Writing a book is a work of love. However, things get in the way, i.e., work. We all dream of the day when we can make enough money to survive on our writing alone. Until that day comes (if it ever does), we need to keep our full-time jobs. We wrote and published our first five books working full time.
This year we’d like to share a few jewels that worked for us during those hectic days of working and writing.
Most authors have characters, plot lines, or dialog running around in our heads most of our waking hours. How can you keep those great ideas from floating away until you can sit down and put them in your manuscript?
You need to keep a pad and a pen or pencil on your person at all times (unless you have a tablet or are a thumb master on your smartphone.) When one of your characters starts talking to you while you are waiting in a checkout line or at a long traffic light, you’ll be prepared to take a few quick notes for later.
At the office, you can always scribble a few notes while on hold or while sitting in a conference room waiting for a meeting to start.
My wife, Janet, learned on her sixty-minute work commute that sometimes traffic would come to a complete stop for fifteen minutes or more. She was able to jot a few notes or whole scenes while waiting for the cars to start moving again.
The same holds for waiting in the doctor or dentist’s waiting room. Rather than thumbing through four-year-old magazines, work on your story…whether its fiction or non-fiction, medical office waiting rooms are great. They have comfortable seats, good lighting, and are usually quiet.
A popular place to write while on your lunch break is a coffee shop or diner. If you choose to eat by yourself, you can have a whole table to spread your materials on while you eat and write. We’ve done this, and it works out well.
If you pack your lunch, hotel lobbies are a great place to write, and people watch. Some great character studies can come from watching travelers.
At this point, you might ask what’s wrong with just going home at lunchtime to write? The reasons are as simple and as complicated as, children, chores, pets, mail, television, and internet can all be distractions, plus—unless you live very nearby, you use up precious time going there and back.
If you happen to be traveling alone or with a writing partner (in my case—my wife), your writing can begin with an Uber, train, or taxi ride where you don’t have to concentrate on the time or driving. At the airport, you can pull out the trusty note pad and pencil while waiting for your flight to be called.
Inspiration can also flash into your mind at any time, so be prepared, and you won’t be saying, “I should have written that down.”
The bottom line is you don’t need to be at your computer at home. You can slip in a few minutes here and there to keep your writing momentum going.
Keep up the good writing!
Christmastime is when the movie industry shows off their talents through art, storytelling and most of all, by making memories.
Though this movie was made in 1947, I just had to include it in the 1950s line up. One of my personal favorites during the holidays. The movie is a comedy-drama written and directed by George Seaton and based on a story by Valentine Davies. The story takes place starting Thanksgiving Day to just after Christmas Day in New York City. It centers around a department store Santa who claims to be the real Santa Clause. He is taken to court and a court trail begins to determine his sanity. It stars Maureen O’Hara, John Payne, Natalie Wood and Edmund Gwenn.
It is interesting that Maureen O’Hara originally did not want to do the movie since she had just moved to Ireland. But after she read the script she changed her mind and moved back to the US for the film.
This 1951 film of Charles Dickens’ classic novel is a British adaptation. It stars Alastair Sim as Ebenezer Scrooge, and was produced and directed by Brian Desmond Hurst. A London miser who, despite his wealth, refuses to make charitable contributions or provide holiday food to his sole employee, Bob Cratchit, an indentured servant played by Mervyn Jones. On Christmas Eve, Scrooge is visited by the ghost of past, present and future.
By the way, Sim and Michael Hordern (who plays adult Jacob Marley and his ghosts) reprised their roles two decades later with their voices to Richard Williams’ 1971 animated version of A Christmas Carol. Clive Donner, who edited the 1951 version, later directed the 1984 version.
A 1952 British drama film, centers around an English clergyman who neglects of his grown children, in his desire to support his parishioners. This becomes apparent during a family Christmas gathering. It was released in the U.S in 1954 . Starring Ralph Richardson, Celia Johnson and Margaret Leighton.
The tale was originally a British stage play then adapted for film.
An American musical film, released in 1954, was directed by Michael Curtiz. A successful song-and-dance team (played by Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye) become romantically involved with a sister act (portrayed by Rosemarie Clooney and Vera-Ellen) with whom they team up to save the failing Vermont inn of their former Army commanding general.
Originally Fred Astaire was cast opposite Bing Crosby. However, Astaire declined the project. Donald O’Connor was then signed to replace Astaire. However just before shooting begin, O’Connor had to drop out due to illness and was replaced by Danny Kaye.
For family fun during the week of Christmas why not gather the family together and have an old fashion holiday movie night and watch these movies together, as a family, like they did in the 1950s?
My husband Will Zeilinger and I co-write the Skylar Drake Murder Mysteries, a hardboiled detective series that takes the reader to 1950s Los Angeles and other areas of the west. GAME TOWN is the fifth and final book of the series.
Nothing strikes fear in an author’s heart more than plagiarizing one’s self. Especially when writing a series. This fear turns into terror when there are two people writing multiple books or a series. Plagiarizing might include duplicating a name, scene, dialogue or even a character. This is a big no-no.
What’s more frustrating is remembering who is related to whom, who’s married to who, who’s kids or pet belongs to which family, and most of all who’s in a relationship with who. When writing multiple books or series, this can become mind boggling.
Will and I made the mistake of plagiarizing a name we used three books earlier and nothing can be more embarrassing than when a reader or fan brings it to your attention on Goodreads! We had to figure out a way to keep this from happening … again.
We decided to use a family/genealogy chart to plot out who is who, locations, plots and subplots and 2-3-word descriptions.
During our research, we found various styles of family charts. We tried several styles, the third style worked beautifully for us. This is especially useful when one of us is working on a different section of the book and needs to find a particular location or relationship without interrupting the other.
Its like a road map, it can get you where you want to go when you get lost.
You can download this particular chart or print it out at https://www.vertex42.com/ExcelTemplates/family-tree-template.html.
Here is a sample of the Game Town book chart.
The results, The Skylar Drake Murder Mystery series, SLIVERS OF GLASS, STRANGE MARKINGS, DESERT ICE, SLICK DEAL and GAME TOWN. And yes…we are still married!
The genre of novels that seems to endure are the spy thrillers and stories of behind-the-scenes government scandals. Here are some very interesting and I’d even say, “watershed” novels about the cold war that have colored our vision of the past and the future. After researching some, I’ve made a list of just a few of the more influential titles and included a short synopsis of each:
First published in 1958, Our Man in Havana is an espionage thriller, a penetrating character study, and a political satire that still resonates to this day. Conceived as one of Graham Greene’s ‘entertainments,’ it tells of MI6’s man in Havana, Wormold, a former vacuum-cleaner salesman turned reluctant secret agent out of economic necessity. To keep his job, he files bogus reports based on Lamb’s Tales from Shakespeare and dreams up military installations from vacuum-cleaner designs. Then his stories start coming disturbingly true. (Goodreads)
A piercing exposé of American incompetence and corruption in Southeast Asia, The Ugly American captivated the nation when it was first published in 1958. The book introduces readers to an unlikely hero in the titular “ugly American”—and to the ignorant politicians and arrogant ambassadors who ignore his empathetic and commonsense advice. In linked stories and vignettes set in the fictional nation of Sarkhan, William J. Lederer and Eugene Burdick draw an incisive portrait of American foreign policy gone dangerously wrong—and how it might be fixed. The Ugly American reminds us that “today, as the battle for hearts and minds has shifted to the Middle East, we still can’t speak Sarkhanese” (New York Times).
In this classic, John le Carre’s third novel and the first to earn him international acclaim, he created a world unlike any previously experienced in suspense fiction. With unsurpassed knowledge culled from his years in British Intelligence, le Carre brings to light the shadowy dealings of international espionage in the tale of a British agent who longs to end his career but undertakes one final, bone-chilling assignment. When the last agent under his command is killed and Alec Leamas is called back to London, he hopes to come in from the cold for good. His spymaster, Control, however, has other plans. Determined to bring down the head of East German Intelligence and topple his organization, Control once more sends Leamas into the fray—this time to play the part of the dishonored spy and lure the enemy to his ultimate defeat. (Goodreads)
It is interesting to note that each of these novels was later made into a motion picture. Our Man in Havana with Alec Guinness (1959), The Ugly American with Marlon Brando (1963), and The Spy Who Came in from the Cold with Richard Burton (1965).
As is the case with most things a writer encounters, great fiction will always be thrilling but many times the reality is scarier and more strange than we could ever write.
My husband, Will Zeilinger and I co-write the Skylar Drake Mysteries, a hard-boiled detective series that takes the reader to 1950s Los Angeles and other areas of the west. Our new book, GAME TOWN, is set in Hollywood and exposes a scandal that rocks the toy industry in Los Angeles. GAME TOWN is the fifth and final book of the series.
Ending the Skylar Drake Mystery series was a heartbreaking decision for us. After all, the series has been in our lives for five years. It was difficult to end the relationship not only with Sky but his partner Casey Dolan, FBI Special Agent Olivia Jahns, and their secretary Lory Carrington. However, the time was right to let them find their own way.
So, the question we had to face was do we do a sequel or spin-off?
Doing a sequel would bring back the characters and more glimpses of 1950s Hollywood. Spin offs, re-orienting the characters we fell in love with and the villains who pushed the twists and turns of each book are still possible. I think it’s important that as writers and creators we assure our readers that everything turned out okay for the characters and they moved on.
For now, we have no plans for a sequel or spin off.
Some series can standalone. Others may be ruined by a sequel because the readers wanted to remember the characters the way they were.
Whatever the future holds for those in the Skylar Drake Mystery series it’s been fun creating great characters, clever plots, fun subplots and making up the twists and turns, and devious red herrings too.
What’s in the future for us? We’ll be writing more books, short stories, and more separately and together.
For now, we are a little depressed. We understand that this is par for the course when ending a series. And the best cure for the depression, they tell me is to move on and keep writing. So, stay tuned…there is more to come.
GAME TOWN is the fifth in the series and yes . . . we are still married!
Website: Janet Elizabeth Lynn
Website: Will Zeilinger
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