Something New?

by Linda O. Johnston

I love what I write, and I want to do more of it. I’m currently writing for two Harlequin Romantic Suspense series, their long-running Colton books and my own Shelter of Secrets series, as well as a mystery series called Alaska Untamed for Crooked Lane Books under my first pseudonym, Lark O. Jensen. I enjoy them all and have new books coming soon in each of them.

But my mind is at work on, yes, something new. Not sure what yet, but it’ll quite possibly be a mystery series. And it’ll have romance in it. And it’ll definitely have at least one dog.

That’s who I am, and what I write.

How did I become that way? I’ve developed my writing persona over a lot of years, and I write the kinds of things I like best.

But how about you? What is your favorite genre to write in? Your favorite kinds of characters? Any quirks, like mine of including dogs whenever possible? And do your favorite ideas morph over time or stay the same?

Think about it now. If you were going to change what you’re writing, how would you determine what came next? I have to admit I do ponder that a lot, though I recognize I’m fairly set in my ways.

Or do you always try something new? Or do you prefer staying with a particular genre?

I suppose that kind of pondering is part of the creative process. Writers write. And think. And plot. And create characters and stories, and even their own futures, to some extent.

It’s certainly who I am and what I do. And you?

The Most Fun Thing About Writing

By Linda O. Johnson

Hey, our blog is still here, and I couldn’t be more delighted. I was pondering what to write about now, and came up with what I hope is a fun topic: my thoughts about the most fun thing about writing.

Do I know yet? No! But I’ve gotten a lot of ideas. And I’ve been writing for a long time.

My thoughts? First, even if I set a story somewhere real, near me, the fun thing about it is figuring out what can be different, and what my protagonist can learn about it—and tell me! For one thing, since most of what I write are mysteries and romantic suspense, people can get hurt or even killed in those environments I find fairly safe in real life. So where’s a good place to murder someone where the mystery can be resolved well and quickly enough in a story? A real place? A fictional place?

Even more important is those characters, especially my protagonists. They’re not me, but they contain some of my characteristics. The character closest to me was in my first mystery series, the Kendra Ballantyne, Pet-Sitter Mysteries. Kendra was a lawyer who lived in the Hollywood Hills with her Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Lexie. At the time I was writing about her, I was a practicing lawyer, and one of my Cavaliers was named Lexie. And yes, I live in the Hollywood Hills.

Other protagonists aren’t quite as close, but still had characteristics I like and admire. The spinoff series from Kendra was the Pet Rescue Mysteries, which of course contained dogs and other animals—and I was volunteering a lot at local rescue organizations when I wrote it. In my Barkery & Biscuits Mysteries, my protagonist owned a bakery for dog treats—and was owned by a dog named Biscuit. In my Superstition Mysteries, my protagonist owned a dog named Pluckie. And currently, in my Alaska Untamed Mysteries under my first pseudonym, Lark O. Jensen, the protagonist, a naturalist, introduces tourists to all sorts of wonderful Alaskan wildlife, including seals and bears and wolves—and yes, she brings her own dog Sasha along on her tour boats.

And in the Harlequin Romantic Suspense stories in the various series I create, yes, dogs are involved. All my stories do contain suspense, whether they’re mysteries or not, and even those I’m asked to write when I can’t always include dogs. And they contain at least a touch of romance, often more.

So… setting is fun. Characters are fun. Killing people vicariously, and not for real, of course,  can be fun. And creating romances can be fun.

Plus, various animals are fun. Dogs are fun.

Hey, for me, maybe the most fun thing about writing involves one of the most fun things in my life: dogs.

So what’s the most fun thing about writing for you?

Photo by Austin Kirk on Unsplash 

Bringing Books Back

by Linda O. Johnston

I’ve been wriing for a while, as those of you who know me, or know of me, are aware. I’ve so far had 57 traditional books published, with more to come—including one more next month.

Fun? Oh, yes! But some of those older ones had stopped being available, or at least mostly so.

However, my first mystery series is now available as ebooks, and my second is on the way as ebooks and audio! The first of those mystery series is my Kendra Ballantyne, Pet-Sitter Mysteries, and the second is my Pet Rescue Mysteries. Those Pet Rescue Mysteries available again now as ebooks and audio are BEAGLEMANIA, THE MORE THE TERRIER, AND HOUNDS ABOUND. There are two more in the series, and they’ll be on their way soon.

And I do have some of my earliest time travel romances available as ebooks as well.

If you’re a writer, have you also been in that situation? What do you do if you’re traditionally published and your first ones are getting old? They can remain available at online sites such as Amazon, but it’s a shame just to ignore them, right?

So what do you do? If they’re already available as ebooks, just continuing to promote them to readers might be enough.  And audio can be fun.

What if there are more formats to come in the future? I’m not a techie person so I can’t suggest what they might be, but do you have any thoughts about it?

Or, if they’re in a series, why not write some more books to that series to get more readers interested in the first ones? Of course they need to be available, but if they’re out there as ebooks why not?

We put a lot of effort into our books. We put parts of ourselves in them. It’s fun to have them available and have readers read them.

So it’s a good thing to find ways to keep them available!

A Jump On June

Yes, it’s June already. The beginning of the sixth month of the year. 

As always, this year is going fast. And also as always, I think about what I have accomplished so far. 

Is that something you do too?

 If you’re a writer, how much have you written? 

You’re probably a reader to be checking in on this blog site, so how much have you read so far? 

What else do you have planned for this year? How far along are you now—where you wanted to be? 

For me, it’s been a good year so far. I’ve had two new books published, both in May: my first Alaska Untamed Mystery for Crooked Lane Books, BEAR WITNESS, under my first pseudonym, Lark O. Jensen, and my Harlequin Romantic Suspense second Shelter of Secrets story, GUARDIAN K-9 ON CALL. I’ve got another scheduled for later this year and one that’s not yet scheduled. And I’m working on another for which I’m on deadline, making progress.

 As a reader—well, I’m always reading. Because my time is sometimes limited I wish I could be reading more, but at least I’m enjoying the books I’ve started and finished. 

Other stuff? Well, we have a new puppy so part of my plans include training and playing, which I do a lot. And making sure she gets along with our older pup, which has been working out fine. 

More plans? Well, we have some trips coming up to see family, always fun. 

So, I feel as if I’m doing fine this year though I hope to do even more. 

How about you?

Writers on the Road

by Linda O. Johnston

Well, not literally on the road necessarily, but traveling. On vacation. 

Is there such a thing as a vacation for a writer? Yes… and no.

Wherever we are, whatever we’re doing, our minds are busy.  Never mind whether we’re sitting at a computer churning out whatever story we are working on. That might not happen as much while we are out of our usual environment.

But yes, we’re writing when we’re not writing. Our minds are at work, observing what’s around us, the environment, the people including possibly our families but also those who are there on vacation too, or locals, or those who are taking care of us at whatever hotels or resorts we might be visiting or cruises we’re on.

It’s all inspiration! No matter what we might be writing at the moment or planning to write in the near future, we’re always open to new ideas that we might head for in the future.

Yes, last time I was here I wrote about a life of strange inspirations. But what about inspirations that aren’t strange, but fun?

So why am I addressing this? Well, last week I was on a family trip at a resort in Cancun. Oh, yes, it was fun. I loved being with family, and the environment was amazing. Extremely windy when we were there, but the brilliant blue water beyond the white sand beach at the place we were staying was beautiful. A lot of generous service from the resort staff. Multi-level swimming pools. Vast buildings around areas where outside entertainment was provided. Even fireworks!

I had mixed emotions about some of it. We’d been to that resort before, and they have a couple of large pools containing dolphins that appear to be well treated considering where they are, but having such smart animals that are originally from vast sea environments contained like that… Well, I’ve researched dolphins. They’re wonderful beings. As smart as humans in their environment. Am I inspired to write about them? I’ve always been inspired to write about them, but definitely not in situations like that—unless they can find a way out and get revenge!

See! My mind was at work while I was relaxing and enjoying my vacation.

How about you? Does traveling inspire you to develop new ideas, new stories, different kinds of things?

By the way, this subject is so vital to me that I’m incorporating it into the three blogs I’m posting on the same day this month. I’m addressing it somewhat differently, but it’s definitely on my mind. Along with my writing.

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Photo by Leon Overweel on Unsplash

A Life of Strange Inspirations

 by Linda O. Johnston

I wrote last time I was here about how a writer might decide what to write.  I’m going to expand upon that a bit today since I’ve been considering some strange inspirations. 

There’s one we all have these days: Covid. Should we include the pandemic in stories we’re writing now? What about a series that deals, in a fictional way with a lot of the issues and arguments and other matters relating to the disease, and how people deal with them—or don’t? I’m fascinated with the idea, but doubt I’ll dive into it.

 And then there’s what happened on my very nice residential street the other night. 

My husband and I were walking our dog Cari around the block. When we got to the fence behind the property next to our home we saw that one of the fronds of the cacti growing behind it near the street had been broken. (We live in LA.) And then my husband saw a large, dangerous-looking knife lying there and we assumed it had been used to cut the cactus. We saw blood on the sidewalk and we then assumed whoever did it had cut him or herself. My husband moved the knife but hid it to show neighbors later. We weren’t thrilled, especially my husband, who’d planted the cactus with the neighbor’s approval. 

Cut to an hour or so after we got home. Our doorbell rang, and when I answered a couple of uniformed police officers were there. Turned out someone had been stabbed in the area in the middle of the night. We have security cameras outside but they weren’t connected at the time, unfortunately. The cops had hoped we would have footage of what happened—since someone was apparently stabbed there by another person, which resulted in the fallen cactus. 

My husband gave them the knife, of course, and said he hoped they’d make it clear why his fingerprints are on it. We still have no details about what happened or why or if the police are still investigating, but you can imagine that led my mind to start wondering if I could use that in a story. 

And then a dear relative, after we related what had happened, made a suggestion about a whole mystery series based on some matters relating to that incident. 

My mind is still churning around that. But I don’t know if I’ll follow through. I’m concerned about such things happening nearby, in any event. But as a writer, of course I let it potentially inspire me for a story or more. 

And yes, some strange things can become inspirations. When should we include reality in our stories? Whenever it works—with embellishments!

Deciding What to Write

By Linda O. Johnston

 If you’re a writer, how do you decide what to write?

 Often, it’s the kind of story you love to read:  romance, mystery, paranormal, historical fiction, whatever. That makes sense.

 Or maybe something you believe others will want to read, so it’ll sell well. But that’s not something totally predicable. So I go with what I enjoy.

 With me, my preferences have changed over the years. Oh, I’ve always enjoyed romances, romantic suspense and mysteries. I’m not as much into historical stories as I used to be.  Same regarding paranormal stories.

 But you could probably tell what my favorite stuff was at any time of my life in the past many years by seeing what I’ve written!

 My first published fiction was a short story in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, and I won the Robert L. Fish Award for first published short story! Yes, it was a mystery of sorts, a humorous one: “Different Drummers.”

 My first published novels consisted of time travel romance, and most revolved around places or things I particularly liked. For example, one of them, Point in Time, took place in Pittsburgh, where I grew up. Another took place in Alaska, in the Klondike, and I’ve always loved visiting there: The Ballad of Jack O’Dair. And of course there’s Once a Cavalier, featuring my babies, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels.

 I wrote other paranormal romances too, including Stranger on the Mountain, and the Alpha Force miniseries I created for Harlequin Nocturne, about a military unit of shapeshifters.

 I loved paranormal romance! But notice that’s in the past tense. So is my focus on paranormal stories. I still read some, but I’m not writing any now.

 I’d always enjoyed mysteries and romantic suspense. I still do—and that’s in the present tense!

 That’s why I write them both: romantic suspense for Harlequin Romantic Suspense—and formerly for Harlequin Intrigue—and mysteries, over time, for multiple publishers including Berkley and Midnight Ink, and—upcoming!—Crooked Lane. Most of the mysteries, and as many romantic suspense as possible, include animals, especially dogs. I love to write about dogs. Why? Because I love dogs!.

 So that’s how I decide what to write: again, what I love to read. But also what I most enjoy writing about.

 How do other authors decide? Based on conversations with fellow writers, I gather they, too, mostly figure out something they enjoy, then pounce on it and pour out a story they love.

 It’d be hard, after all, to write a story if you didn’t like its subject or genre.

 Those writers who are reading this blog, I’d love to hear in comments where your ideas originate and how you decide to write about them. And how you enjoy writing about them!

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Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

The Joys of Waiting

It’s almost August, 2021. That’s the month my next book is being published, although it’s available some places already.

It’s HER UNDERCOVER REFUGE, the first in my new Shelter of Secrets miniseries for Harlequin Romantic Suspense.  That miniseries is a spin-off of another, also for HRS, that was called K-9 Ranch Rescue.

 And I’m delighted to have HER UNDERCOVER REFUGE published!  My last novel was published in February 2020, and that’s a long time between books for me.

It’s my 54th traditionally published novel, so most often there have been several a year. Was this gap a result of COVID? I don’t think so, unlike a lot of things that seem to be delayed these days. It just was.

 So how can you plan for a lot of traditionally published books to be published, and have several come out each year? I don’t really know!

Oh, it helps to write for more than one publisher. I’ve tended to write cozy mysteries and Harlequin romances at the same time.

And it helps also to write for different lines for the same publisher.  I’ve written for Harlequin Romantic Suspense and Harlequin Nocturne at the same time. However, Nocturne, their paranormal line, will no longer be published.

These days, a lot of people self-publish. I ponder that now and then, and may do it someday. But while I have good relationships with traditional publishers, I’ll probably hang out there some more.

Am I writing for anyone other than Harlequin now?  Yes. My first Alaska Untamed mystery, BEAR WITNESS, will be published next February by Crooked Lane.

Oh, and in the meantime, my next Harlequin Romantic Suspense, UNCOVERING COLTON’S FAMILY SECRET, part of the Coltons of Grave Gulch miniseries, will be a November 2021 release.

So although there’d been a bit of a gap between my last published novel and my current one, I’m delighted to say there’ll be more soon. I am working on my next Colton book in the next HRS miniseries. And I’m hoping for even more beyond that!

And you? What’s your preferred way of writing and publishing?

Either way, or both, I hope you’re highly successful!

Busy Then and Now 

By Linda O. Johnston

I’m busy.  I’m always busy. But busy before the pandemic began is a lot different from busy now.

Is that true for you, too?

 I’ve been writing forever, and I’m fortunate to be traditionally published a lot. That means I generally have faced a lot of upcoming deadlines. That hasn’t changed, although at the moment there seem to be more than usual.

But my busy-ness before was enhanced a lot by get-togethers with other writers at meetings of local chapters of Romance Writers of America, Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America, and sometimes more.  Then there were all the conferences I attended, which often included the Romance Writers of America National Conference, held annually in different locations. Then there were Malice Domestic, Left Coast Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and other mystery-related conferences. I attended at least one a year.  And in addition, there were annual conferences locally, such as the California Crime Writers Conference.

And now?  Well, some get-togethers are available virtually. I’ve attended some chapter meetings that way, but not annual conferences.  I know Malice Domestic will be virtual this year and I keep receiving emails about it—but so far I haven’t decided to go.

That’s all certainly different from before.  But things seem to be improving now, as far as the ability of people to meet in person, though in smaller groups, and the necessity of being vaccinated, and wearing masks, although that seems to be changing at least to some extent and in some locations.

So will I go back to the old ways as things open up again?  I don’t know yet. Tempting, yes, but I want to feel more secure that I won’t get sick or bring the virus home to others. And maybe I’m getting into bad, more solitary habits this way.

I’ve been delighted, though, to meet some of my fellow Writers in Residence for our usual—formerly—monthly lunch recently!

And you? Do you attend conferences now, virtually or in person? Writing events? Reading events?

Image by TaniaRose from Pixabay

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