04/20/17

The Third Book Takes a Sharp Right Turn

Writing a series is like when a dinner guest becomes a roommate. Writing the first book is like having a dinner party with exciting and stimulating guests, carefully planned menu, atmosphere – but the guests get to go home. And you get to put your feet up and relax. Writing a series, the guests stay permanently. You have to think of exciting things for them to do, vary the menu, invite different guests for them to play with.” — Rebecca Forster

The Lynton Series so far.

Book One and Book Two

Four books set in a fictional city in New Hampshire centered around the lives of a group of women brought together by fate. That was the plan. At the time, I had no idea how ambitious an undertaking it was for a first-time writer.

I am a series reader and have been since being introduced as a child to The Bobbsey Twins, Nancy Drew, and Trixie BeldenI love to follow the characters and I hate it when a series ends. I miss them.

Recently, I re-read (I think I already told you that I am a dedicated re-reader of long-standing) the Tradd Street Series written by Karen White. There are five books in the series and I am hoping she will keep going because I want to know more about what Mellie and Jack are doing. The series is set in Charleston. If you like ghosts and quirky characters, these books are a treat not to be missed.

This second time I read the books as a writer not as a reader and I learned a lot about what it takes to write a successful series. The biggest “Ah ha!” I had was the need to stay with the characters you start out with. In The Lynton Series this would be: Brid, Franny, Sofia, Neil and Brendan.

Maggie’s Girls, the story I have been writing (and fighting with) for the last year, doesn’t follow this rule. The story introduces a new main character along with her complicated family and friends. The usual Lynton ladies do make an appearance but only in supporting roles. Having read the Tradd Street Series again, along with readers often asking me what is happening with Franny and Nick, I realized this was not the right book to be number three in the series.

The wonderful thing about writing fiction is very little is ever completely lost. Writers smush things together and move them around or, worst case, shove them in a drawer. I intend to come back to Maggie’s Girls one day.

Book Three, as yet unnamed, will focus on where the relationship between Nick and Franny is going. Brid, Sofia, and Lilah will have a lot to say. As Rebecca Forster indicates in the above quote, I will have to think of exciting things for them to do and maybe sneak in a new face or two along the way. Faces that I have been writing about in Maggie’s Girls.

Meanwhile, the Muse is delighted that I have finally figured out what was she tells me was obvious to HER and I am tapping away at the keys once again.

“I could have told you…”

10/25/16

When the Writer Goes Missing

It’s Gerard,” she called over her shoulder. “St. Gerard Majella. He’s the patron saint of women in trouble in childbirth. My mother was devoted to him.  Brid Sheerin  – Francesca’s Foundlings. 

Two years ago, I wrote a story, Francesca’s Foundlings, about a young woman who developed a life-threatening complication during her pregnancy.  I try to make sure that my fiction is as accurate as possible and I did considerable research on this condition before inflicting it on my character.

Last July, in a twist of fate where life mirrored fiction, my daughter faced this same condition as she awaited the birth of her child. There are 2,986 miles between Boston and Dublin, Ireland. Never have I been more thankful to live in a time of texting and instant messaging as I awaited news of the latest scan of the baby or reading of her blood pressure.

“Do NOT come,” she kept ordering me from her hospital bed during that seemingly endless week when I learned the true meaning of words like: harrowing, terrified, courage, hope and, at last, very early on Friday morning, pure joy.

I spent the month of August in Ireland, watching the swans glide along the Royal Canal, helping one very tiny boy discover the world he arrived in so precipitously. When you are taking care of a newborn, that’s really all you do. Life stands still. It provided me with a lot of time for quiet reflection. Ideal conditions for a writer.

McCullough’s Women and Francesca’s Foundlings are stories of friendships between women. Some are related and others start out as enemies. Maggie’s Girls, the third book in the Lynton Series, continues this theme but also explores what it means to be a mother. Toward the end of Francesca’s Foundlings, the reader meets Maggie Kennedy.

Maggie’s Girls is her story. Holding my grandson, I thought a lot about the bonds that develop between and a mother and her child. I think you will like Maggie. I hope you do.

How this writer feels.

How this writer feels…

Home now, once again thankful for the videos and photos that greet me every morning, I am trying to get back on task and focus on Maggie’s Girls.

I want to thank all of you who kept checking my Facebook page for updates over the last few months. I am sorry I neglected you but as you now know, it was for the best of all possible reasons. I promise to be better about posting on the page. I am excited to get back to writing.

I am also grateful to St.Gerard for hearing our prayers. My mother, like Brid’s, was devoted to him.

02/29/16

The Hard Part of What I Do

A person who publishes a book willfully appears before the populace with his pants down. If it is a good book nothing can hurt him. If it is a bad book nothing can help him.” ― Edna St. Vincent Millay

IMG_0420

For me, what happens now is the hard part. Francesca’s Foundlings, the second book in the Lynton Series, is available for order on Amazon. And I am supposed to market the book. I looked up “market” to be sure I understood what the verb form of the word meant. The dictionary gave this as the definition: to advertise or promote.

This is a great segue into two things I definitely did not discuss in 2011 when I published my first novel, MacCullough’s Women, although I am sure observant readers have already figured it out. If, however, you have not, here is the great reveal: I self-publish my books and I will be sixty-five in June. As I will explain, they are interconnected.

Five years ago, I began querying agents in an attempt to find someone willing to represent MacCullough’s Women in order to publish the “old school” way. Many books and blog posts have been written on how to write the perfect query letter. More than one writer has been known to say, “Writing the book was easy compared to writing the query letter.”

The world of publishing was changing at a rapid-fire pace when I was ready to publish MacCullough’s Women. There was less money available in traditional publishing and the competition for it was fierce. The role of social media was moving to the forefront taking the writer, who once was a black and white photo on the back page of the book jacket, with it. It was harder to sell a book, especially a first book by a sixty year-old writer. As one independent bookseller told me, “Ageism is rampant in this industry.” Well, I’m sixty-five and I’m okay with that. I hope my readers are too.

The Muse and I

The Muse and I

My husband attended a conference on independent publishing and came home convinced self-publishing was the way we should approach this. We would set up our own publishing company and produce the book. And so we did, creating Roskerry Press.

Along the way I learned that many traditional writers resent writers who self-publish because they feel these writers have “cut the line”, and not paid their dues. Part of me understands but self-publishing is evolving rapidly leaving the stigma of “vanity press” behind. Increasingly, we learn of traditionally published writers who have left their publishers to publish their own books or backlists simply because they can and at the same time retain far more control of the profits and their books.

For me, the major downside of being a self-published author is that the “advertising and promoting” aspect of selling the book rests squarely on me. There is no marketing person at the publisher doing this for me.

I “advertise” and “promote” the book on Facebook, Twitter and here on this blog.  None of it comes easily to someone who spent eight years as a Catholic schoolgirl being told “Don’t break your arm patting yourself on the back.” I recently gave a copy of MacCullough’s Women to a classmate at Tai Chi. She said she loved it.

Having finished Francesca’s Foundlings, as well as becoming both older and I hope wiser, I have discovered that what I really love to do is write the books. I enjoy my characters and discovering what they will do next.I have received enough feedback from my readers to know they like the books, too.

If you have enjoyed reading MacCullough’s Women, and Francesca’s Foundlings, I am asking you to take the time to tell your friends about them and — this is me “marketing” — please review the book on Amazon and “like” my author page on Facebook.Every review and “like” helps me grow my platform and increase my readers.

I really appreciate it.

10/28/15

Going-to Girl signs up for NaNoWriMo

“It’s the witching hour once more – when the Muse comes out to play.” Belle Whittington

 

With some trepidation, I have signed up to participate in National Novel Writing Month known as NaNoWriMo. If you have never heard of it, this is an internet-based creative writing project held every year during the month of November. The goal is to produce 50,000 words – the minimum for a novel – in thirty days.

It took me almost four years to finish writing Francesca’s Foundlings. I had retired from my day job to focus on writing, so this came as a surprise to me, although it shouldn’t have. I am a world-class procrastinator – my father used to call me “The Going-to Girl” because that was my standard answer when asked when I would do something. I am my own boss accountable for my time only to myself – unlike when I wrote MacCullough’s Women. Then, I got up before dawn and wrote for two hours before starting my day job.

In 2007, long before I conceived the idea of the Lynton Series, I fell in love with the idea of writing a novel about a mother and her daughters. This is, of course, a much-loved and familiar theme beautifully done by Louisa May Alcott in Little Women. The twist in my story is the mother has two daughters, one biological and the other her stepdaughter. Yes, I know. Also done before in Cinderella – that wicked, wicked stepmother- by the Brothers Grimm and others.

The vilification of stepmothers is a theme close to my heart because I am one. Trust me a more difficult and less appreciated role does not exist. I wrote copious notes describing characters and potential scenes and then abandoned the story to finish and eventually publish MacCullough’s Women. While I was writing Francesca’s Foundlings, I realized Franny seemed to have no girlfriends. I knew while she was married to Drew he consumed her life but what about BD – before Drew? A light went on and the idea of how Maggie’s Girls could become part of the Lynton Series was born.

Just as Lilah Patch, the catalyst of Francesca’s Foundlings, makes her brief appearance in the Sheerin Gallery in MacCullough’s Women, first Maggie Kennedy and then her stepdaughter, Cookie, find their way through the door of Franny’s doll shop in Francesca’s Foundlings.

Maggie’s Girls will be the third novel in the Lynton Series. The focus will change but you will still find within its pages those familiar Lynton faces, I hope you have come to enjoy.

My plan is to use the discipline of NaNoWriMo to produce a first draft of this novel by –dare I say it? – November 30.

Writers are often a superstitious lot. I am no exception. Before I start a new novel, I like to find a talisman to help me focus on the project.

Yesterday, while treating myself to a visit to the League of NH Craftsmen shop, I found this. I thought it was appropriate for NaNoWriMo. We all remember Aesop’s tale of the race between the tortoise and the hare.

Tortoise

 

09/16/15
Francesca's Foundlings

At Last: Francesca’s Foundlings

“I would advise anyone who aspires to a writing career that before developing his talent he would be wise to a develop a thick hide.”  Harper Lee

To Kill A Mockingbird was first published in 1960. The book was awarded the Pulitzer Prize and gave to American literature, Atticus Finch, one of the most beloved characters ever imagined by a writer. A reported forty million copies of the book have since been sold.

Harper Lee never wrote another book after she wrote To Kill A Mockingbird. Her recently published Go Set A Watchman is the original draft of a story that evolved into the book so many of us first read in school and came to cherish.

I realize it might seem very presumptuous of me to compare myself to Harper Lee. However, if Harper Lee hesitated, you can only imagine how hard, indeed, terrifying, it is for the small indie writer to “do it again.”

I have wanted to be a writer since I was in the fourth grade. My father, always my champion, urged me on. Life and a lack of courage intervened. I wrote and published MacCullough’s Women four years ago to see if I could be a writer. Enough people told me they enjoyed it for me to feel good about having written it. I had written a book. “See that, Dad!” I told my long-dead father.

While I was working on MacCullough’s Women, the idea of creating a series of four books set in my fictional little city of Lynton, New Hampshire began to grow. My novels are character-driven and I love my characters. They are almost real to me. As much as I was happy and relieved to finish the book, I also felt a sense of loss. What was going to become of Franny? Were Brid and Neil going to have more than a fling? Would Sofia ever grow-up?

I am happy to offer you Francesca’s Foundlings, the second book in the Lynton Series. Francesca’s Foundlings is the story of an unconventional family, complete with an imperious cat and a grieving Tibetan terrier, created from need and bound together with love. In today’s global world, where individuals often live far from the families into which they were born, you will discover more and more families like this one. Maybe even your own.

Cover for Francesca's Foundlings

Cover for Francesca’s Foundlings

The Lynton Series is about women and the men they love. Women who though flawed, prove themselves to be resilient and willing to change in order to meet the challenges life throws at them. Women very much like those who read my books.

Roskerry Press has just launched the e-book version on Amazon (link to Kindle version).  If you do read it soon, please post a review.

The paperback version will be released later this fall.

Thank you all for your interest and support. My readers (you!) are the best.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

05/27/13

Why Create a Series?

And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise.  The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt. — Sylvia Plath



I am a huge fan of series. I think this is because my love of reading began with them: The Bobbsey Twins, Nancy Drew, The Five Little Peppers, The OZ books, Sherlock Holmes, Cherry Ames. I could go on and on. Once I discover characters I love, I want to read more about them. I eagerly await the next books from the authors whose work I follow hoping they will bring back familiar characters. Remember, the Harry Potter books are a series.

My goal is to write a series of books about the lives of several multi-generational characters living in a small city similar but not exactly like the one I live in – Nashua, New Hampshire. It was with this in mind I launched what I called The Lynton Series. Lynton is the city where most of the action in my books takes place. Why make up a city in which to set your novels when you have so many real cities available to you?

I love novels which evoke a strong sense of place such as Tana French’s Dublin, Linda Barnes’ and Robert Parker’s Boston. Readers love being where the action in the story takes place. The reason I decided to make up my own city – Lynton, New Hampshire – was because I thought it would be fun and it removes the imperative of making sure I put the First Church on the correct corner. People are very protective of places they know.

Lynton is a small city in southern New Hampshire that has lot of the traits seen in Manchester, Nashua, and Portsmouth. Formerly a mill city, it has struggled to find its purpose now that the mills are closed. Even though it is a city, among the businesses and institutions on Main Street, there is a small town feel and camaraderie. I loved creating McGonagles, The Boulangerie, The Sheerin Gallery, Namaste, Caroline’s Kitchen and, of course, Coel Agus Craic. I will be adding a few more businesses to downtown Lynton including a jewelry store and an Italian restaurant as the series continues to grow.

MacCullough’s Women, the first novel in the series, centers on the comings and goings at an Irish bar and restaurant – Coel Agus Craic – which has been on the corner of Dock and Main Street for thirty-six years. Many of the characters in these novels grew up together in Lynton: Brid Sheerin and the undertaker, Jerry McKenna, went to grade school together as did Neil Malone and the jeweler, Jack Blaine, who you will meet in the second book of the series – Francesca’s Foundlings.

Francesca’s Foundlings is about a vintage doll shop that Franny MacCullough opens on Main Street. Many of the characters from MacCullough’s Women will appear in this story including Franny’s own foundlings: Neil, Brid, Sofia, Brendan and Lilah. You will also meet some new characters like Cookie Kennedy who has a much bigger role in the yet to be named third book in the series.

The fourth book is still in my head and as a true “pantser” – a writer who flies by the seat of her pants – I only have a vague idea what it is about although I think one of the cameo characters from Francesca’s Foundlings, Mara Sorrento, is going to have a starring role.

I am asked all the time how the second book, Francesca’s Foundling’s, is coming. I am on track to have the first draft done and out for first review by the end of June.  I hope to have the book available in time for Christmas.

Pictures from the Lynton Series.

A peek at Lynton