HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY! but Please Respect Pets and People too!

 

 

Cats and other sensitive beings may be terrified of the sound of fireworks.

Tip: Let your cat find the place in the house where they feel most comfortable, possibly under a bed or in a closet. Allow them to stay there until the noise is over. Though you want to comfort them, it’s best to leave them alone. They know what they need.

Tip: Ask your vet what calming aids they would reccommend to help your cat.

This is how I feel when those boomies go off. If I feel this way, imagine how your pet with their sentsitive ears must feel!

More cats (and dogs) go missing on the Fourth of July holiday than any other time of the year. Keep kitty inside, and make sure windows and doors are closed so there is no way for your cat to sneak out. 

Not all cats are sensitive to noises. Our Dirty Harry would sleep through all of it, and our Tinkerbelle liked to sit in the window and watch!

Have a wonderful holiday. Stay safe. Social distance. Wear masks. Be kind.

 

 

Posted in Cat Behavior, Cats | Tagged , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

CELEBRATING SUMMER WITH A BIG BOOK SALE

 

Are you ready for some GOOD news? I have reduced the price of all my ebooks! All Kindle versions of my books are now $2.99 or less on Amazon*.

There are many reasons why I decided to make this change. Firstly, I think we could use a good, optimistic read in our lives. Some of us are still isolating and will be for the near future. Though we are slowly learning how to safely come out of our shells, things are different now. Thankfully reading will always be there for us.

Many folks, including myself, have taken a financial hit because of the pandemic. I’m hoping that by reducing my prices, I can make my books more affordable. And of course if I sell more books, that’s good for me too.

Last but not least, I’m working up to the publication of the next in the Crazy Cat Lady Cozy Mystery series, Cat Conundrum. This 7th instalment takes us to the coast where Lynley and Special Agent Denny Paris work side by side with the local constabulary to catch a serial killer who is committing complex and bazaar locked-room murders. I don’t have a publish date yet but stay tuned. You will know when I do.

The ebook sale will continue throughout the summer.

Sale books include the entire Crazy Cat Lady Series, featuring Lynley Cannon, a sixty-something cat shelter volunteer who finds more trouble than a cat in catnip:

Cats’ Eyes, Crazy Cat Lady cozy mystery #1:

Look what the cat dragged in! When Lynley’s old kitty Fluffo discovers a stolen uncut diamond, Lynley finds herself accused of murdering the thieves.

Copy Cats, #2:

When Lynley exposes a breed cat counterfeiting ring, she becomes the target of a serial killer who murders with a grisly cat-like claw.

Cat’s Paw, #3:

Two suspicious deaths at an elite art retreat send Lynley running back to Portland, but murder follows in her wake.

Cat Call, #4:

Lynley takes over as cat handler for a TV pilot only to find the show is hexed and murder is waiting in the wings.

Cat Café, #5: (Winner of the World’s Best Litter-ary Award, 2019)

A body is discovered on the floor of the cat café, and all the black cats are missing!

Cosmic Cat, #6: (CWA 2020 Certificate of Excellence Recipient)

When a superhero cosplayer falls to his death at a comic con, Lynley is left holding the bag— and a cat!

Books need not be read in order. While highlighting the characters we know and love, I try to change up the subject matter with each story, so pick whichever strikes your fancy.

Learn about cats! Each chapter is headed by a tip, trick, or fact about the wild and wonderful feline species.

Also included in the sale:

Placid River Runs Deep, a haunting mystery.

When Ember Mackay learns she has a life-threatening illness, she flees to the old Placid River cabin for solace, but she finds mystery instead.

*Cat Summer, Book One of the Cat Seasons Sci-Fantasy Tetralogy will remain $3.99, the price set by the publisher.

Take heart — Pet a cat (or dog, hamster, bird, degu, etc.) — Read a book!

 

Amazon Page: http://www.amazon.com/author/molliehunt

Facebook Author Page: http://www.facebook.com/MollieHuntCatWriter/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7768987.Mollie_Hunt

@MollieHuntCats

Sign up for Mollie’s Extremely Informal Newsletter at: http://eepurl.com/c0fOTn.

#crazycatladymysteries #cozymysteries #catmysteries #coziesonsale

 

Posted in Crazy Cat Lady Mysteries & More | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

THE OFFICIAL “CAT WINTER” COVER REVEAL!

I love this cover so much that I couldn’t help giving a few sneak peeks over the last month, but this is it! The real, official, formal, no-more-holding-back COVER REVEAL for the next in the Cat Seasons Sci-Fantasy Tetralogy, CAT WINTER!

Cat Winter is the second book in the tetralogy, with Cat Autumn and Cat Spring yet to come. Each book follows a new clowder of sentient cats as they work to save the world from dangers untold. In Cat Summer, (2019 Fire Star Press) an ancient evil sent humanity to the brink of annihilation, but when our cat heroes vanquished that foe, an insidious inertia took hold, presenting the cats another hurdle to overcome. Cat Winter takes us on a new journey with a new set of characters. In the dark matter of space, a powerful anomaly has come into being, its single purpose: to devour the cosmos. Little does Claire know that the outcome balances on the small, black shoulders of her cat, Slayter.

Here is the back cover text:

Nine were chosen.

The task? Slip beyond time and help put right humanity’s wrongs.

Slayter, the obsidian feline, is one of the selected few.

But something has gone wrong. Humans are dying in mysterious ways that should not be possible in time-stall. In the dark matter of space, a powerful anomaly has come into being. It’s single purpose, to devour the cosmos.

Magical transformations, daring rescues, a journey through time and space. Will Slayter and his companions succeed in defeating the malevolence before the universe is gone forever?

When I told my cover designer Roslyn McFarland about the Cat Winter story and described what I had in mind, she came up with this design in no time flat. A little tweaking, and it is exactly what I envisioned! There is my hero Slayter, front and center, with his tabby fur-sister Emma and the ancient Siamese matriarch T’Paw to either side. There are the crystalline trees of time-stall. There are the stars in the winter sky, rising into the universe where the black hole anomaly dwells. It’s all present and beautifully done.

TA-DA!

Cat Winter in now in the last round of edits, so I will be choosing a publishing date soon. Should a story that begins in winter be released in winter? Or would summer be better, to cool you off with a snowy tale?

Cover artist Roslyn McFarland is a fellow member of NIWA (Northwest Independent Writers’ Association). She designs cover art for members and others.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Crazy Cat Lady Mysteries & More, Sci-fi & Fantasy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

COMING: THREE BOOKS, IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER

Some say it’s not really a book until it has a cover, but I don’t believe that’s true. It’s a book the moment it springs from a writer’s crazy thought process. It’s a book as they surge through the first draft, lumber around the second, trudge into the third and agonize over the fourth. Still, there is something definitive about a cover. It marks a birth, a coming of age. Even if the book isn’t finished, a beautiful cover is a milestone for any story.

I have three books currently in the works. Two have covers already, so yay! One, I’m just now wrapping the first draft. Its cover will be a beach house, a garden, and a ghost cat, but not for a while. Let me tell you about it anyway.

The Seaville Ghost Cat, first in a new series tentatively called the Tenth Life Cozy Mysteries.

Septuagenarian Camelia Collins has finally fulfilled her lifelong dream of moving to the coast, but when she learns her perfect little home is a murder house, that dream becomes a nightmare. Three years ago, reclusive businessman Jonathan Chambers was brutally killed on the stoop. The killer is still at large, the trail gone cold until Camelia discovers the victim’s flash drive in her fireplace hearth. This new evidence has nothing to do with her, and the police assure her she’s safe, but she learns differently from another, stranger source.

In Camelia’s back garden is a gravestone etched with the words, “Beloved Soji, Into Your Tenth Life.” The legend of the ghost cat is infamous in Seaville, but what few know is that Soji is real. Born the seventh kitten of a seventh kitten over a century ago, Soji returns, determined to solve the mystery. Will she be in time, or has she set herself up for death twice over?

I’m still working on the blurb, but you get the idea.

Then there’s Cat Winter, Book Two of the Cat Seasons Sci-fantasy Tetralogy. Cat Winter is now in the final stages of editing. It has a cover, beautifully designed by Roslyn McFarland! There will be an official cover reveal soon, so stay tuned.

This branch of the Cat Seasons tree takes a new clowder of cats on the adventure of a lifetime, or of nine lifetimes, if you happen to be a cat. Here is the official back-cover blurb:

Nine were chosen.

The task? Slip beyond time and help put right humanity’s wrongs.

Slayter, the obsidian feline, is one of the selected few.

But something has gone wrong. Humans are dying in mysterious ways that should not be possible in time-stall. In the dark matter of space, a powerful anomaly has come into being. It’s single purpose, to devour the cosmos.

Magical transformations, daring rescues, a journey through time and space. Will Slayter and his companions succeed in defeating the malevolence before the universe is gone forever?

And then there is the next installment of the Crazy Cat Lady Cozy Mystery Series (#7), Cat Conundrum. Its cover incorporates yet another original painting by cat artist Leslie Cobb.

A locked room. A dead man. The cat is the only witness, and he isn’t talking.

A series of locked-room murders in sleepy little Long Beach, Washington has Sheriff Boulder running in circles. As to the killer, he has no idea who, how, or why. He calls in the aid of his friend, animal cop Denny Paris, and sixty-something cat shelter volunteer Lynley Cannon comes along for the ride. The officers investigate one line of inquiry, while Lynley and her buddy Frannie take a different approach. The only clues are a cat found at the murder scene and a rich man’s missing wife, but thread by thread, they unravel a scheme more insidious than a novel by Agatha Christie.

Cat Conundrum is also with the editor for its touch up and polish. Traditionally I’ve launched the books in this series at Another Read Through bookstore, but not this year. Even before Covid cancelled the world as we know it, ART had to give up their physical location on Mississippi Avenue. So who knows? Maybe a virtual launch. Maybe a pop-up. But there’s lots of work to be done before then.

Is your curiosity peaked? Do you have any thoughts about a launch party? Don’t worry, I’ll keep you posted every step of the way. After all, without you, I wouldn’t need to make and covers at all, and what fun would that be?

 

 

Catch up on Crazy Cat Lady Cozy Mysteries with #6, Cosmic Cat:

When a superhero cosplayer falls to his death at a comic con, Lynley is left holding the bag— and a cat!

https://www.amazon.com/dp/1726419339

 

 

 

Read Book One of the Cat Seasons Sci-Fantasy Tetralogy, Cat Summer:

Sentient cats save the world from an evil older than history—twice!

h

ttps://www.amazon.com/dp/B07WG332R8

 

 

 

Posted in Book Talk, Crazy Cat Lady Mysteries & More, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

No. 4858

The following is an excerpt from a personal letter I wrote to a dear friend in Canada. I am very candid about my views. I’m not attempting to start a debate or initiate an argument. This is merely a moment in time for a writer who usually writes about cats.

I am sick to my stomach over what is happening in our country. It’s hard to keep writing. I feel like I should be penning something profound and relevant, but that’s not me. So I work on the fantasy and the mystery, and hope it will bring someone joy or relief from the pain of life today.

Streets on fire. I think it’s especially difficult for those of us who were there last time, 1965 to 1970. They called them race riots back those days; I remember. Then the King assassination, then Kent State. “Ohio” (Tin soldiers and Nixon comin’…) plays over and over in my head, though the shooting of privileged white students has little to do with the tragic murder of George Floyd.

I’d never seen anyone murdered before. I think it was cruel of the news media to force that on us. The sight can never be unseen, the sound of his voice will always be with me. Yes, these things must be shown and known, but they do it for ratings. I fear soon the news media will throw away all boundaries when it comes to airing violence.

There is no way to perceive what’s happening right now without foreseeing a state of impending doom. Maybe that’s what it takes to change. The upheaval of the sixties changed things: now we recycle. But many of the points we tried to make back then faltered. The hippies grew up and chose capitalism over the communal ideals they once touted. Sixty years later, complacency has settled in, and underneath the surface, old ideas have festered.

With the onset of the Trump regime, those values of racism, greed, and hatred have been reignited and encouraged. Trump himself gives credence to those white boy sentiments. He loves to poke the bear with a stick and will stop at nothing to inflict his own personal version of hell on those who don’t agree with him. That he came to power in the first place, and that people still believe in him, proves the crack in our system, the wound that must be healed before we can go on.

Maybe there will be a civil war, but I doubt it. I’d personally like to see Washington, Oregon, and California become their own country. It’s obvious the country has split into smaller sub-countries. Too bad. I wanted to move toward the one-world paradigm, not away from it.

But I am in lockdown due to the other major crisis affecting us right now. My perceptions come through social medial and the news, from what people say, from what I’ve learned from my near-seventy years on Earth, and from logic. The view outside my window hasn’t changed. (Though oddly enough, the music coming through the window is a remake of Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth”) The sun is out. The cats are sleeping. All I can do is be the best person I can be today, one day at a time.

If I view time as a river and see its movement in events, then it’s safe to say none of this stops here. I believe in a Higher Power that will guide us to a new place. I believe the good in the human heart outweighs the bad. With that in mind, I look forward to what comes next. It’s all I can do. That, and take care of cats.

“Battle of the Park Blocks” Portland Oregon 1970. My own little war. Later that year I moved to Canada.

Posted in Health, Wellness, Lifestyle, Life Through Amber, memoir | Tagged , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

A WRITER’S LOVE-HATE RELATIONSHIP WITH REVIEWS

 

This post was originally posted on the William J. Cooke, Notes From A Journey blogsite.

A WRITER’S LOVE-HATE RELATIONSHIP WITH REVIEWS

For a writer, there is nothing more satisfying than having their book receive a great review. Conversely, there is nothing more painful than receiving a bad one. Still, reviews are part of a writers’ life, and the best way to deal with them is… well, we will get to that a bit later in this post.

 

Obtaining reviews:

First off, you need to get reviews. Reviews matter. If you collect enough Amazon reviews and star ratings, you attract more attention from the all-powerful Amazon algorithms. I don’t know that number—I certainly have not reached it with any of my books, but people do.

Reviews may be acquired in many ways. You may solicit, buy, bribe, or cajole. Any way you can convince readers to spend that extra minute letting others know how they liked your book is on the table.

Amazon isn’t the only place readers leave reviews. I stopped by my Goodreads page the other day to find Cats’ Eyes, the first book in my Crazy Cat Lady Cozy Mystery series, had three times the reviews it has on Amazon. Who knew?

Professional reviewers are an option. They promise an honest, in-depth summary and review posted to several sites. Some pros are free, such as Readers’ Favorite (They have both a free and a paid option) Others you have to pay for, and they aren’t cheap. If you go this route, make sure the company is one that people read and admire. A review off on some obscure website isn’t going to do you much good. Note: I’ve never paid for a review. For me, I don’t think it makes that much difference.

Reviews from friends and family are great, but Amazon may kick them off, especially if the Big A decides the review is from a social media pal.

There are many reviewer sites that will give an honest review on their blogsite in exchange for a copy of your book. Google reviewers and your genre and see what comes up. I know of several for my genre, cozy mysteries. If they agree to review your book, make sure to give them plenty of time, and let them know when if you need it by a certain date, such as for a prelaunch. Don’t harass them, but if you don’t hear in a reasonable amount of time, an email check-in doesn’t hurt.

 

How to use reviews once you have them:

Don’t let your good reviews just sit there doing nothing— work them! There is a place on your book’s Amazon page for reviews. People read these, so it’s a good idea to fill them in. Keep it short— remember, most people (including myself) have the attention span of a gnat. Use only highlights of the review, and always credit the reviewer.

I also add a few of these summarized reviews in the front matter of my book, or sometimes on the back cover.

Don’t be shy. Put out good reviews in your newsletter or in a blogpost. Always include a direct link to the book for shoppers.

 

And now, what about those bad reviews?

There are various ways to deal with the eventuality of a bad review. You can read it, take it to heart, and try to learn from it, or you can ignore it. I personally try not to read the nonsense, but sometimes it’s funny. I had one reviewer dislike a book because my character didn’t vacuum enough. With all those cats, she said, Lynley should vacuum a whole lot more. Now really! Do you want to read about someone vacuuming their house? Still, the comment inspired me to add a little more vacuuming content to my subsequent books.

You can get bad reviews for several reasons having nothing to do with your book. Some people are just mean and have nothing nice to say. You need to remember that others may think very differently than you.

Do you have enemies? An evil ex? A jilted lover? A jealous friend? Sometimes these will go after a writer by leaving bad reviews. On Amazon, there is a link to a “Report Abuse” page beneath the comment where you can take steps to have the review removed, but it’s not always an easy task. You can also add your own comment in reply to a review.

 

Takeaway:

 Reviews are necessary. A few times a year I put out a plea on my Facebook Author Page asking readers to fill out reviews. I remind them it doesn’t need to be complicated: “I liked it,” is enough.

Do unto others… Reviews work both ways. Have you reviewed the books you’ve read lately?

The Northwest Independent Writers’ Association serves Pacific Northwest writers working to achieve professional standards in independent writing, publishing and marketing. NIWA is open to all published and unpublished writers in the Pacific Northwest Area and represents all genres in both fiction and nonfiction. Click here for more information. We would love to have you join.

Benefits of membership:

  • Monthly Membership Newsletter – with information about what’s happening in NIWA as well as upcoming events.

  • Free author’s page and advertising of your books in our online Catalog pages.

  • Access to the Members Only section of our webpage featuring an Author Resource Guide, Events & Con Listings, plus forms for being featured on our website, plus easy membership renewal.

  • Opportunity to submit a short story for the annual NIWA Anthology.

  • and more!

Posted in Book Talk, Crazy Cat Lady Mysteries & More, Self-Publishing, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

POEM: SAD RAIN

Damn the rain. 

Today it is too much. 

God’s tears, yes, 

Mingle with our own 

As more death 

Takes ones we love, 

Leaving only a cold companion, 

Grief. 

 

Written originally for Leslie, Patty, and Patricia, who have recently lost beloved feline companions, but I know there are more of you battling staggering loss. I’m sorry this poem couldn’t be one of those uplifting, promise of hope kind, but sometimes acknowledging pain is all we are able to pull forth.

I do believe there will be good and fun and happiness and joy. I even believe those things are already among us. But the grief must be embraced before we can place it in the softness of our memories and move on.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Death & Dying, Health, Wellness, Lifestyle, Poetry, Secret Soul | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

MY WRITING PROCESS – INSIDE A WRITER’S MIND

 

The NIWA Spring Blog Tour may be over, but the advice just keeps on coming. Since there were six bloggers writing six posts each, there are still 30 posts to go. These were originally posted on other bloggers’ sites, but I’m going to run them here as well. Stay tuned for more NIWA tour posts throughout the summer.

I’m beginning with my own posts that appeared elsewhere. But first, a little about NIWA:

The Northwest Independent Writers’ Association serves Pacific Northwest writers working to achieve professional standards in independent writing, publishing and marketing. NIWA is open to all published and unpublished writers in the Pacific Northwest Area and represents all genres in both fiction and nonfiction. Click here for more information. We would love to have you join.

Benefits of membership:

  • Monthly Membership Newsletter – with information about what’s happening in NIWA as well as upcoming events.

  • Free author’s page and advertising of your books in our online Catalog pages.

  • Access to the Members Only section of our webpage featuring an Author Resource Guide, Events & Con Listings, plus forms for being featured on our website, plus easy membership renewal. 

  • Opportunity to submit a short story for the annual NIWA Anthology.

  • and more!

 

MY WRITING PROCESS – INSIDE A WRITER’S MIND

I was born to write. I love being alone. I love being quiet. I absolutely adore running around inside my head. The only time I’m really at peace is when I’m writing.

This realization didn’t come about easily. In a society that rewards extraversion, I spent years hiding my desire to be left alone. Then one night I sat down at the computer and began to write a story. Forty pages later, I knew I had found something important to my life.

That first forty pages turned into 450, a mystery called “The Oldest House.” I loved the way the story revealed itself to me, taking its own twists and turns. I loved the freedom I felt when I was writing it. When finished, I enthusiastically sent it to publishers and agents and got my first round of rejection slips. That didn’t stop me from writing, just from sending queries. I soon settled into my second mystery, “Broken Roses.”

Noted sci-fi author David Gerrold said in his Worlds of Wonder workshop that the first million words are practice. That sounds like a lot, but if you truly love to write, they just happen. By the time I found myself penning my first Crazy Cat Lady cozy mystery, I had hit that million mark. And I’d learned so much along the way.

I am now working on my 7th and 8th Crazy Cat Lady mystery, and I have the process down. Here’s how it goes:

  1. The initial idea.

The first glimmer of a thought that could be a story that could be a book comes in many forms. It can be a writer’s prompt or something you see at the store. It can be a dream. I often think of a title and work from there. Cat Café was such a story. I loved the idea of cat cafés, and took off from there.

  1. The thrill of the first draft.

Once I’ve got my idea, it’s time to run with it. I try not to think too much as I pen that initial draft; just let the story lead me. I don’t fuss over grammar or wording—that can be fixed later. If I require research, I make a note to come back. This is the fun stuff, riding on the wings of pure creativity.

  1. The work begins: the second and third (and possibly fourth) draft.

Now for the real work, editing and revision. During these run-throughs, I check for flow and continuity, for gaps and discrepancies, for plot holes, and for anything that doesn’t seem right to me. I use an ongoing outline, a cast of characters list, and a note page where I write whatever comes to mind. Yes, I do use color-coding.

  1. The print-out/read-through. (Red pen required)

After all those edits, the manuscript should be perfect, right? Unfortunately it usually isn’t. This is when I print it out and read it out loud to my cats. Seeing the words on paper reveals typos and overused words. Reading out loud shows the flow of the wording. This is especially importing with conversations. Ask yourself, do people really talk like that, or am I channeling Agatha Christie?

  1. The beta readers.

Now that I’ve fixed the problems I found in the read-through, it’s time to hand off the red pen to someone else. As the writer, I instinctively fill in gaps that would be glaringly obvious to others, but another reader will catch those things and more. I have a list of questions for the beta reader to answer once she’s finished reading, such as, “When did you realize who the killer was?” and the ever-revealing, “Did you like it?” (Please, please say yes!)

  1. The editor.

I love my editor. She’s smart, savvy, and knows where to put the commas. Once the manuscript is as perfect as I can hope for it to be, I say goodbye to it for a little while to let her do her magic. It takes time as we go back and forth with questions and comments. Then, voila, it comes back to me a fully formatted book!

  1. Revising with the proof copy.

I publish through Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing because it’s easy and free. I begin with the print version which allows me to order a proof copy. Once the proof is in my hand, it’s red pen time again. In the same way the print-out revealed mistakes, reading the actual book shows up lingering issues. I know we were taught not to write in books, but get over it and use that red pen!

  1. Finishing touches.

There are things a writer must do that go along with publishing, such as cover design, back cover blurb, front and back matter, bio, and links. Blurbs are hard for me, so I often begin working on them long before the book is finished. For Cat Café, I wrote one of my most well-received mini-blurbs though I still had no idea where the story was going: “A body is found in the cat café, and all the black cats are missing.”

  1. Do it all over again!

Congratulations! The book is done and out! Celebrate, then it’s time to get on with the next book.

This post was originally posted on Peak Amygdala, Joyce Reynolds-Ward’s blogsite.

 

Posted in Book Talk, Crazy Cat Lady Mysteries & More, Self-Publishing, Writing | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

#6: Advice to New Writers: Run Away Screaming, by Joyce Reynolds-Ward

This is the sixth and final installment of the six-week blog tour series for the Northwest Independent Writers’ Association.  NIWA serves Pacific Northwest writers working to achieve professional standards in independent writing, publishing and marketing.

Advice to New Writers: Run Away Screaming, by Joyce Reynolds-Ward

So you want to be a writer? You have dreams of hitting the New York Times bestseller list, of being mobbed on book tours, of scoring large amounts of money and fame?

Here’s a hint: run away. Now. Set yourself up with a YouTube channel. Become an Instagram influencer. If money and fame are your priorities, then you really don’t want to talk to me or to a lot of other writers. Money and fame do not necessarily devolve on writers. Most of us labor in private and beg to be recognized. So run away. Find that streaming dream, because the reality is that you are more likely to go viral and make the big bucks doing that than you are as a writer.

Run away if you’re all about fame and profit. You aren’t going to find that here.

Okay. Now that we’ve cleared the room, it’s time to talk. Are you possessed with the desire to tell tales? Burning to tell the stories of characters you daydream about? Good, because that’s who I really want to talk to. Those of us who would die small deaths if we can’t write our stories. Those of us for whom those tales are almost more real than the lives we live.

The first thing you need to realize as a new writer is simply this: writers write. Perhaps you don’t write every single day, but you write several times a week. Whether you write by hand, on an AlphaSmart, a Chromebook, or a computer, you write.

This discipline is especially crucial for you as a new writer. New writers need to keep journals—not to record your daily life, in particular, but to play with words. You need to let yourself speculate. Record incidents, phrases, oddities of life. Spend time observing people and places and write down what sticks with you. Learn to observe the world around you and record those observations. Acquiring and developing this habit gives you resources to add depth to your work. It’s the details of a setting or of a character that breathes life into them and makes your story real to a reader. This is the foundation of your later writing life, when you will use notes like this as a part of your brainstorming processes to create realistic characters, settings, and plot situations (yes, even if you write science fiction and fantasy!).

Next, writers finish what they write and move on to the next story. One of the saddest situations I encounter when talking to a new writer is the degree to which they may cling to a much-loved early work. They often worry the story to death because it’s their darling, their baby, their dream and they don’t dare let it go.

No. You need to finish that work and move on. Writing growth comes from creating new work, not endlessly revising old work. The reality is that as much as you love that early work, it is most likely not going to be the one that sells (yes, yes, I can hear the mutterings about the exceptions to this rule. What you don’t hear about are the discards and the early projects of those exceptions).

Another point. It takes time and consistent, mindful effort to become an accomplished writer. One of my writing mentors, the late Jay Lake, used to say that it takes ten years to become an “overnight success.” Now I don’t know if Jay originated that saying or not, but whatever. It’s true. You have to write a lot of words to develop the craft of writing. Some say it’s over a million words. But a million words without the focus to figure out what does and doesn’t work about your writing, your characters, your plots doesn’t take you anywhere. You need to be mindful about what does and doesn’t work about your writing. You need to wrestle with it.

And then, one day, you’ll realize that you automatically know what should be happening at 30,000 words in the book. 60,000 words. 90,000 words. You can predict the approximate word count of the first draft of the novel you’re writing. When you go back to revise it, you can find the plot holes yourself, or, even better, see them as you work and fix them in process.

Trust me. If you work at your craft, if you keep writing every day and finish what you write, if you ruthlessly analyze what does and doesn’t work in what you’re doing—you will reach this point.

Develop a thick skin about criticism. This piece is absolutely critical to your survival as a writer. Sooner or later you will encounter both tough and toxic criticisms. A good tough critique that points out what is both good and bad about your work is useful, even if it makes you cry (and yes, this will happen). The hallmark of a tough critique as opposed to a toxic one is that it helps you grow as a writer and see your way to fix the problems. A tough critique is the best gift a friend can give you.

A toxic critique, on the other hand, is usually personalized and promotes an agenda aimed at tearing you down, not improving your writing. Perhaps the person feels threatened by you and your writing—that often happens, especially in workshop environments. It’s rarely accompanied by useful suggestions, or if there are suggestions, they’re rewritten in the critiquer’s own voice. There aren’t many if any positives added. Or that person doesn’t care for your choice of story or genre. Whatever. If you’re not certain, check with a trusted mentor or friend.

That said, sometimes even tough, accurate criticism can be wrong. Part of your development as a writer is learning the confidence to disregard critique when you don’t think it works.

A controversial point here. Learn to kill your darlings. That can be a plot twist that doesn’t work, a scene that doesn’t fit, a character, a particular turn of phrase—whatever it is, sometimes it just has to die. For example, in my early book Netwalker Uprising, I wrote a detailed scene where my character Melanie kills a suspected assassin while on a ski expedition. It was a lovely scene. I had worked hard on the choreography of that scene…and it absolutely did not work. I had to throw a whole book out in that series, Netwalking Mars, because the physics were wrong and the characterizations didn’t fit what those characters became when the entire series was not written. But all was not lost, because I did use elements from those scenes and that book in other things I wrote.

A waste of time and effort? No. Because while I made some big characterization bloopers, I also learned from those mistakes. All writing is learning your process, and to be honest, it doesn’t matter how much experience you have…at some point you screw up. Just ask any writer further down the trail than you are.

And finally, be psychotically persistent about your writing. “Psychotic persistence” is another Jay Lake-ism, and it refers to discipline. Write. Write as often as possible, finish your work, write mindfully, and don’t be afraid to discard what doesn’t work. But write. Keep on writing. One word after another. Don’t let others discourage you.

Writers write. They finish what they write. They exert consistent, mindful effort to improve their writing. They learn to discern effective criticism from ineffective. When necessary, they kill their darlings, and above all else, they are psychotically persistent about writing. That’s what it takes.

~~~

Other posts in this series by Joyce Reynolds-Ward (note: each website owner will post at some point during the week listed).

March 29-April 4th—Organizing Your Plot http://www.joycereynoldsward.com

April 5-11—Self-editing, grammar, and beta readers https://authorwilliamcook.com/blog/

April 12-18—Genre and cross-genre https://tanstaaflpress.com/news

April 19-25—My Approach to the writing process https://varidapr.com

April 26-May 2—Reading to Impact your writing http://www.conniejjasperson.com

May 3-9—Advice for new writers https://lecatts.wordpress.com

Joyce Reynolds-Ward is a speculative fiction writer from Enterprise, Oregon. Her short stories include appearances in Well…It’s Your Cow, Children of a Different Sky, Allegory, River, and Fantasy Scroll Magazine. Her agripunk thriller trilogy, The Ruby Project: Origins, The Ruby Project: Ascendant, The Ruby Project: Realization, are due for release in November, 2020. Her books include Shadow Harvest, Choices of Honor, Judgment of Honor, and Klone’s Stronghold. Joyce has edited two anthologies, Pulling Up Stakes (2018), and Whimsical Beasts (2019). Besides writing, Joyce enjoys reading, quilting, horses, and hiking, and is a member of Soroptimist International of Wallowa County.

 

Posted in Blogging, Book Talk, Interviews, Self-Publishing, Writing | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

CATS’ EYES FREE 5-DAY KINDLE EVENT

 

What if a retired cat-lady found a stolen sixty-eight carat chunk of trouble in her back yard pond?

It’s been a tough month and a half. Here we are, May 89th, with very little sign the world will be normal any time soon. I, for one, could use some good news. That’s why I have created a 5-day book Giveaway on Amazon.

From Sunday, May 10th to Thursday, May 14th, Cats’ Eyes (Kindle version) is free! Cats’ Eyes is the first of the Crazy Cat Lady cozy mystery series featuring Lynley Cannon, a fifty-something cat shelter volunteer who finds more trouble that a cat in catnip.

…an outstanding amateur sleuth mystery that will delight cat lovers and mystery lovers alike. Cats’ Eyes has so many exciting twists and turns; it keeps the reader fascinated until the final thrilling scene. I liked the addition of “cat facts” at the heading of each chapter. I learned a few fascinating tidbits that I didn’t know. —Readers Favorite 5-Star Review

Lynley Cannon is the crazy cat lady, but she’s not quite crazy yet, though a bizarre connection to a bumbled heist and a double homicide has got her wondering.

Lynley usually enjoys her old Portland home with her clowder of rescue cats, but when elderly Fluffs drags in a dusky brown beach agate that turns out to be a priceless chocolate diamond, things change fast. The uncut stone, one of a pair called the Cats’ Eyes, has been stolen from its wealthy owner, but how it ended up a cat toy, even the robbers cannot guess.

Threatened by theft, kidnapping, and murder, Lynley is determined to maintain her serenity, even if it means finding the crooks herself. With the police completely baffled, friends, family, and a hunky humane society investigator come on board to help.

The killer, convinced that Lynley has the diamonds, is prepared to go to any lengths to get them back. Will Lynley live to clean the litter box another day?

Excerpt from Cats’ Eyes:

Chapter 1

My name is Lynley Cannon and I am the crazy cat lady, only I’m not crazy yet. I swear. Everything I say is true, though it may seem like the wildest fiction. It does to me, now that I look back, starting when Fluffs discovered the stone. But I’m getting ahead of myself. How are you to know what led up to that unfortunate find or its dire consequences? Why, at the time I didn’t even know myself and could never have guessed.

I am fifty-eight years of age, and life in the slow lane has been pretty serene. Quietly happy, or happily quiet, whichever you choose. I’d had a good run in my youth—sex, drugs, rock ’n’ roll—but I was over it. Too much trouble. Too much drama. I have better things to do.

Which brings me to the cats. I don’t know where I got the reputation of being a crazy cat lady; I only have seven in my care at the moment. And two aren’t even mine but fosters from FOF, Friends of Felines, the shelter where I volunteer. One is named Addison and he’s here to recover from a kitty cold. The other is Fluffs.

Fluffs’ is a sad tale gone good. Originally she came to me for a few precious weeks of hospice before she passed on. It had been so poignant, bringing home the dying cat, the scrawny gray with chronic kidney failure, to give her some last, best moments of TLC. But it soon became apparent that nobody had bothered to tell Fluffs her time was up. That was months ago and she’s still going strong.

Fraulein Fluffs isn’t the name I would have chosen for a cat, but it was the name she came with and at twelve-plus, there was no going back. I accepted her as she was, though I admit to calling her Fluffo when no one else was listening. She allowed the silly pet name as long as it was accompanied by affection and food. I treated Fluffs as the treasure she was. And then one day she found a treasure of her own.

Mondays are always busy. Through a quirk of fate, I’m retired, but I seem to be busier than ever. I’m finally doing all the things I used to think about when I was at work but never did because I was always too tired when I got off. That Monday was no exception. After yoga and a brisk walk around the park with the senior ladies, I spent some time on the computer compiling my Scottish heritage, the Mackey family tree. Got to get it all down before I pop off in case anyone’s interested. My daughter isn’t—Lisa’s too busy in the here-and-now—but maybe someday my granddaughter will take a break from her texting and her iPod and whatever else might be invented for sedentary self-gratification long enough to wonder where she came from. When that time comes, I want to be ready.

I was in the midst of a particularly difficult connection between a great-uncle and a third-cousin-once-removed when I heard a clink and then the clackity-clack of a sharp-sided object rolling across the hardwood floor. It stopped, then started up, then stopped again, creating just enough distraction to turn my attention from the quandary of my ancestors to the question of what was making the noise.

Cat toy, I thought to myself. But which one, and who was playing? Can’t be Red—Big Red was seventeen pounds of muscled tabby dynamite; when he played, he sounded like a dancing elephant. Dirty Harry, the black and white, didn’t play much anymore; he was getting on in years and preferred to sleep in his donut or his cupboard by the TV. And when Harry did sport around, it was with the little female, Little. Though Little, an all-black panther-shadow with daring yellow eyes, was half his size, they boxed and wrangled like tigers. Violet, who got her name from her gray-violet coat, didn’t play at all because she was what veterinarians call morbidly obese, which for us laymen, translates into as wide as she was long. Solo was just that: a singular beauty. White as a ghost, she lived an almost-feral life out of sight of human eyes. Addison, the fourteen-year-old black male I mentioned earlier, was in quarantine. That left only…

“Fluffo?”

I tracked the enigmatic sound, not raucous enough to be the plastic bell-ball but too irregular to be the walnut. Down the stairs, through the hallway, and there she was, batting something small and glittery into a corner.

“What have you got?” I said softly as I crossed the room. When she heard me, she stopped dead in the middle of a serve and looked up with big, guilty eyes. Her paw covered the item, pressing it down with the gentle firmness she might have used on a baby mouse.

I bent over and scooped the object out from under her. Fluffs gave me a look that could have frozen fire and stalked off in the opposite direction.

“Fluffs,” I called apologetically but I knew it was no use. She was miffed, and then she was gone.

Shaking the thing in my hand, I felt the smooth, oily heaviness of stone. Opening my palm, I glimpsed it for the first time.

I’d like to say I had a premonition of fate at that historic moment, a frisson of expectancy, a sense of Things to Come, but I didn’t. My only thoughts on the brown agate with the dark slash through the center were How pretty! and then What’s it doing in my living room? since I didn’t remember having ever seen it before.

A jangle of electronic church bells rose from the direction of the kitchen—my cell phone. The stone still in my hand, I went to answer it. This proved more difficult than expected since it wasn’t where it was supposed to be: on the wooden tray by the real phone. The bell played merrily along, mocking me as I searched through my purse and rifled my coat pockets. Finally I found it under yesterday’s mail just as it clicked over to message mode. With a sigh I waited for the caller’s number to appear. When it did, I saw it was from the shelter.

I shot an alarmed glance at the Kit-Kat clock on the wall. Its switching tail and roving eyes confirmed my sudden fear that time had gotten away from me. My shift was about to start and I wasn’t even dressed yet. My apron was still in the dryer. I hadn’t even cleaned my own cats’ litter boxes, and here it was time to do the forty-plus trays at FOF!

Without another thought, I tossed the errant rock into a catch-all basket on the kitchen table and ran to get ready. Maybe if I had been paying attention, if I were better at multi-tasking, if the phone hadn’t rung right then, things would have turned out differently.

Maybe not.

Cats’ Eyes original cover, 2013.

 

Cats’ Eyes is also available in print ($14.00) and large print ($16.99) versions.

Happy Reading!

 

Posted in Crazy Cat Lady Mysteries & More, Giveaways | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments