Giving away two copies of A Death in Duck

We’re nearly barfing with excitement!

Why the gastrointestinal upheaval, you ask? Well, my dear friend, A Death in Duck, Book Two in the Reverend Lindsay Harding Series, comes out on Friday, July 18th!

Wanna get in on the book launch action? Minty Fresh Mysteries is giving away two paperback copies of A Death in Duck. That’s right. Free books, my friends. All you have to do to enter is leave a comment (any old comment will do) on the blog post that your eyeballs are currently perusing.

Two winners will be selected at random from all eligible entries. We’ll notify you if you win, so look out for an email.

This offer is only good until the stroke of midnight on Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014. We can’t be sure what will happen if you try to enter the contest after that, but we have it on pretty good authority that you’ll turn into a pumpkin.

Good luck!

Minty Fresh Mysteries Headquarters

 

Amazon, 650. Traditional Publishing, 0.

Since the beginning of January, I’ve made about $650 in royalties from my novel, A Murder in Mount Moriah. That’s a little over $100/month, on average, for the arithmetically challenged. While that’s not exactly “quit your day job” money, I’m proud of it. It represented hundreds of sales (at $2.99 or .99 cents each for the Kindle title, which represents the vast majority of purchases). This doesn’t, of course, include the many thousands (10,000+) of free downloads via Amazon marketing schemes. I’m hopeful that once I have two or three more titles in the Reverend Lindsay Harding series, my writing income stream will grow considerably and provide a little contribution toward my daughter’s college fund/bail money.

In addition to deriving satisfaction from gaining an audience from my book, I feel that this income bolsters my belief that I made the right choice by aligning myself with Little Spot for Stories. Little Spot is essentially a platform for self-publishing. The editor, Nicole Loughan, is herself a successful indie author whose “Saints” series became an Amazon bestseller. Nicole vets the books she publishes under her imprint and provides marketing advice. What she does not do is play the dysfunctional game that most literary agents and book publishers do.

Why do I call it a dysfunctional game? The best-selling indie writer Hillary Rettig explained this beautifully in her recent article about the current Amazon vs. Hachette standoff. She explains how, for her, me, and many others, there is no contest between Amazon and traditional publishing. Amazon has giving writers all the tools they need to reach audiences, and they compensate writers at a reasonable rate for their efforts. Writers have control of the quality of their work, and control over marketing decisions. Meanwhile, traditional publishing is, for a writer, frequently fraught with peril and disappointment.

Here’s my experience with the world of traditional publishing, as an illustration. I finished writing A Murder in Mount Moriah about three years ago. Hopeful little author that I was, I duly submitted query letters, using the wonderful website Query Tracker, to the major agents representing my genre (cozy mystery).  I was overjoyed when my very first letter, to a BIG TIME AGENT, yielded an immediate request for a full manuscript and a period of exclusivity. After months of nervous waiting, the BIG TIME AGENT came back with a “thanks, but no thanks.” My next round of letters (and I sent multiple this time, because that whole exclusivity thing is a load of bullocks), scored me my very own BIG TIME AGENT, someone with several titles on bestseller lists and an impressive client list. Now, this agent knows her stuff and has all the right (write?) connections. She was excited about my manuscript, and I was over the moon.

Then began another round of waiting. She sent the book to the Big 5 publishers (e.g. Penguin, Kensington, Minotaur, etc.). The responses, when they eventually came after many, many months, were positive, but no one wanted to take on the series. Here’s a snippet from one:

“I thought the writing was very strong and I greatly enjoyed Lindsay’s character-she has a wonderful voice for a protagonist-funny, down to earth, and instantly endearing. I had a few second reads and the overall feeling was that the hospital setting was just too difficult to make work for our line.”

I also had editors say it wasn’t “cute” enough, wasn’t “crafty” enough (lots of cozies involve baking, knitting, etc.), or that their marketing team couldn’t figure out how to “visually convey” hospital chaplaincy.

Ultimately, my agent strongly encouraged me to give up on the hospital chaplain book and write something grittier and more hard-boiled. I don’t blame her for giving up. Publishing is a business, and the sooner a writer understands that, the better. The problem is, though, that I don’t want to write about some latter-day Josef Mengele psycho killer who spends his days stroking a cruel-eyed Persian cat while plotting out the details of his next gruesome rape or murder. (He is, obviously, laughing maniacally all the while). I don’t want to describe how this killer then wove a macramé owl out of the intestines of his unfortunate victim and fed the victim’s toes, one by one, to the cat (who is also laughing maniacally all the while).

Self-publishing has given me the freedom to tell the stories that I want to tell, and to try to find an audience that wants to hear them.

All of this is not to say that I wouldn’t consider traditional publishing. I’d still love to do that. But self publishing on Amazon has given me a basis for negotiation. I don’t have to take any old offer that I get. If traditional publishing can score me better than $100/month, I’m all ears.

 

Sneak Preview: Chapter One of A Death in Duck

ImageGod willin’ and the creek don’t rise, A Death in Duck, book two of the Reverend Lindsay Harding series, will be released on Amazon at the end of June. The friendly furry fellow at the left will feature on the book cover, which my lovely cover designer, Paige Nowak, is currently putting the finishing touches on.

<<Drumroll>> And so, here is a world exclusive, super top secret, just for you sneak peek at Chapter One. I hope you like it. Really, I do. Because it took me, like, a year to write this dang book. 🙂

Chapter 1

‘Twas the weekend before Christmas, and frankly the chocolate Yule log wasn’t looking its best. Lindsay Harding had brought the cake as her contribution to an early Christmas dinner. She was dining for the first time at the home of her boyfriend’s mother, and she had scoured the internet for something to make that would mark her out as desirable daughter-in-law material. Snowman cupcakes were rejected as too cutesy. Cookies were dismissed as too cliché. The Yule log, however, sent all the right messages. It nodded to convention, while still demonstrating a bit of domestic flair. She pictured herself triumphantly unveiling it as she walked through the front door. Warren’s mother, Teresa, would gasp and exclaim, “Oh, Lindsay! You shouldn’t have gone to so much trouble.” Teresa might even insist that it sit in the middle of the table and act as the centerpiece.

Lindsay had spent much of the previous night concocting the dessert, rolling the thin cake into a cylinder and then coaxing two different colors of chocolate icing into the striations of a realistic wood grain. She had even sculpted little pinecones out of tinted marzipan to decorate the serving dish. But she hadn’t factored the unseasonably warm weather into her plan. When she and Warren had stopped to pick up a bottle of wine on the way over to his mother’s house, they’d left her car in the sun.

Now, here they were, seated at Teresa’s beautifully-laid table. Teresa’s homemade peppermint-scented candles formed part of a centerpiece that looked like a cover shot for Southern Living magazine. Teresa’s desserts—three kinds of cookies, a 2-tier fruitcake and a chocolate fountain—were arrayed on the sideboard like offerings to some pagan sugar god. And Lindsay’s chocolate Yule log cake slumped next to them like a large, soggy turd.

The only part of her vision that had been realized was that Teresa did indeed utter the exact words, “Oh, Lindsay! You shouldn’t have gone to so much trouble,” as Lindsay removed the Tupperware top and exposed the melted monstrosity. However, those words were followed by the Southern woman’s kiss of death—“Bless your heart.”

Impressing Warren’s mother was always going to be an uphill battle. Teresa Satterwhite was everything that Lindsay was not—tall and gracious, a true Southern belle with perfectly-manicured nails. She owned aprons that complemented her outfits, and wore lipstick that complemented her aprons. Her perfectly-coiffed, carrot-colored hair was cut into a flattering angled bob and it shone atop her head like a radioactive tangerine. Lindsay, small and skinny with thick glasses and a wild blonde mop of hair, felt like one of those good luck troll dolls standing alongside a Barbie.

Lindsay sat at the table, feeling almost too self-conscious to enjoy the wonderful food on the plate before her. She turned to Teresa and said, “This all looks delicious. When there is more than one thing happening, I always find it so hard to coordinate all the timings and keep everything warm.” Lindsay’s usual cooking strategy was to put things in the oven for 20 minutes at 350°. If the food didn’t get cooked, she’d set the oven to broil and leave it until it looked done. The fact that her Yule cake hadn’t ended up as a burnt offering was a miracle in itself.

“Well thank you, honey. I do like to make an effort to make the holidays special for my babies.” She beamed lovingly at Warren and his sister Tanner. Warren returned his mother’s adoring smile, his warm brown eyes reflecting the light of the candles. Tanner, meanwhile, was turned sideways in her chair feeding morsels of turkey to her four Pomeranian dogs. They yapped and bounced straight up and down in front of her, like demented yo-yos. Warren and his mother shared the pale, freckly complexion of natural redheads. In Tanner, however, this pallor was taken to the extreme. Her skin and hair were a matching shade of pale peachy white. Only her coal-black eyes indicated that she wasn’t an albino. Tanner’s husband, Gibb, sat silently across from her, throwing food down his throat like he was trying to fill a sinkhole.

“Tanner, stop messing with the dogs. Mama is talking to you,” Warren snapped.

Tanner rolled her eyes at him and turned back to the dogs.

###

Lindsay had already had the pleasure of making the dogs’ acquaintance a few months earlier when she and Warren had been out on a double date to the movies with Warren’s sister and brother-in-law. Tanner and Gibb had pulled up in front of Warren’s house in their Ford Fiesta. Although this was their first time meeting Lindsay, they didn’t come up to the door when they arrived. Instead, they idled in the driveway, honking the horn until Warren and Lindsay emerged.

Tanner waved lazily out the window, “Hey. You must be Warren’s girlfriend. I’m Tanner. This here,” she said, gesturing to the large man with a wide black mustache who sat in the driver’s seat, “is Gibb.” Gibb wore a hooded sweatshirt and reflective sunglasses. If it hadn’t been for the roll of stubble-covered fat that formed his second chin, Lindsay might have mistaken him for the Unabomber.

Lindsay opened the door of the car to find the backseat entirely filled with small orange dogs.

“You can just put them on your lap,” Tanner said. She pointed to each of them in turn. “That’s George. That’s Ringo. And those two are John and Muffin.”

“Muffin?”

“Yeah. Paul got washed away during the hurricane last summer so we got Muffin to replace him.” Without warning, Tanner exploded into loud sobs and draped herself dramatically over the dashboard of the car.

Warren shot Lindsay a weary look over the top of the car. “As you can imagine, it’s still a painful subject for her. The hurricane was their Yoko Ono.”

“I’m so sorry about Paul. That must have been awful,” Lindsay said as she tried to maneuver her way into the back seat without smothering Ringo with her rear end. As a rule, she didn’t much like small dogs, and it was a particular struggle to extend her sympathies for the death of one of this band of glorified rats. Each one was about the size and weight of a cantaloupe. They climbed over each other on the seat, tongues lolling out of their mouths and eyes spinning wildly in their heads like furry little mental patients. Lindsay was wearing shorts, and during the ride the dogs took turns clawing their way up her thighs and then madly scrabbling to keep their footing on her lap when the car turned a corner. By the time they arrived at the movie theater, Lindsay looked like she’d been kickboxing a wolverine.

Despite the presence of the Fab Three (plus Muffin) and the dreadfulness of the movie—some inane crime spree buddy comedy chosen by Gibb—the double date had gone reasonably well. Gibb remained almost silent throughout the evening, emitting only occasional grunts to show agreement or displeasure. But Tanner kept the mood lively by telling a series of hilarious childhood stories in which she cast Warren as a rule-following mama’s boy and herself as a popular party girl. On the drive home, the dogs yapped continuously, rendering further conversation unnecessary.

###
“Oh, hey, y’all!” Tanner exclaimed, jumping up from the dinner table. “Gibb taught the dogs a new trick.” She summoned the dogs to the center of the adjacent living room, where Warren, Lindsay and Teresa could get a clear view. “Okay, boys,” she commanded, “Freshen up!” At this directive, the dogs proceeded to get into a line, one behind the other, and lick each other’s rear ends.

A strange hacking wheeze came from across the table, and Lindsay turned to see Gibb slapping his thighs. Despite the obvious amusement in his eyes, it was nearly impossible to tell from the sound he was making whether he was laughing or choking.

Teresa smiled tightly, her lips compressing and turning almost purple. “Gibb, honey. You really are too much. Bless your heart.” She rose and began to clear the dishes in front of her. “Our little Tanner really made quite the match when she married you.”

“Mama doesn’t much like dogs,” Tanner stage-whispered to Lindsay across the table. She turned to her mother, smiling as if butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth. “Isn’t that right, Mama?”

Teresa’s fingers tightened around the salad fork she was holding.

Warren put his hand over his mother’s clenched fist. “Mama, you sit down and relax. Lindsay and I will clear up.”

“That’s so considerate of you, baby. You really are just the sweetest little boy any mother could ask for. But Lindsay’s our guest. We can’t have her cleaning!”

“Honestly, Mrs. Satterwhite,” Lindsay said, popping up out of her seat, “it’s no trouble. It’s the least I can do after you made such a wonderful meal.”

Lindsay and Warren brought all the china and crystal through to the kitchen and confronted the monumental task of post-feast cleaning. Lindsay had just plunged her hands into the hot, sudsy water in the sink when Warren embraced her from behind and buried his face in her hair. “Thank you so much for coming. This whole thing is a damn sight better with you here. At least Tanner waited until the end of the meal to start trying to give Mama a heart attack. And believe it or not, Gibb was on his best behavior.”

Lindsay spun around to face him. “You don’t need to thank me. This is fantastic! A real family Christmas. I’ve literally never had this. It’s like being in a movie.”

“What? National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation?”

“No! One of the black-and-white ones where everyone keeps breaking into song. Honestly, this is perfect.”

Lindsay had had an unorthodox childhood, and it held almost no positive memories of Christmas. When she was six, her young parents had been arrested for running a small-scale marijuana growing operation out of their house. They went to prison for several years, and Lindsay was shipped off to North Carolina’s Outer Banks to live with her father’s elderly aunt. The two of them shared a small house near Corolla. Corolla was then a remote village; until 1984, just before Lindsay arrived, it hadn’t even had a paved road connecting it to the larger settlements of Duck and Kitty Hawk further south.

Christmases with Aunt Harding were sparse affairs. Usually, they would pass Christmas Eve with Aunt Harding reading aloud from Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. Aunt Harding’s house contained very few books, and almost no works of fiction. She made an exception for Dickens. Her own parents had allowed her to read his novels as a child, and, since her mind was sharp as a drawing pin, she concluded that they must be good for a child’s intellectual development.

On Christmas morning, Lindsay and Aunt Harding would exchange gifts. Lindsay usually made her presents from the flotsam she found washed up on the beach near the lighthouse—shell necklaces, sun catchers made of wave-smoothed glass. Aunt Harding’s gifts to Lindsay tended toward the more pragmatic. She vividly remembered the gifts Aunt Harding had given her during the four years they’d lived together: Age 7: a shovel (“For gardening, beach combing and self-defense, if necessary. It’s a tool, a toy and a weapon all in one.”), Age 8: a watch (“Because you’re always lollygagging.”), Age 9: a giant tin of protein powder (“You’re too small. Other children always single out the weak ones.”), Age 10: a hunting rifle (“Because it’s time you got your head out of those library books and started learning about life.”).

After the presents were opened, they would hop into Aunt Harding’s old Jeep and drive to Raleigh to visit Lindsay’s parents. They would first head to the North Carolina Correctional Institution for Women to see Lindsay’s mother. After an hour spent making awkward small talk, they’d drive ten minutes down the road to Central Prison to eat vending machine soup with her father.

Lindsay’s father, Jonah, became a born-again Christian while he was in prison, and when he was released, he started a small storefront church. When she was 10, Lindsay returned to their hometown, Mount Moriah, North Carolina to live with him. Lindsay’s mother was released a year later, after serving extra time for her involvement in a jailhouse gambling ring. The little family passed one strained Christmas together as a family before Lindsay’s mother disappeared from their lives. From that time on, Lindsay and Jonah spent their Christmases doing the work of his church. His ministry grew and grew over the years until it occupied its current quarters in a large red brick building on the edge of Mount Moriah. The nativity story in the Book of Luke replaced Dickens for Christmas Eve reading. On Christmas day, Lindsay would make the rounds with her father, visiting parishioners in the hospital, in nursing homes, or in prison. It was noble work, but hardly the stuff of a child’s Christmas fantasies.

“For your sake, I wish we could have celebrated on Christmas Day. It’s not really a movie Christmas if it takes place on December 21st,” Warren said, releasing Lindsay from his embrace.

“I’ll take a real Christmas whenever I can get it,” Lindsay smiled. She turned back to the sink and continued washing dishes. She had been slightly disappointed not to be able to spend the holiday with Warren. He was a police officer for the force in New Albany, the largest of the small towns in their part of the North Carolina Piedmont. Since he was the only member of the force without children, he had volunteered to work on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. His mother didn’t want to forgo the traditional family celebration, so they decided to move the whole thing to the Saturday before Christmas.

For the first time in her four years of working as a hospital chaplain at the Mount Moriah Regional Medical Center, Lindsay did not have to work on the holiday. In fact, her boss and best friend, Rob Wu, had miraculously given her the entire week off from Christmas Day until New Year’s Day. This was unprecedented; Rob usually did everything in his power to schedule her for punishing back-to-back night shifts and as many holidays as he could manage. Looking back on his generosity during the weeks that followed, Lindsay realized that she should have known something was amiss.

Teresa peeked around the door. “Okay, kids! It’s time for dessert and presents.”

Lindsay was just drying her hands on a towel when she heard Warren’s phone start to buzz. They had been dating for almost 6 months, and she had come to learn that even on his days off, Warren was never really off duty. As one of only two detectives, he could be summoned to work whenever a serious incident took place. As he listened to the caller, Warren’s face took on a grave expression. He hung up the phone and looked at her. “I’m sorry, Lins. I’ve got to go.”

“But we haven’t even opened presents.” Lindsay realized she sounded childish, but she couldn’t keep the disappointment out of her voice.

“I’m sorry, but it’s important. They need me.”

“It’s always important. They always need you.” Warren’s dedication to his work was one of the things that had drawn Lindsay to him when they got together the previous summer. Working together, the two of them had kept an innocent woman out of prison. While others on the New Albany force had been content to accept easy answers, Warren always kept pushing until he arrived at the truth. Lately, however, Lindsay had begun to realize that Warren’s ambition and drive had serious downsides. Whenever they talked about the future, Warren made it clear that if anyone’s career was going to be sacrificed on the altar of marriage and family, it would be hers.

He looked at her with growing impatience. “And the hospital always needs you. How many times have you covered somebody else’s shift or stayed late when you didn’t even need to?”

“If I’m sitting with a patient, I can’t just get up and walk out because my shift is over. It’s not like, ‘Oh, hey, person who was just diagnosed with terminal cancer, it’s 7 o’clock now. Can your spiritual crisis wait until tomorrow? I’m supposed to go and see Thor with my boyfriend in 20 minutes.’” Her words sharpened with each syllable.

“Look, Lins. I’m disappointed, too. You know I’d rather stay.” He placed his hands gently on her shoulders.

She sighed and tried to smile. “How am I supposed to get home? You drove me.”

“I’m sure Gibb can give you a lift if you want to stick around for dessert.”

The memory of sixteen tiny sets of claws was still too fresh; she wasn’t sure she could handle the 20-minute drive home with Tanner, Gibb, and not-so-Fab Four. “That’s okay. Really. I’ll come with you. You can drop me off after you finish.”

“It could be awhile. Someone has,” he paused and lowered his voice to a whisper, “passed beyond.”

Despite the macabre topic, Lindsay almost cracked a smile. “‘Passed beyond?’ Are you sure they didn’t ‘Go to their eternal rest?’ or ‘Cross over Jordan’s River?’ You can tell me ‘somebody died,’ you know. Chaplains deal with death and dying almost every day.”

Warren put his hands up in a mock gesture of surrender. “Sorry. You win. I forgot that you’re the Cadaver Queen, Extinction Expert.”

“Very funny.”

“Come on, Lindsay. I know you’re disappointed. I’ll make it up to you next week. We’ll spend the whole New Year’s holiday together. No interruptions. I promise.” He looked annoyingly handsome—the sleeves of his dress shirt rolled up, his full lips curled into a playful smile.

There were occasions when Lindsay found Warren’s even-temperedness irritating—his near-inability to become emotional sometimes felt like an implied judgment of her own, more volatile nature. Today, however, she allowed herself to be soothed. “I’m sorry, too. Just take me with you, okay? If you get stuck at work, I can get Rob to come and pick me up after he gets off work.”

They headed into the living room to give their apologies to Teresa, Tanner and Gibb, who were sitting near the fire drinking mugs of hot apple cider.

“At least let me make you up a plate of desserts to take with you,” Teresa protested. “I can’t let you leave here unless I can be sure that you’re more stuffed than the turkey.” She advanced toward the adjacent dining room but stopped in mid-stride. “Oh dear.”

On the sideboard, spattered with chocolate, stood Ringo, George, John and Muffin. Lindsay had left her chair pushed back from the table when she went into the kitchen to clean, and the dogs had managed to use the chair as base camp for their ascent onto the sideboard. They had bypassed the cookies, the fruitcake, and the chocolate fountain and headed straight for Lindsay’s Yule log. Their furry orange manes and tiny paws were painted with smears of frosting. They had hollowed out the entire middle of log, leaving only an empty shell of icing at the sides. The whole scene looked like a shoebox diorama of miniature lions devouring an unlucky wildebeest.

Tanner rushed past and gathered all four dogs into her arms at once. “This is terrible!” she screeched. “Oh, good lord!”

Lindsay stepped past Teresa toward the Christmas carnage on the sideboard. “You don’t have to apologize. Don’t worry, really,” As soon as she caught sight of Tanner’s expression, however, she realized that the concern had been directed at the dogs, not at her.

Tanner’s black eyes stared accusingly at Lindsay. “Don’t you know that chocolate is poison for dogs?! You might as well have baked strychnine muffins!”

“There’s only milk chocolate in the recipe,” Lindsay quickly reassured her. “I think they’d have to eat pounds of it before it’s really dangerous.”

“What are you? Dr. Doolittle?” Tanner snapped. “Gibb, get our coats. I’ll meet you in the car. We’re gonna have to take ‘em all to the animal hospital and have their little stomachs pumped.” She stroked the dogs as tears formed in the corners of her eyes. “Hang in there babies. Mama’s got you now.” She rushed out the door without a backwards glance.

They stood for a moment in shocked silence.

“Well, guess we’d better head out, too. Thanks for supper, Mama,” Warren said, leaning down to kiss his mother’s cheek. “Sorry we have to rush off.”

“That’s okay, baby. I know how important your job is,” Mrs. Satterwhite said, tousling his hair affectionately.

“Yes. Thank you so much for the lovely meal, Mrs. Satterwhite,” Lindsay said. Gibb had retrieved the coats and was pushing past them out the door. “Please tell Tanner I’m sorry about the chocolate. I didn’t really intend for the cake to be eaten by dogs.”

As he passed her, Gibb uttered the first words that he’d spoken all night. “Yeah, it looked more like you intended it to be put in a slop bucket and fed to hungry pigs.”

The 3 step cure for writer’s block

http://20px.com/blog/2013/02/09/the-curious-case-of-rainbow-pooping-unicorns/#.U1qtMvldXE0I know that it may seem insensitive to say that writer’s block isn’t real. If you’re on my blog right now because you’ve been up all night desperately trying to Google your way out of a crippling fit of writerly inertia, you’d probably like to reach through the World Wide Web and poke me in the eye with a freshly-sharpened pencil. But when I say it isn’t “real” what I mean is that it isn’t hardwired into anybody’s biology and it isn’t the inevitable lot of creative minds. To me, the thing called writer’s block can only happen when we think of writing as some sort of conjuring trick that certain Illuminati-like geniuses can spew forth from their star-dusted fingertips. I don’t think of writing that way. Instead, I think of it more like digging a really long ditch. And so, I want to share a 3-step no-nonsense, ditch-digging guide to demystifying the writing process.

Step 1: Realize that writing isn’t hard

I know that we all have heard stories about tortured authors who spend each miserable day trying to wring little word droplets out of their husk-dry brains. One day, if they’re lucky, they experience a downpour of inspiration and the reservoir of their creativity fills. They write like demons until the well once again runs dry. Then it’s a return to waiting — days of lamenting, opium taking, and a slow descent into madness. Or whatever.

But writing just shouldn’t be that hard. For Pete’s sake, my 7-year-old can do it. You know why? Because she doesn’t stress about whether what she writes is good enough to win the Booker Prize. She just sits down and writes because she enjoys it. I’ve never understood people who are tortured by the writing process. I know we all have dreams of becoming successful, but for the vast, overwhelming lot of us, writing will always be a hobby. Or at best, a sideline that brings in a bit of spending money. Unless you’re J.K. Rowling or Stephen King, you’re probably not going to get rich off of what you write. So enjoy the process. Or find another hobby that you do enjoy, like bass fishing.

Step 2: L’ego your Ego

The fact that writing isn’t hard doesn’t mean that it isn’t work. It’s easy to sit down and barf forth a jumble of ill-conceived ideas and poorly-delineated characters. If you’re going to have any shot at winning that Booker Prize, or even bringing in enough money to fund the occasional Joss and Main shopping spree, you need to be willing to admit that sometimes you just waste a lot of time writing something that has the literary merit of a 13-year-old girl’s love notes to Harry Styles. Give yourself permission to write badly. Become friends with the delete button. To return to my ditch metaphor, if you were digging a ditch and realized that the path you’d initially laid out would take you straight off the edge of a rather steep cliff, would you keep digging along that same course? No, ma’am. Or if part of your ditch caved in, would you give up the whole project and go home? Your answer should be a resounding nope!

Letting go of your ego also requires that you get honest input on your work from people who did not give birth to you and who do not owe you money or a kidney. Find a reliable writing group (electronically or otherwise) and solicit honest opinions. Be willing to have skilled ditch constructors say that your ditch sucks.

Step 3: Write the damn book

Many of us work or have young children. Our days are sliced into units of time as wafer-thin as supermarket deli meat. But writing something, especially something as long and intricate as a novel, takes time. Each little chunk of time you devote to your writing project is another shovelful of dirt, another rock removed, another…thingy that you do when you’re digging a very long ditch. (Okay, I’m realizing that I know very little about the process of digging ditches).

If this doesn’t work for you, then buy my book A Murder in Mount Moriah. Included with each copy is a complimentary visit from the Magical Writing Unicorn. The MW Unicorn will visit you while you’re sleeping and bestow extra special writing powers on you. This is the secret that all great writers know — forget MFA programs and endless revisions — it’s all about the damn unicorn. I can guarantee that if you look on Sue Monk Kidd’s bedroom floor, you’ll find it marked with glittery unicorn hoof-prints.

What does it take to make it as an indie author? Interview with Kindle bestselling author Nicole Loughan, Part 2

Read part 1 of MFM’s interview with Nicole Loughan

Minty Fresh Mysteries: What three qualities do you think it takes to become a successful indie writer?

Nicole Loughan: 1. Honesty – Publishing on your own means that nobody has yet put their stamp of approval on your work. You have to do that for yourself. You have to be honest with yourself about your writing and how good it is. I have been writing fiction for about ten years, a lot of it sits in a drawer collecting dust. Some of it I sent to my sister or friends. The response to other stories was typically, “it was good but I just don’t have time to finish it.” Clue: If your friends didn’t like it enough to finish it, chances are it wasn’t good enough. If the people who like you personally don’t have time to finish your book you will be hard pressed to sell it to strangers for $2.99.

2. Be willing to learn – I can’t stress that enough. In the beginning I learned how to do everything myself. I created my website www.littlespotforstories.com. I learned to write code, insert widgets that were functional. I learned basic design and html. I learned interior book formatting and mobi pocket conversions. I have probably banked more than 100 hours of reading time about how to self-publish.

3. Have a thick skin – Negative reviews and negative reactions are all part of the game. There are people who look down on self-publishing and they will make themselves known at dinner parties. My plan of attack is to have a plate of olives nearby to eat when they start talking about it. Then there is the negative book reviews. I got my first one within 10 days of publication. It hurt at the time, but I later realized how lucky I was to have a genuine review so quickly. A friend of mine gave me great advice that I will share here. She said never respond to a review. Even if a reviewer says “I don’t like Times New Roman Font and your book is in Times New Roman” perhaps another person will come along who doesn’t like Times New Roman and say “Thank you for the review. I can’t read another book with that terrible font,” and that review will have been a help to them.

MFM: Amen, sister. I look forward to hearing more from you next week in the third and final part of our interview!

Why write books about chaplains?

I came across an inspiring blog post today: Life as a queer chaplain by Laura Arnold. I’m at a particularly thorny stage of writing the next Reverend Lindsay Harding book, and I’ve been a bit discouraged. This post really helped reconnect me with my “mission”–to entertain and engage, while reminding people that we are all children of God*. We all need love. We all seek truth. We all crave meaning and connection. Chaplains, whatever their personal stories, come into our lives at critical moments and do their best to help us walk through to the other side. But chaplains are just like the rest of us–struggling with their own inner turmoil and trying to make their own way in this world.

*Note: Please substitute The Universe or Humanity if the idea of God doesn’t speak to you.

The Literary Blog Hop

My bodacious blogging buddy at 52booksorbust.com is featuring A Murder in Mount Moriah as part of the first Literary Blog Hop of 2014. This will be the tenth Literary Giveaway Blog Hop (there are 3 per year). So far, they have been a great success, with between 30 and 70 participating blogs every time. So, if you like free books (and who doesn’t?), hop along to the participating blogs between now and February 12th, 2014. The nice thing about these giveaways, as opposed to Goodreads, etc., is that they are “curated” by expert book review bloggers, who certify the quality of the books they are giving away. Good luck, and happy hopping!

Is writer’s block real?

I was tempted to make this a one-word post. That word? Nope

But on further consideration, that nope might need a little bit of explanation. Writer’s block is, after all, so enmeshed in the popular imagination that even my 7-year-old has claimed to suffer from it. I have never believed in it myself. Sure, there are days when almost every word that appears on my screen is utter garbage. Sure, there are times when I’ve painted myself into a plot corner so tight that only a major rewrite can get me free. And of course, there are days when the prospect of writing seems so utterly horrifying or painful that I’d rather be doing almost anything than sitting down to write.

Fundamentally, though, I agree with the great Ann Patchett, who thinks that writer’s block is a form of procrastination. Patchett recently published a wonderful collection of short stories titled, This is the Story of a Happy Marriage. My favorite is “The Getaway Car”, in which she describes how she came to be a writer. In it, Patchett describes people’s incredulity when she says that she never suffers from writer’s block, as well as their extreme defensiveness when she says that she thinks it’s a myth. 

Her secret is similar to the wisdom of the late Tom Clancy. When he was asked how to go about writing a novel, he would famously advise, “Just write the damn book.” You will encounter roadblocks, set backs, whole chapters that need to be scrapped. Your first draft will probably suck. Your second will probably suck, too. But fundamentally, the only way to get a book written is to sit down and write it.

There are those who would take issue with my argument; they would say that writer’s block is a very real, diagnosed form of anxiety. There are those, like Samuel Coleridge, who wait for the muse of inspiration to alight on their pen (or keyboard), and claim that once the muse departs, they are rendered incapable. 

I have great sympathy for these positions. However, I’ve always thought of writing like anything else. You may or may not have a natural talent, but either way, if you don’t put in the work, you’re gonna end up with nothing, or with junk. Did Martin Luther King start off delivering world-changing oratory? Probably not. Bill Gates probably spent a lot of time tinkering before he built his first computer. Did Dominique Dawes spring from her mother’s womb doing triple flips? For her mother’s sake, I certainly hope not. 

Anyway, you get the idea. You want to be a writer? Do the work. Even if it’s hard. Even if the first draft makes your eyeballs throw up. Just find a way to put words onto paper. 

Enough procrastinating for me! If you need me, I’ll be back at the grindstone, writing my damn book.

Top Ten Tuesday: Best New-to-Me Authors of 2013

My book reviewer friend, Tanya, is showin’ A Murder in Mount Moriah some love on her blog. Top Ten Tuesday: Best New-to-Me Authors of 2013. Exciting!

Holiday gift giving guide

My awesome friend, book blogger Tanya Boughtflower, featured A Murder in Mount Moriah in the ‘Light and Fun Mysteries’ category of her holiday gift giving guide! 

http://52booksorbust.wordpress.com/2013/12/08/the-gift-giving-and-getting-guide-2013/