• A writing self challenge

    The e-book I’m working on, A Most Unusual Hexplanation, is a great read.  It has a little of everything—humor, love, family drama, the paranormal. Including all that good stuff has led to the book being longer than I want it to be.

    I’ve decided to limit Hexplanation to 60,000 words. The first draft is already at 62,000 words, and there are some scenes to flesh out, so this will be a challenging task.

    Where did I get my 60,000 word plan? Blame it on being on lockdown for the coronavirus. I have way too much free time. When my mind is idle, it tends to wander to strange places.

    But I didn’t come up with this plan entirely on my own. For the past week or so, I’ve been watching a lot of YouTube videos, and not just of baby pandas (but mostly of baby pandas!). I’ve watched one video after another where writers give tips on making books more interesting. The writers talk about deleting unnecessary scenes and words.

    I’m working to follow that advice because I want to make Hexplanation best seller quality—even if it never reaches best seller status. I want people who buy my book to feel like they’ve gotten their money’s worth.

    I’ve been cramming the YouTubers’ writing advice into my brain to the point where I feel like it’s about to explode from excess information. I didn’t do nearly this much info gathering for my first two books. In fact, I didn’t do any. I just started typing and kept going until I ran out of words to add to the stories.

    But now, I’m a serious writer, and I want to do things the right way. That means getting rid of unnecessary scenes and words.  I’d like to believe every word—heck, every comma—is absolutely essential. Still, I’m going to bite the bullet and cut some stuff from my baby.

    Coming soon!

    I’ve changed the release date of Hexplanation many times. At the moment, I’m looking at getting it online in July or August. It’s going to be the most amazing book ever. Well, the most amazing book ever written by Zanna Johns.

    By the way, please tell me that you guys know what the image at the beginning of this post is. If you don’t know, I’m going to feel very, very old!

  • Life as a technically challenged blogger

    Blogging is not my strong point. That may seem like a strange thing to read on anyone’s blog, but it’s true. I enjoy releasing my inner silliness anonymously, so creating articles is not the issue. However, setting up the basic elements of a blog is proving to be a challenge, to put it very mildly.

    I’ve had this site for years, and last week I realized it was missing an essential feature: a way for readers to contact me. You’d think that I would’ve had that in place before my page went public, or at least two or three years in. But nope, not me.

    I went along my merry way, creating posts while doing nothing to promote them. That approach has been less than successful, as I get few visitors. I’m going to work on that issue—as soon as I get all the necessary pieces in place for a good blog.

    I think I’ve set up the contact page correctly. It took a couple days to do it. Seems like it wouldn’t be so hard, right? I tried a plugin to create my contact page, but for some reason, it wouldn’t work. I deleted the plugin and tried another one. Then another…and another…and another…

    Finally, I figured out what was wrong. The confirmations were going to an email address that I never use. In fact, I don’t know if I ever finished setting up the account for that email address. After a couple days of frustration, I got the contact page working right.

    That project completed, I began a new one – coming up with a way  to notify readers of new posts. This turned out to be just as much fun as creating the contact page, but I got it done, and I finally had things properly set up on here. Or so I thought.

    A few days ago, it dawned on me that my page had no footer. How did I miss that?

    I haven’t been nearly as dedicated to fixing that problem as I was with the contact and subscription issues. After all, how many readers care about what’s at the bottom of a web page? I’m counting on that number being zero, because the footer I added is a work in progress and leaves much to be desired.

    With the footer in place – even a crappy one – I was ready to rest easy, knowing all was mostly well with this site. Then today, I discovered a new problem. There’s no privacy policy. No one reads that stuff, but I still need one. I think I do anyway. Who knows?

    I’m not ready to tackle the privacy policy just yet. I need time to recover from the trauma of working on the other things. From the little I’ve read on the subject, creating the privacy policy page promises to be a whole lot of fun for someone as technically challenged as I am.

  • I survived the beta readers!

    I did it!

    I looked at the beta reader feedback for my two-star shame (known on Amazon as Undead of Night) and lived to write a blog post about it. I was a bit hesitant to read the information, even though I’d paid for it. I was worried that I’d become unglued over the slightest criticism about my baby.

    I only used two readers. I sent out requests to three workers on Fiverr, but one person did not respond until six days later. By then, I had the info I wanted. Two beta readers are probably all my fragile writer’s ego can handle right now anyway.

    The ladies who read my work said they liked the stories overall. That led to a surprising issue: I questioned their motives for saying good things. Did they only pretend to like the stories because they wanted bonuses? Or maybe because they want me to hire them to beta read future books?

    I know I’m seriously overthinking this. I do believe the stories in Undead of Night are pretty good, so I shouldn’t be surprised the ladies said positive things about them. If I thought the stories were bad, I never would’ve put them online.

    Some of the weaknesses the beta readers mentioned were issues that I was already aware of. So I’ll take the attitude that the ladies were honest with their feedback. I’m going to use it to polish Undead of Night to the best of my ability.

    I’m going to move that two-star rating up to a solid three!

  • Can I handle the truth? 

    I just had the most amazing idea.

    In order to fix all that’s wrong with Undead of Night (AKA my two-star shame!), I’m going to get feedback from others.  

    You’d probably be horrified to know that I didn’t have the book critiqued at all before I posted it online. My only excuse—I’m just special like that. I like to pretend I can do everything—write, critique, edit and proofread my e-books—without one bit of input from others. 

    Clearly, I’ve been deluding myself. And now I’m going to fix the problem. But how to go about this? I live as if I’m an island unto myself, so I don’t have any online writing friends to call on for help.  

    I’m certainly not going to let family and friends see my work. They might hurt my feelings with the truth. Or even worse, lie to avoid bruising my sometimes fragile writer’s ego! 

    My bank account is not exactly overflowing with money at this moment, so I have to be frugal. That leaves me with using Fiverr, because that site is about as affordable as they come. I used it once to advertise my books. The results were disappointing, to put it mildly.  

    Still, I’m going to give Fiverr one more chance, mostly because broke beggars can’t be choosers. I’m gonna turn my two-star baby, Undead of Night, over to complete strangers to tell me all that’s wrong with it. Can’t say I’m looking forward to that, but I’ll never grow as a writer if I don’t start getting feedback from readers.  

    That sounded pretty mature of me, right? Hope I don’t end up crying like a baby when I read the critiques!



  • Oh, my stars!

    As I’m typing this, I’m amazed that I am not in the bottom of my closet in fetal position. I had a horrible shock yesterday, the kind an amateur author might have difficulty surviving.

    I was getting ready to do more editing on my first e-book, even though it’s been online for years.  I want that book as good as I can possibly get it. I was debating whether more editing is worth my time. I decided that I should probably leave that book—and the second one—alone.

    To reinforce that decision, I went to Goodreads to look at the ratings for the first two e-books. They both average four-star ratings. I decided I can live with that, so no more editing for Doesn’t Take a Crystal Ball or a Psychic Couldn’t See It.

    I was about to leave that page when I saw it.

    My other e-book, Undead of Night, had finally received a rating. It wasn’t a good one – TWO stars!

    I always figured I’d be distraught at my first low rating. To my extreme amazement, I was somewhat amused by those two stars.

    I gave that book a very good effort, but it’s not what I’d hoped it would be. Now, I do think it’s worth three stars, but that reader obviously disagrees.

    Because I’m an amateur, it’s comforting that disappointed readers can get their money back from Amazon. As far as I can tell, my non-fan has not gotten a refund. Wouldn’t blame him/her if he/she did. No one should lose money on a crappy e-book. 

    In some ways, it’s good to have that low rating. I no longer have to worry about when it’ll happen, or how I’ll respond. It’s happened. I’ve mostly shrugged it off. And now I’m going to move on with the writing.

    While I’ve decided not to revise my first two books, I do plan to revise Undead of Night. Obviously, there’s room for improvement.

    It will remain on Amazon until the new version is available. It’ll be my badge of dishonor!



  • Writing update

    The picture pretty much says it all. I haven’t been writing. Have barely thought about it. For once, I have a good excuse for my laziness.

    I was sick from the week of Christmas through the end of January. Other than going to work and sitting at my desk in misery, I pretty much did nothing but sleep for over a month.

    Whatever I had probably would’ve cleared up a lot sooner had I gone to the doctor, but I don’t rush to get rid of any condition that takes away my appetite. (Ten pounds lost! Yay!)

    Now I am back to full health and ready to write. I have a renewed passion for telling the tales of Lizzie Chandler and the rest of the gang. In fact, I’m so motivated that I am going to do revisions on the e-books that are now available on Amazon.

    I’m not planning to make major changes to the e-books. I want to polish them a bit and make them seem less like they were written by an Indie writer who does everything on her own without even a proofreader. Granted, I am an Indie writer who does everything on my own, and I plan to stay that way. I just don’t want my books to reflect that I’m an amateur.

    My goal—or maybe I should say resolution since it’s still pretty early in the year—is to treat writing like it is important to me, because it is.  I’ve just gotten off track with it.

    From now on, I hope to work on my books at least three days a week. In addition, I will post more regularly to my blogs.

    That seems like a pretty reasonable plan. I should be able to stick with it. I can’t succeed in writing if I don’t do any!


  • About those release dates…

    In general, I’m a woman of my word. If I say I’m going to do something, you can trust that it will absolutely happen…and it will happen on time.

    When it comes to my e-book releases, it’s a whole different story. Or maybe I should say it’s no story, as the books aren’t getting completed as planned.

    It’s not that I’m not trying. I fully intend to get those books online when I say I will. It just isn’t happening. The stories aren’t the way I want them to be. Rushing to meet a deadline I created isn’t helping.

    I’ve decided to stop stressing myself out. I’m going to do my best to write good stories and not get caught up in deadlines. I’m going to relax and write when I feel the urge. It’ll take the pressure off, and hopefully, get the creative juices flowing better.

    This new plan means I won’t release Once Haunted, Twice Shy until next year. Instead, I’ll finish A Most Unusual Hexplanation and get that online in October 2020. That shouldn’t be a major challenge because that book is about 80 percent done.

    If my muse cooperates, it should happen. If she doesn’t, I’ll have to create an embarrassing post about missing yet another planned release date.

  • I think I’ve got it!

    I enjoy writing, but it’s not easy for me. Being a woman of few words, it is sometimes a struggle to get scenes on paper the way I picture them in my mind.

    The book I’m currently working on, Once Haunted, Twice Shy, is proving to be quite a challenge.  This past weekend, I figured out what’s wrong with it: The tone is off.

    Most people don’t know this, but I have a natural tendency toward silliness. I hide it well, but it comes out in my writing. The tone in Once Haunted is too lighthearted for the kind of main character I’m trying to create.

    To get the book like I want it, I will have to do more work on it than I thought. And that means it will not be released in January 2020 as planned. Hopefully, I’ll have it online before the end of February.

    I am conflicted about all this. On one hand, I’m happy that I know how to fix what has been bothering me about the book. On the other hand, it’s a bit weird making the book darker, especially with Spongebob, Looney Tunes or Golden Girls playing in the background as I write.

    It should be easier for me to write Once Haunted than the humorous Lizzie Chandler books. I have a degree in counseling and have worked in the criminal justice, mental health and social services fields. I’ve seen a lot of dark, disturbing things.

    Fortunately for me, what I see in the real world at work doesn’t carry over much into my private life. But I’ll have to be able to call on some of it if I want to make Mikala the slightly tortured soul that I imagine her to be.

    In spite of the overall darker tone planned for the book, I’m not going to completely rein in my silliness. There has to be some comic relief. No one wants to read page after page about some poor, retched soul struggling to get through life. I doubt I could bring myself to even write something like that.

    I’ve still got a lot to learn in regards to writing, but I do think I’m finally on the right track with this book. With hard work and tons of re-writing, I should end up with the balance I’m going for with Mikala.

    Look for Once Haunted, Twice Shy in February 2020!