Jeanne: What a Tangled Web

Back in 2017, I hired a local web developer, who also happened to be a romance author, to build a website for me. It wound up taking longer than I anticipated (around five months) and consuming a lot of energy, but in the end I was happy with my site.

It was themed with my brand, matched my very fun covers, and had this very cool animated snake.

Then I learned, much to my chagrin, that ophidiophobia, fear of snakes, is one of the most common fears and that the presence of that snake on my covers and my website would discourage potential readers.

Once I had time to absorb this, I hired a new cover firm, who created the “hot guy” covers that sell so much better and created a website header to match my covers.

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About the same time, my developer encountered a series of life-altering events and decided to get out of the website business. She sold my site maintenance contract to another firm. Continue reading

Jeanne: From the Cutting Room Floor

Deleted Scenes Movie Film Clapper Board Bloopers 3d IllustrationLast week I talked about designing your books to focus on the things that your readers value and to minimize the amount of effort you put into adding things that they don’t.

One of the things that my readers seem to particularly enjoy are my descriptions of Hell as a giant dysfunctional corporation.

I wound up cutting the scene below from my first book because my editor felt that it put too much emphasis on Lilith, who was a minor character in that story.

I recently pulled it out to look at because she is the central character in my work-in-progress, but it doesn’t work for this book, either, because I’m trying to redeem her and this scene doesn’t help with that effort.

Even so, the scene was a lot of fun and deserves to see the light of day, or at least the light of blog.

“If you could just sign right here, sir.” Hovering behind the red granite counter by means of his substantial wings, Focalor pushed a quill and a three-part form toward Belial. The griffin had run the Travel department since time immemorial.

Behind him, row upon row of men and women sat at cramped desks, arranging various demonic missions. Their chairs were bolted to the floor six inches too far back from their desks, forcing them to hunch forward to reach their keyboards. After just a few minutes, their backs burned with the strain and they worked twenty-hour days. Continue reading

Jeanne: Six Sigma for Fiction: The Action Workout

Depositphotos_27159627_l-2015This is the last of my posts on adapting manufacturing quality improvement techniques for fiction writing (unless I randomly remember another one at some point and see a connection).

The Action Workout was a group collaboration technique. The way it works is, you get a bunch of people into a room to review a process with an end goal of slimming the process down to its essentials, removing both unnecessary cost and opportunities for mistakes.

How, you ask, can this possibly be adapted for fiction writing? Hang with me and I’ll explain.

In the Action Workout as taught by a couple of women who ran the IT Help Desk at the manufacturer where I worked, the goal was to break the process into each of its discrete steps, identifying the steps that provided something of value to the customer. If a step didn’t add customer value, you looked for ways to remove it.

Let’s use a coffee shop as an example. What are the steps to serving a customer? Continue reading

Jeanne: Six Sigma for Fiction Writing: Five Why’s

Question Concept with Magnifying GlassA couple of weeks ago we talked about a technique used in manufacturing problem-solving that can be adapted to fiction writing, the fishbone diagram.

Another Six Sigma technique that can be adapted for fiction-writing is Five Why’s. With this technique, the problem solver attempts to get to the root of the problem by asking “why?” five times in succession. This technique is used to avoid declaring victory before really drilling down to the fundamental issue.

Manufacturing situation: a customer rejects a print order because it’s flawed.

  1. Why is it flawed? Because the press wasn’t set up properly.
  2. Why wasn’t the press set up properly? Because the operator set it up wrong.
  3. Why did the operator set it up wrong? Because he wasn’t properly trained.
  4. Why wasn’t he properly trained? Because that part of the training program was discontinued.
  5. Why was that part of the training discontinued? As a cost-saving measure.

If you stopped after your second “why?” you would assume the pressman was at fault, when in fact the root cause is a policy issue.

(Note: Five Why’s is particularly useful, in my experience, when you want to actually solve a problem, rather than just find someone to blame it on.)

In fiction writing, I find this technique really useful when I’m trying to dig down into my characters’ motivations. For example: Continue reading

Jeanne: Another Delivery from the Girls in the Attic

In the atticWhen the Eight Ladies were in class at McDaniel College years ago, our instructor, Jenny Crusie, used to talk about the Girls in the Attic. The Girls, she said, were the source of inspiration. What they handed down might be weird and totally not where your conscious mind wanted to go with your manuscript, but you should never disregard them.

(The Girls, by the way, were Jenny’s answer to Stephen King’s Boys in the Basement, who serve a similar purpose.)

Last week I started noodling around with another demon book. I have no idea why. I have one manuscript with 60,000 words written that’s waiting for me to come back and mold it into a readable story. And the next logical book in the demon series isn’t the one I started playing around with.

Clearly, following a straight line is not something I excel at. Continue reading

Jeanne: Six Sigma for Fiction Writing: Fishbone Diagrams

fish diagramIn my day job back in the late 90’s and the 00’s, I worked for a business forms printing company. Like most manufacturers, they were always looking for ways to cut costs and improve quality, so they put a lot of employees through Six Sigma training.

Most of what I learned has absolutely no bearing on writing a novel, but there were a few techniques that I’ve actually found helpful. Today we’re going to talk about Ishikawa (aka “fishbone”) diagrams.

Ishikawa diagrams are a tool for looking at potential causes of a problem. If the head of the fish is a problem, then the bones are all the potential causes for the problem. Although this graphic only shows the main bones, in a true Ishikawa diagram some or all of the main bones feather out to smaller ones that show contributory causes.

In manufacturing, the main bones are the 5 M’s: Man, Machine, Money, Method, Materials but you could change that to resolve a story issue. For example: Continue reading

Jeanne: Another Cover Story

originalsin-estridge-ebooksmallOn Sunday, Jilly shared the cover of her new novella, The Seeds of Exile. It’s spectacularly alluring and I think it will perform well for her. (Hope so!)

I, also have a new cover to share, along with a snippet from the short story it fronts.

If you’ve read any of my Touched by a Demon books, you’re familiar with Lilith, the she-demon who serves as one of Satan’s primary agents on Earth. Although Lilith excels at fieldwork, she ends each story headed for the maggot pit because she’s also Satan’s primary whipping girl when things don’t go as planned.

“Original Sin” is Lilith’s origin story and I’ll be giving it away as a freebie to anyone who signs up for my newsletter. It won’t be on Amazon or Barnes & Noble or any other vendor site–only as a reward for joining my subscriber list. (And to everyone who’s already a subscriber, of course.)

The cover was created by Paper and Sage, who also did my other covers. I love that this one echoes those, but it’s enough different to signal that this is something…different. A short story, rather than a full-length novel.

Here’s the tagline and blurb for the story:

In the beginning, God created Adam and…Lilith?

Meet the founding member of the First Wives Club. Before Adam met Eve, he was married to Lilith. Created at the same time and from the same dust as her husband,  Lilith views herself as Adam’s equal.

What if the original sin wasn’t curiosity?

Here’s the first scene (lightly edited in keeping with Eight Ladies’ PG rating): Continue reading