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I’ve been through this before. The flurry of publishing a novel, announcing the launch, marketing….

It’s not writer’s block, it’s writer’s blackout.It’s not writer’s block, it’s writer’s blackout.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And then? The crash. You’re done, burned out, ready for a break. This stage lasts about two days and you’re antsy to start on another story. But what if you have no ideas at the moment? You fret and worry and the more you reach for an idea, the more elusive it becomes.

That’s when you launch into major cleaning, declutter the house, become obsessed with social media and spend many too many hours on the Internet.

And suddenly, when you least expect it your brain clicks on “an old lady in a nursing home and a young girl just out of high school, who desperately wants to go to university, but can’t afford it. What if the two…?”

Where did that germ of an idea come from?

For the life of me, I can’t remember, but it grew into a two-novel-set of mystery, adventure, and romance—Alzheimer’s, a reporter fleeing across the Sahara, a son and daughter-in-law trying to decode a mother’s notes, a man waiting  to be caught and tried, and the young girl trying to save him….

I’m ready to write, but again I’m wallowing in writer blackout—no ideas, none, zilch.  What to do? Clean, declutter the house, spend many too many hours on the Internet, go to Mexico for Christmas and wait. Something will pop up. Of that I am certain. Meanwhile, I have time to relax and read, read, read.

P.S. Currently I’m reading the amazing, brilliantly written Welcome to Lagos by Chibunda Onuzo.

It’s not writer’s block, it’s writer’s blackout.

http://www.darlenejonesauthor.com

 

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Proofreading is an art

From the first draft to the second last, my writing partner and I send chapters back and forth. We ask questions, make suggestions, point out errors in time lines, holes in plot lines, identify discrepancies in character development, and highlight the great bits.

Finally, we come to the second last draft—the one that requires the scrutiny for details. Our goal is always to have a “clean” manuscript.

My writing partner puts the chapters into one document, sends it to me, and I send it to my Kindle.

Why?

I’ve learned that reading on the Kindle puts me in “book” mode and I see the things I miss on the big screen. Note that this draft is already formatted for ereaders so I’m seeing what the buyer will see. Periods in the wrong place, a word that just doesn’t work, “is” when it should be “it,” and a couple of times I spot a missing word that needs to be added, or an extra word to be deleted.

I find a few “that” where I think it should be “who.” I make note of them and my writing partner emails back.

Just now I was looking up when to use who and that. It’s okay to use that for a person, animal, or thing. The criterion has more to do with whether it’s a restrictive clause or not (whether the antecedent is named and whether the sentence can stand without the whole clause). 

As far as I can tell from that, it’s okay to use “that” in those cases where I have used it. It’s a complicated thing though.

I see this sentence, Dad had moved to Regina to teach high school there. I comment,

I think at some other point, her dad was teaching in a college not high school.

I bookmark each page that needs attention on my Kindle and then go back to the computer copy to add my notes with Track Changes. No, I don’t scroll through pages and pages to find the one I need. I pick an unusual word on the page I’ve bookmarked and then use Find to get to the right page on the computer.  

I send the file back to my writing partner. She writes, I went through your suggestions. I had found some of them but missed others, so thank you!” 

I offer to read it one more time, but she declines. I know she’ll go through it one or two more times. Our goal is to have an error free document and we get it right most of the time. After all, two heads are better than one.

 

http://www.darlenejonesauthor.com

 

Blurbs are still tough to write. What do you think of these?

 

Blurbs are still tough to write - what do you think of these?

 

Her dream was to go to university. Instead she’s working in a nursing home hunting a killer.

When high school graduate, Bittany Wright, gets a job cleaning at Happy Hearts nursing home, she is terrified of old lady Flo and desperately wishes she could be in college instead.

An unlikely friendship develops between the two. Brittany discovers that Flo, who may or may not have Alzheimer’s, is in grave danger. But, from whom and why?

As Flo’s condition worsens, Brittany scrambles to save her. But, ironically, it may be Flo who saves Brittany.

When the Sun was Mine: If you like suspenseful mysteries with complex and strong characters you’ll love this adult read, hopeful and humorous in spite of the ugliness of Alzheimer’s.

Buy When the Sun was Mine to experience a unique friendship steeped in intrigue and surprising twists.

 

Blurbs are still tough to write - what do you think of these?

The old lady is dead, but she could still destroy him.

When rebel leader, Sidu Diagho, learns that reporter Flo Mc Allister has died, he knows that her power to destroy him is still very much alive.

Flo was with him during the coup attempts. She saw everything, yet has remained silent all these years. But Sidu could still be tried at The Hague for his crimes with her notes the testimony needed to convict him.

Sidu is not the only one seeking to unravel the truth through Flo’s records. How much does Flo’s young friend Brit know? And Flo’s son and his wife? What did Flo tell them?

Sidu will do what he must to find and destroy the evidence against him.

Whispers Under the Baobab: A thrilling mystery—notes in code, unsent love letters—the  story weaving from past to present as the characters race to solve Flo’s puzzles.

Buy Whispers Under the Baobab to join the hunt and perhaps shed a tear or two.

 

http://www.darlenejonesauthor.com

Blurbs are tough to write – what do you think of these?

Blurbs are tough to write - what do you think of these?

 

~~~~ EMBATTLED ~~~~

Gifted with superpowers she can’t refuse, her life spirals out of control.

Bounced from a jungle battle, to an Islamist stronghold, to a corrupt Columbian trial, Em Roberts, your average school principal, knows that something is dreadfully wrong.

Now she must challenge “the voice” in her head— the voice that transports her around the world, forces her to face unbelievable danger, and insists she can stop wars.

Will she outwit that voice and end the nightmare, or will she die trying?

EMBATTLED is book one of the Em and Yves series. If you like “soft” science fiction with a touch of romance, then you’ll love the harsh reality and magic of Darlene Jones’s series.

Buy EMBATTLED today to join Em as she “saves” the world.

 

~~~~EMPOWERED~~~~

She’s crazy to build her life on childhood visions, but …

Jasmine Wade, rich man’s eye-candy, trusts in visions she experienced as a child. In them she “traveled” with a woman facing incredible danger and vanquishing evil. Driven by this ideal,

Jasmine is determined to change the world—at least her little corner of it.

Kidnapped, not for ransom, but to be eliminated, Jasmine must depend on her wits to survive.

But where, in this mix, are the aliens who are using her as their tool? Will they be the ones to save Jasmine? And, if not …?

EMPOWERED, book two of the Em and Yves sci-fi series –action, suspense, and human relationships woven into a story you won’t want to put down.

Buy EMPOWERED to enjoy grand adventure as aliens try to “fix” Earth.

 

~~~~EMBRACED~~~~

Controlled by an Alien, Abby must decide if he’s real before she loses her sanity.

When school principal, Abby Davies, hears clickings in the fillings of her teeth she doesn’t understand why she believes they are messages from aliens.

Changing the world was never part of her career plan … but, letters she didn’t send bearing her signature are showing up in newspapers around the world. The things asked for in the letters are coming true.

To complicate matters even more, the alien controlling Abby has fallen in love with her. Is this her one chance for true love?

EMBRACED – Book three of the Em and Yves sci-fi series brings the alien down to Earth.

Buy EMBRACED to see if Abby survives alien intervention in her life and finds love.

 

~~~~EMBROILED~~~~

Inexplicably drawn to the man stalking her, she knows she needs help.

School principal, Emily Roberts, can’t shake her attraction to the man following her. Scared, she turns to the wonderful Dr. David, but even he can’t help her.  Real fear sets in when the stalker claims to be an alien who has loved her in other lives.

Now, trapped in his perfect heavenly world, she is the only one who sees the danger threatening him.

Does she love him enough to give up her life on Earth and stay with him forever … if she can save him, that is?

EMBROILED – From a reviewer “Em/Jaz/Abby/Emily – how are all related? What has Jones done to bring these heroines full circle? To answer that question would be a spoiler. Better to say that some of the story line in this book which concludes the series made me very angry. Involving the reader so strongly in the characters’ lives is surely the sign of a powerful author. All I will say is that the ending is satisfying in every way.”

Buy EMBROILED now and travel with Emily to experience a world “up there somewhere.”

 

http://www.darlenejonesauthor.com

 

 

 

 

 

Between Books aka Wallowing in Author Limbo

Latest novel published – sigh of relief.

Holiday in Mexico – brain reduced to mush in the heat.

Back home – routines restored.

Time to think of starting a new book, ie procrastinate.

And procrastination leads to sorting through old photos which leads to this blog.

Much of Whispers Under the Baobab is set in West Africa in 1970, and among my pictures I found a few I had taken back then that will give you a glimpse of what Flo saw and experienced as she fled across the Sahara to safety in Bamako.  Between Books aka Wallowing in Author Limbo                                                                    Click here for more information.

Here is the only picture I still have of the 14th century mosque in Tombouctou, destroyed by Islamists in 2012.

Between Books aka Wallowing in Author Limbo

From Tombouctou, Flo and Josef traveled by boat – the General Sumaré – down the Niger River. Flo was on the second level and was able to go up on the top deck to view the surroundings. Josef, on the main deck would not have had that luxury.

Between Books aka Wallowing in Author Limbo

When the General Sumaré beached on a sand bar, the women and children were taken to shore in these pirogues. They are propelled by pushing poles into the river bed and walking along the side of the boat. Back in 1970, goods were transported hundreds of kilometers from Guinea to Mali in these (heavily loaded) pirogues powered by man.

Between Books aka Wallowing in Author Limbo

Nearing Bamako, this is what the terrain looked like with calabashes growing in the fields.

Between Books aka Wallowing in Author Limbo

The Tuareg ring that Flo bought on her journey and wore on a leather thong.

Between Books aka Wallowing in Author Limbo

 

http://www.darlenejonesauthor.com

Stories that won’t quit

Okay, here’s the thing. Ever since you were a kid you wanted to write a book.

You write that book and publish it.

BUT, the story just won’t quit and suddenly (or not so suddenly as you don’t write that fast) the one book morphs into four—never had you dreamed of writing a series, a sci-fi one at that.

Okay, that’s done. What next? A compilation of short, mostly humorous, bits.

And then?  Another story, of course. Never had you dreamed of writing a mystery, but here it is.

BUT, this too, does not want to quit and a few months later you have a sequel.

You don’t think these two will become a trilogy or a series, but you never know for you’ve learned that it’s the story that has the control, not the author.

http://www.darlenejonesauthor.com

 

 

Stories behind the door challenge

The challenge, should you choose to accept, is to write one of the stories holding its secrets behind this door (300 words maximum).

I’ll post your stories here and send you copies of my newest books — When the Sun was Mine and Whispers Under the Baobab (neither of which were found behind this door) — as a token of appreciation for your writing .

Please send your entries to darlene@darlenejonesauthor.com

http://www.darlenejonesauthor.com

What does Uzo have to say about my new book?

Always exciting when “the book” is finally edited, formatted, and published. Holding the print copy in your hands never fails to make your heart beat a little faster. You’ve done it.

 

Whispers Under the Baobab, my seventh book, is as gratifying as my first. Perhaps even more so for not only have I honed the craft of writing in the process, I’ve set much of this one in West Africa including Mali, a country that has been dear to my heart ever since I lived there many years ago.

Even more gratifying are the comments from my Nigerian friend, who graciously agreed to be a beta reader.

As an African currently living in Nigeria, my country, I could relate especially with the African setting. Aside from developing the plot, Jones doesn’t fail to present the reader with tidbits about the life and culture of Sidu’s people.

Some sequels tend to lose steam along the way, but not this one. This second installment is a book you can relax to, and finish in a day. If you are looking for a novel where good triumphs over evil, where love is mutual and undying, where new friendships are forged from the unlikeliest of situations, and above all, where the plot is driven by suspense and some bit of code-cracking, then Whispers Under the Baobab is the book for you.

Darlene Jones demonstrates exceptional talent as a wordsmith, and for plotting an intriguing story whose premise invites readers be to resolute in their quest for what is true and right.

See both books here: http://ow.ly/aKXh30bMH88

 

Rubber ducky reading

My little granddaughter has a collection of rubber duckies. She came home from her walk with Grandpa and showed me the latest addition – the pink one.

“Grandma, her name is Darla and she found your new book and is reading it.”

Gotta love the kid. Here’s the book she’s referring to. If you’ve read When the Sun was Mine, my new book, Whispers Under the Baobab is a sequel of sorts (perhaps companion piece would be a better description), for they do not have to be read in a particular order.

 

When high school graduate, Brittany Wright, gets a job cleaning at Happy Hearts nursing home, she is terrified of old lady Flo and desperately wishes she could be in college instead. As an unlikely friendship develops between the two, Brittany discovers that Flo is in grave danger. But, from whom and why? As Flo’s Alzheimer’s worsens, Brittany scrambles to save her. But, ironically, it may be Flo who saves Brittany.

 

When rebel leader, Sidu Diagho, learns that reporter, Flo Mc Allister, has died, he knows that her power to destroy him is still very much alive.

Flo was with him during the coup attempts and all these years later Sidu could yet be tried at The Hague with her notes the testimony needed to convict him.

And the girl, Flo’s friend? How much does she know?

Sidu will do what he must to destroy the evidence against him.

Building a Book Cover

Outline, first draft, rewrite, copy edit, proof read, and choose a cover. Finally, I’ve reached the truly fun stage of preparing a book for publication. Working with my new cover designer is exciting for I never know what her brilliant brain will come up with.

I loved the cover she designed for When the Sun was Mine

not at all what I had in mind, but ever so much better than the image my non-artistic brain had imagined. Let’s see what she’ll do with the sequel.

  • Mon 3/20 10:06 am

Hello Anita,

I hope this finds you well.

I am in the final stages of completing a new novel about Flo and Brit (When the Sun was Mine) and am hoping you would do a cover for me.

Please say yes!

Anita’s response comes a couple of hours later. Yes! She’ll do it, wants to know when I need it and is ready to brainstorm in a couple of days. (Yes, Anita reads the book before she works on the cover design.)

  • Mon 3/20 2:09 pm

Hi, thrilled to hear that you’re willing to do this cover too. I could send you the word file if you’d like to start reading it. And I’m in no great rush.

Anita asks me to send the book and wants to know if I’m looking to have covers for both eBook and wrap/paperback? Then she asks for more information:

  • Tue 3/21 10:49 am

Hi Anita,

Here’s my novel. As you read keep in mind that I’m still doing some fine tuning and it hasn’t been formatted yet.

Your questions:

  • Interior type: Black and White, Black and White with Bleed, Full Color, or Full Color with Bleed? Black and white – no bleed.
  • Trim size: 5×8
  • Number of pages: I don’t have that yet.
  • Paper Color: White or Cream? Cream
  • Author Name: Darlene Jones
  • Title: Ah, now that’s one of the hardest parts of writing a novel. I had a couple of ideas, but when I checked Amazon there were numerous books with those titles and they were all cheesy romances. My book is definitely not a cheesy romance.
  • Tagline/subtitle if applicable: Will be working on the tag line and blurb in the next few days 
  • Back cover blurb:
  • Do you have anything specific in mind?  If so, can you please provide samples of photos/imagery/other books that helps tell your vision? I thought perhaps a boy herding goats in the savanna of West Africa superimposed over a battle or a man’s silhouette. You’ll see why when you read the book. BUT as this is directly connected to When the Sun was Mine, perhaps the cover should be connected in some way?
  • If you don’t have anything specific in mind, please see the following: Argh, ask the tough questions, why don’t you?
  1. What is the genre? Always difficult to answer because my books are cross genre and I need to have a genre that fits Amazon’s categories. Possibly adventure or mystery/adventure or …
  2. Synopsis You read the first book (When the Sun was Mine) so you know that story. In this book, Sidu is desperately trying to find out what Flo wrote on her laptop all those nights at Happy Hearts for she witnessed his crimes and if the authorities get their hands on evidence he could face a trial at The Hague and possible death. He kidnaps Brit to enlist her help for he knows she spent a lot of time with Flo. Meanwhile, Perry and Nancy have Flo’s files, but much of it is gibberish. Then Nancy figures out how to decipher Flo’s code and Brit finds letters of Flo’s and the pieces start to come together. 
  3. What other books might be a good comparison to your story? (Please include links.)
  4. Are there any books with covers that resemble what you are looking for in terms of design? (Please include links)
  5. What is the emotion/vibe you want the design to communicate? Danger, love, triumph over evil, and anything that strikes you after reading the MS. I’ve tried to show life in Africa back in 1970 (which is when I lived in Mali).
  6. Anything else you would like to add? Anita, I trust your judgement completely. You came up with a perfect cover for Sun, one that I never would have thought of so please don’t feel limited in anyway by my thoughts. ALSO. I welcome any ideas you might have for title and genre or anything else that comes to mind.

On March 29, Anita tells me she finished reading my book and really enjoyed it. My cover artist likes my book. Bonus! Then she adds, “I have been thinking about your story, and I understand your references to “a boy herding goats in the savanna of West Africa superimposed over a battle or a man’s silhouette,” I am just trying to think of how we can tie it with the same design style as book #1.  I did a quick search for herding goats and battle stocks There are lots of photos of battles and goats but not in the setting we need.

Another concept that came to me was a desert scene with a baobab tree with silhouettes of Sidu and Flo.  It captures the setting with a little bit of romance.  So I looked for some trees and these too are hard to find.  I can find silhouettes of trees but was thinking we should keep the silhouettes to the people if we use any.

I did create an inspiration board as a starting point. Many of these are not a good fit to work with, but might trigger an idea, or if you see something that catches your eye I can see if I can find something that is better suited:

http://www.istockphoto.com/collaboration/boards/sxChB4_rMk-ydsjNXYAwp

 

  • Wed 3/20 8:53 pm

Anita, I’m so glad to hear that you enjoyed my book. You’re the first one to read it besides my writing partner/editor.

I love the camel/desert pictures, but that’s the smaller part of the story. I think the middle picture in the seventh row could work as that’s the exact image of a baobab tree that I pictured as I wrote. And there are some huts in the background which rather mirrors the building on the cover of the first book. Silhouettes would add the right touch for the romance too. If you do the silhouettes the woman should be in a pagne. I’ve attached a couple of pictures so you can see what the clothing looks like – the first is one that I took when I was in Mali, the second I found on the Internet.

Anita tells me she’ll do some experimenting and explore silhouette images and see if the stock I picked will work for us.  She’s concerned about the exposure of the photo as it is very light.

Anita warns me that they’re expecting another big snow storm and may have a power loss.

NOTE: Anita is north of Boston and I’m on Vancouver Island

On Tuesday, April 4, Anita sends me to a link she thinks might work as the angle of it ties in with the girl from book #1:

http://www.istockphoto.com/photo/baobab-sunset-burst-gm476757284-66259397

“And,” she says, “When I blend it in with some of the imagery from the first book it is starting to take shape and have a streamlined look.”

 

  • Tue 4/4 2:52 pm

Anita, I have to say that I had a picture in my head of one big tree that they could meet under. I like the way you have tied it to When the Sun was Mine, but the trees are so tall, they make me look up right away and not focus on the center of the page. What about a picture like the attached?

Anita says she understands what I mean, but the challenge with the stock I picked is that the trunk is too short so it would have to be located near the upper half of the cover and it might be overpowering.

On April 6, Anita writes, “I attached a composite with the tree you last shared.  Let me know what you think.  If we go with this tree, we’d need to use a solid color for the spine since the tree branches are cut off, I can’t really extend them unless we find another stock where the full branches/tips are showing then I can manipulate and add those in.

For some reason I feel a sunset theme fits well with this story.  It helps set a dramatic tone.”

We go back and forth as Anita experiments with pictures I’ve chosen. She has concerns about perspective as she tries to incorporate huts into the trees to make it look realistic and we have to consider the issue of silhouettes of the people.

On April 10, Anita sends me a picture she’s not happy with as she can’t overcome the over exposure of the tree and asks if we could use another tree or a desert scene or something else.

  • Mon 4/10 3:54 pm

I agree. The impact of the tree is lost.

How about this? The tree is the kind that’s found in West Africa and the terrain suits too.

https://www.shutterstock.com/fr/image-photo/africa-sunset-baobab-trees-colorful-sky-178172774?src=wuq4LvAcYCdGAN3-ff9vNQ-1-6

 

On April 11, Anita sends another composite.

  • Tue 4/11 10:06 am

Anita, the tree and sky work, but not the couple – she’s too big and old and he looks like a white man.

With this picture, is it possible to have the village in the background?

Anita asks me to search for couples and send links to those I like and to try to find some where they sit in tall grass as that works best to help blend the photos.

 

  • Tue 4/11 1:42 pm

OMG I don’t know how you do this. My eyes are going buggy. Trying to find silhouettes, but either the man doesn’t look African or has the wrong clothes on or you see too much of their faces or the pose is entirely too sappy romantic or….

But I might have a solution. Would this silhouette work if you put it as if they were walking towards the tree? Also could this village be way in the background?

 

Anita agrees that it’s a time consuming process especially when looking for specifics. She can’t use my choice (an image of a couple holding hands) as their bodies are cut off, so in order to use it, it has to be enlarged and cover the entire page. But the village is a possibility depending on the image we end up using for the couple.

She attaches a sample.

 

  • Tue 4/11 6:35 pm

Anita, I really like this!!!

And I should have realized about the silhouette. That’s likely why I’m not a graphic artist – LOL.

Here are some silhouettes that might work. I particularly like the first one as it suits the story right down to the ponytail.

On April 12 Anita says,I think we have a winner!!  This is obviously a rough draft but the silhouette will be very similar to this, the houses as well. I’ll play around with the birds and see where they might best fit in to tie it in with book #1, as well as some minor tweaks with blending, shadows and colors, once we’ve finalized the concept.

 

  • Wed 4/12 11:04 am

Anita, There are so many aspects I love – the barren terrain, the subtlety of the village that is barely there (how do the people survive?), the dominance of the tree and the sky—all fit so well with the images I had in my head as I wrote. The silhouettes work well too. The man’s profile looks “African” (as opposed to American black) and the clothes are right as is the positioning – not a romantic couple per se, but showing a “togetherness” in that immense landscape.

I will purchase the stock and get them to you later today or tomorrow.

 

On April 13, Anita asks if I’ve decided on a title and if I have the firmed up page total as well as the back cover blurb?

 

  • Fri 4/14 11:41 AM

Hi Anita,

The book should be about 265 pages and I’ve attached the back cover for you.

Title: Whispers under the Baobab

 

On April 14 Anita sends me the current version.

 

  • Sat 4/14 9:04 AM

Anita, it’s beautiful!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Once again you have done an amazing job.

I ask for a few tweaks which Anita completes in a couple of days and sends the final version asking if I like it.

 

  • Mon 4/18 10:45 AM

 

Anita, I don’t just like it, I love it! The cover alone should “grab” readers. I’m impressed with your creativity and the way you can bring my vague ideas to such a brilliant conclusion.

My Beta reader is a young Nigerian – the one who came up with the When the Sun was Mine title. I sent him a picture of the new cover and he says: “Whoever did this cover deserves a special thanks from me, and well, a tall glass of sweet palm wine *smiles* I love it.”

 

Anita says, “Thank you so much for sharing, you truly made my day … and so very neat to receive such a nice compliment from someone from a different culture, especially when trying to resemble a scene from his world.” Thank you!!

And I say, Thank you, Anita!  Contact Anita: www.race-point.com  

 

http://www.darlenejonesauthor.com