Monday, September 29, 2014

Naked Farewell to Summer

I used to love fall. Back when I lived in a place with eight months of sprint, two of summer, two of fall and no real winter, I really thought fall was great. But since moving to Michigan with the seven month winter, fall has taken on a pernicious WINTER IS COMING place in my mind.

So in protest of fall, I am going to share some pics of my summer vacation.

What they do for fun in Hood River

The Childings at the Pacific Coast

The Zip lining in Stevenson Washington

Voodoo Doughnuts...

I don't WANT summer to go. Oh, sure, I love hot spiced cider and pumpkin scones. And I like the colors and am good with crisp nights and sunny days. So I suppose I should try to embrace fall, but summer really needs a good sendoff so it remembers to come back as soon as possible. So bon voyage!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

What Sucks (us in)

In Praise of the Skeptical Reader

I just sent 4 chapters to somebody I've decided is CRITICAL in my writing process... the NON-writing skeptical reader—the woman who loves a REALLY GREAT read that sucks her in who DOESN'T get caught up on all the 'supposed to' stuff my writer friends know, but rather is more a 'general public' voice. She loves some of my genres... done well... but she regularly sets books aside if she hasn't been sucked in by chapter 2. She's NOT a big fan of cozies (they are a bit too light for her) but she was a HUGE cheerleader for A Shot in the Light. She is a giant James Patterson fan and loves Janet Evanovich. She is in many ways 'every reader'.

When my agent read the first 3rd of What Ales Me part of her feedback was 'more tension' and she had a WHOLE bunch of things she recommended I move forward and stuff that was TOO MUCH DETAIL. My neighbor is the PERFECT test for whether I succeeded in making these fixes.

Palpable tension, eh?
Granted, I haven't succeeded YET. What I've done with revisions is the EASY stuff and then marking scenes that need to be written for larger scale revisions. I also have a page of stuff to build in SOMEWHERE, which I will do once I get my beat sheet updated so I can see where the new stuff best fits. But my first four chapters have been revised, other than a final polish, so I thought it would be a good idea to test it on this 'every reader' friend.

Got me thinking about HOOKS more broadly. This same friend is a third of a group of us that watches a bit of TV together—we seem to have a show a season... Downton Abbey, Game of Thrones... right now it is Outlander... and this friend took until episode 5 to be sucked in...

So WHAT sucks us IN?

It is an interesting question, since the OTHER two thirds of us were sucked in immediately. But I had some background—I'd heard enough about the series to know things I was looking forward to before the stuff was actually there. Our third is more interested, I think, in the romantic angle, though she will say “I am not” next time I see her—but she is younger and the temptation of Jamie I think may have some traction with her that for us middle age women, while we appreciate young hot men, just isn't enough...

There was a similar dynamic to Downton Abbey—Ms. Slow-to-warm-up Skeptical neighbor needed about 4 episodes.

An Awkward position for siblings...
If we contrast this show to Game of Thrones... ALL of us fell in love here RIGHT away.

I think this all may speak to the value of shock value, or HIGH dramatic tension. It ALSO should speak to all of us... There are people who will keep reading because they like our genre, they like US, or they like some specific detail we include early. But if we want to appeal more broadly, we need to do something EARLY that sucks in the EVERY reader.

So do YOU have any tricks to sucking in EVERY READER? Ways you frontload the tension or the emotional bond readers have with your story?

Monday, September 22, 2014

Carol Kilgore: Secrets of Honor

So today I'm hosting my friend Carol Kilgore, who has a book release this month. Carol writes romantic suspense and is fabulous as combining that attraction with fear of pending death--seriously--she is great at this stuff. I had the good fortune to meet Carol in person a couple years ago--I had a conference in Austin, which is a reasonable drive from where she lives in Texas--it was great to meet her in real life and I'm excited to welcome her latest book. So without further ado... welcome Carol!

Thanks so much for hosting me, Hart.

When I started on this blog tour to tell readers about SECRETS OF HONOR, I had to make sure I had everything I needed and was properly dressed for each stop. I kept forgetting things. Like shoes.

Now that I was out and about every single day last week, I think I finally have the knack of it. This morning, I got up, drank a mug of coffee, and was out the door in just a few minutes. And look at me . . . uh, oh. Be right back.

Okay, hope I’m not too late now. Can’t believe I forgot my clothes. I guess it’s all the excitement of being away from my nice cozy writing nest.

Actually, I’ve found myself doing all kinds of weird things since the summer, when I started talking to folks about my new book.

By now, it’s not much of a secret for those who read my blog that as a matter of course I see mystery and intrigue in almost any situation. Yet I’ve been totally missing the obvious--like the new For Sale sign in my neighbor’s yard.

I’m never graceful, but this summer? I’ve succeeding in injuring myself with such new enthusiasm that I’ve started keeping antibacterial cream and a big box of Band-Aids handy.

They didn’t help much when I stepped on a rawhide bone or rammed my calf muscle into the trailer hitch or narrowly missed tripping over a dog and smacked my hand on the corner of the kitchen island.

But I was extremely happy to have them when I tried to rip off my little toe. You don’t want to ask about that one. All you need to know is one of my little toes is now straight as a stick, and the other one has a nice little curve.

It’s a good thing SECRETS OF HONOR is finally available. Who knows what would’ve happened if I’d had to wait another week or two. Writing and promoting Crime Fiction with a Kiss is a dangerous job.


By the end of a long evening working as a special set of eyes for the presidential security detail, all Kat Marengo wants is to kick off her shoes and stash two not-really-stolen rings in a secure spot. Plus, maybe sleep with Dave Krizak. No, make that definitely sleep with Dave Krizak. The next morning, she wishes her new top priorities were so simple.

As an operative for a covert agency buried in the depths of the Department of Homeland Security, Kat is asked to participate in a matter of life or death—locate a kidnapped girl believed to be held in Corpus Christi, Texas. Since the person doing the asking is the wife of the president and the girl is the daughter of her dearest friend, it’s hard to say no.

Kat and Dave quickly learn the real stakes are higher than they or the first lady believed and will require more than any of them bargained for.

The kicker? They have twenty-four hours to find the girl—or the matter of life or death will become more than a possibility.

Although Carol has deep Texas roots, she’s lived up and down the eastern seaboard and in other locations across the U.S. as a Coast Guard wife. She sees mystery and subterfuge everywhere. And she’s a sucker for a good love story—especially one with humor and mystery. Crime Fiction with a Kiss gives her the latitude to mix and match throughout the broad mystery and romance genres. Having flexibility makes her heart happy. You can connect with Carol here:
Under the Tiki Hut blog:
Website with Monthly Contest:

Thursday, September 18, 2014

When We Offend

Know how sometimes I'm all wise and insightful? No? You might just be in for a treat then. Or not. At the very least, know I am NOT trying to stir up the muck (so details will be vague) but rather have watched some recent events between author friends and think underlying topics merit consideration in their own right. And then I get to give you all advice. You KNOW how I like to tell you what to do. Makes me all-powerful annallat.

The Underlying Vaguebook Story

Author posts offensive joke with racial undertones.
Fellow author calls it offensive.
Author says 'you have no sense of humor'
Author's FRIENDS go on offensive to protect Author.
Fellow Author takes it to Twitter instead.
Cat fight ensues.

This story doesn't flatter ANY of the players honestly, but it is my hope to address the components, rather than take sides. I frankly think everybody behaved badly, and while there are forms of bad behavior that I am gung-ho about, these ain't them.

What Can We Get Away With Saying and With Whom?

Writers are public figures, so while there are arguments for being ourselves, there are ALSO arguments to be a bit cautious. A LOT of this has to do with our branding, our rules for access to our profiles, and our disclaimers. I have two profiles—my personal one I am friends with some writer friends, but they are ALL people I've talked to enough that I trust them to not to take offense at me being me. Under a DIFFERENT NAME (this one) I have my AUTHOR stuff. Now author me may talk nakedness and express an opinion or two, but I am careful how much I engage—I don't pick political arguments any more than to give AN opinion, and THEN not all that often. I don't post my OWN political stuff much. This one gets MORE writing and LESS personal minutae than my personal profile, and it is also one I walk the line more carefully on for which arguments I am going to engage in. I do A LOT of ignoring on this profile. There are conversations I know PUBLIC ME should just not engage in.

Now the original author above makes no secret of herself. She is open about thinking political correctness* is overboard and people who get offended need thicker skins. She is frank and open about her views, which I often don't SHARE but I don't think people should have only friends they agree with.

That said, people who express views that might offend some, need to ALSO HEAR when they offend. A person's right to post something is PAIRED with the reader's right to RESPOND.

But HOW to Respond

As authors, is it WISE to respond publicly? I guess that depends how strongly we feel about something. Wanting our views on record and tied to us is one end, but responding ON a THREAD that is on another person's wall... How wise is this? It depends a little on that person's willingness to engage in respectful debate... on that person's FRIENDS' willingness to engage in respectful debate... I mean there are some places no amount of expression will be heard. And honestly, if you spend any time on facebook, you KNOW where those booby traps are—the places you respond and just get attacked.

So if you post and get attacked, what is the best course of action? Do you take it elsewhere?
Do you attack the author's LIVELIHOOD? (Not only don't buy her books but telling OTHERS not to?)
Where does the line go?

I happen to think engaging ONE person in a debate or several if it is fairly evenly sided is reasonable provided everyone is civil or a moderator is at least trying to enforce civility, but ONE response is probably PLENTY if what comes back is attacks or all the other views are opposing. You are not going to get anywhere and they are just going to make you mad. If I am really friends enough with a person to not want them to self-implode I'd really probably do a second response via private message telling them how it LOOKS.

I DO NOT think escalating is wise because frankly, when we sling a little mud, we lose a little ground, eh? And we look sneaksy...

And What About Those Friends?

I am OFTEN inclined to help defend a friend who is being attacked, especially if I agree with her view. But I think the friends in this case really escalated matters and are now HURTING their friend. Much of the later backlash was because THEY treated the protestor so badly. It would have died a quick death without this. These guys are honestly where I am putting the the blame for the matchstick becoming a bonfire.

I fully endorse defending our friends, but there really are some guidelines I think we need to follow. As friends defending OUR friends I would recommend: NO namecalling, stick to facts and reason and THINK of potential consequences.

How Much Do Views Matter

A follow-up conversation I saw asked how people FELT about authors with offensive views and the discussion was pretty good. The highlight is IT DEPENDS for most readers, but I can delineate it for me.

Historical Figures: Take HP Lovecraft. He has some writings that show some pretty extreme racism. Do I hold it against him?

He is the father of modern horror and MY OWN opinion is he is a product of the xenophobic experience of living in New England at the time he did. I don't think he probably KNEW many people of other races, and so was likely parroting bigotry he'd heard. Not admirable, but also not unusual at the time. My own grandfather could sound like a real ass talking about Native Americans because of some family experiences and stories. Keep in mind his SON-IN-LAW was part Native, so he actually knew better, but never assimilated the information. It is not reasonable to expect dead people to become enlightened. In fact I think what we should REALLY DO is admire all the more the small number of folks like Mark Twain who seemed to be enlightened in spite of their times.

Big Name Contemporaries: Orson Scott Card, Mel Gibson. Nope Nope and Nope.

I get that they ALSO are products of their upbringing, but they live in a time where they are exposed to a lot greater variety of people and information. I frankly think being a full-on bigot isn't okay and I can't condone it. And these people are NOT going to be harmed by my saying so. They are millionaires. I am NOT messing with their ability to pay the electricity bill. I read some Card before I knew his views and honestly his books express a different thing, so if you wanted to say... check something out from the library, I won't condemn you, but I'd really rather nobody ever contributed to his income again. He will survive.

Small Authors: I gotta say, my reading list is just TOO DEEP to support people with my hard earned dollars who act offensively—ANY of the players above if it gets out of control like this did. But I would NEVER take the specific campaign public. I would never publicly call them out and I REALLY REALLY would not tell OTHERS to not buy their stuff. We are talking about livelihood. Early career writers just should have more solidarity than this. And there is also the chance of it backfiring.

The Power of "Mea Culpa"

I think the BIGGEST thing I can say here is SOMETIMES we are offensive without meaning to me. I know I have been—I've not thought something through and I've hurt people or made them mad. If someone TELLS YOU you have posted something offensive, THINK ABOUT IT. Sometimes they are being silly. Sometimes they are being STUPID. But if you offended one, chances are, you offended MORE, so just SAYING, 'Geez, I had no idea someone would take it that way. Sorry.' is SO MUCH more likely to disarm the thing than arguing that 'you're an idiot because you got offended'. Notice my statement doesn't even SAY 'I was wrong' it just says 'I didn't mean to offend'. Unless of course offending is part of your brand. Then, by all means, blow yourself up.

* The Tart view on political correctness is this: We live in a world with a variety of sorts of people and we need to be respectful of all sorts. I also believe that only people OF those various groups can say what is offensive or not to them, but it is our job as fellow world citizens to know enough NOT to offend where possible, so once we have LEARNED, we should not use those offensive terms. Not KNOWING is one thing, refusing to LEARN is quite another (also known as willful ignorance). And these two things look very different in the aftermath. To ME the saying 'political correctness has gone too far' is like saying 'treating people with decency has gone too far' and I will call shenanigans.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Big C Blog Fest: Cancer Stories for a Cause

Welcome friends! Today's blog fest is a special one. Many of you probably know that Melissa Bradley, a fellow author and blogger, is fighting cancer. She recently had her last round of chemo and the expenses are big, so Michael DiGesu has spearheaded this blog-fest for people to submit stories for an anthology, the proceeds of which will help pay for Melissa's cancer treatment.

I have a few personal cancer stories, but they aren't particularly happy or uplifting, so instead I'm submitting a work of fiction to be included. I will confess before hand that I have trouble with short stories, but the cause merited me giving it my best shot anyway.

Dragonflies in the Children's Ward

Tommy Sontoro could tell a story. The night I met him was the first in my pediatric rotation, so of course they had scheduled me to work graveyard, but Tommy was awake.

“Shouldn't you get some rest?” I asked as I recorded his vitals on my chart.

“I'm dying.” His brown eyes were large and earnest. “Why would I want to spend the rest of my life sleeping?”

I looked back at his chart. That seemed like an awful lot of wisdom for a boy of eight.

I ran my hand over his hair. “I have to check on the other patients, but if there's time left before my next rounds, I'll come back and talk to you.”

“I get all the ladies,” he said.

I laughed and continued my rounds. When I finished, I had half an hour to spare before I had to check them all again, so I went back to Tommy's room. He was still sitting up, a solitaire game on the screen of his tablet computer.

“You play cards all night?” I asked.

“Sometimes. I like it better when there's somebody to tell my story.”

I smiled, set an alarm on my watch to remind me when rounds would need me again, and sat next to Tommy's bed. “So tell me your story.”

He sat up taller and set his tablet aside. “Come closer. I don't want the kids to hear.” As if he weren't a child himself.

I grinned and move to the edge of his bed. He leaned forward as if to tell be a secret and began.

“I see them when they come at night. I've seen them since the battle for Hannah Ganas. I wasn't supposed to see, but... I couldn't sleep.”

“Who's Hannah?” I asked.

“You can see her picture out there on the wall. Cured. She got to go home.”

“Tell me about the battle.” I wasn't sure if I really wanted to hear. His start had sent a chill up my spine, but he did seem to want to tell the story and I decided if he could tell it, I could listen.

“One was bright green and the other was yellow. They looked like big dragonflies. Their faces were fierce and proud and the yellow one crouched on the foot of her bed. I could see them from my room and I got up to watch from a crack in the door so I could see better. They buzzed, they didn't talk, but the green one kept trying to unseat the yellow, make him go away. And while they were fighting, a nurse came in, like you, and injected something into Hannah's IV. She didn't see them. They were right there and she couldn't see. The yellow one watched her. He looked sad and when she was done, he left and the green one perched in his place for a while—just long enough to make sure the yellow one was really gone.

“They don't come every night. Just, I think... when they have to battle. Decide who wins. And there is a blue one and a red one. When the yellow one wins, someone dies, but he isn't mean. He is just trying to help. They all are trying to help.”

“Are any of them here tonight?” I asked, afraid of his answer.

“Just the yellow one. There's nothing left they can do for me. He'll guide me on my way though. I won't be alone.”

My watch buzzed then and to be honest, I was relieved. I wasn't sure what to say to Tommy. He seemed a lot less upset by what he'd said than I was, and the last thing I wanted to do was make it worse. I checked his vitals and asked him to lie down.

“I'll be back if I can,” I promised.

“It's okay to be scared,” he said. “But they won't hurt us.”

I nodded at him and left, unnerved. It was a good thing nobody I encountered needed any real nursing care—just standard stuff. Halfway through I had a call asking me to do a double, and because I was too flustered to think, I agreed. Somebody relieved me for a break shortly after. Knowing I'd have an extra long shift, I went into the break room for a twenty-minute nap.

When I returned to the floor, Tommy was gone.

“What happened? Where did he go?” I asked, but the nurse on the floor had just gotten there and didn't know.

The work of nursing care occupied the next few hours, but finally, with relief, I saw them wheel back Tommy Sontoro.

“Is he okay?” I asked. “What happened?”

Tommy's eyes fluttered open. He smiled at me. “He wasn't yellow, he was orange.” And he closed them again.

I looked around to see Tommy's parents, their laughter and tears mingling. Tommy had turned a corner in the night. They'd just taken him for testing and proven the tumor at the edge of his brain was finally shrinking. A brain tumor might explain his visions, but when I looked into the room where they were wheeling him, I could have sworn I saw the air ripple with orange light as something rushed away.

So please check out some of the other entries, but more importantly, watch for the collection when it becomes available. It's for a very good cause. If you are able to donate additionally, here is Melissa's donation link: 

Friday, September 12, 2014


So I was tagged by Thomas Scott, a fellow Amazon friend who I met in the contest this year with a FABULOUS entry for an intriguing mystery. His entry for his blog hop is about his series detective and his post also introduces HIM—fascinating guy. I encourage you to head over and check him out.

Anyway, the purpose HERE is to introduce a character from our latest WiP. Specifically:


(the rules) This tour highlights a main character from one of your WIP/recently published or soon to be published work. The person who invites you will have a set day to post. You will post ONE WEEK after that. The authors you tag will post one week after you, and so on.

I have decided to introduce you to Kenny, since I have been immersed in revisions for What Ales Me all month and so she is most of what I've been obsessing about.

1) What is the name of your character? Is he/she fictional or a historic person?

McKenzie MacIntyre (Kenny) is a divorced Microbrewery owner in Portland, Oregon, entirely of my own creation, though as my 10th book written, she probably has more in common with ME than any of my other MCs, before or since—I just have a history conducive to this story. Leanne (my superbeta) groaned at her name (Mac Mac? Really?) but she married into MacIntyre and GOES BY Kenny.

Isn't she gorgeous--I love this city
2) When and where is the story set?

Current day, Portland, Oregon—a city I lived in for a dozen years that is HOME for the microbrewery craze that is now nearly everywhere. It is the perfect city for a microbrewery based story, and it has the quirk to feed a not-quite cozy story as well.

3) What should we know about him/her?

She met her former husband while getting an MBA when she thought she wanted to work in marketing, then became disillusioned when the dot-coms went bust. She took a job (any job) at a McMenamin's and fell in love with good beer, small business potential, community based living... her husband wasn't so keen on her transformation (thus the EX). She is the non-custodial parent to a sixteen-year-old son and has built a successful new life for herself in Portland's Old Town.

4)What is the main conflict? What messes up his/her life?

Oooooooh. Ahhhhhhhh.
The arrival of her son for his first full summer with her since the divorce coincides with a series of local robberies and Rose Festival (meaning the busiest few weeks all year). Her son immediately fighting with a young man who works in the building behind the brewery increases tension... and then the dead body shows up—a message—but to whom and meaning what?

5) What is the personal goal of the character?

Getting to know her son again—forming a relationship with what is effectively a stranger, learning to wear a mom-hat and walk the line of parenting a teen, and then sorting what she wants in a romantic relationship (there is a bit of a triangle here but I don't want to spoil it). Oh... and keeping said son out of jail for murder...

6) Is there a working title for this novel, and can we read more about it?

What Ales Me has been my title from the start. I played with all sorts of beer-related titles, but there really have been no other contenders.

7) When can we expect the book to be published?

My agent, Ellen Pepus has seen the first chapters of an earlier draft and had some really great suggestions—the delay has been on me. I had a serial I just finished that has kept jumping in front of this in the revision line. I HOPE once Ellen is happy, that Berkley Prime Crime will want it—they are my Cozy series publisher and would be relatively quick to sell to if it is their thing, as there is already a relationship. If they were NOT to want it (or if Ellen thinks there is a better fit) it might take longer. My GOAL is to get it back to her mid-October. That said, the last time I sold a series, it was over a year from contract to publication...

So my TAGGEE will publish on September 19, which is Talk Like a Pirate Day, so I tried to think of writer friends with PIRATE characters, and I only came up with one... I am tagging Mel Chesley  as I KNOW she's got some pirates.

Mel and I have been blog friends for a few years now. I've always admired fantasy writers, but pirates, in particular just give me a happy, so I hope next week you will head over to meet Mel's character.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Lessons from Bad Books

So I'm reading a disappointing book at the moment. No worries, not by anyone I know... I just finished one and went to my pile for a 'quick read' and pulled out a mystery, as I am meant to be revising a mystery and so am trying to keep in mind what works and doesn't. Sadly, I've found a COUPLE 'doesn'ts' recently, so maybe I will include lessons from more than one book...


One of the most annoying things about the one I am reading is it all feels like summary. Even the DIALOG feels like summary. I'm not sure if it is the choice of narrator—the author SORT OF changes perspective, but is not terribly DEEP in any of them, so I'm not FEELING IT and so all of the PoVs end up feeling just descriptive.


The thing that is REALLY driving me crazy is the author keeps having the characters call each other by name instead of using dialog tags. This is something I did a lot in my first book and I felt very clever, but I have since read enough WATCHING for it that it comes across as melodramatic. Watch Supernatural some time—Dean and Sam use each other's names a lot and it is just so much silliness (but they look good enough to make me watch anyway—not so with no moving pictures). Once in a conversation or LESS is much more realistic. Granted, there are people who do this, but making it a tic for ONE character is a far cry from making all of them do it. MOST people DON'T do this.


This book keeps using vague threats and expecting me to keep reading. I am irritated. Sadly, I am also a person who usually finishes what I start. Tension should be tangible. Maybe it is because they haven't attached me to the characters—maybe if I cared more this vague tension would feel more tense—there HAVE been attacks, but the characters aren't well drawn and the incidents don't have any sort of build or tease. It is more 'this person does something stupid and this bad thing happens'


Or if you can't, kill them. If you need a character to do something really stupid, give them a compelling reason (like cut off their other options, or increase the stakes so they think they have no choice, or MUCH earlier give them a compelling flaw that this situation fits so the reader thinks, well sure, it's stupid, but it is her only real flaw). I get SO ANNOYED with characters who seem set on their own destruction unless it is part of a complete profile that is on a danger course. You CANNOT convince me that an otherwise competent, mentally stable person is that dumb. Seriously.

Oh, for Pete's Sake, DUMP the DAMSELS in DISTRESS!!!

I like a hot guy as much as the next girl, but I am SO not interested in reading about a woman who needs to be saved all the time. Maybe ONCE. After she's saved a bunch of people herself. But habitual victims are NOT interesting.

So there. Read any bad books lately that have taught you what not to do?

Monday, September 8, 2014

Honoring Tina

So last week I posted a little something when I found out Tina Downey had passed. I am still so sad about it. But today is about honoring Tina and to do so, many across the internets are sharing sunflowers.

I've only manage to successfully raise sunflowers twice—once in Portland and once here. I think my problem, in addition to the fact I'm broadly a gardening failure, is squirrels.

A much bigger sunflower than this
See, Squirrels LOVE sunflower seeds and several of the times I've planted them, I realize several days later than not only do I not have little spouts, what I HAVE is little HOLES... Which reminds me of one of my FAVORITE squirrel sitings ever. I was walking home from work one day several years ago and a squirrel was BACKING up a tree dragging this GIANT sunflower. Guess the greedy little guy figured he wanted more than he could fit in his cheeks.

Tina was very much a sunflower—spreading joy and cheer as she made her way around to help us all be a bit cheerier. I'm probably more like that greedy squirrel—stealing a little joy where I can, but definitely appreciating when someone has so much of it to offer.

The bigger the better, eh?

And they promote creativity...

And dexterity, eh?

Oh, Tina, you are definitely missed.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Face the Music... erm... Publishing Gods

Welcome to Insecure Writer's Group, which happens the first Wednesday of every month! And I haven't been here since July, since in August I was on a plane, so I opted out (not able to visit, best to not post, I figured).

This support group is one of the best things going for writers to network, meet some other writers, and get some good old fashioned support for this hard thing we do. You might even learn something! So why don't you go visit a few OTHER insecure writers while you're at it? (See the list at the bottom of the post)

As for my post this month...

I am in the process of changing gears. I've just had a year of VERY hard work where I self-published an episode (about a hundred pages) of a long story each month (Twelve in all, finally DONE). It was a scramble to keep up, a constant state of production and promotion (probably not as much promotion as I needed to do, but hey), but you know what it was NOT? Querying. Submitting. Throwing myself at the mercy of publishing professionals. No query letter production, no new instructions to read with a fine-toothed comb, no synopses... NO REJECTION LETTERS.

So my current insecurity cycle is about putting myself out there for judgment again. It takes a kind of courage I haven't had to muster for a while—muscles unused to use, if you will. And it is a couple degrees farther from writing, so it doesn't have the same connection to my passion, even if in the end I DO want to publish.

Still, I have come to believe that self-publishing is a lot more work than traditional (at least done right) and while I have a day job, I just don't have the time to attend to every detail. Besides that, most of my genres sell well traditionally, so I think it's a better match for me at this point in my career. I will do another serial eventually, but I will do it differently, so not for a couple years. Instead, for now, I am going to focus on my second 'nearly cozy' series and my YA series—get them completely ready and try my best to sell. (anyone interested in details of the specific stories I have almost ready can read Monday's post—the next one down in line).

So it is time for all those naked exercises that will toughen my skin while I polish... it will hurt for a while, but it must be done.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Time to Regroup

My cousins & their families after rafting
So much for summer, eh? It flew far too fast and I resent its ending. I know. Petty of me. But since moving to Michigan I have never felt like I got the chance to get TIRED of summer. In my past I loved the beginning of EVERY season and no small part of that was that I was just ready for a change. Each on brought new, great stuff and I could get excited about it. But Michigan's winters are just SO LONG that all fall says to me now is “Winter is coming.” Damn Starks.

BUT there is something about September that IS good. It is my second “new year” of the year. I have two times of the year I am pretty good at saying , “Okay, time for a fresh start” and this is one of them. And it is TIMED well, as I FINALLY published the last installment of A Shot in the Light last week, so I really CAN take up projects without the lingering “what about this?” or the knowledge in the back of my head that I will have to take a break on what I'm working on to dive back into something that is on a deadline. I am DEADLINE FREE.

That is NOT to say I am starting a new book. On the contrary. September and October are going to focus on revisions of a few nearly dones (formerly done, but not so done as I thought?) books for traditional submission (then I will write a new story in November) and get back to revising nearly dones for submission to agents/ABNA in January/February:

What Ales Me

In August one of the main things I managed to accomplish was some READING and some THINKING about how to really strengthen this. I've decided a couple things. Stephanie Plum (Janet Evanovich's heroine) is WAY too silly for a role model (funny, yes, but the plot falls into campy and that isn't what I'm going for). She also needs rescuing a lot more than any of my heroine's will EVER need rescuing. I like to write rescuers, not rescuees. Damsels in distress sort of piss me off to be honest. I mean I GET the appeal of her two hot guys and I want some of that HEAT. But how much more satisfying to RESCUE the hot machismo man than to have him rescue you, yes? At least much more ME. But I CAN learn from the dysfunctional family, past mistake baggage, and a goofy sidekick or two. So I am giving my MC a more colorful backstory with more mistakes along the way and parents and siblings to occasionally cramp her style. I'm looking forward to the rewrite.

Kaholotus Disposal Site

This one went as far as formal submission previously, but I think my MC lacks spark. Most of my MCs are feisty or funny or smart... Helen (who's a ghost) is timid and scared. I need to figure out a way to infuse her with a spark in spite of it. I ALSO need to revisit my changes made when agented... they all made a lot of sense at the time, but I'm honestly not sure all of them work in retrospect—like I think some of them may be where I lost a bit of the original story. I also maybe need to be a bit more horrible. Erm. Edgy YA calls for it.

Medium Wrong

I have some feedback I need to infuse here and maybe a rethink on pieces of it. I love the concept here, but think it may need an underlying structure overhall.

Also Appearing

This only has a first draft, but I am thinking it is a cornerstone to a SERIES of YA books—each with a big issue, all set in the inland empire of the Pacific Northwest (the border between the Idaho panhandle and Washington State). The series title I've been working with is Chatcolet (a lake that comes up in a few of the stories including this one) but if I can expand it about, I can absort Kahlotus and Medium Wrong under this umbrella, as both have significant story in this area (where I grew up).

As for my November Project:

I actually plotted a lot on my vacation and have worked up a lot of details for my Cozy Lingerie series. The MC for this is based on a real (amazing) woman—she worked at the Moscow Police Department (was a cop when I was growing up—her youngest son is a friend of mine) and then she retired when I was in high school and opened up a lingerie shop. I love the complexity here—a woman who is smart and tough and still embraces the soft, sexy side. She was always no-nonsense, but also very kind and very funny. She really is a perfect heroine for a cozy. I just wish she'd lived to see this series take off—it has had to ferment for a while before I felt ready for it and she passed away about a year ago. I have Mike's blessing though, so I am going to go ahead. It will be my first story fully set in my home town, which will be a little strange, but I think a small town with a college and where any long-timers know the local names—that whole slightly incestuous feel of it all is really good for cozies.

Because this plan wasn't working...
The NON-writing Fresh Start

At the start of 2013 I was doing really good with an eating and exercise plan, but then my job changed, my location changed, and all of it went to hell. I had lost 50 pounds... I've gained back 40. I had NOT lost an additional 30 I wanted to lose... which means I REALLY have 70 pounds I need to get off to put me in a healthy weight range. That said, if I can lost 50 I will at least FEEL healthy. It will be slow, but 'new years' is the time to do it. My mind set is ready for 'fresh start'. I made a big batch of my 'all veggie' soup today (if I can supplement a small lunch with a big bowl of 'free' soup, I feel much less cheated) and I bought some La Croix water things (it said no sugar, no sugar substitutes, but flavor) to fill in for any midweek soda or wine urges—soon it will be herbal tea season, and then I am good with that, but I wanted a cold option. I loaded up on OTHER veggies and also went through the Busch's Olive bar. When I am having a savory craving (which is my weak spot) I've found olives, artichoke hearts or roasted garlic can satisfy that spot. I know all have some fat, but at least they are NOT potato chips. And all of them are the better sort of fat.

A couple of my ABNA buddies are doing it, too, and then my exercise buddy wants to start Couch to 5K again (we've only been successful at this once, but we are DETERMINED).

And FINALLY... I've been blurg with the blog for TOO long—this schedule for publishing the serial has really taken it out of me, but I am vowing here and now to START FRESH, enthusiam for it returned... I've got some topics... gunna shake things up a bit, get back to SILLY me sometimes and a few times a month may do a bit of analytical reading discussion (Game of Thrones is currently in my sights)--my reason is I feel like I LEARN a lot about plotting and character when I do that, and the blog is probably the best spot for it. Always best to reengage the brain, eh

So there we have it. Fresh start for fall 2014...

Any of you make new plans with the new school year? What are you writing this fall?