Spring began in my neighborhood in February, starting with the flowering quince. When we moved in this house over twenty years ago, I had no idea the large bush in the front bed was a flowering quince. Then Winter came and the shrub turned to sticks. But when Spring came, gorgeous salmon-colored flowers appeared along with the tiniest bees.
Sure, we can get a cold snap and the blossoms turn an ugly brown. However, most of the time, they last. It is truly a pleasure to sit at my desk which overlooks the front yard and see the signs of Spring appear.
Then more exciting things happen. Like the grass slowly but surely sprouts green. The red oak leaves press forward and in a gentle Spring breeze, wave gently.
Behind my garage is a small bed which leads to the backyard. After we renovated, I planted antique roses. The middle one had devil thorns and never thrived. The other two flanking it produce tiny flowers–one white and one is yellow. Several of the flowers
Years ago, Handsome and I cruised the Rhine River. I was taken with the different flowers I saw there. When I returned home and showed off my pictures, I realized most were of flowers.
Flowers give me pleasure. They are soft, beautiful colors, sometimes scented. A bit of beauty, like the one I found in a sidewalk crack, in unexpected places.
Maybe the stories in Just Desserts and other stories are beautiful or beautifully written; however, I like to think they’re fun, too. And life needs fun.
Love blossoms in the small town of Sommerville in these heartwarming, “cute meet” tales, filled with fun and forever possibilities.
Yesterday was my day to blog, and I tried, really tried to write about the recent blowup in the writing world. I wrote and deleted two long, wordy attempts to address the horrors of people stealing a writer’s hard work, and how thieves and the dirty underbelly of the writing world affected me personally…then I gave up and put it away for the night.
Here instead, a day late, is the simple version.
Around a week ago, a plagiarist was caught stealing the work of over thirty writers. Bringing this to light also exposed other scammers and thieves preying on readers and writers, and the entire situation was mind-boggling enough… and then I discovered my books being offered for free on a pirate site.
And I started to wonder whether this writing gig was worth what it was costing me–literally, and figuratively.
Is it worth my time to try and compete for readers in a world where scammers hit bestseller lists with fake books? Where book stuffers collect thousands of dollars while real authors barely scrape by? Where readers have been conditioned to search for free or 99 cent books and don’t care if they are stolen?
And what about the dollars? Each book I publish costs me at least $2000 for editing, cover design, and basic marketing. Can I make that money back? Probably. But can I make enough to pay myself for even a small portion of the hundreds of hours I spend writing, revising, formatting, uploading, advertising…
Not when I can’t get my books noticed because the market is flooded with fake books, plagiarized work, and other scams.
So I’m considering other options right now. Considering going traditional. Giving up the creative control I cherish, for a chance at having a big publisher marketing my work.
Why? Because I love writing, I love giving readers an emotional experience, and I don’t want to quit. But seven years into self-publishing I’m still operating at a loss, and it is time for a change.
In the nature of one last ditch effort to get my work out there, I’ve put a six book bundle of books on sale for just 99 cents. Yep, the first SIX full-length books in my Intrepid Women series, for a grand total of $0.99 … Grab them HERE right now.
If you would like to find out more about the plagiarism and other scams, go to, Nora Roberts blog,Fall Into The Story. A kickass woman I have always admired, Nora lays it out beautifully…such a way with words!
…is the view right outside my office window. Why is that important?
My desk where I play What if??? is adjacent to a large window, and when stuck, I take a look outside. Invariably, I’m inspired by the massive red oak trees in my front yard, the leaves changing from dark green to red orange and back. Or the large variety of cars streaming past my house, some speeding more than others.Occasionally, the emergency vehicles with blaring sirens race to help someone. I spy colorful blooms in the flower beds which tell of Spring’s arrival and make me happy.
So why is The Great Outdoors important?
Many times, I’ve incorporated the scenery I see outside my window in my writing because being able to describe those things makes my work more authentic. And hopefully, a reader will be so engrossed, he/she is transported into the world I created and imagining him/herself where the action is. What the characters look like. What the weather is like. What people wear. What cars they drive. And et cetera.
Right now,spring is creeping in. I can see the lacey white blossoms of the Bradford pear trees have pushed out. My quince with flowers in shades of salmon have already bloomed, leaving only the late stragglers, and tiny tiny bees buzzing from blossom to blossom searching for pollen. The grass is dry chaff. The gloomy gray sky makes me want to curl on the comfy sofa with a good book and my favorite beverage and snack.
Near my home are restaurants and shops I frequent. In the Hattie Cooks mysteries, I have incorporated a family-owned Italian restaurant similar to the one Handsome and I have frequented. The interior oozes Italian – the faux finished walls from which hang pictures of the Italian countryside, the Frank Sinatra-Tony Bennett-Dean Martin tunes, the ambiance created by the low lights—all perfect for Detective Allan Wellborn to seduce Hattie in Temporarily Out Of Luck. Here’s a sample:
Hunger overruled anger. I folded my hand around his and walked with him to our favorite Italian restaurant. He held the glass entry door wide and let me pass through first. My senses were overpowered by the greatest scents ever—spicy garlic, sweet tomato, yeasty bread, and sharp onions.
I loved Mama & Papas Italian Restaurant, a place my parents had brought Tracey and me to since elementary school. The same Tuscan prints decorated the golden faux-finished walls. The same Tony Bennett and Frank Sinatra tunes oozed from the sound system. I breathed in deeply then looked at Allan, feeling gratitude. “Nirvana.”
The corners of his eyes crinkled. “Forgiven?”
What’s outside your window?
Have you read very short stories? In very shorts, description is cut to the bare minimum, one choice word or two, to convey the really important things we need to know. Find out in Just Desserts…and other stories:
Well, it’s not exactly writer’s block … sort of. In 2015, my cousin and I took a trip to Scotland to follow some family ancestry as well as for me to do some research for the fifth book in my series, “Partners, Heart of the Phoenix”. For my main character, AJ Donovan, it took years to find the Scots-Irish father he thought had abandoned him. Now a father himself for the first time, he and his wife, Quin, chose to take a trip to Scotland where Ethan Donovan and his family currently lived. AJ was excited to meet his many half siblings and introduce his son, Reilly to his grandparents.
Ethan’s landscaping business had made him quite wealthy and that wealth bought him enemies. Unfortunately, some of his enemies were within his own family. He had to determine which of his children were embezzling funds from the family business. AJ’s siblings welcomed him warmly … except one. This brother perceived AJ as a threat to his inheritance – to the point he was willing to eliminate him.
At the RWA conference last year I roomed with a friend who was retired military and had spent much of her life in Scotland and Ireland. She pointed out several flaws in Irish-Scottish relationships that made the background for my story somewhat implausible. Changing those details would require changing background facts going back to Book I. So, I pushed the book aside and went on to other things. Not a good way to enhance a successful writing career.
So, one of the annual writing conferences I attend is “20 Books to 50K”, the focus of which is indie authors supporting indie authors. They are in Vegas every year but have also been doing conferences in Europe. This year, in July, it will be in Scotland. I was immediately interested. It’s time to go back and seek my muse. I need to work through the story issues and come back with the ideas I need to fix them. Not to mention that Edinburgh, Scotland is one of my favorite places in the world.
I’m curious if other writers find new energy when doing research in countries where your story takes place. Do exposure and new facts make you more zealous to get back to your story?
I remember the days when Mom and I snuggled on the couch in the family room and she read aloud to me. Being immersed in the pages and studying the illustrations was nirvana. I specifically remember about age six asking her to read aloud, and she said, “You can read.” I said, “Only out loud.” She said, “Just say the words quietly to yourself.” So I did.
No holding me back after that.
I consumed vast quantities of books. When once reprimanded by a librarian that I had to put back some new treasures from the tall pile cradled to my scrawny chest, my mom saw my sad face and asked what was wrong. I told her what the librarian said. My mom spun me around, marched me to the desk and said, “Check out all these books to her. She’ll read them, probably twice and the ones her sisters get too.”
Again, no holding me back.
As a writer, we have to work our projects so they won’t suck. This means we revise and edit. Because I’m a pantser, I make multiple passes, constantly revising to make the book fresh. Like other authors, I’m looking for new editing tricks, too. I used to read my work aloud and eliminated the awful dialogue and weird stuff I heard. I printed the manuscript and hacked a red, er, yellow pencil all over it.
Then I got my laptop. In Microsoft Office is a feature that is freakin’ awesome—Read Aloud. I turn it on and voila, my book is read aloud to me! I can set the voice and the speed.
I worked my way through my current WIP, my third romantic comedy mystery, stopping to change words, dialogue, move passages. Now, I’m going through again and making a timeline and documenting the clues. What a treasure this feature is!
No holding me back!
I’m pleased with where Temporarily Out of Luck is going. Thought I’d share a bit with you and get your thoughts. So here goes:
Sometimes, I felt like a small white mouse housed in a cage with lots of small white mice, whose sole playground activity was to eat, sleep, and revolve constantly on the exercise wheel. And just like one rodent friend, who I named Mr. Happy-Go-Lucky, having a field day back flipping from the top of the spinning wheel, something happened, and unexpectedly, found myself air born. Not hurt, a sense of disappointment overcame me, plus a bit of confusion, and a whole lot of colorful descriptives too numerous to list. I, mostly known as Hattie Cooks, shook off the pine shavings and hopped back on the merry-go-round of life.
If you like that passage, maybe you’ll like other funny stuffy I’ve written. Check me out at: Website Author Central
If all goes well, my seventh book will release in late March. ACT OF SURVIVAL is the 4th book in the Second Chances Series. (The other books are pictured below.) Waiting to hear back from Beta Readers to see what fixes I need to do before sending it off to the editor. Think I may do the whole thing on Draft 2 Digital. I normally upload directly to the various venues except for iTunes which I do through D 2 D. But this time, I think I’ll let D 2 D do all of them and see how that works.
But what I’m really excited about is that I have an idea for the next book! For the longest time, I’ve had no idea. “NO IDEA!” For a writer that is heart stoppingly scary. You wonder if you’ll ever write another book. Maybe there aren’t anymore books inside of you!
I’d kind of settled on a location, which is what I always need to begin with, but I had no idea who or what was going to be happening. What is the conflict? Now I need to do lots of research, but I have the idea. (It could be possible after I do the research, I may not be able to use my location, which is Red River, NM, a place we go frequently on vacation in August, and I truly love. I hope that’s not the case.)
Are you afraid of anything? I am of several things, but one of them is going to prison. Odd, since I’m a real rule follower, but the threat of going to jail just terrifies me. So, what happens if they man you’ve been married to for a long time is arrested for grave crimes? The authorities think you should’ve known what was going on. Is there stuff you know, but didn’t know you knew? Would you testify against him, even though technically they can’t make you? But if you don’t testify, you’re going to jail! What about the rest of your family?
Of course, at this point, I don’t know what the heroine’s family looks like, nor do I know her name, but I sure do have empathy for her. So, I have an idea, which is a little like when you meet someone for the first time, and you get that little trill of excitement in your middle. Will a relationship develop?
So where do your ideas come from? Real life or completely out of whole cloth? What do you need in order to begin? How long does it take you to write a book form the kernel of an idea to publication? Love to hear from you.
Five years ago, I decided to quit feeling sorry for myself and do something about it. You see, I’d recently moved away from home and was lost and lonely.
But, I had a dream.
One I’d carried in the back of my mind for years. I wanted to write a book. Deciding the genre was the easy part. Romance. I was an avid reader of romance novels. They took me to faraway places, fed my spirit and thrilled my heart.
Yep, romance it was.
Okay, now what?
I had a computer that I used for my bookkeeping, but had no idea how to use it as a writing tool. I needed to learn though, my lefty handwriting was atrocious- that wouldn’t work.
I searched online and found RWA® Romance Writers of America, a group of thousands geared toward helping authors better their craft. I also managed to find a local writing group and gathered up the courage to go to one of their meetings where I immediately felt at home. I joined both and began to take classes to learn the art.
It took time (I’m still a work-in-progress) but finally, FINALLY I published my first book in September of 2014.
I could barely contain the excitement blooming in my chest to see a book with MY name on it for sale. But then came the realization. People were going to read it. My heart and soul on those pages and they were all out there– I felt sick.
The reviews trickled in, some good, some not so much, but the addiction was born. I loved to write!
This week I’m celebrating that momentous moment by sharing my first book with you- free!
Nick jogged through the early morning streets, Jake trotting by his side, enjoying the peace and quiet before the town woke for the day. Little songbirds greeted him as he passed a cedar hedge on his way to the park. The air was fresh and cool at this hour. He was glad his strength had returned, his breathing even and stride long. It’d been an uphill battle. For a while after the ambush he’d shut down. Closed everyone out. He wished now he’d made it his business to keep in touch with all his old teammates. The faint sounds of a dog’s bark had Nick looking down at Jake, loping alongside. He’d healed up well, and only flinched at sudden loud noises these days. His hip had taken the brunt of the damage. When the explosion had thrown them, Nick worried he’d need to put him down, but he’d pulled through. Tough mutt.
After his run, he would head over to Sara’s and have a look at those files, see what they were looking at here. Nick had a bad feeling that Tommy boy was into some heavy shit. They needed to solve that first, before there could be a chance for him and Sara.
A sudden sharp pain stabbed him behind the eyes, causing him to falter. Jake whined, sensing his distress. Squinting through slit eyes he spotted a nearby bench, and slumped onto the seat. He pushed a shaky hand through his hair, and then using his thumb and middle finger squeezed in towards his nose, relieving the pressure. “It’s okay, boy. I’m fine. Let’s just take a little break, hmm.” The doctor had explained in excruciating detail while he lay in that hospital in Germany, how lucky he was. The explosion had hit him and sent him flying right up against the stone wall of a nearby house. Shrapnel had gouged a deep line on his forehead, right above his old bullet wound. A centimeter farther to the left and it would have been lights out, of the forever kind. Unfortunately, it’d taken his short-term memory away from him. He’d been told it would come back in dribbles, or one big slam––or maybe not ever. Nice. It angered him that he couldn’t break through the fog to discover the truth of what happened to him and his team. There was something there he could feel it.
He supposed he should be grateful he could remember his childhood, though those memories he could have lived without. Years of mental and physical abuse at the hands of his old man had sent him down nothing but a path of trouble during his high school years. Alcohol, substance abuse, vagrancy, you name it he tried it. His motto had been if you’re not living on the edge, you’re just taking up space.
Then he’d met Kendra in one of the few classes he’d decided to show up for and they’d fallen in love. She’d been the only child of lawyer parents, sweet and innocent. The odds had gone against him when they’d had unprotected sex on a hot summer’s night. She’d gotten pregnant. At least he’d done the right thing and proposed. And though her parents of course hated him, they agreed the marriage should take place. Maybe if they’d stopped it, or if he’d just walked away, Kendra and his son would still be alive today.
They’d been too young, and in the end, it tore them apart. He couldn’t even recall what the fight had been about––no doubt his lack of a ‘respectable’ job. He’d been working at a local garage at the time––all he did remember was getting up to answer the door, only to see two uniforms on the other side. Devastated, blaming himself, he spent the next couple of months shit-faced drunk. Coming out of an alcohol-induced daze one day he saw a poster for enlisting in the marines. Not caring much whether he lived or died at that point, he’d signed up. They sent him to Lackland Airforce Base in San Antonio, where he met Jake. They’d been inseparable ever since.
The searing pressure eased enough for him to open his eyes. Jake sat with his head cocked to the side, his ears laid back in commiseration. Nick nudged him with his knee and gave his sides a good hard rub, Jake groaning his thanks. “Okay, big guy, what do you say to finishing our run?” He’d learned a long time ago that pushing through the pain was often the best medicine.
He had that in common with Sara. She’d gone through both a physical and a mental trauma that would have crushed most. She was doing great, but he bet a violation like that was something from which no woman ever fully recovered.
It humbled him that she had trusted him enough to allow him to make love to her last night. Nick would never hurt a hair on her head, but there was no real way for her to be sure of that. He hoped and prayed no one would ever crush her again, and swore to do everything in his power to make sure of that, starting with Sheridan. If those files contained half of what Sara had intimated they did, he’d need some help. Checking to make sure no one was around, he pulled his cell out of his sweats and made the call.
“Hey, Chief, how are you? It’s Nick, Nickolaus Kelley. Long time, sir, too long. Shit, I’ve missed the team. How’s the whizz kid?” A big grin split his face as he listened to Frank describing Jared’s latest and greatest.
“No kidding, trust Martin to take the term, Land of opportunity, to a whole new level, right?” He laughed. Man, it was good to talk to the chief again. Why did people always let the important ones in their lives fall to the wayside, while they went about the business of life?
He could well believe Jared had almost shut down the strip; the man was scary good with electronics. “I understand that you’re out of the loop these days, sir, but I was hoping I could ask you, and Jared if he’s still with you, for a helping hand. I have a situation here and could really use your input.”
Relief coursed through his veins at the quick response to his plea. “I’ll tell you all about it when you arrive. Tomorrow then, and thanks—Frank.”
We are in the middle of major holidays at this time of year.
The first day of Hanukkah happened on December 3. Our Jewish friends celebrated “the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt. It is also known as the Festival of Lights. Hanukkah is observed for eight nights and days by lighting the candles of a candelabrum with nine branches, called a menorah.” Thanks to Wickipedia
Kwansaa developed in the mid-sixties with the rise of Black Power and is celebrated in January. Each of the seven days of Kwanzaa is dedicated to one of the following principles:
Unity, Self-Determination, Collective Work & Responsibility, Cooperative Economics, Purpose, Creativity, and Faith. Seven candles are lit on each day. Thanks to Wickipedia
Ramadan for our Muslim friends is “a month of intense prayer, dawn-to-dusk fasting and nightly feasts.” Thanks to Wickipedia. This year this holiday was celebrated in May in 2018. So why have I included it? Because the holiday moves around the calendar, and while I was a principal, there were many years when all of these holidays fell at roughly the same time of year.
Buddhism also commemorates in early December the Day the Buddah (Siddhartha Gautama the first person thought to have reached enlightenment) reached that stage.
Christians celebrate Christmas on December 25 commemorating the birth of Jesus beginning with lighting Advent Candles and culminating in Christmas Eve candlelight services. Candles and light are a big part of all these celebrations
The US secular culture with Santa Claus, Christmas carols, and baking, dominates our media. It’s good to remember we are an eclectic society and to make room for all faiths.
So however, you celebrate this season of light at the darkest time of our year, I wish you Happy Holidays. We at the Sisterhood of Suspense are grateful for each one of you.
(Previously published in my December, 2018 Newsletter.)
I think I’ve written about this issue with editing before, but it bears repeating, and it is how I’m spending all my time now except for celebrating Thanksgiving, of course.
From Margie Lawson, I’ve learned the value of checking my manuscript for overused words. Margie’s original list of about 40 words and phrases has grown to over 70. Some words I’ve learned to eliminate when I’m rough drafting. Others despite my best intentions creep in. Each book has it’s own special words I add to the list.
One thing I like about this tedious process is it makes me read read each sentences as a stand-alone and not get caught up in the story. In making changes, if I don’t delete the word, I use more specific words, growing the word count.
Examples and how I changed words follow.
Going to 73 down to 2 (Seems like a lot, but it’s fewer than in previous works.)
“So, Kim, what are you going to do over this waiting period?”
“So, Kim what are your plans for this waiting period.”
Well, I can take care of that. I’m going to come pick you up, and we’ll go shopping and eat dinner out.”
“I can take care of your problem. I’ll pick you up, and we’ll shop till we drop before eating dinner at a restaurant.”
“No, I mean after. What are you going to do after?”
“No, I mean after. What will you do with your life after the divorce?”
“One of the things I’m going to help Kim with is recognizing what her skills are.”
“I will help Kim recognize her skills.”
That from 335 to 53
She pulled into a garage that went with the condo, not that she needed all that space.
She pulled into a garage connected to the condo, though she didn’t need all the space.
Most remaining “that”s are pointing to something and not the connection (that) we use that is grammatically correct but unnecessary.
Began 14 to3 (A word I used to use all the time but have mostly eliminated.)
Cooper set his sacks on the table and began to remove the items.
Cooper set his sacks on the table and removed the items from the bags, setting them on the counter.
They all exchanged hugs and exclamations and began chattering like they had only seen each other last week.
They all exchanged hugs and exclamations and chatted like they had only seen each other last week.
Darkness began to crowd the outer edges of her vision.
Darkness crowded the outer edges of her vision.
This change especially makes the action more immediate.
What I find with this editing process is my writing becomes tighter and more specific.
Reallywent from 80 to 7. Some went from 88 to 7. Watch went from 7 to 2. I seldom use watch or see anymore. Again, there’s an immediacy to the writing you lose when you say, “Jane watched the band.” As opposed to “The drums reverberated in Jane’s chest as the band marched down the street in perfect step.”
A few phrases from the list I don’t use are: in order to, by means of, for the most part, as a matter of fact, and so forth and so on.
I’m fortunate to have four Beta Readers for the last book in The Second Chances Series, ACT OF SURVIVAL. When I’ve completed this word check, I’ll send it off to them. Then I’ll contact my cover artist Charlie Volnek. She’s done all my covers, and I love her work. Following that I’ll get the book edited. Shooting for not later than March. Had hoped to get the book out in late January or February, but I keep pushing the date. Life happens. 😊
If you’d like to have a copy of my list of words, I’d be happy to send it to you. Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving. It was one of our best, despite one daughter being sick and one grand sharing her germs with me.
I’m running a $.99 cent sale through Nov. 29 on all sites for my first book.
I admit—I’m addicted to the Holiday Baking Championship shows. The Thanksgiving, holiday, Easter, bake-off with champions, kids. All of them.
Handsome thinks I’m hilarious. “But you don’t bake much.”
“I know. I just like watching their creativity in the challenges.”
For example: the opening episode of 2019 had the bakers using pumpkin spice in their confections. The winner of that heat had made a baby cake with homemade cranberry jam in the center and a flavored whipped cream. Another baker had started with a panna cotta; however, she hadn’t put in enough gelatin and had to think fast. She made a mousse and her bottom crust became a cookie. See how different their entries were?
My grandmother made Tomato Cake every Thanksgiving. It’s an old recipe developed during WW2. The unusual ingredient is Tomato Soup. Now before you get all weirdly freaked, know her cake never tasted like tomato soup. It had all the lovely spices used in holiday recipes, raisins, and dates. And once, she got all radical and added chopped canned pears and walnuts. Trust me when I say it was absolutely delicious.
After Grandmother had passed, my sister decided to make her cake and my sister’s twist was to add pineapple cream cheese frosting.
Quite startling for those of us who knew the all-time fav but was very tasty. Then most desserts with cream cheese frosting are very yummy.
The same thing can be said about writing. So many of us write in lots of genres. I tend to stick with romantic comedy shorts and mysteries; however, I have written shorts with magical elements.
When I decided to add “The Great Fruitcake Bake-off” to the Whispers of Winter holiday anthology, I reviewed and revised. I became more creative.
If you’re wanting something to cuddle with on a chilly winter night, you might want to try the Whispers of Winter, available at: