MAR PRESTON – Teacher – Editor – Amateur Actress (Her Words) and Author

Mar Preston is the indie multiple award-winning author of seven police procedurals, six writing craft books, and many short stories.

Her whodunit mysteries celebrate the mean streets of Santa Monica and a fictional California mountain village. She is a writing teacher and editor, a very amateur actress, and a comedy skit writer. She now lives in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada’s national capital.

By Accident is the 5th in a series about a Santa Monica Police Department cop working homicide. The Santa Monica Police Department is composed of 233 sworn police officers and 250 civilian staff members. The 8-square mile city on the Pacific Ocean edge of the Los Angeles sprawl generates a lot of heat and excitement.

By Accident may be the last in the series about my Santa Monica cop that I’ve come to know so well. I’m just too far away now for the scents and sounds of the city to reach me. I moved back home to Canada after a 50-year hiatus in California just in time for Covid-19. I’ll always be tempted to write another because interesting things happen in Santa Monica that give me ideas.

Santa Monica’s beaches and luxury hotels are tourist destinations for millions of international travelers, and they are the targets of crime. The city is also called “The Home of the Homeless.” Homeless people like sunshine and beaches as much as anyone else, and a felon on the run can’t flee from trouble any further west.

It’s also the home of about 100,000 residents, most of them ordinary dog-petting citizens. But Santa Monica is more known for celebrity sightings and drunken starlet wrecks in Lamborghinis on the Pacific Ocean Highway. I had my nose down some nasty rat holes in previous books researching international crime, genocide, and female mutilation. By Accident? I did my research while waiting for the hairstylist reading People magazine, Us, supermarket tabloids, and watching Entertainment TV. For a time, I knew who was doing whom and how.

I’ve been fascinated for a long time watching smirking celebrities stroll out of the courtroom … if the case even gets that far. In By Accident, the celebrity couple gets it, and they get it good. I’m grateful to Sgt. Bill Lewis (Ret.) of the Oxnard Police Department for a chase and capture ending I never could have dreamed up myself.

Here’s a link to the Santa Monica Police Department series and a very different series featuring a homicide detective in the Kern County Sheriff’s Office.

Mar shooting the ARB-15 at the Writers Police Academy.

You can contact Mar at: marpreston@gmail.com

10 Comments

  1. Vicki Batman

    I enjoyed reading the interview and getting to know you.

    Reply
  2. Madeline Gornell

    Glad you’re doing well and engaged with everything going on around us these days! Good to hear from you, so glad we met at PSWA.

    Reply
  3. Marilyn Meredith

    Mar has been a friend of mine a long time–dating back to when she lived in the mountains off the 5. We are fellow Sisters in Crime, members of PSWA, and it’s been too long since I’ve seen her in person.

    Reply
  4. Ana Manwaring

    Hi Mar! So lovely to hear about you and the book. I look forward to reading it, and will anticipate the new series set in Ottawa!

    Thanks to you to George. Alway interesting posts!

    Reply
  5. Thonie Hevron

    I’m so looking forward to reading Mar’s books. I met her several years ago at the Public Safety Writers Conference and loved her goofy sense of humor immediately. Thanks for this lovely interview, George and Mar!

    Reply
  6. Deven Greene

    Your books sound interesting. It’s probably easier to imagine crime taking place in Santa Monica than in Ottawa, but I’ll bet there are a few criminals even in Canada.

    Reply
  7. Mar Preston

    I sneak in a lot of social commentary in my books. I write about things that make me mad that I can do very little about.

    When I first heard about Alec Baldwin and that mess I thought aha! Another celebrity. Is he going to walk out of the courtroom smirking. Now I’ve come to have a little sympathy for him.

    I would imagine a lot of you have discussed this thoroughly.

    Reply
  8. KGThomas

    Thank you for this blog post about your writing journey and your past research – including very interesting resources. Your series sounds like the kind of story I like to read – especially because it operates through class divide and privilege.

    Reply
  9. John Schembra

    Mar is a member of the Public Safety Writers Association, a wonderful writer, and delightful person. I’ve read a couple of her books, and can highly recommend them. Well written, great plots, and filled with wonderful characters!

    Reply
  10. Michael A. Black

    Mar is a very talented writer and teacher. I highly recommend her books, which she thoroughly researches and writes with an elegant style. She also a very nice lady and I hope our paths cross again at a future conference. Stay strong, Mar.

    Reply

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DEVEN GREENE – Pathologist – Researcher – Traveler – Author

Fiction writer Deven Greene lives in the San Francisco Bay area. Ever since childhood, Deven has been interested in science.  After working as a biochemist, she went back to school and became a pathologist.  When writing fiction, she usually incorporates elements of medicine or science. Deven has penned several short stories. Unnatural, Erica Rosen MD Trilogy Book 1 is the first novel the author has published. Her recently completed novel, Unwitting, is the second novel in the trilogy.

After a suicide bomber explodes at a baseball game, Erica takes in a young autistic man who has been trained to be a suicide bomber, hoping to find the perpetrator behind the operation and prevent further bombings.

Any comments about any other of your books: Unwitting is the second novel in the Erica Rosen MD Trilogy. It can be read as a stand-alone, although I think the reader might enjoy knowing the protagonist’s background and others in her sphere, which would be learned in the first book of the trilogy, Unnatural.

Tell us about your writing process. My writing is generally plot-driven. I start with a concept or idea I find interesting, often something in popular culture or the news. After I research the topic, I come up with a suspenseful plot centered around that idea. Then it’s time to conjure up characters who can pull it off. Lastly, after spending a fair amount of time thinking about it, I come face to face with my computer screen and type.

What is the most challenging part of your writing process? I find that every time I re-read something I’ve written, I notice things to change. I suspect I often toggle the wording back and forth in some passages each time I see them. It is also difficult for me to decide when I’m done. Maybe I could improve the wording here or there, but at some point, I need to move on.

What are you currently working on? I am, of course, working on the last and final installment of my Erica Rosen MD Trilogy. The working title is Unforeseen. Again, Erica and those close to her will be involved.

Do you base any of your characters on real people? I absolutely do base my characters on real people. This is most true in Unwitting, where Erica becomes the caretaker for a young man inspired by one of my children. Other characters often have smaller similarities to people I have known. Some people may see themselves in particular individuals living in my books, but that is purely coincidental. Or is it?

Do you outline, or are you a pantser? I’m in between. I learned early on that if I have a detailed blueprint, it’s bound to run into insurmountable obstacles as I write. I definitely have a plan, who the good guys are and who the bad guys are, some things that happen along the way, and how it will end. But as I am writing, ideas, details, and even inconsistencies pop up unexpectedly, so I need to be flexible and allow myself to make changes as I go along.

What kind of research do you do? I do enough research to feel comfortable with what I’m writing about if I don’t already know the subject sufficiently. I read books, do internet searches, and talk to experts that I know. I’m not writing fantasy, so I try to be accurate.

Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations? For the most part, I use real locations. In the trilogy I’m writing, my protagonist, Erica Rosen, lives in San Francisco. I describe real places, such as Oracle Park baseball stadium. However, I often fabricate places such as homes, small stores, and towns.

Advice for new writers. Edit like crazy, and seek the opinion of others. It may be painful to hear criticism of your work, but it will help you in the end. There’s nothing worse than a rejection of your work without an explanation. Learn to appreciate whatever input others are willing to give you. You may not agree with it, and you don’t have to act on it, but you should at least listen with an open mind. One person may think your writing sucks, but if five out of five think it sucks, it probably does. Never fear, though. You can improve. It takes time to hone your writing skills.

Contact information:

Website:  https://www.devengreene.com

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/dgreenewriter/

Twitter:  @DGreeneauthor

Instagram:  devengreeneauthor

 

 

17 Comments

  1. Violet Moore

    Both your books were well written, great plot with twists that kept me guessing where the story would go next.

    Reply
    • Deven Greene

      Thanks, Vi. I appreciate your editing skills in getting them into tip-top shape.

      Reply
  2. Glenda Carroll

    You and I write about similar locations; one of them being Oracle Park. Your series sound great. Can’t wait to read it.

    Reply
    • Deven Greene

      I made special trips to San Francisco to check out the places included in my books. I don’t know about you, but although I’d walked around the city many times, I didn’t pay that much attention to detail until I was going to write about it.

      Reply
      • Glenda Carroll

        I worked for the SF Giants for 8 years working the games so I know the ins and outs of the ballpark. There are many little rooms and passageways that are perfect for mysteries.

        Reply
  3. Mar Preston

    Enjoyed your comment about forensic pathologist weirdness. Like psychiatrists are the weirdest of medical doctors.

    Reply
    • Deven Greene

      Psychiatrists can be pretty strange, but in my experience forensic pathologists beat them on the weirdness scale. That said, there are weirdos in every branch of medicine (and in every other occupation – probably even writers, not that I know any).

      Reply
  4. John Schembra

    I’ve read both of your books and really enjoyed them. The characters are varied and vibrant, the plot exciting, and you paint a picture with your words- I can “see” the characters and settings, and feel the tension from wondering “what will happen next?”
    The story flows nicely, and your writing skill is spot on! You are a master at weaving an intricate, exciting, story.
    Looking forward to the third installment!

    Reply
    • Deven Greene

      Thanks, John. As you know, we writers never get tired of positive feedback.

      Reply
  5. Jim Hasse

    I loved “Unnatural” and am about to finish “Unwitting.” I’ve come to really care about Erica and her buddy, Daisy. Erica’s husband, Lim, is a cool guy and a great partner. It is interesting how you brought the American and a Chinese culture together. Lim’s understanding, or rather misunderstanding, of English idioms has made for some funny situations.

    I normally wouldn’t be into romance, but you’ve done an excellent job writing mysteries with a touch of romance. There is a soft side to all your characters. It is obvious that Dr. Erica is a compassionate doctor.

    I am looking forward to “Unforeseen.”

    Reply
    • Deven Greene

      Thanks for the kind words, Jim. I hope you didn’t find too many punctuation errors in the interview above. (Inside joke).

      Reply
  6. John G. Bluck

    The premise of your book, “Unwitting,” is very good. I’ve always wondered what would motivate a person to become a suicide bomber. I like the process that you use to plan and research your novels. Also, you note that you are flexible, permitting your characters and the situations in which they find themselves to take you along slightly different directions at times. I look forward to checking out “Unwitting.”

    Reply
    • Deven Greene

      If you do read it, I’d of course love to find out what you think of it.

      Reply
  7. Madeline Gornell

    Great meeting you, Deven, and learning about your process! Love hearing how other writers think and work. So agree, “Edit like crazy, and seek the opinion of others.”

    Reply
    • Deven Greene

      Yes, I can’t overemphasize how important constructive criticism is. Still, it’s nice to hear from friends or relatives that your work is perfect. Just don’t believe it.

      Reply
  8. Michael A. Black

    Being a pathologist gives you an interesting perspective that you can bring to your writing. Your writing process sounds a lot like mine. Your trilogy sounds interesting. Best of luck to you with your writing.

    Reply
    • Deven Greene

      I certainly use my pathology background in my writing. I am not, however, a forensic pathologist – they tend to be the weirdest of an already weird group.

      Reply

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VERA CHAN – Reporter – Editor – Author

Vera Chan, Murderers’ Feast in Midnight Hour: A Chilling Anthology of Crime Fiction by 20 Authors of Color, edited by Abby L. Vandiver

Vera Chan has likely published a million words — most of them true. The former reporter and editor marks her fiction debut with Murderers’ Feast in the Midnight Hour anthology edited by Abby Vandiver. A UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism alum, she has worked at daily newspapers and the world’s biggest online destinations covering everything from lifestyle and entertainment to news features and search trends. Her mystery-in-progress Following won her the Sisters in Crime’s Eleanor Taylor Bland award. Her unpublished humor novel The Mounted Position garnered second place for fiction at the inaugural Effie Lee Morris Women’s National Book Association Literary Awards, San Francisco Chapter. Both manuscripts are out on submission through the Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency. Her day job is as senior manager, worldwide journalism relations at Microsoft.

“Men had been murdered for less. And yet John Manley still lived. Five days, surrounded by false friends and his truest enemies. Every last one of them, cowards.

My short story Murderers’ Feast is what I call corporate noir. It’s dark yet tongue-in-cheek, about an insufferable gazillionaire throwing a five-day retreat with people he has screwed over. The story even includes kombucha (which runs freely in some corporate cafeterias) as a deadly weapon.

Like many journalists, I’ve always wanted to write fiction. As a kid, I devoured books, gravitating to British classics like Martin Pippin in the Apple Orchard, Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Pride and Prejudice, Rebecca. Mystery has always been a favorite genre, and there too, British authors dominated childhood favorites (e.g., Agatha Christie, G.K. Chesterton, Dorothy Sayers, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle). That said, nothing tops Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe & Archie Goodwin canon. I’ve even sought out radio plays and various screen interpretations. Sadly, nothing has captured the series’ trenchant charm (imagine a young Robert Downey Jr. as Goodwin). I’ll refrain from ranting about how Hollywood grievously lags behind the Brits in honoring its mystery classics with a cinematic treatment and charismatic casting.

Having my fiction debut alongside the works by established authors is miraculous. I joined Crime Writers of Color (CWOC), an association founded by award-winning authors Kellye Garrett, Gigi Pandian, and the legendary Walter Mosley. What’s brilliant is how the group embraces not just published authors but also emerging writers, which makes a huge difference in trying to navigate an already challenging field. Abby Vandiver proposed an anthology in a Groups.IO thread, and Midnight Hour came together in stunning speed — during a pandemic. The miracle is how nobody questioned having a newbie in the mix: I keep waiting for someone to say, “How the hell did this one sneak in?” So far, I haven’t been found out.

I must confess, while I’m giddy about being part of a groundbreaking anthology, the kicker for me is that Midnight Hour will be at Target! I shop locally when I can and boycott chains that don’t compensate employees fairly. I’ve revered Target for many reasons, among them as a place that made high design accessible to plebes, even with something as prosaic as a broom.

Getting into publishing hasn’t been easy: I often joke, grimly, that I’m trying to break into an industry even more challenging than journalism. (I use a more colorful term than “challenging.”) Finding my spectacular agent took years; now, she suffers on my behalf in the excruciating pace of submissions, made worse by the pandemic. My decision to go “traditional” rather than self-publish lies partly in my “traditional” journalism route and because of my parents. My father was trained as a chemist and my mother an English teacher: When they escaped the Cultural Revolution to the United States, they ran their own mercantile and restaurant businesses. Witnessing their sacrifices made me leery to pursue an entrepreneurial route. Plus, reasonable or not, I feel writing is a wonderful indulgence and a privilege that I can justify by making it part of a larger business.

As for those stories on submission: The Mounted Position is about shy hapless tech writer Abba Welles-Lee who, despite being practiced in the arts of evading intimacy, finds herself dragooned into the bruising yet comical world of martial arts. (The title refers to a mat wrestling maneuver.) Finding an agent took so long, I wrote Following, which centers around amateur private eye Brenna Hom, tasked with spying on the wayward children of moneyed Asian parents during the most accelerated pace of digital communication innovation in the history of the world.

 I’ve been so restless about those books making the rounds that I’m writing a third — a mystery satire about a series of deaths accompanied by messages written in excruciating business jargon.

As you might guess, work is the pattern, which may explain why I also like police procedurals. Indeed, this draft could be pitched as Janet Evanovich meets Ed McBain.

The other commonality is martial arts: Watching (too) many kung fu movies with stellar fighting women has made me impatient with stories featuring insipid females. And yes, those Hong Kong action films inspired me to take martial arts, where I met my husband. I’m not great, but I’m still at it after 35 years and volunteer-teach at Cal.

Because whether it’s work, play, or getting published, it’s about putting up the good fight. Thanks, George, for letting me get a couple of rounds in your marvelous blog.

This link will take you to my website: http://verahcchan.com/

This link will take you to all the outlets where you will find Midnight Hour: https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/673674/midnight-hour-by-abby-l-vandiver/

7 Comments

  1. John G. Bluck

    I believe you’ve taken the right path to be traditionally published, though it is difficult to do it. There are so many new books each year, and there are so few large publishing companies. Those firms dominate much of the book market.
    Having worked in journalism, I agree it’s much harder to break into book publishing (fiction especially) than it is to be a successful journalist. To be a good reporter, you need to dig out the facts and report them accurately, often avoiding adjectives. To write fiction, you must invent or adapt facts. You need to fashion believable, flawed characters.
    I look forward to “Murderers’ Feast” in the “Midnight Hour” anthology. Frankly, I sometimes wonder why there seems to be less interest in short story volumes in the publishing industry than in novels. I would think readers would enjoy reading shorter pieces in this fast-paced world, which speeds up more and more as time goes on.

    Reply
  2. Deven Greene

    Murderer’s Feast sounds like a great read. Love the idea of corporate noir – w tongue-in- cheek to boot!

    Reply
  3. Heidi Noroozy

    Thanks for sharing your writing journey, Vera. I’ll look forward to reading your story in the anthology.

    Reply
  4. Susan Alice Bickford

    Really fun reading this. I’ll be looking for the anthology.

    Reply
  5. Stella Oni

    I love this candid piece on your writing journey. So happy to be part of Midnight Hour too.

    Reply
  6. Michael A. Black

    Congratulations on your story being in the anthology. That’s always a great feeling, especially if it’s your first one. Best of luck to you.

    Reply

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DEBRA H. GOLDSTEIN

FOUR CUTS TOO MANY – Sarah Blair, who finds kitchens more frightening than murder, gets an education in slicing and dicing when someone in the culinary school where her friend teaches serves up a main corpse. Sarah soon discovers that there’s no time to mince words when it comes to finding the real killer.

Judge Debra H. Goldstein writes Kensington’s Sarah Blair mystery series (Four Cuts Too Many, Three Treats Too Many, Two Bites Too Many, and One Taste Too Many). Her short stories, which have been named Agatha, Anthony, and Derringer finalists, have appeared in numerous periodicals and anthologies, including Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, Black Cat Mystery Magazine, Mystery Weekly, Malice Domestic Murder Most Edible, Masthead, and Jukes & Tonks. Debra is on the national board of Mystery Writers of America and president of SEMWA. She previously served on Sisters in Crime’s national board and was the Guppy Chapter president.

Do you write in more than one genre? Although my six novels are all traditional or cozy mysteries, my published short stories range from non-mystery literary works to different mystery genres. During my time as a judge and a litigator, almost all of my writings were non-fiction legal articles and book chapters.

What is your writing process, and what is most challenging about it? My true nature is to be a pantser who listens to the voices of my characters but only writes when the muse strikes me. I repeatedly tell myself I need to get up and write every day, but I constantly fail to do so. This was the exact style I used when I wrote the first Sarah Blair book, One Taste Too Many; however, after Kensington contracted the first three books, I faced several challenges. First, each book now had a deadline for submission, which meant I had to produce on time. That was a challenge I could easily meet. What was more difficult was that for each book, my New York editor wanted a detailed synopsis. It was emphasized to me that it needed to be detailed. Consequently, I spent weeks working out the plot of Two Bites Too Many and finally submitted an eighteen-page synopsis. My editor had only one comment: “Next time, double space.”

Although I wouldn’t say I like thinking the books out in advance, and I often must send my editor an email with a little change – like I discovered there needed to be a new character added to the cast in Three Treats Too Many. I have learned to write and appreciate having shorter, double-spaced treatments for each book.

Has any association membership helped you or your writing? When I announced that I was going to write mysteries, I was told to join Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America. These two organizations provided classes and mentoring guidance that helped me develop my skills and understanding of the craft and business aspects of writing. They also have proven invaluable in helping me make friends at all levels of writing and who generously share their expertise and encouragement.

Do you have subplots? If so, how do you weave them into the novel’s arc? The basic premise of the Sarah Blair books is that Sarah, who was married at eighteen, divorced at twenty-eight, with the only thing she got out of the marriage being RahRah, her Siamese cat, is starting over with no skills and a lack of confidence. As the series proceeds, Sarah evolves. She acquires new skills, including those needed to solve murders, and she grows in terms of her confidence level. Sarah’s interaction with the people around her set up several personal interaction sub-plots in each book. Whether the sub-plot revolves around family, friends, community groups, or her pets varies based upon the main plotline. I also work in social issue subplots, including economic development, mental abuse, ageism, and animal rescue. The key to these subplots is to make my point without banging the reader over the head with it. My goal is to have readers enjoy a carefully crafted whodunit but walk away with subconscious thoughts raised by the subplots.

What kind of research do you do? When Maze in Blue and Should Have Played Poker were orphaned, I knew I had to write something new and that I wanted it to be a cozy mystery. Having spent a great deal of time in small southern towns when I was litigating for the Department of Labor, I knew I could capture their essence in any book I wrote. I also had no problem making my sleuth an amateur. A problem arose when I thought about the fact that most cozy mysteries include crafts or cooking, and I hate both. Once I decided there had to be readers out there who hate the kitchen as much as I do, I had a hook for my series – a woman more frightened of the kitchen than murder. Despite Sarah’s unfamiliarity with the kitchen, I had to learn about it in order to write the kitchen scenes realistically.

Consequently, I approached several restaurant owners, chefs, and waiters in Birmingham, Alabama, which has become a foodie town. They graciously told me their stories and took me through their kitchens. From each person I interviewed, I learned something new that appears in the various books. For Three Treats Too Many, I wanted to write about a community motorcycle group and a veterinarian’s office. To get these things right, I interviewed a few individuals who collect motorcycles, and I shadowed a veterinarian for a day. I believe the more hands-on research I do, the more realistic and enjoyable my books are.

Contacts:

Website – www.DebraHGoldstein.com

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/DebraHGoldsteinAuthor/

Twitter – @DebraHGoldstein

Instagram – debrahgoldstein

Bookbub – https://www.bookbub.com/profile/debra-h-goldstein

Four Cuts Too Many and the other Sarah Blair books are available from indie and big-box bookstores but can also be purchased online.

https://www.amazon.com/Four-Cuts-Sarah-Blair-Mystery/dp/1496732219

Four Cuts Too Many by Debra H. Goldstein, Paperback | Barnes & Noble® (barnesandnoble.com)

10 Comments

  1. Thonie Hevron

    Interesting interview. Thanks for sharing your process. So fascinating.

    Reply
  2. Madeline Gornell

    Great meeting you, Debra. Liked your thoughts on subplots. Continued success!

    Reply
  3. Joseph Bryce HAGGERTY Sr

    Wow, I really enjoyed this interview. Hating kitchens intrigues me. Is it the cooking, the smells or the informal setting. I have found that in a lot of southern households the kitchen is the place where most gatherings take place. Probably not in very affluent houses where the servants congregate, but in a lot of traditional southern homes the kitchen is the focal point for discussion and family meetings.
    I was raised in Washington, D.C. in a rowhouse. I was not fond of kitchens. Too many times it was places where I was made to eat things I didn’t like, peas, carrots or other green things. They are still things not on my menu.
    I loved your research techniques and will try to do what you suggested when a character needs honing. I generally pick places/settings that are within a 500 miles radius. To me I need to go there to get a feel for the place. Thank you for sharing your writings with us.

    Reply
  4. Nina Wachsman

    Its great learning about your writing process, because none of your work ever comes out “half-baked”. I’m glad to see its possible to write cozies even if you hate cooking or crafts.

    Reply
  5. John G. Bluck

    Very interesting about how Debra Goldstein researched cooking and followed a vet on his/her rounds. I also like the story of how she wrote her first book in true pantser style and later had to write a synopsis for each of several subsequent books. I think it’s great that she doesn’t write on a schedule, but instead writes when she feels she wants to — when the muse strikes her. I believe writing shouldn’t be a chore, but rather a more enjoyable pursuit. I think the characters will then come alive and speak for themselves through the writer’s pen, pencil, typewriter, or computer.

    Reply
    • Debra H. Goldstein

      John,
      Thank you for your comments. I agree with you about the enjoyment aspect. When a piece works for me, it flows. When I try to force it or force myself to write at a specific time, often what I produce is stilted and ends up in the garbage, so better to be doing something else productive.

      Reply
  6. Vicki Batman

    Great interview, Debra and George. Thank you. vb

    Reply
    • Debra H. Goldstein

      Vicki,
      Thanks for stopping by. Glad you enjoyed the interview.

      Reply
  7. Michael A, Black

    Debra, great interview with a fascinating look into how you work. I love the perplexed look of the cat on that cover. You sound like an outstanding person. I’ll bet you’re a fabulous judge. Best of luck with your writing.

    Reply
    • Debra H. Goldstein

      Michael,
      Thank you. I love the different covers Kensington has done for this series. Some are serious and some more perplexed or comic, but they all fit the story in the particular book.

      Reply

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LISA TOWLES – More Joy, Please!

Helping other writers is my passion

Why? I didn’t have a lot of help in the early part of my writing journey, and so I feel driven to use what I’ve haphazardly learned to help other writers cultivate a better beginning to their journey – by showing them how to get help, feel supported, and stay inspired. One of the ways I do that is by writing and speaking about Writer Self Care.

Obviously, writing is what you love. Now it’s time to get serious about loving what you do.

How? Minimize what you don’t like to do as a means of building more JOY into your daily process. I’m specifically talking about writing, but this idea works in many contexts. So how do you do that? Start with self-reflection.

For this part, we need to get off the treadmill, so to speak, long enough to gain a perspective on what we’re doing. Take an afternoon off from writing or a day or two to rest your hands, rest your brain, and create some space to assess and recalibrate.

Which parts of your writing life and process bring you the most happiness and satisfaction? Research?

And which parts do you dread because they drain your life force? Editing? Marketing? Promotion and outreach?

Let’s dig into this a bit because I have good news: there’s a way around the pain. I know what you’re thinking, though. You’re a writer, so that means you’re gritty, and you’re accustomed to pushing through obstacles. That’s a good thing. But you might also be wasting a lot of time and creative energy agonizing about what you don’t want to do, finding ways to procrastinate, and ultimately not meeting your writing goals.

Here’s a solution: Outsourcing.

Outsourcing is an old concept primarily based on supply chain engineering and the economics of leveraging available resources. The aim is efficiency and cost-savings (and there are many definitions of “costs”). The vast benefits include reducing the size of your to-do list, leveraging specialists who have expertise in the areas you need, and saving you time.

Another benefit I’ve discovered is that the feeling of having people on my writing/publishing “team” helps me feel more supported, more empowered, and less alone.

Examples:

I hired a graphic designer to design a book cover for me, and now she’s designed a few social media ads that are sized correctly for each platform (Facebook, Instagram, etc.).

In preparation for my forthcoming book release, I’d been searching for someone to help me with social media – not so much posting, but more like ad placement, targeting, and trafficking. So through a marketing friend, I found a social media manager who’s been helping me with Facebook and Instagram ads and advising me on hashtag strategies, audience targeting, and timing. It feels so wonderful to have a grownup sitting at the table with me to help coordinate and manage the parts of the process I’m not good at, and I’ve learned so much from her.

Where to get help:

For the parts of the writing and publishing process that you dread, maybe there’s someone who finds joy in those specific tasks. And maybe the work they do for you will help bring refinement and visibility to their skills. And by getting support for these things, you’ll be freeing up more of your time and mental energy for the things you love doing most (more joy).

If you’re traditionally published, your publisher or agent might have resources available for you to consult with or a list of trusted vendors you can hire to perform the work for you.

How do you decide whether to outsource or not? You might want to create a mailing list and start publishing monthly email newsletters. Consider why you need this resource, whether this feels like the right time for it, how hard it would be to learn it yourself, and how much you’re willing to pay a freelancer to do it for you. The upcoming Sisters in Crime NorCal workshop on October 16th will include an author panel on developing author newsletters featuring bestselling authors MM Chouinard and Gigi Pandian. Click here to register.

Most people think of the writer’s journey as being very solitary. But as I’ve grown as a writer, I’m realizing that writing is a team sport, and the process works better that way – for you and for the team that’s supporting your success.

One of the most important symbols of self-care is saying no. And outsourcing some of your most unpleasant tasks is a compassionate way to maintain boundaries, prioritize your mental wellness, and keep yourself pumped up for what you want to do most – create!

To learn more about Writer Self Care, check out this blog post: https://digitalraconteur.wordpress.com/2021/08/01/self-care-for-writers/

And to stay updated on my book and writing news, you can subscribe to my email newsletter here: http://eepurl.com/hFmk8P.

Till next time,

Lisa Towles

Lisa Towles is the author of the award-winning crime novels Choke and The Unseen. Her 7th novel, Ninety-Five, will be released in November of 2021. Learn more about Ninety-Five and read a sample here: https://www.indiesunited.net/ninety-five.

 

 

15 Comments

  1. Michelle Chouinard

    Love this post! Love the resources for hiring help. You really are a person who loves to help others, and I’m very lucky to know you. You inspire me!

    Reply
  2. Glenda Carroll

    I couldn’t agree more to taking a break. In a few days, the creativity switch turns to go. Thanks for this encouraging, informative article.

    Reply
  3. Heidi Noroozy

    Great advice, Lisa! I’m looking forward to learning more from you at the SinC workshop tomorrow.

    Reply
  4. Susan Alice Bickford

    Nice reminders!

    Reply
  5. Joseph Bryce HAGGERTY Sr

    Wow, how enlightening. I hate marketing and putting things on social media drives me crazy. I have created three different websites, which I can’t even find now and I’m trying to open something up with Amazon publishing without success. I feel like such a dummy. What you’ve written in this blog will hopefully help, if I can afford it.

    Reply
  6. Ana

    Lisa I’m blessed to have you on my team! Good advice and excellent recommendations. Thanks! And to you too George for your wonderful, informative blog. I’ve “met” many new authors and learn something new every post.

    Reply
  7. Kathleen Rockwood

    Delightful post! So encouraging to know there are people like this out there.

    Reply
  8. C. F. Francis

    Thank you so much for not making us feel like we have to do it all and, if we can’t, we’re failing. Marketing and social media are my nemesis. I spend way too much time trying to figure them out (unsuccessfully, I might add) when I’d rather be writing.

    Reply
  9. Mar Preston

    I thought I had to do it all. Learn every new platform and gimmick. You’re so right, Lisa. I’ve used fiverr and had 4 out of 5 good experiences. Maybe if funds were low you could barter for someone else’s work. Good writing advice.

    Reply
    • LISA TOWLES

      Excellent point about bartering. I’m finding that we’re all good at something that someone else isn’t. Thank you for reading and for your kind comment. 🙂

      Reply
  10. Julie Royce

    We need more successful writers like Lisa–upbeat, knowledgeable, and willing to help.

    Reply
    • LISA TOWLES

      Thank you for reading, Julie, and appreciate your kind comment. Best wishes, Lisa

      Reply
  11. Michael A. Black

    Thanks, Lisa. I found this one very interesting and full of good advice. You’re right, writing is a lonely profession and it’s nice to find people like yourself who’ve gone through the school of hard knocks and are willing to help others. Thanks and best of luck to you.

    Reply
    • LISA TOWLES

      Thank you Michael, lovely to meet you! 🙂

      Reply

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