my friend Chris’ extensive library offered far more interesting information. Chris is a Civil War reenactor and history buff. These resources also helped me create Evangeline’s backstory.

1800’s Women fought for education

In the 1800’s, educated men believed women’s brains were too frail to understand weightier subjects beyond what finishing school provided. Professors in medical schools did all they could to discourage women from attending. And those women who did were often excluded from cadaver dissection. The instructors insisted it was unseemly for a single woman to view a naked male body, even a dead one. Women had to work harder to prove themselves.

Naming the town

My story’s town of Charleton is fictitious. It took a lot of digging to create a town name not found anywhere in Texas. Google helped here.  Surprisingly, many names I made up were actual towns and each in the wrong part of Texas.

“Soldiers heart”

Jake and most of the Double M crew are Civil War veterans. The trauma of war affected each of them differently. Many who survived dealt with Soldier’s heart. (PTSD today) Strong, brave men became frightened, irrational, or violent at the least provocation. Some spent the rest of their lives in insane asylums. Others acted out and became outlaws. The James gang is an example. Bart, one of the secondary characters in Secrets and Charades, exhibits the negative attributes of soldier’s heart. This adds an unexpected twist to the story.

Horses

Jake served in the Confederate Army and, like his fellow-soldiers, admired General Lee. This is evident by the naming of his personal mount. The stallion resembled Lee’s steed, Traveler, who was both intelligent and loyal.

I was surprised to learn most ranch horses had no name. They were just tools of the trade. Most cowboys owned a saddle but not a horse. A few of my characters have horses with names. Being named made them more than just a horse.

Dishes and decorum

Evangeline brought trunks and crates with her. One special item was her grandmother’s china. Fine dishes could be found even in soddies and dugouts. New settlers built homes by cutting large sections of sod into bricks. Others dug holes in the side of hills. The interiors had carpet on the dirt floors and maybe a few nice furnishings and even curtains. These along with china represented civilization to the settlers. Mr. Farley, Jake’s wealthy neighbor, even takes his china on a cattle drive. He has a portable table covered with a cloth and china dishes for every meal. Families came west with at least a few pieces of china they used as everyday dishes.

Sewing and fancy work

Sewing machines might cost a few months’ wages, but the peddle-driven contraption was a wonderful time-saving device. Still, women prided themselves in their fancy work (embroidery, needlepoint, and tatting) and neat hand-sewed stitches. Bertha Wood, another secondary character, weaves wool into linen and dyes wool thread into a variety of colors for knitting. The description of the dying process got the ax in the final draft of Secrets and Charades.

Jesse James influence

Evangeline practiced medicine in Missouri before her adventure west. The James gang robbed banks and trains in Missouri. I ran across a story about them that made me laugh. Roadside inns with dormitory style rooms were places weary travelers stayed the night. The story goes Jesse James dressed as a woman while fleeing with bank loot. He stayed at one of these inns. Everyone thought it odd the woman insisted on sleeping with her valise under her head. This gave me the idea to have Evangeline carry cash hidden in her petticoat when she traveled west on the train.

Wild west chivalry

An outlaw refused to steal a woman’s horse. Instead, he rode past the female rider and continued until his horse gave out and he had to walk. At which point, he was arrested and hanged. The outlaws in Secrets and Charades are not as nice.

Former slaves populated the west

After the Civil War, many former slaves immigrated west. They ranched, farmed, founded towns and pursued other occupations. The blacksmith on the Double M is a former slave.

Gunfire

I discussed the types of guns available during this period with my friend, Chris. He explained how the Winthrop sniper rifle could hit its mark from a mile away. Unbelievable.

The one description I was constantly fighting not to get edited out of my story was the firing of this rifle. Bullets travel faster than the speed of sound. A victim fell before the report of the gun was heard. And yet, editors and critique partners unfamiliar with weapon fire wanted my character to hear the shot then see the victim fall.

Of course, most of my research never found a place in my novel. Some are destined for the sequel. And yes, I’m working on a sequel and have ideas for a third in the series.

To celebrate the release of Secrets and Charades I’m gifting a copy to a lucky commenter. Beth will choose the winner, and I’ll send them either a paperback or Kindle version. You must have a United States address to be eligible to win.

To be entered in a drawing for a free copy of Cindy’s novel, leave a comment responding to her post here. I will post the winner here next week Wednesday. You will then have a week to claim your free book.

Thank you Cindy for sharing such interesting facts about life in the West, and congratulations on the release of your first novel.

More about Cindy:

Cindy Ervin Huff is the winner of the 2014 Editor’s Choice Award from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. She is a contributor to Splickety Publishing Group’s anthology and has been featured on Christian Communicator, Suburban Dog, ChristianDevotions.us, and Splickety Lightning Blog. Cindy is President of the Aurora, Illinois, chapter of Word Weavers. She and her husband make their home in Aurora, Illinois.

Visit Cindy on Facebook at www.facebook.com/cindyehuff, follow her on http://www.twitter.com/CindyErvinHuff, or connect with her at www.jubileewriter.wordpress.com.

Amazon link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1946016144/

Amazon author page:  https://www.amazon.com/author/cindyervinhuff

Like my Facebook Author page: https://www.facebook.com/author.huff11/