Mid-September Updates & Thoughts

Now that the beginning of the school year is behind me, and the students and schedules are starting to settle, I  can start to focus some of my time/energy outside of the workday on my SmartPig business and my writing again.

I won't kid you ... a lot of the writing and editing process is supported/enhanced/maintained by my intake of coffee. Finding the correct balance between sleeping and shaking can be a difficult process.

The first order of business for my autumnal writing is to edit the novel that I wrote over the summer. I'm filling in some holes in the first draft, in terms of scenes and characters and connective tissue that should help the story hold together and flow more effectively. Gail and I will be working on a series of major and minor edits for the next 6-8 weeks.

After that, we'll be sending the mostly finished work out to another editor for line/copy editing ... by that time, we've read the book so many times that we're snowblind when it comes to seeing any remaining issues.

After the new novel is fixed and ready for publication (and maybe even a bit before that), I'll start working on 2 new projects:

  • a serial fiction project that I hope to be hosting through JukePop
  • writing down ideas for the next novel (to be written in the summer of 2015)

I'm interested in both of the new stories in my head, and can't wait to let them out to play, once I have the time and energy.  

I've wanted to try my hand at serial fiction for a long time, and envision this project running for 20 to 30 installments of a couple of thousand words each. The protagonist lives in the lee of a glacial erratic in the woods between two small towns in the Adirondacks, and the story will see him discover some interesting and disturbing things about the places and people around him, while we also learn more about him and a shadowy group known as 'The Guides" in each installment.

The next Tyler Cunningham Adirondack Mystery (the eighth, an idea that takes my breath away), starts with the discovery of a body, and quickly progresses to much worse things. Tyler's semi-accidental involvement in, and exposure to, the investigation leads him to believe that this is not a random and isolated act of violence, but the work of a seasoned serial killer who may be operating, or based, in the Adirondacks.

It's a wonderful feeling, to enjoy writing the stories, and to feel the ideas for them come with ever-increasing ease and speed. I have a system for taking/keeping notes now that allows me to keep track of the ideas and stories, and it seems as though the writing and planning all work together to establish and maintain a creative momentum. 

A lot of the credit, and all of my thanks, goes to all of the people who have been so supportive of my efforts over the last few years ... I literally couldn't have done any of this without you.

I had a fantastic week in sales last week (my best ever!) ... I sold over 500 copies of my books in the last 7 days! I hope that all of the sales translate into reading enjoyment on the part of those who bought the books, and that some of them translate into reviews on Amazon and Goodreads.




Master of My (Just Renewed) Domain ....

Two years ago, I had a very rough draft of my first novel written, jangly nerves, and was terrified that my dream of becoming a writer had been ridden out to the end of the tracks. I purchased this domain, put up a website, and started blogging (mostly to/for myself) because that's what I assumed authors do.

The fact that I paid for two years is telling ... I wanted to appear more hopeful than the guy who buys a one-year domain, but lacked the confidence to put down the money for five years. This morning, I renewed JamieSheffield.com for five years (I'd do twenty if that was an option).

I had always loved (worshiped) reading, and dreamed of writing, but didn't take the leap until the summer of 2012, when I completed my first Camp NaNoWriMo with "Here Be Monsters".

I spent the fall re-writing and polishing and chopping and grafting my first novel, and went to print on New Year's Day of 2013.

My world opened and changed when my first novel was delivered (in multiple senses of the word), and became part of the world community of stories.

Once I had broken through the barriers (all self-imposed), and published my first story, ideas came to me for another and another and another ... my brain was suddenly full, and I went on to write "Mickey Slips" and "Bound for Home" during the winter and spring months. They were novellas, focusing on characters important to the first and second (and third) full-length novels.

When the time started to roll around for the next Camp NaNoWriMo, I was nervous ... worried that I wouldn't have what it took to pump out another full-length novel (and/or that it wouldn't be any good). "Caretakers" came out better than expected/hoped though, and I'm in love with the story.

Following the same work-pattern as before, I worked on fixing up the novel I'd written in the summer during the fall months, and published the new novel in early 2014. I was able/eager/driven to generate two more novellas focusing on critical characters in my protagonist's world. "Promises to Keep" and "Fair Play" were both lots of fun to write, and gave me enough material to warrant publishing a printed collection of the novellas, "The Weaving", which came out at the beginning of the summer.

I knew the story I wanted to write over this summer, and am happy with the rough draft (although there's lots to fix before it's ready for publication, hopefully in early 2015).

I'm planning on shifting gears a bit for the school-year writing this year, and starting a project in serial fiction, which I'm both excited and nervous about ... more on that later.

I've had tiny bursts of inspiration over the last week, fragments of ideas coming to me at odd times, and am reasonably certain that I know the general storyline of the next Tyler Cunningham novel.

My point in today's blog is trifurcated (yup, totally made up that word):

  1. a celebration of not having given up my dream of writing
  2. a look at my past and present and future as a writer, and curator of this domain
  3. an encouragement for other aspiring writers to take the leap!

I love reading, especially good books (although I occasionally enjoy reading crappy books as well), and there's always room on the world's shelves for another story ... so bring it on.

Writing has given me an outlet and a playground for my imagination that I never imagined I needed; I couldn't stop now if I wanted to ... and I don't want to stop.

It's changed my brain, my soul, my family, my approach to what I think of as my 'day-job' ... my entire life.

(and it can do the same thing for you, if you let it)


End 'O July Update

I had a great month!

I 'won' Camp NaNoWriMo for July 2014, finishing a first draft of my next novel (tentatively titled, "In The Deep Woods") on the evening of July 24th (Gail's Birthday). The first draft is nearly 76k words, and I'm putting it out of my head for a couple of weeks before coming back to take a look at it. Gail is giving it a first read now, and we'll work together to poke, and plug holes in the novel once she's finished.

I had a couple of appearances as an author this month ... 2 signings and a reading. I always have fun meeting and talking with readers, especially ones who might read my books. The reading at Paul Smiths College was my first, and it was a great time with an enthusiastic and interested (although small) group of people. Having spent some time picking selections and preparing the presentation, I loved talking with the people in the room, and sold a bunch of books to boot ... I hope to do more readings in the future.

I recently ordered some author bling from Vistaprint ... a cover for my iPhone, and some new cards. Both arrived in time for the reading yesterday, and were nice to have along with me.

Gail and Ben and I are headed off to Nova Scotia for about two weeks ... we're all very excited to explore this neighbor to the north. We'll be taking a ferry from Portland to Yarmouth, driving a slow clockwise loop around the main island and Prince Edward Island (stopping to explore and paddle and hike and whale-watch and sample the fantastic food/drink/culture/vistas along the way).

I got an idea for a non-Tyler story (something in the 10k-20k range) that I might use to clear my palate after the July Camp NaNoWriMo. I love Tyler and I love writing him, but I felt myself getting a little sad towards the end of the novel, and this may be just the thing to distract me. The picture above, taken in our backyard (rear-jungle), was the spark for the story that's still bubbling and growing in the back of my head.




July Update: Now with Exciting News!

Camp NaNoWriMo is rolling along, and I'm having a wonderful time writing, now that my school year is done. In the first nine days of Camp, I wrote just a bit over 25,000 words for my next novel, and I feel as though things are really coming together.

This process does not (by any means) yield a finished novel at the end of the month-long writing sprint ... I hope to have a finished first draft, as I have the previous two summers, which I can work with readers and editors to improve and polish in anticipation of a publication date in early 2015.

In other news, I am proud of the release of my latest book in print, "The Weaving", which is a collection of the four Tyler Cunningham novellas that explore the origins and backstories of important characters in his world.

It's available on Amazon, and should be in local bookstores soon.

I've also been able to steal time away from the writing desk to take some wonderful canoe trips with my father ... here you can see our Hornbeck canoes balanced on my Element for shuttling.

Here's a shot of one of my favorite trips, along with my fancy portage footwear!

There's a portage over the top, but I like going through this culvert with my boat ... I've been doing it that way for 45 years!

The trips are always great, even if the weather isn't!

I live, explore, and get to write in a truly magical place!

My parents are up for a few more days, and I'm planning on squeezing in another paddle-trip or two before they leave, as well as aiming for 3k words every day ... wish me luck (and be jealous)!




Camp NaNoWriMo 2014

For the third summer in a row, I will be participating in Camp NaNoWriMo, an online writing project in which thousands (tens of thousands, maybe) of people work at writing the first draft of their novel in a month ... in this case, the month of July.

The last two years, I was able to produce first drafts of "Here Be Monsters" and "Caretakers", and I'm working/hoping that the third time will be a charm also.

I spent some time during the month of June doing some prep work with a storyboard and maps and notes and such ....

I've got a great new standing desk, which I've been loving so far ....

I have a pair of bunkmates who are giving me moral support at every step of the process ....

So far, I've been able to write a bit more than 5,000 words, out of my goal for the month of 80,000, and the writing has been flowing well so far.

NaNoWriMo, which stands for National Novel Writing Month, works for me because of the pressure to produce your writing without worrying about getting it perfect (the idea is not to get it right, but to get it written) ... you can always fix a first draft in the months after you've written it (especially if you have a great reading/editing team, as I do). I enjoy writing this way, and if I hadn't heard of NaNoWriMo, I might never have written my first novel, because I don't have time to do it during the school year.

It would not be an exaggeration to say that this camp has changed my life ... if you have questions about, feel free to get in touch with me.

I'm also excited about the publication of two new books in the Tyler Cunningham Short series, "Fair Play" and "Promises to Keep". They will be joining two previous stories, "Mickey Slips" and "Bound for Home" in a printed collection of shorts in the next week or so ... keep an eye for an announcement about the book!

Meantime ...


"Promises to Keep" goes live on Amazon!

The latest Tyler Cunningham short, "Promises to Keep" went live on Amazon this morning. It's the third novella to be released for Kindle ereaders, all of which explore some of the important relationships (and backstories) in Tyler's life. This one takes a look at the origins and nature of the relationship between Tyler and Dorothy.

A fourth short, titled "Fair Play" will be coming out in a week or so, as will a printed collection of all four of the shorts tentatively titled "The Weaving".

I have lots of fun writing these shorter works; the process is radically different (for me) than the one I use for writing my novels, and it's a nice break from the longer (and deeper) commitment that they entail.

I think it's the best of the shorts to date, and hope that you enjoy it!




Russell Banks in Lake Placid, 6/17/2014

I got a chance to go and see Russell Banks meet with a local book-club to talk about his collection of short stories, "A Permanent Member of the Family" ... it was a fun and interesting and educational hour and a half.

He talked about the stories in the book, living and writing in (and being inspired by) the Adirondacks, and reading and writing over the course of his life. The stories in this collection were inspired by events both in his life and that he heard/read about in the news; "These stories were built around a moment that struck a chord," is how he put it.

Banks spoke about the difference in writing novels versus short stories ... he says that when writing a short story, he knows the beginning (and is often surprised by how they end), while with a novel he knows the ending (and has to feel his way through the opening to move the story in the direction that he envisions).

He talked about his literary influences, which include both authors whose work and/or lifestyles he admired. He recalled his years of teaching writing (which he felt mainly, honestly, produced higher quality readers and audiences for writers rather than many writers).

We spoke for a few minutes at the end of the book-club meeting. I attended a reading of his three years ago at the Paul Smiths VIC, when I had just finished the first draft of my first novel, "Here Be Monsters", and spoke with him for a minute about my fears/worries about publishing my book. He asked if I'd finished it yet, and was surprised when I mentioned having published a second novel ("Caretakers")as well as a few other shorter works. Part of the difference in productivity levels between us may be that he writes lengthier, and heavily researched, historical fictions, as opposed to my mysteries ... also, he writes in longhand with a fountain pen, while I type and edit on a computer.

My heart nearly stopped when he asked about the content of my books, and said that he'd have to find a copy of one of them at The Bookstore Plus, a local bookstore that carries all of our books. I love thinking of him reading one of my stories, while I'm enjoying one of his ...




Summer Signings and Such ....

I'm busily working on finishing the fourth novella that will be in a collection of Tyler Cunningham Shorts that I'm hoping to release in the next month.

I'm also planning out the next novel, which I'll be writing in July (for publication in early 2015).

I recently was given the Adirondack Literary Award for Best Novel of 2013, by the Adirondack Center for Writing and the Blue Mountain Center for the Arts.

All of this is great stuff, but I'm also excited about the chance to talk with people about writing, and in particular my writing ... something I'll be doing at a number of events this summer (currently that number is eight, but there may be another one or two falling into place in the coming weeks).

Signings and Appearances and Events

  • Artwalk - Saranac Lake, NY, June 19 (5-7)
  • Old Forge Hardware, Old Forge, NY June 28 (2-4)
  • Bookstore Plus - Lake Placid, July 12 (3-5)
  • Artwalk - Saranac Lake, NY, July 17 (5-7)
  • Paul Smiths College - Paul Smiths, NY, July 26 (2-3)
  • Hoss's Country Corner, Long Lake, NY August 12 (7-9)
  • Artwalk - Saranac Lake, NY, August 21 (5-7)
  • Artwalk - Saranac Lake, NY, September 18 (5-7)

If you would like information about any of these events, please feel free to get in touch with me via email at: jsheffield@gmail.com or through my Facebook page .

I'll be there with copies of my books to sign and sell (if you've already got a copy, I'll happily sign that with anything you'd like, even someone else's name), and eager to talk about Tyler and writing and whatever else strikes your fancy.




Numbers ....

As May comes to a close, I'm thinking about numbers ....

I'm working on my 6th book, planning my 3rd full-length novel, getting ready to release a 3rd printed book, approaching my 100th rating on GoodReads (a number no more valuable/valid than the 97th or 102nd, but personally meaningful nonetheless), and coming up on 3,000 copies of my books sold to date.

I'm also thinking about numbers because my protagonist, Tyler Cunningham is keenly interested in numbers, using them to distract himself from uncomfortable situations/realities. Tyler's reflections on numbers crop up during my writing, and it keeps me thinking/aware of numbers all of the time these days. I've had a number of interesting discussions about this quirk of Tyler's with readers in the past week or so, and love exploring the world of numbers with Tyler.

I'm planning out my summer of writing, and it involves some serious numbers ... by the time I go back to school in the fall, I will have written close to 400,000 words about Tyler Cunningham and the Adirondacks. I've loved being able to share stories with people who enjoy my particular brand of odd.

I'm excited to write another novel NaNoWriMo-style this July ... I'll be aiming for 2,000 words per day, on average, for every day of the month. The pre-planning and frenetic/frantic pace of the month make for a perfect (for me) writing environment of deliberate carelessness that allows me to write within a framework, while allowing my subconscious and unconscious to tell a story beyond the story that I will be planning and outlining during the month of June.

This next novel (no working title yet) will be taking place in the Tri-Lakes, with Tyler Cunningham pulled into a murder investigation by his 'friend' Meg. Starting with a bloody/messy/nasty murder, and a (hopefully) wrongfully accused former student of Meg's seemingly the only suspect, Tyler will challenge himself in ways that he couldn't have imagined when he drove into beautiful Saranac Lake more than a decade ago. 

Following his unusual approach to problem-solving, Tyler will attempt to find out more about the murder, the victim, the accused, and hopefully an actual killer (not the accused). As is in his nature, brilliant Tyler will paint himself into a corner by failing to correctly understand more functional humans' patterns of behavior and motivations, which will lead to a murderous game of hide and seek in the remote woods and waters of the Saint Regis Canoe Area.

In other news:
I'm attending the Adirondack Center for Writing's Annual Adirondack Literary Awards event this weekend, down in Blue Mountain Lake; "Here Be Monsters" is entered in the fiction category.
I've applied for the Anne LaBastille Memorial Wrter Residency Program, which would result in a week's writing in an idyllic wilderness setting this coming October.
SmartPig minions have been mailing out lots of signed copies of my books to stores/shops all over the Adirondacks; if you know of one that doesn't carry my books, tell them to get in touch with me.

As always, feel free to send in your questions, thoughts, pics of you reading my books in cool places, and ideas for the continuing adventures of Tyler Cunningham.




The Shape (and name) of (some of the) Things to Come

The SmartPig Illuminati had another retreat and dinner meeting last night, to celebrate the completion of the first draft of the next Tyler Cunningham novella, work out some kinks in the draft, and talk about the next few writing projects.

In between spectacular food and drink, served up by Liquids & Solids, a longtime SmartPig favorite (although I think Tyler wouldn't like it much), we got through an impressive amount of work.

We came up with a name for the next novella. It had a working title of "Dogfight", but is now tentatively titled, "Promises to Keep".

We identified eight areas of concern in the novella, and worked to address improving each one ... satisfactorily I think.

Finally we talked a bit about the next novella, which will be the fourth (and final) story to be included in the printed collection that we plan to release sometime in June. This one takes a look at the early days of the relationship between Frank and Tyler, as examined through the lens of a crisis involving a potential act of terrorism in the Adirondacks.

We're still in the exploratory stages of plot and setting, but I have a good feeling about this story, and like the way stuff is sticking to the wall so far.

I'm in the middle of applying for a newly established writing residency, up here in the Adirondacks; please keep all of your cross-able parts crossed, and/or send positive vibes my way.

I've continued to get some great reviews, which are better than any of the checks that Amazon sends me (although I'm pretty sure I don't have to choose ... do I?).