Friday, July 29, 2011

Live Simply, Live Well.

by Rachel Brady

I did two significant things in July. I bought a house and I cancelled my Twitter account. Different scales of magnitude, but interesting parallels nonetheless.

First, the house. I'm something of a minimalist. Having a lot of "stuff" around me stresses me out. In it, I see things to clean, mend, put away, maintain, file, etc. Clutter severely impedes my ability to relax and when I'm around it I find myself powerless to live in the moment. Instead, I'll decide to relax after such-and-such is cleaned/mended/put away/filed/etc. So I try to keep "stuff" to a minimum.

Preparing for the move, I resolved to move only those things that I either 1) use or 2) love. I held firm to that and quickly discovered something. I'd been holding on to certain items because they were important to somebody else, but not important to me.

The main culprit was my father. For more than twenty years, I've moved (countless times) artifacts that once belonged to his mother, or to him in his earlier years, that were given to me because they were special to him. Not to seem callous (I'm not callous, I just don't like "things") but these items aren't special to me. I'm not sure when I became the family pack mule , but I handed that pack right back this month.

I think my predicament originated years ago, before I was wise to my dad's ways. I'm pretty sure now that it was directed at me in the spirit of: "I don't want these things anymore, but they are too special/noteworthy/expensive to give/throw away, so here, Rachel. A gift! For you!" I'll likely use this technique on my own children one day, so I'm not necessarily disapproving it. Just saying that I'm getting smarter. Slowly. My kids can figure it out when they're in their thirties, too. Fifties if I'm lucky.

In any case, my new home contains only those things that I use or love. Serenity.

Now, Twitter.

Twitter is not so different from my grandmother's old candle or my father's collection of 1970s airline silverware, which I'm not entirely certain he acquired via legitimate means. The reason Twitter is not so different is that I neither use Twitter nor love it, yet I've kept that stupid account for years because other people (writers, publishers, agents) say I should. But Twitter was my father's old end table. My grandmother's weathered jewelry box. It was a burden thrust upon me by someone else who said--rather compellingly--that it was very, very important for a writer to have and keep.

Like the PanAm silverware, Twitter held no value to me. So it's gone. If I never see another @, #, or RT, it'll be too soon. #goodriddance

My colleague Brian says it's fine for people to be weird as long as they know they're weird. I get that I'm over the top with my aversion to extraneous belongings and my diminishing patience for social media and the Internet in general. Those are my wacky, quirky design features. I'm okay with being a little strange.

And I'm curious too. What things are you holding onto in life--possessions, ideas, habits--that aren't helping you be your most fulfilled, most peaceful self? Are you in a place where you can identify them and finally drop them?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

What's in a title?

by Maria Geraci

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet. Everyone recognizes Shakespeare's famous line from Romeo and Juliet. And in theory, I have to agree with the Bard. What truly matters is what something is, not what it's called. The fact that we've been programmed to think of a rose as beautiful and sweet smelling and a weed as ugly and nasty is part of our own life experiences. The reality of what something is, is mixed with the name we know it by.

Being in the business of writing books that I hope will sell (and sell big) however, I have to give a lot of credence to titles. Titles are a reader's (consumer's) first perception of what a book is and what it's about and can install either a negative or a positive reaction in the reader. If the reaction is positive, then the reader might pick up your book (or scroll down the screen) to find out more about your novel. But if it's negative, your novel might not even get that chance. In this highly competitive market, your book needs all the chances it can to connect with readers. This is why I spend a lot of time thinking about my titles. I admit, most times, I think of my title even before I really know what my book is about. Titles come to me in my sleep or in both my conscious and subconscious thinking in much the same way story ideas do. Even if I don't get to keep my title (this happened to me only once, with my debut book) the title still forms the basis of the story and the story builds on that title. Which might seem kind of backward to some people, but not to me.

So what makes a good title?

First off, it should reflect the story. I really hate when a title seems disjointed from the story it's attached to. A title should also reflect the genre you write in. Big Bad Mother from Outer Space wouldn't be a typical women's fiction title (although on second thought, it does have a certain appeal, but you get my drift.) Titles should be catchy. They should be original yet also have some hint of familiarity that resonates with us. Here are a few novels that over the years have caught my eye based on the title alone:

When Dashing Met Danger   Historical regency romance. It sounds sexy and fun, and it is.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding   Okay, so this was a film, but really. How brilliant is this title?
Good in Bed  One of the best titles ever. Jennifer Weiner, I hate you :)
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet  I've already got a tear in my eye just from the cover and title on this book.
Little Women  I had to put this in here because I love this book so much.
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Love in the Time of Cholera   You have no idea how much I want to do a rip off version of this title. Still working on it...
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies  So not everyone loved it, but I did.
The Devil Wears Prada   Great book, but better movie.

I could go on... but you get my drift. What are some of your favorite titles? Have you ever bought a book based solely on the title?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

How to write with pickles

by Bethany Maines

I just read a blog about a woman who bought her husband a giant 5’ chicken because they got into an argument about the need for more bath towels. It was done with a great deal of love, humor and antagonism – like a good marriage.  Or at least like my marriage.  I frequently tell my husband he has extra-large fingernails; he finds this statement bizarre and tells me I just have midget hands.  I haven’t bought him a giant chicken yet, but we’ve only been married for some amount of years under five (I’ve outsourced this knowledge to my husband and he’s not home), maybe when we get to 15 we’ll have reached the giant chicken stage.

But my point is, (stick with me here – I usually get to a point sooner or later) that relationships, even loving ones, frequently work in opposition, as well as compliment, to each other. And yet, that simple, everyday dynamic is one of the harder motivations to write into a character. Why would anyone in her right mind buy a giant chicken and leave it on their front porch to annoy their husband? That’s not logical, or as my agent sometimes says, “I’m just not seeing it – I don’t think she has significant motivation.” Um… he said the pink beach towels were good enough for regular bath towels? That’s practically an engraved invitation for giant chickens right there.

What I’ve discovered is that there are two kinds of people in this world – the chicken people and the non-chicken people. Unfortunately, I don’t get to pick which ones read my books, which means that I have to write for the non-chicken people. And they are much less willing to take that leap to chicken on the front porch ringing the door-bell with me. Which means that I have to do writerly things like establish a history of chicken type actions in my character. Sometimes I add alcohol to an incident – that seems to help readers believe the unbelievable idea of chickens. But I think the most important technique I use is to make sure the tone of my story matches the tone of my character.

I once wrote a science fiction story – very serious, very edgy etc – and at some point my character ate a pickle. Why? Because she likes pickles. But I was informed, in no uncertain terms by my critique group that pickles weren’t allowed. Apparently, pickles are an inherently funny food choice and not in the least sci-fi. I railed against the anti-pickelites, but they were right. You can’t just throw a pickle in from out of no where and expect readers to roll with it. They have to know they’re in a pickle type book.

And then it occurred to me that I must be living a pickle type life if I think 5’chickens are a good thing. I’m ok with that.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Get out your dancing shoes

by: Joelle Charbonneau

Let the trumpets and cymbals sound. Tell the band to strike up a tune because we are having a party. I am celebrating the completion of my new novel. Hurray! And at the end of this post I plan on giving something away to complete the celebration. So stay tuned.

Writing this manuscript was a great deal of fun and now comes the real work – editing it. There are a lot of schools of thought on how and when you should edit. And since I tend to like to try new things will admit that I’ve probably tried them all.

There are a lot of writers who actually edit as they write their first draft. Susan Elizabeth Philips is one who edits what she wrote the previous day before getting down to writing new pages. That way the story gets cleaned up and the characters are fresh in her head when she gets down to business. It might take longer to get the manuscript written, but hey – it is ready to go out the door when you’re done. This one has never worked for me, but Susan’s writing rocks. Which clearly means I am doing something wrong.

A lot of people say that once a book is finished you should stick it in a drawer for a couple of weeks so you have enough distance that you can look at your work with a fresh eye. This was one of those things my high school English teachers always told me to do. And hey – it sounded great, but during my high school years I worked best under pressure. As in midnight before the paper is due at 8AM kind of pressure. (And yes for all my college friends – I confess. I did this in college, too.) Fresh eyes? HA! I was happy to settle for slightly reddened eyes. But while I didn’t use this much in my early years, I feel it has huge merit and I’ve used it more than once to what I hope was great success. Distance between you and your writing means you’ll actually see what is written on the page instead of what you intended to write.

Which brings me to method number three. This won’t come as a surprise to my family or my friends, but I am kind of the impatient sort. If there is work to be done, I want to do it NOW! Which is why I ask (beg, bribe, threaten) my fabulous beta reader and wonderful husband to read along as I write. (Yes, our marriage survives this, which is a testament to his patience or my cooking – you can decide which.) He makes notes on the manuscript which gives me a starting point when I go back and start revising. Which tends to be the day after I finish the book. And yes – you guessed it. I have already started revising my current manuscript. I can’t help myself.

Which way is best? You tell me. Is there one editing plan that works better for you than another? Did you revise one way in high school and change your style in college? I really want to know.

And for all of you still reading this post – I have an extra ARC copy of SKATING OVER THE LINE (Sept. 27, St. Martin’s Minotaur) that I am going to give away to one commenter today! Please leave your name and e-mail address in the comments line so I can get a hold of the winner. I’ll do the drawing after midnight so get your comments in before then.

Thanks for celebrating with me.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Lori's Book Sense

Lori's Reading Corner

Welcome to July's edition of Lori's Book Sense. I hope you like the hot titles I've got for you this month.

Never Knowing by Chevy Stevens ~ All her life, Sara Gallagher has wondered about her birth parents. As an adopted child with two sisters who were born naturally to her parents, Sara did not have an ideal home life. The question of why she was given up for adoption has always haunted her. Finally, she is ready to take steps and to find closure. But some questions are better left unanswered. After months of research, Sara locates her birth mother---only to be met with horror and rejection. Then she discovers the devastating truth: Her mother was the only victim ever to escape a killer who has been hunting women every summer for decades. But Sara soon realizes the only thing worse than finding out about her father is him finding out about her. What if murder is in your blood? Never Knowing is a complex and compelling portrayal of one woman’s quest to understand herself, her origins, and her family. That is, if she can survive. . . .

Never Knowing is told in the same vein as the author’s previous book Still Missing. It is told through Sara’s voice as she relates the day, days, or weeks past events to her therapist.  Each chapter starts with Sara apologizing for missing an appointment, thanking her for fitting her in so quickly, or maybe asking about her how she’s doing herself.  The chapter then moves you right back into the story as if you’re standing next to Sara, virtually holding her hand, as she relates the horrific events of what her life has become. I was a bit concerned as to how this book would play out compared to her first novel, wondering if the same format (of the chapter beginning in the therapist’s office, then moving to the story) could work again. Chevy Stevens was certainly not a one-hit-wonder with this format. Once again, she makes the concept work.  I had such a visceral experience when reading this book. I could feel the dislike coming from Sara’s father, I could see the distrust in Evan’s eyes with the male cop, I could hear the resentment in Julia’s voice when confronted with Sara reappearing in her life, and I could taste the bitterness in Sara’s mouth when having to deal with the man how fathered her. Never Knowing is one woman’s heart-wrenching search to find the truth and then having to deal with the consequences of what she finds. 

No Rest For The Dead - Andrew Guili (Editor) ~  Alexander McCall Smith. Sandra Brown. Faye Kellerman. J.A. Jance. Jeffery Deaver. Kathy Reichs. Lisa Scottoline. Jeff Lindsay. These are only a handful of the names that make up the all-star lineup of authors behind No Rest for the Dead, a tale of vengeance, greed, and love that flows seamlessly, in the words of David Baldacci, “as it passes from one creator's mind to the next.”  When Christopher Thomas, a ruthless curator at San Francisco’s McFall Art Museum, is murdered and his decaying body is found in an iron maiden in a Berlin museum, his wife, Rosemary, is the primary suspect, and she is tried, convicted and executed. Ten years later, Jon Nunn, the detective who cracked the case, is convinced that the wrong person was put to death. In the years since the case was closed, he's discovered a web of deceit and betrayal surrounding the Thomases that could implicate any number of people in the crime. With the help of the dead woman's friend, he plans to gather everyone who was there the night Christopher died and finally uncover the truth, suspect by suspect. Solving this case may be Nunn’s last chance for redemption … but the shadowy forces behind Christopher’s death will stop at nothing to silence the past forever. In this innovative storytelling approach, each of these twenty-five bestselling writers brings their distinctive voice to a chapter of the narrative, building the tension to a shocking, explosive finale. No Rest for the Dead is a thrilling, page-turning accomplishment that only America’s very best authors could achieve.

When I read the preview for this book I was immediately enticed. So many great authors all in one place?! A readers dream come true.  Was it possible for twenty-five different authors to write one seamless story? I would quickly find out that the answer was – Heck yeah!  Each author writes a different chapter in the book, and each one begins with the name of the author penning that particular chapter. Since some of my favorite authors (Faye Kellerman, Sandra Brown, Tess Gerritsen, to name a few) took part in this fantastic endeavor, I thought I would be able to differentiate their writing, their voice,  from the authors that I don’t know as well. That just wasn’t the case. All of these authors worked so well together that the chapters blended into one another beautifully. I’d love to know how it was done. Did one author write an outline the others worked off of? Did one author write a chapter and then pass if off to the next in line? Who decided which chapter each other would write? Did all of the authors know how it would end (by an outline), or did only the authors of the last few chapters know where the book would go?  If the authors name wasn’t at the beginning of each chapter, I would never have known that this book was written by so many different people. They all came together to emit one strong, fantastically woven tale. 

Eyes Wide Open by Andrew Gross ~   A horrible family tragedy that may not be what it seems . . .A past encounter with an infamous killer turns deadly today . . .An ordinary man must risk his own family to find the truth.Jay Erlich's nephew has been found at the bottom of a cliff at Morrow Bay. It's all just a tragic suicide, until secrets from the past begin to rear up again. Did a notorious killer, jailed for many decades, have his hand in this?Years ago, Jay Erlich's older brother, Charlie, a wayward child of the sixties, set out for California, where he fell under the sway of a charismatic but deeply disturbed cultlike figure. Tragedy ensued and lives were destroyed, but as the decades passed, Charlie married and raised a family and lived a quiet, secluded life under the radar. Yet the demons that nearly destroyed him never completely disappeared.When Jay heads out west to help his grieving brother, he is pulled back into Charlie's past—and begins to suspect that his nephew's suicide may not have been that at all. With eyes wide open, Jay puts his own life at risk to uncover the truth, a quest that goes beyond the edge of madness and a family haunted by a secret past . . . and into the depths of evil. Drawing on two real-life experiences from his own past, Gross has crafted a richly personal, yet utterly terrifying tale of two brothers, one successful, one wayward, trying to bridge the gap of what tore them apart.

Eyes Wide Open is full of murder, mystery, sadness, family, and forgiveness. But what truly makes this book stand out is that Andrew Gross has written an amazing, and extremely personal novel with Eyes Wide Open. The emotions that pour out of Jay, Charlie, and Gabriella are so raw, so real, that you can actually feel them coming off the pages of the book. You can literally feel how much each of those affected by Evan’s loss are truly hurting, because the author felt this hurt himself.  Eyes Wide Open is not your typical Andrew Gross book. This is a very personal story for him. He took the basis of his own family tragedy and turned it into a remarkable story that will make you hold your loved ones closer, think about what is most important in your life, and be more compassionate for those that may not be as perfect as you are. This story will stay with you for a long time to come. 

Until Next Month .........

Friday, July 22, 2011

Infidelity Investigations: E-Catching the Cheater

by Colleen Collins & Shaun Kaufman

We are private investigators who specialize in legal investigations, and we also take the occasional infidelity case. Because one of the Stiletto Gang writers asked us to write about tracking down cheating spouses, we’ll discuss some facets of this work, starting with how private investigators are part therapists and finishing with electronic investigative means, or “e-catching” the cheater.

PIs As Therapists

When somebody calls and says he/she suspects the spouse is cheating, we don’t immediately take the case. Instead we listen. After all, it takes guts to call a complete stranger and reveal your innermost heartache that the person you love might be romantically involved with another.

Typically, we end the call by asking the person to think it over, maybe try marriage counseling before retaining our services. We want the person to be absolutely certain they want to put out the expense to hire a private investigator. More important, we want them to be certain they’re ready to learn the truth.

Signs Someone Might Be Cheating

We’ve heard the following reasons why a potential client thinks a spouse or significant other is cheating:
1. She’s starting exercising, losing weight.
2. He suddenly has the need to work excessive amounts of overtime.
3. She’s taking more business trips, and when she’s away, the husband has trouble reaching her by phone.
4. There’s unexplained credit card charges.
5. Out of the blue, he got a new cell phone and the statements are mailed to his office instead of the home.
6. His wife is getting more cell phone calls, and she’s always leaving the room to talk to this person.
7. Her husband is suddenly texting all the time, claiming it’s a work buddy.

Cell Phones: A Cheater’s Best Friend

In the above list, notice how often cell phones are involved. No big surprise – they’re handy, portable devices that let a philandering partner easily stay in touch with a paramour. We’ve had potential clients call and ask us for the following cell phone investigations – below are common requests and our answers:

Request: I want to see who my wife’s calling. Can you get me records of incoming and outgoing calls to her cell phone?

Answer: No, obtaining others’ cell phone records is illegal. Unless your name is on the signed agreement with that cell phone carrier, it’s illegal for you too. (Note to readers: Not so long ago, there were numerous Internet services that sold others’ phone records – the feds have successfully closed down most of these services, but buyer beware. Purchasing others’ phone records is a felony with possible jail time.)

Request: I see a new cell phone number on my husband’s cell phone history. I think it’s this woman he’s seeing. I want her name and address.

Answer: We’ll check public records for whose name is associated to that cell phone number. But if we also find an address, sorry, we’re not releasing it to you. It’s our duty to protect others’ privacy and their personal safety.

Request: I think my fiancée is fooling around. I want to download spyware on her phone, listen in on her conversations.

Answer: Downloading spyware on an unsuspecting person’s cell phone is committing wiretapping, which both federal and state officials frown on. If you decide to surreptitiously download spyware, and you get caught, you’re facing felony charges and potentially time behind bars.

Computer Spyware
We’ve also had people ask if we can help them download computer spyware on their spouse’s computer. This is akin to asking us to download spyware on a cell phone – if the owner of the computer is unaware of the downloaded software, computer spyware (also called “mobile monitoring software”) can be problematic, if not illegal. Even if a spouse has filed for a divorce, and that computer is still within the home, evidence obtained by capturing snapshots of chat room conversations or email exchanges isn’t always admissible in court because it can violate privacy and eavesdropping statutes.

Chasing Cheaters in Fiction
If you’re writing a story where a sleuth is chasing a cheater, think about how to use some of the above scenarios in your story. It could be a comic subplot if a green-behind-the-ears PI helps a client download spyware onto her boyfriend’s cell phone, the boyfriend discovers the software, and the PI ends up being investigated by the feds or even the local cops! Or maybe a seemingly distraught client hires a PI to watch his spouse, but as the PI digs deeper, she discovers the cheating spouse case was only a ruse for something more ominous.

***Thank you to The Stiletto Gang for hosting us today! We’re giving away a gift Kindle version of How to Write a Dick to one of today’s readers who posts a comment/question (name will be randomly picked before midnight today – please be sure to leave your email address for notification). If you don’t have a Kindle, there are free downloadable Kindle apps for PCs and Macs (we use the downloadable app at home, and it’s great).

Colleen Collins co-owns Highlands Investigations in Denver, Colorado. Her articles on private investigations have appeared in PI Magazine, Pursuit Magazine, and other publications. She's written 20 novels for Harlequin and Dorchester and has spoken at regional and national conferences about writing private eyes in fiction.

Shaun Kaufman co-owns Highlands Investigations, and has worked in and around the criminal justice field for over 30 years as a former trial attorney and a current investigator. He's published articles in PI Magazine, the Denver Law Review and other publications, and has presented workshops on a wide variety of investigative topics, including crime scenes, how PIs effectively testify in trials and gang evidence.

How to Write a Dick: A Guide for Writing Fictional Sleuths from a Couple of Real-Life Sleuths is available on:   Kindle    Nook

The private eye genre has come a long way, baby, with new subgenres – from teenage PIs to vampire gumshoes to geriatric sleuths – attracting new readers every year. Although it can be safely said that all fictional sleuths, or dicks, such as Edgar Allan Poe’s C. Auguste Dupin and Sara Paretsky’s V.I. Warshawski, are thinking machines, depending on their powers of observation, analysis and curiosity, the 21st century has opened up a brave new world of investigative technology, tools and Internet resources that would have made Sherlock Holmes weep with joy.

Unfortunately, most writers are not aware of these state-of-the-art developments that shape today’s professional private dick, which sometimes leave writers floundering with impossible and antiquated devices, characters and methods in stories. Which is why we wrote How to Write a Dick: A Guide for Writing Fictional Sleuths from a Couple of Real-Life Sleuths, whose material we culled from our working a combined 14 years as private investigators (and for one of us, a lawyer, several decades hiring and managing private investigators). As a team, we have taught online classes and presented workshops at writers’ conferences about writing private investigators, and we write the blog Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes on a wide variety of investigative topics. How to Write a Dick isn’t about how to write a novel, but what you need to know to write an authentic, compelling 21st-century sleuth character or story.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Can I be my own Life Coach?

by Maria Geraci

I can't remember the first time I heard the term "life coach." I just know that like lots of other trendy, new wave sort of 21st century adages (like Twitter, Skype, etc...)  the term just sort of crept up on me. And then I began to see it everywhere, most notably in the biographies of lots of writers.

ExampleSusie Smith grew up on the tropical island of Pango Pango, spending the first thirteen years of her life in  a Swiss Family Robinson type tree house, with just two monkeys as her only companions. With graduate degrees from both Harvard and Yale, she has traveled extensively and speaks over fourteen languages. Her non-fiction debut, Check your Baggage at the Front Door, has become a world wide phenomena. Susie runs eight marathons a year and is a life coach, helping other, less adventurous souls achieve their wildest dreams.

Okay, so I made this up, but you get my drift. Life Coaches are "in" right now. Everyone is using them. Take Ron Howard's daughter, Bryce Dallas Howard. She credits her life coach for her ability to balance her busy life. Below is her quote from a New York Times article:

"...decades after her father made it in Hollywood, Ms. Howard, 25, is making her own way in acting, and she's therapist-free. She sees a life coach instead. Ms. Howard, who is on location filming "Spider-Man 3," said her coach helps her navigate the demands of show business on her own terms, including making time for writing and protecting a degree of privacy during press interviews without losing her cool. 

"It's not about rehashing the past," said Ms. Howard, who said she's "really into self-improvement." She called Sherri Ziff Lester, her coach, after a manager friend passed on her name last year. 

"With Sherri," she said, "it's, 'Let's talk about this week.' She asks me a series of questions so that I see my priorities and decide what I need to do."

Life Coaches don't provide therapy. Their job is to motivate you and to help you achieve your goals (both personal and professional). Life Coaches help you overcome negative behaviors that stand in the way of your success. They can help you get "unstuck" from the ruts that slow down your life.

I don't know about you, but all this sounds pretty cool to me. Recently, I wrote down a list of all my goals (personal, professional and financial) and while the list is way too long to share on this blog, I realized there were certain behaviors (2 mostly) that if worked on, would enhance my life considerably. Those were:

1. Daily exercise

2. Finding ways to write more productively.

Unfortunately, with 2 kids in college, a mortgage, car payments, etc... I just can't swing the $50-100 an hour fee that a life coach charges. So, I thought, "Why can't I be my own life coach?

I know this sounds shockingly too twentieth century, but isn't that what most of us have been doing since the beginning of time? So I Googled the term "goal setting" and "how to make your goal into a reality." This produced a whole lot of articles and links to more people who will help guide me on my path to perfect nirvana. Argh.

My husband has a saying that I've heard many times (he credits this bit of knowledge from his army days) and I've always taken it as a collective human wisdom. If you do something over and over it will eventually become a reinforced habit. In other words, if when I get up every morning and I force myself to exercise, eventually, this will become a habit for me (hopefully, an enjoyable one.) I used to run when I was younger, and I loved it, but like everything else, the opposite of the "over and over" rule is that if you stop doing something, you will eventually stop doing it all together and it will be harder than ever to pick it back up again.

So: Life Coach Goal number one: For the next two weeks, I will get up every morning and walk for 30 minutes. No matter what. I have written this down on an index card and taped it to my refrigerator where I will see it first thing in the morning when I reach inside to get the half-n-half for my coffee. Consider this my own "coaching tip." Let's see if it works.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

In Defense of Paranoia and Over-Protectiveness

My kids say I’m paranoid.

They also say that I’m overprotective.

Yes, and definitely yes.

Being a parent is to know fear as you have never known it before.  Maybe I’m a little overly dramatic (ok, I am), but to wait for your teenaged daughter to come back from a run that inexplicably goes past dusk brings anxiety.  Or to have your twelve-year-old walk through the door ten minutes later than he is supposed to from his trek home from school is panic inducing.  I’ve tried to explain to the kids what goes on in my mind, but they still think I’m crazy, and I guess that’s ok.  To me, it’s a dangerous world out there, something I try to communicate to them without scaring the dickens out of them and making them paranoid like me but they still think I’m crazy and I understand that. I thought my parents were crazy, too, when I was both a tween and a teen. 

Now, however, I “get” it.

Last week, here in New York, an eight-year-old boy went missing on the first day he was allowed to walk home alone from camp.  After begging his parents to let him walk home from camp, they had relented, telling him that they would meet him half way.  He left camp, got lost, and encountered the one person—because I am convinced that 99 out of 100 pedestrians would have led him to his parents—who saw his situation as an opportunity to do harm.  The man, Levi Aron, a citizen in the tight-knit Hasidic community where this little boy lived and worshipped with his family, took him in his car—probably telling him that he would take him to his parents—brought him home and kept him in his attic apartment for a day. The manhunt that ensued after little Leiby Kletzy’s disappearance caused Aron to panic.  So, he killed the boy by suffocating him.

My husband read the story in the paper and looked at our oldest, saying, “And this is why we’re crazy.”

We’re crazy because one chance encounter can have dire consequences.  Sure, these situations are rare, but they are not completely out of the realm of possibility and that’s what makes them all the more horrifying.  Here in the New York metropolitan area, no one can get the image captured on a security camera of that little boy, walking along a busy Brooklyn street, his backpack on his back, walking toward a stranger who had more than one screw loose.  Every time I see it, I want to scream at the boy in the video to “keep walking!”  But he keeps going, not a care in the world, toward the stranger who will do him the ultimate harm.

All parents have been in situations where they have had to make a decision like the one Lieby Kletzky’s parents made.  “Can I walk home today?”  “Can I stop at the ice cream store on the way home from school?”  “Can I take the bus to the mall?”  “Can I go to the midnight show of ‘Harry Potter’?”  His parents, who are raising their family in an insular, and up to this point, practically crime-free city neighborhood, probably felt somewhat comfortable letting him go.  After all, the streets in this neighborhood team with other families, other parents, and people who would help the little guy find his way when he got lost.  I’m sure that they never banked on the fact that a lunatic walked among them on their quiet city streets, someone who would look for the opportunity to hurt a child.

The letters to the editor in our local paper were, for the most part, sympathetic, but of course there were the few that placed blame squarely on the boy’s parents for letting an eight-year-old walk home from camp, a distance of about ten blocks.  He was too young, they claimed.  He didn’t have enough experience with the world, they wrote.  It’s too dangerous out there, they opined.  Perhaps all true.  But once the decision was made the parents fretted a bit, I’m sure, but decided that in their neighborhood, one where everyone is very similar, very family-oriented, very religious and caring of one another, nothing bad would happen.  It’s a parent’s worst nightmare, the one where you make the decision that you have fought against only to acquiesce and have it turn against you in the worst way possible.

I read an editorial in yesterday’s paper by a mother in Los Angeles who allows her young child walk to and from school and who gives him freedoms that even my teenager doesn’t have.  Giving into fear, she posits, means the terrorists have won or something like that.  By not allowing our children some basic freedoms, she says, we are imprisoning them in our hysteria, creating fearful and dependent children not ready to take on the world. She’s right about one thing:  I’m not ready for my children to take on the world.  If that makes me an hysteric, so be it.  Intellectually, I know I cannot protect them from every harm or every monster that roams the landscape. I know that ultimately, I have no control over every situation.  But I have to control the things that I can in the hope that I can keep them safe.

I can’t stop thinking about the little boy in the striped shirt, walking down a safe city street, his backpack on his back.  In my mind, he turns around and goes the other way, away from the maniac who took his life and ruined his family’s.  I don’t think I ever will forget him, just like I have never forgotten six-year-old Etan Patz, a little boy who disappeared in 1979 on a New York City street on the day he walked to his bus stop, never to be found.  His disappearance changed how parents viewed freedom and independence for years to come.   So every time either one of my children asks me why I’m so overprotective, why I’m so paranoid, I’ll say a little prayer for sweet Leiby Kletzky and his family and tell my kids that some day, they’ll understand.

Maggie Barbieri

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

My Past Jobs and the People I Met While Doing Them

I've been around a long time and have had many jobs--none that I hated, but all that have had a tidbit or a person who I've been able to use in a book.

Of course my first paid jobs were babysitting, which I began at the age of 10. Frankly, I wasn't much good at it, but people continued to leave their children with me for several hours at night. Like many young girls, when I was in my teens I had to fight off dads' groping hands while being driven home. (Never took a second job with their kids.) Haven't put one in a book yet, but I may.

I've worked at a boring job filing for the telephone company, there I met some interesting people. One of my coworkers lived with a man she wasn't married to, my first encounter with such. (Remember, this was a long time ago.) She lived in a downtown L.A. apartment house complete with a Murphy Bed. Another co-worker was a young Mexican woman who lived in East L.A. I went to her wedding, and hubby and I had dinner with the newlyweds in their apartment in the barrio. I see reminders of that visit and neighborhood in many movies. I went to my first baseball game with the gals I worked with, ladies' night so it was free, and we spotted a couple of movie stars. I also went to a nudist camp with another of my co-workers and her family. That was an experience I've yet to write about--but ought to.

I worked as a telephone operator off and on over the years (between babies) and met a lot of interesting people whose parts and personalities I've used in various books.

When I became a teacher in a pre-school for developmentally disabled children, I not only loved the work but I loved the kids. During my ten years at this school, I also went to college (raised teens, was a Camp Fire Leader and had husband in the Seabees who finally retired). I met more intriguing people whose various parts and personalities burrowed into my memory for later use.

From that school, I taught in three different day cares in low-income neighborhoods. I not only met people who ended up in my books, but situations that were perfect fodder for plots. In my first mystery, The Astral Gift, the heroine works in a day care and I gleaned a lot of what happened to her in her childhood and on the job from many different people and gossip told me by my fellow teachers.

Hubby and I moved to where we live now and took over a licensed facility (home) for 6 developmentally disabled women. The perfect job for me. I loved it and I had time to write when the ladies who lived with us went off to work. I also was exposed to a not so wonderful state-run system with far too many leaders who have no real conception of what it takes to provide a good home for folks, and far too many regulations. A bit of this seeped into a psychological horror I wrote called Wishing Makes It So about a very bad little girl who nearly ruins a family. (I also quizzed my couple of grandkids who were young at the time about mean things kids had done to them which also appeared in the book.)

It didn't take me long to realize our new home was in a small town with its very own and unique personality. Also close by was an Indian reservation. New fodder for my books--and of course this was where Deputy Tempe Crabtree was born. Going to Pow Wows, driving the scary, narrow, winding road to the reservation, being involved in the controversy over the building of a casino on the rez, visiting the casino in its various stages of growth, watching the good and the bad that came from the casino, hearing and learning about the many Native American legends all things I borrowed from for my Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series.

After 22 years, hubby and I retired from the residential care business after helping the last remaining women in our home find new places to live, taking their desires into consideration (not our responsibility but we knew we'd do a better job than those in charge).

Now instead of going off to work, we've gone to lots of mystery conferences and book fairs in many interesting places--still meeting the most intriguing people.

Over the years I've met enough people and been enough places that I have far more material for books than I have time to write them--but that doesn't mean I've quit paying attention and taking notes.

What about you, have you gotten ideas from any of your jobs or people that you meet in various situations?


Monday, July 18, 2011

Some Enchanted Evening

Some enchanted evening
You may see a stranger,
you may see a stranger
Across a crowded room
And somehow you know,
You know even then
That somewhere you'll see her
Again and again.

My vacation was a roaring success. Highlights included a weekend in Napa (didn't I say that with élan?); 24-hours in Vegas where I won $30; a visit to Alcatraz and the Walt Disney Family Museum (how's that for contrast); and maybe best of all, the opportunity to see (although not formally meet) Ms. Pearl of the Soak & Spin Laundromat. You remember Ms. Pearl, the devoted owner of Leon, the adorable English bulldog? The four-legged star of our Brianna Sullivan series? Leon with his delicate digestive tract, who can clear a room when he's ingested one too many beef jerky treats?

But back to Ms. Pearl. Hubby and I had driven from Las Vegas to Bakersfield, California. It's a long, dusty, not-particularly interesting drive, but the perfect stopping point before beginning our West Coast adventure. We arrived at our hotel, located in an area that was an interesting mix of commercial and tacky. In one direction was The Tease and Please, a strip joint; in the other was The Second Amendment, a gun shop and firing range. I'm a fiction writer, but I couldn't make this stuff up.

Where to head for dinner? I scoured the Triple A Guidebook and discovered a gem – Buck Owens Crystal Palace. Buck was one of the original hosts of Hee Haw. He had lived in Bakersfield and decided to build a museum/dinner theater in his hometown. While Buck died in 2006, the Buckaroos, his back-up band, continue to play the Crystal Palace on Saturday nights. We quickly made reservations for dinner, with the assurance that we could stay to hear the Buckaroos for a $5 cover charge.

The museum, filled with Buck's memorabilia, was actually just a series of exhibit cases that lined the walls of the dining room. It took me several minutes to realize that Buck's "Nudie" suits, which looked to me like the usual TV faux-cowboy sequined numbers, were actually just a brand name, although why the name was chosen remains a mystery. The highlight of the museum is Buck's Cadillac Convertible mounted over the bar.

Dinner consisted of chicken fried steak for hubby (with a Maalox chaser), and a rib eye steak for me. The real fun began when the Buckaroos took the stage. With the first note, the dance floor was flooded with couples eager to line-dance to the country beat. That's when I spotted her. The embodiment of the character I had been writing for months. She was 70-something, dressed in a tight red sweater, denim swirl skirt, cowgirl boots, and a long grey pony tail, that bounced and flounced as she moved effortlessly from one side of the dance floor to the other. Her partner was her age, dressed in jeans and a plaid shirt, and tried valiantly to keep up as best he could, but he was no match for my vision of Ms. Pearl and her perfectly-timed taps and kicks.

As a writer, you try to create believable characters. Sometimes they're grounded in reality; sometimes made up out of whole cloth. Ms. Pearl was a figment of my imagination. And yet, there she was on the dance floor of the Crystal Palace. I looked around for Leon, but dogs aren't allowed in the museum. Didn't matter. I knew he was waiting patiently for Ms. Pearl to return, maybe with a doggy bag just for him.

Ms. Pearl and Leon are featured in the newest Brianna Sullivan e-book mystery, Lottawatah Twister, now available at Amazon,, and Smashwords. You can also catch up on the series beginning with the first book, I Try Not to Drive Past Cemeteries (although truth in advertising, Pearl and Leon make their first appearances in book 3).

I loved my vacation, hated flying (as usual), and am thrilled to be home, back at my computer creating murder and mayhem.

Marian aka the Northern Half of Evelyn David

BREAKING NEWS!!!! Lottawatah Twister, the 6th volume of the Brianna Sullivan Mysteries was published on July 16, 2011!  See links below for purchase at Amazon,, and Smashwords. Lottawatah Twister is the sixth book in the Brianna Sullivan Mysteries ebook series. A novella-length story, Lottawatah Twister continues the spooky, yet funny saga of psychic Brianna Sullivan who planned to travel the country in her motor home looking for adventure, but unexpectedly ended up in a small town in Oklahoma. In Lottawatah Twister, a powerful tornado wreaks destruction on everything in its path and stirs up some unsettled ghosts. It's up to Brianna to figure out whodunnit before the killer strikes again. Leon, the adorable and digestively-challenged bulldog, is back at the center of the action and more than once saves the day – and the beef jerky. Brianna is forced to answer a question that she's avoided since the day she arrived in Lottawatah: why is she sticking around? Lottawatah Twister has more twists and turns than a funnel cloud, with humor to make you laugh out loud and a romance that will touch your heart.

Brianna Sullivan Mysteries - e-book series
I Try Not to Drive Past Cemeteries- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
The Dog Days of Summer in Lottawatah- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
The Holiday Spirit(s) of Lottawatah- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
Undying Love in Lottawatah- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords

A Haunting in Lottawatah - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
Lottawatah Twister - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords

The Sullivan Investigation Series
Murder Drops the Ball (Spring 2011)
Murder Takes the Cake- Paperback - Kindle
Murder Off the Books- Paperback - Kindle
Riley Come Home (short story)- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords

Love Lessons - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords

Friday, July 15, 2011

My Deep Thoughts as I Wait On the AC Man

by Susan McBride

We didn't have our air conditioner checked before the summer, and it's been a hot one.  So the thing has been running overtime (and, knock on wood, doing just fine). But I've been busy with deadlines so I put it off and put it off...until the Air Comfort people had called me twice to remind me that, per our contract, we get an AC exam and furnace exam annually.  And perhaps since August was fast approaching, we might want to do the AC check soon?  I finally said, "Okay, okay!  How about Wednesday?"

My favorite thing about waiting for a service call (whether it's to repair something or not) is the, "They'll be there between eight and noon" time frame.  So you can't leave the house, and you can work, but not on something that requires intense concentration because you may very well be interrupted.  If you're the spouse at home, you know how this goes.  Usually it's closer to noon than to eight, but you never know.  So you're too afraid to get deeply absorbed in anything, sure the doorbell will ring just as you're writing that all-important final graph of a very critical chapter.

I'm not sure spouses or significant others who work outside the house understand how this throws off a day.  I did make Ed stay home once when the electricians showed up to rewire our electrical box, mostly because he has frequently reminded me that his undergrad degree was in electrical engineering.  So I told him, "Then you should be here to make sure they do things right."  I think he enjoyed himself, hanging out with the guys in toolbelts, talking about wiring and amps and tripping switches.

I have to say that we have very nice plumbers, electricians, AC/furnace guys, and so on.  I've known most since 1996 when I bought my condo, and I've depended on them in this house that we purchased five years ago.  In fact, when they show up at the door, I'm tempted to hug them. I feel like they're old pals as well as heroes who can rescue us from dripping pipes, electrical boxes that are fire hazards, and so much more. 

Take the AC/Furnance Dude, for example.  The last time he was here was November of 2010 to check the furnace. I was madly working on LITTLE BLACK DRESS with the deadline fast approaching.  His wife had just had a baby, and I had found out I was pregnant.  So we talked about books and babies before, during, and after he worked.  When he showed up today, he asked how things went, and I had to tell him that we'd lost the bambino at eight weeks.  He shared some stories with me about his and his wife's road to having two kids, and then we yakked about scars and sun damage and books again.

Ed's a lot more reserved than I am, so sometimes he's surprised at my conversations with people outside the family (and online!).  I remember my grandfather saying once to my grandma, "You know people's life stories from being on an elevator with them," and Ed feels much the same way about me.  Only whomever I'm talking to probably learns a bit about me as well!  I think it's the Internet Effect.  Once you have an online presence with web site, blogs, Facebook pages, and interviews scattered across the World Wide Web, sharing pieces of your life isn't such a big deal.

Granted, I have a line I wouldn't cross.  There are portions of my life that aren't for public consumption.  But I figure that if I'm comfortable enough to talk about certain aspects of my health, for example, in a presentation to 800 women at the Susan G. Komen Survivors' Luncheon, I'd better not be shy when I get questions like, "How's the boob?"  Or, "How did that Moh's surgery go?" 

That's what this morning's visit with our lovely AC/Furnance Dude made me think about.  Well, that and the fact that I hate waiting on anyone (especially when I'm given a four-hour window).  But then I'm not sure anybody likes that.  ;-)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

So you’re published. Now what?

by Lorhainne Eckhart

You’re a new author. Your book’s published, your dreams been turned into a reality. It’s an exciting time… well it should be. Except, you find out the publisher doesn’t promote your book for you. You need to do all the work. Then you ask yourself, what exactly does my publisher do for me anyway? But let’s save that for another blog.

Next, you’ve discovered all these outlets of people, who’ll take your hard-earned money-- for promotion, advertising, help with social media, create your website, arrange blog tours. The list goes on.

First, let’s talk about websites. You need one…everyone knows this right? You have to have an online presence. You want your website to look professional, so you hire a website designer to create your masterpiece that shows off your book, your buy links, all about you, and your other books. They do a fantastic job, your website looks great, but then you find out you can’t make any changes. You have to pay this website designer to make all changes for you. They control it. It’s on their timeline. And you think, how could I have been that stupid. Well it’s easy… you didn’t think to ask the question. And it’s not a good thing to give up that kind of control, with the amount of changes we need to make to our websites to keep them updated. If you decide to go the route of hiring a website designer, make sure one of the first questions you ask is: Do I have access to make changes? Who owns my website? And make it a condition before you hire anyone to design your website, you have control over it. Otherwise walk away and find someone else.

Can you do it yourself? Absolutely. Website hosting companies now have basic templates that are pretty easy to use. They walk you through the set-up, so you create your own website. It won’t be anything spectacular, but it’s a start and you can save yourself some dollars. But remember, everything you choose to do on your own is time consuming, and takes away from your writing. Look at your budget. How much are you willing to spend?

Now I need to credit Amanda Hockings for this next brilliant idea. It was one of her blogs that I read, and by the way I’m one of her fans and followers. She points out all the people ready to take our hard earned money, and do all these promotions for us. We pay them, and then they don’t produce. Her suggestion, which I followed through on and then added too, hire someone to do all you’re PR, graphic design, help with social media, and pay them 10% of your royalties. It’s a win win situation. It’s in their best interest to make sure you’re a success. If you don’t make money, they don’t make money. Put it out there. I can honestly tell you that I would have leapt at an opportunity like that.

Now on a final note with websites, and blogs, you need to make it really easy for people to follow you—to get in touch with you. Make sure your TwitterFacebook, Goodreads, your blogs, all your social media links are easily accessible, and linked; one easy click to follow you. And yes, you need to have those online social media accounts, and you need to be an active participant. How else are your readers going to find your books.

You also want to make sure you have an email link to contact you. Make it as easy as possible for people, your fans, to find these links to contact you. Put your links everywhere. Nothing turns off fans more than having to search your website, and/or your blog for ways to follow you, or to send you an email. Now take a look at your blog, your website, your social media accounts and ask yourself. Do I have an online presence, and am I easy to find?

From Lorhainne Eckhart, Author of The Captain’s Lady, comes a Romantic Mystical Suspense that sizzles with passion and unforgettable drama.

“A wonderful tale of courage, and real-life choices that’ll keep you riveted.” Mimi Barbour, Author of, The Vicarage Bench Series

Marcie Hollis is a Wiccan, who’s always played by the rules. That’s until she meets Dan McKenzie, a man who she believes to be the knight in shining armor she’s been searching for all her life. However, Dan’s not who he appears to be. He lures Marcie into his world of lies, greed and high-grade marijuana. But fate intervenes on Marcie's illicit trip for Dan to New Orleans, when she's robbed in a crowded airport. The thug not only makes off with her suspicious backpack, he knocks her down, her head slams on the concrete floor, and she loses her memory right in the path of DEA agent, Sam Carre.

After a six-month investigation into the activities of a big time drug dealer crumbles, the same day damming evidence is found stuffed in Sam’s locker – evidence suggesting he’s the notorious leak on the team, Sam jumps on the first plane home. Arriving in a crowded airport in New Orleans - his reputation and loyalty are in question. But even though Sam’s tired, disillusioned and haunted by a past that gives him no peace, he stops to help an attractive stranger when she falls in front of him. Then in an act of chivalry, he takes her to his home until the police can identify her. When questions arise about Marcie, and what she’s involved in, the answers lead them to the exact felons Sam investigated in the Pacific Northwest.

When her illusive memory returns, this complex case pushes them both to explain the unexplainable, and leaves Sam with a haunting question. Was she set up, or was this a game she played? Sam’s forced to make a choice, walk away from the attraction that connects them, or risk losing everything.

Lorhainne Eckhart began her writing career in 2008, when she published her first novel, The Captain’s Lady, a Contemporary Military Romance. Lorhainne Eckhart is a member of the RWA, Sisters in Crime and Victoria RWA. She makes her home on beautiful Vancouver Island, and lives in the country with her three children. The mother of a special needs child. And one of her greatest gifts was having to learn, organization, structure, and how to stay focused on what’s really important in life. She lives by simple rules, the same she teaches her children. Stay honest, be impeccable with your word, never take advantage of anyone, and treat everyone with respect. She’s an advocate for children with special needs. Passionate about preserving our environment, wildlife, and protecting what natural resources we have left, so there will be a future for our children.

Lorhainne loves her garden, nature and all animals. When she isn’t being a busy Mom, working on, and promoting her next novel, you’ll find her horseback riding on the trails, working in the garden, or outside enjoying nature.

Lorhainne is an avid reader and writer. She writes romantic suspense, but enjoys reading novels from all genres. Some of her favorite authors include Suzanne Brockmann, Tess Gerritsen, Nelson DeMille, James Patterson, Karen Robards, and Karin Slaughter.

Her latest novel, The Choice, Book One of Walk the Right Road Series, is a romantic, mystical suspense. And explores an issue most women have fallen victim to at one time in their life. The masterful predator who preys on vulnerable women, and clouds the invisible barrier between right and wrong. What would you do for someone you love?

LEAVE A COMMENT AND BE ENTERED INTO A DRAWING FOR A FREE EBOOK COPY OF THE CHOICE. LORHAINNE IS GIVING AWAY 3 COPIES - THERE WILL BE THREE WINNERS! (be sure to leave a contact email address in the comment section or email your contact information directly to Lorhainne.)

Follow Lorhainne on  GoodreadsTwitter and Facebook
Illusions – Lorhainne’s Blog
Lorhainne Eckhart’s Author Website
Email Lorhainne

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The WAW System

Why Novelists Make Such Terrible Employees

By Bethany Maines

I once had a job as an illustrator for a physical therapy software company and at some point my passive-aggressive boss sent me an email that said, “You sure type a lot for an artist.” A statement that is, let’s face it, entirely accurate, and also lead to the development of my stealth typing technique. I can’t blame her for being suspicious. I had a set number of illustrations I needed to create each day and after I awhile I figured I could do the minimum number in about half a day and I also figured that finishing my novel would go a lot faster if I did it while I was at work. I called it “Working” At Work or WAW. It must have been amazing how I consistently managed to hit my minimum, and no more, day after day.

I would have felt more guilty except that I strongly suspected my boss had mental health issues, and she already didn’t like me since the day I accidentally blurted out my true opinion on the names of her children. Note, dear readers, that when someone says that her children are named Rainbow and Chrysalis because she wanted names that she “could never say in anger,” you should never respond, “Well, your first mistake was thinking you’d never want to.” Actually, just in general, you should probably engage your brain before speaking – email and let me know how you manage that. I’ve never quite figured it out.

At any rate, I did not keep that job forever (just far too long), but the WAW System served me well from that day to this. Or at least it did up until this year when a friend and I opened our own graphic design business. Suddenly, writing a novel on The Man’s dime is not quite so appealing when I am The Man. Suddenly, WAW means “Whaaaawww, I don’t have enough time.” Suddenly, I’m only four chapters into my latest manuscript. Or to be more accurate, not so suddenly. It’s been months. It’s not like I don’t know what happens – unemployed actress Tish Yearly visits her ex-CIA agent grandfather and ends up investigating a murder. It’s quirky, it’s charming, it’s got a beef cake Sheriff’s deputy. I even know “who done it” even (always crucial in a mystery), and yet, I’m still stuck on chapter four because someone thought doing all the graphics for an 2500 person, black-tie, fundraising event that takes place at our local zoo THIS FRIDAY would be a good idea. Oh, right, that was me. Damn. Ok, but after Friday, it’s all writing all the time. Ok, maybe after Saturday. Some sleep would be nice.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Marching on wedges to my own drummer

WOW! I can’t tell you how excited I was to be asked to join the Stiletto Gang. I mean, so many of the authors on this blog are the ones lining my bookshelves. Being offered a spot in the blog family made me dance the tarantella in my living room before I gave my answer – a resounding YES! Only, now I have to confess something and I’m worried it’ll get me kicked out of the club.

I don’t wear stilettos.

Before you start digging around in your refrigerators for those overly ripe tomatoes, let me explain. I think stilettos are awesome. Stilettos are sassy. They make a great weapon if you want to lay waste to someone’s toes and they make legs look like they go all the up to here. (Okay – you can’t see me holding my hand over my head, but you get the point.) The weapon part I love. The sassy part is totally awesome. The tall part….well, adding extra height to my legs means turning me from an already tall person into an Amazon.

Yeah – I’m tall. Add in the red hair and you have a person that sticks out like a sore thumb.

That’s not to say I don’t wear heels. I do. Well, I do now. When I was a teen I was agonizingly aware of my height and refused to wear heels. Over the years, I’ve learned that my height isn’t any less noticeable in flats, so I’ve embraced the idea of towering over folks. But stilettos still don’t work for me. The tiny heels that look so sexy on everyone else always make me feel like I’m going to end up flat on my face. And face it – as a red head, I’m a magnet for trouble. Have you ever tried to run away from someone in stilettos? I’d be nose to nose with the floor in minutes. Which is why my feet sport wedges. On wedges I can run like the wind.

So there’s my dirty little secret. Although, I guess all things considered really isn’t all that surprising. For some reason, I never am able to completely conform to the way things are supposed to be done. The cozies that I write aren’t really cozy…at least that’s what I am told. I guess a socially frisky grandfather and a hat wearing camel aren’t par for the cozy course. When I tried to write a ‘real’ cozy for my next series I ended up writing something I’m told is even less cozy. Thankfully, an editor was okay with that. And now….well, the new book I’m writing isn’t even in the same hemisphere.

I guess I’m doomed to march to the beat of my own drummer while wearing wedges. They are still sassy and sexy. And while they clomp instead of click down the hall, they are all me. So please, make me feel less like a rebel. Tell me what rules you break in your writing and in your every day life. And hopefully, the Stilettos will let me stay a member of the club long enough to see your replies!

Happy Tuesday all!
Joelle Charbonneau - the new kid on the block:)

Monday, July 11, 2011

Dating in the 21st Century

The last two weeks have been busy ones in the household of the Northern half of Evelyn David. It was my husband's birthday and our anniversary. Though he's a (very, very proud) grandfather now, in the important ways, he's still the intelligent, kind, generous, funny seventeen-year-old guy who picked me up in his Dad's Oldsmobile to take me to my junior prom. His once fiery red hair is now softened with white, but he's still seriously handsome with a killer smile. He is the smartest guy I know. If you're looking for someone to be your lifeline on "Who Wants to be a Millionaire," call him. He has an amazing capacity to know something about everything. He is a rock in a crisis; a marshmallow when it comes to Ms. Riley, our granddaughter.

Without sounding too much like an old fogey, although I readily admit that I am one, I'm old-fashioned about courtship. Though I've encouraged my unmarried son and daughter to try Internet dating, in fact, there is something about the method of girl meets boy, face-to-face, and actually goes out on dates (not e-chats) that is appealing. It was love at first sight for me, and I didn't over-analyze it. My gut instinct told me this guy was a keeper.

Are we raising a generation who are personally risk-averse, while professionally daring? When I was in my twenties, holding on to the same job for 25 years was considered a smart career move. Today if you're in the same job for 5 years, you're either President of the company or stagnant. It seems to me that our kids have no trouble changing jobs or partners. I understand that in this new corporate environment there is no incentive to be loyal to one company or brand, but how about in love?

Is the corporate "it's just business" environment carrying over to personal relationships as well? Is the skyrocketing divorce rate evidence of that? I once thought that Internet dating sites were a good alternative to the bar scene. I understood that once you had graduated from college, it was harder to meet potential mates. Certainly, you didn't want to date anyone with whom you worked – but where else would you meet someone if you were working long hours?

But now I've seen the jaded side of these web match-ups. Sure I can list several very happily married couples who met on one of those sites. But I can also point to countless under-30-somethings who spend a long time chatting on-line with various potential love interests without ever committing to meeting in person. At some point, it seems to me, you've got to bite the bullet. You've got to invest in face time. They would argue that the pre-date dating winnows out the losers in the group. I suspect that it makes those verbally precocious more attractive and downplays those who may not be quite so glib, but have real substance.

Not sure where I end up on this modern-love dilemma. How about you Stiletto Faithful? What do you think about Internet matchup sites?

And in the meantime, Happy Birthday and Happy Anniversary to Pop-Pop.

Marian, aka Grandma, the Northern half of Evelyn David

Brianna Sullivan Mysteries - e-book series
I Try Not to Drive Past Cemeteries- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
The Dog Days of Summer in Lottawatah- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
The Holiday Spirit(s) of Lottawatah- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
Undying Love in Lottawatah- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords

A Haunting in Lottawatah - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords

The Sullivan Investigation Series
Murder Drops the Ball (Spring 2011)
Murder Takes the Cake- Paperback - Kindle
Murder Off the Books- Paperback - Kindle
Riley Come Home (short story)- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords

Love Lessons - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords

Friday, July 8, 2011

My Theme to A Summer Place

By Laura Spinella

Recently, I read a post by Alice Hoffman. It said she was going away for the summer to write. It’s seems like an appropriate time of year to escape and change venues, a seaside locale full of sunshine and inspiration, surrendering that off day to the beach if need be. It must be good to be Alice. I also read a blog where another writer, not quite as famous as Alice, decided to move to Paris for the summer. I’m sure the atmosphere there is equally divine, and, clearly, her pockets full of cash.
Things work a little differently around here. As writing time goes, summer means intruders and disruption. Granted, they are the other people who live here. But I prefer the nine months of the year when public education and college demands their attendance, thereby facilitating their absence from here. During the summer months, these people are exclusively mine, blasting reruns of Saved by the Bell three feet from my sunroom, where I write, and wanting to know if this is the last of the Gatorade. Apparently, I am the only person in my house capable of peering in the pantry and solving this burning question. This summer, we have a new distraction. When the school-is-out flag dropped, I noticed that the TV watching was limited compared to the past. I breathed a sigh of relief as Boy Meets World met with the off button at a reasonable 9:30 a.m. But it was false hope as a distinct and steady swishing sound—kind of like a mini rollercoaster—rumbled at that back of my head. It seems my fourteen-year old son, and his band of skateboarding cohorts, have seized the driveway, which, naturally, borders the sunroom. Here they have created a valley of ramps and runs where no flip or grab shall go unmastered. (What this kid could accomplish if he put half that much effort into his schoolwork) I admit, it’s good to know where he is. Grant Robert and his sweaty, tick past the tock of puberty, friends are happy to spend their summer in the safe haven of my driveway. Something tells me their parents are even happier.
My daughter, who goes to faraway college, is home too. She doesn’t skateboard. Mostly, she lets me know how unjust the world of retail is. How dare they insist that everyone show up for a staff meeting before the store opens? And do you have any idea as to the number of people willing to shop on a Saturday in July, hell bent on dismantling the wall of jeans she just folded…Let me tell you, it’s appalling. On these occasions, I look up from the sticky plot point I’m on the verge of rectifying and nod in sympathetic agreement. I smile as she stomps off and mumble, “Maybe come fall you’ll study that much harder in microbiology.”

Yesterday, the whole kit and caboodle, husband and kids, went to the beach in Rhode Island. I’m holding out for the beach in Paris, so I declined. At 9:45 in the morning there was complete silence. Well, silence except for the one boy who didn’t get the message. I spied him meandering up our driveway, skateboard in hand. Auggie, our golden-doodle who loves to put the fear of God in teenage boys, ran him off in short order. Again, I was alone. I was going to sit in my sunroom and write. Like other summers, however, I was soon reminded that once your schedule is disrupted, it’s not easily reacquired. I wasn’t in the mood; I wasn’t particularly inspired. The sunroom was too sunny, not to mention sauna-like. I took a break, went to the kitchen and discovered that we were, in fact, low on Gatorade. I put the writing aside and went to the grocery store. Hours later, the kit and caboodle returned from the beach, sandy and full of sunburn. Televisions turned on and complaining commenced, “Why did they schedule me for Sunday? I hate working Sundays!” I smiled as higher education earned another point. In between, there was surprise expressed over the Steak Salad feast I’d prepared. “When did you have time for this?” asked my eldest daughter, who is brilliant, aside from the fact that she can’t boil water. “Oh, I just felt like making it,” I replied. “After all, it is a family favorite.”

I’ve got a twin billing at the moment! Catch my 5 Do’s & Do-Over at Chick Lit Is Not Dead, where I tell you what you should do naked. Lisa and Liz are giving away 5 copies of BEAUTIFUL DISASTER. Also, the Book Club Queen is running a fun Q&A and a fabulous review, declaring it a five-crown book club read!
If you’re hungry, Steak Salad:

1lb flank steak, marinated
1lb shrimp, peeled (I marinade the shrimp in butter & lemon)
2 roasted red peppers
3 ears roasted corn, shucked
1 red onion, grilled
1 small eggplant (or any other veggie you like roasted)
1 can mandarin oranges
Feta cheese

Roast all your veggies together ahead of time, grill steak & shrimp. On a LARGE platter, arrange a bed of lettuce, sliced steak & shrimp, top with grilled veggies. Add oranges and top with cheese. Everybody here like to top it with their favorite dressing, but you can top the whole thing with one kind. Enjoy!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

What We're Reading!

We thought it would be fun to share what we’re reading right this moment! So here’s the scoop on which spines we’ve got cracked and those covers we just closed.

Bethany: I'm reading GEEZER GIRLS, a crime novel by British author Dreda Say Mitchell. The first couple of chapters aren't thrilling me (a garter can NOT hold up a .357), but I really want to like it, so I'm gonna give it little bit longer. And of course, I'm waiting for LITTLE BLACK DRESS to arrive in the mail! (Wish I could speed that up for you, Bethany! :->)

Joelle: TORN (the debut book for the Kensington KTeen line) by Erica O'Rourke. And hey--I also ordered LITTLE BLACK DRESS. I'm feeling like I'm one of the family! (Aw, thanks, Joelle! And you are!)

Laura:  Emily Giffin's LOVE THE ONE YOU'RE WITH.  Very entertaining, fun fast read!

Lori:  I just finished SHELTER by Harlan Coben (comes out in September--his first foray into the YA world).  But I also just read NO REST FOR THE DEAD, a collaboration of 25 mystery authors. Pretty cool!!! (Here’s an excerpt from Lori’s review:  When I read the preview for this book I was immediately enticed. So many great authors all in one place?! A readers dream come true.  Was it possible for twenty-five different authors to write one seamless story? I would quickly find out that the answer was – heck ya!)

Maggie: I'm reading THE SPELLMANS STRIKE AGAIN by Lisa Lutz. Love, love, love this series but haven't had time to read the latest installment until now. It's about a family of private investigators and when I say family, I mean it--the youngest is a teenager. They are constantly getting into each other's business and sabotaging each other's plans. It's hysterical but with a pretty good mystery embedded. One of my favorite series.

Maria: I just finished MOCKINGJAY by Suzanne Collins. It was a great ending to a great trilogy!

Marian (Northern half of Evelyn David): I just finished BOSSYPANTS by Tina Fey. A hoot! Am re-reading MURDER ON A GIRLS’ NIGHT OUT by Anne George. Great characters, delightful humor.

Marilyn: I’m reading two books, one is Kris Neri’s REVENGE FOR OLD TIMES’ SAKE, which is delightful, and an ARC of a YA novel called JANE JONES:  WORST VAMPIRE EVER by Caissie St. Onge—which is also the name of the heroine. Clever story and I’m enjoying it.

Rachel: Just finished DEAD MAN’S SWITCH by debut mystery author Tammy Kaehler. This is a great choice for fans of a strong female protagonist as it features a resourceful amateur sleuth who is also a racecar driver. Girl power! Kabam! I'll blog about this one soon over at Write It Anyway. Next up for me is a beta read for my thriller writer pal CJ West, whose new one is called ADDICTED TO LOVE, and then I think I'll finally show up (years) late to THE HUNGER GAMES party (Suzanne Collins) because I've just heard too many good things not to give it a try.

Rhonda (Southern half of Evelyn David): I just finished STILL MISSING by Chevy Stevens. This is an excellent psychological mystery. A real estate agent was abducted during an open house. She was missing for a year. The book starts after her return. She is seeing a psychiatrist and one chapter at a time she tells us, and the psychiatrist, what happened to her then and what's happening now. STILL MISSING is a fascinating, well written novel. The book has a very unique plot construction with its one session at a time method of conveying the story. Definitely not for the squeamish. There's some sexual content, although not as graphic as you might suppose. I highly recommend it. Next up – THE GIRL WHO DISAPPEARED TWICE by Andrea Kane.
Susan:  I just finished A PUG'S TALE by Alison Pace, which was adorable.  It's about a woman who works in the restoration department of the Met.  She's dog-sitting her boyfriend's pug, Max, while Ben is halfway around the world doing pro bono legal work, and she realizes a painting hanging in one of the galleries is a forgery.  The thief leaves her notes, like a scavenger hunt, until she figures out whodunit (with Max helping, of course!). Now I'm reading EARTHLY PLEASURES by Karen Neches about a greeter in Heaven who's sent down to earth. I'm really enjoying it!

So tell us which book you’ve got open right this minute! Or one you just finished. We’d love to hear what everyone else is reading.