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

The Fun and Frustration of Ideas

 

CREATIVE 126236010_10218132203763090_554863446815973653_n

by Linda O. Johnston

Like many of you who may be reading this, I’m a writer. A fiction writer. That means what I write is rarely true, though of course it needs to be logical and, hopefully, enjoyable.

And how do I figure out what I’ll be writing? Well, my mind is always at work. Whether I’m intending to or not, I’m always coming up with ideas. That, too, probably sounds familiar to many of you.

While watching a TV show a couple of weeks ago, my mind glommed onto its theme as being a great idea for a story. A mystery? Probably. A series? Hopefully. 

But unlike many of my ideas, how to proceed with this one didn’t become automatically clear.  As a result, I’ve been doing a lot of pondering and research and jotting down possibilities. And reading what I can about the general concept.

That’s an important part of writing, of course. The plotting and writing and character development are all essential. But so’s figuring out how you will determine each of them and where your story’s likely to go.

I knew I was scheduled for the WinR blog today and, while at first not knowing what I’d write about, this blog idea finally came to me, too. It’s important for writers to recognize how their minds work at least some of the time. Ideas and me–well, I’d better make note of them and run with them when it makes sense. And writing here about coming up with and following up with ideas–why not?

 So how do you do it? Where do ideas come to you? How do they come to you? Is it always by a similar way, or, like me, do you just keep your mind open to whatever it wants to throw at you and then follow up on those ideas? 

And me? Well, I’m sure I’ll figure out the direction I want to go, probably soon. Will I run with it? Depends on whether I wind up liking my direction as much as the initial idea.

 

 

Artwork Design by Cher Schriefer(Groch)

 

Genres and Generalities

by Linda O. Johnston

LINDA scott-broome-BcVvVvqiCGA-unsplashI love to write.  I love to write novels that contain romance.  I love to write novels that contain mystery or suspense.

Any surprise, then, that I write in multiple genres?

I’ve mentioned some of that before while blogging here.  At the moment, as with many people who do many things, my career seems to be changing a bit, yet staying the same.

And yours?

I’m currently writing romantic suspense novels for Harlequin Romantic Suspense.  I have a couple stories I’ve turned in that are my own plotting, and I’m currently working on another of HRS’s many, multiple stories about members of the Colton family, who always seem to be finding wonderful relationships and also dealing with a lot of crimes.

LINDA adult-1850704_640My kind of story, and I follow their bible and have my characters interact with the protagonists of other Colton stories in the various mini-series that are part of the Colton series.  When I write stories that are all my own I fit a lot of dogs into them, and occasionally have been able to slip one in to a Colton story.

I’ve also written a lot of cozy mysteries over time.  My most recent cozy publisher went out of business, so I don’t have any currently in progress–although I believe, and hope, that a publisher that’s new to me is going to buy one of my ideas.

So–yes.  I write in different genres, and often read in different genres to keep my ideas flowing.  Generalities–I guess I can say I love fiction, I love suspense and mystery, I love animals… and, as I said, I love to write.  Even these days, when there’s a lot going on in the world nearby and elsewhere.  My writing has slowed as a result, but it goes forward.

It’s always fascinating to me to see that some writers stick to their primary genres as long as they write.  Others are like me and have more than one favorite genre that they also  go back and forth among–or sometimes combine them, as I do. Of course my cozies contain a romantic interest, and all my romances also contain suspense or mystery.

So how about you?
What are your favorite genres?
If you’re a writer, which genre(s) do you prefer to write in?
Or read in?
What’s your general purpose for reading?
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Linda O Johnston
Linda O. Johnston, a former lawyer who is now a full-time writer, has written two mystery series for Midnight Ink involving dogs: the Barkery and Biscuits Mysteries, and the Superstition Mysteries.  She has also written the Pet Rescue Mystery Series, a spinoff from her Kendra Ballantyne, Pet-Sitter mysteries for Berkley Prime Crime.  Currently writes for Harlequin Romantic Suspense as well as the Alpha Force paranormal romance miniseries about shapeshifters for Harlequin Nocturne.
This article was posted for Linda O. Johnston by Jackie Houchin (Photojaq)

Upside Down

By Linda O. Johnston

upside down natural-2728146_640Apologies.  I’m late with this blog.  But… well, as I’m sure all of you reading this know, life is different now from what it’s been.

The pandemic.  Potential danger to all of us.  Lots to learn about how to protect ourselves.  Staying home most of the time–and only going out to buy essentials or bring in take-home food… occasionally.

What’s good about it?  Well, for writers, our lives may not have to change as much as other people’s.  We’re often home a lot anyway, staring at our computers and hopefully being productive on them.

 But… well, for me, some of the changes include not getting together with other people for exercise classes.  Or attending writers’ group meetings–which now have been canceled.  Or even considering attending writers’ conferences, which are also mostly canceled anyway.

 And then there were a couple of trips with family that we’ve had to cancel.

 I am walking our dogs more than before, which they enjoy–though of course staying more than six feet away from also-walking neighbors.  Our pups also enjoy having my husband and me around nearly all the time, to give them even more attention and treats.

 So yes, that part is good.  But considering how things will progress, when this might end, the situation regarding nearly the entire world… we’re upside down.

And then there’s this blog.  Being late didn’t help, but my mind obviously is on other things.  And though yes, I’m editing some stories I’ve been working on and plotting more–and my mind is also roiling around possible scenarios in which I can include this horrible situation in a book–things are different enough that I’m clearly not planning or focusing as I should be.

 I’d like to be focusing here on an aspect of writing.  That’s what we often do on the Writers in Residence blog.  And in a way, I am.  I’m suggesting that writers can do their job no matter what’s going on around them.  Focus on fiction, perhaps, to help your mind deal with the difficult facts.

I’m suggesting that writers can do their job no matter what’s going on around them.  Focus on fiction, perhaps, to help your mind deal with the difficult facts.

 Perhaps the hardest thing for me is not seeing family.  We have a son in our area but not right next door, and for now I’ve told him not to visit, at least for a while.

 What’s the hardest thing for you?  What kind of fiction are you focusing on to help you through this?

 How are you upside down?

 

This article was posted for Linda O. Johnston by Jackie Houchin (Photojaq)

 

Deadlines–The Good, the Bad and… any Ugly?

By Linda O. Johnston

 

calendar and writingI’m a writer.

Writers have deadlines.

If we’re traditionally published, they’re set by the publisher, with our agreement.  If we’re self published, they’re largely set by ourselves.

I’ve been doing this for a while and generally consider deadlines my friends.  They certainly keep me moving.

Recently I’ve been under deadlines for four Harlequin Romantic Suspense novels.  I met the first two with no problem, but I’d agreed to the third being shorter than usual thinking I could meet it anyway–but I had to ask for an extension.

I just turned in that manuscript.

DEADLINE1Now I’m working on the fourth of those books. I’m first doing a synopsis and three chapters to turn in, then finishing the rest of the manuscript.  I have a few months, so I should be fine. But right now I’m looking at all the weekend events, panels and more, that I’ve agreed to in the near future. Then there will be a visit from some dear family members that will probably use up a week. And an annual trip that has been extended to see those family members at their home. So… well, I’m worried about meeting that deadline.

After I do?  Well, I’m not sure what I’m writing next.  I’m hoping to do more mysteries, but I’m not under any contracts.  And I’d enjoy writing more romantic suspense books as well.

But after that deadline is over, I have some trips planned, so I’ll have to be careful.

Okay, I’m not the only one with deadlines. And I had all kinds of other deadlines when I was also a practicing attorney. Nearly everyone has deadlines in their lives. Do you? Writing deadlines? Work deadlines? Family deadlines?

calendar for deadlineYes, deadlines are a part of life.

What do you think of the ones in your life? Do you face them down and stare at them and meet them? Or do you cringe when you think of them?

Or do you want more of them, as I do?

 

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lindaphotoLinda O. Johnston, a former lawyer who is now a full-time writer, currently writes two mystery series for Midnight Ink involving dogs: the Barkery and Biscuits Mysteries, and the Superstition Mysteries.  She has also written the Pet Rescue Mystery Series, a spinoff from her Kendra Ballantyne, Pet-Sitter mysteries for Berkley Prime Crime and also currently writes for Harlequin Romantic Suspense as well as the Alpha Force paranormal romance miniseries about shapeshifters for Harlequin Nocturne.

 

 

This article was posted for Linda O. Johnston by Jackie Houchin

 

 

 

Conferences and Writing

by Linda O. Johnston

RWA2019_FINAL LOGOI attended the Romance Writers of America National Conference last week in New York City.  Am I glad I did?  Yes, mostly because of the wonderful people I saw, meeting up with those I knew professionally and as friends–or both.  I’ve been attending RWA conferences for many years and for different reasons, but that’s the most important.

I also attended three other conferences this year, some of which I have mentioned here.  One of the others, California Dreamin’, was a local romance writers’ conference.  Two of the others were mystery writers’ conferences: Malice Domestic, and the California Crime Writers Conference.  Yep, that’s a lot of conferences.

So why do I do it?  Yes, to meet up with those kinds of people I mentioned.  And that’s the most important reason for me these days.  But I also attend workshops and meals and other related events.

Do they help my writing career?  I think so, or I wouldn’t go.

But if you’re a writer, should you attend conferences?  Why not?  At least those for the genres you write in.  I always tell other writers, especially those just starting out, to join writers’ organizations in their genres and attend local meeting of their chapters.  Conferences help you meet others in different stages of writing and sales, which can also help your career.

Did I enjoy the RWA conference this year?  Yes, but I had some issues with it, too–one of which was the hotel we were in and its horrible elevator service. But I did get to visit the AKC Dog Museum.

Plus, this year, I hardly attended any conference workshops. No time, thanks to the various Harlequin meetings and workshops. I also had less interest in most of the topics than in the past, although the ones I did attend were helpful for research purposes. My favorites were, one on creating  series, where I got some other people’s takes on how they do it, another workshop on forensics in fiction, and another on twists in stories.

Will I attend RWA next year?  Most likely.  I’m under contract for four new Harlequin Romantic Suspense books, some of which will be published by then, and it’s always good to make contact with the editors and others at a publishing house in person like that.  Plus, it’s in San Francisco, which is a lot closer to LA than New York is.

Maybe I’ll see you there!

lindaphotoLinda O. Johnston, a former lawyer who is now a full-time writer, currently writes two mystery series for Midnight Ink involving dogs: the Barkery and Biscuits Mysteries, and the Superstition Mysteries.  She has also written the Pet Rescue Mystery Series, a spinoff from her Kendra Ballantyne, Pet-Sitter mysteries for Berkley Prime Crime and also currently writes for Harlequin Romantic Suspense as well as the Alpha Force paranormal romance miniseries about shapeshifters for Harlequin Nocturne.

 

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This article was posted for Linda O. Johnston by Jackie Houchin. 

 

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