The Organized Mysteries Series

I’ve just sent off an Organized Mysteries short story for a summer anthology project (more about that later), and I’m spending the next couple of weeks finishing up another full length Organized novel (again, more info coming soon). All that organized writing got me thinking about early interviews I did that talked about the series. I’m reposting one of those interviews today, conducted by Mason at Thoughts in Progress. If you’ve already read it, I apologize for the repeat, but when I reread it this morning it was a nice reminder that planning out a series well ahead of time truly has helped me keep all my writing on-track.

Interview – April 9, 2014 (Thoughts in Progress–Interview Organized for Murder)

Mason – How did you come to write a mystery featuring a protagonist who is an organization expert?

Ritter:
I was at an author signing once, before I started writing ORGANIZED FOR MURDER, and it suddenly hit me that if I didn’t want to just talk about writing I needed to figure out something else to talk about that would tie in with a book sale. I kind of mined the inner “what the heck do I know about” fathoms, and remembered all the times people loved the little methods I used to stay organized and keep down daily stress. And my cozy theme was born.

I’ve always been a person who thinks outside the box, and my biggest pet peeve is to have to look for things. Using colors as cues to keep like things together is something I do automatically now. I also hate to do repetitive things like laundry—which even when you’re done just means it will be time to start over again. So I started using tricks to make myself think things weren’t so bad, like always living by the white rule for sports socks and everyday towels and things, to cut down on sorting and matching.

But while Kate has slight OCD, I’m just a potentially lazy person who doesn’t want to have to do things over again. I have a couple of people in my life who suffer from slight OCD tendencies each day, so I’ve seen their struggle at different times in life. I didn’t want Kate to be “perfect,” so used a bit of this knowledge and made her an above average worrier who is working on this problem each day, and has a supportive family environment to help.

Mason – Do you work on your two ongoing mystery series – Organized Mysteries series and the Body of Art mystery series – at the same time? How do you schedule your time?

Ritter:
I brainstorm each series while I’m writing the other, but I don’t write both at the same time. My protagonists are very different in each series, as are the settings and objective, and I write one from first person point-of-view and the other from third person. Plus, the Bodies of Art series is actually light suspense, and follow a series arc, so the plot twists are more important. Whereas in the Organized Mysteries I get the fun of adding the organization tips within the story, and have to have the big reveal of the murderer. 

All of those differences help me get into the next book in each series as I finish one manuscript, and switch to organized-for-murder-finalbegin a manuscript in the other series. The Body of Art books take longer, about six months because of all the research. The Organized Mysteries are also quicker because of the closed community, and the fact that the neighboring families are all solid characters at this point and I don’t have to invent as many new characters each time.

I also work on nonfiction projects through the year, so my calendar really is like an extension of my right hand. And all of this has to be worked around marketing tasks to promote the book, which I think takes more time than the actual writing does.

Mason – What are the advantages and disadvantages of writing about a small town?

Ritter:
For a cozy, I don’t think there are any disadvantages. The small town setting is one of my personal must-haves when I pick a cozy mystery. The cozy genre has changed a lot in the last couple of decades, but I still prefer the tried and true criteria: a small, inclusive community, mystery solved by an amateur sleuth, no gory murders, characters who understand the quirks of the community, a bit of humor and minimal swearing. I read cozies to escape, and I think I probably write them for the same reason. The small town gives an added advantage that everyone knows everyone else, which sets up a shifting dynamic when a new character enters the mix.
 
Mason – Tell us something about your protagonist that we wouldn’t be able to learn reading ORGANIZED FOR MURDER.

Ritter:
Honestly, I can’t think of anything I haven’t already at least suggested a hint of in ORGANIZED FOR MURDER. You might say that Kate is an open book. Smile I haven’t told her entire story, or the whole stories of everyone else in the series, for that matter, but more will be revealed with each book.

If I had to say the one thing that Kate McKenzie doesn’t completely know about herself, and is learning, is how capable she truly is. I’ve tried to make all my characters extremely relatable, and have been rewarded in how this is something that is noted in most of the book’s early reviews. Because of that, Kate acts like a typical person, and more readily notes her deficiencies than recognizes her abilities. We all tend to toot other people’s horns better than we do our own, and Kate McKenzie is no different.

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Contests to Win — Until the End of the Year!!

Fresh Fiction posts contests each month on a separate contest page. Authors run the gamut from mystery to adventure to romance, and on down to children’s lit. You can also find pages for reviews, events, and photos. Check out the current Contests page here– http://freshfiction.com/contests.php
And at Fresh Fiction, my friend Traci Andrighetti is having a launch party for her soon-to-be released Limoncello Yellow. Go to this link to enter to win a $25 boutique gift card!
Gemma Halliday is running a CONTEST on her author’s  Facebook, and it’s a good one. CONTEST every week until the end of the year. Once a week, Gemma draws a winner to receive a $15 gift card to Amazon.com. How do you enter? Easy! Just click the “Newsletter Signup” button at the top of her Facebook page (It looks like a paper airplane!). One newsletter subscriber wins each week! Here’s the link–  https://www.facebook.com/gemmahallidayauthor/app_15292600805412

7 Ways to Find Time to Write

Counterfeit_Conspiracies_final_cover

I have a limited attention span—not because I can’t focus, but because there are so many things around vying for my attention. I have dings and rings and buttons and bells. The one thing I don’t have much of anymore are actual wall calendars showing me how much of the year has already flown by. It’s October people! We tend to have these epiphany moments about the time the back-to-school stuff hit the clearance tables and the Halloween frights fill the store aisles. But for writers, learning to schedule our time, ahead of the “OMG it’s the end of the year” slap, is key to success. I’m currently brainstorming the sequel to Counterfeit Conspiracies and actually writing the second book in my Organized for Mystery series. I look for time to write everywhere, and to make sure not to miss any opportunities in the day’s schedule. Here are a few tips to try:            

1) Make daily coupons that offer writing time—with expiration dates in bold type.

We’ve become a coupon society, we honor coupons, we make sure we utilize coupons whenever we buy anything or go to any event. Writers are notorious for giving up their writing time for the needs of others, but a coupon with an expiration date at the end of each 24-hour period reminds each of us that time is valuable, our writing is valuable, and if we don’t utilize this time—and the coupon expires—that writing day expires as well.            

2) Build in a visual daily reminder that proves your personal success.

We learned about gold star charts in kindergarten for a reason—visuals that fill in every square work give us a successful feeling. These kinds of charts show us in cheap but powerful form what we’ve accomplished on a regular basis. Maybe you’d rather have a jar of pennies you add to each day you write. Or, like JessicaFletcher, you want to put the day’s writings into an inscribed folder that visually proves what you’ve produced. Whatever you choose, pick a method that works for you, that shows every day’s progress, step-by-step and word-by-word, and watch how it helps your progress improve.            

3) Change methods if something feels more comfortable.

Yes, comfort is everything for writers. I love to start my drafts by handwriting, usually switching over to the laptop after a page or so. I’ve found my brain is more easily jump-started when begin by putting pen to paper. Even better, I’ve found that since I have to type in what I’ve already written, I never see the blank computer page—I start typing and it’s that much easier to keep going once the handwritten notes come to an end.

Comfort is key. A writer I know started complaining to me one day about her desk chair. It was a hand-me-down replacement for another she’d had to recently discard. I empathized about the cost of office supplies when she brought up how she’d wanted to buy new, but didn’t when this option became available. Then halfway through lunch, we were talking about our daily writing goals, and she mentioned how difficult she’d suddenly found it to go into her office and write each day. She feared she was getting writers block, but couldn’t figure out why since she still had a million ideas—she just couldn’t get up the energy to go in and write them down. I asked if it could be the new chair, since she hadn’t been thrilled when we discussed it earlier. The AHA! moment was like a light went off above her head. Yes, sometimes it is that easy, but we’re too close to the problem to see it for ourselves.            

4) Find a writing-schedule method that works for you.

Everyone has a different schedule. Just because one works for your writer-friend ‘Sally’, and helped her finish a book in six weeks, that doesn’t mean it will work for you. Trying to meet someone else’s writing expectations sets you up for potential failure. I personally write to an extensive schedule that has me working on several projects at the same time. Without this kind of a schedule I waste too much time figuring out where I am each day. But that’s me—and no matter how detailed the schedule there are always going to be changes. Writers have to be flexible. Find your comfortable writing fit and then you can be more flexible with your schedule and still get the best word count each day.            

5) Use small time slots to create big progress.

If you haven’t already heard the story of the tortoise and the hare, please Google it. The major message of that story is “slow and steady wins the race” – and for writers that also flexes to “small and steady builds the manuscript.” Let’s say you only have 15 minutes a day to write. Say that 15 minutes lets you produce half a page of a manuscript per day. On a single half-page, single spaced, that averages 250 words. So what does that do? Well, 250 words written each day means by yearend you’ll have produced 91,250 words. Not bad, huh? Even given for editing and revision, that 15 minutes a day could produce a novel in 12 months. Are you game?            

6) Carry writing materials everywhere you go.

You never know when a stray 15 minutes will open up to allow you to sketch out a quick scene or jot down a bit of dialogue. But don’t just count on pencil and paper. I’ve used my Kindle keyboard to write while waiting to pick up my daughter at the airport. I’ve heard of writers composing most of their manuscripts on their phones while commuting into the city on trains or buses each day. And we seem to have to wait all the time—everyone wants you to show up early for appointments, but those same appointments always run 15 minutes behind. I even saw a friend recently using her check register to write down a bit of her WIP while waiting in the grocery check-out line, using her check register when she couldn’t find anything else in her purse.            

7) Look for new ways to create writing time in your day.

This point ties back to how I started this blog, since it hinges on eliminating distracters, things like Facebook, email, television, and on and on and on. Leaving Facebook, Twitter, and email up guarantees distraction because they ding to let you know every new contact that hits your box—whether the incoming is something you’re interested in or not. The same with cell phones. Think about how you can create new writing time for yourself by taking a brief break from things that call you. Don’t log in, don’t turn on. Check email three times a day instead of thirty. During your short writing time, give yourself permission to keep your writing time sacred. Let voicemail pick up your calls. Let the online services keep their messages to themselves. You will write more, and write more quickly—then you can get back to checking the dings and rings and bells and whistles later.  

These are just a few tips I’ve used to complete my upcoming release Counterfeit Conspiracies, released by Gemma Halliday Publishing in December 2013. What are some ways you’ve found extra writing time? Please share your thoughts.