Inspiration: Widows, Mobsters and the Secret Service

Writing is an integral part of who I am. Very few days pass that I do nothing writing-related. As some of you know, I started a new project recently – intended to be the third in the Widow’s Web series, about widows who overcome challenges when they are facing the most difficult time of their lives. I’m about 10,000 words into the story, about a woman who finds out her husband is cheating on her.

But my muse seems to have other ideas. For those of you who are unfamiliar, my muse is a fairy named Jennie. She sits on my shoulder and whispers in my ear. While I’ve been trying to write Morgan’s story about her cheating husband, my muse is obsessing about the Secret Service. At the library recently, she directed me to choose In the President’s Secret Service as the audiobook to listen to during my daily commute. Last weekend, I decided to flip on the TV and see if anything good was on. What was on? The Clint Eastwood film, In the Line of Fire. This morning I turned on Netflix, thinking I’d play something in the background while I was writing. Netflix suggested Vantage Point.

My muse hasn’t stopped there. She’s given me a character. A woman named Mackenzie (“Kenzie”) Egan. Her great grandfather was an Irish mobster in Kansas City (moved over from the St. Louis crime family). I cannot stop thinking about this woman, and the Secret Service . . . those agents who dress sharply, with white shirts and dark suits and dark sunglasses, with the ever-present curled wire disappearing under their collars.

So, tell me . . . what would you rather read about? A woman with a cheating husband, or a mob princess who joins the Secret Service?

Why do you write?

That’s a question I get asked all the time. Of course, there’s the simple answer – I write because I must. It’s who I am.

But there’s more to it than that. I write because I want to create a lifestyle. My day job is awesome. I love what I do, love the people I work with, and am fortunate to work in a supportive, energetic environment where I am challenged every day. My salary is enough to almost make ends meet (note the “almost” – right now our dryer and dishwasher are limping along, threatening to quit). The benefits are decent.

Rich Mountain RoadBut I am never going to have freedom with my day job. I will always work Monday through Friday, 8 am to 5 pm. I will always schedule vacation time around others’ schedules. My paycheck goes into the bank and bill payments come out. Frankly, I want more than that out of life. I want to be able to make enough to pay our debt down. I want to be able to travel every now and then (yeah, we travel some, but rarely and are always budget conscious – like our trip to Gatlinburg last year – on the right). I want to be able to pay for the vet bills for a stray Beagle hit by a car. I want to be able to donate money to a friend who is rescuing horses from a kill yard.

All of those things take money. And in order to make more money, I need to do something beyond the day job. It seems natural to honor the talent I have been blessed with, and write. Hopefully, I can make enough money off of that talent by entertaining people, letting them escape into another world for a bit, so that I can do some of those things that I want to do.

If you want to help me do some of those things, and you like to be entertained by a well-written book with twists and turns, consider buying one of my books.

Thanks for listening. And comment below about what YOU want out of life.

Alfred Hitchcock: Master of Suspense

vertigoIn honor of Halloween, I’m spending the day as a couch potato, watching an Alfred Hitchcock marathon. Vertigo is on now. Jimmy Stewart is an actor I never tire of watching, and Hitchcock is a director I never tire of studying.

I’ve studied the craft of writing for years and, as a writer, you’ll find inspiration and nuggets of wisdom flying at you from every direction. I saw an interview with Hitchcock many, many years ago where he described HOW to create suspense. He said imagine you have two men sitting at a table in a cafe. If the writer/director knows there is a bomb under the table, the writer/director feels the suspense, but the key is to show that bomb to the reader/viewer – without showing it to the character sitting at the table. Instant suspense.

I try to follow Hitchcock’s advice. In Fatal Impulse, I wanted the reader to know who the bad guy was, to see where the danger was, but I wanted Andi to miss the clues. She is a broken individual, who doesn’t look at things the way most of us do. She has been abused for so long, she can no longer see things clearly. Relationships are skewed in her mind. But the reader knows she is walking into danger, and wants to scream at her to stop.

The same thing is happening in my new novel. Sophie is totally different from Andi, though. Sophie is a tough survivor, who grew up in foster homes. But the reader sees danger where Sophie does not.

I’m certainly not comparing myself to Alfred Hitchcock, but I hope I’ve learned something from his methods.

Have you ever watched Hitchcock? If so, what’s your favorite movie (or episode)?

Introducing . . . WriteScouts

WriteScoutsHave you ever wanted to write a book but never seem to find the time? Have you read writing craft books, but can’t seem to put it all together? Do you work full-time, so you barely have time to brush your teeth, much less write the book you want to write? Have you got notebooks filled with ideas and words that you just can’t string together into a complete book?

I’ve been where you are, and I want to help you fast-forward through the struggles that I went through. Now that I figured out how to get that novel finished, I want to help you do the same thing. I’m working to put together a class to help you write your novel in a matter of weeks (instead of the 10 years I spent on my first manuscript). I’ll be offering a freebie to give you a taste of what’s coming. If you want in on that freebie, and want writing tips and tricks, sign up below for updates. Pssst . . . if you sign up now, you’ll get an extra freebie!

(btw . . . comment below and let me know what you’d like to see covered in upcoming classes.)

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Book Slut: Reading Multiple Books

I heard the term “book slut” a long time ago and wasn’t sure exactly what it meant. Cheating on your favorite author? Reading more than one genre? A late night rendezvous between the sheets?

nuisetteWhatever the term means, I think I might be one.

I realized that when I updated my Goodreads status earlier today.

 

 

I’m currently reading 7 books. S E V E N. (7).

Seriously, how does that even happen? Then I looked at the books I’m reading. One audiobook in the PT Cruiser – Bossypants by Tina Fey. Got a playaway in Daisy – Finding Perfect by Susan Mallery.

Me & Daisy, exploring

Me & Daisy, exploring

Then there’s the audiobook on my Nook that I carry around with me in the house and listen to while working out on the elliptical – Friction by Sandra Brown. Then there’s the ebook on my Nook – The Wanderer by Robyn Carr. I realized that Dark Harbor by Stuart Woods is still on my list. I got it from the library, returned it before I was finished because that was during the holidays & things got busy. I need to check it out again and finish it. Oh, and I have Spying in High Heels by Gemma Halliday on my phone’s Kindle app, which I read every time I’ve got a few extra minutes. Oh, and The Witch is Back by H. P. Mallory.

And did I mention I just finished Scrapped by Mollie Cox Bryan today?

Not only do I have 7 books going right now, they are all over the map when it comes to genre: non-fiction, romance, romantic suspense, mystery, paranormal.

So, yeah, I think I’ve got a book problem.

And I’m perfectly OK with that.

If you want to add a book to your Currently-Reading list, pick up one of my books:

AmazonBuyButtonNook buy button

 

 

 

And feel free to friend me at Goodreads. goodreadsI won’t judge you based on your Currently Reading list if you don’t judge me by mine.

Year End Review: Is Indie Publishing Worth it?

Credit: Prawny - PhotoMorgue

Credit: Prawny – PhotoMorgue

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking over the past couple of weeks. I always do that at the end of the year – review what I’ve done, plan for the upcoming year. This year, I did it under the guidance of the Your Best Year 2016 planner by Lisa Jacobs. It has been fantastic – easily the best money I spent this past year.

As part of my year end evaluation, I was curious about my accomplishments. When I bought the 2016 planner, Lisa included the PDF of the 2015 planner, which I began working through in the fall. One of the biggest a-ha moments for me was seeing that I do the same thing every year, and hope for improvement. Hope for success.

I’ve dreamed of being a writer for as long as I can remember, and my first book was published in 2014 by a small press. My second book was published in 2015, by my own micro press, Three Creeks Press (essentially, I’m an indie publisher).  As I worked through Lisa Jacob’s planner and reviewed the numbers and what I had been doing (which was essentially writing and hoping folks would find my books), I decided it was time to change – to treat my publishing as a business.

I was inspired to share my results after reading Lisa Medley’s blog post about her experience this past year. (as an aside, I wish more authors, indie and traditional, would share their results.) I met Lisa at ORACon a couple of years ago and have followed her progress, because I consider her a “real” author (I have always been, oh, so jealous, because she got “the call” from Harlequin! <drooling>). I know traditional authors have sharing restrictions because of their contracts, but am glad to see them at least discussing generalities, like Tawna Fenske did on her blog.

As I mentioned, my first book, Denim &Diamonds, came out in 2014. I’ve made about $200 on it, give or take. Yeah, not going to retire on that. I was so excited to get a publisher, and working with CaryPress has been a good experience, so I still consider it a success. My second book, Fatal Impulse, came out in 2015. At the beginning of 2015, my goal was to make enough to pay one small bill a month (I was thinking the water bill, which runs $20 – $25). (Yeah, I know. Not exactly reaching for the stars.)

20160109_132952_resized

Here’s how Fatal Impulse has done this year – these are my royalties for each month:

March: $48.02

April: $18.36

May: $2.04

June: $22.24

July: $4.08

August: $0 (OUCH. this was my a-ha moment – I need to DO something!)

September: $74.49

October: $131.66

November: $224.64

December:  $2594.95

20160109_134026_resizedI know it’s a bit crass to discuss money, but I have to admit, throughout December, I proudly discussed royalties with anyone and everyone who would listen. I caught myself whispering numbers, prefacing it with “I know this is crass, but get this . . . ” To be fair, that money isn’t all profit. I’ve spent over $700 and 25% of those royalties go to taxes, but I’m damned proud of that book. It isn’t perfect, it has flaws, and it’ll never win any literary awards. It’s simply a story that banged around in my head since my first marriage 25+ years ago that I needed to get out. My hope is that it will entertain some folks, and that it’ll provide a bit of escapism for anyone stuck in a bad relationship.

But the fact that I am able to realize a profit from that is very exciting. And now that my next book is in edits, I find myself confident that indie publishing is for me. As my friends and family will tell you, I’m a bit of a control freak, so being able to change the book description and tags is a huge plus. It makes the book responsive to trends. I write the book, then subcontract the graphic design, editing, promotion. The role of authorpreneur fits me very well.

I’m thinking about putting together resources to share what I’ve learned to help others become successful authorpreneurs. If you’re interested, sign up for my newsletter (see sidebar) so you’ll get the news before anyone else.

And if you have tips, feel free to share them here.

And if you’re brave enough to share your own publishing results, I’d love to hear them. Feel free to email me if you want to remain anonymous and I’ll share those results in an upcoming post.

Draft to 50K: Point of View

Blank to 50K(2)Point of view is the essentially the narrator’s position, how the story is told. Ideally, you should decide this before you start writing, though I’ve been known to switch partway through a book. In fact, when I first wrote Fatal Impulse, it was in first person. I got all done and my editor suggested third person. I changed the manuscript (a HUGE undertaking!), but think it was a better book for the change.

Here is a brief overview of each common POV, along with my bewares and tips:

First Person

This is the “I” version. The story is told from the viewpoint character’s point of view. That person must be able to see, hear, taste, smell and feel everything that you write.

Beware: it is very difficult to really get into your character’s head, and to avoid telling the story.

Tip: Get closer. For instance, instead of saying, “I heard the boom of thunder,” say “The window glass vibrated with the boom of thunder.”

Third Person

Third person is the he/she version. The story is still told from a character’s point of view, but through the filter of the author. Again, the person must be able to see, hear, taste, smell and feel everything that you write.

Beware: Headhopping is a common mistake. Remain in one character’s head per scene or, better yet, per chapter.

Tip: Add internalization. Much can be said by what the character thinks as opposed to what he/she says. Sharing your POV character’s thoughts is a way to put your reader in the characters head. There’s no need for italics or saying he/she thought. Simply write the character’s thought. The reader will get it. Trust me.

 Second Person

Second person is you did this, you did that. The story is told from the reader’s point of view. The narrator tells the reader what is happening to him.

Beware: This should be used sparingly. It can be jarring to the reader, and is tricky to pull off.

Tip: In short bursts, this can be useful because it truly does put the reader in the character’s shoes. Read the first chapter of Harlen Coben’s The Innocent for an example of how this can be used effectively.

#StarTrek Convention: #ChaseMasterson

http://lorilrobinett.comWe are home from the Star Trek convention in Chicago. This was our first time going for the full convention, and it was an absolute blast. We made a mini-vacation of it. Ate well, stayed at nice restaurants, did a little gambling, but the highlight of the trip was definitely the convention.

The first actor we heard was Chase Masterson. For those of you who are Star Trek fans, she played Leeta on Deep Space Nine. Most recently, she played a small part in The Flash. What impresses me the most about her is what she is doing with her bit of celebrity – she has formed an organization about bullying: The Pop Culture Anti-Bullying Coalition. An attendee of the convention was a young woman who is an investment banker, obviously being targeted and harassed at her job. After she spoke, I saw Chase catch her and talk to her. Totally off the record, not in the spotlight.

Have you ever gone to anything like a Star Trek convention? Tell us about it in the comments!

By the way – if you’re in central Missouri, make sure you stop by Village Books in Columbia, Missouri this coming Saturday between noon and 2 for my book signing. There will be prizes!

How to Research Locations for Writing

Courtesy of Photo Morgue

Courtesy of Photo Morgue

We’ve all heard the old adage to write what you know, but seriously, how boring would that be? I want to learn just as much from writing as I do from reading. Although my first book, Denim & Diamonds, is set in Missouri, my second book is set in Maine. I’ve never been to Maine. Now, before anyone writes to me and points out every error in any of my books, let me point out that I write fiction. Sometimes I take creative license with exactly where things are or how they look. That said, I want the feel of my settings to come across to my readers, and I do research to be as accurate as possible.

For instance, here’s an excerpt from Fatal Impulse:

They drove down Main Street, rounded a curve and the harbor appeared before them. Tall masts sprung up from the boats like a forest of toothpicks, and white sails billowed in the salty breeze. As they turned into the parking lot, Andi was blown away by the number of cars already there. Parking would be at a premium after the tourists arrived after Memorial Day, but early May was still quiet. She drove down three aisles before she found a parking space.

Not lots of detail, but I used the senses of sight and smell, and incorporated the mention of tourists to give the idea of it being a touristy-area.

If you are writing about an area that you have not personally visited, there are lots of resources to draw upon.

  • People. Let folks know what you’re writing about and likely someone you know knows someone who is from there, or has visited there. Talk to them.
  • Books. Tourism books are great, but also pick up fictional books set in that area.
  • Google Earth. This is invaluable. You can actually “drive” the route you are talking about to see what the area is like.
  • Reviews. To include authentic details, read reviews of restaurants and shops in the area. You’ll pick up on all sorts of little details, like local specialties.

Word of warning: do your research, don’t wing it.

(as an aside: I read a book years ago by a woman from New Hampshire. Her book was set in Missouri. Her character stepped out of her motel room and looked “south at the Ozark Mountains.” This was mentioned several times in the book, about looking south at the mountains. I was acquainted with the writer, so I emailed with what I hoped was a helpful note about not being able to see the Ozarks from Kansas City, in case she decided to write another book set in Missouri. She sent back a snippy email that she was entirely capable of looking at a map and that the mountains should be clearly visible from Kansas City. Um, okay. I haven’t emailed her again, nor have I bothered to see if she wrote another book.)

#CritiqueGroup

http://www.amazon.com/Denim-Diamonds-Lori-Robinett/dp/1631030035/ref=sr_1_7?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1405879835&sr=1-7&keywords=denim+%26+diamonds

Lori L. Robinett, author

The number of people who want to write novels is quite high, but very few people actually make it happen.  I get questions fairly often from aspiring writers, and a common question is how I found my critique group. My group is close-knit and I am very fortunate to have found them. Based on my experiences, here are my suggestions for finding your own group:

  • National Novel Writing Month. We all started as NaNo’ers. That’s how we met. When you participate in NaNo, you find others in your area who share your passion for writing. Some people might call it crazy, but we prefer to call it passion. ;o)
  • Network. Talk to your librarian. Tell people you work with that you are a writer. Tell your family and friends. Chances are, you’ll find other aspiring writers.
  • Test Drive. Don’t commit to a group until you’ve had a chance to read each other’s writing. Genre doesn’t matter as much as passion, enthusiasm, dedication, and skill level.
  • Find what works for you. My group meets every other week. We send a few chapters to each other by email the week before we meet, then we talk over suggested critiques face to face. But that may not work for you – do you want a high level overview of an entire novel, or are you looking for intensive line edits?

In a future post, I’ll give some tips about how to get the most out of your critique group. If you have ideas/tips, I’d love to hear them!