Archive for the the writing life Category

Master of Interruptions

One of my corporate freelance clients sends me work in waves, and right now I’m riding a tsunami of company profiles that just keep coming. So my nearly completed second Detective Jackson manuscript (Secrets to Die For) is languishing, with only an hour dedicated to it each morning—and half of that spent trying to wake up.

The bigger problem is my family members (for whom I am the go-to guy) don’t really get it when I say, “I can’t talk right now, I’m working” or “I can’t give you a ride, I’m on the clock.” They assume that if I’m home—and setting my own hours—I should be flexible enough to accommodate just about anything.

I’m sure thousands of writers have learned to deal with this, and I will too. I’ve only been a full-time freelance for five months. (I did work at home for a magazine for a year, but that’s another blog.) Yesterday, I started screening calls and simply let the phone ring. Then felt so guilty. What if my brother needed me to drive him to the hospital? What if my mother fell down and couldn’t get up? (I checked in late last night and they’re both okay.)

But still, I have another profile to crank out today… and I have to decide how to handle all the interruptions (mine included). I’d love to hear from freelancers who have mastered this situation.

L.J.'s Many Names

It’s serendipitous that Dani tagged me in this meme. I was just thinking about why I have always used my initials as a writer, as opposed to my given name: Linda. When I was young, I heard my father say that men were better writers than women. So from day one as a journalist, I submitted my work under the name L.J. Sellers, so readers could not prejudge my writing based on gender. And as an employee in the work place, there were usually too many other Lindas, so I always said, “Call me L.J.” But if I were to write under pseudonyms, here’s some possibilities.

1. Real name plus my husband’s last name: Linda Hutchison

2. Gangsta name: (first 3 letters of real name plus izzle) Linizzle

3. Detective name: (favorite color/favorite animal) Blue Lemur

4. Soap Opera name: (middle name and street) Jean Lorrane

5. Star Wars name: (first 3 letters last name, first 2 letters first name) Selli

6. Superhero name: (2nd favorite color/favorite drink) Fuchsia D. Pepper

7. Witness Protection name: (parents’ middle names) Patricia Clark

8. Goth name: (black plus the name of one of your pets) Black Magoo

If I were ever to write a romance, Jean Lorrane would be the byline. And someday, when I write the futuristic thriller I have in mind, I think I’ll go with Fuchsia Pepper. She’s somebody I’d like to be some days. What’s your favorite pseudonym?

The Writing Habits of L.J. Sellers (as if you wanted to know)

I got tagged (thanks Marvin) for telling you all about myself, so here it is:

1) Computer, longhand, or other?

The only thing I write with a pen are lists. I have loved computers for writing anything and everything since the first day I sat down at one.

2) Coffee or tea?

Both! And lots of it. I start with strong black coffee (grinding the beans and all), then switch to green tea (lemongrass or jasmine), then drink licorice tea at night.

3) Day or night?

As my blog’s subhead says, “First thing every day.” I can, and do, write at night sometimes, but I struggle with it. (See April blog entry: Shaking It Up.)

4) Favorite genre to write?

I write what I love to read: mystery/suspense. I also write comedy for my standup routine, and I have written three comedy screenplays. I love writing comedy, but it’s very hard work. Some people manage to combine crime and comedy, but for me, they’re like oil and water, and I just can’t mix ‘em.

5) Pencil or pen to edit?

I edit my own work on screen, but I prefer to edit other people’s fiction on paper. I use three writing utensils: the black pen mark means “make this edit,” the pencil means “consider this syntax edit,” and the yellow highlighter means “look at this repetition or inconsistency.”

6) Unusual writing quirk or trait?

I wish I had something funny or cute to tell you, but I don’t write naked and I don’t wear hats for inspiration. In truth, I write very lean. My first drafts are mostly action and dialogue. Then I have to go back and fill with more detail and characterization.

7) Writing from home or writing in a cozy café?
I use an ergonomic keyboard, I can’t function without a mouse, and my workstation at home lets me stand up and work for periods throughout the day. In other words, I’m spoiled. Why would I go anywhere else?

8) Music or silence while your write?

Years ago, I could write with three boys playing Nintendo in the room. Now I like it quiet. But I’m going to try Karen’s suggestion of certain music for certain scenes.

9) Favorite motivational writing quote?
My own: Life is short. Get it done.

10) Favorite bookmark?

I use one of my own for THE SEX CLUB. It reminds me that I can write too.

11) Favorite fictional character of all time?

Tough question. Who comes to mind today is Irwin Fletcher, made famous by Chevy Chase. I loved the books and the movies! He’s a great example of combining crime and comedy.

12) Most admired living writer today?

I can’t pick a living writer because there’s too many. My favorite writer of all time though is Lawrence Sanders. He’s incredibly versatile and always entertaining.

And I tag Charlotte to go next.

Never Give Up (if you know its good)

Last weekend I finished the first draft of my new Detective Jackson novel (yes, I write and edit on weekends too), and so this week, I’m going back through to rewrite and clean up (find all the places where characters have morphed and street names have changed). This is such a strange process. One moment I’m excited and happy and thinking “This is the one. This is the novel that will be a breakthrough and get people’s attention.” Then two pages later, I’m disgusted by a line of dialogue, doubtful about the whole plot, and scared that this manuscript will suffer the same fate as all the others.

What is that fate? Here’s the short version of my “Almost” story.

My first “almost” was about ten years ago. I had a great story and found a great agent (president of Writers’ House) who sent my manuscript out to five editors at major publishers. One day he called and said, “Michelle Whatshername at HarperCollins loves your manuscript, and I’ll have an offer for you next week.” I danced around the house for days, but the offer never came and my agent gave up. I was so crushed, I stopped writing novels for a few years. (I wrote screenplays, instead. A whole ‘nother story.)

My second “almost” was two years ago. I finished another story that I was excited about, found an agent who said, “This story has great commercial potential,” then she sent it out to five editors at major publishing houses. Those editors said things like: “I read this story in one sitting!” “The writing is excellent.” “This is an outstanding piece of fiction.” But nobody bought it because the victims are underage. That story is THE SEX CLUB, which I brought to the market through a niche publisher. (An effort similar to using a toothbrush to dig a hole for swimming pool.) But readers love the story and want more.

So now I have another Detective Jackson novel, soon to be finished. I don’t want to go the same niche-publisher route (my toothbrush is worn out and my fingers are numb), and I have two agents who read the first 50 pages and are excited to see the rest. But this process—agent, wait, submission, wait, “no thanks”—scares me big time. Will it be a case of “Third time is the charm” or “Three strikes and your out”? I’m not sure I can take another “Almost.” But I am sure that I’m not giving up yet.

PS: Read tomorrow’s post to find out how I stay happy through the crushing disappointments.

Five-Time Readers Favorite Award Winner!

LATEST REVIEWS

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. The characters were compelling, the procedural work was dead-on, and the story was enthralling. Definitely recommended.”
~Michelle Gagnon, author of Boneyard
The author expertly intertwines multiple story lines, presents readers with fully realized characters that readers will feel they know, and keeps the action and suspense levels high. That’s a lot to expect from an author but L. J. Sellers delivers.” ~OverMyDeadBody
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