My Writing Process

When this appears I'll be in Southern California. Tomorrow I'll report about what went on at the Fine Arts Festival, but today I'm going to tell you how I go about writing a book.

Because I write two series, how I begin depends upon which series I'm going to be writing. If it's the Deputy Tempe Crabtree series I'm going to be researching and thinking about Native American legends and in particular, Yokut or Tule River Indian legends. My latest, Dispel the Mist is about the legendary Hairy Man who roams the mountains above the Tule River Indian Reservation.

I have some great research books with essays by and about Native Americans. I like to look for key phrases that might trigger an idea or a title.

I have a folder where I keep magazine and newspaper articles about small town crimes that might work for the beginning of a mystery since my Tempe mysteries are mostly set in the mountain community of Bear Creek in the Southern Sierra.

As ideas begin to form, I begin jotting notes down on a legal pad. The next step is thinking about the characters I'll need for that particular plot, murder victim or victims, people who would like to see the victims dead for one reason or another and who also had the opportunity to do the deed. Besides motive and opportunity, I have to decide on a way to kill the victim.

Picking names of the characters is important too. I have gathered graduation programs and other such things over the years and I like to mix and match names that sound like they might belong to the characters.

When I have that much done, I pretty much know how I want to begin. I write on the computer, but I keep the legal pad handy to write down ideas that come to me about what needs to happen later. As I get further along in the story, I might job down things I know I need to put in earlier.

While I'm writing, I take a chapter to read at my weekly critique group meeting. The next morning I go over the suggestions they've given me and either use what they've said, discard the comment, or maybe I'll write something completely different because the group has triggered another idea. I'm usually far ahead of the group because I don't just write one chapter a week. I write as much as I can every day.

The process is much the same for my Rocky Bluff P.D. crime series. One difference is I have a cast of ongoing characters and often spotlight a different one in each book, though I seem to favor Detective Doug Milligan, who began as a street cop in Final Respects, and Stacey Wilbur, who had a small part in Bad Tidings and a much bigger part in Smell of Death and a starring role in No Sanctuary.

And I've got to admit both of them have the largest roles in the next two books.

In the Rocky Bluff P.D. crime series, I also focus on small town crime, but the location is a beach community in Southern California so I like to research crimes that occur in such areas. In all of these books, though, I always try to show how the job affects the police officers' private and family life and what happens in the family also affects the job.

I write every single day that I'm home. But because I am always promoting one book or another, that takes some of my time too. Once in awhile I take on a writing job such as a ghost writing project, or writing program designs for people going into the residential care business. I also judge a couple of contests on a regular basis which means reading a lot of books--something I love to do.

Once I'm actually finished with a book, I usually find an editor to go over it for me. One that I pay. When that is done, I make the suggested changes and then send it off to the publishing company. For my Tempe Crabtree mysteries, it's Mundania Press and the Rocky Bluff P.D. manuscripts go to Oaktree Press.

Both publishing houses want the manuscripts to be delivered via attachment to email. And of course, both have guidelines that need to be followed.

Mundania has a great questionnaire about the cover where you can give your preferences about all sorts of things and what your vision of the cover might be.

Oaktree is a bit more informal, but the publisher and I more or less brainstormed what should be on the cover.

With both houses, there is an editing process, the in-house editor goes over the book and suggestions and corrections are made. I'm always amazed at how much is discovered even after I've paid an editor to go over the manuscript.

While all this is going on, I'm planning my strategy for promotion. Figuring out what in-person events I'll be doing and signing up for a blog tour. I could plan one myself, I suppose, just haven't wanted to take the time to do it.

Then the ARC or galley proof arrives and this is the time to go over the book once again, looking for typos, glaring errors, and some typesetting problems.

Once it goes back, then it's out of my hands. When the book is actually printed, with both houses, I always buy books at author discount so I have books to send to reviewers and to sell at events.

Then the cycle begins again, while I'm promoting I'm starting the next book or working on one from the other series.

And that's how I do it.



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