EPISODIC NOVELS (FOREVER FINLEY)

Haunted creek

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In November of 2015, I wrote a short story called “Come December.” I’d been a hybrid author for several months (meaning I’d released four books through traditional publishing houses, and two novels independently, through channels like Kindle Direct Publishing, iBooks, Kobo, and Nook Press). What I loved about indie publishing was that the door was literally wide open: I was free to go where my heart wanted to take me in terms of subject matter and style, and even length. The ultimate writer’s playground.

I’d been writing full-length novels solidly for years, and wanted to get back to an old love: the short story. It would be a joy to sit down and write a shorter piece—something I could draft from beginning to end in a single sitting. As busy as we all are, I thought my readers would feel the same way—happy to be able to sit down and devour a story from beginning to end all in one gulp.

“Come December” took off during the holiday season, finding its way onto the e-readers, tablets, and laptop screens of readers who were being introduced to my work for the first time. I was absolutely delighted to hear from so many of them, who were taking time from their own holiday hustle and bustle to shoot me e-mails. The response was so positive (and I’d had such a great time with it) that I was convinced I needed to continue telling the tale. I decided I’d offer a new installment once a month throughout 2016, and that each new story would be titled after the month of its release.

But in what way did I want to continue? Did I want to follow along with the adventures of Natalie, the new girl who rolled into town in “Come December?”
Well—not exactly. It was the town itself I found the most intriguing. Already, I had depicted a kind of mystical place in “Come December.” Like my readers (and Natalie), I had only just crossed the city limits. I wanted to learn more about this new place.

In “January Thaw,” I introduced two new characters (Natalie took on a supporting role), but the central focus was on the town itself. Finley had become the main character of my ongoing series. “Forget February,” the third installment, allowed me to dive into its history. To relate the legend of Amos Hargrove, the town founder. A new question arose: was Amos simply a town-wide superstition? Or were the stories about him true? Could Finley be not just a quaint town, a lovely town, but a place that was literally fueled by something—well—otherworldly? Was it enchanted? Did the spirit of Amos Hargrove have a hand in manipulating the events that took place? I couldn’t wait to return every month.

As the series progressed, I wove together historical and contemporary scenarios. In addition to the legend of Amos Hargrove, the Civil War soldier desperate to reunite with the spirit of his sweetheart (who died before Amos’s return from battle), we have stories of modern-day relationships: new loves, old loves, friendships, engagements, couples who have been together decades, couples who are still learning about each other. We see Finley through the eyes of some of the younger residents, and through the eyes of the oldest.

In the end, Forever Finley became an episodic novel. Which is just a fancy way of saying each story can stand on its own. But together, they all build toward a single ending, in the same way that chapters in a novel all build to the final conclusion.
Finley has become one of my favorite places to visit—and I hope you’ll enjoy your own journey through its borders as well.

Best wishes in reading—
Holly Schindler

Snag a copy of Forever Finley:

B&N

iBooks

Kobo

Amazon

LIKE MILES LEFT YET? TRY FOREVER FINLEY

51dhmvjqm1l-_sy346_First, I have to thank you guys for grabbing copies of MILES LEFT YET. I originally released the book in ’16, and it’s always been one of my faves, but it just never managed to get in the hands of as many readers as I’d hoped. A new cover, a little advertising, and voila! It’s finally starting to get out in the world. In the last month, I moved triple the entire lifetime sales of the book.

But ads alone don’t give a book legs. I know this book is starting to move because of word-of-mouth with my readers. So I have to take a moment to thank anyone who has personally recommended the read.

 

A New Request

If you enjoyed MILES LEFT YET, I do hope you’ll take a moment to leave a review on Amazon. Just a sentence or two helps tremendously. Right now, the book’s reviews on Amazon remain fairly low. Upping the number of reviews will help me expand into a new round of advertising, getting the book into the hands of new readers, who can work their magic again with word-of-mouth.

I can’t emphasize enough how much authors appreciate reviews…

Like Norma? Keep reading!

Haunted creek

If you liked Norma (who emerges, I think, as the real star of MILES LEFT YET), please do check out FOREVER FINLEY. This one centers on the mystical small town of Finley, the town the Norma drives into at the end of MILES. FOREVER FINLEY is an “episodic novel,” meaning that it’s constructed of loosely connected, stand-alone stories. Each story works together to culminate to the book’s magical conclusion. A new cast of characters is introduced in FOREVER FINLEY, but Norma makes an appearance fairly early on (you’ll find her in the stories titled “Dearest March…” and “A Hundred Julys”).

 

I’ve also done a little repackaging of FOREVER FINLEY–new cover, etc.–and to celebrate, I’ve reduced the price of the e-book to $1.99 temporarily. It’s available as a wide release at:

Amazon

Kobo

B&N

iBooks

I’ve also got a few signed paperback editions of FOREVER FINLEY at my Etsy store!

I hope you’ll decide to spend some time in the town of Finley. It’s become one of my own favorite places to visit.

WHY I READ: WALKING AROUND IN SOMEONE ELSE’S HEAD

I remember the first time I connected with a book. The Pain and the Great One, a picture book by Judy Blume.  It’s about sibling rivalry–younger brother, older sister. And it was just so much like me and my brother, it was scary. The girl played piano (I started taking lessons when I was pretty little), and the boy was kind of a rascal, always knocking over her towers of blocks, etc. If I remember right, in my edition, the kids even had a cat (we had two). It was my life there on the pages. Judy Blume got it. She knew exactly what it was like to be me. It was like she had been in my head somehow.

That’s what initially hooked me on reading: finding those books that seemed to tell my own life experience. It’s a powerful thing to have your own thoughts spit back at you. Makes you feel like there are all sorts of people going through exactly what you’re going through.

Now, though?

I find myself gravitating more and more toward people or situations totally unlike my own. I’m developing a real thing for classic sci-fi (Invasion of the Body Snatchers). And I really love anything by Kurt Vonnegut. I just really like spending time in his head. I like looking through eyes unlike my own.

I’m not sure if that’s a result of growing older or a result of the times. A need for escapism, maybe? Then again, according to what we see on the nightly news, it’s becoming harder and harder for us all to do just that–look through each other’s eyes, see from another point of view. It’s a skill I hope we never lose.

WRITING YOUR NOVEL: TREAT YOUR OUTLINE AS THE FIRST DRAFT

This is no way is my own original advice. I’ve heard it from various writers–it seems I’ve heard it somewhat frequently over the past year or so. But I’ve begun to consider my initial outline my first draft as well–and I’ve come to think it’s some of the most powerful advice anyone can get regarding drafting a new book.

Even if you think you’re a pantser, I’d encourage you to outline. Here’s the thing: THE OUTLINE DOESN’T HAVE TO BE THE FIRST THING YOU DO.

Seriously. It doesn’t. If you need to write some scenes to get a feel for the piece, do it. If you want to write character sketches and brainstorm and play, do it. If you want to put on a pot of coffee and disconnect from the Internet and plow through 10K words, do it.

But after you get a feel, after you’ve “pantsed” a bit, outline the book as a whole.

Here’s another thing: OUTLINES DO NOT HAVE TO BE, WELL, OUTLINES. Write in paragraphs. Write in lists. Whatever works. This is a tool for YOU, after all, not for anyone else.

However: AN OUTLINE IS NOT A ROUGH IDEA. It is specific. It’s detailed. If you don’t know in detail what happens in every single chapter in your book and why, you are not done with your outline yet.

WHY YOU SHOULD CONSIDER AN OUTLINE FOR A FIRST DRAFT:

I’m going to use the word “you” here in order to state my points, but really, I’m talking about my own experiences:

*Because it’s waaaaay faster than writing a full first draft, which is inevitably a mess. NaNoWriMo participants strive to write 50K new words in a month, and it is HARD. In order to achieve word count goals, you often just start throwing junk down. Writing an outline can be done in far less time and sweating far less blood. Think of how much detail you could put into an outline if you gave it your full attention to it for two weeks!

*Because you’re throwing waaaaay less into the trash. I used to speed-draft through my first drafts. I was all about 5K-word days. And frankly, I wound up ditching more than half of what I wrote. I’m not quite sure what the point is anymore. Why wear yourself out writing a draft your not going to use for the most post?

*Because if you throw out 50%+ of a manuscript, you still haven’t nailed down what it’s about. So you’ve spent at least a month–probably more like two or three–working on a project you don’t understand yet. Outlining, in my experience, is a far better method for “finding” the heart of your novel.

*Because it’s also waaaaay easier to get feedback on an outline. No reader wants to try to make sense of your mess of a sloppily written first draft. It’s much easier for them to wrap their minds around an outline. Better yet, put your outline in front of you and TELL your “reader” the story. Get their ideas and impressions about the storyline before you sit down to write draft #2.

One more thing: OUTLINES ARE MEANT TO BE ADJUSTED. Of course, as you head into the second draft of a book, you’ll come up with new ideas, new insights, etc. At this point, you need to stop what you’re doing and come back to your outline, tweaking here and there accordingly.

Treating an outline as a draft has helped me immensely–I hope it works for you, too!

 

WORK IN PROGRESS

So many blog posts are all about what writers have already figured out. They’re tips and tricks that have been dug out through a (frequently long) period of trial and error.

This time around, I thought I might disclose something I’m working on–something I’m not even close to figuring out:

How to manage daily expectations.

I’m a big believer in setting goals. I know in my mind where I’d like to be with a current project by, say, the end of the week. And I know how many words I need to write or chapters I need to revise, etc. in order to meet those goals.

But when I fall short one day? I kind of beat myself up.

What keeps me from meeting certain goals is never stupid, either. It’s not like I’m binge-watching TV or playing solitaire. Usually, it’s because–well–life happens. As it inevitably does. I go to mow the lawn and the battery’s dead (which means I’m now making an extra shopping trip). It’s because my aging dog has an upset stomach. Or the roof is leaking. Or I’m figuring estimated taxes. Or my brother needs me to head on a buying trip for his business.

Or, or, or…

I mean, I know it’s not JUST about writing. Life has to be lived. And not just a chore-filled life, either. A life in which you eat ice cream and roll down the windows and laugh until your sides ache. A life in which you meet new people and talk to old friends. A life in which you get sunburned and maybe even scrape an elbow or two because you’re still, even now, trying new things.

But I can’t help it. I have a hard time NOT beating myself up for goals not met.

Any pointers anyone might have on the subject?

GET A LOAD OF THESE TITLES (SUMMER READING RECOMMENDATIONS)

Seriously. You want to get your hands on these books.

RUBY STARR: THE FANTASTIC LIBRARY RESCUE AND OTHER MAJOR PLOT TWISTS – DEBORAH LYTTON

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Like Ruby Starr, I also believe that every good book should always have a sequel…one that reminds you how much you loved the first, but takes you on an even more imaginative adventure—the kind that encourages every reader to put pen to their own epic poem. Besides, who could ever pass up a good pickle cupcake or another delightful dose of Ruby Starr? Brava!

Snag a copy here.

AUGUST AND EVERYTHING AFTER – JENNIFER SALVATO DOKTORSKI

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As a child of the ‘90s, Doktorski already had me at the title of this fantastic new read. But soon after wading into the pages, it became clear that AUGUST is Doktorski’s strongest work to date. A delightful mixtape of ‘90s music, humor, and the kind of young-summer-romance that makes a life-changing impact on the characters. What YA should be—do not let the summer get by without reading AUGUST!

Snag a copy here.

Happy summer reading!

MILES LEFT YET – ONE OF MY FAVORITE INDIES

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I’ve always had a soft spot for this book.

It’s one of the first I wrote for the indie platform. And for some reason, it just never “took off” (driving pun intended). Probably because I wasn’t doing quite as much advertising (or even newsletters) when I first started indie pubbing.

One of the reasons I have such a soft spot, though, is that my first reader / main editor is a “senior”–nearly 80. And the characters in this book are seniors as well. It’s not a group we see quite as often in literature–not as main characters, anyway. Usually, they’re part of the supporting cast. But that seems so strange to me; these characters have seen and done and experienced so much. They’re rich with development possibilities!

With characters this age, I get to say things in the narration that I wouldn’t with a younger cast. Seventeen-year-olds certainly don’t have the same world view as seventy-year-olds, after all.

I loved writing this book. And it is spring, after all, the season of deep-cleaning and gardens, of opening the windows, dusting off our old favorites, getting back out in the sunshine.

Sooo…

I decided to dust off this old fave. A new cover, a new synopsis. A wide release. It’s available in e-book form for $1.99 for a limited time. The paperback is available for $9.99. I hope you’ll take a moment to check out the synopsis and links below:

 

None of them really expected to wind up at the Granite Ridge Retirement Community for Active Seniors. And yet, here they are—Jim arriving after his wife’s unexpected passing, Norma after selling her home to rescue her financially strapped daughter, and Mildred after her lifelong neighborhood becomes overrun by crime. It’s an odd place to be, for sure—put out to pasture, some might phrase it. At the end of life’s road.

And yet, inside, they all still feel as young as ever.

When a figure from Mildred’s past emerges, a motley crew from the retirement community embarks on a road trip—in a vintage Mustang convertible, no less—which quickly turns into an adventure of second chances, fresh starts, and the discovery that love is never a landmark in the rearview mirror. No matter what the odometer reads, as long as there’s gas in the tank, there are always still new roads to explore…plenty of miles left yet.

**Includes book club discussion questions.**

It’s Never the End of the Road

None of them really expected to wind up at the Granite Ridge Retirement Community for Active Seniors. And yet, here they are—Jim arriving after his wife’s unexpected passing, Norma after selling her home to rescue her financially strapped daughter, and Mildred after her lifelong neighborhood becomes overrun by crime. It’s an odd place to be, for sure—put out to pasture, some might phrase it. At the end of life’s road.

And yet, inside, they all still feel as young as ever.

When a figure from Mildred’s past emerges, a motley crew from the retirement community embarks on a road trip—in a vintage Mustang convertible, no less—which quickly turns into an adventure of second chances, fresh starts, and the discovery that love is never a landmark in the rearview mirror. No matter what the odometer reads, as long as there’s gas in the tank, there are always still new roads to explore…plenty of miles left yet.

**Includes book club discussion questions.**

Links

Amazon
iBooks
B&N
Kobo

Happy spring, everyone! I hope your gardens are growing and your flowers are blooming and you get a chance to read beneath your favorite shade tree. (Come on–aren’t shade trees the perfect place to read?)

–Holly