Stay At Home Writer

A month and a half ago, I left my full-time job. Woo hoo, I thought, now I’ll have more than enough time fojpg_BPA0225r full-time writing and I’ll finish my new novel in a New York minute. Well, not so fast.

Even though the whole day is mine, stretching out before me like the road to Oz, there seem to be so many other things that muscle in on my writing time.

There are errands and food shopping—a person has to eat, right?

Or catching up with friends who were always worried I’d be too busy for a conversation.
And of course, the triple threat: Email, Facebook and Twitter. They reach out to me the moment I sit down at the computer. I could justify all this attention paid to social media as beneficial input rather than procrastination. Sort of.

There seem to be hundreds of obstacles that get in the way of writing my work in progress, including writing about not writing it.

I guess I’m still getting used to finding a routine. When I was working, I got everything in, including writing time. Maybe it was because I knew I had to make it fit; that my opportunities weren’t as numerous as the day is long
.

So how about you? What’s your writing routine and how do you make it work?

Writer Readings in Long Island City

Last Saturday was a beautiful day and made even nicer by a trip to Long Island City to listen to the work of writers from Queens, including two of our Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writes or America authors: Terrie Farley Moran, also a Woman of Mystery, and Laura Joh Rowland.

Reading at the LIC bar, both Terrie and Laura gave us an up close look into their writing.
IMG_1709Terrie read her short story, “The Sneaker Tree,” a Queens based tale, published in the Sisters in Crime Anthology, MURDER NEW YORK STYLE: FRESH SLICES, which she also edited. The story about the death of a young woman’s mother just before 911, pointed out how one death can be eclipsed by the death of many and how that one will forever be overshadowed by what followed it, except in the heart of her daughter.

LauraLaura, the author of 18 Sano Ichiro novels set in Feudal Japan, gave us a glimpse into her wip, THE CIRCLE OF SHADOWS. Set in Victorian England, the chapters she read focused on a female photographer who’d taken pictures of a prostitute who later turns up dead. Unwilling to get involved with the police, she keeps silent about the dead woman’s name, knowing the pictures she took are against the law.

There are many other books by these two award-winning writers. All available online or in your favorite bookstore.

I Spy With A Writer’s Eye

gallery-thumbnails.phpA recent blog post from thriller and suspense author Ed Kovacs, discussed gadgets every thriller/spy novelist should have at their disposal. Many were digital and some seemed items you would think of immediately, such as a camcorder watch for undercover videos and a smart phone, a great multi-tasker, while others, such as four-cipher locks and hide safes were things I hadn’t heard of before.

As you may know from previous posts, I’ve always wanted to be a spy. So, I decided to do a little research and add my own must have spy items, if not for myself, for the next time one of my characters goes undercover.

Here are my results:
Night vision goggles, perfect for stakeouts

Voice activated recorder pen, so you never miss a word

Air freshener hidden security camera, for those hard to spy on settings

Tripwire, the invisible alarm

A drone, for the complete overview

And a pair of oversize dark sunglasses for glamorous camouflage

Now that I’ve amassed these items (figuratively that is) I’ll have to write a story
in which to use them.

How about you? Have any equipment your sleuth could use on a case? Let us know.

Well Heeled An Emily’s Place Mystery

51tKXwGTGSL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-v3-big,TopRight,0,-55_SX278_SY278_PIkin4,BottomRight,1,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_A few weeks ago, Roz Siegel, one of our Sisters In Crime (the group from which this blog arose), gave us a preview of the first chapter of her new novel, Well Heeled. It was so funny and witty it had me  pacing the floor in anticipation of the rest. Now, that I’ve read the entire novel, available on Amazon, I can truly say the pacing was worth it.

If Emily’s Place existed in reality on Manhattan’s Upper East Side instead of in fiction on its Upper West Side, I’d certainly be a customer. Not only for the great deals on Manolo’s, Jimmy Choo’s and Louboutin’s but to chat with Emily herself. Siegel has captured the spirit of her protagonist and her neighborhood and brought it to life. I could easily visualize Emily stocking the shelves, dealing with her customers and walking along its brownstone-lined blocks.

The cast of colorful characters that inhabit the novel are just that—a variety of West Side  characters who patronize her store looking for bargains or just stop by for a cup of coffee. When one of them, Sophia Sarfatti, a long time customer, complains about her shoe being uncomfortable, Emily looks into it and finds a fistful of diamonds secreted in the heel. When Sophia turns up dead and things begin to heat up.

The shoes were a find for Emily who bought them for a good price from a neighborhood kid who got them when they “fell off a truck.” As things progress, Emily scrambles to get back the other pairs she’s sold. As she does, she becomes involved with the Italian mafia, the Russian mob and several neighborhood pals, any one of whom could be a murderer. The only saving grace is that all this running around puts her in the path of Murphy the Cop, who she met when she helped him nab a killer and would definitely like to get to know better.

Well Heeled is the second book in Roz’s Emily’s Place Mystery series following Goodie One Shoe, but can be read as a stand alone. And, I for one, am tapping my foot as I type this, impatient for Emily to step out again.

 

Making the Best Seller List

thLike most writers I know, i’d love to see my name on the Best Seller list. We work hard to make our stories interesting and compelling. We find our voice and create plots with amazing characters (at least to us) who inhabit terrific settings. Stories we hope will rack up the sales and offer us fame and fortune so that one day, our names will be on The List.

In an interview with Sophie Kinsella, author of the Shopaholic series,the BBC News Entertainment and Arts section listed the author’s Ten Tips for being a Best Selling Author. From starting a story and getting to the end to finding an agent, her advice can help with navigating the road to that elusive Best Seller list.

What about you? Any tips you’d like to share?

Do Reading Levels Matter?

stack of booksThe other day as I was reading through the latest issue of SinC Links, one story jumped out and got my attention. Written by Shane Snow and published online at Contently.com, it dealt with Reading Level Analysis.

The author asked the question of whether reading level analysis of your work would change the way you write. Putting a chapter of his own work through the Flesch-Kincaid readability formula, he found he was writing at the 8th grade level. But he wasn’t alone. He also put Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea through the program and was surprised to see that work was scored at a 4th grade level.

In the article you’ll find a chart in which he tested the reading level of a few dozen authors from best-selling fiction authors, to non-fiction writers, to those writing academic documents and used several programs to calculate ease of readability. For fiction, none of the authors wrote above a 9th grade level. For non-fiction and academic work the level was a little higher. While many people assume that a higher reading level means better writing, the lower score seems to indicate commercial success and how good people believe a writer to be.

I thought I’d take the test for myself and put the first chapter of my WIP, a Nick Donahue Adventure, into the Flesch-Kincaid program. The results are for that program as well as a few others.

Flesch Reading Ease score: 82.1 (text scale)
Flesch Reading Ease scored your text: easy to read.

Gunning Fog: 7.5 (text scale)
Gunning Fog scored your text: fairly easy to read.

Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level: 5.4
Grade level: Fifth Grade.

The Coleman-Liau Index: 6
Grade level: Sixth Grade

The SMOG Index: 5.4
Grade level: Fifth Grade

Automated Readability Index: 4.9
Grade level: 8-9 yrs. old (Fourth and Fifth graders)

Linsear Write Formula : 7
Grade level: Seventh Grade.

Readability Consensus
Based on 8 readability formulas, we have scored your text:
Grade Level: 6

Reading Level: easy to read.
Reader’s Age: 10-11 yrs. olds (Fifth and Sixth graders)

Here’s a breakdown of what all that means:

  1. The Flesch Reading Ease formula will output a number from 0 to 100 – a higher score indicates easier reading. An average document has a Flesch Reading Ease score between 6 – 70.
    As a rule of thumb, scores of 90-100 can be understood by an average 5th grader. 8th and 9th grade students can understand documents with a score of 60-70; and college graduates can understand documents with a score of 0-30.
  2. The Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level outputs a U.S. school grade level; this indicates the average student in that grade level can read the text. For example, a score of 7.4 indicates that the text is
    understood by an average student in 7th grade.
  3. The Fog Scale (Gunning FOG Formula) is similar to the Flesch scale in that it compares syllables and sentence lengths. A Fog score of 5 is readable, 10 is hard, 15 is difficult and 20 is very difficult. Based on its name, ‘Foggy’ words are words that contain 3 or more syllables.
  4. The SMOG Index outputs a U.S. school grade level; this indicates the average student in that grade level can read the text. For example, a score of 7.4 indicates that the text is understood by an average student in 7th grade.
  5. The Coleman-Liau Index relies on characters instead of syllables per word and sentence length. This formula will output a grade. For example, 10.6 means your text is appropriate for a 10-11th grade high school student.
  6. Automated Readability Index outputs a number which approximates the grade level needed to comprehend the text. For example, if the ARI outputs the number 3, it means students in 3rd grade (ages 8-9 yrs. old) should be able to comprehend the text.
  7. Linsear Write Formula is a readability formula for English text, originally developed
    for the United States Air Force to help them calculate the readability of their technical manuals. Linsear Write Formula is specifically designed to calculate the United States grade level of a text sample based on sentence length and the number words used that have three or more syllables.

Although I didn’t think I was writing for the pre-teen set, that’s where my work seems to fall.
And maybe it’s not such a bad thing. As the article goes on suggests, we shouldn’t discount simple  writing as long as we make it interesting.

How about you? Have any of you done this type of analysis?

NATIONAL READATHON DAY: JAN. 24TH

stack of booksIt’s hard to imagine not being able to read a simple sentence. But there are so many people who can’t. People who struggle to make sense of what they see on a page and become so frustrated they lose the desire to try.

I personally can’t imagine not being able to read. My love of reading is what inspired me to become a writer.  I believe if you can read, you can do anything. That’s why I’m happy to support the National Readathon Day on Saturday, January 24th. Sponsored by Penguin Random House, GoodReads, Mashable and the National Book Foundation, it’s just 4 hours—from noon to 4:00 PM when people will sit and read a book wherever they choose.

It’s a wonderful way to promote reading and support this amazing effort. For more information, or to host a fundraising event, visit the Penguin Readathon site.

So, you know that book you’ve been wanting to read? Crack it open, or download it on your Kindle, and get to it.

Helen MacInnis, Spy Mistress

I’ve always had a secret desire to be a spy. (I think I may have confessed that here once or twice.) But since that profession didn’t readily present itself when I was ready to choose a career, I had to settle for reading about them.

John LeCarré, Eric Ambler, Len Deighten, Ian Fleming, all captured my young imagination with their daredevil characters and exotic settings. But no one more so than Helen MacInnis.

A Sunday New York Times Book Review Critic’s Take article “Spies Like Her” brought it all back to me. As the writer, Sarah Weinman, suggests Helen MacInnis, Spy Mistress, was ahead of her time, writing about such events as Israel bombing Gaza and the Russians invading a part of the Ukraine years before the recent events.

She was married to Gilbert Highet, a classics scholar who was also a MI6 British intelligence agent. And, it was generally thought she might have used classified information in creating some of her 21 books. In fact, according to a biography of the writer on Wikopedia, her third novel, Assignment in Brittany was required reading for Allied intelligence agents who were being sent to work with the French Resistance against the Nazis.

Her novels took me all over the globe and painted a vivid picture of a world very different from mine filled with more intrigue and adventure than a girl from the Bronx could expect. A world I would love to have been a part of, and I like to think, that I’ve captured in my own writing.

I checked my bookshelf before writing this and found two of her novels, Agent In Place and Message from Malaga, both of which I plan to reread as soon as possible.

51lvZbTY-QL._AA160_Agent In Place
When the idealist is duped to reveal sensitive information, when the ‘agent in place’ is forced into the open, disaster strikes.
The NATO Memorandum, classified Top Secret, is the lethal prize sought by Soviet Intelligence in the deadly game that continues relentlessly beneath the dubious veneer of détente. A cryptic telephone call to a Russian ‘sleeper’ in Washington, a mugging-murder of an unidentifiable man in New York’s Central Park, an anonymous Memorandum—and Helen MacInnes’s new adventure is launched.

51hZgAgV7kL._AA160_Message From Malaga
Sunny Spain, sudden death!
Ian Ferrier, on vacation from the U.S. Space agency, would not have believed his reunion with a trusted friend would lead to murder, or that he would hold the key to expose a vicious conspiracy for assassination, or that he would be plunged into a desperate pursuit in which he was as much the hunted as the hunter. Yet that is the opening of this spellbinding tale set in the deceptively serene and vividly picturesque cities of Malaga and Granada.

 

 

Lascaux Review, Submission Reminder

lascaux-newsite5-browndropThe Lascaux Review, a showcase for emerging and established writers and artists has announced a call for submissions for its short fiction contests, The Lascaux Prize in Short Fiction. Submissions opened October 1st for previously published or unpublished stories. Prize of $1,000 to the winner. The winner and the finalists will appear in the 2015 Lascaux Prize Anthology. Deadline is December 31st.

Also, the are still accepting manuscripts for the Christine E. Eldin Memorial Fellowship, an inaugural contest for unpublished middle-grade fiction which opened for submissions on September 1st. Prize of $1,000. Deadline for submissions is December 31st.

For more information and complete details on all the contests, click onto The Lascaux Review.com/contests

Novel Night: A Benefit for the Hoboken Public Library

Next Saturday evening, I’ve been invited to be one of the guests of honor at a dinner for Novel Night, a fund raising benefit to support the Hoboken Public Library.

My Host, Susan Moore, filled me in on the particulars of the event. Novel Night, which occurs every other year, with Novella Night in intervening years, is conducted by a group of hosts—this year 21 people—who open their homes to offer a book-themed dinner to raise funds for the library. Each host invites 10 people who contribute to the library fund and get to meet an author whose book is being highlighted. This year, Susan, who is planning an Italian dinner, graciously invited me to participate and to discuss my first novel, Telling Lies, which features Florence, Italy in many chapters.telling_lies

Novel Night has brought in between 20 and 25 thousand dollars at each event. Originally, the goal was to raise funds for the preservation of the library’s historical collection, but that has moved to providing funds for particular projects related to the historic renovation of the library. Recent funds will be providing for the installation of an historically appropriate door for the building.

Susan also mentioned that the concept has been adopted by other towns in New Jersey, including Ridgewood where Novel Night raised over $50,000 for their project last year. It might be an idea that your local library could benefit from.