Susannah Hardy is a writer of humorous romantic mysteries set in and near the fictional resort village of Bonaparte Bay, New York. You can follow Susannah at www.susannahhardy.com, and on Twitter @SusannahHardy1.
Hi, everyone, Suze here with the most exciting news. My debut novel, Feta Attraction, releases today in paperback and ebook. As you can imagine, I am beyond thrilled. If you love cozy mysteries–or want to give them a try–you can get your copy at any of these retailers: AmazonBarnes and NobleIndie BoundBooks-a- Million
The early reviews are making me so happy!
Vibrant characters… hilarious…big surprises…an excellent new mystery…that it is sure to be a wonderful addition to anyone’s cozy mystery collection. (Here’s a link to the full review at Fresh Fiction)
…a winner in any language…breaks out of the cozy formula…clever… a fun, new series that provides a different flavor to a favorite genre. (Here’s a link to the full review at Carstairs Considers)
The first line from Feta Attraction had me hooked until the end and I knew I would love this book. I was right because I could not put it down…twists and turns abound…never a dull moment…. fast paced… had me wanting and waiting for a second book in this adventurous new series… dynamic characters. (Here’s a link to the full review at A Cozy Girl Reads)
If you haven’t liked my author page on Facebook, would you pop over there and do it? You can follow me there and on Twitter: @susannahhardy1
And if you’ve read Feta Attraction, would you please leave me a review? Thanks for celebrating with me, Scribe Fans!
Hello, my faithful Scribelings! Suze here. I’m too excited for any niceties, so I’ll get straight to the point. FETA ATTRACTION, Book 1 of the Greek to Me Mysteries, has a cover. I think the art department at Berkley knocked it out of the park, don’t you?
FETA ATTRACTION is available for preorder now, and releases on January 6, 2015. I can’t wait to share it with you!
Happiest of Scribe Days to you! What’s Scribe Day? July 7, of course. Seventh day of the seventh month. Seems like a good day to celebrate!
The Scribes have come a long way since that fateful day in 2011 when we launched this blog. We are all now published or, in my case, about to be published–FETA ATTRACTION releases January 6! Cover reveal coming soon, I promise. Yeah, I’m the caboose on the Publication Train, but I hope it’ll be worth the wait.
One problem I never thought I’d have three years ago was being on deadline. Oh, of course I’d heard of other writers being in a mad race to finish and turn in a manuscript to an editor–I just never really considered that someday I’d have a pony in that race.
So here I am, in the middle of the third book of my series, which is due in a couple of months, and I’ve found myself bogged down. I haven’t been writing. I’ve been researching. Ah, research. My Strange Addiction. I keep waiting for the producers of that television show to call me.
I’ll say it now. I. Love. Research. Love it. Give me a computer with an internet connection and I’ll happily research anything, for hours on end. Genealogy and local history are my two danger zones. And both of those topics feature heavily in my Greek To Me Mysteries, set in the Thousand Islands, situated between New York State and Canada in the St. Lawrence River.
My latest research obsession? Don’t laugh. Salad Dressing. Thousand Island salad dressing, to be exact. Next time you open a bottle of that pink creamy stuff to pour over your greens, you might be interested to know that the origins of this dressing are shrouded in mystery. There are three competing versions of its Creation Myth, all with a northern New York connection. And based on my hours of poring over old cookbooks at Project Gutenberg and Archive.org and some more obscure digitized public domain materials, I think I’ve come to a decision about which of those myths is the most likely to be true. Not that I can reveal it just yet, LOL! But if you’re interested in a summary, click here.
But for a book to feel authentic, a writer needs to do her research, right? So the hours were necessary. Well, yes, but only up to a point. My story only needed a minimum amount on this topic–and yet my investigative journalist-like nature overtook me and I wanted to get to the bottom of the mystery. See, I’d like to be the one to break a story like that. Someday, I just might do it.
Research can enhance your storytelling. Or it can be a huge timesuck-slash-avoidance behavior. The research doesn’t mean much if you don’t get the words down on paper and out the door to a waiting editor.
So, I am allowing myself one more hour of research on this topic–for now, until book 3 is finished. I ordered a DVD of a local PBS documentary which claims to have found the smoking gun in the Thousand Island dressing and when that comes, I will watch it. But no more hundred-year-old cookbooks. No more searching the Internet for contemporary accounts of salads. Pinky swear!
Do you do research for your writing? Can you stop anytime you want or do you get obsessive?What’s your favorite salad dressing?
We usually keep things light here at the Scribes but today’s topic is serious. I’m talking about transitioning from your day job to your full-time writing career. Let me explain.
Like virtually all writers and wannabe writers out there, I started out doing something else. For a couple of decades I worked for a medium-sized company as a staff person. When I sold my first series (debuting January 6, 2015 and available for preorder now!), I figured I’d work for a few more years until I was (hopefully) making enough to live on from my writing. Well, that was a nice plan. But it didn’t happen.
I’m here to tell you, unless you own the company you work for, no one is indispensable. (Depending on the type of company and the structure of management and boards of directors, even the owner might not be indispensable). I don’t care how much you think they like/love/respect/can’t function without you, you’re wrong. Everyone is replaceable or do-without-able. Everyone.
And once people at your day job find out that you’ve sold your novel, you might be replaceable sooner than you think.
See, everyone thinks writers make scads of money. I went to a job interview recently and the interviewer said, after having seen that I had a book contract, “I thought you must be a millionaire.” Um, seriously? Do you think I would be interviewing for a part-time job with you if I were a millionaire? Don’t you think I’d be sitting on a tropical beach somewhere, wearing oversized designer sunglasses and wrapped in an expensive silk sarong while a buff, half-naked island man served me cocktails and gave me suggestive looks? But this is the kind of thing you are going to get handed to you. A lot.
And the other thing you will probably face at some point is that not everyone will be happy for you, maybe not even members of your own family (not the case with me, thank goodness, but it happens). Because when you take steps toward living your dreams, it causes other people to examine their own lives, and when those lives are less than dreamy, it can foster resentment. Even active, malicious sabotage, which actually happened to me.
Think about the people in your circle. How many of them are doing what they really want to? How many of them are moving toward fulfilling their dreams? I hope it’s lots of them, because there are so many opportunities now that make things possible (see below for more explanation on that). But the truth is, it’s probably almost nobody.
So this post is about Looking Out For Number One–You, Yourself, and You.
Despite being under contract for three books with a Big Five/Six publisher (the biggest one, LOL!), and having something else in the works that I’ll be able to tell you about soon when the ink is dry, I don’t make a living wage from my writing. I think I will, hope I will, in the next few years. But for right now, I would have liked to have kept that day job for a while longer. However, someone else made that decision for me.
So here’s my advice to every writer out there who still has a day job working for someone else:
Consider very carefully whether you will disclose to your employer and your coworkers that you are writing on the side. Consider even more carefully whether you will tell them when you sell. I opted to tell, figuring that for various reasons it was going to get out anyway and I’d rather they hear it from me. I also showed my supervisors my contract, so they could see exactly how much money I was–wasn’t–making. Didn’t seem to matter to them, they let me go anyway. But you might work in a company (perhaps you work at home, and never or almost never see your coworkers) where you can remain relatively anonymous. In that case, I’d keep it quiet. What they don’t know, they can’t use against you. Share your success with your writing peeps and your close family and friends. Otherwise, don’t. Your boss, the administrative assistant, or the accounts receivable person at your office probably won’t buy your book–may even perversely enjoy not buying your book–so why bother?
Start NOW developing a side business, not necessarily writing related. A person would be foolish to invest all of her money in only one stock–smart investors diversify. Well, if you’re not at the point yet where you’re making enough at your writing to satisfy your needs and at least some of your wants, think about having something else in place in case your day job goes bye-bye for whatever reason.
I’d be willing to bet that most all of us have a skill/talent that could make extra money. Me, I do editing for indie-pubbers at Crazy Diamond Editing (click here for more information). Now that my unemployment has run out, I’ll be looking to expand that business. And I’m also thinking about resurrecting a handbag-making microbusiness I had a few years ago. Does all this take time and planning and organization? Yes. But you’re working for you, and I can’t tell you how satisfying that is.
But Suze, you say. I don’t have the kind of skills that people will pay money for. Are you sure about that? Can you read a label? Why don’t you go around to tag sales and look for consignable clothes? You could sell them on Ebay or ThredUp. Have you got stuff around your house you could list on Ebay or Craigslist? Can you knit or crochet or make beaded jewelry or other crafty items? These skills are not hard to learn and you could set up a table at a flea market or farmers’ market or sell online at Etsy. Can you garden? You could grow flowers or vegetables and put them out by the road to sell. Do you love animals? How about developing a pet-sitting, grooming, or dog-walking business? Have you got a skill you can teach someone else? Look into your town’s Adult Education department or local community college’s Continuing Education program and see if you can put together a class.
Think outside the box. I’ll bet you can come up with more ways of making money than you know. (And for even more ideas and inspiration, check out Barbara Winters’ Joyfully Jobless website–there’s lots of practical and motivational stuff there) The more diverse your interests, and the more you put yourself out there creatively, the better your writing is going to be.
Have an exit plan. Somebody should do a workshop on this (in fact, maybe I will). What do I mean by this? Here are some suggestions:
Know what your company’s policy is regarding termination of employment. What benefits are available to you if you retire, quit, are fired for cause, or are laid off? Are you entitled to severance pay, unused vacation and sick time, unemployment (will depend on your state and the reason you and the job parted ways)? If the worst happens, how will you make the most of what you get?
If you did lose your job, just how much money do you actually need to live on? Most of us don’t know. Make a list now of the money you have coming in. Then track where your money goes for a month. For bills that come less frequently, like real estate tax bills and winter heating costs, look at your bank statements from last year and average them out to a monthly cost. Identify what’s a want and what’s a need. I’ll bet there are places you can cut back. The grocery bill and shoe-shopping (insert personal vices here) bills are great places to start. Look at your phone plans and cable bills and gym memberships and make sure you’re actually using the services you’re paying for. Eliminate what you can.
Save money NOW. Save as much as you can, even more than you think you can. So when your employer gives you a surprise one-month’s- pay severance “package” and a copy paper box to carry your stuff out in, you’ll be okay. Maybe not comfortable, but okay.
If you’re a two-income household, can you live on what the other earner makes? It’s not a great idea to think you can fall back on somebody else, though. Because stuff that can happen to you (job loss, illness) can happen to the other person in your life too. I hope it doesn’t. But let’s face it. None of us are getting any younger, and, well, stuff happens. Be prepared for it.
What about you? Do you think you’ll ever make a living wage from your writing? Do you have a plan (share it with us, if you’re comfortable doing so) for making it your full-time job? Ever been fired and want to vent here? Inquiring Scribes want to know.
Hello, my lovely Scribelings! Suze here. First off, a bit of news. My cozy mystery, FETA ATTRACTION, will release from Berkley Prime Crime on January 6, 2015! I’ve had a sneak peak at the cover and, just like all the Berkley artwork, mine is just gorgeous. I’ll show it to you as soon as I can. FETA ATTRACTION is the first book in the GEORGIE’S KITCHEN MYSTERIES and I hope you’ll love the village of Bonaparte Bay and its residents as much as I do. When it’s available for preorder, I’ll let you know.
So you’d think, with a traditional contract and two books in the series written and the third one about to be started–as well as a few partial manuscripts living under the bed with some unsatisfied dust bunnies who may or may not ever find out what happens at the end of those stories–I’d know everything there is to know about writing a genre fiction novel. After all, I’m also a freelance editor (www.crazydiamondediting.com), so I work with other authors on their manuscripts too.
HA! SNORT! (Hang on a sec while I get myself under control) OK, I’m back, still giggling. The answer is Not by a long shot. Producing these two manuscripts drove home the fact that I have a lot to learn.
So to help me become a better writer, I signed up for Debra Dixon’s Book in a Day Workshop, presented by the New Hampshire Chapter of Romance Writers of America. Along with some of my best writing buddies, I spent the weekend in New Hampshire with Writing Goddess Debra Dixon, whose book Goal, Motivation and Conflict (available in ebook and hard cover) has become standard material for anyone seriously pursuing a writing career, no matter what kind of stories you write.
So here are the Top Seven Things I took away from the workshop:
1. You can do anything you want, as long as you do it well. This means that you can break the “rules” as long as it’s beautifully executed. However, and this is just my personal, more conservative opinion, if you’re trying to break into genre fiction, start out following the rules so later on, when you’re more experienced, you know what rules you can and can’t break.
2. Force your character make choices–and make those choices Sucky and Suckier. Most of us have probably heard the basics of story structure broken down like this: Put your character in a tree. Throw rocks at the tree. Get you character out of the tree. So what Ms. Dixon means is that in the rock-throwing phase, put your character in a situation where she cannot win and force her to make a choice: should she save the child, or save the man she loves? Whichever choice she makes, she is changed forever. Powerful stuff!
3. Goal, Motivation and Conflict (GMC) can be summed up in five words: Who, What, Why, Why Not? Who is your character? What is the situation the character finds herself in? Why does the character behave as she does and want what she wants (this is often a function of backstory, and most of that backstory will not make it onto the page)? Why Not–Why can’t the character have what she wants? There should be both external reasons (the bad guys are throwing rocks at her while she sits in a tree, so she can’t physically get to the child who needs her or the man she loves) and internal reasons (she has a paralyzing fear of heights because she saw her father fall off a cliff to his death, and she couldn’t save him). She can’t see any way to get out of the tree without jumping, whether or not the bad guys are there.
4. What is fun for you, the author, is not necessarily fun for the reader. While you might gleefully kill off your main character, your readers might see that as not playing fair. Related: Give the reader the candy you promised them. Don’t withhold critical information and spring it on the reader at the end. They’ll feel cheated, like they’ve been sold a bill of goods, and might not read more of your work. You must play fair with the reader. This is especially true in a traditional cozy mystery where the clues should be planted early on, and it’s only later that the sleuth figures out what they mean.
5. Every character in the book must have GMC. A minor character’s GMC does not necessarily need to be spelled out on the page, but there has to be a reason for the presence of every character.
6. We root for the underdog. Cowards make great heroes/heroines. The reader can relate to underdogs and cowards. It isn’t satisfying to have a character already be at the top of his game unless you bring him down and change his goal. And your character must have fears and insecurities that make it difficult or nearly impossible for him to make the choices necessary to move ahead.
7. Every scene must have at least three reasons to be present in the story, and at least one must be Goal, Motivation, or Conflict. Goal: The scene illustrates your character’s progress toward the goal. Motivation: The scene provides your character with an experience that strengthens or changes his motivation. Conflict: The scene brings the character into conflict with opposing forces. The best, pivotal scenes will encompass all three elements.
These seven items were my big takeaways from the workshop (which also encompassed the Hero’s Journey model for story structure). I would highly recommend that anyone who has not done so take this course. As I sat through the workshop, I thought about my own characters in different ways–and I already feel like a stronger writer.
My only regret? My third book did not actually get written in a day. Sigh. Well, BICFOK–no, that’s not a dirty word. It means Butt In Chair, Fingers On Keyboard. This book ain’t gonna write itself (although, how awesome would that be?).
Have you seen Debra Dixon speak? Have you read Goal, Motivation and Conflict? Are you conscious of the concepts as you write?