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The See Jane Dance! Party Top Ten List

The See Jane Dance! Party Top Ten List

The See Jane Dance! Party is now history. It was a wonderful morning, which led me to create the See Jane Dance! book party top ten list. The list would have been much longer, had I not exercised great restraint. Note that I didn’t follow David Letterman’s habit of saving the best for last by presenting his top ten lists in reverse order. The items on this list go in chronological order. Now that we’ve got that straight, here goes…

  1. The party happened, which is a minor miracle. The owner of Chocolaterie Stam and I met to plan the event on October 11. Shortly thereafter, a pinched nerve laid me low. I continue my preparations from bed and wasn’t sure I’d be able to attend the event. Had it not been for my husband, who ran errands when he wasn’t driving me to physical therapy or massaging my sore back, the party wouldn’t have happened at all.
  2. The weather was fantastic––sunny, calm, jacket weather. The day could have been snowy, windy, and cold. Iowa in November is fickle that way.
  3. Friends arrived early and helped us set up. My husband and I thought we’d arrived with time to spare. However, the parking meter accepted credit card payment only, a transaction that gobbled up every extra minute. Fortunately, friends we’ve known for 30 years arrived early. They pitched in and everything was ready when party time rolled around.
  4. People came. Friends from our old church, friends from our present church, teaching colleagues, a former professor from my college days, someone I knew in elementary school, the parent of a former student, even my former eye doctor! Despite their busy lives, they came. This fact never ceases to amaze me.
  5. They bought books. Another fact that never ceases to amaze me. People spent their money on my books. Why, I continually ask myself. Why?
  6. They bought treats at Chocolaterie Stam, too. You may not know this, but the folks at The Stam host events like this for free. Their only profit comes from what is purchased during the event. Many, many thanks to those who purchased chocolate or beverages or gelato on Saturday morning!
  7. I didn’t cry while reading Chapter 1 of See Jane Dance! aloud. The chapter is sad. It’s actually on the funny side. It was the sight of so many dear people smiling and cheering me on, smiling and laughing, to realize how richly God has blessed me, that nearly brought me to tears.
  8. The gift baskets raised $320 for Wonderfully Made Family Camp. I have no words. No words.
  9. Not all of the free chocolate medallions gotten eaten. The extras are in my freezer waiting to become the key ingredient in gourmet s’mores at our next family campfire.
  10. Becca Smith’s live fiddle music. Her toe-tapping songs added a perfect, festive touch to the party. After the party ended, the Chocolaterie Stam’s regular Saturday afternoon musician arrived, and the two of them began jamming. You can hear a snippet of their impromptu concert at this Facebook link.

If you attended the party and would like to add to the list, now’s your chance! Just leave a comment in the box below.

Swapping Out Jane’s Dancing for Jane’s Digging Has Been Keeping Me Sane

Swapping Out Jane’s Dancing for Jane’s Digging Has Been Keeping Me Sane

Swapping out Jane’s dancing for Jane’s digging has been keeping me sane for a few miserable weeks.

The misery began with back pain that I thought was the normal stuff I’ve dealt with for decades. But it turned out to be a pinched nerve that requires bed rest, physical therapy appointments, and exercises simple enough for a kindergartener to zip through with ease, but feel like climbing Mount Everest to me.

The worst misery came with the word that my last living uncle, the one after whom Uncle Tim in the West River Mysteries is modeled, died. We knew it was coming, but it came sooner than we knew it would. That particular misery expanded when I realized driving 3 1/2 hours to attend his funeral was out of the question due to my pinched nerve.

More misery came with the cancelation of a See Jane Dance! speaking engagement at the Onawa Public Library in western Iowa because it was too far to drive. The misery continues gnawing as I wonder whether a speaking engagement on November 9 at the Huxley Public Library will suffer the same fate. And, gasp, what about the See Jane Dance! Book Launch Party on November 11 at Chocolaterie Stam in Ames?

3 hopeful facts and 1 saving grace are keeping the misery at bay. The hopeful facts are:

  • The physical therapist says I’m making good progress.
  • The PT showed my husband how to help with exercises and massage my sore, pathetic back muscles to speed progress.
  • Both venues are just down the road, and my husband is willing to serve as my chauffeur.

The saving grace is this: swapping out Jane’s dancing for Jane’s digging has been keeping me sane. Instead of woe-is-me-ing about the See Jane Dance! stuff I can’t do, I’ve swapped it out for stuff I can do. As in, revising the first draft of See Jane Dig! Not only is it my favorite part of writing a novel, but also I can do it while resting in between doing my wimpy exercises and getting up close and personal with the PT crew. And November 1 was my target date for starting revisions anyway. Hooray!

So you can now see why swapping out Jane’s dancing for Jane’s digging has been keeping me sane. Let’s hope this saving grace, along with the 3 hopeful facts, result in enough healing to avoid more cancelations. With that hope in mind, I’ll sign off with this––see you at The Stam on November 11!

The See Jane Dance! Party Is Coming Soon

The See Jane Dance! Party Is Coming Soon

The See Jane Dance! party is coming soon! Here are the dance party deets:

DATE: Saturday, November 11
TIME: 10:30  – Noon
WHERE: Chocolaterie Stam
230 Main Street
Ames, Iowa 50010

The writer/teacher in me feels compelled to clarify certain aspects of the party. The See Jane Dance! party is NOT a dance party. Rather, it is a party to celebrate the launch of See Jane Dance!, the third offering in the West River Mystery series. I also feel compelled to say there will be live fiddle music, featuring the tunes Jane and the Little Missouri citizenry learned to square dance by. If the music makes you want to turn the See Jane Dance! book launch party into a dance party, I’ll be dancing with you.

We’ll also be celebrating the book’s spectacular splash on Amazon. I mean, what’s not to celebrate about hitting #1 in 3 Amazon categories and #27 in the entire Kindle Store?

Live fiddle music is just the beginning of the fun. You can also:

  • Enter the drawing for 4 door prizes: $25 Chocolaterie Stam gift certificates
  • Sample FREE Chocolaterie Stam chocolate
  • Participate in a book signing (bring your copies or purchase them on site)
  • Place silent auction bids for 3 gift baskets (all proceeds go to Wonderfully Made Family Camp)
  • Listen while the author (that would be me) reads a chapter from See Jane Dance!
  • Ask the author (still me) questions about the series
  • Get the inside scoop about See Jane Dig!, Book #4 in the series
  • Purchase treats at The Stam––chocolate, gelato, coffee, and tea––to enjoy during the party
  • Do some early Christmas shopping (Who doesn’t want chocolate in their Christmas stocking?)

Come November 11, I hope you put on your dancing shoes and do si do on down to the Chocolaterie Stam in Ames and join in the celebration!

Read See Jane Dance! Before Its Release Date? Join the Launch Team and You Can!

Read See Jane Dance! Before Its Release Date? Join the Launch Team and You Can!

Do you want to read See Jane Dance! before its release date? Here's how to do it and get a free Kindle copy too.

Does this picture make you want to read See Jane Dance! before its release date? The third book in the West River Mystery Series will be available at Amazon on October 10, but you can read it sooner by joining the launch team.

Before passing on the deets about how to join, I want to explain why See Jane Dance! updates have been sparse in the last several months, it’s because my indomitable mother (Doris Newell’s prototype) passed away on June 23, a few months shy of her ninety-fifth birthday. Saying good bye was hard. Still, I rejoice to think of her free of pain and reunited with her husbands, her parents, and her seven siblings who left this earth before her.

Now that most of her legal and financial matters settled, my attention is focused on the upcoming release of See Jane Dance!, the third book in the West River Series. Here’s a quick peek at how Jane and her fellow Little Missourians decide to usher in the new year:

1978 is only a few days old when Jane Newell stumbles over a body on her way to Round the Bend, Little Missouri, South Dakota’s most popular (and only) bar and cafe. Soon she’s juggling not only a murder investigation, but also the addition of four kindergarteners to her lively country school classroom. Thanks to weekly square dance lessons paid for by her mother, the town switchboard operator, and the school janitor, all of them determined to kick start her romantic life, she’s also fending off eligible bachelors right and left. Jane braves bone-chilling temperatures, dangerous snowstorms, and town gossip as she and the sheriff zero in on a killer who’s dancing too close for comfort.

If that’s got your curiosity doing a jig and you want find out how Jane tracks down the killer, please consider joining the See Jane Dance!  launch team. Here’s what’s in it for you:

  • An advance reader copy in September.
  • A FREE Kindle version on October 10.
  • An invitation to whatever kind of launch party I have time to dream up. This one depends on how much attention Mom’s remaining affairs require.)

Your part is to write an honest review and post it on Amazon after the book releases on October 10. (More about that in future blog posts.) To join just email me. I would love to have you on the team. I guarantee that taking square dance lessons with Jane and her rotating roster of partners will not be boring.

Now for two final tidbits regarding See Jane Dance!

First, Mom’s chocolate chip oatmeal cookie recipe can be found at the end of the book. Second, Mom learned to square dance in gym class while attending a small, conservative Christian college in the 1940’s. The students, however, had to refer them as “square games lessons” because dancing wasn’t allowed on campus.

Which goes to show that words really do matter.

My Character Information Spreadsheet Saved my Writing Life

My Character Information Spreadsheet Saved my Writing Life

My character information spreadsheet saved my writing life today. Some of you may think I’m exaggerating, but I’m not. The innocuous character information spreadsheet pictured above truly saved my life this week.

The events that necessitated this dramatic action began yesterday when my Midwestern Books editor sent the continuity and proofreading edits for See Jane Dance!. (It’s Book 3 in the West River Mystery Series in case you’re counting.) Soon I was reading through and approving the changes suggested by the proofreader. Who is amazing. Seriously amazing. All was going swimmingly until the proofreader’s note about second grader Cora Barkley. In a nutshell, the editor cited passages in See Jane Run! and See Jane Sing! that said Cora was a first grader.

Gasp! This is bad news for a fiction writer. (Yes, that would be me.)

I consider creating a consistent story world to be essential. How in the world was I going to reconcile this discrepancy and put Cora in the grade where she belongs? And how was I going to explain the shift to her teacher Jane who won’t have enough copies of first grade worksheets if that’s where Cora lands.

Oh wait. Jane is a fictional character. But still.

So what I did instead of freaking out, which I was my first reaction? First I opened my character information spreadsheet. I started this document before beginning See Jane Run! and have been updating and expanding it as new characters are added. The sheet includes basic information that helps me keep each character’s story consistent.* Not everything on the sheet ends up in the books, and that’s okay. It’s there just in case. Also, the picture above is of the beginning of the spreadsheet. It goes on for pages and pages.

A quick glance at Cora’s entry confirmed that she is supposed to be in second grade.

I also checked my composition notebook where I brainstormed character names and student grade levels long ago. Those notes also listed Cora as a second grader. Finally, I read the chapters in Run! and Sing! that were concerning to the proofreader. I used printed rather than electronic copies and discovered that those consistency errors had been caught and corrected before the books went to the printer and upheld Cora’s status as a second grader.*

Thus, thanks in part to my character information spreadsheet, I am breathing once again. My writing life has been saved, and Jane does not need to make a flying trip to Tipperary to copy more first grade worksheets for Cora. Whew!

*My character information sheet is only the tip of the character development iceberg. For each character, I have created a much longer document about their parents, immediate and extended families (very important in Little Missouri as everyone is related to everyone else), their education and employment, quirky habits and mannerisms, their homes and ranches, vehicles, motivations, faults, strengths, and more. Perhaps one day I’ll write a post about that.

**My guess is the proofreader had referred a document that hadn’t been updated to show those changes.

See Jane Dance! and See Jane Dig! Are Trucking Along

See Jane Dance! and See Jane Dig! Are Trucking Along

See Jane Dance! and See Jane Dig! are trucking along, and it’s time for an update on both. Let’s start with See Jane Dance! The last post about that book was clear back in December when I was still revising the first draft. So much has happened since then, and it’s all good.

The completed manuscript of Dance! is being scrutinized by the Midwestern Books concept editor. Her preliminary feedback assured me that the manuscript is not a worthless heap of trash. (BTW, this is every author’s worst fear regardless of the success of previously published books.) She’ll probably send her suggestions for improvement in the next month or so. When she does, it will be drop-everything-and-work-on-revisions time. The faster those are completed and returned to the publisher, the sooner the manuscript gets into the publication pipeline and the sooner it will be scheduled for release. Those details may be available this spring, so stay tuned.

Now on to the fourth book in the series, See Jane Dig! In previous posts, I described my dinosaur dig research and an interview with a real life paleontologist who lives in the area where the series is set. In the first of those posts, I mentioned that the plot for See Jane Dig! was a tad thin. As in almost non-existent. Today I am happy to report that is no longer the case. Can you hear me shouting “Yahoo!”?

This development began with a few sessions of me brainstorming plot points for See Jane Dig! I also printed a calendar of the months when the story will take place––it begins the last week of April 1978 and concludes near the end of May. I jotted down a few of the brainstormed plot points, the ones that had to occur on certain dates, on the calendar. Last Friday afternoon, I got together with the concept editor to add meat to the bones of what I’d come up with.

I spread out the calendar. She wrote down the results of my brainstorming session on notecards as I read them out loud. Next, we divided the table into 5 columns, corresponding to the book’s five acts, and laid out the notecards where I thought they belonged. For the next few hours we filled in the blank spots (and there were many) with more events, and moved cards from here to there until we were satisfied. Finally we assigned dates to the events and grouped notecards into chapters, with some cards being single chapters. That’s when you heard me shout “Yahoo!”

Now for a peek into See Jane Dig!:

  • The action begins during a field trip.
  • Jane’s rattlesnake shovel, first seen in See Jane Run!, reappears and is put to good use.
  • Another of Jane’s primary grade students, whose age has not reached double digits, drives a vehicle.
  • Velma discovers a substance worthy of greater hatred than glitter.
  • The action ends on the last day of school.

I hope that whets your West River Mystery appetite for the time being. Between now and the next update rest assured that See Jane Dance! and See Jane Dig! are trucking along.