Update on my current work in progress

A few readers have asked for more stories about the pastors’ wives in the First Ladies Club of Bannoch, Oregon, so my new work will be the fourth book in that popular series.

This book focuses on a new member of the club, Hope Masterson. Hope, in her mid-thirties, was introduced to my readers in the first of the Tillamook Tillie series, Mrs. Thistlethwaite and the Magpie. She played an important role in the second book, as well, while teaching a senior citizen’s self-defense class in Mrs. Thistlethwaite and the Whippersnapper. In the most recent Tillamook Tillie mystery, Mrs Thistlethwaite and a Shadow of Doubt, Hope shares her excitement when telling Tillie about her engagement to Gideon Hopkins, a pastor in Bannoch (also introduced in “Whippersnapper”).

My new book begins a few months after the wedding and highlights Hope’s struggles to become what she considers to be a “proper pastor’s wife.”  As an independent-minded ex-Marine, Hope fails to see how she will fit in as the First Lady of Mt. Zion Tabernacle, a one-time AME church which has only recently become a non-denominational community church. She faces adjustments to her new life, as well as peril when she runs afoul of local drug dealers.

I’m still considering what to call the book, but the current working title is Finding Hope.  I welcome your thoughts and suggestions.

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I now have an official author website jbhawker.com

My blog, The Works of J.B.Hawker, will appear on that site from now on.

Click the link above to find this week’s post.

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Thank you so much for your continued support.

J.B.

 

The Tortoise Two-Step Vs. the Bunny Hop

As the eBook and Print on Demand phenomena hit the scene and began to grow, it created a new industry supporting and advising independent authors . Whenever I heard about a new site, tool, or technique I filed it away for the day when I would have time to read and try out the information, since I was working and spent my free time writing.

When the day came and I was able to quit my day job and devote myself to being an author, my first impulse was to dive into this backlog of advice and immediately implement all the wisdom I’d compiled. I was hopping off in all directions at once like a schizophrenic jack rabbit. I made very little forward motion in spite of all my effort and was becoming frustrated. Worse still, I wasn’t writing. Even though my first and still-favorite character is called Bunny, this system was not working for me. I needed to prioritize and take my time.

We are often reminded that writing is a marathon and not a sprint. Very few authors become overnight successes and many of the best spent years developing their craft, so I decided to slow down, forget about trying to immediately replace my previous salary with book royalties, and concentrate on writing the best books I can, while testing and  implementing promotional practices one at a time.

The bit of advice I’m concentrating on at the moment comes from Stephen King: know your Ideal Reader. I’ve created a bio of this IR in order to get to know her better.

I have been utilizing Twitter for some time to promote my books and support other authors, with mixed results.  Keeping Stephen King’s advice in mind, I am now focusing my  own tweets on my Ideal Reader and only retweeting what I think the IR might find interesting. For instance, I know my IR doesn’t want books with half-naked men or women on the cover. She isn’t into vampires or zombies, either, but she’ll read a cozy with a ghost or witches, if there are enough cats in it. I don’t write those, but she likes them, bless her heart.

I’ll let you know how my new slow and steady system goes in a future post. Just be patient.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Second Saturday Interview with Author Linda Crowder

Today we’re chatting with talented writer, Linda Crowder.

Linda lives with her husband and a variety of happy pets in the wilds of windy Wyoming.

Thanks so much for joining us, Linda.

  • Cropped head shotReaders are interested in how familiar writers are with the locations in their books. Your Jake and Emma series is set in Wyoming. How long have you lived there?

I moved to Wyoming in 2006 and have spent the last ten years exploring the state. My husband is a third-generation Wyomingite and has been a wonderful tour guide. I can’t believe I grew up so close to Yellowstone and the Tetons and had never visited them until I moved here. They are spectacular and should be part of everyone’s summer vacation at least once.

  • I understand that you grew up in Colorado and also lived in the Bay Area, but your new series is set in Alaska. Have you ever lived there?

I haven’t lived in Alaska, but I’ve been to towns very similar in feel to my imaginary Coho Bay. Unlike many tourists, I spend a lot of my time talking to locals about what it’s like to live there – the good and the bad so I hope they’ll feel their time talking to me was well spent when they read the new book.  I’m returning for another two weeks in May and hope to be back on a regular basis.

  • You are not only an author, but also a career coach. What exactly does a Career Coach do, and how does this work influence your writing?

Different coaches have different areas of specialization. Mine is working with people who’ve been laid off. I help them explore what they’d like to do next. Some want to jump right back into the work force, doing pretty much what they’ve done before so I help them be more competitive in doing that. Others want to step back and think about their next move and I help them explore what they might want to do next, then map out a strategy to take them there.

My work in nonprofit human services, which I did before I became a Career Coach, bubbles up in Emma’s career as a therapist and in Jake’s work in juvenile justice. I very carefully don’t base people in the books on people whose stories I’ve been privileged to hear over the years, but what I’ve learned about mental health and about how the courts work does find its way into the books.

  • You have many pets and include them prominently in your books. What is your favorite real-life anecdote about one of your animals?

I have, at current count, seven cats and one incredibly patient dog. Ringo left me a couple of years ago and is now starring in my short stories about his exploits as a ghost cat. That cat had too much personality to say good-bye! One day he was sitting on the porch, flopped on his ringoside in his lion pose, listening to my husband talking with his daughter and her fiancé. My husband made the mistake of saying that Ringo was too “fluffy” to catch a bird. Well, that cat stalked off the porch and was back not five minutes later with a bird! Caught and released, mind you, just to prove that he could.

  • How delightful! Do you find that your readers connect more with your characters because of the character’s connection to their pet(s)?

I get emails and comments from readers who love that I write rescue animals into the lives of my characters. I’ve always had rescue animals and I absolutely love them. I’ve adopted kittens and puppies, but I have to say I’ve had the best luck with the adult dogs and cats I’ve brought home. They are much more easily introduced into the crowd I always have with me and they are so often passed by in favor of the babies. I encourage everyone to consider adopting an adult cat or dog.

  • You are currently an independent author. From your experiences of doing all the promotion, etc. yourself, will you be looking to sign with a traditional publisher in the future?

I am looking at working with a small press for my Coho Bay series and we’ll see whether they like the book enough to offer me a contract. It’s a LOT of work being author and publisher in one and I would love to see some of that workload go off my shoulders. However, I won’t hesitate to publish independently in the future. It’s been a learning experience, but a satisfying one.

  • Any advice for other indie authors?

Two things helped me most. First, join a really knowledgeable and supportive author’s group. There’s so much to learn but you don’t have to re-invent the wheel. Second, make the investment in an editor, even if only a line/copy editor. It makes a huge difference.

  • Who designs your covers?

Carla Garcia, who is a graphic artist. I am her only covers. She normally designs websites and marketing material.

  • Current work in progress? Plans for the future?

Coho Bay is with my editor right now. My next work is the fifth Jake and Emma book, A Body on the Ballot, which is currently in outline form. I am planning to spend a month in Texas next year, researching locations and culture as a setting for a work I’ve been tossing around in the back of my mind for more than a year now. I’d planned to write it after Death Changes Everything came out, but Coho Bay elbowed it’s way in and demanded to be written first. Books do that.

We will keep an eye out for Coho Bay and the next Jake and Emma.  We have enjoyed sharing with you today, Linda. Thanks so much for stopping by.

Readers can sign up for notifications of new releases and promotions on your website, http://www.lindajcrowder.com/

See Linda’s Amazon Author page: http://smile.amazon.com/Linda-Crowder/e/B00A3AY5RG

 

Character Sketch: Rev. I. Merrill Bishop

This month we are  taking a closer look at the Reverend Doctor I. Merrill Bishop, introduced in A Body in the Belfry.Merrill small

Character Name & brief background: Merrill, born Indigo Merrillanne Rose to hippy parents, has two brothers; older brother Wolf and younger brother, Sage.  After spending their preschool years living in a tepee, a caravan and a couple of communes, the Rose children and their now middle-class parents moved to the Southern California suburbs.

Called Indigo as a child, Merrill decided the moniker “Indigo Rose” sounded more like an exotic dancer than a serious student and began using her abbreviated middle name in college, where she met and married William Bishop who was attending a nearby seminary.

Role in Story: Protagonist in the second book in the First Ladies Club series.

Occupation: After enjoying many years as the wife of a pastor, Merrill felt the call to ministry and went to seminary, obtaining her Master’s Degree in Theology. She assisted her pastor-husband until his death from cancer. As a widow, she joined the staff of a large Bay Area inner-city church. When we meet Merrill she has just been called to her first senior pastorate, the struggling First Baptist Church of Bannoch, Oregon.

Physical Description: Merrill has shoulder length blond hair, sprinkled with gray, blue eyes and a trim middle-aged figure. She is petite,  but stronger than she looks.

Personality: Fun-loving and mischievous by nature, Merrill feels a responsibility to maintain a more serious demeanor befitting her role in the church and community.

Habits/Mannerisms: Merrill is determined to maintain her physical health with regular exercise, including long daily walks on the beach. She plans her wardrobe so as not to appear frivolous, but to seem approachable. Aware of the prejudices some hold against women pastors, she walks a tightrope trying to avoid offending anyone.

Internal Conflicts: Loneliness may be Merrill’s greatest conflict. As a still-vibrant woman, she longs for companionship and intimacy, but fears that becoming involved in close relationships would distract her from her ministry or even undermine her position in her church.

External Conflicts: Someone is killing people in her new hometown and may be targeting her church, the congregation, or Merrill, next.

If you read A Body in the Belfry and wonder what happens next for Merrill,  you will be able to catch up with her and her friends in the First Ladies Club in the next book in the series, A Corpse in the Chapel, scheduled for publication this summer. 

Chasing the Muse

Every writer is inspired by different things. The ancient Greeks ascribed various muses to the arts;  Thalia was for comedy and pastoral poetry, Terpsichore was dance, and Erato was for love poetry. Lately, my personal muse seems to be Melpomene, the muse of tragedy, because, tragically, I can’t seem to write, at all.

I am in the midst of unpacking after a household move and, although things are beginning to take shape, I’m one of those unfortunate souls who requires balance and order in my work space before the ideas begin to flow. I’m getting closer to having my writing nook set up to my liking, but as I work, I feel the urgent nudging of the characters in my work-in-progress telling me to stop neglecting them and get the show on the road. Judy Falls is eager to know all about the body she discovered in the ruined chapel in the woods and the rest of the Bannoch First Ladies are anxious to know more about the wife of the new pastor at First Baptist. It’s a lot of pressure added to the stress of a move, believe me, but enough whining.

Next week is the second Saturday of the month and we are in for a treat as we visit with that brilliant and clever writer, Julie Seedorf. It should be a fun time as her irrepressible character from Fuchsia, Granny, has promised to join us.  I’m not sure who the Greek muse of hilarious cozy mysteries is, but Julie must be very familiar with her.

I’m hoping some of her inspiration rubs off on me! See you next week.

 

Fiction Authors are Different

After publishng my first novel, Hollow, in 2012 in the early days of  print-on-demand and digital publishing, I began reading every bit of advice I could get my hands on about promoting independently published books.

I tried to faithfully follow all the advice about establishing an author blog, newsletter, email lists, giveaways, tweaking keywords and meta-data, setting up pre-orders, using book promotion sites on social media and planning booklaunches, etc., all with mixed success.

It is only in the past year that I’ve seen articles confirming my earlier suspicions that much of the advice I’d been getting up to then actually was meant for non-fiction authors. Webinars, for instance, don’t really suit most fiction authors.

While it was much easier to break into the market when relatively few indie authors were producing quality work, it has become almost impossible with the millions of new books hitting the virtual shelves every day. Indie authors can become frantic and grasp at each new technique. Thankfully, and perhaps surprisingly, the increased competition has not kept indie authors from supporting each other. In fact, many of us sell more books to fellow authors than to the general reading public and we constantly share helpful advice.

To that end, I want to say to new independent authors of fiction, “When you read advice for independent authors, be sure the wisdom being offered is targeted for fiction writers.”

While some successful indie fiction authors have gone on to make careers out of non-fiction books of guidance for other indie authors, most fiction writers are less comfortable with self-promotion and need to use our limited promotion budgets in ways that work for us.