Watching for Inspiration

Sometimes you have to just push the chair back and walk away from the desktop.You can only stare at a screen for so long before your mind goes numb and you’re searching for inspiration.

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Some of the best inspiration that you can get is from watching the people around you. This is especially true at large public locations. I’m lucky to live in South Florida; between the place where the mouse lives and the place where the dolphins swim there’s plenty of attractions to go and watch people. I don’t know what it is about people who are on vacation, but it seems like they’ll do the most amazing things. It might be because they’re letting their inhibitions down, as ifthey have an “I don’t care” attitude. Or maybe it’s because they think no one’s watching: at least no one they know. Young or old, male or female, there’s plenty of inspiration to watch for.

 

I especially like to watch the interaction between people;  what they’re doing while they’re talking. There are so many hand gestures and movements a person makes without even being aware of it and if you incorporate those into your story line you can add a lot of interest.

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Here’s a perfect example…

We were at the place where the mermaids put on a show in the springs  by Tampa. Two little girls very close in age were excited to be able to see the show with the mermaids. They jumped up and down and chattered non-stop. Their parents kept exchanging looks as they tried to quiet them down. Finally it was time for all of us to go in and sit down in the auditorium to watch the mermaid show. The two little girls were overjoyed with excitement and chattered loudly.Their mother tried to quiet them down but to no avail. Rather than getting in the middle of an argument with them, their father simply took each   girl by  hand and led them to their seats.  Instead of letting them sit together, he conveniently put himself and his wife between the two of them. They weren’t able to feed off the excitement of each other and they settled down to enjoy the show.

In that same auditorium over in the corner there were three little girls in the front row leaning over the railing. They were so excited to see the mermaids that they were pushing their noses up against the glass. Instead of being loud and rambunctious like the other girls, these three little girls were in awe of the mermaids. They whispered back and forth to each other and when one of the mermaids swam over and waved at them they were so excited they just didn’t know what to say.  As the mermaid swam away, the giggling and the whispering started. Yet, it was a smile on the adults around the three girls that told the true story. We were getting more enjoyment out of the children’s joy then out of the show itself.

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Children of all ages are great to watch, because they held nothing back. Watching an adult is a little bit harder; you have to really pay attention, without appearing to stare at the interaction between them. It can be something as obvious as to couples fighting with raised hands and loud voices, to another couple so comfortable with themselves that words are needed. They let  their emotions show through actions;   the older man holds the woman’s hand to help her over a rough patch in the sidewalk. To me that action was louder than the arguments of the other couple.

So, when you feel like you’re stumped, or that you need a break, get out of the house and see what’s going on around you. If you can’t do that, flip on the TV and watch the interactions of the characters on the show. Be sure to pay closer attention to the side characters instead of the main characters. Sometimes what you see going on in the background is funnier than the comic one-liners the main characters have.

Feeling inspired? Good, now get back in that chair and start writing!

 

 

About the pictures:
Copyright: <a href=’http://www.123rf.com/profile_belchonock’>belchonock / 123RF Stock Photo
Copyright: <a href=’http://www.123rf.com/profile_catmando’>catmando / 123RF Stock Photo
 Copyright: <a href=’http://www.123rf.com/profile_yeletkeshet’>yeletkeshet / 123RF Stock Photo

 

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AnOther Writer?

I think I have a budding writer in the family.

She’s not your typical writer. No, her work habits are lazy and hap-hazard. She tends to write only when inspired by seeing someone else working, and she  often falls asleep in the middle of a sentence.

You see my co-writer is a pretty little thing, with four legs and a lot of attitude.20160902_080826

Meet Miss Marple. She’s the quiet one of my three cats.and if I’m at my desk, so is she. To tell the truth, she should have been named Shadow, because she is like my shadow, always with me.

Miss Marple is patient and seems to know my writing moods. When things are flowing smoothly, she sits in her basket (how she still fits in it I haven’t a clue) and grabs a nap. When I need to sit and think about the story, she will sit on my lap, hands or keyboard and offer her support.

Of course things don’t always go this smoothly, after all, she’s a cat with a mind of her own. And one of three in the house. I swear, when she thinks I’ve ignored her long enough, she signals the other two for reinforcements!

The second cat is Fletch.  She was named Mrs. Fletcher, but my son insisted Fletch was more appropriate-he was right. If there is trouble to be found, Fletch is in the middle of it. And she is not so tolerant of being ignored while I write.

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When the reinforcements are called in, my desk becomes their play ground. Drawers are opened for stealing paperclips and rubber bands. The pen in my hand is  mortal enemy that must be attacked and defeated. Urgent secret codes are typed into my manuscript as they pounce on the key board. And the back of my chair is commandeered and transformed into a launch pad.

Then, just as I’m ready to give up and pack it in, there is peace. As if sent by a secret code, they both settle down.

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Did I mention my third cat, Speckles? She is the matriarch of the three, over 18 years old. She’s too old to jump up on my desk, now. Instead she sits in the comfortable chair next to my desk, or on a rug in a patch of sunlight and watches the antics of the other two. In her time, she was the troublemaker. I think I can see her smile as Fletch steals my pen.

I wonder…is she sending them a secret code?

Finally, all three are taking their afternoon nap and I can get back to my work in progress. At least until they wake up and it starts all over.

The Learning Curve

Where has the time gone?

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It’s hard to believe, but this week celebrates 3-year anniversary of the release of my first book! I thought I’d write a quick little blog about what I’ve learned from the beginning. Well, the first thing I need to tell you be; I’m no expert and I have tons more to learn, I’ve barely skim the surface.

When I first started my first book it was a challenge, I never expected to do another one, or another one (etcetera), but as anyone who writes knows, once you start you can’t stop. Writing becomes part of who you are.

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 I think the most surprising lesson I learned is writing a book is just the beginning. It’s  a business and if you want to succeed, you need to address the business end of the craft. Like any business, there are tools  you need to use to be successful, so I thought I’d let you know a few of the tools I use day-to-day. As I’ve grown in my writing, I found I can’t go without them.

Foremost is Scrivener. It is a writing program which helps you organize and keep your thoughts clear.   Plotter or Pantser– scrivener will work for you.

I also use MS Word because most documents need to be put into word and it’s easy. there’s no fussing. Word will allow you to add in editing programs, and these aids are essential for my writing process.  I work with 2 programs; ProWriting Aid or Grammerly. Either one of them will work. You need these programs to help you catch the many mistakes  your eyes will miss, know no matter how good you are.

I also use a dictation program called Dragon Naturally Speaking. I can’t tell you how my writing has changed using this program. The idea is to get the thoughts down on paper, and this works great. There is a learning curve to using it, but worth the time and effort you put into it.

Two other items  I use every day, without fail, and would be lost without them are Dropbox and Evernote.

Dropbox holds all my documents off-line. After losing major files because of a glitch in either my equipment or my backup practices, I found  this is the smartest thing I could have ever done. I wish I’d done it years ago, not only for my writing for my business. I use Evernote to help me to make quick notes from the thoughts racing through my mind as I go through my day-to-day routine. I can dictate into the program which is great for me. I can organize the notes into notebooks so  I can make notes on different books and projects  I’m working developing. Evernote is a good tool to use with Scrivener, too.

I’ve also found, whether I like it or not, social media plays big part in the writing. Facebook (www.facebook.com/CitrusBeachMysteryseries ), Twitter (Victoria LK Williams@CitrusBeachMyst), LinkedIn (http://www.linkedin.com/in/victoria-lk-williams), Instagram (vickilkw), and Pinterest (http://www.pinterest.com/vlkwcbm) are the ones  I actively use, some more than others. A word of caution about the social media sites; learn to turn them off and concentrate on your writing. It is best to set a  time that you allow yourself for social media so  you don’t waste writing time. Because, believe me, you can.

One important aspect not to overlook is an Author Website.(VictoriaLKWilliams.com) Give your readers another option to find you, to find out about your books; where to buy them and about your upcoming works. Personalize your website so  it sounds like you; don’t make it so professional that the readers are not intrigued. This is your opportunity to introduce your personality and maybe some hints about how you write and why you write it’s also a great place to post about upcoming books and their progress.

If, after all that work, you still have some creative juices left, try Blogging. It’s one more way for your readers to find out about you on a more personal level and for those search engines to find you. I have two blogs: this one and Gossip From the Southern Garden (gossipfromthesoutherngarden.cordpress.com)

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It’s been said loneliness comes along with writing, but it doesn’t have to be. Don’t seclude yourself, talk to other writers, if not in person than online. There’s many forums out there where writers share ideas, tips, and encourage each other.  Even if you don’t participate at first, there’s a lot to read about. Find yourself a Writing Buddy either online or in person. Everybody needs a shoulder to cry on, or a hand to hold. When you’re celebrating, your writing buddy can be there for you.They’ll understand you in ways  no one else can, because they’re going through the  same thing  you are.

The other word of advice I can give is have patience. Don’t be in such a hurry to push the publish button.  Invest in a good cover and an editor. Even if you need to hang on to your book for a couple of months until you can raise the funds to do so.There’s good editors out there and bad ones; make sure you send them a sample chapter. Ask them to look it over and tell you if it’s something they are interested in pursuing. You’ll get a chance to see their work, too. I would recommend you go with an editor who likes the type of books you write. If you’re writing a series of books, make sure your cover tie together so  readers can find them easier.

Keep track of your promotions. a book that isn’t out there for people to find will not get read. Even the best authors fall off to the charts with some of their older books.

And my last bit of advice it to take care of yourself, your family and friendships. Get up and walk around, eat healthy, drink lots of liquids and, if you can, take breaks to get some exercise. Don’t neglect your family or friends. Nourish those relationships, they’re the most important thing in your life. Besides, you might find inspiration from these same people.

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So here is my little tidbits of knowledge   I’ve learned over the last three years. It’s by no means is a complete, because I’m learning more every day. I make mistakes every day too.

The trick is to learn from your mistakes and keep writing!

Please note any programs or sites  I  mentioned,  I’m not endorsing them for any type of payment;  I’m simply stating what works for me.

And so it begins…

 

“If we are the trees, words are our roots; and we grow as we write” 
 Munia Khan

 

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As I mentioned in my last post; there has been some changes in our home over the past few months. The cutest change is the edition of our two new kittens, but there are other changes going on as well.

Probably the biggest change for my husband & me, is the graduation of our son. In four weeks he has off to college and we’ll become “empty-nesters.” So, as he begins his new adventure we will be settling into a routine of our own, not unlike what we had when we first got married.

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Another new change in my life is a commitment to my writing. I have one book under my belt a second one being looked over by the editors and a third one that I’ve got a good start on. I even have outlines for another whole series.  I am designing a website, and learning all I can about every aspect of putting my books together.

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Probably one of the most interesting things about this writing adventure, is finding a little bit more about myself. That and doing research on things that I never even thought of before. As I take my characters into new adventures, I want to make sure that the story that I’m telling my readers is accurate. A little bit of education isn’t hurting me either; it is actually sparking some new life into my writing.

So as I enter this new phase of my life I’m excited about it and I invite you follow along as you read my blogs and share my adventures.

Bringing It to a Close

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How do I describe my feelings as I type these two words: The End?

I guess in order to understand my feelings, I  would have to go back to the beginning, the very beginning when the idea was just  a “I wonder”…

There was a sense of excitement, a sense of; I can’t wait to get to the typewriter and get working on the storyline. The fun of research as I looked up possibilities for what could be used as clues and locations, and stacks of pictures that could be used to visualize scenery, and start to develop my characters.

There was the excitement of writing the first sentence, then the first paragraph, than the first page and then the first chapter. The first few chapters run together smoothly and then you hit your first  road block. You have to pull back get over your frustration and figure out how to solve it. For me it often will led to a whole other thought process which might take my characters down a different path than the one I had originally planned. Sometimes these detours last for a couple of pages, or sometimes I found that it  became a permanent part of the plot.

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And then you hit that dreaded middle of the book. For me that’s the part of the book that I work the hardest at. The center has to be just right, because that is where  I have to include as many details as I can that can be used in conclusion and get the back story. Sometimes it feels like it’s so tedious: it runs on and on and on and on and on. But then you can feel it coming the conclusion is on the horizon.

Once you see that you’re getting close to conclusion, there’s a sense of urgency, a feeling of doggedness that you have to write. The words come swiftly and sometimes you can not get all your thoughts down  fast enough. You find there are all kinds of posted-notes on your desk and sticking to the corners of your computer as you think of ideas you want to incorporate into the ending.

And then there’s that last chapter, the climax, the part where everything comes to a head and you are glued to your keyboard -you can’t walk away . You type until your eyes blur and your fingers are sore, but you’ve got to get it done! Then you type that last sentence, the one that brings everything together and you’re almost there. There’s a sense of relief, a sense of letdown and a sense of closure: and that’s what you do -you close. You bring all your clues and little innuendos that were scattered throughout the book  altogether and tie it up with a pretty bow for your reader.

Finally you type those The End and you say goodbye to your story.

You pause for just a moment, take a deep breath, open your laptop to a new blank page and you start the process all over again!

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Music for the Moods

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The music we listen to The music we listen to can define who you are; it can tell others all about your personality without your even uttering a word. You might be somebody who loves oldies, or you could be the other extreme and hard rock it your thing. Maybe a bit of jazz set your mood, or maybe some hip-hop will get you to dance. Of course, a lot of will depends upon your age, background and your upbringing, but ultimately each one of us will pick her own style of music that we live by. This will define our character, for each one of us will pick our own music that we listen and live by. But have you ever noticed how the music you listen to can also define your mood or the environment around you. On a cold day it’s overcast and dreary, you might find yourself listening to some classical or jazz music while you sit in front of a warm fire. On a sunny day, while we are heading to the beach the musical will be upbeat and have your feet tapping along with it. If it is sad mood you find yourself in, then you might be listening to something a bit more dark and dreary .Happy mood? You might have the tunes set to song choices that make you smile and sing along. For that more serious mood, you might be listening to classical or nature sounds.

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I find that as a writer that the type of music I was listen to while I’m writing will depend upon vastly the part of the story that I’m writing. If I’m laying groundwork or outline of a new book, for instance, I’m going to be listening to something that just easy-going; often for me that would be sounds of nature set to beautiful instrumental music in the background. However, if I’m working diligently on a critical part of the story I’m going to have more dramatic music in the background; typically I listen to strong instrumentals for that part of the story. If I’m writing a more emotional piece then I’m probably going to be listening to Jazz. Writing about a tropical beach scene I probably have some Jimmy Buffett or Beach Boys playing. And when I finish the book is celebratory music all the way something loud and happy, and maybe just a little crazy (for me). Some old hard rock to just let loose works perfectly for these times. But my mood when I’m writing changes from chapter to chapter, so my iPod is fully loaded with a wide variety to provide me with just the right music for the mood at that moment. So what about you? You may not be a writer, but I bet we can listen to your music selection at almost any time and find out what kind of mood you might be in.

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Think about it… what are you playing right now?

How Do You Like Your Beginnings?

  Every story has a beginning, middle and end.

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Every writer has a strong point that they want to bring out each of the spots.

Beginnings can give you a back story or give you a prelude to what’s going to happen. This is where the tone of the story is set. Happy or sad, scary or romantic, educational or humorous; the first few pages will let the read know what they are in for.
The middle of the book has a purpose that is fundamental to bringing the beginning and the end to a close that will please the reader. This section of the book is going to fill you with details to help you find your way through the story. Questions will be asked here and backgrounds will be filled with details.
And the ending is going to bring it all together: be it happy or sad there will be a conclusion. Here the reader will find answers to questions the author has raised in earlier chapters. This can also be the spot where the author hints at details that will need to be resolved in a sequel book.

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As a reader there certain types of books that you are going to gravitate to more than others.

My question is do you like a hard sell our soft sell?
Is the book that you’re anxious to start reading going to start softly and gently, working its way into the story? Or is it a type of book is going to start out with something drastic and keep you hooked all the way to the end? In other words is your book going to start “Once upon a time” or it’s a type of book that’s going to start with the words “Suddenly it happened”.

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No matter how your story begins it’s what the writer does once you’re into the story that matters.

So, sit back and enjoy the book you just picked up and happy reading.

It’s Not Just About Hearts & Flowers

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Valentines Day brings to mind romance: beautiful bouquets of flowers, heartfelt love letters, heart shaped boxes of chocolate candies, romantic get-a-ways…

But as a mystery writer, my mind goes in other directions.  MURDER. And what is the underlining factor in many murders-LOVE! (Oh, don’t get me wrong: I love the romance too and a box of chocolate just makes my day!)

I took three simple words and mixed them up to make 3 sub genres in the mystery category on Amazon Kindle Books and here is what I found:

Valentine Murder Mystery : 93 books are available

Valentine Murder: 321 books are available

Valentine Mystery: 300 books are available

It’s nice to know that I’m not the only writer thinking along these lines.  These books ranged from children’s mysteries to romance & cozy mysteries to outright blood thirsty murder thrillers. Personally, I tend to read and write in the cozy mystery range.

Think about it: passions are running high and something goes wrong.  Before you know it an act of violence has taken place.  OR…The night is set for romance and it’s the opportunity to carry out the plan for the perfect murder.  Will it be poison in the wine or a push off the ledge during a romantic walk?

So, now that I have planted these thoughts of mystery and murder, I wish you a normal & romantic Valentines Day!