Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Déjà Vu, All Over Again

During March, I revised and re-edited the second McGregor mystery, Murder Goes on Vacation, and sent it to beta readers. The beta readers gave me emotional feedback on how the story worked for them: what they liked, what bombed, whether story elements were misplaced, etc.

During May and June, I used beta reader and critique group feedback to re-re-edit the second book. I just sent this version off to be reviewed with an eye toward literary errors, which will lead to yet another round of editing.

Sometimes I feel like a hamster on a wheel with all the editing passes required to massage a rough draft into something a reader would want to read. It would be easy to put the draft down and walk away from it. I entertain that thought from time to time. Just move on to the third book—the new and exciting story. But I’m writing a series, and I really need the second book.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

The Yardwork Approach to Writing

Historic Craftsman in Houston, Texas
Yardwork, like housework, is often only noticed when it hasn’t been done. Fortunately, I have an excellent house cleaner. Yardwork, on the other hand, is up to me. Sometimes I get it done in a timely manner.

I spent seven hours Friday weeding, trimming, mowing, filling dog holes, and performing other overdue yardly duties in preparation for the Saturday doggy play date and human dinner party. I’m pleased to say the yard looked quite presentable for my canine and human guests.

That’s all well and good, but my publisher is probably wondering what yardwork has to do with a writing blog. During those seven hours, I had plenty of time to think about Detective Scott McGregor’s house and yard and wonder whether he does his own yardwork.

Scott has an old Craftsman house; he likes the clean, straight lines and no-nonsense architecture. His manicured yard has a neatly-trimmed, flowering hedge around his covered front porch. The back yard’s covered patio is a necessity in Fresno’s sweltering summer heat. A high-end barbeque grill—his pride and joy—is built into an outdoor kitchen island.

Does McGregor do his own yardwork? If I do, he does too. He just does a better job.

Monday, June 1, 2020

McGregor Mysteries in Three Sizes

Plot ideas come easy. Making the time and effort to write them, not so much.

My McGregor mystery series arc is already plotted, but book ideas keep materializing. Some of the ideas aren’t fully fleshed out with well-defined sub-plots complementing the main story line, but the back burner in my brain is always simmering some concoction. I decided to write the extras as stand-alone novels occurring after the series arc of character and relationship development.

One day, as I avoided revising and editing the second McGregor mystery, it occurred to me to write the stand-alones as short stories. That would make McGregor mysteries available in three sizes. The first book, The Disappearance of Millicent Hart, is a short novel; the second case, Murder Goes on Vacation, is a novella.

I mentioned the idea to my publisher, and she suggested a book title and cover image. The first short story has been plotted and its first scene written. Now I’m dividing writing time between revising and editing book two, writing the first draft for book three, and creating short stories.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Writing Productivity

During the last nine weeks, many of the literary-related items on my to-do list have been crossed off. In late March, I edited my second McGregor manuscript (yet again), and sent Murder Goes on Vacation off to beta readers. In early April, I sent a mock-up of the second children’s picture book, Hazel, Hero of Dog Beach, to the illustrator. I also reached my April Camp NaNoWriMo project goal of writing 20k words for the first draft of the third McGregor mystery, Forever After. (I’m a Camp NaNoWriMo Winner!)

In addition to writing, I attended many meetings and classes. My writing organizations and critique groups met face-to-face online. My four-week Criminal Investigation class and writing craft workshops were also online. Another online writing class starts next week.

I’ve been so busy and have so many more online events scheduled, that I actually deleted a few. Obviously, there’s no time to rest during retirement.

Saturday, May 2, 2020

Dogs Wearing Hats

My sidekick, Libby, wears many hats and helps me with yardwork. Being a Border collie mix, she could do it on her own, except she has trouble starting the lawnmower. Instead, she specializes in keeping the squirrels and lizards at bay.

Libby’s not thrilled with the Shelter-In-Place lifestyle. (I don’t mind as much. I SIP through quarantine with writer friends during virtual happy hours.) She misses our dinner parties and doggy play dates.

I’ve been sitting at my computer and writing more during the lockdown, much to Libby’s dismay. (She prefers long walks on the beach at sunset.) I’m enjoying Detective McGregor’s 3rd case, Forever After, which is set in Washington State’s Puget Sound during the August meteor showers.

Libby is even more dismayed, though, when I get bored. As my friend so aptly texted, “Day 43 of quarantine. Dianne starts playing dolls with Libby. Who’s a pretty good sport.”

Monday, April 13, 2020

Virtual Happy Hour

This spring, the world is feeling the effects of the coronavirus pandemic with its devastating health and economic impacts and the resulting focus on social distancing and staying at home.

In accordance with the “new normal,” I join other writers for Virtual Happy Hour on Friday afternoons. On Sunday afternoon, I took a picture of my glass of wine against the backdrop of my SoCal rose garden, already in full bloom. I emailed the picture to family and friends across the country and invited them to join me in a toast.

Pictures started pouring in. My daughter sent a shot of her imported bottled beer in front of the bright and airy view from her apartment’s large windows. My son sent a picture of his glass of scotch in front of his computer monitor where he waited for server maintenance to finish so he could play Warzone. An East Coast friend sent a portrait of a can of domestic beer in her lovely kitchen. The funniest picture, though, came from my brother in the Pacific Northwest—a toaster.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020


from a painting by Leonardo Digenio
I signed up for online writing classes through the national Sisters in Crime - Guppy Chapter.

Sisters in Crime was originally created to support women mystery writers in the predominantly male field, but now SinC welcomes sisters and misters from around the world. The organization’s online programming includes webinars and online classes that teach the writing craft.

One of the techniques I learned in Linda Rodriquez’s Writing is Revision class is to develop the characters more deeply through freewriting. Taking a first-person approach, I wrote about the characters’ deepest secrets, fears, desires, obsessions, and motivations to learn what triggers could make them carry out certain plot points in the story.

I learned so many secrets about one suspect that I got the urge to blackmail him. With blackmail money coming in, I wouldn’t have to depend on book royalties. Of course, payment would probably be just as imaginary as the actual blackmail. Probably imaginary bitcoin. At least I wouldn’t have to report the income or pay taxes on it.