Archive for the ‘Writing Thursdays’ Category


Turkey Thoughts

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Got to the computer late this morning thanks to my workout being followed by breakfast with a gym buddy. ūüôā Oh, and a post office run to mail off a few things.

But now I’m here and getting ready to write. And, since it’s Writing Thursday here on the blog, I thought I’d dangle a writing prompt out there for any of you who might be up for sharing what you come up with in the comments.

turkeyHere we go:

You’re a turkey at the turkey farm and there are some folks looking in your pen, trying to select their turkey for Thanksgiving.¬† In a few sentences, put us inside your turkey’s head…


Can’t wait to see if any of you play on this one!

~Elizabeth (aka Laura)


My Writing Day

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The other day, while visiting with an online book club who had read one of my books, a reader asked about my daily writing life. While answering her, it occurred to me I may not have talked about that here. Soooooo, I present to you today, my daily writing life.

When: ¬† I do my best writing in the morning, after my workout. I can extend into the afternoon, if I’m behind on words. It is rare, however, for me to start (and be successful) after about 3 p.m. I guess by then the tired factor is starting to nip at my creativity.

Where:¬† Like my cat, I seem to find a spot that works for me for a while, and then I move on to another. However, that said, the last few books have primarily been written on the same corner of the couch in my living room. When editing, I tend to prefer to sit at the dining room table. And sometimes, on occasion, I like to take the laptop to my local B & N and write there for a few hours–this is my go-to when I’ve stalled.

How often:¬† The past 12 days, I’ve written all but 2. If I can get in the write-everyday flow, it’s best as it keeps me in the story. However, you know what they say about the best intentions… So it’s more like 4 or 5 days a week when actively on a project (which is all the time).¬† More than days though, I try to hit a particular word count when I sit down to write. Most days that count is 2 K words (about 8 double spaced pages).

Writer’s Block: ¬† I get asked about this a lot when I give talks. And, for whatever reason, I don’t really have an issue with this. I suspect that’s because of my journalism background and the fact that writer’s block wasn’t an option.¬† I’ll hit places in the story where I don’t want to write…and I’ll hit places where I plan for it to go one way and my writerly brain knows it’s wrong and thus, makes it difficult for words to come out… But writer’s block because I have no ideas?¬† No.

Favorite part of the actual writing process:   The last 6-8 K words of a manuscript. Just like a reader plows through the end because they want to know what happens, so, too, do writers.

Last favorite part of the actual writing process:   The middle. It just tends to be more laborious.

How many books so far: ¬† ¬† The book that comes out next month (AND DEATH GOES TO…) and the book that comes out on Jan. 2nd (DIAL M FOR MOUSSE) will be my 29th and 30th published books respectively. ¬† Three more are contracted at this time. ¬† I do not count novellas and short stories in that number–that’s just full length novels with real publishing houses.

First book released:    My 1st book came out in May of 2005. The 2nd and 3rd followed in 2006 and 2007 respectively.  They were published by then publisher, Hilliard and Harris, and went on to be picked up my Worldwide Mystery for a mass market distribution.  I have since gotten the rights back and put them out with my agent.

**The other 27 books (as of this January) have all come out since August 2009.

I think that about covers it. If I spawned any further questions with this information, feel free to ask!

~Elizabeth (aka Laura)


Big Things are Happening

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Today’s post is really about a fun surprise and a request.

Simple Grace (the online version of the magazine) will be doing a cover reveal for my first-ever Women’s Fiction novel, Portrait of a Sister, today.¬† As I’m writing this blog, I’m waiting for the link from my publicist at Kensington.¬† I’m hoping that will come in sometime between now (8 a.m. ET) and noon.¬† When it does, I’m going to edit this post to include that link.

If you can (once the link is up), I’d be honored if you’d take the time to click the link…check out the new cover (I’m very excited)…and read the quick excerpt and the short little “interview” type thing with me as to why I veered off mystery to write this…¬†¬† If there’s a place to comment on this reveal on their page¬†(don’t know if there is yet), traffic on this would look good.¬†¬† So, too, would any sharing/talking up¬†of this cover reveal (via the link, not a picture of the cover–they have an exclusive for the day).

The most important thing for this book right now is pre-orders.¬† It’s how the bookstores determine print runs for the publisher. If there is demand for the book ahead of it’s release–then all the higher ups are happy.

I’ll be back with the link as soon as I have it to update this post.

Okay, everyone, here it is:¬†¬† Click HERE.¬†¬† ūüôā ūüôā

Thank you!

~Elizabeth  (aka Laura)


Lightening the Plate a Little

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I’ve been working on a secret project the past few weeks and, yesterday, I typed “the end.” So today and tomorrow is about reading/editing.

Then, come this weekend, I start on the bigger part of my secret project. ūüôā¬† I know, I know, I’m being cryptic, but all will be revealed in time… ūüôā

In a slightly related note, I took this picture yesterday for a black & white picture challenge I’ve been participating in. As you can see, I was getting ready to get to work.¬† A few hours later, when I finished, I got to put the computer away for a little while and take a walk.


So…any writing/book/series questions I can answer?

~Elizabeth (aka Laura)


The Other Part of the Author Thing

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I’ve been doing a lot of reader events lately. In addition to the ones that had me traveling to upstate New York and Canada, I just did two more yesterday. And while it takes me away from my writing, it always reminds me of one of the things I’ve come to love most about my career. Getting to hang out with readers and talk to them about books, life, etc., is quite a lot of fun.

Back in the day, when I was first published, the in-person stuff was always hard for me. I’m more of an introvert by nature and part of the appeal of writing for me had always been the anonymity aspect.¬† I figured, I’d write it and that was it.

Then I was actually published and I soon learned that authors do talks…and signings…and more talks.¬† And by talks, I mean in front of people–sometimes rather large groups.

I’ll never forget the first time I stood up and had to talk. It felt like my mouth was full of cotton balls and I couldn’t wait to be done.

Fast forward to now, and not only is the cotton feeling gone, but I actually really enjoy it. I think most of that is because I like sharing what I’ve learned and I like being around readers.

I’ve come along way since that first book was published in 2005, that’s for sure.

So how about you? Are you okay talking in front of people? What’s the largest group you’ve ever spoken in front of and what was it for?

~Elizabeth (aka Laura)


An Author’s Truth

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behindthescenesI’ve been enjoying the “Behind the Scenes” these past few Writing Thursdays, and I figured I’ll keep them going until I run out of things to share. ūüôā

So today, I’m taking you into the promotion side of things, mainly because I’m getting ready to go out on a weekend filled with reader events and I’m trying to make sure I have everything I need.

I’ve got:

*My books (the first and second books are always the biggest sellers at events, which is why I run out of those the fastest).


*Postcards/recipe cards.

*Other giveaways.

Now for those of you looking at the last three things on the list and scratching your head as to why I need those, I’ll do my best to explain. By the time I’m done, you may be wondering why I pursued this career as it isn’t much of a money maker…

Back in the day, when an author had a book, the publisher did a lot. They toured them, promoted them, advertised them, etc.

These days, unless you’re one of the biggees (those are the ones prominently featured the second you walk into any bookstore in the country), that doesn’t happen. At. All.

When I have a new book out, it’s up to me to get the word out. These days, social media is a good tool, but it really just reaches the readers you’ve already established (and therefore chosen to follow/like you). So some authors (I’ve done many myself) have giveaways on their page. They put up a book…or swag (purchased and created by the author)…or, in many cases, both, in the hopes that people will spread the word and, therefore, help get the new book in front of people it might not have otherwise gotten in front of.¬†The verdict is out on whether it really works as most of the people who try for the prize are the same people you see trying for every other author’s prize.¬† And while it’s fun to give someone a prize, it’s at a cost to the author both in postage and the prize (s).

The average paperback author makes about 8 percent on a book. If you figure the cost of most paperbacks to be 7.99, the author makes 64 cents per book. And that’s assuming the book isn’t being offered at a discount somewhere.¬†¬† The average prize package shipped out to a winner (of, say, a book only) costs that same author upwards of about $13 (the price of the book, plus postage).¬† Yup, that’s a loss–a big loss.¬† Now let’s assume that author throws in some swag, that cost goes up both in postage and the price of the swag (that cute pen with the author’s logo…or the necklace…or the whatever? Yup, the author paid for that).

But when the publishers don’t tour you or promote you in any way, it’s what you have to do. That and a lot of finger crossing that people are actually buying your book instead of illegally downloading it somewhere or purchasing it at a used bookstore.

And then there’s all the review teams. Yes, they’re great, because reviews are supposedly important, but if several dozen people are getting the book for free…and another author’s book…and another author’s book… when is there time to purchase books?

Crazy, right?

It’s a different world out there these days. And sometimes, I feel like authors (and, on the rare occasion, publishing houses) are shooting themselves in the foot with all the freebies in the hopes of driving sales. But that said, if you don’t amid a sea of those who have the resources to do so, that can blow up in your face, too.

So my advice to you avid readers, if you have a few authors/series you absolutely love, buy them. Sales is the only thing that matters to the pub houses.

Questions? Comments? Thoughts?

~Elizabeth (aka Laura)


Setting the Setting

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behindthescenesThe past two Thursdays, I’ve given¬†a sort of “behind the scenes” tour of writing books. Week one was about naming characters. Week two was how I tend to plot the next book in a series. Today, I thought I’d look at setting details–what’s accurate/what’s made up. To illustrate my way of doing things, I thought we’d look at each of my current series.

The Southern Sewing Circle Mysteries.¬† This series takes place in the fictional town of Sweet Briar, South Carolina.¬† It’s not a coastal town. In my mind, it’s located more toward the western part of the state. Because it’s completely fictional, I really only had to worry about southern things–expressions, some mention of southern specific food, etc.

The Amish Mysteries.¬†¬† This series takes place in the fictional town of Heavenly, PA…inside the true Lancaster County.¬† So while I can make Heavenly look how I want, I tried to keep it in line with an Amish/English town as they are in reality.¬† I made the shopping district up, but the Amish and English areas of town are true to the way they actually are in that area of the country. I accomplished this by taking many, many research trips down to Lancaster County–sometimes taking tours, other times just driving the back roads and soaking it all up. The details of this way of life is crucial to this series so I really need to be true to the setting as much as possible.

The Tobi Tobias Mysteries.  This series takes place in the Central West End area of St. Louis. Since this is a real place, I made up shops and some streets, but I worked to keep the vibe very much the way it truly is. I refer to real roads and real exits to add to the authenticity of this real section of a real city. While I know much about the surrounding area from my years of living in a suburb of St. Louis, I still worked with maps and the internet back when I was working on book # 1.

The Emergency Dessert Squad Mysteries.¬† This series takes place in Silver Lake, OH…a fictional town in the northwestern area of the state. In my mind¬†it’s a lake town that executives from Cincinnati travel to in the summer to vacation with a slower pace.¬† It’s also a college town so this enables me to work with¬†people in¬†several different walks of life–vacationers, college kids, small town politicians, elderly who retreated to a quiet place, etc.

Any setting related questions?

~Elizabeth (aka Laura) 


The Next Chapter

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behindthescenesLast week we talked about names and how I come up with them for my various characters. You all gave some good suggestions for me to chew on for the Amish women’s fiction #2 synopsis¬†I officially sent off (hurrah!) yesterday.

Today, I thought we’d talk about plots for subsequent books in a series. For me, I’ve always found myself looking at the various characters in a particular series and try to look at where they are in life as each new book opens. Are they fresh off a break-up, mourning a loss, bored in their job, awaiting a child, etc.¬† Then I look to see if whatever that place is can possibly intersect with a similar or possibly related place another character (s) may be. Very often, a plot idea will stem from that, whether it’s tied to the main plot, or, perhaps, simply a subplot.

Take for example Wedding Duress (the 10th Southern Sewing Circle Mystery).¬† When I sat down to write that book, I knew Tori and Milo were getting married. What I needed to figure out was how that impacted the other ladies. I knew, right away, that Leona would have issues not being the focal point–something that gave me a jumping off point to explore with her. And since Rose is the one she loves to lash out at, I was able to tie Rose (and her age) into that side story, as well.¬†¬† And in terms of the main plot, I looked at things Milo and Tori might be doing in the final days leading up to their wedding and–bam!–I had a fun story about deceit and greed.

In terms of my Amish Mysteries, the most recent book (A Churn For the Worse) left off with Esther and Eli awaiting their baby, Ben helping out at the home of a new widow, a guest having shown interest in Diane, and, of course, Claire and Jakob’s building relationship. That’s the flavor and the threads I will pull from for book # 6 in terms of subplots. Chances are, the main plot will tickle those threads as well.

So there you go. That’s¬†how I work with each new book in my respective series. Other authors may do it differently, but that’s my process. And honestly? It’s one of my favorite parts of writing–letting the characters show me the way.

Any questions?

~Elizabeth (aka Laura)


Hunting For the Perfect Name

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Today is a busy (and exciting) day for me. I’m heading into the city to have lunch with the editor and the publicist for¬†my Amish-based women’s fiction book. With this being a new genre for me, there is lots to talk about in preparation for the¬†June release.¬† name

Before that, I’m going to spend some time with my notebook and my computer deciding on character names for the 2nd women’s fiction novel I’ll be working on next (at least it’s synopsis, anyway). Since my books are based in Lancaster, I research Amish names (both first and last) that are common in that area. Interestingly enough, those same names are not necessarily “the common” names in other areas of the country where Old Order Amish live.¬† Once I have the names picked out, I’ll start figuring out the physical characteristics (eye & hair color, height, etc).¬†The more layered aspects of each character (like their quirks) generally comes to me as I start to write¬†them and they become real to me.

If all goes well, I’ll have the synopsis done by the end of next week (that’s my goal).

As for how I name any English characters that might be in the book? I try to avoid names that start with the same letter¬†as other¬†character in the book because, while it may work in real life for siblings to¬†start with the same letter, it can be confusing on the page. I also try to avoid trendy names unless it fits with a particular character’s personality.¬†Last names often come to me from¬†weird places–like the back of a baseball uniform or a high school graduation program. ūüôā

That said, I’d sure love you to throw out some last names and some male first names for me…

~Elizabeth (aka Laura)


You Ask, I Answer

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I’m opening today’s Writing Thursday post up to questions.

Curious about my writing process?¬† The story behind a particular book or character? Have a “why did you do that?” you want to ask?

Fire away!

~Elizabeth (aka Laura)