#2015 – A New Start


I’m not big on resolutions, but I do believe the new year is an opportunity to look back and forward. Then it’s time to get onto the business of NOW.

So first, here’s my look back at what I wrote about my goals for 2014.

1. Establish myself as a best-selling author – I certainly gave it my best effort. I continued establishing social media contacts, and I joined the box set Heroes to Swoon For with ten other authors to make a pretty good stab at best-selling status. 47a53-heroes2bto2bswoon2bfor_3d_medium

2. Finish writing Native Lands and publish it in 2014 – Done!

world travel guide, Morocco, memoir

3. Publish Odyssey to Myself – Another check off the list! 

4. Work on new travel blog, P.C. Zick Travels – OK, so I didn’t work on this one, but I published the essay book! 

5. Establish my editing and formatting business – I started off with a few jobs, but as the year progressed, my own writing and publishing took priority. I am starting off with a few jobs again this year, so contact me if you’re interested in talking about my services.

6. Start a new work in progress by the end of the year – I believe I accomplished this goal. I wrote my first romance, 64Behind the Altar, and published it in September. That novel went into the box set, Heroes to Swoon For. Then I started the next novel in that series, Behind the Bar. I put all of my Florida Fiction Series into a box set in November. ffs_boxset_final


That brings me to 2015 and my new goals for the year.

  1. Continue to pursue my writing dreams – This means I continue writing, publishing, and interacting with colleagues and readers. I’ve been given a great gift, and I will honor it and continue toward success as both an author and an entrepreneur.
  2. Finish Behind the Bar – bb_PBOOK005I hope to finish it in January and publish it by mid-year. I also plan to write the third book in the Behind the Love trilogy, Behind the Curtain. It would be nice to get it published by year’s end as well. I’m still participating in the Romance in a Month class, so that should keep me on track with this series.
  3. Continue to participate in box sets with fellow authors – I submitted Native Lands to the box set, At Odds with Destiny, with nine other authors. This should be released in March. I’m signed up with some other romance authors to write a steamy novella, The Hot Boys of Summer, about my beloved and sometimes beleaguered Pittsburgh Pirates. That will come out in June. I’m also participating in a Christmas box set with a pet theme. My novella will star an old and wise cat named Minty. And then if that’s not enough, last night I signed up to participate in a set about wine. Mine is called the Sins of Zin. Release date on this one will be early 2016.
  4. Finish a work in progress, The Learning Curve – I started this years ago, and it’s set on the banks of the Suwanee River so I’m thinking about changing the title to include the famous river. I look forward to getting back to this novel which will probably turn into a murder mystery–my first attempt at that genre.
  5. Continue to grow as a writer – This includes honing my craft, expanding my horizons by attempting different genres, and learning all I can about the art of writing compelling fiction.
  6. Assist my fellow Indie Authors, as well as those going the traditional route and those who are still trying to figure out which way to go – In 2014, I almost stopped doing Author Wednesday. But then I received such wonderful feedback from the authors I’ve featured, that I kept going, and I’m glad I did. It’s an easy way to give back and help others, and I’ve met some wonderful folks in doing so. I will also continue to write my reviews my way, with positive comments and feedback on the books I read.
  7. Read and then read some more – I have a full Kindle Fire and bookshelves of unread books. It’s one of the best ways to become a better writer.
  8. And finally, I will write, and then I will write some more – I have several novels started with first chapters. I really want to write one about four female friends in their fifties and how they’ve managed to stay friends through husbands, children, divorces, diseases, and deaths. It won’t always be pretty, but it will be real.

My personal goals are to maintain a healthy lifestyle, live with little impact upon the earth, and love others with grace and kindness. Wish me the best!

How about you? What are your goals for 2015? Do you set resolutions? Please leave me a comment – I always love to hear from you.

And thank you for following this blog. I’ve gained some new followers this year, so welcome aboard. I’m grateful for all your support.


Author Wednesday – Michelle Josette

cropped-cropped-typewriter.jpgWelcome to Author Wednesday and an interview with author and editor Michelle Josette. She stops by today to tell us about her new novel After Henry.AfterHenry

Hello, Michelle. I always love learning about the moment when my fellow authors first discover there voices. When did you first discover your voice as a writer?

I didn’t find “my” voice; I found Emma’s. Emma Jenkins is the protagonist of After Henry. One reviewer described her as “smart, artistic, vulnerable, searching for answers,” but to me she’s just like a close friend. It took a while for me to find her and figure her out, but once I did (through character interviews, “test” scenes and lots of contemplation) her voice came through quite organically.

That’s a great thing. I remember the first time it was suggested I interview a character. I didn’t understand it, until I actually conducted the interview. Tell us about your writing rituals.

Coffee, coffee, and more coffee! And did I mention I love—LOVE—to drink coffee while I’m writing? It has a kind of Pavlovian effect on me. When the coffee is poured, so may the words be poured. (This might, embarrassingly, show up a tad too often when the protagonist of After Henry—my beloved Emma Jenkins—sits down to have yet another cup of coffee.)

That’s funny, but I can absolutely relate. What is your vision of yourself as a writer?

I want to write stories that both inspire and entertain, that evoke emotions and allow the readers to view life and people with, perhaps, a new perspective. Sue Monk Kidd has done this successfully and is the author who has most influenced my own writing. Her prose sings, and her stories truly strike a chord. I may not churn out a novel a year, and I may not ever gain mainstream popularity, but I will always have a work-in-progress that I aim to share someday, and as an editor, I hope to always be involved in stories that are both poignant and entertaining—stories like the ones I’d like to create.

What’s the best thing said about one of your books by a reviewer?

Rich Marcello, author of The Color of Home and The Big Wide Calm, described his experience of reading my novel as a fellow writer. He said: “Her prose is filled with poetic elements that will draw readers in. As a writer myself, I often stopped to re-read and admire a beautiful passage or two, and say, ‘I wish I wrote that.’” I have thought the same thing while reading his novels!

That is perfect. Is the book traditionally or self-published? Why did you choose one over the other?

I chose to self-publish After Henry for one simple reason: self-publishing is FUN! I loved having the freedom to choose my editor, cover designer, and marketing coach. I had full creative control over all aspects of the publishing process—not just the content of the novel itself, but the way it’s priced and marketed, too. The story and the cover are exactly as I envisioned them, and I feel proud of the final product. I must also admit that patience is not a virtue I have been blessed with, so the speed at which I could get the story “out there” through self-publishing was a major bonus!

I absolutely agree. I’ve gone both routes and self-publishing fits perfectly with my personality. I know you also edit books. How did you decide to become an editor?

In my opinion, every good editor has three qualities:

  1. A passion for storytelling (that includes reading AND writing)
  2. Knowledge of language (I’m mostly talking about punctuation, grammar, and syntax)
  3. A genuine desire to help others

I’ve told you a little about the first one—my passion for storytelling, which I’ve learned, involves both writing and editing. As far as my knowledge of language, that has developed over years of both formal education and practice. When I’m not editing, I’m learning how to do it better—mostly through conferences/webinars, reading, and “testing” myself via online proofreading tests and working closely with fellow editors. Before starting as a freelancer, I worked as a Word Processing Specialist for an oil and gas company in Dallas for two years. My primary task was to proofread all documents, reports and correspondence before anything was transmitted to a client. It was my actual job to be a perfectionist!

The third one came about a bit differently. While I consider myself as having a “natural” desire to help others, I didn’t realize I could have such an enormous impact on other writers until I became a member of peer critiquing groups. For years, I was proofreading for my friends and suggesting big story-level changes for their writing, and they started taking my advice. When some of those friends actually published their books—successfully—I knew I’d found my calling. I stopped critiquing for “free” and became a freelancer in August 2012. The best part is: some of those friends are now coming back to me, on their second or third or fourth books, and hiring me to provide the same service I had offered for free the first time. So, the next obvious step for me was to finish my work-in-progress and publish my own book. The whole experience has been exciting, invigorating, and at times a bit scary and challenging. But now I’m hooked—and I have no plans to stop!

249About Michelle: After graduating from the University of Central Florida in 2009 with a degree in communications, Michelle Josette moved to Dallas, Texas where she is now living her dream as a freelance writer and editor. After Henry is her first novel. To learn more about Michelle, visit her website at www.mjbookeditor.com.

  1. Click on links for book and social media sites:







Author Wednesday – #New Release of Glimpse of Sunlight

Welcome to Author Wednesday and something a little different today. In the year I’ve been posting Author Wednesday guest posts and interviews, I’ve never had an author not follow through with either the materials or a cancellation apology. It happened with today’s scheduled author so I suppose that’s better odds than I had as an English teacher on the days a major assignment was due!


Click on cover for Amazon page

As I was figuring out what to do, my friend and colleague Leona Bodie (see previous Author Wednesday post) posted the release of her new novel Glimpse of Sunlight, co-written with G.E. Gardiner. I had the pleasure of editing this book and am anxious to receive my copy to see the final version. Leona is also the author of the award-winning thriller, Shadow Cay, which I also edited.

Click on cover

Click on cover


Here’s the press release for Glimpse of Sunlight:

Legend and myth combine with historical fact throughout the pages of Glimpse of Sunlight, creating incredible adventures set during the golden age of piracy and sunken treasure ships. The characters are faced with moral choices that range from revenge and violence, to murder, greed, and sensual compromise. Even a voodoo priestess, a haunted house, and a secret attic room find a place in this action-packed novel. And best of all—it’s based on a compilation of historical people who lived and breathed and features Jonathan Dickinson, who shipwrecked near the St. Lucie Inlet in 1696 and whose name lives on in Jonathan Dickinson State Park, an 11,500-acre preserve near Hobe Sound that allows visitors to step back in time and see what this pristine area looked like.

Reviewers and fellow authors are delighted by Glimpse of Sunlight. Mackenzie Lucas, award-winning author of To Have and To Hold, states, “I fell in love with the characters…wonderfully compelling story.” Richard R. Blake of Reader Views says the novel is “sure to add new fans to the growing number of enthusiasts of the works of both authors.” These pirates are bound to steal your heart.

I hope you’ll take a look at this exciting book. From what I read during the editing stage, I know you won’t be disappointed.

About the Authors

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALeona DeRosa Bodie is the award-winning author of the suspense novel Shadow Cay. After teaching high school English and a stint in private industry, she decided the novel churning in her brain for fifteen years really deserved her attention. So she left her job to sail and write full-time. Leona is the Florida Writers Association’s Regional Director and past VP.

G.E. Gardiner spent his first career founding and running several small businesses. In 1997, a hemorrhagic brain stem stroke put him in the hospital for more than six weeks. Seven years later, he began writing to strengthen his brain. G.E. also leads a Florida Writers Association group.

Please visit www.JonathanDickinson.org for more information.

Author Wednesday – Leona DeRosa Bodie

typewriter.jpgWelcome to Author Wednesday. Today I’m pleased to welcome Leona DeRosa Bodie, author of an Amazon bestseller thriller-suspense novel, Shadow Cay. Cover_SC5Leona and I met years ago when she was first drafting Shadow Cay, and I did the first editing of the novel. I’ve followed her success with this novel, and was excited to see that she was working on a historical novel with another Florida writer, G. E. Gardiner. The two collaborated to create Glimpse of Sunlight, which will be released in 2014. I must disclose that I also edited this novel recently. Cover_Front_300_1

Hello, Leona. I’m so happy you dropped by today to talk about your books and life as a writer. Who has most influenced your writing and why?

I write about what I know. Since I’ve lived in Miami for thirty-five years, it’s a natural for me to write about South Florida. The fact my husband has been a forensic expert for twenty-one years and worked on 37,000 cases influenced me as well. It means that I have a ready resource to ensure the police procedurals, the forensic science, and quality assurance aspects are accurate.

Although the story bounced around in my head for fifteen years, I actually wrote Shadow Cay in three months on a 34-foot Morgan Out Island Sailboat in the Bahamas in the Southern Exumas. Imagine 700 islands, like a string of beautiful gems to treasure. Imagine no interruptions, pristine water, white and pink sand beaches, uninhabited islets, dramatic ocean, and bay views.

What a wonderful way to write a book. Now I know why the descriptions in Shadow Cay are so spectacular. Let’s talk about what you’re working on today.

I just completed my next two novels: Seas of Fury, a high-octane prequel to Shadow Cay, and Glimpse of Sunlight, a collaboration with  author G. E. Gardiner. It’s book No. 1 of a historic suspense trilogy based on Jonathan Dickinson’s life. Both of these books will be published in February 2014. Every book I write regardless of genre is picturesque and fast-paced with lots of action. Our newest trilogy is a perfect example. It has a tropical storm, hurricane, tsunami, landslide, and cannibal Indians, and it’s all true!

What role does setting play in the creation of your novels?

My settings are always an integral part of my stories. I create word pictures to make the settings as believable and authentic as possible.

Do you have a favorite character that you created?

Of all my characters, I truly admire Madeleine Nesbitt (Shadow Cay) the most. Her bravery is unique. Although young, sheltered, and naive, she’s stronger than she realizes. Even when her world falls apart, she manages—despite the odds—to pull her life together. She’s one of the strongest female characters I’ve seen in ages.

I agree that Madeleine is a strong character. What’s the best thing said about Shadow Cay by reviewers?

Bella Online Mystery Editor Edie Dykeman wrote, “Her work sets a strong pace from the start with riveting action and dialogue. The beautiful Bahamas background adds contrast to the frightening action and gritty texture of her story.”

Naomi Blackburn, a top Amazon reviewer and Goodreads administrator for the “Sisterhood of the Traveling Books” said, “The story flowed like liquid gold!”

Every book I write regardless of genre is picturesque and fast-paced with lots of action.

Let’s talk about Glimpse of Sunlight. What is the message conveyed in your book?

Ever since the Spanish conquered the peaceful Arawaks in the early sixteenth century, Jamaica has endured a painful history tinged with an undercurrent of violence. A Glimpse of Sunlight is an epic tale of resistance to tyranny and passion for freedom. This action-adventure trilogy transports you from Africa to Ireland and England to “The Wickedest City in the World” and ultimately shipwrecks you on the Florida shores. It shows how one pacifist and three freedom fighters and the perseverance of the Jamaican people, leave a multi-cultural imprint on the global community that forever captures the power of the human spirit.

What type of research did you do in the writing of this book?
It was extensive! It took my co-writer Glenn Gardiner and I the better part of year to research everything from locations, culture, food, dress, religion, politics, and historic characters who actually lived and breathed.

It’s been my pleasure, Leona. I hope you’ll come back after Glimpse of Sunlight is published next year. My best to you in your next endeavors.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAbout Leona DeRosa Bodie: Leona is a New Jersey native whose family’s seafaring roots inspire her tales. She attended Fairleigh Dickinson University and began a career teaching high school English before relocating to Miami. Eventually, after twenty years in private industry, she decided the novel churning around in her brain for fifteen years really deserved her attention. So she left her job to write full time. Since her emergence on the thriller-suspense scene in 2010, Leona has been praised for her ability to create action and intrigue in her novels. She’s a past vice president and current Treasure Coast Regional Director for the Florida Writers Association, and the founder of the Palm City Word Weavers.

Leona wrote three children’s books before she shifted to the dark world of suspense and sea adventure fiction. There’s no doubt being married to a forensic specialist influenced her. When not writing crime fiction, she spends time in the kitchen. Leona also enjoys her family and boating.

Social Media Links
Facebook Page

Links to Books
Amazon (Kindle edition) U.S. 
Amazon (Kindle edition) U.K.
Amazon (Kindle edition) Ca.
Amazon (Paperback) U.S.
Amazon (Audio Book)
Audible (Unabridged Audio Book)

Writer’s Write, and Then They Write Again

crazy author

writer writing

By Patricia Zick @PCZick

Here I am with four books published on Kindle and in paperback through Createspace. I started this journey of Indie Author with the publication of Live from the Road in May 2012. It’s been sixteen months, and I’ve learned and suffered and fretted. I’ve also enjoyed being in control of my work. I still don’t have a formula for success, but I keep plodding along.

At the prodding of another fellow author and blogger, I decided it was time to check the figures on my books. All four books are enrolled in Amazon’s KDP Select program, which means every ninety days I’m given five days to offer one of the books for free. I decide what days and can split them up into different free days. The point of giving away the book is to get it into the hands of as many folks as possible, hoping for reviews and residual sales after the free event. The number of reviews on Amazon affects the sales or so the experts say. Also, with KDP Select, readers can “borrow” the book on their Kindle. Authors receive a percent of the KOLL fund for these borrowed books. The amount varies month to month. For instance, in June, five of my books were borrowed, and I received a payment of $11.19, in addition to my royalty for sold books.

I do know sales have dropped since last summer. I’m disappointed in my sales record for Trails in the Sand, my latest release. I’m pleasantly surprised with the success of Live from the Road, a book I published simply to test the Indie Author waters.

Embarking on the Indie route requires an outlay of money for editing services (an absolute must) and cover design (another must unless you’re a trained graphic designer). Fortunately, I have a background in formatting so I did my own work there, but some folks may have to pay for that service as well. I’ve kept my advertising budget low. The biggest expenditure I made was for a book tour ($120, plus a giveaway valued at $50) for Trails in the Sand, and it was a bust as far as sales. I might have picked up a few blog followers as a result, but there was no residual effect for book sales. Next time, I’ll organize the tour myself and find blogs better suited for my platform. I’ve paid $5 and $10 here and there for advertising my free days, and I believe that works well. One time I paid out $80 for advertising after the free days on the advice of one of the biggest Indie Author support groups, and I didn’t see any benefit in networking or sales.

For my one nonfiction book on Kindle, From Seed to Table, I didn’t pay for editing, but I did have proofreaders on the project. I paid for a cover, and I haven’t converted it to paperback, and probably won’t because it contains so many images.

Here’s the breakdown of estimated cost to produce and advertise each book, along with sales, borrowed, and free “sale” figures:

FinalWebSizeLive from the Road (May 2012 – August 22, 2013)

Cost to Produce – $530

Sold – 430

Borrowed – 53

Free – 26,009

Politics Florida-styleTortoise Stew – (July 2012 – August 22, 2013)

Cost to Produce – $130 (reprint)

Sold – 28

Borrowed – 1

Free – 677

3-D1webTrails in the Sand (December 2012 – August 22, 2013)

Cost to Produce – $1,030

Sold – 46

Borrowed – 0

Free – 3,499

S2T-5From Seed to Table (May 2013 – August 22, 2013)

Cost to Produce – $150

Sold – 43

Borrowed – 7

Free – 10,204

I’m still in the hole for three of the books, but Live from the Road has paid for itself and covered the cost of some of the other books as well. I’m getting reviews for all of the books, except Tortoise Stew (one did come in last week after the free days, so hopefully reviews will increase). In the beginning, I chased down reviewers for Live, but then became disillusioned with giving away books and never seeing a review in return. I’m up to forty-one reviews for that book – they keep coming in steadily even sixteen months after the book’s publication. So far, Trails in the Sand has garnered eighteen reviews. I hope the free days from this month will result in more.

I do know having the books available for sale is better than having them languish in a file cabinet. I’m constantly trying new things, but I don’t have any magical formula for you.

Right now, writing and selling books is my job. It’s a great luxury to have this time, but it’s not supporting anything quite yet.

I remain optimistic as I keep writing. It’s the best advice I can give anyone. When I get a bad or good review, I get back to writing. When I do get discouraged, I write. Usually by the end of the day, the cloud dissipates, and I’m back on the keyboard hacking happily away.

I’m definitely a writer in my heart, body, mind, and soul; therefore, I write.

I’d love to hear about your experiences or answer any questions you might have. It’s a whole new world out there for authors, and I’m content for now to be exploring the Indie Author gig.

Author Wednesday – Jae Dansie

Sketch of P.C. Zick by Jae at Lit and Scribbles

Sketch of P.C. Zick by Jae at Lit and Scribbles

Welcome to Author Wednesday. Today I’m delighted to host a guest post from Jae Dansie who writes one of my favorite blogs, Lit and Scribbles with Jae. Jae writes helpful posts about the writing process, and she always adds an element of whimsy to my morning blog reads. She’s also the artist of the only caricature (that I’m aware of) of myself as writer. One of the most surprising things about writing a blog has been the wealth of colleagues I’ve met and now call friend. Jae falls into that category. I hope you enjoy her post today on editing. She’s spot on with her advice.

Editing Smackdown

By Jae Dansie

A special thanks to P.C. for inviting me to post on Author Wednesday. She’s a person I always enjoy hearing from because she has much wisdom and experience to share when it comes to this writing business.

Editing. Is it a word you dread or embrace?

I thought editing meant finding typos and grammar errors. I didn’t realize that real editing and revising was about to smack me down, and smack me hard.

I’m making this sound a lot worse than it actually is — and yet at the same time, I’m not. Thick skin should be a requirement for a serious writer, but along with that, the humility to accept that gold liquid doesn’t drip out of our pens on the first draft.


I got minor feedback from friends, worked hard on making my novel the best it could be, and queried it out. I received one or two partial requests, but in the end always rejection. I feared the idea of self-publishing, because I always thought traditional would be my path. But I had a few friends who self-published and had reasonable success. Maybe it was time to try that route.

I learned a coworker of mine did editing professionally and (thankfully) decided that if I was going to self-publish I should certainly put my novel through a professional edit. She definitely put me through the ringer, but I was hungry for improvement. Whatever it took to have the best story possible, I was determined to do it.

I learned a ton! I consider it one of the best experiences of my writing life.

When she and I were getting close to the end of my novel (at this point it was about 77,000 words) I made plans to attend the Backspace Writers Conference in NYC. I intended to give traditional publishing one more go and was especially eager to have a chance to interact with NY agents.

This brings me to…


New York City. Bustling, beautiful, and big. A fantastic place to hold a conference! I felt confident, knowing I’d had my book edited, and I’d worked hard on polishing it. I was ready to dominate this conference. Dominate, I tell you!

Only I didn’t.

If you ever need an ego smackdown, go talk to NY agents about your book. They aren’t purposefully mean, just profusely honest. It hurt. I had to go into the ladies’ room immediately after the session to let tears fall I had desperately held in. I attended a couple more one-on-one sessions that pointed out the same mistakes. The bottom line: I wasn’t ready for publication, and I knew it.

I learned a lot from the conference. I took home many gold nuggets of wisdom. The problem was I still thought I was in control of my timeline. I wanted to be published. Yesterday, please! But my story just wasn’t ready. It took me a few weeks to come to terms with that. I played video games like crazy, leaving my novel locked in a drawer until I was ready.


I know, you were hoping I only had two major smacks to endure. Remember what I said about thick skin and humility? The first two smacks gave me humility and I came to appreciate the feedback I received.

I spent the whole summer after the conference rewriting my novel. It got a serious makeover, with major changes in plot, character, and structure. It was still the story I wrote, and yet not. But it had evolved to something greater and it made all that pain from NYC worth it.

I heard about a contest called Pitch Wars. The “winner” would be mentored by either a published author or industry professional. The mentor would read the whole thing, give feedback, and work to help the entrant polish a pitch and the first 250 words for participating agents. Elation! I got selected!

Then came the feedback. Encouraging, but very thorough. My mentor is a particularly fantastic editor. She found weaknesses I’d been blind to and once I’d carefully considered her words, I realized I had a slightly ominous task before me. I had a month to make revisions before the contest deadline.

Did I get any agent requests? I did. A full. Ultimately she passed, but I still came home a winner. I had a much stronger story than I had both before the NYC conference and after. Success!


A more naive version of me would love to tell you that you’ll outgrow this pesky need for editing. That at some point you won’t have to edit anymore, because your skill will be so great. But the more seasoned me knows that isn’t true — at least it shouldn’t be, not if you’re fully committed to your craft.

I’m currently in the midst of more revisions. I had a good friend critique my whole book and guess what? She found more weaknesses. But I’m not discouraged. In fact, I think this time will be the version ready for publication.

Instead of fearing feedback and change, I embrace it. I enjoy the editing process. I’ve enjoyed seeing what the story has become and how much stronger it now is. I could no more separate it from the writing process than I could cut all sleep from my life. It is necessary and the sooner I learned to embrace it, the happier my writing life became.

Embrace the editing. Do it for your readers, but above all, do it because your story deserves to be the best it can possibly be. After all, it chose you to tell it. Tell it well.

And that’s why I love Jae Dansie so much. She’s honest, and she understands what it takes to be an author. I can’t wait to see her final work  after all the smackdowns. Thank you, Jae, for sharing your experience with us today.


About Jae Dansie: Jae is a graphic designer, doodler, and writer.  Jae wrote her first novel when she was 14 and has probably written a dozen or so in between which she calls “practice.”  She’s in a love/hate relationship with her current novel SHADE but knows it’ll all be worth it in the end.  When Jae isn’t doodling (she calls it scribbling) and obsessing over her WIP, she likes to karaoke, travel, and tantalize her tastebuds with tasty new treats.  You can find Jae on her blog at Lit and Scribbles, or out patrolling the streets for truth, justice and the American way.

How Much Background Is Too Much in a Novel?

By Patricia Zick @PCZick

I’m happily working away at the new novel these days. When I wrote the original concept back in 2006, I provided lots of background research on Florida and the Everglades. That’s the way I’ve always written, even when I was a reporter. I regurgitated all the new and old knowledge onto the page in a very rough first draft or outline of a new piece. Then I set about slicing more than half of what I’ve spewed onto the page.

Successful writing in any field or genre contains three essential elements. I call it the 3 C’s of writing. The elements are correctness, clarity, and conciseness.

Correctness – In journalism, accuracy is a key element (we hope). However, even in fiction, correctness is important. I read a book once where the author was describing a scene where the newly in love couple went kayaking – in a single kayak. He helped her in the seat and then the author wrote that the man jumped in the same seat behind his gal. Also, the couple – both experienced kayakers – were said to use “oars” rather than the “paddles” used in kayaking. I lost interest in the book at this point. Try jumping into a one-person kayak alone, let alone with another person, and remain unharmed, upright and dry, and I’ll eat an oar immediately. Correctness is essential in the details of a novel. If you chose a famous place for the setting, make sure you know that place and the names of streets and intersections. You can make up the name of hotels and restaurants, but be sure you know distances between places. Also, make sure that if you’ve set your novel in 1984 you haven’t created any anachronisms by having a character pick up a cell phone to make a call. I’m reading a book right now that I thought was set twenty years, ago but the author just mentioned Wikipedia and Craig’s List. I don’t think either of those were around then.

Clarity – Clarity goes along with conciseness in some ways. Make sure nothing in the novel confuses the reader’s understanding of the story. I don’t mean the confusion that might come from unraveling a mystery. The reader shouldn’t have to read a word, a sentence, or a paragraph repeatedly to make sense of what you’ve put on the page. I ask my Beta readers to point out any confusing areas by simply putting a question mark. Sometimes it’s as simple as a misplaced modifier, such as “Credit cards shall not be given to customers unless the manager has punched them first.” I misplace my modifiers often in the first draft, and just as often, I’m not the one to catch them.

Conciseness – Finally, I get to the reason I started writing this post. I’m struggling now with all that background information culled from reading, interviewing, or living. It’s sometimes difficult to realize that the reader doesn’t need and probably doesn’t care to know all I’ve learned before writing the novel. The reader simply wants a story to be told. I’m struggling right now as I turn that original draft/outline into a real first draft ready for Beta readers. That background information or exposition as it’s called by literary folks doesn’t all need to come at once or at all. The author decides where, when, and how much to tell. Some of it can come out in plot situations throughout the book. It’s one of the beautiful things about being an author. It’s also one of the most difficult. Beginning writers can sometimes be spotted immediately because they haven’t yet realized the importance of conciseness. I’m still learning after nearly two decades in this business. You don’t need to tell the reader everything you know. Not even close.

Here’s something I try to remember every time I write: Just because I put it down on paper, doesn’t mean I’ve carved the words in stone. That delete button is a one-finger press away. (But just to be sure I create a file for deleted passages.)

What do you think? Are these important elements in storytelling?

wood stork (Everglades)

wood stork (Everglades)

“I want to write a book.” Sigh . . .

Sketch of P.C. Zick by Jae at Lit and Scribbles

Sketch of P.C. Zick by Jae at Lit and Scribbles

By Patricia Zick @PCZick

People often say to me, “I or my [friend, cousin, father] want(s) to write a book.” The writer-in-waiting usually has no experience with writing. I also hear, “I told my [friend, cousin, father] that you might be able to help them get started.”

In the past, I’ve given either a weak two-cent reply or a lengthy discourse on writing and publishing. The last two requests I’ve ignored while I simmered on how to respond.

My hesitation comes from the frustration I feel when folks believe they are able to write a book just because they can put together a few sentences into a paragraph. It’s not fair for me to feel this way because fifteen years ago I might have asked a published author the same thing.

With that confession out of the way, I want to answer all those would-be-authors in this way:  I didn’t just wake up one morning and say, “I think I’ll write a book today.” I’ve been writing stories for most of my adult life. I’ve been a life-long reader. I have some training and experience with the English language. I’ve worked as an English teacher, journalist, publisher, editor, and communications specialist. I have nearly thirty years of experience with writing and being paid for my expertise. I’m not saying a person can’t write a book without my experience, but I am saying that writing a book requires a bit more than simply thinking you have a great story to tell.

I’ve spent years studying the craft of writing fiction and nonfiction. I don’t mean through formal training – although I have some of that – I mean through self-educating myself by reading other novels, seeking out conferences, studying books on craft, finding websites and blogs with writing information, and interacting with my fellow authors. When I entered the new world of e-publishing, I sought out every source I could to teach me how to proceed. I’m still doing that because I haven’t met my goals for success . . .yet.

I don’t want to discourage anyone, but I do want others to understand that it’s impossible for me to teach anyone else what I’ve learned. I can only point in the direction and the rest must be done through hard work. I stress that you just don’t sit down at the computer and write the instant best seller. Perhaps the Shades of Gray author did that, but I’m not interested in writing a poorly written smutty novel. If you are, then you don’t need to read any further. Open the cover on your laptop and begin.

Now for some more practical steps for beginning the journey to writing a book, if I haven’t discouraged you so far.

Why do you want to write the book? Are you interested in publishing for public consumption or do you want to provide a memoir for your relatives? If you want to publish for your family, that’s fine. You don’t need much more than desire. But you’ll still have to decide how you’re going to publish the book. That’s for another post.

What’s your ultimate goal for writing a book? If making money is at the top of your list, then I recommend you seek employment elsewhere. Most writers I know write because they have to write. The stories don’t leave them alone. They write because there is no other choice. Chances are you won’t make a whole lot of money from writing a book no matter which method of publishing you choose. I remain hopeful that my passion will one day pay the bills

Are you willing to bare your soul on the page no matter what type of writing you choose? If you’re afraid of honesty, then perhaps you’re not ready to write. I don’t mean you have to confess the time you stole a cookie out of the jar. I’m talking about the type of honesty about life and people that makes your writing universal and enduring. I don’t ever give specific details of my own life in my fiction, but I do write about the emotions an event might have elicited. I choose different details to express it.

Are you willing to work hard learning and perfecting your craft with only the intrinsic satisfaction writing gives you? For many years in my writing career, I pursued the golden apple of success that grows from the limbs of those who read my books. I thought that would make me successful. In the past few years, I’ve left that type of temporary satisfaction behind and enjoyed success in a different way. That type of satisfaction and pride lasts longer than the time between good reviews.

Are you ready to put your work into the world for anyone to scrutinize and criticize? Here’s one of the dichotomies of being a writer. Most writers I know are rather reclusive at times and just a little bit shy in public. I know that some folks who know me might shake their heads and say I am not in the least bit shy. Those folks would be wrong. I may be sociable and even be the life of the party at times, but that behavior comes at a great cost to me either before, during, or after a social event. I’m much more comfortable attending one of the parties thrown by a character in a novel. But here’s the two-sided trouble. As authors, we usually want to publish, which means we’ve opened a bit of ourselves to public view. Over the years, I’ve had to develop a tough hide. It’s harmful when I start believing both the good and bad reviews. By far, the bad reviews – very few in comparison to the good reviews – stay with me and haunt me. However, they are easier to take now. I also stopped preening every time a childhood friend or colleague wrote a glowing review of my work. Now, I know the legitimate reviews from strangers are important, but not as important as the confidence within me that I’ve written a book just the way I envisioned it.

If my questions didn’t quell your thirst to write, then you’re probably ready, not to write the next Great American Novel, but to get busy educating yourself on the business of writing a book. I’ll save that for the next installment.

Besides doing research and study, keep writing. Start a blog if you don’t have one and set deadlines for yourself. Write down any ideas that come to you. Sketch out characters. Write dialogue. You won’t be wasting time. Some of the stuff you might use one day; some of the stuff may just serve as practice .

What other questions or issues should someone address before seriously embarking on writing a book?

Florida's sea turtles saved from oil spill in Trails in the Sand

Florida’s sea turtles saved from oil spill in Trails in the Sand

Checking on 2013 Goal Progress

By Patricia Zick @PCZick

At the beginning of the year, I posted my goals for 2013. Here we are three months into the year, so it’s time to see how I’m doing once again. I highly recommend checking on the goals. I’ve never done it before this year, and I’m finding it’s a great motivator that keeps me moving.

Writing Goals for 2013

  • Launch Trails in the Sand. I published it on Amazon and have a print copy ready to proof. I plan to do a big launch for the novel by the end of January.

Update: Trails in the Sand is available on Kindle and in paperback on Amazon. It’s also available on Nook through Barnes and Noble. So far, sales remain slow.  There are eight reviews on Amazon – all five-star  Several review copies are still out, and I’m waiting for more reviews to appear. I decided to sign up for a blog tour with Worldwind Virtual Blog Tours so I’m busy writing guest posts for the tour, which begins on Earth Day, April 22. The tour lasts one week. Also, I signed up for World Literary Cafe’s Shout Out for April 22. I’ll report in my next update on whether I feel these two things were worthwhile.

Goodreads GiveawayNow - Feb. 28
  • Finish Safe Harbor. I started this novel in 2007 but stopped when I decided I needed to find a wildlife officer to interview. I left for the big Route 66 trip, which led to the creation of Live from the Road. When I returned from Route 66, I took a new job with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and became very familiar with wildlife officers and experts. Now there’s no excuse not to finish the almost completed draft. I start by pulling out the spiral notebook where it’s housed and giving it a read. I always recommend that writers let pieces incubate, but five years isn’t what I meant.

 Update: I’ve read through the draft, made notes, and decorated my bulletin with character cards. I’m rearranging chapters now and and filling in gaps. I’m starting on Chapter Five this week.

  • Publish a book of essays on my travels. I already have a name: Odyssey to Myself. I have most of the pieces written in various stages. It’s a matter of pulling it all together into one cohesive story of my travels from 2004-2009 as I discarded an old life and moved into a new phase.

Update:  Nothing to report here.

  • Pull together all of my gardening blog posts from my blog “Living Lightly” into a book. I see it as a primer for gardening and preserving produce. Again, I have all the pieces here and there, I just need to pull it all together.

Update:  This book is coming along nicely. I’ve written the first four chapters (Introduction, Year Round Gardening, Winter, and Spring). I’ll be starting the chapter on Summer this week. The drafts of the first four chapters are on my husband’s desk awaiting his proofreading pen.

  • Read the pile of books on my desk, both fiction and nonfiction. Reading is an essential part of the writing journey. How fortunate for me to have a career that requires reading for improving my craft.

Update:  I read another eBook and finished In the Time of Butterflies by Julia Alvarez. I started reading Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver this past week.

  • Establish myself as a bestselling author. Every year this one makes it to my list. Here’s to 2013  being the year it happens. For me, this goal refers to making a living as an author. I want to be able to pay more than the electrical bill each month with the proceeds from my storytelling.

Update:  Stay tuned.

How’s it going for you in 2013 so far?

Six Weeks into 2013 – Goal Check

By Patricia Zick @PCZick

At the beginning of the year, I posted my goals for 2013. I thought I’d check the goals and see where I stand six weeks later with forty-six weeks left. It’s appropriate now because in the past month, I’ve felt as if I’m coming out of the learning curve fog. I’m not professing to know everything about this new Internet-based indie author endeavor I’ve chosen. But at least I feel as if I’m catching on while I’m continually catching up.

Last year at this time, I was in Florida for a two-week vacation with my husband. I remember talking to friends we visited about the next steps for me, which included embarking into the eBook world. I vowed to start my blog and publish Live from the Road. Little did I know how much I needed to accomplish. Here’s the good news: I did everything I broadcasted during that vacation.

Now a year later, I’m returning from another two-week journey back to my former home state of Florida where once again, I recharged my batteries. I’m ready to find out how far I’ve come in six weeks and readjust the goals as needed.

Writing Goals for 2013

  • Launch Trails in the Sand. I published it on Amazon and have a print copy ready to proof. I plan to do a big launch for the novel by the end of January.

Six-week update: Trails in the Sand is available on Kindle and in paperback on Amazon. I also published this one with Smashwords, so it is also available on Nook through Barnes and Noble. So far, sales have been dismal despite my best efforts to launch. Advice: Don’t pay to send out press releases. I received only two responses and those were from ones I sent personally. One of the major problems is lack of reviews at this point. Several review copies are out and I’m waiting for more reviews to appear. The good news: five positive reviews have been posted on Amazon. In addition, Trails in the Sand made it through the first round in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest. I am very pleased because books are chosen in this round based solely on the pitch for the book. I agonize over my pitches and never think they’re good enough.

Goodreads GiveawayNow - Feb. 28

Goodreads Giveaway
Now – Feb. 28

  • Finish Safe Harbor. I started this novel in 2007 but stopped when I decided I needed to find a wildlife officer to interview. I left for the big Route 66 trip, which led to the creation of Live from the Road. When I returned from Route 66, I took a new job with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and became very familiar with wildlife officers and experts. Now there’s no excuse not to finish the almost completed draft. I start by pulling out the spiral notebook where it’s housed and giving it a read. I always recommend that writers let pieces incubate, but five years isn’t what I meant.

Six-week Update: I’ve pulled the manuscript out of its drawer and started reading the first few chapters. I’m writing out character cards organized by group. When finished, those cards go up on the bulletin board facing my desk. I already have some thoughts about reorganizing the beginning. I did some research and decided the title needs changing. I found nearly a dozen books with the title Safe Harbor.

manuscript waiting for its creator

manuscript waiting for its creator

  • Publish a book of essays on my travels. I already have a name: Odyssey to Myself. I have most of the pieces written in various stages. It’s a matter of pulling it all together into one cohesive story of my travels from 2004-2009 as I discarded an old life and moved into a new phase.

Six-week Update:  Nothing to report here. Still formulating and stewing in my mind.

  • Pull together all of my gardening blog posts from my blog “Living Lightly Upon this Earth” into a book. I see it as a primer for gardening and preserving produce. Again, I have all the pieces here and there, I just need to pull it all together.

Six-week Update:  I started organizing and wrote an introduction. I created a template on my laptop so whenever I have a spare moment, I can go to it and do some work. I’m doubtful I can get it ready in time for spring planting, but I should have it for summer. Since I’m dividing it into seasonal chapters, the summer chapter on harvesting, preserving, and eating should still draw interest.Tomatoes soon!

  • Read the pile of books on my desk, both fiction and nonfiction. Reading is an essential part of the writing journey. How fortunate for me to have a career that requires reading for improving my craft.

Six-week Update:  I read three books on eBook marketing so far. I’ve been a little off of fiction, but I started In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez.

the pile is bigger now

the pile is bigger now

  • Establish myself as a bestselling author. Every year this one makes it to my list. Here’s to 2013  being the year it happens. For me, this goal refers to making a living as an author. I want to be able to pay more than the electrical bill each month with the proceeds from my storytelling.

Six-week Update:  Working on it all the time. Stay tuned. I’ll let you know when I can pay more than the electric bill.

crazy author

How’s it going for you in 2013 so far?