Partnering: A Great Way to a Writing Career

I’m very pleased to welcome Janet Elizabeth Lynn to talk about partnering up to write a novel. Half the work, and twice the fun? Here’s Janet to let us know:

My husband, Will Zeilinger and I co-write the Skylar Drake Murder Mystery series, a hardboiled series that takes the reader to 1950s Los Angeles and other areas of the West. SLICK DEAL begins in L.A. Clues lead to Avalon on Catalina Island. Partnering has been a wonderful way to work. Each of us are published authors independently and now co-write. Many people ask, “How does this work?”

I came up with the idea of writing this series together because I love hardboiled mysteries, but didn’t think I could get into a guy’s head like he could. Once he agreed, we had a formal meeting and discussed the following concepts:

1. Work habits are like exercising, it helps to have someone (partner) to prod you along. Different work habits and approaches can be complementary which happens to work for us. We agreed to write between 6:00 and 8:00 every morning.
2. Goal Setting – It’s like a road map. You can’t get anywhere in a timely fashion without direction. We set several objectives that lead us to our main goal. We calendar each objective.
3. Support – Nothing beats having someone not only for “feel good” needs, but to also pick up the slack when things come to a screeching halt, i.e. when illness hits.
4. A Sense of Humor – Laughter can decrease anxiety when self-doubt sets in. Like brainstorming, you need a partner to make you laugh at information/research, mistakes, and…grammatical errors that pop up.

5. Remember: the most important thing is to write a good story.

SLICK DEAL is the fourth book in the series and…we are still married!

Wow! I had no idea, Janet! Not about you’re still being married, but that there were so many lovely benefits to writing with a partner. Congratulations on SLICK DEAL. Thanks for joining me on your book release day! I wish you and Will much book success!

BIO: Janet Elizabeth Lynn and Will Zeilinger
Published authors Will Zeilinger and Janet Lynn wrote individually until they got together and created the Skylar Drake Mystery Series. These hardboiled tales are based in old Hollywood of 1955. Janet has published seven mystery novels, and Will has three plus a couple of short stories. Their world travels have sparked several ideas for murder and crime stories. This creative couple is married and live in Southern California.

The latest Skylar Drake Mystery, fourth in the series, SLICK DEAL is now available!

SYNOPSIS:

On the eve of the New Year, 1956, oil tycoon, Oliver Wright dies suspiciously at a swanky Hollywood New Years Eve party. Some think it was suicide.
His death is soon followed by threats against the rest of his family.
Private Investigator Skylar Drake and his partner Casey Dolan are hired by an L.A. gangster to protect the family and solve Oliver’s mysterious death.
Clues lead them to Avalon, on Santa Catalina Island, a Hollywood movie star playground.
A high profile scandal, mysterious women, treason and more deaths complicate matters, putting Drake and his partner in danger.
Twenty-three miles may not seem far away but false identity and corruption on this island could squash their efforts to answer the question—How in the world can a dead man commit suicide?

EXCERPT:

CHAPTER ONE

Almost midnight. I was working security for the New Year’s Eve bash at the posh Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel with my partner Casey Dolan. The rented tuxedos we were wearing made us look like we belonged with the rich crowd down on the ballroom floor, but we were working. This was one of the most exclusive parties in the city. I’d been here before and I’ve never known any other hotel with the kind of history this place had. Our job tonight was to keep an eye out for trouble…and I suppose this was a much better way to greet the new year than sitting at home in front of the television with a bottle of whiskey. As a matter of principle, I didn’t take security work. But Dolan thought D&D Investigations would benefit from this job by keeping the lights on and paying our secretary. He was right.
I scanned the crowd and checked my watch—a minute before midnight. The noise level in the room escalated with anticipation. I spotted Dolan at his post under an archway on the other side of the room and smiled. He nodded. From my spot on the catwalk above the ballroom floor I watched as they counted down the last seconds—five, four, three, two… Just as the clock on stage struck midnight, the room exploded with shouts, horns, balloons, and a snowstorm of confetti. The band played “Auld Lang Syne” while a banner unfurled above the bandstand that proclaimed: HAPPY NEW YEAR 1956.
It seemed as though everyone in the world was dancing, hugging, and kissing. My mind disappeared into the past. I remembered my late wife, Claire, and how we celebrated every New Year together. Even when she was big with our daughter, Ellie, Claire was stunning. I pulled out my wallet and gazed at her photo. I miss you honey, so very much.
A man’s voice boomed over the P.A., “Is there a doctor in the house?” My dream with Claire evaporated. I looked down at the stage where a man had grabbed the microphone from the band leader’s hands and shouted, “We need help in the main lobby.”
I motioned for Dolan to stay put while I ducked behind the heavy drapes and crossed the hall to the lobby mezzanine. Fourteen steps would take me down to the lobby floor. I think I only used five. My hand automatically went to my holster, just in case. Pushing through the crowd, I found a portly man on his back in a pool of blood on the terracotta-tiled floor. A tuxedo-clad man loosened the tie of the victim but I knew he was gone. I’d seen that vacant look in his eyes a hundred times back when I worked LAPD homicide.
Somewhere in the crowd I heard “Make way please, we’re nurses.” A couple of women in evening gowns appeared. I held the curious crowd back while the women knelt on the bloody floor and checked for a pulse. One shook her head and placed a lacy handkerchief over the dead man’s face.
Screaming sirens outside announced the arrival of the police. Partygoers scrambled. More than a few were probably here with someone other than the one to whom they were legally and lawfully wed. I identified myself as hotel security to the first officers to come through the door.
“You were first on the scene?” one asked.
I nodded. “Me and about a hundred other people.”
“You see this happen?” I shook my head. Another officer shouted to the crowd, “Anybody here see this happen?”
More police swarmed the lobby with news reporters on their heels. I wasn’t surprised. This party attracted reporters like flies on a dead cat. All around camera flashbulbs popped, making the room as bright as day.
Someone grabbed my arm. I looked into the eyes of a dark-haired woman wearing a full-length fur coat. With all the commotion, I thought she was a tipsy guest who wanted to kiss me. Instead, she pulled in close and whispered in my ear, “Please help me get out of this place. I can’t be seen here.” She turned her back to the cameras. With one hand, she yanked the combs from her hair and let it cascade down to her shoulders. She had the aroma of flowers. Then she turned up the collar of her fur coat to cover part of her face. Tears rolled down her cheeks. I saw the desperation in her eyes.
“Please.” She squeezed my arm. “I don’t know this hotel.”
The elevators and outside doors were blocked by uniformed cops. I whisked her toward a side room.
A cop in a cheap brown suit noticed us walking away and yelled, “Hey, you two. Get back here.” I used to be a cop and I knew one when I saw one. This guy was probably a plainclothes detective. “You’re interfering with a police investigation,” he yelled.
“Maybe we should go back.” She stopped. “I’d hate to get you into trouble.”
“Believe me. It wouldn’t be the first time. This way.”
I noticed her striking resemblance to Ava Gardner. I pulled her along and headed to an empty room.
The cop caught up with us as I pushed open the door and turned on the light. I pulled out my PI license. He grabbed it from my hand just as I moved my jacket to show him my gun.
“Oh hell. Skylar Drake. I should have known.” He tossed my license back. “Why do you have to mess around with this investigation?”
“You have your job and I have mine.” I nodded toward the raven-haired beauty standing behind me.
“You stay put, Drake, while we sort this out.” I held up three fingers in a Boy Scout salute. He frowned and backed out the door.
I reached into my tuxedo jacket pocket and handed her my business card. Her perfectly shaped eyebrows went up. “Skylar Drake, Private Investigator.”
I nodded. “Now I need to get back to work.”
“I can’t be seen here.” Her tearful emerald green eyes sparkled in the light. “May I count on you to be discreet?”
My mind raced with a hundred things she wanted me to be discreet about.
Another plainclothes detective from my old precinct stormed in. I remember him as a real blowhard. “Drake. What the hell are you doing here?”
“Working and I was just leaving.” I nodded to the woman. “Nice to have met you, miss.”
Before the detective could get out another word, I slipped out the door and walked back to the lobby.
I checked the time—two a.m. The police had finished with most of the guests and allowed them to leave. The party was over. My job was done.
##

Writing Rituals: Sticktoitiveness

Here I am to report back on how my writing rituals are working (or not working) for me. First off, my writing has been spottier than usual. But I have a good reason: I’m in promo mode. My new book (#2 in the Corrie Locke series) will be released next month, so a good amount of time is spent on marketing. But I’ve been forcing myself to sit and write. Have I tried using any type of ritual to get in the writer’s frame of mind? Sort of. After working all week at my day job, I encounter a certain stubbornness that keeps me from sitting down and working again…even it if it involves working on something I absolutely enjoy. So how to get into writing mode?

1. Do something mindless: For me, this equates to thumbing through a fashion magazine or a shopping site, petting my dogs, baking cookies, or cleaning (this last item really works for me, especially if the task involves organizing. Organizing a closet or a drawer readies my mind to organize a story. I can hardly believe it, but it’s true. For me anyway.);

2. Get a move on: I’m not a fan of sitting for too long. I get up frequently and while I’m up, I think about what I’m writing or what to write. I think this beats staring out into space (which can also be helpful).

But this is a balancing act because if I move for too long, I won’t come back to my writing. So instead of taking a walk outside, I’ll walk in place indoors – about 100 exaggerated steps – before resuming the writing; and

3. Switch creative pursuits: My writing brain needs a break now and then. This is not an excuse; just a change of direction. So I turn to a different creative pursuit like gardening. Music (playing or listening) is a solid change in creativity, as well. And my favorite: Reading something different from what I’m writing. Maybe a poem or a newspaper. This can help promote ideas and clarity, or remind you to change direction in your own writing.

Wanted: Tried and True Writing Rituals

Many a professional athlete utilizes a pre-game ritual to rev up their engines. These rituals can be as simple as kissing a rabbit’s foot for luck. Or as jolting as taking a cold shower 45 minutes before every match.

Writers have their own rituals to help them slip into the writing zone. I know one author who drinks a cup or two (or six) of coffee to crank the writing gears. Standing on one’s head for a solid length of time can do the trick, too, so I’ve heard. It’s a surefire way to rush blood…and ideas to the brain. Here are a few examples from well known authors:

Charles Dickens wandered around London without any destination, sometimes for a dozen miles. This allowed his feet… and his mind to roam freely. If he didn’t walk, he said, “I should just explode and perish.”

– For some authors, it’s not any one thing, but a series of actions needed to sink into the zone: NBA basketball player turned author Paul Shirley starts his writing day with a bit of exercise and meditation, followed by a “fun” song; one that “energizes” him to get into the groove.

With all of this said, I confess that yours truly doesn’t have any set ritual. I’m a Dr. Jekyl and Mrs. Hyde when it comes to my writing. I tend to write in fits and spurts, as time permits, around my day job. On weekends, I’m expert at wasting a good amount of writing time before I sit myself firmly behind my laptop. And even then, I drift around before I throw out my anchor. Over the past two months, I’ve written 10,000 words of the first draft of my third novel. Do you think that’s a good amount? Wow, I nearly went deaf in one ear. I don’t either. Especially when those painful first drafts are crying out for revision.

But reading about other authors’ methods has inspired me. As I hope it has for some of you. I know that when I do sit and complete my writing goals, I feel utterly fantastic.

So, I’m going to dare myself, no double dare myself, (and any other willing participants) to find a writing ritual and stick to it. For the next month, I’m going to do just that…and report back. How about you?