How deep is your research bench?

I’m in the process of selling my house.

After one open house, my realtor was in the process of shutting off all the lights and locking up when she entered my office library.  A couple of days later, she asked my daughter, “Why does your mom have all those books about poisons, forensics and the criminal stuff on her shelf?”

I knew my daughter did everything she could not to laugh out loud. She calmly told her, “She’s a writer.”

My realtor was probably relieved to know that I wasn’t plotting to kill anyone–not in the non-fiction world anyway. It also might explain why she never accepted my offer to make her a cup of coffee.

The point of my story is twofold.

A novelist or author is like a journalist and like any investigative reporter worth their salt, their main objective is to answer the questions “who, what, when, where and how,” with concrete, factual answers.  As authors, we have a little more flexibility when it comes to telling the story, but we still need to do our homework and research.

1) Although we’re encouraged “to write what you know,” I flip it around a bit and I make sure “that I know about what I’m writing.”

I believe in having a book that covers every subject. Though most of my books are packed away, a few still remain within arms reach. One of my books is about a pediatric nurse, hence the “Code Blue” book. I didn’t have the faintest idea of what went on in the emergency room from a nurse’s perspective. So, I bought a book for research and reference.

2) make sure your research bench is deep, on and off the shelf.  

With my nurse story, I took it a step further and made an appointment to visit a couple of nurses at a nearby hospital in my town. There, I was able to get firsthand, what it was like in the emergency room during a crisis, what triage really meant and how they juggled their personal lives and saving the lives of others.

One of my heroes is a real estate mogul. Thank goodness my daughter is a real estate and mortgage subject matter expert!   I was able to pick her brain on eminent domain and house flipping laws. With my real estate 101 course, I believe my story could withstand scrutiny from the most knowledgeable real estate professional (someone like my realtor, maybe?). 🙂

Ensuring that your research bench is deep both on the shelf and in the real world, will make your stories that more believable.  And don’t be afraid to talk to people.  Ask those burning questions! All they can do is think you’re crazy for asking. But once you explain it’s research for your book, it’s amazing how quickly they offer information.

And maybe they’ll even accept your offer for a cup of coffee.

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Taking the first step toward normal …

Another year has passed.  Birthday wise that is.

It’s been another year filled with accomplishments and let downs; defeats and triumphs. And while I’ve gone through it all, there’s one thing that I couldn’t get out of my mind. WRITING.

I’ve doodled a sentence here and there.  Concocted two or three new ideas for upcoming stories. Revised a WIP. And even (much to my dismay) received a good tongue lashing from one or two of my characters who I have neglected tremendously.

Another year has passed, yet a constant theme drummed in my head.  I LOVE TO WRITE. I WAS BORN TO WRITE. I’M NOT REALLY HAPPY UNLESS I’M WRITING.

So, my new year starts today–with my birthday. Not on Jan 1.  My resolutions can’t wait until then. My life as a writer is urgent, critical and I have to take steps to secure my future. I have to get back into the swing of things.

Apparently, my characters are making bold statements in reminding me of who they are.  I’ve seen their names on the backs of trucks, street signs and even storefronts.

One thing about life is that we all go through stuff–king-size mounds of stuff that seem too overwhelming to move, or small droplets of stuff that are still annoying as hell to remove. The good thing is that we can learn from each other’s stuff. You know, share best practices for overcoming stuff.

If you’ve experienced a period of inaction or piles of stuff, but are doing better now, how did you get over it? What was your first step toward normal?

‘Tis the privilege of friendship …

“Tis the privilege of friendship to talk nonsense, and to have her nonsense respected.”
― Charles Lamb

I’m fast approaching my 100th blog post (tomorrow, exactly) and despite pictures of the best gang of friends around–the “Little Rascals,” I’m feeling a bit philosophical.

It has been quite a journey since I started this blog three years ago. If I’d been consistent in my blogging, I might have tripled the number of hits, comments and posts. However, I’m not going to think about the would haves, could haves or should haves. Life jumped behind the wheel—as did my mission to finish my first book—and I had to let them drive.

This year, in between writing, I found my way back to my blog, self-expression and to friends, near and far, who matter. Whether we realize it or not, we’re making friends—through our shared interests, thoughts, lives, and our willingness to help others.

I’ve been fortunate to meet artists whose greatest joy is to hold a paintbrush between their fingers. I’ve chatted with photographers who rather hear the sound of their camera’s shutter first, and get laid later. (No joke, they said that!)

I’ve met mothers who love being a mom, but everyday yearn for the opportunity to pick up where they left off with their dance or art lessons. And that desire doesn’t make them a bad mother. If anything, it makes them better, fully faceted individuals.

And with each encounter, I realize that it is oftentimes the people furthest from you, who understand you without reservation.

At times, I feel that way about my writing. Although my family is super supportive, they don’t understand that I can sit in the house all weekend at the computer and be quite content. At times, they shake their heads at the thought that I’d rather revise a chapter or agonize over the correct word usage, than go bowling or go to a show. It’s not that I don’t enjoy doing those things, or get the chance to do them. I do.

But I live a writer’s life.

    A writer’s life consists of more nouns and strong verbs than endless chit-chat over the phone.
    It consists of countless hours of trying to reason with characters who believe they’re in control.
    It consists of destroying the dangling modifiers and adverbs that threaten to weaken our prose.
    It consists of sacrificing all you hold dear, so that your baby—your manuscript—will be so endearing that an editor or agent will want to take it home and keep it. (When that happens, drinks are on me.)

I look back over my blog and I see how far I’ve come not only as a blogger, but as an individual. I’ve opened up and invited others in, and it’s so exhilarating when they accept.

Speaking of accepting …On the my 100th post, a dear friend and new author has accepted my invitation to stop by and chat. Can’t wait!

Thank you for listening to my thoughts, my attempts to be helpful and my nonsense (because I KNOW I have moments of insanity).

“Tis the privilege of friendship …”

Getting the most out of your Author blog

For authors, whether you’re aspiring or established, social media has become the way to attract potential readers and yes, agents and publishers who may be interested in representing you. Although there is no agent or publisher involved, social media is also an Indie author’s best friend. It puts you where you need to be–connected to your readers.

At a past New Jersey Romance Writer’s conference, a group author friends and I were discussing our social media avenues. We all discovered that we were either blogging, active on Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin or in the process of getting started.

This was great to see that many of us were doing what industry professionals suggest: Getting your name and brand out to the universe. You might ask, “How do I do that?”

One book, I found to be very helpful in answering that question is Christina Katz’s, “Get Known Before the Book Deal: Use Your Personal Strengths To Grow An Author Platform.”

IMHO, it’s a must have for any author writing or planning to write in the age of social media. Ms. Katz offers sound advice on growing your brand and building a platform, especially if you’re not published yet. And one way to grow your brand and build a platform is through blogging.

Let me sidestep and explain the brand and build a platform concept. If you think of Nora Roberts, Nicholas Sparks, or John Grisman, 9 times out of 10, you already know what kind of book you’re about to read, along with the theme and even some of their character types. It’s what they’re known for writing, it’s their “brand.” As authors, they have a strong, identifiable platform.

Now back to blogging. Nowadays, almost everyone has a blog. However, as an aspiring author or even an established one, are you getting the most from your blog?

A Writer’s Digest article, “16 Blogging Tips For Writing Fresh Content & Attracting Readers,” gives advice specific to authors who want to build a brand and their readership. As an author, there are a few things we should do, not only to separate ourselves from the pack of blogs, but to create a professional platform that will entice readers, agents and publishers.

The precarious life …

There’s something terribly wrong when you have to try 10 times to remember your password for your blog/Web site. But that’s me and my attempt to renter my blogging life. I’ve been a rotten blogger for more months than I care to acknowledge. Work, life and a whole slew of things got in the way of chatting with the few people I have had the good fortune to engage in the first place.

A writer’s life is a precarious one. On one hand you set up a blog to communicate with others who share the same woes, triumphs and challenges. Yet on the other side of that double edged sword, you can’t blog all day and night because you’d never get any writing done.

So what’s an author/blogger to do? Establish a schedule to blog, whether it’s daily, weekly, biweekly or monthly and stick to it. And, starting now, that’s what I intend to do.

It’s good to be back online, but I have some writing to do—my hope is a few pages or chapters this weekend. But before I log off, I wanted to share a bit of good news. A few days ago, I received a call informing me that I was a finalist in the “Put Your Heart in a Book,” contest for my manuscript, “The Heat Between Us.”

Needless, to say I screamed, and once again, called my critiquing partner. After all she shares in my successes and, every so often, my miseries. I’m very excited and honored, and look forward the October announcement of the winners at the NJRW conference.

In the meantime, it’s back to working on my second book and hopefully, completing it in time to pitch at the conference.