Scribbles and thoughts ...

These are ramblings from J L Wilson, published author of romantic suspense, mystery, and paranormal -time travel fiction....

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Be like a bird ...

It's snowing and blowing outside. I just had a moderately stressful drive home from work, I'm thinking about packing for a trip, I have edits due to my editor, I'm working on a WIP, I have deadlines at work ...

And I look outside of my window and see birds noshing on the suet cake hanging outside. The wind is buffeting them around but they're hanging on, swooping and diving. They've got their priorities straight, don't they? Deal with the important stuff first (seeds and water), and worry about the weather some other time.

That's my New Year's resolution: be like a bird. Really think about priorities and don't let Stuff pile up. It's only Stuff, after all. It'll get done. Figure out what's really important and do that.

Yep. It's my Bird Year.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

An odd yet lovely Christmas

Nope, I didn't get to Iowa for the holidays. The roads looked iffy (according to the Iowa Dept. of Transporation web site) and some sort of mixed precip was predicted, so the Spouse and I decided to stay home as did my other sister. So my mother had a relatively quiet Christmas with another of my sisters, her boyfriend, her daughter, and her son-in-law and their dog -- think what it would have been like if 3 more of us arrived!

It all worked out for the best, I think. For the first time in memory I was home on Christmas. I went shopping on Christmas Eve (I don't recommend it), I fixed a Christmas mini-feast, and I worked on the day after Christmas (so I can take off next week, perhaps, weather permitting). It was all very, very relaxing for us and I'm sure it was good for those who got to Iowa -- this gave them a chance to hang out with Mom and get caught up.

Now back to those New Year's resolutions...

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Snow day today!

I'm working at home today because we had some snow. I could probably get to the office, but I brought all my office gear home with me (notebooks, laptop, etc.). I'm working at home tomorrow morning, so that means I'd have to schlep everything back to the office, work there, then come home and set up at home again.

Nope. I'm taking a snow day! I've gotten a ton of work done already and it's barely 7 in the morning. I like working at home because I tend to put in focused hours of work, unlike at the office where I'm distracted by people, etc. So this will be good, I can get a chunk of work done while the snow swirls outside.

I'll be traveling this week, so keep your fingers crossed for me that no major Weather Events derail me & the Spouse. I'm starting to think Christmas should be moved to July -- or maybe we need to move to Australia where it's summer now! I'm sure those people stuck in airports out on the West Coast would agree with me.

Have a warm and toasty holiday wherever you are. I'll report back in on Saturday!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

And so ends my second year ...

I'm finishing up my second year as a published author, and am taking a moment to look back and reflect.

Things I have learned:

1. There is no secret handshake. Publication is a matter of talent, hard work, and luck, just like everybody said. You need talent to write the book, hard work to finish it, and luck to find the right publisher.

2. Promotion is a never-ending story. Because I am published electronically, I can always promote a book. My back list never dies. This is a good thing and a bad thing. Good because it never dies. Bad because I can always do promotion.

3. Some people will love your work and some will go 'hunh? How did you get published?' or words to that effect. It's largely irrelevant. You are published, you are talented, and you are good at what you do. Some people just don't get it.

4. To some publishers, you are expendable. It is not a concern of theirs if you are happy, have good sales, or like your editor. On the other hand, some publishers truly care about you, your happiness as an author, your sales, and your relationship with your editors. Nurture those publishers.

5. Make sure to have fun along the way. Don't take this so seriously. Enjoy the writing, enjoy the process, enjoy the whole schmiel. Be serious about your writing, but also enjoy it. When it becomes like work, take a break. You're in this to make money, yes, but you should also enjoy doing it.

Enough deep thoughts. I need to gird my loins (metaphorically speaking) to head out into the snow and meet friends for lunch. Then I plan to come back, get the fireplace going, and write with a mug of cocoa near at hand. I have stories to tell!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Oh the weather outside is ....

The weather is the news this week -- snow, ice, bitterly cold temperatures. We didn't get above 0 (yes, zero) for a day or two and now the wind is whipping up, so even though we'll be above zero, it'll still feel below zero.

I like a few days like this. I've always said the best thing about shoveling the driveway is the hot chocolate or coffee waiting for me when I'm done. This nasty weather really makes me appreciate a warm fireplace and a good furnace. I like winter, too, because no one expects you to be out and about in such awful weather. A few diehards go out cross-country skiing or snowboarding, but usually people just huddle inside. In the summertime when it's annoyingly hot people still are out doing sports and I always feel vaguely guilty that I'm not out gardening or walking or doing something in the heat.

Of course, by March it's getting old. By that time there's no place left to put the snow I've shoveled and my shoulders are groaning because I can't toss the shoveled snow high enough to get over the piles at the side of the drive. But I won't think that far ahead. I'm only going to look to January, when it will still be a novelty to have winter coats and boots as part of daily attire and when I still think a fresh coat of snow is pretty.

Okay, time to go out and shovel now. Then back inside for some hot cocoa. Yum!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

A world of ridiculous

It's gotten to the point that when I open a web site (I no longer open newspapers, I open a web site for a newspaper) I'm not shocked by what I see.

Selling a Senate seat? No surprise (it is, after all, Chicago).

Mother killed her child? No surprise. The mother was a teenager when the kid was born: no, she should never have had children in the first place. This happens deplorably often but don't get me started on people who insist chastity is the answer.

Car companies begging for money? This one had me flummoxed for a while. You want money because you made bad decisions and oops, they've come home to roost? You make a crappy product and nobody will buy it and your workers are overpaid and you want more money? Then I realized that the auto cars saw bankers and Wall Street execs get rewarded for just that, so they figured they could get some, too.

Cholera outbreaks overseas in a country that has a flourishing economy. Oh, wait -- the country's leader is diverting money that should go to infrastructure and preventing people from having to drink from streams that also serve as sewers.

I used to read 'end of the world' books: The Stand, War Day, Alas Babylon. The news headlines today are eerily like some of the ones ficionalized in those books. It's hard to maintain perspective, much less have any hope for the future when we are constantly bombarded by news like this.

And yet I am hopeful. I can't speak for the rest of the world, but Americans are really at our best when our backs are against the wall. That's when new innovations are discovered, new methods are put in place, new leaders emerge, and new ideas take off.

I am cautiously optimistic about 2009 but I think our country is ready for a major shakeup and change. It remains to be seen if it can be done or if we've become so entrenched in the Old Ways that we can't change. But I think we will.

If we don't, then I'll have some great ideas for plots for my next books ....

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

5 (count them, 5) books to promo

This is like a conjunction of moon and stars. I've got 5 books to promo this month.

Endurance, which just released in download. This is a paranormal time travel reincarnation love story starring a telepathic dog, a skeptical man, and a spunky, funny heroine.

Brilliant Disguise, which came out in download in August and is in print now. This is my "FBI vs. small-town gossips" book, which has gotten a lot of good reviews.

Autographs, Abductions & A-List Authors, which came out in download in June and is now in print. This is a first-person POV mystery starring Bea Emerson, newly published author, who attends a writer's conference and gets embroiled in a mystery.

Candy, Corpses and Classified Ads (the Pig Book), which came out in February this year and in print in August. It's up for an Eppie award, to be presented next March. The PB is about a woman whose ex-husband gets killed off and the woman's ex-lover is the cop invesigating the murder.

If Not For You, a romantic suspense book that came out in download last December. This is also up for an Eppie award. It stars an uptight businessman and an ex-hippy who get caught up in corporate shenanigans.

This is why I'm so glad my publisher, Wild Rose Press, now releases print and download books at the same time. No more of this double promo stuff -- it will make my life SO much easier!

Saturday, December 06, 2008

This is what writing should feel like ...

I'm working on the Oz book -- another 1st person mystery set in Kansas after a tornado. I'm writing a few pages a day, somewhat effortlessly. The story is flowing off my fingertips and into the keyboard.

This is the way I like to write. On my previous WIP it was a struggle. I just never felt like I connected well with the characters. I think I crafted a good book, but it was just that -- a craft exercise, a placing of words on the page without that visceral connection to the plot or the setting throughout the book. I did feel that in spots, but in other spots I had to analyze what I was writing and deliberately think, "Now, what's needed here? Should Dru get lost or should I have her meet with Cal and his group?"

In the book I'm writing now, the characters are dictating the story and it's such a relief! With stories like this, I can write my draft, let it sit, then come back and review it later. I don't feel I need to tweak it and prod it and massage it. My character has determined the scope of the story and I'm just telling it. I do nudge things in certain directions, of course, but overall the feeling of the story is all done by the time the first draft is done.

I think this is my niche. Many folks think first-person mysteries are tough to write, but I find them refreshing and invigorating. Yep. My niche. I'm here.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

The sign of an empty mind ....

I'm in between books again. Just finished edits on two and sent them to an editor for consideration, and not quite ready to start the next one.

As I was driving to work today, I realized I didn't 'have to' think about a book. Usually when I'm deep into writing, I'll use spare 'duh' moments (when I don't need 100% attention on the task at hand) waiting in line, TV watching and yes, sometimes, driving, to think about my book. I'll say 'where am I? Oh, yeah. Dru has gone into that room and what needs to be said next?' And I'll allow my mind to wander at will on the plot. I'll jot down ideas when I can and when I sit down to write, I'll have a good sense of what I want to accomplish.

It feels sometimes like I'm renting out 'brain cycles' to my book and letting it take me over for a time. I'm really noticing it now when I don't have anything percolating in the front of my brain. There's one spot in my commute when I can sort of relax (all the merging of cars is done and it's just a straight shot to the office). Today I got there and thought: 'hmm. No plot to think about. What an odd feeling.'

I suspect this will last about 3 or 4 days then I'll be back into it. I'm already making notes about ideas. Until then ... an empty mind. Another interesting side effect of writing....

Saturday, November 29, 2008

All over but the emailing ...

I've been tweeking my next 2 submissions and you know, I could nickel and dime myself all day. It's good that I'm working on the 2 books simultaneously, because they're related -- one follows the other in the series.

What I'm doing now is the gruntwork: I've got my list of faux pas that I regularly commit and I'm slogging through both ms, checking for those gotchas (too many ellipses, too many dashes, too my 'ly' words ... you get the idea).

This is the unglamorous side of writing, the cleanup. Just like doing the dishes is the unglamorous side of the Thanksgiving feast. They are both tasks to do and the reward is being able to say "DONE!"

I'm almost there. I'm going to do one more review tonight then they are emailed off to my editor. I'm going to take a few days off and just do some promo stuff, relax, read a magazine, then start the next book. I'm already looking forward to it ....

Almost DONE!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A day late ...

... but not a dollar short -- I typed "The End" last night to my latest WIP.

This book gave me Fits with a capital "F". I couldn't get into the plot, I wasn't involved with the characters, yada yada yada. I finally realized that I was trying to make it Character A's book and it was really Character B's book. So I went back, changed a few things, beefed up Character A's role but made it Character B's book. Once I did that, it went a lot better.

So now I can truly relax over this holiday. I have to do a ton of promo which I let slack while I was writing and I have to cook and get the house decorated for Christmas, but hey, those things are easy compared to struggling with a book that doesn't want to be written!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Urge to blog ... not

I keep a checklist of Book Things to Do. It lists things like where I can post promo items on what day, where I should check/read a blog, where I should blog.

I've been lax lately on the blog thing because blogging is a bit like a black hole. You toss something out there and you're not sure if anyone hears. If a blog falls in a forest and no one is around, does it make a noise?

I regularly do guest blogs for other authors where they give me a topic and I give them a reply. They post it on their blog and voila, it appears. The other day I did a guest blog with another Cerridwen writer and I mentioned some other authors I like to read (ebook authors, all). I didn't tell the authors I was going to mention them, I just did.

Every author sent me an email and thanked me. Their Google alert (an automatic thingie you can set up to track web mentions) had picked up my mention of them.

I like to think that my mention was also picked up by some other readers who may not have been familiar with me or those authors. I want to spread the word, so to speak.

So I guess blogging is worth it. It's like a net that's cast out there. We're not quite sure what we'll catch, but odds are, it'll catch something.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

No matter how many books I have ....

I still get a kick when I get the email from my publisher that my final files are ready and they email them to me, or when I get that box of author copies and hold the most recent book in my hands.

Right now I'm holding Autographs, Abductions & A-List Authors, which just arrived today. I really like that cover, maybe the best of all of my books (although Candy is great, too).

I hope I always have fun when I get the print copy of a book and when a book releases. I also got final files for Endurance, which releases in 10 days, and I proofed the final galley for Brilliant Disguise, which is in print this Thursday...

Hmm. Christmas is early, perhaps? At least for me, it is!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Life lessons from a car purchase

Hooray! I got a new car. I picked it up last night.

My 'old' car wasn't old -- it was just 2 years old. But I wasn't comfortable driving it. I had all-wheel drive before I bought it, and I really missed it. And here in the snowy North, AWD is very, very useful.

So I bit the bullet and talked the Spousal Unit into a new purchase. I forced him to test drive with me so we can be sure he fits (he had a problem with the old car which he neglected to mention until the purchase was done. Oops).

I agonized over the color choices -- should I get the green/gray with the off-white interior? Or the dark gray/silver with the black interior? I loved the green/gray color but I was worried about the dirt in the off-white interior. I thought about it, I paced, I read reviews, I looked at Scotchgard (c) products, I debated ...

I got the gray one. It was $1000 less and the interior sold me. As I drove it home through blowing snow I was so happy. It handles like a dream, it's quick, it's responsive, it's quiet, it's everything I wanted. I realized that the exterior is largely irrelevant. I don't see the exterior that much. I see the interior. And while I loved the look of the ivory/beige interior, I know in a year I'd be worried about that coffee stain, that scuff mark, or the spill in the rear hatch.

Life lesson? It's what's inside that counts -- the engine and the interior. Both cars were identical except for color (and price). Don't be swayed by fancy looks (or fancy book covers) and take a chance on what's inside. It's almost always the best choice.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Slugging it through to the finish

I'm a bit stuck on my current WIP. By 'stuck', I mean I've been working on it for about a month and don't feel like I'm making really good forward progress. This book has been hard to write. The words aren't flying off my fingers for this one, like they did for the previous book in the series. I suppose it's because it's a political thriller type of book and not one of my lighter mysteries, but it's tough.

That said, I've only been at it a month. I've set an artificial deadline of Thanksgiving for me to have it done, which means I've got about 2 weeks to go. I figure I need about 5 more chapters to wrap it up, so that should be doable.

Will it be any good? I think it will be, but I never know until I finish. That's what's so hard about this writing game -- you work and work, and you really don't know if it was worth the effort until you finish it, set it aside for a while, then pick it up again and evaluate it. Even then I'm never really sure -- I wait for my editor or my critique partner to tell me, 'yeah, it's good'.

So all I can do is keep slugging away and get that plot wrapped up. Then I'll let it sit for a couple of months and come back to it and decide .... keeper or not?

We'll see.....

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Ah winter ....

As I write this, the snow is flying outside -- not much but enough to make me appreciate the fire in the fireplace, that's for sure.

On a gloomy day like this, I often snuggle in to write, but today I'm going to venture out to car shop. The frugal part of me balks at this activity, but the practical side of me says I should. My current car isn't that old, but I feel I need an all-wheel drive car in the snowy North. I had one a few years back but traded 'up' for a front-wheel drive car.

Big mistake. I've sweated through three winters, worrying about my commute. So I've decided to learn my lesson, take the trade-in, and get a car that will get me through my winters. I'm somewhat consoled by the fact the trade-in will be good (already got an estimate) so I'm not going to be out of pocket too much.

So here's what I've learned from this experience:

1. Don't be swayed by what dealers tell you. No, a FWD car isn't the same as an AWD car and no, I won't get accustomed to a FWD car easily.

2. Go with your gut instinct. Do you love the car? Does it feel right? Does it fit you?

3. Take the spouse with you to test drive it and DEMAND that he tell you how it feels to him. I took the Spouse with me to test drive the last car, but he didn't give me his opinion until AFTER I've bought it -- too late to inform that 'gee, it's not very comfortable for me in the passenger seat.' Since I do most of the driving in the family in my car, this was an ISSUE. Sigh. This time he has to come with me to give it a try.

4. Be prepared to walk away. The sales people will try to do their jobs -- put you in a car that might be outside your $$ comfort zone. Walk away if needed. Explain gently but firmly that you want to spend $X.XX and really no more. Smile, be polite, and leave if needed. I did that yesterday. I drove the car, loved it, said I'd think about it. I'll call 'em back today and dicker over the phone ('do you have an older model one? I'd really like to shave some money off the price.')

5. Give them contact info that won't interfere with your life. I gave them my cell phone # (I seldom turn on my phone) and my 'spare' email address. Messages can merrily pile up and I won't care.

So wish me luck -- I'm off to shop!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

No waiting!

I was all prepared to stand in line to do my civic duty, but I breezed in, got my ballot and went to the booth and voted -- in and out in 15 minutes! They had about twice as many booths as usual, so perhaps that explained it, or the time of day (2:30 in the afternoon).

Now it's on to the next phase -- the results!

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Change change change

By this time next week we Americans will have a new Prez. No matter who is chosen, HUGE tasks await him. I view the upcoming decade as similar to the early 60s, when Kennedy was elected. We have a lot of potential for the future. If America can re-discover its roots, I think we can be a true world leader again (and not just because we have more money and more guns).

I'm excited and scared. I'm scared because I'm not sure either candidate is up to the task. I think one has the vision but our government is so cluttered and bloated with rules, regulations, and 'the way things work'. That might interfere with the vision.

I think 'career politician' should be an oxymoron -- no one should make a career out of politics. Maybe 'career public servant', yes, but politician? We've got way too many of them in Washington.

Anyway ... it's coming to a close. On Tuesday I get to vote (yes, I'm in a swing state and yes, there is no early voting). I anticipate long lines at the polls, so I have my Kindle charged and ready to keep me company while I wait.

And one excellent thing about this election cycle -- it's given me endless fodder for plots! I've been crafting a 5-book 'alternate America' series for a while (dabbling at it, really, for years). This election and the politics I've followed have given me lots of ideas on how to work on that plot. In those books, the world changes (change, again) because of an epidemic and a new government has to be formed. All I have to do is look at the way things are today and I can get some good ideas about what not to do.

So you see -- it all comes back to writing in the end, doesn't it?

Americans: Get out and vote on Tuesday! No matter who you vote for, change is coming. Let's be part of it!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The loss of Tony Hillerman

Tony Hillerman died this week. I read his obituary and was struck by what a full life he led (here's what I read).

Not only were his mysteries intriguing, but they were also enlightening. They told about a part of the world I seldom thought about (the 4-corners region of the Southwest) and about people I thought I knew about (Native Americans). Through his writing, he brought another world alive. As he said:

“It’s always troubled me that the American people are so ignorant of these rich Indian cultures,” Mr. Hillerman once told Publishers Weekly. “I think it’s important to show that aspects of ancient Indian ways are still very much alive and are highly germane even to our ways.”

I remember watching one of his books brought to live on PBS ("Mystery Theater" or some such show). I was struck by how little dialog there was, but how rich the characterizations were. When I started to write, I went back and looked at his writing (and some of my other favorites) to figure out how he did it.

More than anything, though, he was a storyteller, and heavens, we need storytellers in the world today, don't we?

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Once again, health ....

I had a tooth pulled on Wednesday -- didn't plan on it, I thought I was going in for a consultation and an hour later, I left with a bunch of gauze packing my mouth. Yeah, it had to be pulled but I just wasn't quite ready for the event.

Funny how we can handle just about anything if we're prepared for it. I knew this tooth had to come out some time -- it's been bothering me for years. But Wednesday it sort of ached so I thought, 'ah, call the surgeon and see if she can look at it.'

I got there, she looked, she said, 'let's pull.' They took my blood pressure before and after the event and I'll tell you, it's never been so high. I just wasn't ready.

This made me think of writing, of course (it seems like everything leads me back to my 'other' career). I've been chugging along, publishing with small publishers, and I'm pretty happy overall. Now and again I'm plagued by 'should I strive for more' thoughts.

Am I ready for More? Good question. Do I want to be wedged into deadlines, deal with other kinds of publicity, open new doors, learn new things?

Things to consider as I recover from dentistry (and prepare for more dentistry: bridgework, here I come).

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A mole encounter leads to political thoughts

I found a mole today, trapped in the stairwell as I came in to the office. This is a recessed stairwell and the poor guy probably lost his bearings in the bright lights of the garage, tumbled over the wall, and was trapped.

As anyone who knows me will know -- I can't let him die. Animals do not die on my watch, whether they're annoying or pests or cute. It doesn't matter. If I can help, I do.

So I got a mail bin and managed to trap the poor guy into it. Then I hefted it up over the wall and dumped him out. Unfortunately, it's a landscaped area and I dumped him into the rocks, but he was scrabbling for the sides of the bins and I was worried he'd drop. He burrowed under the rocks for a long time then I finally saw dirt flying upward. He'd found the ground.

I came back later and found a nice molehill, indicating he'd gone deep. I HOPE he managed to find his way out to the Real Mole World (he'll have to dig under some concrete to get there, but I hope he finds his way).

This made me think: why the hell was I worried about a mole at 5:00 in the morning? And worry I did, until I went back at 5:40 and found that molehill.

It's really simple. You have to do the right thing in life.

Sometimes it ain't the simple thing, sometimes it's a pain, sometimes it's inconvenient (like finding a plastic mail bin at 5:00 in the morning in an empty office building). But you do what you think is the right thing.

If only Wall Street, Washington, and the State Capitol did that. I'm not saying they're all shamelessly opportunistic, but if only a few people in power had paused and said, "What's the right thing?" maybe ...

This leads me to the elections coming up. I don't love either candidate, but I don't think I have to love them. I have to respect the person I vote for, I have to believe he'll do the right thing. All I have to go on is his track record during the election campaign. I can't look at his voting record in the Senate (because that was predicated on past events). I have to look at what I feel is his character, right now. How did he run his campaign? How did he act in the current crisis? Will he do unpleasant or unpopular things in the future because they're the Right Thing? Or will he bow to lobbyists and his party to do something else that's more convenient?

Our country faces really, really tough choices in the future. We're going to have to change to survive. We can't be the America we used to be -- we have to remake ourselves to face a world that's changing so quickly ... I have to vote for the person who can help us make that change.

I have to read about them, consider the points and not vote for a party or a personality. I've got to do what I think is the Right Thing. I wish more people made election choices based on that instead of party affliation or because of fear (fear of the other guy or fear of the future). But that's the other people. For me, I've got to do what I think is the Right Thing, right now, and pray it's not too late.

That mole made me realize it. I can't dig a hole and go inside and hope it all gets better. Maybe somebody will come along and bail us out with a big mail bin. It's going to take something as drastic as that to upend our world and get us going again, just like I did for that mole. It scared the poop out of him while I was corralling him (and chasing him around that stairwell), but it's going to be okay.

Let's hope we can say the same in a year or so.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

"Free" time

This is the first weekend I don't have anything scheduled since Labor Day.

Pause for thought -- Labor Day. Long time ago, eh? I've had either a book signing, a trip, a conference, a panel discussion .... something since Labor Day.

I didn't realize how much I prized free time until I didn't have much of it. My husband asked what I'm going to do with it. "Write, I suppose?"

Yes, but I'm also going to take time -- maybe have a nap, go buy some apples and stop for antiques along the way, do some cooking, do some shopping. I've done all of those things wedged into my weekends in between other events, but this weekend I'm just going to do those things. I'm not going to fit them in, they'll be the main event.

I think that's what I miss most in my hectic schedule. I end up slotting activites into a schedule and don't have time to relax and just enjoy them. So that's what free time gives me. I don't have to begrudge the activity that takes me away from the thing I love to do in my free time -- write.

And that's enough deep thoughts for a beautiful autumn Saturday! I'm going to go out, enjoy the leaves, eat some pie, and poke around a few antique stores. I hope your Saturday is as pleasant!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Fodder for fiction

The current election is providing me with great fodder for my fiction, to the point that I'm going to have to store some of it up and use later!

My current WIP is about another planet and the government is undergoing some major upheavals. Wow. Sound familiar? Isn't it great when I can take news headlines, tweak them a bit, and make them work in my books?

As I sit and write this, I'm watching the fall foliage outside my window. The colors are amazing this year, mainly because all the weather conditions came together at the right time. The yellows, oranges, and reds are surprising in their intensity. Now if we can just store up these memories in the snowy days ahead just like I'm storing up political nonsense for future books!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Horn tooting!

Just want to share -- my time travel/paranormal/reincarnation love story, "Forgiveness", got third place in the PRISM contest run by RWA's FF&P group. I was beat out by 2 mainstream paranormal books, one of which won "Best of the Best" in the contest.

See all the results here:

Not bad for a book that has never seen the light of print (and oh, I wish it would -- I have a ready-made audience for that book in a college town nearby!)

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Things to be thankful for ...

Every now and then, I look around and realize that I am truly lucky. This is one of those days.

My spouse is ill -- he's got a cold, and when he gets a cold, it's always a doozy. He's been bed-bound for days, and is wobbly on his feet. I used to think this was the old 'a man gets a cold and the world stops spinning' syndrome, but I think it really does wallop him. I seldom get ill and when I do, it's usually here then gone. So Point 1 to be thankful for.

Point 2: a friend of mine has been left a widow with 7 children and no life insurance policy from her spouse. Their house is mortgaged to the hilt and she has to re-enter the high tech workforce after a 10 year absence. I don't see a good solution to her problems anywhere -- 10 years is too long to be out of the high tech loop. There were a lot of red flags along the way, but no one expected her husband to die (he was only 52 and died after a very brief illness). So Point 2: I know where the life insurance policy is, and even if my spouse died, I could survive on one income.

Point 3: well, look at 1 and 2 -- if you've got your health, and you've got some financial stability, just about everything else falls into place, doesn't it? I don't have any impending crises, I have deadlines that are somewhat reasonable at work and at home, and I have a roof over my head.

Yep. Things to be thankful for .... Now if we can get this #*(@!)! election out of the way, I'll be truly thankful!

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Ah, the best laid plans ...

I planned this week to work on another book -- edits this time.

Alas, high technology got in the way. The resort we frequent at this time of year finally went high-tech, so I had WiFi access to the Internet. I didn't get done as much as I wanted, writing-wise. The good thing, though, is I didn't come home to 900 email messages, either.

I did get one book edited and have started on another. And I relaxed, did some hiking (ouch), hit some golf balls at a fantastic resort (ouch again), and had a good time, so the vacation was a success. Monday it's back to work, but this weekend I'm going to pretend I'm still on vacation and do some more relaxing. I figure I need to store up the stress-free moments since I'm heading into a stress-full time at work this fall.

The colors were beautiful, the weather was iffy except for the last 2 days, and the loons were as plantative as I remember. Viva vacation!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Recharging time

I am once again struck by how coincidence can work ...

I'm leaving on Monday for a weeklong vacation (getting away from it all -- literally -- to a cabin with no Internet, no TV, and no phone).

And last night I finished writing another book. This means on Monday I can start with a clean slate and delve into edits, then consider starting another project. I love how these things dovetail -- fate, karma, serendipity, coincidence ... call it what you will, when it happens, it's cool.

So no blogs from me for another week ... I'm off to enjoy fall foliage!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Blog etiquette ... or blog intelligence

We're interviewing to fill a position at work, and discussed candidates, etc., that we've seen in the past. Some candidates put their personal blog addy and web site addy on their resumes ....

Sometimes a big mistake. I've reviewed some the resumes and gone out to the blogs and web sites and what I found was NOT appropriate material for a professional. Yes, it's a 'personal' site, but you're telling professional people to go look at it, so you'd better make sure it's also professional. Either that or keep your professional and your personal life separate (as I try to do by using initials, never alluding to details about my day job, etc.)

This brings up a 'duh' question: why would someone do this? Do they think they're so fascinating that people will overlook the obviously inappropriate information ("I'm really hung over today and can barely focus on the computer screen"; "had fun at the game last night, we harassed a bunch of X fans who were idiots")? Or do they believe employers won't check?

Believe me. They check.

A reality check for us all. Remember: what's on the Internet doesn't STAY on the Internet. It's liable to come back to haunt you.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

No deep thoughts, just fun today

I'm blogging today from offsite -- I'm out of town and logging in via the hotel's wireless. Having a great time. I'm at a casino with some friends and we're brainstorming books, eating, drinking, and gambling. I've lost $7 so far in 2 hours of gambling, which I think is pretty good. Last night was Native American night at the buffet so there was bison, elk, venison on the table, as well as wild rice, etc. All EXCELLENT fodder for one of my books in which the hero and heroine go to a funeral dinner of a Native person and sample the food.

Ain't it neat how serendipity happens?

Must go -- doing a bit of gambling before our morning 'session' starts!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Progress report

My latest mystery is zipping along. I've hit a few speed bumps on the way but Miss Sockeye Salmon is still one of the villains, I've thrown the main characters into hot water (literally and figuratively), and I have a clear idea of how I'm going to finish.

At least, I thought I did until I realized ... hmm ... this book is set around Halloween. Maybe I need to work in some trick or treat action. I don't know about you, but it always spooks me when I answer the door at Halloween. It's the perfect time for someone to pull off a murder. Everyone is in costume, it's usually dark and spooky, and toy weapons are everywhere. Who knows if one might be real or not?

So I've decided to rip up chapter 14 and change my timeframe a bit. This means going back to the start, making sure my dates are right, and changing the fall foliage colors slightly and making the weather a bit colder...

Gee, it's fun being in charge of stuff like the weather. Don't we wish!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

A very rewarding event ...

I had a book signing at my writing group today and it went very well. I was pleased with the turnout (about 20 people) and with the panel discussion that followed.

It was especially gratifying because this group has been slow to embrace the e-book concept to the point that I wasn't sure if they actually considered me published (the rules of the governing body sort of dictate that, but that's another story).

Anyway, I had 20 people or so who were attentive, asked a lot of questions, and seemed genuinely interested in my publishing journey.

I plan to convert the world to ebook technology one reader at a time ...

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Politicians make excellent villains ...

Yes indeed. The more I read about the GOP ticket, the more I'm working people like them into my latest WIP. I've got the woman who ran away from her home and kids after being forced into marriage because of an unwanted pregnancy. And I've got another character with anger management issues who blows up every time someone disagrees with him. He's an old guy and I plan to have him die of a heart attack during a tirade. He's not a villain, really. He's a dupe of the younger woman who's using him for her own gain.
What fodder for a writer! You know, someone once said that fact is stranger than fiction, and it's true. I couldn't make up characters like this, no one would believe them!

On a more serious side, I'm very worried about this election. I feel betrayed by the GOP because they left out the moderates, focusing on the power elite (McCain) and the radical right (Palin). And I feel betrayed by the Dems because they passed over a qualified person who also happens to be a woman. My main concern is the environment, because if we don't fix that, it won't matter about oil or war or the economy. The environment drives it all ...

That's where my vote has to go this fall. We're on a precipice and we've got to back away and find another path. If a candidate can address that issue, I'll listen. Otherwise, I'll have to go with personality and my gut instinct, which tells me to look beyond the media hype and look for substance. The result will depend on who you are, but I keep thinking about this: we've got a candidate who's elderly and has had 4 bouts of cancer.

Do I really want a hockey mom to run the country?

Saturday, September 06, 2008

A real friend helps you hide the body ....

... no, I didn't kill anyone, but being forced to watch Sarah Palin every time I turned on the TV, I was tempted. The good thing about being an author is I can kill off a character like her in a book, and you just might see that sometime soon.

No, a real friend helps you figure out your plots. I was a bit stalled on my book. I didn't have a clear motive for the crime. Without motive, I don't know WhoDunIt. My critique partner and I met on Thursday, as usual, and I mentioned I was a bit stalled.

She threw out a bunch of good rapid-fire ideas, none of which I could really use. But later, when I was home, I took the gist of what she was saying. By chance, the GOP VP-nominee was on TV. "Hmm," thinks I. "What if I make her the villain? Why would she be a villain?" (beside obvious political reasons, of course).

Voila -- I got a REALLY cool idea for motive, a plot twist, and a red herring. It totally energized my writing.
So you see -- there are benefits to annoying people on TV and good friends are worth their weight in chocolate!

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

The trouble with holidays ....

Well, they end too soon, that's for sure.

But the real problem is this: whenever a holiday is coming up, I think, "Oh, I'll do that after the holiday." I make these little mental lists and put off some tasks, etc., until "after".

Of course, now it's 'after'.


There's also that sense of anticipation, of something to look forward to. The next "anticipation" date I have is 2 weeks away when I'm taking a half-day off.

Sigh again.

So it's back to the old routine. At least my WIP is going well -- I spent the weekend getting it off to a good start. Now if I can only continue that, it'll carry me forward to my next holiday....

Saturday, August 30, 2008

It's here! It's here!

Yay! My latest book is in print -- Candy, Corpses and Classified Ads -- available right here:

This book has a long and checkered history: bought by a publisher 2 years ago, said publisher closed, the book bounced around a bit, and now ... ta da ... it's here!

So excited .....

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Once again ... first chapters

State Fair update: chocolate covered bacon is interesting, but not a keeper. I did like the Frog Legs, though (battered green beans, deep fried). Quite yummy.

I'm on a new WIP and feeling pretty good about it. The first chapter is going well, and as we all know, that's critical -- this one is tricky because it's the second book in a series, so I want to give a bit of history but not too much. I have to introduce the characters quickly but not give too much detail for those who know the characters from the first book.

A challenge ... I are up to it!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Changing voices ... again

I struggled for a couple of days with that WIP and I've decided to put it aside for now and edit a previous book for submission. The plot just wasn't coming together for me -- luckily, I've got a couple of other things in the queue that will distract me enough so I can come back with a fresh eye (I hope).

Off to the State Fair today, that extravaganza of eating, people-watching, and gossip with my friends. I'm wearing my pedometer and if it's like last year, we will walk about 10 miles today.

Feet, don't fail me now!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Learning a new voice

I'm starting book 3 of my paranormal series, and I'm focusing it on a new set of characters. The first book focused on Isbel and Cyrus; the second on Dru and Jak; and this third book will focus on Jessa and Bron.

Isbel, Dru, and Bron are half-siblings, which is part of the continuity thread running through the books. The other thread is the political upheaval on their planet -- Dru, Jak and Bron are leaders in their government and they face a lot of challenges in this third book.

As you can tell -- it's complex, but that's not the part that has me worried. With each book I need to slip into the mind of a different person, a different personality. I have a good sense for this book of 'who' Bron is, but Jessa has me a bit worried. I'm not sure I'll so easily slip into her mind for her chapters. So I'm spending a lot of time fleshing out her history (none of which will appear in the book except by allusion to it) so I can get a sense of who she is.

Most of my characters are loosely based on people I know or on archtypes, but Jessa is a bit of a conumdrum. So I may need to postpone her entry into the story until I know her better.

Thoughts and musings on the writing life for a Tuesday ....

Saturday, August 16, 2008

That in-between place again

I finished the second book in my paranormal series for Wild Rose -- finished it on Thursday. So I'm at that in-between place again: not quite done with the last book, not ready to start the next one.

I did decide what I'll start next: Book 3 in this series. The characters are firmly in my head, so I want to continue on. The In-Between Place (IBP) is somewhat relaxing, but I find that I always have a lot of catching up to do. I tend to put a lot of things on hold when I'm deep into writing, and now I have to deal with those things: promotion, scheduling, balancing the checkbook .... just daily Stuff.

I'm pleased with how the last book turned out and I'm anxious to start the next one, but I'm trying to restrain myself a bit ... I think the book is better (and the writing goes faster) if I take some time to think about it because I launch into it.

So I'm in Think Mode now ...

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

There it is!

Look over there to the right -------------)))))))))))))))))))

Yep, another book out today! I didn't get the buy-link until just a few minutes ago. Here's the blurb (it's REALLY a fun book):

Nick Baxter, an undercover FBI agent, thinks his BRILLIANT DISGUISE will fool the hicks in New Providence, Iowa. They won't suspect he's there investigating widow Shannon Delgardie, under suspicion of treason. What Nick doesn't know is that everybody in town is conspiring to protect her and investigate him in return.

Shannon needs help. The men her late husband blackmailed are closing in and the FBI might be involved. When Nick approaches her, can she trust him? With the aid of computer hackers and hair stylists, she uncovers the truth, finding a love she never expected in a tiny Iowa town.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Good starts

I attended a critique session today with a bunch of people reading someone's work.

I doubt I would have had the fortitude to read my work aloud, although as I think about it, maybe I would. I'm getting pretty confident about my writing, although I do still find myself pausing sometimes and thinking, "hmm, is that a good way to handle that?"

Case in point: my WIP. I think I wrote a good first chapter, but is it the RIGHT first chapter?

I'm not sure. Maybe I'm just too accustomed to writing mysteries, in which action starts with a bang. The first chapter in my current WIP starts with an argument between the heroine and a naked man.

Hmm. Maybe not a bad place to start, after all.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Once again ... give thanks

I heard today that an old acquaintance of mine has terminal cancer. I haven't seen her for years, but have kept in touch with her peripherally all this time. She's younger than me by about 5 years, and as far as I know, has lived a healthy life all her life. She's in stage 4, and the prognosis is obviously grim.

Once again: pause, think, and reflect. Health is the most important thing, followed by financial security, emotional security, etc.

This news came as I was worrying about whether I was releasing too many books too fast. It's a reminder to me:

This is life. It is not a rehearsal. We may not get tomorrow.

I'm going to release the books as I see fit and not worry about 'saturating' the market. I think it can handle 4 books a year.

A timely reminder, albeit a grim one.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

The benefits of visitors ....

I'm having some company this weekend -- my mother and sister are coming to visit. This has prompted my husband (and, admittedly, myself) to finish all those projects that we were going to do but just haven't quite gotten to. So now the tools are put away, the paint brushes are cleaned, the floor is patched ....

It's useful to have this kind of 'inspection' now and again. It helps clean up that "To do" list!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Time for a look back ....

It was around this time two years ago that I signed my first publishing contract. I think that anniversary makes me pause, just like the anniversary of my father's death makes me pause, my birthday makes me pause, etc.

I had a brief moment of panic this weekend. Am I releasing too many books too often? Should I back off? Should I wait?

Here's the scenario: I had 4 books release last year, two of which are in print now. This year I will have 4 more new books out and 5 total books in print. For the next three years, if all my submissions get bought, I'll have a new book out almost every month with assorted print books out (I made a table going into 2011 to track what might occur).

I don't want to hold on to these books. I just don't see a reason to. They're all written, they're all solid, and I have editors who love my work.

Look at it this way: if I didn't have an e-release AND a p-release, I'd be right up there with Nora, releasing 3 or 4 books a year. But because I have double releases for almost all books, it looks worse than it is.

I think I just need to hone my strategy for the specific promo needed for the two types of releases, e-format and print. If I can nail that, then I think I can manage all of this.

As always ... stay tuned.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Where am I?

I'm deep in the forest of another planet.

This new book is going very, very well. Words seem to be flying off my fingers. I know I said I was going to try to work on two books at one time, but this one is progressing so well, I may save the other book to work on if I get stuck in this one.

I hope it's hanging together okay. This is tricky because it's the second book in a series and I use many of the same characters. I have to allude to what happened before, but I can't do a bit information dump telling what occurred. And I want to make sure I'm consistent with personality, setting, etc. So I'm referring back to the first book a LOT.

Along the way I'm creating my Bible (detailed histories for characters, descriptions of locations, etc.) This will help me when I write the third book, which I'm already starting to jot notes for.

so far, so good!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Maps and their making

Remember when I talked about how important it was to get the right stickers?
Well, the same is true about maps. I'm working on two books at once, and this week I'm working on my "other planet, let's overthrow the government" book. I've created a new planet, new land masses, climate, topology, language (based on English, of course), culture, philosophy ... the list goes on.
I've been struggling with my maps lately. In the first book, it was based mainly on one island group (lots of islands on this planet). But this second book, and the third one will take place in several different spots.
So I drew up some maps, tweaked them, tweaked them again, tweaked them again, and again and now I THINK I've got what I want. And now comes the fun part:
I get to start coloring! Off to Target to buy some crayons.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Sliding out of summer

Summer is just starting to wane. It's still hot, muggy, and the flowers are blooming, but the thing that always tells me the seasons, more than weather, is the light. There's a certain angle of light that tells me we're at the peak of summer, it's waning, it's passing, etc.

Odd how our senses catalog these things before the brain really processes it. It's almost instinctive, I think, this evaluation of our surrounding without conscious thought.

I think writing is like that, too. When I allow myself to drop into a book (and a character and a place), the writing is instinctive. Words flow out, scenes develop, and I don't have to consciously craft a chapter. I 'hear' dialog and I 'see' a setting. When that happens, it's almost magical. I wake up from a trance and realize I've written two chapters and wow, the book is heading in a direction I didn't anticipate.

That's fun. And it's for those times that I write -- for that feeling of 'slipping away' somewhere else. I have more fun in my own head than any TV show can provide, and I suspect other writers would say the same.

Now to go back into that place ....

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Is there a spy in the house?

I'm not sure if I'm going to continue doing this or not, but ...

I set up an RSS feed, so the contents of this blog appear elsewhere (specifically, in my Amazon blog, which I don't visit regularly).

In the past, this has been a 'private' blog, just for family and friends who know it's here. Now I feel like it's being 'advertised' to the world -- not that people on Amazon are beating down the doors to read my blog.

I may disable this feed so I can still post things here 'privately'. For now, I'll let it populate the Amazon blog.

But it still feels like someone might be spying on me ....

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Yes, feeling better

I think some medication I was taking was upsetting my 'system' ... I appear to be better now. Luckily I only have to take one more dose, and then hopefully I will be back to normal.

It was a good day, nonetheless. I used it doing research for the next book -- my Wizard of Oz book. I want to craft this book to have many layers -- there's Oz symbolism, as well as a good, old-fashioned mystery, and another layer of character development which mirrors the character development that occured in the 19 years when the Oz books were produced.

I read about Frank Baum today, and it was interesting reading.... I didn't know (1) that there were so many Oz books and (2) that there were so many people interested in Oz.

Now to start the layering ....

The importance of good health

I'm a bit under the weather today, so no post ...

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

The importance of the right sticker

I'm getting organized for the next book. As some of you know, when I work on a book I keep a small notebook (5x7) of thoughts, ideas, pictures, etc.

The next book requires a bit of research, so I'll have 2 nb for it, one for the 'hard' research and the other for snippets of dialog, thoughts, ideas, etc.

I always buy cheap notebooks at Michael's or Target and decorate them with stickers that indicate what I think will be the theme of the book: family, trust, honesty, fear etc. I also use stickers to indicate where it's occurring: on a trip, in farm country, in a city, on a construction job, etc. It's amazing what kinds of stickers you can find.

I got my Research NB all stickered up okay then I started writing in my Other NB before stickering it. Then I went back and stickered it and decided I just didn't like the look. The cover was too busy -- not from stickers but from the original cover design.


I'd invested some time in getting the NB set up with info in it, so I couldn't abandon it. So I got out some background mattes (sticky pages, essentially), covered up what was there and re-stickered the front.

MUCH better. I felt very good about it.

At this point I realized I was working off superstition and had a good laugh at myself, but I'm telling you, the right stickers make all the difference in attitude. And that's what's needed when starting a new WIP -- you've got to get the attitude right.

So now it's Onward with a freshly stickered book. I still need to do some creative brainstorming before I'm ready to write, but figure in a week or two you'll start getting info about the next project.

All stickered up and ready to go.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

I need a day off more often!

I had a list a mile long of things I wanted to get accomplished this weekend, some of which were BIG (web site re-organization, finish WIP, work on Free Reads).

I've made a serious dent in that list. I had Friday off, and I'll have this weekend AND MONDAY -- WOOT! I don't remember the last time I had 4 days off when I wasn't traveling. At this rate, I'll be able to start my next book (the Oz book) on Monday!

I need this kind of time off more often. Man oh man ....

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

As promised ... an update

I told you back on May 1 that I was going to write my next book in two months. So here's my update:

I'm THIS close to finishing. I'm on chapter 16 of what I think will be 18 chapters. I'll have some tweaking to do, but I'm hoping by next week at this time it's finished.

I had a few interruptions to my normal writing schedule: funeral, flood, overtime at work, so I feel good about my progress. In fact, this whole process of having a deadline worked so great I'm going to use it on all my upcoming books -- I'm going to set a date and try to hit it. It really kept me focused and on-task.
Now back to Chapter 16. My heroine is in peril and I've got to write her out of a bad spot.
You'll read about it next year!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

A good review!

And a national one!

I'm on Barb Vey's blog -- she posts for Publisher's Weekly. Getting this kind of promo is great!

I hope this link works for you -- if not, trust me -- it was a good review and right on the money!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Dinner with friends

I hosted a dinner last night for 6 of my oldest friends here in town. We got together for about 2 hours of talking, getting caught up on lives, etc. I was struck by how diverse we are: two are lesbians, two are single, one is married with children, one is married without. We grew up in different environments (farm, small town, and city) and we have very different lifestyles now.

We're all similar in age (within 10 years of each other) and all work in high tech and we all have outside interests that keep us busy.

I used to get together with them once a week. Then it changed to every other week. Now we're lucky if we can get together once a month. I've known these folks for almost 20 years and we still remain friends. We are drifting apart, though -- my writing career occupies a lot of my energy and I can't devote my time to socializing as much as I used to. Others are busy, too, so it's not just me.

It's a bittersweet feeling to see your life change like this. Bitter because I'd like to remain as close to them as I always have been. But sweet because we are still close -- we do still get together and I know, if needed, I could call on them for anything.

I suppose it's all a part of life, and change ...

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The benefits of being older

A friend of mine was blogging recently about how her parents don't understand her work. She writes romance, and has a couple of steamy scenes in her books. Her parents, who are Very Christian, are offended.

She's worried about this. My response was, "Hey. It's your life. Tell them you love them, you respect them, but they're wrong."

She's twenty years younger and me and uncomfortable doing that. I realized that is one benefit of getting older: you realize that you can make statements like that and the world will still spin and life will go on. It just ain't that important. I think I've learned that some fights you enter and some you just walk away from. And that's one I'd walk away from.

Hindsight -- it's always 20/20, isn't it?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

a convergence of thanks ...

It seems like, in the last month, I've been shaking my head and saying, "Man, am I lucky or what?"

A friend's husband died suddenly. He found out one week he had cancer and two weeks later he died. He was 52 years old.

My uncle died. He was in good physical health but he had Alzheimer's and he was starting to drift away from us all. He was hospitalized one week and died the next.

I was in Iowa for the funeral and a week later they had catastrophic floods -- and this is catastrophic for everyone, because Iowa feeds the world. We're all going to feel the pinch because of this for years to come.

I was on a group outing yesterday and we went to the Arboretum. One of my co-workers and I climbed, walked, examined, and moved around for at least an hour before taking the trolley ride around the grounds. Another co-worker is very obese and can't move well, and she had to wait for us in the main building while the rest of us explored. Man, am I thankful to have my health.

Perhaps diasters/calamities like this are meant to make us stop and take an account of where we are. I'm relatively healthy, my home is intact, my food source is safe, I have clean water, my loved ones are safe, and I have a good job. I am not going to bitch about my husband's eccentricities, gas prices, food prices, or property taxes: I've GOT my husband safe with me, I've GOT a house, I've GOT clean food, and I've GOT a car.

So many don't.

It's good to keep that in mind ....

Saturday, June 14, 2008

How a writer's mind works ....

There's a natural disaster in my home town (major flooding), which I've been following closely on the news. In addition to my natural shock and dismay at seeing familiar landmarks be innundated with water, I'm also making notes.

That's what writers do, you know? We see something and thing, "Hmm. I can use that in a book." We're not trying to be cold-hearted or anything -- we see the human side to the disaster and we empathize. But we also recognize interesting data for our stories, and want to capture it while we can.

This whole Midwest flooding event has given me great ideas for my Big Book (the one I plan to write when I get all these other books out of my head). All those things I had a hard time imagining? They're happening right now. All I need to do is take notes, stretch my imagination a tiny bit more, and I'll have some great plot points.

So I guess that does answer that old question. Does life imitate art, or does art imitate life?

In my case, art will definitely imitate life....

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The best laid plans ....

Well, I was supposed to have a dinner tomorrow night, but I'm not sure if we'll be gathering or not. Big weather is slated to come in, and I don't want folks driving on the roads-under-construction when we're having a flash flood watch.

This is something of a metaphor for my writing, too. I was buzzing along on my WIP when I took a minor detour into another book (brainstorming a new plot). I worked on that for a while now I'm back to my WIP. It's odd, but taking that detour came at exactly the right time because I feel re-energized on my WIP and have a good sense of where it's going, plot-wise.

Now if I could just figure out my dinner plans ...

Saturday, June 07, 2008

New books are a lot of effort

You think writing the book is work? Try promoting it! I've got to get out on the loops, post excerpts, chat with people, update my web site, update my blog (here), update my other blogs (MySpace, LiveSpace, BookPlace, CrimeSpace) ....

The list goes on. You'll note that the picture of my book has goofy colors. I'm not sure why. I've tried loading it twice, and both times it was goofy. I'll try tomorrow since Blogger is goofy today.

So I'm back in the swing of promotion. I've got a short window of opportunity for concentration on this one because I have another book coming out in July. So I want to hit the loops now with this one then hit the loops with the other one in mid-July.

I'll try to upload a new picture tomorrow, when Blogger isn't burping. If you want to see the real cover, go to

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Still a dilemma ... somewhat

I saw one baby raccoon yesterday when I got home. He/she stumbled out of the woods, saw me, made that 'bleat' noise and beat a retreat. A wobbly retreat, but a retreat. The cat food I put out was gone -- did Baby eat it or not? Not sure.

I called the Wildlife Rehab center and they confirmed what I suspected: DO NOT HANDLE RACCOONS. Many of them carry a ringworm that's fatal to many animals and humans. It's in their poop and since coons aren't the tidiest of creatures, who knows where the poop is? Since the critter is still alive, there's a good chance it's been weaned but probably too soon (that is, Mom either abandoned it or got hurt and can't care for it). The Wildlife people and no humane society will come out to capture it. The DNR will come out to shoot it if it's obviously ill.

So I've compromised: I'll put a can of food out when the food disappears. I'll leave my shoes outside, use disposable gloves to touch any dishes, and generally fence off the area so the critter won't stray. If it lives, well, so be it. If not, well so be it.

In a perfect world, I could grab the baby, take care of it, and release it (sort of a Free Willy scenario). But I'm worried about disease, my pets, and my health. I'm willing to give Father Darwin a push, but not a shove, I guess.

Friday, May 30, 2008

A moral dilemma ... kind of

Once again, we have orphans in our back yard. Two baby coons, wobbly but with their eyes open, were stumbling around near our spruce tree. I set out some chopped up fruit and they nosed at it, but didn't really eat much. They finally meandered away, going into the woods behind my husband's shop/studio.

This happens every year, it seems. I find a baby coon (one year he had a broken leg), an abandoned baby bird cowering under a peony bush, baby squirrels who fell out of the nest. I took the squirrels into the Wildlife Rehab Center (a LONG drive through rush hour traffic, a tale best told over a beer sometime), but I didn't try to capture these coons. I did try a year or two ago with the one with the crooked leg, but he evaded me and I have no idea what his fate was.

The good thing? I'm leaving town tomorrow so Mother Nature may take the decision away from me. I'll leave the food out (which will draw any coons in the area, so if Mom is around, she should smell the babies in the food and hopefully track them). I'm pretty sure my husband will keep the food supplied, but other than that, I don't know that there's much I can do ...

We'll see what happens in the next day or two. We've got a LOT of woods around our house and the only predators are a couple of neighborhood cats and I don't think they'd tangle with a coon (and if they do, they deserve what they get). I hate being faced with these moral choices but I feel obligated to at least put out the food and some shelter (there's ample shelter in and around our garages, so that's handled).

Of course, I may curse myself next year if they survive and keep coming back for handouts .... such is life, I guess!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

And the motive is ...

Heck, I'm not going to tell you, it's a murder mystery.

Suffice it to say, a long holiday weekend was just what I needed to get in the right frame of mind for writing. I'm half-way through my book and I believe I have some good suspects, an intriguing murder, and a motive that's believable but not immediately obvious.

Now if I can just maintain this pace, I'll be on track for my summer writing goals. And the good thing is, there's another long holiday weekend coming up again in a month, so I'll be able to have a repeat performance then. It's nice to have something to look forward to!

I think my new office space is really making a difference for me. I have so much room and it's so quiet and nice to be there -- no distractions except those that I welcome (stepping out into the garden for a break, watching the birds in the birdbath, listening to the pond fountain). Yep, it was worth all the dust and annoyance.

Now back to murder and mayhem ....

Saturday, May 24, 2008

What's a motive for murder?

This isn't a personal question, but I'm working on my latest book and am trying to decide why the victim died.

This probably seems backward to you, but I never know whodunnit until I get a few chapters past the murder. In this case, people are stepping out of the woodwork with reasons to kill the victim, and I'm trying to decide which one has the best reason. Of course, I'll probably toss in a few more victims before I type "The End" so I'll need some more motives as I go along.

There's always the biggies: greed, envy, jealousy, etc. Maybe I need to go back to the 7 Deadly Sins and use those as my critieria? Hmm.

Anyway, it's pleasant to plot a murder on a beautiful, sunny (albeit cool) summer day. The trees are finally fully leafed out, the flowers are blooming, the lilacs are smelly and I'm on vacation.

What better time to plan murder?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Creativity: the well is full!

I had a great time at the conference last weekend. It was a small one, only about 150 people or so, but it was the perfect size for me. I had a chance to talk one-to-one with readers, make connections, hang out with other authors, many with small presses, and generally feel good about myself and my craft. Woot!

And another neat thing ... Wild Rose is my publisher for my first-person mysteries, and the CEO was there (Rhonda). She and I got to talk a lot and it reconfirmed that I am SO happy to be with them. She's a great lady and I feel confident about the company and its direction.

She also asked me to write a 'free read', which is a short story given away on the web site. I thought about it ... I've never done a short story, but I decided to tackle it. So I'm writing a story from the male P.O.V., and it's a scene from my upcoming book ("Autographs, Abductions, and A-List Authors"). That book is told in first-person female POV, so I thought it would be fun to write the scene from the hero's POV. This is so much fun! I'm having a blast doing it. Hopefully you'll see the result soon.

Maybe it's spring, but I feel so energized now and ready to write, write write....

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

3 publishers, 4 editors, 5 books

It's juggling time again. I have signed contracts with 3 publishers for 5 books using 4 editors. I've gotten final edits turned in on 2 of the books, but I've got nit-picky details to finish on 1 more, 2nd round edits to do on another one and final edits to do on another one (haven't seen those yet).

And I'm going to a conference this weekend.

Plus I'm working on a WIP, of course which is going really well so I hate to take time out from it to deal with books I wrote a year or more ago and haven't even thought about in the intervening months. But edits mean 'drop what you're doing, put your head in a totally different place, work like crazy then drop it again and go back'.

I'm looking forward to getting out of town just to get away from the juggling!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

What makes a good writing week?

I didn't get a lot of writing done on my WIP but I got a lot of thinking done, and I think that counts.

I also got a ton of promo done -- designed a very tricky bit of promo (little bitty books, called 'chapbooks' that can be sent to conferences, etc.) I came up with a slick design, downloaded software, tested it and printed it ... it's all doable, and I'm ready to go into production (so to speak).

I also lined up some promo ops in terms of ad space, etc.

I did editor-edits on two books and did a final galley proof of another.

I designed and ordered new business cards.

None of this is really writing, but it's all writing-related. So I wonder why I feel such a great sense of writing accomplishment? I only wrote one chapter this week, but I feel like I produced a TON of work.

I guess it's just attitude, hmm? Maybe I need to keep that in mind for other things in life as well ... it's not necessarily WHAT you accomplish, as long as it's an accomplishment?

Must cogitate on that one ....

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

The Link Police

I heard that MySpace occasionally prohibits links on pages if they deem the linked site is Not Good. I'm not sure on the rules for Not Good, but I tried a few links on a friend's page, which should have taken me to the Buy Screen for her book.

Yep. The link was reported as a Not Good Link.

Her book is a cozy mystery but her publisher does have a 'hot' line that sells erotica. So I'm guessing her book got tarred with that feather (is that a mixed analogy?)

I've clicked on all of my links, and all appear to be intact, but it made me wonder ... I'm sure a software tool is doing the evaluation of various sites to determine which are deemed acceptable. What keywords are they using?

I appreciate the need for keywording like this but it seems to fail a lot -- look at this instance and then that dumb video game making such a splash, Grand Theft Auto. Why is junk like that allowed to drift around the airwaves but an innocuous link to a publisher not allowed?

{shaking my head and wondering ....}

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Chapter 1 ... the longest chapter in the book

That 'in-between place' I talked about? I'm out of it and into the next book.

I made my first tentative start on the next book in the Bea & Lucas series -- the final book, I believe it will be. I always pick at Chapter 1 and write and re-write the opening. I really don't feel I can move on until I get it nailed down well. Sometimes I'll get to chapter 3, realize that's where the book really starts then go back, tear up chapters 1 & 2 and rewrite them completely.

I think I've got a good start on this one, though, so once I carve out some time from my To Do list, I can sit down and write.

I have a book coming out next month that's the first book in this series, and I just edits in for book 2 of the series, so the timing is auspicious -- I'll be promoing the characters and the series while writing the third one. Hopefully I'll get some overlap that way and the writing will go quickly.

So I'm putting myself on the line here: I started this book on May 1. I want to write "The End" by July 1. You read it here!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The In-Between Time

I'm at that In-Between place again: finished one book, haven't started another.

The IBP is an interesting mind-set for me, because it lets me get caught up on all the other little chores I've put aside -- sorting through a file drawer, arranging for promo, rearranging things, planning the garden...

I've found that it's no good to push myself to start the next book. I'll start it when I'm ready, when I feel like the characters are solidly in my mind and the plot is percolating. That's what's happening now -- the percolation is bubbling along nicely. I have some of the scenes firmly in mind and I've jotted them down and I have a few other scenes I'd like to work in, but am not sure they'd be appropriate. I've got a good sense of the time of year, the location (although I'm waffling a bit on that), and other details.

This is where a good road trip comes in handy. I use the time I'm driving as a chance to sort through a lot of ideas in my head. And I just had a road trip last weekend, so I had a chance to think about some of these details, adding to the percolation factor.

I imagine I'll be jotting some more for another week or so, then the need to start Real Writing will take over and I'll dig in. Until then, I'm enjoying the In-Betweens.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

RT: final recap

If you read any of the usual blogs (dear author, etc.), then you know that RT has gotten a lot of press lately, much of it negative. There were some ... exhibitions at some parties that got a bit out of hand. I didn't see it and I daresay not a lot of folks did -- there was a crush at most parties and few people could see the stage.

I'm not going to comment on that. There was a lot of inappropriate behavior, from rudeness to costumes in poor taste. This was balanced by graciousness on the part of others, a hotel staff who was totally overwhelmed by the crush of people, and ... the beautiful weather.

Yes, I have to comment on it. The weather was excellent -- sunny, warm, with flowers blooming, grass growing, and gentle breezes blowing. The hotel was in a great location to allow one to walk outside, sit amongst the flowers, and feel the sun on the face. What a great boon after a long winter.

This conference is the first one I attended at which ebook authors and publishers were truly welcome, and it was a nice change of pace, just as the weather was a nice change of pace for me. I felt valued and appreciated as an author, which I don't feel at other big conferences (or even at some smaller ones, for that matter). So that was a big plus.

On the negative side: it was too much of a party for me. I don't need to socialize that much, I need to network and figure out useful things (like promo, marketing, time management, etc).

Was it useful? I think so.

Will I do it again?


What's next? More traveling and another conference in May (WisRWA's conference in Green Bay). For now, though -- on to writing. I just signed another contract for a new series (a futuristic other-planet overthrow-the-government book). I need to start working on book 2.


Friday, April 18, 2008

update from RT

We finally got an internet connection so I can post some thoughts:

1. Noise: at least a thousand people, all talking at one.

2. Nobody looks like their picture (me included)

3. Old friends are still old friends -- I lunch with an old Pittsburgh friend from 20 years ago and we had so much fun!

4. The town hasn't changed much. I could still find the bathroom in Macy's, even though when I was here, it was called Kaufman's

5. The conference is really party central and some people go ALL out for it -- the gowns for the Hollywood party were amazing, and the fairy costumes ... some folks spent a lot of time and effort on those.

Am I learning anything? Not sure, I'm certainly not getting a lot from workshops because I've barely had time to go to any.

Has it been worth it? YES. I met my publishers, my critique partners, and my fellow authors.

Will I do it again?

Yes. But I probably wouldn't want to fly here for it, but if I could drive ... yep.

I'm leaving the hotel later today to spend time with family in town, then back tomorrow for the book signing, then leaving the conference tomorrow afternoon for time with hubby and family,then home on Sunday. Probably no internet access until Sunday. So I'll send an update on Tuesday on my regular day ...

What an adventure!!

Saturday, April 12, 2008


And I did it!

Yep, I finished my WIP, I got the edits done, and I did the cover art request. I just have to hit 'send' on the edits for my editor, and I can turn my attention to packing and gearing up for the conference next week.
I may try to blog from there, and if I can, I will. If not, you'll hear from me in a week or so -- when I'll undoubtedly have LOTS of gossip to share (not!)

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Looming deadlines can be useful

Perhaps it's the effect of my new home office, or maybe it's the fact I'll be leaving next week for a big conference, but I'm making excellent progress on my Work in Progress. I set a mental goal to have the WIP finished before I leave, and I have 3 chapters to go (or what I think will be 3 chapters. May be 2, may be 4 -- we'll see how the plot shakes out).

I'm also doing edits for my new editor at my new publisher, going back and forth between New Book/Old Book. This is working out excellently because Old Book precedes New Book: the main characters in New Book were secondary characters in Old Book, so I'm able to use little tidbits from my editing in the New Book.

My very laudable goal is to have the book back to my editor and my New Book tucked away when I take off for the conference. That way I can come back, start afresh on a new project, then revisit the finished manuscript with a fresh eye in a few weeks.

Can she do it?

Stay tuned and find out. I'll post a progress report on Saturday ...

Saturday, April 05, 2008

We have an office!!!

Yea! Mad happy dance!

I am in my new office, and my first Official Act is to post this blog!

Yes, finally. It took 3.5 weeks, but it's done! Okay, it's almost done. We still have a few touchup things to do, but I am writing here, I have a cat in the basket at my feet, the new window is open and I'm watching the wild turkey as they feed at our bird feeder.

Life is good.

Now if we just had living room furniture, all would be complete. Tomorrow we Shop for furniture. Always an interesting prospect since the Spousal Unit is 6.5' tall and I'm 5.3' tall. What fits him doesn't fit me, and vice versa.

Oh well. I am happy. I have a writing life again!

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Am I a writer?

I haven't written much in the last three days, which doesn't like much to you, I know. But to me that's a very weird feeling, to not be working on my WIP.

I've been working on this MS for 2 months now and that's about my limit. 3 months is stretching it, and I'm starting my 3rd month. I'm on chapter 13 and I'm anticipating 18 chapters, so I'm on the downhill stretch. And I think it's hanging together well, so I don't expect a lot of edits.

It's just that life has gotten in the way. I'm a nomad right now, lugging my laptop from room to room as we do construction and that's really put a crimp in how I write. It's been interesting to see how much that's affected me, actually. I used to think I could write just about anywhere, and while I can, I'm finding I do my best work sitting in one spot, with my Stuff around me and my notes close at hand.

Oh well. The construction is almost done and so is the book. My new goal is to wrap it up in two weeks, before I go to my first big conference of the year. I think it's doable. If only the sawing and hammering abates a bit ...