Sunday, August 26, 2012

Are You Ever Too Old to Write a Novel?

Are You Ever Too Old to Write a Novel?

Even if you can remember using one of these, with the courage to jump into the digital revolution, you can write and publish a book. If you can’t overcome your techno-fears—hire a kid to help you.
Many people over sixty regard computers and social networking as something they don’t have to learn. They brag they don’t need it, claim it’s too difficult to learn, too expensive, and anyway, what do they need it for except skyping the grandkids?
Everyone has a book in them whether it’s a recipe collection, a life-story memoir, or genre novel. I started writing She’s Not There after I retired. It took me five years to complete.
When I joined a critique group, I found out getting a book published the traditional way by finding and agent and/or a publisher, could take up to twenty years! I didn’t have twenty years to spare, so I published my first eBook on my own.

Ten reasons to start writing after 50.
1.     Writing is great brain exercise. (See last week’s blog, below.)
2.     You’ll meet new friends with a common goal joining a writer’s critique group.
3.     It’s something you can do no matter how incapacitated you are. (If you can put together a jigsaw puzzle, play bingo, or watch TV, you can write!)
4.     Add some extra cash to your fixed income.
5.     You have more spare time now than you ever will.
6.     Unlike a “job,” you can take time off whenever you want.
7.     You’ll read other authors with a new respect and learn from them.
8.     You’ll always have an excuse. “No, I can’t today, I’m working on my novel.”
9.     There’s nothing like having a goal to work toward!
10. And nothing like the satisfaction you’ll get from completing an entire novel.

Dear friends,
This blog is dedicated to all of you readers, who, like me, have always been secretly plotting your own book in your daydreams. Make that dream come true by taking a first step no matter how small. I started by plotting my novel while I walked, then starting on chapter one. If I can do it, so can you!
Take care, have a great week, and keep daydreaming!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Indie authors CAN ward off Alzheimer's

Indie Authors CAN Ward Off Alzheimer’s!

For years medical experts have been touting the use of one’s brain to prevent Alzheimer’s disease. They tell us something as simple as working crossword puzzles or reading a book, will help keep dementia at bay.
More and more retirees are becoming self-published authors. The reason? Like me, they’ve figured it out—authors don’t get Alzheimer’s. If you’re an Indie author or thinking about becoming one, take this simple test to see how many years writing can extend the productive years of your brain.

1.     Writing a full length novel                                                                        2 years
2.     Mastering acceptable grammar and punctuation.                                    1 year
3.     Computer problems while finishing your novel.                                       1 year
4.     Computer problems while publishing your novel.                                    2 years
5.     Weeding out favorite words from your manuscript.                                 1 year
6.     Weeding out the word “that”.                                                                   2 years
7.     Finding answers to research questions.                                                  1 year
8.     Formatting your novel yourself.                                                                1 year
9.     Formatting yourself for a print copy.                                                         2 years
10. Fixing problems in your novel after publishing.                                        2 years
11. Finding a cover artist that’s inexpensive and “gets” you.                         1 year.
12. Marketing your book online using social media.                                       1 year
13. Marketing your book using social media if you’re over 55.                      3 years           
14. Publishing more than one book.                                                                1 year
15. Writing in multiple genres.                                                                        2 years
16. Posting regular blog entries.                                                                      1 Year
17. Becoming the target of cyber-bullies.                                                        3 years
18. Getting hacked on Twitter.                                                                        1 year
19. Your Facebook account disappears.                                                        1 year
20. Remembering to get your butt up off the chair every
thirty minutes to walk around.                                                                        5 years                                                                           

Dear Readers,
I hope this post encourages all of you to start writing! Think of all the extra years you can keep your brain active with just a modicum of stress. Well, maybe a little more than a modicum depending on the day of the week. And you can add a few months for trying to do a column of numbers on your blog, which, you can see, I never mastered!
            There is a small caveat to this blog: I’m not a medical professional. The above calculations are based on this author’s experience with Indie publishing. It’s not for sissies.
            Have a great week and thanks for stopping in,

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Red Herrings


And other slippery things!

Inherent in most mysteries, and occasionally suspense novels, is a slate of suspects, any one of whom could be the killer. Savvy readers are primed to pick up every clue, figuring out who did the deed well ahead of those final words, “The End.”
            Planting legitimate clues along with red herrings is a skill an author gets better at with practice. Here are some thoughts on using clues and red herrings.

1.     Mix red herrings in with actual clues. Try not to signal the presence of one or the other by having your protagonist pay more attention to one than the other.  If your protag discovered two items on the victim’s calendar, for example, both near the time of death, don’t have him following up only one, or spend more time thinking about the significance of only one.
2.     Hide things in lists. If your protag is listening to the news and hears about a sports event, a beating death and a traffic jam, which item will the reader key in on? The death. But if the protag hears about the beating death, a murder-suicide, and a child’s kidnapping, it’s more difficult to pick up on the real clue.
A twist on this method is to leave something off the list, i.e., a detective goes through the victim’s personal effects and finds money, a wedding ring and credit cards, but not the cell phone she used incessantly.
3.     Let your protag get it wrong, misinterpret data or evidence, or trust the wrong person. If your sleuth believes the lying witness, readers will, too. Similarly, if your sleuth interprets the blood drops in the car as a sign that the body was transported in the vehicle, readers will, also . . . right up until you reveal that the victim had a nosebleed earlier in that car.
4.     Plant crucial clues early, before the readers have settled in. The clue can even come before the murder. For instance, in the first paragraph or scene, we learn that a character went to Stanford. Three-quarters of the way through, this becomes important when we learn that the victim’s time in California had something to do with his death. Few readers will remember that Character X went to Stanford, or connect it with California. If they do, it will be because you were smart enough not to emphasize that Stanford is in California.
5.     Reveal an important clue, but not what’s important about it. Say your protag finds the victim’s calendar on his fridge, filled with appointments for his last day on earth. What turns out to be important is not any one of the appointments, but the fact that the calendar is a promotional one distributed by a particular realtor.

After completing your manuscript, have a couple of mystery savvy friends read it and ask them to note on the page what items/information the thought were clues, and who they thought did it at any given time. This will help you figure out if you’re “broadcasting’ the killer. If so, you’ll need to delete some clues or find ways to incorporate them more subtly, or if you’re cheating by not providing enough clues for the reader to figure out who dunit!

Dear readers,
I’d love to hear your comments on clues and red herrings. Do red herrings ever become annoying? Or do they make the unraveling of the plot more interesting? I use them in my novels, but sometimes worry that I spend too much time on them, annoying my readers. What do you think? Please leave a comment.
These tips were taken from a wonderful handout distributed at a writer's workshop put on by Mystery Writers of America this summer. I highly recommend attending one of their workshops, which are put on in different locations annually. Excellent information!
            Have a wonderful week.

Saturday, August 4, 2012


It happened—a weight loss epiphany!

The answer to a lifetime of struggling with weight-loss came to me today.  It has nothing to do with dieting—the real answer is learning not to gain weight. Not gaining weight is more important than losing it.
            This is a difficult concept to wrap your arms around. It conflicts with all the popular reasons for wanting to lose weight: class reunions, weddings, seeking relationships, New Year’s resolutions. The emphasis is always on FAST. Do it NOW! Lose 10 pounds in 4 days! Every pitch focuses on time. I fall for it, try it, lose some weight, and when life goes back to pre-diet normal, the weight creeps back on. Sometimes just as quickly as it came off. It’s no wonder taking off weight seems like an impossible dream!
            I have two occupations keeping me busy, my arbitration work and my writing. Both are done sitting on my derriere. My favorite hobbies, reading and playing bridge—same position. My lifestyle is not conducive to being lean.  I’ve learned I can make time work for me, use it to move toward a healthy weight. This is a Big Picture method, not a kitschy, lose fifteen pounds in a week, fad diet. It requires long-term life style changes. Done slowly, using my head, it will be relatively painless.
            I’ve merged my epiphany into ten, manageable points.
  1.  It’s OKAY to maintain my current weight! The important part of this acceptance, whether it’s for a week or a year is this: I will NOT gain.
  2. I will still eat my favorite foods, but not quite as often or in as large quantities as I might like.
  3. If I have a day or an occasion of overindulgence, I’ll follow it with a few sensible days.
  4. During the holiday season, which for me starts with Halloween and ends with the Superbowl game, I won’t gain weight. I accept that in order to enjoy holiday eating, I will eat lean on non-occasion days.
  5. I intend to lose weight SLOWLY. I’m a calorie counter, I know how much I have to cut to lose. My goal is to lose 1 – 2 pounds a month, or even a few a year, until I reach a healthy weight for ME.
  6. I’m going to eat when I’m physically hungry, pay more attention to when my body has had enough.
  7. I no longer eat at my computer.
  8. I’ll keep wearing my pedometer, doing 10k steps a day.
  9. I’ll continue to use a notebook to keep track of the calories I take in every day, recalculating my intake when necessary.
  10. I’ll keep reminding myself it is the SMALL changes that matter!

   Dear readers,

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know I have been practicing much of this for some time now. What’s new is the acceptance that it is okay if I lose weight slowly. For me, staying the same is an effort in itself. The realization that achieving a goal doesn’t HAVE to have a date connected to it, came as a big relief.
I hope this will benefit some others who’ve lived by the scale for all too long!