Tuesday, May 10, 2016

What I'm Working On Now

I'm working on Terry Macdonald Mysteries #82 entitled "Sabotage At Sea". It takes place on an oil rig on the North Sea between Scotland and Norway. I started this story a few months ago and got about 3 chapters in and stopped. I got stuck and don't know where to continue.

this is the drawback of not planning and plotting beforehand. But I can't preplan a story before I write it. I just have to jump in and get writing and the plot flows from there.

It's a good story with some good characters, but I'm considering shelving it and tackling another story if I can't get motivated to finish it. I have about 3 or 4 that I have started.

Within the next few days I will know whether to continue with this story or start on another. If I can come up with a cool title and idea for a new story then I will go with that.

Wish me luck

Monday, May 9, 2016

What's Happening Now

Well, I'm finally at my last post on the history of my writing. My next posts will be what I am currently working on and what I'm struggling with and how I'm progressing towards eventual publication.

So, 2015. The first year I wrote a Terry Macdonald story in a year that ended in a "5". Not sure why this is significant. In 1985 I was busy at school. 1995 was in the middle of my 90's drought. In 2005 I was working on other writerly things.

This year was the most prolific year as far as word count goes. Only 8 stories were completed. Seven of those were in the Terry Macdonald Mysteries. And in December 2015 I wrote the first book in the middle grade series "Terry Macdonald Case Files".

But let's step back a bit. In January 2015 I completed "Curse Of The Black Dragon" where Terry takes on a vicious biker gang. While in the process of writing this, I decided to bring back an old character from way back in 1982's "The Sea Treasure". In that story Terry and Van go camping to Catfish lake and meet Jim Logan. I brought back Jim for this story and wove a bit of his history. I had also wanted to do a biker gang story and with the recent viewing of "Sons Of Anarchy" on TV, I finally took the plunge. It's not a bad story, though the idea that a Canadian teenager can take down a major biker gang leader is a bit far-fetched. but, hey, this is fiction.

Years ago I had purchased some duo tang covers at a local stationery store. I had four colours that I alternated on a "blue/red/yellow/green" order. I ran out of covers in 2015 and had been searching for years to find a suitable replacement. I didn't want cheap quality covers and had a hard time finding some but finally did. I had many more colours to choose from and decided not to go in a specific order, just use whatever colour I felt like at the time.

The next story, "Danger on Flight 999" was the last book to use one of the original four colour covers. This mystery was an airplane hostage scenario. In this day of terrorism and plane hijacking it just felt like time. Not that I'm glamorizing this at all, it just fit with today's headlines. And not a bad story either, though I'm not wild about the title. It's a little corny.

The next book I really liked the title, "Night Of The Zombie" was the first book to use the new covers and I decided to change the internal font as well. Another change was that I took out the chapter titles. I was struggling for the past few years with thinking of interesting chapter titles so decided to not use any at all.

Following this was a title I had since the early years but found it a bit intimidating to write a story around. With the recent addition of Raj Mistry, an Indian from Mumbai, I finally tackled "Mystery Of The Maharajah's Tomb". Terry and Raj travel to Raj's hometown of Mumbai and go undercover at a university. I really liked this story when it was done.

After the personal success of "Maharajah's Tomb", I decided to challenge myself once more and up the word count again for the subsequent books. On the next story "Terror On Tour" I made a conscious effort to slow down the pace and just enjoy the story unfolding and not be in such a rush to finish it. Terry and Van accompany Corey and his rock band on tour of Europe. I enjoyed writing this and it ended up at 12 chapters and over 26,000 words, more suitable to the teen book length. It's still a little small, most teen books can be upwards of 40,000 words, most even longer.

I now reached the 80th book in the series. "The Vanishing Game" was a cool title that I've seen elsewhere but decided to use it anyway. Another interesting character, Terry's cousin Justin comes to town. Justin suffers from Asperger's syndrome, something I had heard about a while ago and decided to have one of my characters suffer from it. He speaks his mind and some of the exchanges in the book are very well written. Again this book is 12 chapters.

The next book, "The Deadliest Stunt" was another good story. Two brothers, twins Rhys and Reed Wyatt come to town with their stuntman father. Again, very well written (at least I think) and I think I'm improving with my characterization. I try to make my characters interesting.

At this point I was worried about the age of Terry and my target audience. He was 18 and a senior in high school. I originally intended the series to be middle grade but was told that 18 is too old for my protagonist. I fretted about this for a while, because I like the fact that Terry was old enough to drive a car and travel on his own, but feared the "voice" of my stories was middle grade.

In late 2015 I decided I would make his character younger, say 14 and rewrite my favourite stories and lower his age accordingly. I would start out by writing a new mystery to introduce the 14 year old Terry, and "Case of the Midnight Intruder" was written. It's a good story, but as I did some research, the idea of rewriting the older stories to fit the new adjusted age wouldn't work.

So many stories depend on Terry's driving a car and some of the themes of my stories are just too dark for middle grade. So not to put "Midnight Intruder" to waste, I decided to still start the new series and just write new stories that fit the target age "middle grade" voice instead of rewriting older stories. Terry is a little younger and more impetuous but still can't drive and can't stay out late at night.

"Midnight Intruder" clocked in at over 30,000 words and 15 chapters, by far the largest Terry Macdonald story I had ever written. And I had fun and took my time, not rushing the story. I think in the last 30 years I have really improved on my pace. I would go back and re read some of the earlier stories and almost get whiplash they move so fast!

At the end of 2015, though only 8 stories were completed, I had written over 180,000 words. More than even 2012 when I completed 10 new stories and 2 rewrites.

As we start 2016 (well we are almost halfway through), I've slowed the writing pace a bit. 2015 was exhausting but I'm not going to stop now. I'm going to continue with Terry in both the "Mysteries" series and the "Case File" series.

I have also written part of another Terry Macdonald story "Marked For Terror" that will eventually be a part of the Terry Macdonald: Teen Agent Series. It will be for older teen readers and will feature more guns violence and even terrorism.

So that is the history of Terry Macdonald and my writing experiences up to the present time (May 2016). I plan to write 6 stories this year (I had better get cracking!) as well as another in the Case Files Series.

As I mentioned in my first blog post I would eventually like to publish some of my stories. They need a lot of work, but I think it would be so cool to be published. I've been writing for over 30 years and I feel like this is the next logical step.

Stay tuned for more blog posts about my continuing writing and publishing journey in 2016 and beyond....

More Changes To The Series-Upped The Word Count

One of the issues that has plagued me since the beginning is that the word count of the stories is not really a publishable length. Up to now, my stories have 6 chapters with about 2000-2200 words per chapter, so most books are from 13,000-14,000 words long.

Since this is a teen series (it was originally a middle grade series but that's not very realistic what with Terry's age (18) and some of the themes), 14,000 words is not long enough. So in 2013 I decided to make a conscious effort to stretch out the stories. It came about by accident really.

The first book I finished in 2013 "Clue In The Headmaster's Cloak" was still 6 chapters and about 13,000 words. It was a good story and we meet Terry's cousin Angie who first appeared back in 1979 and "Mystery Of The Haunted Cottage".

The next book, "The Jungle Temple" was the first story that I had written nearly half the book but didn't like the direction it was taking, so I went back and changed a major plot point and continued on. The story needed more than 13,000 words so it ended up being 7 chapters.

The next two books also had 7 chapters instead of the usual 6. "Mystery Of The Dark Mirror" was an interesting book as it dealt head on with Corey Cross and his depression. We find out that he was seeing a psychologist behind his friends backs and it turns out the doctor was a bit of a quack. I am quite proud of this story and it is very dark.

"High-Wire High Jinks" was a good story and dealt with a circus that comes to Port Salser.

Also in 2013 I wrote "Secret of Devil's Cave". I liked this story as well. But decided to push the word count again and ended up with 8 chapters and around 17,000 words. This was a title that I had since the early days of the series but never got around to writing it. I took it off the title list as it had the word "devil" in the title. But I dug it up in 2013 and finally wrote the story.

So even though only 5 stories were completed during the year, and no rewrites, I did up the word count. The word count would be upped again 2 years later.

I didn't take part in NaNoWriMo this year so no books were written during November 2013.

In 2014, six stories were completed. I find stories that I stop during writing and lose momentum usually don't turn out as well as ones where I push through and write in a short time frame. "The Space Shuttle Case" was one story that I wrote in bits, but it didn't turn out too badly. Terry and the gang head to Florida and the Kennedy Space Centre to help a friend of Jenn Vincent's brother who is accused of sabotaging a shuttle launch. We meet Jenn's brother Michael in this story.

The next story "The Eco-Warrior Mystery" introduces a new major character. I have always been fascinated with Indians and (east) Indian culture. I also wanted to broaden my ethnic base with my characters. I had a black character, Toby Gellart but he's not a major character.

I created brother and sister Raj and Neela Mistry. they are environmental activists and are integral to this story. I am still working on their characterizations, but Raj has sort of replaced Corey as part of the Terry-Van--?? trio. He starts out being Van's friend then during this mystery becomes Terry's as well. He will show up in more mysteries in the future. Neela will be Van's steady girlfriend.

The next story "The Arctic Island Treasure" brings back Van's uncle Ned who we met in "Mystery Of The Ivory Idol" back in 1984. This time Terry and Van are in the Arctic on an icebreaker and uncover a treasure. This is a title I had lying around for years and really liked it as a title and was excited to finally get to use it.

The next story was another title I had hanging around for years and always wanted to write a story about "Tahiti Spies". It was a pretty good story and Raj is in this one again, the first one since "Eco Warrior".

In most cases I think up the title to a book first, then think up the plot but I had an idea about a mystery surrounding an obnoxious deejay. I started writing "Peril On The Air" without a title and the story just flowed. I don't really care for this title, but couldn't come up with a better one. It's a little cheezy but it fits the story.

Another title I had in my arsenal for years but found it too ambitious was "Mystery Of The Dead Man's Double". this one deals with insurance fraud and "twin cousins", something I researched a little before writing.

I had written 74 titles in the Terry Macdonald Mysteries by the end of 2014 and was writing about 17,000 words a book or 8 chapters. In the early days I never dreamed I would get this far in the series. I had over 100 titles in the "arsenal" but didn't think I would get close to writing them all.

2015 would be another year of change. More about that in my next post...

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Shifting Into (Writing) High Gear

In 2010 I completed 4 more Terry Macdonald novels plus I revised one of the older stories.

Since I has written the first 35 books by hand in pen, I had always wanted to go back and revise some of the older titles and while revising them by typing on the computer, I would fix up some of the old plot holes and freshen up the prose. My writing was improving every year and I was finally at at place where I felt I could add something to the older stories. Lengthen them and correct plot errors and flesh out the characters more.

The first book I revised in 2010 was "Disappearing Act" written in 2000. It was one of my favourites of the earlier stories and wouldn't need to be changed too much. The biggest change was naturally changing from third person to first person POV. I had actually started typing out this story a few years before I had changed to first person POV so I had to scour the manuscript and change all the third person POV references to first person POV.

I completed this revised story in 2010 along with the aforementioned four new ones. "The Vanishing Signal" was an interesting story as it dealt a little with bullying. "The Shock Wave Mystery" followed and took place in Australia. I used Google street view to get a feel for the area I was writing about, the Gold Coast in Eastern Australia near Brisbane.

The next story, "Mystery Of The Knight's Sword" was also interesting as one of the character's was an author and she had a germ phobia.

A title that I had thought up years before and always liked was "The Stowaway Cruise". I finally had a chance to use it in 2010. It was a good story as well.

The next year. 2011 only one story was completed in Terry Macdonald series, "Rock'n'Revenge".  I was dabbling with other writing and was going through a bit of a dry spell. But I would make up for it the following year.

2012 was a banner year for Terry Macdonald and his friends. I finished 10 new stories this year as well as revising a further 2 more. A total of 12 stories that year. I have not had that big a year writing since(n titles), although I've come close. According to my files, I wrote 129,000 words that year. (Well I probably typed many more but due to errors, that was the amount of the finished stories). In 2015 I wrote more words (but the reason for that I will explain more in depth in a later post)

The two that I revised in 2012, were "The Samurai Sword Mystery" and "The Spine Chilling Challenge", two of my favourites of the older stories.

As for the new stuff, I went from writing #54 to #63 during the year. And the other amazing thing is that some of these stories remain my favourites.

First off, I wrote "The Witch Doctor's Mask" in January of that year. Also in January I wrote one my all time favourite stories, "The Captive Missile". Sometimes I take a chance on a plot point and sometimes it works out and sometimes it falls flat. In this story it worked out and I love this story. it takes place in the Arctic, one of my favourite locales to use (don't know why this is).

In February I wrote 4 more novels, "Secret of the Stone Idol" which featured bullying at Port Salser Collegiate. Another new character was created. Danny Michaelson is a student at the high school who is bullied by air head jock Daryl Peters. Danny becomes friends with Terry and shows up in some of the newer stories.

"The Sport Card Conspiracy" featured Van and his hockey team, the Port Salser Porcupines. The next story has the distinction of being the fastest story written. It took me only 3 days, Feb 15-17, 2012 to write "Danger At Daredevil's Peak" which was about skateboarding. This book also had the distinction of being the 58th book in the series, which matches the number of books in the Hardy Boys Original Canon.

"The Crime Lab Caper" followed in February also, and the introduction of two new characters, Toby Gellart and Marnie Tobolowski. They are two post grad students who work in the crime lab that Mr. Macdonald opens up in this book.

I took a bit of a break after these stories. After all 4 books in one month is a lot of words. The last 4 books I wrote in 2012 were during NaNoWriMo that year.

The next book I had high ambitions for but the story fell victim to taking too many risks with the plot. Sometimes there are titles that I have for years and don't feel inspired to use so they sit on my title list. Other times I think up a title right away and am inspired to write a story to match. Such was the case with "Tick Tock Terror". I thought the title was cool, and wanted to do something a little different. I had an idea that each of Terry's friends would disappear and he would have a time limit to find them. I used the idea in this story, but the ending didn't quite come together like I planned. Still I'm glad I tried it. It was an experiment and I have to keep pushing myself or the writing gets stale.

The next story "The Dangerous Deception" was also a little different. It took place in Prague and again I used Google street view to help with researching the story. "Riddle of the Headless Rider" was an ambitious title but actually just refers to a school play that Terry is directing. I added some drama in that Terry and Melissa break up briefly due to Terry being jealous but also his arch enemy Daryl Peters, a character I created back in 2006, sticking his nose in and creating trouble for Terry.

Finally in 2012 I wrote "Cyber Phantoms" another title I just thought up and wanted to write a story right away. This one is another of my favourites.

So 2012 was very productive. I now had 63 Terry Macdonald Mysteries. The following year I would make another change to the series...but more about that in my next post.

Change of Direction For The Series...A New Era For Terry and His Friends

In 2005 I took another break from Terry and his friends. I wasn't idle this year in writing stories. I had been writing about Terry for 16 years and had completed 35 stories. I wasn't bored with Terry, but I needed a break. See if I could write something different. Maybe this hiatus would help with the Terry Macdonald Series by putting a fresh perspective on my writing.

I had always wanted to write science fiction and since Star Trek and Star Wars were some of my favourite franchises I thought that now would be a good time to start. So I decided to create a new science fiction adventure series and see where it would take me.

So in 2005 I wrote a young adult novel "Rogue Station" with the main character Brendan Starr an orphan living on Earth who had a deadly secret. Pursued by unknown enemies, Brendan flees Earth to find his uncle, the leader of Rogue Station, a defensive station orbiting earth. It was a long book, longer than I had ever written for Terry Macdonald, at around 30,000 words.

It was a good story, and it was written on the computer--in first person POV. Something I had never tried before. I have since written 3 other books in this series, "The Brendan Starr Sci-Fi Adventure Series". "The Time Tunnel was the second book, and was a sort of sequel to "Rogue Station". The third book "Alien Probe" followed and then "The Haunted Asteroid". I have sort of let this series flounder a bit. A fifth title "Scions of Xeroja" is being worked on. I really need to get back to Brendan and his friends.

But with this renewed interest in writing and the fact that I no longer needed to write by hand, I returned to Terry Macdonald in 2006 with 4 stories completed that year.

Changing to first person POV dramatically changed how I wrote my stories. It was like a veil had been lifted and I had said to myself "why hadn't I done this earlier". Writing became so much easier and the prose seemed to flow so naturally.

The first book that year, "Sign Of The Sinister Tattoo" dealt with Corey Cross's depression and his relationship with Van. The following story, "Mystery of The Forgotten Tomb" took place in Paris France. "The Genius Thieves" followed and then "Mystery Of The Gyspy's Ring".

These 4 novels were completed during November of 2006 during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing month). Combined with the first person POV change and writing against a deadline, the 4 novels were completed during a one month period.

In 2007 I started work on another Terry Macdonald story, but this one was going to be part of a new series for older readers. This series never materialized back then but I am working on developing it now (2016). In this story, Terry wakes up in Rio de Janeiro with no memory of who he is. "Trouble in Paradise" was the working title and it was a messy write, but with typing on the computer and first person POV it came together fairly quickly. I finished the book that year along with "Slap Shot Sabotage" the 40th book in the Terry Macdonald series, and "Secret In the Hidden Chamber" during NaNoWriMo 2007

2008 was a prolific writing year with 6 books finished during the year. 2 during the early part of the year, "The Movie Monster Mystery" in March 2008 and "Mayhem At Mardi Gras" in June. During November 2008 Na NoWriMo, I completed 4 more stories. "Mystery Of The Jade Monkey" took Terry and Van to Thailand and an undercover mission. "The Haunted Dungeon" was about a video game. "The Fugitive File" brought back a person from Terry's father's past and we learn a bit of why his father left the police force. "Secret Of Pirate's Reef" took place in Barbados.

My writing seems to go through cycles. I write a lot for a while then almost like the tank is dry I take a break.

In 2009 I only completed one Terry Macdonald story, "Mystery Of The Viking Cross". I was writing Brendan Starr books during this time as well as completing my first adult mystery novel "Caution Horses". My protagonist was a Toronto cop, Nick Solomon and the story was good. It was my first attempt at an adult level novel.

So I wasn't exactly idle during the time I wasn't writing Terry Macdonald. Over the next 6 years though, I would complete another 33 novels in the Terry Macdonald Mysteries as well as write the first book in a new middle grade series "Terry Macdonald Case Files" and plan yet another series featuring Terry, "Terry Macdonald:Teen Agent".

More about that in my next post.

Friday, May 6, 2016

New Millennium-Increased Productivity (2000-2004)

The 90's were a bit of a dry spell for my writing, but I made up for it in the next decade.

A lot of changes took place in the Terry Macdonald Mysteries world from 2000-2009. Characters changed as did the method I wrote the words down, to the POV of the characters. Changing from 3rd person to first person POV dramatically changed my writing, both in quality and quantity. Another writing renaissance had taken place...but this wouldn't happen until 2006.

There were a few factors that contributed to this. First, I was older and was getting more confident in my writing. The second and more important reason I will talk about in the next post

Between 2000 and 2009 I wrote a total of 29 mysteries! (between 1990-1999 I wrote 3) And between 2000 and 2004 alone, I wrote 16 of the 29 mysteries.This post covers these first 5 years.

In 2000, I wrote 2 stories. the first one, "Disappearing Act" was one of my favourite stories up to that point, and remains one of my favourites and one of the better stories that I have written, at least in this relatively early part of the series. This was the first story that I did a major revision on. But more about that later as well.

The second story that year, "Clue in The Aztec Mask" brought back a character from one of my early stories "Secret Message In The Sword". Jose Alvarez returns and has a mystery for Terry to solve. This one wasn't as well written as the last one, but I love the title.

2001 would become my most prolific writing year (up to that time). I finished 4 stories that year. "The Masked Intruder" took only a month to write. "Danger On The White  Rapids" was finished later that year, as was "The Spy Case", another favourite, where Terry goes undercover in Siberia, and "The Stone Pyramid" which took Terry to the south Pacific.

2002 I finished 3 stories. Another favourite "The Samurai Sword Mystery" took Terry to Japan to look for his father. Van is along for the ride as well. "The Lost Desert City" takes Terry and Van to Utah and the Mojave desert. The final mystery that year introduced a paraplegic character Evan McIntyre. "Clue Of The Broken Claw" surrounded a mystery at the Port Salser zoo. I wanted to introduce a "smart ass" character and one with a disability. I wanted to show that disabled people are just as productive as anyone else and wanted a dynamic character. Evan has shown up in other stories and I like to think I've developed his character over the years.

In 2003 I finished another 3 stories, "The Stonehenge Caper" which portrayed Terry's friend Corey Cross as a troubled character. He was just a more worldly character before, but now he gets  accused of taking drugs and this started me on the path of having his character getting into more trouble. This would lead eventually to his suffering from teenage depression and low self esteem.  Corey's character has changed a lot over the years, more than any other character and I'm still working on his character.

The second story in 2003 was "Danger Beneath The Waves" which took place in St. Lucia. the story is pretty dumb but again I liked the locale. Also that year, I wrote "The Arctic Fortress". I tried to cause some friction between the main characters Terry and his friend Van. This is the last mystery to feature Val Thomas as Van's sister. I wanted Terry Van and Val to be like a classic trio but it didn't feel right having Van and Val as brother and sister and that kind of relationship.

In 2004, "The Swamp Treasure" I changed the character of Val Thomas to Jennifer Vincent and she was now just another (female) friend of Terry's and no longer Van's sister. Again I wanted the classic threesome with a female friend. To this day I still like the character of Jenn Vincent, but she is not really a part of the "trio" of friends. This trio was Terry, Van and Corey for a while, now it's Terry, Van and Raj Mistry, an Indian character I created in 2014. Still Jenn is a marked improvement over Val Thomas, who I don't even remember now what her character was like. she was just there.

Also that year I finished "Mystery Of The Golden Pharaoh" where Terry tries to locate a missing university student. This was followed by "Mystery Of Skull Island" and the creation of another new major character. Melissa Mulhall.

When I realized Terry and Jenn Vincent were not going to work out as a couple, but as friends, I needed another character to take her place as Terry's girlfriend. Melissa is introduced in "Mystery Of Skull Island" and remains Terry's girlfriend to the present time. She is fearless and likes danger and has a sense of humour and is a good fit for Terry, I think. She becomes good friends with Jenn and I like their relationship as well.

"The Spine Chilling Challenge" followed that same year. It has the distinction of being the last mystery I wrote by hand. And also the last mystery to be written in third person POV. My writing, while improving, was getting stale and I found it difficult to get momentum--besides my hand was getting tired doing all the writing in pen! We had purchased a computer in 2003 so I figured I might as well get into the 21st century.

So, after 2004 I took a small break from Terry Macdonald. But I wasn't idle during that time. My next post will deal with a major change to the series and one that took my writing to a whole new level. Stay tuned....

The 90's-Almost Gave Up On The Series

By 1990, I had written 15 stories in the Terry Macdonald series. I had changed some of the characters names, namely Terry's girlfriend Carrie had become Val, and Van and Val Thompson's last name changed to Thomas, but not much else had changed except that my writing was getting better

In late 1990 I finished "The Twisted Arrow" a story that would not hold up today as it deals with a Russian chess player who wants to defect to North America. It was right around this time that the Berlin Wall fell and soon after the Soviet Union disbanded. Still I liked the story. This is the first story in the series where I recorded the date I completed it, December 31,1990.

In 1991 I finished a story that took place in Hawaii, "The Silver Scorpion Mystery". it was not one of my better ones, but I was always looking for cool destinations to place my stories in and wanted to do a Hawaii mystery for years.

In 1992, "Track Of The Werewolf" was completed. Terry's cousin Cam Roberts was brought back again. Terry and Van travel to West Virginia to investigate a student accused of being a werewolf and spend time with Cam and his wife's family.

I really liked this title and was excited to get to write this story.

But something happened after I finished this story.

I ran into a writing dry spell. From 1993-1998. I did not write any stories in the Terry Macdonald series. I'm not sure why, perhaps I was bored with writing. Even though the stories were improving, the thrill of writing was gone. I tried a number of times to get back into it, but was not passionate about the characters or the titles I had thought up.

I had gotten married during this time and was adjusting to that and maybe thought that this writing thing wasn't going anywhere. I was getting older (I was now in my 30's) and figured it was silly to keep writing when I wasn't going to publish my stories.

Well, it was silly to think that just because I wasn't going to publish that I should stop writing. If I liked it, then why stop? All I needed was a cool fun title and and idea. By the end of the decade this would (finally) happen.

In 1999 I finally got back on the writing bandwagon and finished #19 "The Skeleton Room". Another great title, but the story was a little lame. The "room" was a hidden room under a midway ride at the local fairgrounds. Corey Cross returns in this one and in the 7 years since my last story written, again I noticed an improvement. I was now 34. It was 20 years since I completed "The Secret Tunnel".

This writing renaissance--and it truly was a renaissance--started me on a writing path that has lasted to this day. (early 2016).

In 2012 I completed 12 stories (10 original and 2 rewrites) and in every year since 1999 I have completed at least 2 stories a year in the Terry Macdonald Mysteries series (some years many more) except for 2005. But I was not idle from writing that year. I started a juvenile science fiction series  (more about this in a later post). I have also tried my hand at fantasy and adult mysteries.

Like I mentioned in the last post, in 2015 I finished "The Deadliest Stunt", #81 in the Terry Macdonald mysteries. In 2013 for #65 The Jungle Temple, the word count upped from 13,000 to about 17,000, adding a chapter and later that year, #68 Secret Of Devil's Cave, added another chapter to a total of 8 chapters per book.

Beginning with #79 Terror On Tour, the word count increased again from around 17,000 to around 26,000 and from 8 chapters to 12 per book.

Also in 2015 I completed the first novel in the Terry Macdonald Case Files series at over 30,000 words.

So that dry spell of the 90's is long gone and is nothing but a distant memory.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

My Writing In The 80's

I was having fun writing my stories and was developing a routine that has survived to this day. I would write voraciously for a few weeks or a month, then I wouldn't write for almost a year.

It would feel like the well was running dry. I would get stuck on a plot point and not know how to get around it.

I am not a plotter or a planner. I have never written an outline to a story. I tried to do it once, but failed miserably. If I had to plan my novel before actually writing it...I would never write it. the  outline would never get done. This is what I learned while writing these mysteries. I would start with a title then brainstorm possible situations or scenes but that was it. I had no idea who the culprits were or even the names of characters (besides the main characters of the book). I would just plow into the story and see where it took me.

This can be scary but it's really cool when a plot point works out. the drawback to this is that I would get stuck on a plot point and wouldn't be able to write  until the point got resolved.

But this is how I write. I make no apologies for this. the pros far outweigh the cons. And truth be told, I haven't had a lot of problems with getting stuck on a plot development. I have been able to write my way out of many sticky situations. Sometimes the plot development is dumb, but at least I wrote the story. It can always be changed.

In 1980, I wrote a Terry Macdonald mystery called "The Mysterious Message". It is probably the dumbest story I have ever written. I was 15 at the time and was still learning how to develop plot, characterization and everything that goes along with writing a story. This story had to do with codes and was very lame, but hey, I wrote it and it was mine.

The next year, I wrote a story called "Secret Of The Old House". Terry travelled to New Orleans to visit his grandparents and solved a mystery surrounding a haunted house next door to his grandparents house.

This was 1981 and I was 16 and was in high school, grade 11. I finished another story that year. "The Clue In The Attic". It is still pretty lame and unpublishable, but it was one of the first stories where I could see a marked improvement on my writing skills. I tried to develop Terry's relationship with his buddy, Van, as well in this story. Van was becoming more of a character and contrasted with Terry.

In 1982 I wrote "The Sea Treasure" and again was proud of the story when I finished it. Terry goes camping with Van to Catfish Lake and solves a mystery surrounding a treasure at the bottom of Catfish Lake.

In 1983 I turned 18. I wrote 3 stories this year. The first one, "The Sapphire Phantom" had Terry and his friends going to England to help Terry's father who went missing.

The next book, "The Secret Message In The Sword" was another one I was proud of. Terry travels to Mexico City in this one and meets Jose Alvarez, a university professor who turns up in a few other mysteries down the road. Again I noticed an improvement in my writing. Every year I was getting better.

Finally I wrote "The Jade Warning" in 1983 as well. this one brought back Terry's cousin, Cam Roberts from #3 Haunted Cottage. Terry goes undercover on a freighter.

In 1984 I graduated high school and attended university. I wrote 2 stories this year. The first one "The Clue Of The Bronze Horse" involved Terry going out west to solve a mystery on his friend Jean's aunt's ranch. Jean Alden was a character I developed who was Van's girlfriend. She only stuck around for a few more mysteries then became the manager at the Pizza Place at the Port Salser Mall.

Also in 1984 I wrote "Mystery Of the Ivory Idol". Terry helps out Van's uncle who runs a construction site. There is sabotage of equipment in this one. As the stories progressed I noticed a definite change in the types of mysteries and the plots were becoming more complex. I was getting older and (hopefully) wiser  and more mature, and the plots showed this.

1985 was the first year that I didn't write any stories. I'm not sure why. I was away at university for most of the year so that was likely why I didn't have time to write.

In 1986 I left university early in the year--the day of the space shuttle Challenger disaster actually, January 28, 1986. I got a part time job and was living at home. I continued to write and finished "The Desert Caravan's Mirage". I loved the title and in this one Terry goes to Algeria and nearly dies in a desert sandstorm.

In 1987 my father passed away and I moved out of the house. Circumstances surrounding this prevented me from writing a story this year.

"The Sky Shadow" was completed in 1988. I introduced another character, Corey Cross who was supposed to be an older more worldly friend who was trying to be an actor in Hollywood. This character has since changed as have most of my characters over the years.

In 1989 I finished "Password To Danger" where Terry travelled to Australia. This was the 15th Terry Macdonald mystery and I was beginning to build up quite a repertoire of stories. But none of them were remmotely publishable and I was just writing for fun.

In my next post I will talk about my writing in the 90's where I almost gave up on Terry and his friends (only 3 stories were written during the decade).

But I didn't give up. Last year (2015) I completed # 81 in the series and finished the first novel in the middle grade Terry Macdonald Case Files series. So I'm glad I didn't give up. But more about that in my next post.

My Writing History - The 1970's

In the late 1970's I was enamored with The Hardy Boys mysteries. One of my older sisters bought one for me for my 10th birthday in 1975 and it sat on my bookshelf for about a year. I still remember the title "The Arctic Patrol Mystery".  I had discovered the Happy Hollister series previously and was reading those books from the library so I held off reading the Hardy Boys.

Once I read one of the books, I was hooked. I've read all the original canon at least one and most books I have read several times.

This is where my spark for writing mysteries began. I would plan stories by making up titles and putting these titles on duo tang covers using coloured pencils and a ruler with letters stenciled on it.

I finished my first story, The Secret Of Blizzard Mountain, probably in 1977-1978. I soon followed that with "Mystery At The Airport". the heroes of my sagas were a brother and sister detective team. I've forgotten their first names now but their last name was Davis. I've since lost those stories.

In around this time, I decided to create a new detective, a teenager named Terry. Terry Macdonald was 19, and lived in Port Salser which was on the east coast of Canada (Nova Scotia). He lived with his father, Edward, a famous detective and his step mother, Patricia and his little sister Kimmy who was 4.

Terry went to high school where his best friend was Van Thompson and his girlfriend was Van's twin sister, Carrie.

There was a girl in my school named Carrie that I didn't like, so I changed Carrie to Valerie.

I wrote 3 stories in the Terry Macdonald Mystery Series in 1979, the year I turned 14 and moved from a small town on Lake Erie, to the large metropolis of Brantford Ontario.

In "The Secret Tunnel", Terry travelled from his hometown of Port Salser to Charlottetown to investigate robberies at a museum. He discovers a tunnel under the museum that leads to the culprit.

This was a very basic mystery story and I loved writing it. It is of course horrible and not even remotely publishable. But it was something I had written (literally written in pen--this was long before word processing programs and I didn't even own a typewriter)

The second mystery that year "The Haunted Mansion Mystery" which took Terry to Los Angeles to solve a mystery on a movie set. I thought this was so cool at the time, to have him travel to L.A.

Again, it's very poorly written and is only about 10,000 words or so. His friends Van and Carrie are along for the mystery.

The third mystery that I wrote that year has been lost. "The Mystery Of The Haunted Cottage", took place if I remember correctly on an island with cabins and involved Terry's cousins. I don't remember much about this story as I don't know what has happened to it. Somehow it got lost over the years.

So there you have my writing history for the 1970's.

Next post I will talk about the 1980's and what my writing was like for the "decade of excess".

Stay tuned...

The Time Is Now

I have been writing on and off for about 30 years. I have never felt like my stories were publishable. But I've learned a lot in the last 30 years about writing and about myself.

Now that I'm 50, I think it's time to put some of my work out there.

This blog will chronicle my path to publication. My next post will be a bit of history on the stories I have written and subsequent posts will be centered around getting an agent and getting published.

The time is NOW!