Kelly Maher
Rereading

Today’s tasks included weeding out the physical books I’ve accumulated over the last year. I’ve actually been very good at limiting my acquisition of said physical books due to space considerations in my apartment. However, because I’ve been so good, the majority of books I have in my apartment are either books I reread either in whole or in part or books that I plan on trying at some point. I have a lot of friends who don’t reread because they so clearly remember what happens in the story. Now, I’ve got a pretty good memory myself, but I find comfort in rereading books and passages that give me pleasure. Do you reread? If you reread, do you collect those books you reread? How big is your “keeper” shelf?

Baltimore Book Fest recap

I spent this past weekend, Friday through Sunday, driving back and forth between DC and Baltimore. It was fabulous! Great weather certainly contributed to a fun time, though I was pretty thankful for the umbrella I use as a parasol. I was not officially there as an author, and I ended up wearing both my Kelly and alter ego hats at various points. Making connections with fellow authors and readers of romance is what made the driving well worth it. As I look to spend the next year getting myself out in public more frequently, I want to know what you expect of authors at book festivals, signings, readings, whatever. Do you prefer one type of interaction over another? Would you like a more intimate setting to sit and chat with authors? What do you want to know as readers from me an author?

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I kind of wonder if I could have fit this into my car since it was such a great stand πŸ˜€

Story management

The other night, as I was trying to fall asleep, another story idea hit me. It hit me hard. At one point I was grumbling to one character to shut up so I could sleep. I got up and made a voice memo about the story premise, and yesterday morning on the bus ride into work, I added the idea to my spreadsheet. Including Project Occipital, it’s number nine on the list. I’ve got the novella trilogy prioritized as my next projects, followed by the edits on Project Ulna while the trilogy is out on submission. After that, my schedule is up in the air. Mostly. There’s something alter ego has been brewing which may impact the writing schedule in the first half of next year.

I’m also working on career strategy. This new story idea would throw a huge spanner into the works when it comes to strategy. Why? Like Project Ulna, it’s really not a Kelly type of story. At this point, it’s solidly a historical mystery with paranormal elements and series potential. I’m very excited about it and I do plan on squeezing it in some time over the next year to get a jump on the freshness of it. I’ve already jotted down the start of the first scene because the first sentence wouldn’t leave me alone. Hell, I’m about ready to write up the story outline because I can see it so clearly. If certain things go as I hope, this story might get bopped up on the priority list.

The key thing is that I’ve stored the idea and given it a little breathing space in my head. Creativity is almost like a sourdough starter. Let it sit for a while and grow. If you’re lucky, and you cultivate it, you’ll have it supplying you with endless amounts of goodness. I just wish it would stop bitch-slapping me awake as I doze off into slumberland.

Sleepy Hollow

I think I’ve mentioned this here before, but I’m not usually one to watch “fiction” television. This season, I’m getting hooked into Fox’s Sleepy Hollow. The element which appeals to me the strongest is the sly sense of humor in it. It’s also got action, suspense, paranormal elements, and some romance. If the writers can continue with the alchemical magic they have brewing, I might find myself caught within its spiderweb. However, the key thing about it which I admire from a writer standpoint is the pacing. They pack a lot of story within their hour, but it never feels draggy or whiplashy. Both last week during the series premier and last night, I looked down at the clock expecting it to be not be past the half hour, but both times we were almost at the :50 minute mark. And there was still story left to tell! Kudos to the writers for a, so far, job well done. I will definitely be tuning in next week. Also, *major* thumbs up to the make up department! Anyone else notice how a certain character’s neck always looked saggy in an entirely appropriate manner?

Book festivals

Alter ego is going to be at the National Book Festival in Washington, DC this weekend. It’s an interesting mix of current events, “highbrow” literature, children’s literature, and some genre fiction. From experience, I can tell you that the C-SPAN bags and the posters are probably the top draw for attendees. Next weekend is the Baltimore Book Festival. It’s got much more of a neighborhood fest feel to it. Probably due to the dedicated food area and bandstand πŸ™‚ I went last year as an attendee and loved it. This year I’ll be going for all three days. One of the reasons I enjoyed BBF more than NBF as an attendee is that it spoke more to me as a genre reader than NBF did. Earlier this year, I participated at the Frederick Book Festival as a panelist. That was also fun in its own way as it was the inaugural year for them. I do plan on attending next year to see how they’ve grown. Have you ever attended a book fest? If so, what did you like and not like about it?

Weddings

This past weekend, I headed up to New England to witness my cousin getting married. It was a gorgeous weekend, and there were only a few kinks in the plans. At the end of the day, my cousin and his wife joined their lives together, and almost our entire side of the family were there to help celebrate.

It was a weekend full of weddings. There was another wedding staying at the same hotel we were at, a bunch of people at the airport heading to or leaving from weddings, and there was even a wedding being held at the state park my siblings and I visited to sightsee on Sunday!

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I wish everyone who got married this weekend many, many years of health, happiness and love with their spouse!

Changing of the seasons

Here in DC, a Heat Advisory was triggered yesterday. I’m betting another one will go off at some point today. On the local news, the weatherman said there’d be a 50 degree difference between yesterday and Saturday evening. I know this is typical when we go from summer to fall, but oy. I’m going to a family wedding this weekend and the high for Saturday is supposed to be a couple degrees cooler from yesterday’s low the last time I looked. Why does the funky weather almost always happen on weekends and the really nice weather on weekdays when I have to be inside working at the day job? I truly do love fall and spring because I’m not a fan of hot weather. I get icky and sweaty way too easily. I just wish it would be a bit warmer for when I’m wearing a kicky dress and shoes this weekend. What’s your favorite kind of weather?

Finding your tribe

At the WRW meeting this past weekend, I talked with some friends afterwards as we usually do. As this was our first meeting of the year, we had a number of new members join us. One of my friends said of a few of them, and this is paraphrased, “their faces lit up as they realized they’d found their tribe.” I know this feeling well. I can pinpoint almost every single time where I’ve had that realization. The power behind it helped give me a center. Grounded me. Made me feel understood.

I’m very close with my family, but few of them are readers of fiction, let alone heavy readers. Every time I made a friend who read a lot, and, even better, read romance, I wanted grab hold tight and never let them go. Both of my careers, the day one and the writing one, have grown out of my love of reading and story. Publishing people are my tribe. Librarians are my tribe. Authors are my tribe. READERS are my tribe. I thank you all for giving me a place where I feel welcomed and loved and cherished. I hope you have been able to find a tribe of your own, whether in person or online. If you haven’t, reach out. There are people who love what you love and want to share the joy of the experience with you.

Travels

My September weekends are filled with travels both local and not-so-local. Next weekend I’m heading to New Hampshire for a family wedding. While there, my mom’s set up a day for her and me and one of my aunts to take a class at the kitchens of a favorite food brand of ours. My family is big on the experiences you can have while traveling. In my latest writing session, I drew inspiration from a family trip many years ago to Rocky Mountain National Park as well as day trip I made last fall. I adore traveling and am currently plotting a train trip up to Quebec for a long weekend. In addition to the planning of the trip and what to do while there, I’m also playing with ideas of how I can possibly use it in a story setting. Which means I could then write the trip off my taxes as research πŸ˜€ Obviously, more plotting is needed.

In the past, I’ve also made some trips based on what I read in novels–or places I knew were settings in unreleased, but upcoming novels. Have you ever traveled somewhere you read about in fiction? Where was it and what did you think about it?

A word, or many, on word counts

I’ve been very lucky in the guise of alter ego to make friends with a lot of authors. There are quite a few I admire from a business standpoint as well as from a storytelling standpoint. I pick their brains for how they conduct the business of writing. I’m very lucky that they’re so willing to share their experiences. A number of my friends are also high-producing writers. From the outside, this appears to be a part of their success. Because they produce so much, they get that much more practice in the craft of writing. Because they get so much more practice in the craft of writing, they produce better quality work with every new project they tackle. Because they produce better quality work, they are recognized by readers as creating well-crafted stories. Because readers recognize they create well-crafted stories, readers buy lots of their books. Because readers buy lots of their books, they presumably make a very nice living for themselves. And because they produce so much, they also have large backlists for readers to purchase πŸ™‚

Do I believe if I imitate my friends to the letter in how they work, I’ll magically become a “famous” and best-selling author like they are? Hell no.

The primary thing I as a writer can control is producing the best possible story I can write. That’s it. I would like to produce a lot of best-possible-stories-I-can-write. I can control that, too. Were I to choose the self-publishing route, I could control the availability of the stories, but as I’ve mentioned before, that’s not a task I’m willing to take on at this time. What I cannot control is reader response to my stories. I cannot control the purchase of my stories. I could write a story worthy of the Pulitzer and Nobel Prizes, but if no one wants to buy them, what am I doing with my valuable time? I’m a commercial writer which means I write for money. While it would be cool to say I won the Pulitzer and Nobel (and yes, I’m perfectly aware the Nobel is generally awarded for body of work rather than one item of work), and the award would provide me with some greater name recognition with the public in the year I received the award, I also don’t write the type of story which is generally recognized by those award committees.

In the pursuit of producing both better quality work, and more of it, I made the decision earlier this year to give myself a production word goal. I’m pretty sure I’ve discussed this before in various places, so I hope I don’t retread too badly. From June 1st when I started actively writing Project Ulna until August 31st which was the original date I had as the deadline for Project Ulna, I produced 105,422 words. That encompassed the first draft of PU, the first 40% of Project Occipital, and the start of Project Maxilla. My goal for the year was to produce 100,000 words. Done. As I’ve previously noted, halfway through PU, I hit a wall. I changed my methods. That change resulted me in producing more words at a faster rate. Part of my decision process was this article on “Changing Your Process” by Ann Aguirre. That post grew out of conversations I had with Ann, and I know I was one of many people discussing the topic with her.

I’ve burned myself out before by ramping up my writing targets too quickly. I worried I was doing the same as I upped my goal after only a month and a half of working at a pace of 1000 words per day, every day. The new pace was 2000 words, but only for five of seven days a week. I’m positive I succeeded because of changing the time of day I was writing in addition to the amount of words. If I had continued writing after the day job and increased the word count, I would have failed utterly and been back in the mental cycle of cursing myself for reaching too high, too quickly. I am in no way a morning person, but I am a morning writer. I’m not bogged down by thoughts of what happened at the day job. Part of my brain is still asleep and is not telling the more creative side to tweak this or that. I also write crap first drafts. I vomit words onto the page with the expectation I’ll be changing, cutting, or adding as part of the edit process. What also works for me is having a very rough outline of where I see the story going in the space of the words I’m trying to achieve that day. Very often I diverge from that plan, but it gives me something to center on when I begin a writing session.

Yesterday, Labor Day in the US (ie. off from the day job), my pre-assigned word count goal was 4500 words. In the last month of working on PU, and confirmed by the first week of working on PO, I realized that I can average 500 words per 15 minute session. I use the timer on my phone. When obtaining words feel like pulling teeth, I can usually get at least 400 words in that time frame. When it flows, I’ve hit around 650 words. One time I came close to 700. I will sometimes write an extra minute or two to finish out a thought. I try to limit myself to 5 minute breaks between writing sessions so I can do three full sessions in a one hour period. This means I can get around 1500 words per hour of writing. Yesterday morning, my first session netted me just over 1700 words, the second just over 1800, and the last just under 1600. I hit exactly 5100 words for the day. In three hours of dedicated writing. I scheduled out my day via a to do list rather than specific times. I started with twelve points, but added two more. I had twelve of them, eleven of the original (number twelve was dinner) checked off by 6 pm. I started working on the list around 9 am. Those points included writing sessions, exercise sessions (I often walk laps in my apartment for thirty minute intervals), and household chores. I was able to do all of this because I know myself, and I know my writing process.

If you’re only beginning your writing career, beware of burnout. Writing is exercise for your brain. Starting small and gradually increasing generally means you’ll be able to sustain a faster pace. Only a blessed few can run a marathon with no prior experience and no training. The same goes for writing a novel. It is a marathon, make no mistake about it. Part of why I’m currently working on novellas is because I crave the high of getting to “The End” faster. It also means that I’m going to have two to three different items available for sale as opposed to one were I to write a novel of comparable combined length. According to the word count on WordPress, between this post and one for alter ego, I’ve written an additional 1600 words for the day (I generally write these posts the day before for scheduling purposes). 6700 words for the day not including emails and tweets. Maybe I can give Maya Banks a run for her money one day πŸ˜‰