WHEN A LITTLE THING BECOMES A BIG THING

You ever have that happen? You think of something small, something you haven’t thought of in ages, and then suddenly, it’s everywhere?

It happened to me a while back with that old saying: “Cardinals appear when angels are near.”

I was drafting the first Ruby’s Place installment, and was working my way through the scene in which a cardinal knocks Angela’s knit hat off her head, forcing her to pause, take another look at the old Ruby’s Place bar. There’s really just something about cardinals and Christmas…In the first place, they’re so strikingly beautiful, those red spots on stark white snowy backgrounds. Almost like a bright warm ray in cold, brutal times. You can’t help but smile when you see a cardinal in the snow.

The cardinal–and the old saying–made it’s way into the first Ruby’s Place manuscript, and into the sequel, I Remember You.

This year, as I was drafting the new installment (Sentimental Journey), I began to see the saying everywhere. I’m not joking. Christmas cards and notepaper…I even got this T-shirt as a gift:

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It’s almost eerie when that kind of thing happens…but pleasantly so.

BTW: I’ve put the entire Ruby’s Place series (to date) in a single download–and it’s currently discounted to $2.99

Ruby's Place Collection

You can snag a copy here.

May cardinals brighten your windowsills all winter long!

NEW RELEASE: SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY: A CHRISTMAS AT RUBY’S PLACE

A few years ago—about the time my hometown of Springfield, Missouri decided to ban cigarette smoking in all public places—the local news ran a story of a small downtown bar and the woman who owned it. She was pretty upset about the new ordinance; her clientele came for affordable drinks and a smoke (and a bit of camaraderie and good conversation) at the end of a long day. She was older, and had been running this bar for I forget how many decades, and she insisted she knew how to do one thing really well—run that bar.

For some reason, the image that ran in the story—a closeup of her face peering from the front plate-glass window—really stuck with me. I kept coming back to that image, playing with possible scenarios for a story.

In 2017, I drafted a novella titled Christmas at Ruby’s, about a woman who had also been good at running a small-town Missouri bar…so good, in fact, that she was still running it, years after her own death.

My fictional Ruby’s Place is a bar populated by the ghosts of Christmases past. A nightspot where the term “spirits” refers to far more than just the top-shelf liquors…and it’s also a place where, on Christmas Eve, the living can enjoy one more evening with a long-lost loved one. Where it’s possible to connect with the dearly departed—to finally express what you never got to say. Perhaps to show gratitude. Express love. Explain a wrong. Even tell them you’re sorry.

After all, I thought—what would be a better Christmas gift that one more night with a loved one you had assumed you would never see again?

Readers connected with the Christmas at Ruby’s novella—so much so, I wrote and published another installment in 2018 (I Remember You). And now, this year, I’m releasing yet another Ruby’s Place novel, Sentimental Journey. The stakes are higher than ever in Sentimental Journey—the bar is in danger. A face from the past has returned to the small town of Sullivan, Missouri. And he’s determined to get his revenge…

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You can snag your own copy of Sentimental Journey at:

Amazon 

B&N

Kobo

Apple

Each book in the Ruby’s Place Christmas series is standalone, and you don’t need to have read the other two releases in order to dive straight into Sentimental Journey. But for those who are interested in the full series, I have placed the entire collection to date on Amazon in a single download:

Ruby's Place Collection

You can snag the full Ruby’s Place Christmas Collection on Amazon.

TOTALLY OBSESSED

What’s the old saying? “There’s no good time to have a baby?” I always took that to mean there’s really no perfect time for any life shakeup: new relationship, a move, a new job, going back to school, starting that novel that’s been in your head for ages…

And so, when the opportunity appeared, I took the plunge. Even though I was in the midst of finalizing my Christmas novel. (Enter Gus the Peke puppy.)

And now, to be honest, I am completely obsessed with my new addition, who is a handful and a time consumer and a sleep stealer supreme.

(If you want to get off social media or do a digital detox, get a puppy. You have absolutely no time for scrolling.)

But seriously, though, who wouldn’t be obsessed?

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I love this pic. It’s like he’s looking out the door, trying to figure the place out. The world according to Gus.

 

#AGATHAINAUGUST

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From my Instagram: @hollyschindler

I’m taking my advice from my previous post—pausing long enough in this current rewrite to take part in #agathainaugust, which I just recently discovered on Instagram.

I’m seriously becoming something of a mystery nut (really loved Louise Penny’s STILL LIFE—I’m fairly new to the Penny world as well). I read AND THEN THERE WERE NONE years ago, but I’d never read a Miss Marple until now.

I’ll confess, I’m not too far into the book (I’ve actually yet to come across Marple herself), but I’m already in love. I’m a junkie for the setup—of books, movies, TV series, etc. I mean, there’s absolutely something to be said for sitting down with an old favorite—a movie you’ve watched so much, you can already recite all the dialog. But given the option, I usually want to watch (or read) something I’ve never seen before. There’s just nothing like the experience of meeting new characters and figuring out a new situation for the first time.

All that is to say I love the way Christie sets her books up. A MURDER IS ANNOUNCED is pretty similar to the setup for AND THEN THERE WERE NONE (if I remember right)—introducing a large number of characters, all of whom are potential suspects. And witnesses. And victims. I love the way she disorients the reader, knocks us off our feet. Who can be trusted? Who is lying? Who will be hurt?

In that way, Christie makes us feel what I imagine the detectives themselves must, when they step onto a new crime scene.

Pretty ingenious, isn’t it?

SURVIVING A REVISION

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From my Instagram: @hollyschindler

It’s inevitable: no matter how you publish, you’re going to hit a tight revision deadline. It’s not unusual, when releasing work with a publishing house, to get a month deadline to turn back global revisions. And sure, a month might sound like a considerable period of time–until you get started. Because global revision isn’t clean. Even when you’ve cleared an outline or a plan of action with your editor, you can often find yourself rewriting a chapter two or three times before you feel you’ve gotten it right. If you spend the better part of a day drafting a chapter, all that ripping up means you’ve burned through the better part of a week–on one chapter. You’ve only got four weeks for the whole book.

You can see where this is going.

Self-imposed deadlines can be just as brutal. Want to publish multiple books in one year? (I usually aim for four indies.) This in itself means sticking to a tight revision deadline. Right now, I’m revising a Christmas story. Obviously, I can’t release it on January 2. It, too, comes with a non-negotiable deadline.

Here’s the thing I’ve learned after years of often brutal deadlines:

You’ve got to budget your time. But you cannot let a deadline kill you. It’s imperative to also take care of yourself.

For me, that means I have to:

Eat solid meals.

Go for walks.

Practice yoga.

Have coffee with a friend.

Notice the sky.

Play with a silly sketch.

Shoot the breeze with my neighbor or mail carrier, etc.

Quit writing at a reasonable hour and binge a couple of episodes of a series I’m into.

Read a chapter of someone else’s book.

Paint my nails.

Cook.

Weed the garden.

Get a full night’s sleep.

Admit it. You think all that sounds ridiculous.

If a person is under that kind of horrendous deadline, you’re thinking, there is absolutely no time for any of that.

Here’s the thing, though: there is.

Most of those activities don’t take a ton of time. On average? Probably about twenty minutes. And with the exception of eating and sleeping well, you’re not going to do them all every single day. (I will say, though, that eating and sleeping well are absolutely essential when under deadline. I don’t care how much you have to do and how tight the deadline. If you don’t do both, your head fogs and everything winds up spiraling out of control.)

Seriously, though. Even under the tightest deadline, you can push yourself away from the desk. You can take a few minutes to make a cup of tea. Walk around the block. You’ve got to let your mind rest. You also have to give yourself time to think, which is an entirely different skill than actively putting words on a page.

The next time a deadline starts to make you feel you can’t breathe, just push yourself from your desk. Go outside. Let yourself watch the clouds go by.

I promise you’ll be amazed at what a few minutes to breathe will do.

WRITING CRAFT RECOMMENDATION: MEANDER, SPIRAL, EXPLODE

I’m a total junkie for writing craft books. Lately, I’ve been fascinated with story shapes. Kurt Vonnegut wrote and lectured on some basic story shapes (his vids are on YouTube and always worth a watch), but Jane Alison’s recent release looks to patterns in nature in order to explore the idea of stories taking on shapes other than the tried-and-true arc.

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From my Instagram: @hollyschindler

I’m fascinated by the idea–and absolutely agree that a story can be riveting and satisfying for the reader without being expected. In fact, it might be more satisfying if it does not employ the traditional arc structure.

Lately, I also feel that when my own manuscripts get stuck–when they just don’t seem to want to come together–it’s because the story doesn’t want to follow the rules. It doesn’t want to come together in that arc, or the POV doesn’t want to simply be limited 3rd-person.

The trick, of course, is to do something unexpected in a way that feels fresh and not confusing for the reader. The book also shouldn’t feel gimmicky, either–the narrative patterns that Alison explores aren’t to be used “just because.” They should have a purpose. Your story should be one that couldn’t be told without deviating from the old arc.

Alison’s work is definitely worth a read. Highly recommended for any author on the hunt for a fresh approach to their latest WIP.