Monday, December 30, 2013

Going Fallow...

Unplanted, unseeded, unsown, bare, empty, seedless…

Uncreative, unproductive, barren, idle, inactive…

Driving out to the in-laws place for Christmas dinner, we saw a lot of fallow land. Crops harvested and the land let sit until spring plowing. I’m feeling a lot like those forgotten fields.

I wrote three books, two novellas, and a handful of shorts for 2013. And a whole lot of blogs, not just a peck but a bushel or two, keeping up the farm imagery. So this week, as I’m off for my holiday, I thought I’d tidy up the year by finishing a romance that I’d started during the spring. I’d set it and all my notes aside when the Tourist Trap mysteries were contracted in April. 

Unfortunately, I’m being uncreative, unproductive, and barren, at least for my word count. I've read my previous chapters trying to get back into the story. I've pulled out my vision board for the story, placing it next to my computer so I can see the images. Four days, 1062 words. Not my best showing.

So, instead I’m switching gears and working on page proofs for Guidebook to Murder, Book 1 of the Tourist Trap Mysteries. I moved my books to a new place. I've kind of cleaned my desk. And, to prove I’m utterly blocked, I've not only kept up my exercise plan, I set up a budget for 2014.

Instead of fighting the lack of progress, I’m taking the time to recharge by reading, watching movies, and spending time with my loved one. I’ll try for words again tomorrow. Today, I have a book calling my name.

What are you doing this long winter’s night?

Friday, December 27, 2013

Writing - Bah Humbug and Future Promises

Writing - Bah Humbug and Future Promises by Debra H. Goldstein

The holidays are over.  The Christmas music that began playing on my favorite radio station in November has changed back to easy listening.  Although the station will probably have a Christmas in July weekend, it is pretty safe to say the songs, tinsel, advertising, and holiday spirit are gone.  Bah humbug has returned.  It feels pretty good.

No, I’m not Scrooge.  I actually like the kindness and gentle spirit that is attached to the holiday season.  I love to see the lit candles of Chanukah twinkle.  I enjoy watching shelter children picking out presents for their parents while their parents choose toys for them at the Birmingham YWCA’s Santa’s Workshop or volunteering to help meet a family’s wishes through the Angel Tree or Temple’s Adopt A Family Program.  My issue is that I don’t like to be banged over the head with this “spirit” only in November and December.  I prefer the year ‘round approach.

I often wish I could apply my all year charitable approach to my writing.  I envy the person who sits down and writes a set number of words a day.  For me, trying to write is very similar to enjoying the holidays.  I write in sprints – easily distracted by the music and lights of everyday living.  When the writing is going well, I celebrate joyously and concentrate on the work.  When my ideas aren’t fresh or exciting or I’ve received a rejection letter, I find it far easier to lounge in front of the television than my computer or to pick up pen and paper.  

In the past, I’ve been a master of excuses as to why I’m not writing.  Excuses like I need to be in the mood (compare this to the holiday spirit), my office is upstairs and I don’t feel like going up the steps, or I would write in a notebook but then I would have to transcribe my thoughts to a computer.  Other excuses for the notebook could be a) if I leave it lying around the neighbor’s dog might eat my work, b) if I put the notebook down, I may forget where I put it, or c) if I close the notebook I may not find the page I wrote on again.  

I really wonder what excuses others use and what is the motivation that helps one write consistently?  My next blog will not appear until 2014. In anticipation of it and the New Year, I want to resolve to apply the year ‘round approach to my writing.  It isn’t going to be easy.  How do you do it?  Will you help me or join me in this New Year’s resolution?

Whether we succeed or not, may 2014 be a happy, healthy and prosperous year for you and yours.
                                                                       ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Debra H. Goldstein is the author of Maze in Blue, a murder mystery set on the University of Michigan's campus in the 1970's.  Her short story, "A Political Cornucopia" was the November Bethlehem Writers Roundtable featured story.    

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas Memories

I’m at a loss for words. I have no idea what to talk about once a month, let alone every day. So I decided that I”ll just ramble on and perhaps a blog will come out of this.

So what’s going on? It’s Christmas and the hustle and bustle of the city can be contagious. Everyone smiles, say their manners and just have a real good attitude.

The buildings and plaza are ensconced in trees and decorations and tourists and some natives take pictures to post on social media.

The stores play Christmas music to entice you to spend, spend, and spend. Do you realize that you can walk into a store during the holidays and when you hear the music, it changes your demeanor? I know it does mine. Hearing “Jingle Bells,” “All I Want For Christmas,” “The Christmas Song” all bring back joyous memories and opens that wallet. But that’s okay, because I feel happy and in good spirits.

It’s also the time you sit around you television and watch those movies that you grew up on. Who doesn’t recall “Miracle on 34th Street,” “Frosty The Snowman,” “White Christmas,” or “Charlie Brown Christmas.” Again, just thinking about it reminds me of my youth when all my sisters and my mother were together just waiting for the day that we can open our presents.

After all the presents were opened, and the paper cleared, the family headed to the nearest relative house for the Christmas Dinner and as the years go by, you wait for your chance to finally sit and eat at the adult table. As everyone bowed their heads, we thought of the past year and of our future to start all over again until the next Christmas season rolls around.

Christmas: a wonderful time and full of memories.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holiday to one and all (to those who celebrate).

Follow dru’s book musing on Facebook for book giveaways, contests, posting about discounted books and some of my reading musings.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

And the Winners Are...

Yes, I decided to have hubby pick two names from those of you who left a comment.

kk I need you to send me your mailing address and your choice of book.

And Teralee, you are the other winner, and I have  your email address, so I'll get in contact with you to find out your book choice.

This was fun. I'm going to have to do this again.

And if anyone needs to contact me, my email is marilynmeredith @

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of you.


Friday, December 20, 2013

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Buffy the Vampire Slayer

My youngest son has a lot of ambitions, and he’s pretty good at achieving them. Very determined in quite a praiseworthy way when he’s aiming at living and studying for a year in London and gets waylaid at the last minute by ulcerative colitis that put him in the hospital with IVs pumping blood back into his nearly bloodless body, yet makes it to London the next year. It’s more like stubborn when his goal is to drag me kicking and screaming into 21st-century popular culture.

I stopped watching television back in the late 1980s because I was a working (and going-to-school) single mom and needed to find time to write somehow without taking time away from my kids. I stopped keeping up with pop music earlier sometime in the *shudder* disco age. After I grew up enough to stop wearing bell-bottoms and mini-skirts, I stopped paying any attention to fashion. I’ve always been a person who danced to my own drum, one who lived in books and on paper, very introverted and introspective. And then I was a workaholic. So American popular culture passed me by.

My older two kids seem just fine with that. Of course Mom is just out of it and doesn’t know what’s cool. *eloquent shrug* But the youngest, who’s over twelve years younger than his brother and sister, decided somewhere along the road that it was his duty to bring me current with the world of movies, music, TV, celebrities, all the trivia that a normal American would just know.

This started when I had a demanding job running a combined campus and community women’s center at our local university. I was always understaffed and had to raise all the money for our programs myself. My son, Joseph, became my right-hand computer geek. When something went wrong with our computers, Joseph fixed it. When I needed our computers to do something that they couldn’t do, Joseph managed to get them to do it. When our website needed updating and I had no money to pay for IT, Joseph updated it and even redesigned it. He was a lifesaver, but he had a price.

For each of these jobs and others, I had to watch so much TV, animé, or video game with him. First, it was Buffy the Vampire Slayer. We went through all of his boxed DVDs, and I became a fan—Spike!!!—who watched the last couple of seasons as they were broadcast with him to my husband’s confusion and dismay. (Did I mention that my husband is like me? And that Joseph eventually talked him into going to a Communiversity class on feminist agency in Buffy the Vampire Slayer?) 

Once Buffy was covered, he insisted on Marmalade Boy, a popular Japanese animé adapted for TV from an even more popular manga. (Animé are Japanese animated films and TV series while manga are Japanese graphic novels/comic books, usually with outlandish premises like a boy turned into a girl or a girl who’s also a fox demon or something much more bizarre.) I would never have believed I could become fond of an animated TV romance about Japanese teenagers whose parents were divorcing and marrying each other—with English subtitles. Altogether, albeit it was during the time when Joseph was so very ill, we watched all 76 episodes of Marmalade Boy. I call that true motherly love myself.

Then, there was his insistence that I watch as he played Final Fantasy 10 all the way through for probably the seventh time so that I could see the “wonderful character arcs” and the “great storyline.” I did not ever take him up on his offer to use the controls. After that, there were lots of others, including Firefly, Dr. Who, Dr. Horrible’s Singalong Blog, and Glee.

Now, Joseph has moved back in with us for a while, and he’s already started—Orange Is the New Black and the Dr. Who audiodramas. I draw the line at American Horror Story, however. Stay tuned to see how this battle of wills plays out. (He whispers, “Hint: Joseph wins.” *evil laugh*)

Note: Blogger will still not allow me to post comments on The Stiletto Gang or my own blog (though I can post on other Blogger blogs). So I will respond to your comments on our Facebook page, so visit us there at

I'm going to try responding to comments here since I know everyone isn't on Facebook--there are some people even more out of it than me it seems. :-)

Ramona, you--and Joseph--are right. buffy has great story and character arcs. And Spike! he inspired a whole sequence of my poems, "Coyote in Love." Some of my most popular poems with women.

Kristopher, yeah, Joseph's a pretty amazing young man. He just took a job teaching at Haskell Indian Nations University and made me the proudest mom in the world. I do like Orange is the New Black, but I'm drawing the line at American Horror Story, though I love Jessica Lange and Kathy Bates.

Katreader, yes. Buffy seriously rocks.

Sally, didn't you love the musical episode, "Once More With Feeling"?

Mary, Joseph and I have always shared tons of interests. He loves to write, to read mysteries and fantasy/sf, loved opera, has read and loved the classics I adore (and has taught them), loves to knit and bake. Consequently, it's natural that he'd want to share his interests with me. It's a fair trade--except forAmerican Horror Story.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

There's Always An Upside

There's Always An Upside
By Laura Bradford

I have to admit, I'm not a huge fan of today's technology. At least not in so far as it's making people less friendly (face to face, anyway), more impatient, and far too preoccupied with things that don't matter.

Two of my most despised aspects of the computer age are 1) watching young people on dates who spend more time on their devices than actually talking, and 2) youngsters who never learn to wait with grace because they must watch movies on their parents' devices to withstand the horrors of "waiting in line" or "sitting still at a restaurant."

Yes, yes, I know... There are good things about it, too--research is faster (though, encyclopedias did just fine), and keeping in touch with friends/family is easier (though I thought the phone and real mail was nice, too). But beyond that? I'm not so sure.

However, yesterday, I was able to see--and be part of--a true benefit to the computer age when my neurologist kicked off his Global project designed to reach those diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and give them hope.

There are so many sites out there that are devoted to "informing" people about various illnesses--side effects, symptoms, worst case scenarios, etc. And while, used correctly, such information can can also frighten the uneducated (translation: the newly diagnosed of whatever disease is being researched).

So to see a site like I Can With MS, where the whole point is to lift someone's heart and give them hope, is a beautiful thing.

The site and my story ("I Can Teach My Children To Persevere With MS") went live yesterday and I'm honored to have been asked to play a part.

If you'd like to read my story, you can find it here:

If you'd like to view the site as a whole, go here:

And better yet, if you know someone with MS, please share the link with them, too.


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Generosity of Mystery Authors

by Kay Kendall

The first conference for mystery fans that I attended was Bouchercon 2011 in St. Louis. Previously I’d only attended writers’ conferences where would-be authors pitched manuscripts to agents and sat at the feet of those hallowed gods/goddesses called published authors. Bouchercon, billed as theWorld Mystery and Suspense Conference,“ was an entirely different breed of cat. I couldn’t get my mind around what was going on.  

And then I got it! The published mystery authors weren’t there to tell us how to write, how to sell, or how to win an agent. No, they were there to talk about their writing and their writing worlds. Once I figured that out, I soaked up every tiny detail that came my way. And I loved it.
I'm holding Charlaine's LIVING DEAD IN DALLAS,
 the second Sookie Stackhouse book,
and she holds my debut mystery, DESOLATION ROW. 

The session that stands out, still to this day, was an afternoon panel of new authors. One man exclaimed his astonishment over the generosity of mystery writers. He said they supported each other and even him—a newbie. But he was shocked to discover that mystery writers do so little backbiting. Then he leaned over and leveled a hard look at us in the rapt audience. “Poets are not like that,” he said. “I’ve attended meetings of poets with a relative, and they're just awful.” The audience howled.

While I can’t comment on poets, I can say from experience that mystery authors are indeed generous. At Bouchercon 2012 in Cleveland I met two authors who later agreed to blurb my debut mystery, Desolation Row. First, thriller writer extraordinaire Norb Vonnegut gave key advice that helped me through final edits. Whenever I need advice from a seasoned pro, I still turn to Norb. Janet Maslin, influential book review at the New York Times, calls him “the author of three glittery thrillers about fiscal malfeasance” in which “he is three for three in his own improbably sexy genre.” 

The second author was Hank Phillippi Ryan, to whom I was introduced only in passing. Yet brief as that encounter was, this multi-award winning mystery author agreed to blurb my debut effort when I asked her. 

As well, Stiletto Gang member Linda Rodriguez reached out to me as an online pal to offer help setting up a bookstore event in the Kansas City area. (Her writing career began as a poet so she may disagree with the opinion I quote above.)

I could go on and on, but you get the idea. Mystery authors are a benevolent group. At heart they love the genre we write in and seem to understand that the success of one does not take away from the others. In fact, a whole organization has been founded on that principle, the International Thriller Writers. After attending Bouchercon 2004 in Toronto, ITW founding members decided to reach down and pull up writers who needed help in climbing the slippery slope to publication, “providing opportunities for mentoring, education and collegiality among thriller authors and industry professionals.” 

A much older organization is the Mystery Writers of America founded in 1945. It underwrites MWA-University, one-day seminars led by experienced authors who share their how-to advice for a minuscule fee. The session I attended last weekend in Dallas was, as the under-30s would say, “awesome.” The attached photo of me with Charlaine Harris was taken at that event. When this creator of the Sookie Stackhouse series of paranormal mysteries (on which the HBO series True Blood is based) wished me success like hers, I almost fell over. In truth, I’d be pleased with one percent of her enormous fan base.

Traditionally the holiday season is when we are encouraged to be more big-hearted and giving than usual. As I contemplated blogging about generosity, I remembered the mystery authors I’ve been privileged to meet. While I can’t thank each one individually because they're too numerous, I can offer this posting as an ode to them collectively. Both their writing and the generosity of their spirit serve to inspire me. 

Kay Kendall
To celebrate the conclusion of 2013, the year in which my debut mystery was published, I will give away one copy of Desolation Row to someone who leaves a comment here about the joys of reading mysteries . . . or how you feel about mystery authors . . . or, heck, anything that you think is related! 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Christmas Greetings

In the spirit of Christmas, I'm going to give a copy of one of my Deputy Tempe Crabtree mysteries to one of the commenters on my post today. The person I choose at random may pick the following list of books. For the first time in ages, I actually have a print copy of each one.

I've listed them in order, earliest book to latest.

Deadly Trail
Deadly Omen
Unequally Yoked
Wing Beat
Calling the Dead
Judgment Fire
Kindred Spirits
Dispel the Mist
Invisible Path
Bears With Us
Raging Water
Spirit Shapes

If you are unfamiliar with the series, Deputy Tempe Crabtree is a Native American resident deputy in the mountain community of Bear Creek in the Southern Sierra. She has a large area to patrol and it's adjacent to the Bear Creek Indian Reservation. She's married to the minister of the local church. The fact that she sometimes uses Indian rituals in order to help solve crimes has at times caused some friction in an otherwise happy marriage.

Through the years she's learned more and more about her ethnic heritage usually through the tutoring of Nick Two John who runs the Bear Creek Inn with his significant other.

This is a great opportunity for someone to get acquainted with Tempe and Bear Creek.


To learn more about each book visit

Or check them out on Amazon, Barnes and Noble or other Internet booksellers.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Fiction is Stranger than Truth - Or Is It?

Fiction is stranger than truth – or is it? 
by Debra H. Goldstein

Writers pull stories out of the air – or at least that’s how it seems.

In reality, the seeds of a story may have many origins.  An incident in our lives, an anecdote someone tells us, a line of poetry, chance meetings or long time friendships may be the “what if” that triggers our imaginations.

Sally Berneathy provided a good example of this in her November 26th Stiletto Gang blogpost when she wrote about transforming her interaction with a road-rage filled driver into a character in the her current work in progress. My recent Bethlehem Writers Roundtable short story, “A Political Cornucopia,” ( grew out of a chance discussion about Southern politics with a colleague.

We were talking about the practice of buying votes and he mentioned a fifty year old newspaper picture of a group of candidates, including one of his relatives, standing on the marble stairs of a rural courthouse shaking hands as they solemnly agreed to run clean campaigns.  I googled the incident and came up with a picture of four stern-faced contenders over a caption describing their no-vote-buying agreement.

I consulted a number of search engines but never found out whether the candidates in the picture kept their word, but looking at their 1950’s clothing took me back to an era when Southern politicians often behaved like fictional characters.  White suits, big hats, kissing babies, and a little moonshine were gimmicks used to help the public remember each candidate.  It was a time before the media instantly reported blunders so candidates were less restrained in their public activities because there always was time, money, and flunkies to mitigate their messes.   My imagination took off.

Soon, I had written “A Political Cornucopia,” a story about vote buying and a 1960 election set in Mayberry-like Wahoo, Alabama told through the eyes of a young cub reporter.  A chance comment by a colleague, an old newspaper photo, my childish impressions of elections in the 1960’s acquired through newspapers and newsreels, my reading about Southern politics, my transplanted Yankee impressions of Southern towns and customs, and my love of mystery all came together to produce a work of fiction that Bethlehem Writers Roundtable enjoyed enough to make their featured November 2013 story.

When “A Political Cornucopia” was published, I shared the link for my made-up tale with the colleague whose comment was the seed for the story.  In my e-mail, I apologized for making my fictitious story more elaborate than the truth.  He sent me back a link to a much later newstory – one that almost mirrored where my imagination had gone.  Reading it, I shuddered.  I always thought fiction is stranger than truth, but is it?
                                                                                ~ ~ ~ ~
Debra H. Goldstein's short story, "A Political Cornucopia" was the November featured story by Bethlehem Writer's Roundtable.  Her debut novel, Maze in Blue, received a 2012 IPPY award and will be reissued in May 2014 as a Harlequin Worldwide Mystery.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

My Ten Books

by Maria Geraci

Ack! I hate to be a  copycat, but when I went to post this blog I saw that Bethany had done a similar post yesterday. Yet... I think this is one post that can be repeated. After all, we are writers and writers love nothing more than to read. So here I go.

You know all those annoying Facebook versions of chain letters? Where you get tagged by a friend and you're supposed to respond in some sort of fashion and tag others? I generally ignore that kind of thing mainly because it's too time consuming and eats into my precious writing time. But this was a request I couldn't ignore.

Rules: in your status post 10 books that have stayed with you in some way. Don't take more than a few minutes and don't think too hard. They don't have to be the "right" books or "great" books, just ones that have touched you. Tag friends and family and tag me so I can see your list!

Okay, this one I can work with.

Here goes (in no particular order):

1. Pride and Prejudice
2. Little Women
3. Persuasion
4. The Stand
5. The Help
6. Frederica
7. These Old Shades
8. The Fault in our Stars
9. Anna and the French Kiss
10. The Count of Monte Cristo

Well, I can see a pattern. Sort of. I think it means I love romance (didn't need to do a list to figure that one out) and that Georgette Heyer was (and still is) a huge influence on romance writers. As for Stephen King's The Stand? Well, chalk that one up to great writing.

Take a second and make out your own list. It's fun!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Books That Stick

by Bethany Maines

A friend recently posted a list of books that have "stuck with him."  It was an interesting list featuring, among other things, Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Disgusting Sneakers. (For those who never read Encyclopedia Brown as a kid - you missed out.  Half Choose Your Own Adventure, half Sherlock Holmes each Encyclopedia Brown book required attentive reading so that the reader could solve the mystery along with the heroes.) But the list got me to thinking about books that have stayed with me. What makes a book stick? Maybe the right book has to arrive at the right time, or maybe a book has to articulate something that I was unable to express until the moment I saw the words on the page. Or in the case of some books... they just seem realer than real life.  So for what it's worth, here's my list of the top 5 books/book series that have stuck with me.

  • Trixie Belden - This teenage sleuth was a tomboy with annoying siblings, and that sounded a lot more like pre-teen me than perfect Nancy Drew with her fancy car and friends.
  • The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings - My mother read us these books out loud (reading, it's what people do when they don't have a TV) when we were young.  I blame Eowyn for my life long desire to kick ass, take name, and defeat an Orc horde.
  • The Ordinary Princess - A  little tale about a Princess who is blessed with the gift of being ordinary by her fairy godmother, what could be better than that?  Oh, how about the most adorable illustrations penciled by the author herself?  From the day I discovered this book, the author, M.M. Kaye, became my inspiration. I don't know if art and novel writing are a rare combination or if author's just aren't allowed to be something else, but what I know is that I want to do both and M.M. Kaye inspired me to reach for that dream.
  • Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson - Foisted on me as a birthday present, I didn't read it for years, mostly because the book jacket let me know that the hero's name was Hiro Protagonist.  I was put off.  I shouldn't have been.  Bouncing between religion, language, consumerism, cybernetics, and computer programming, the book honestly made me rethink some of my positions on those topics.
  • Pyramids by Terry Pratchett - This was the first book I read in the Discworld series and it was the first "quirky" British style novel I'd ever read.  It was also the first time that I'd ever read something that sounded like the inside of my head, with parentheticals, footnotes, strange topic switches, and a loopy plot.  I didn't even know you could write like the inside of my head and get away with it.  I became a devoted follower of the Discworld and when I learned that Sir Pratchett had been stricken with an early onset Alzheimer's that was robbing of his ability to write, I was absolutely devastated.  The fact that he has carried on writing novels with the help of a tape recorder, a stenographer and some new drug treatment inspires me to get off my ass and write more as well.

That's my list.  What's on yours?

Bethany Maines is the author of the Carrie Mae Mystery series and Tales from the City of Destiny. You can also view the Carrie Mae youtube video or catch up with her on Twitter and Facebook.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

So Long, Farewell... No, Don't Worry, I Won't Sing

By Laura Spinella
Today is my last Stiletto Gang post. Those who were with the blog a few years back graciously welcomed this then newbie author into the group. But as life and schedules and projects change, the time seems right for me to move on as well.  There are lots of new faces at the Stiletto Gang, and I look forward to popping in and reading your wonderful posts. I decided to stick with a pure "book blog" for my last post. This is about what drives my characters, the male ones in particular. It seems like an appropriate exit piece, as a love story will surely always be at the heart of my novels. I wish you all a wonderful holiday season, and thank you for letting me a part of the Stiletto Gang! 
Years ago, I took an online romance writing class. The question came up: Within the genre, who makes for the best heroes?  Everyone was quick to agree that the standards were evident:  rich guy, bad boy, military hero, foreign entrepreneur, and various forms of cowboy/rancher. Each had something to bring to the table (read bed) in terms of romance. The one we all took a pass on was the blue-collar worker. For some reason, there seemed to be general agreement that the noble plumber or winsome mechanic would have trouble satisfying the role. Perhaps.  But I also believe a smokin’ hot construction worker, with the right skill set, could turn a head or two.
In my first novel, BEAUTIFUL DISASTER, the hero was definitely my take on the bad boy persona.  Flynn is/was enigmatic, unpredictable and, well… smokin’ hot. Smokin’ hot if rough around the
edges and raw works for you.  Interestingly, at one book club gathering, a reader noted that Flynn might have benefited from a bath.  I shrugged. She didn’t get him, and that was okay with me.  To each her own… While I use four fast adjectives to describe BEAUTIFUL DISASTER’S protagonist, there was more to him than that. There was Flynn’s story and the way he felt about Mia.  Add to that his resiliency when faced with seemingly insurmountable odds and his deep-down noble character, which transcended circumstance. It was all these elements together that aided in winning readers for Team Flynn.
When I set out to write my next novel, which turned out to be PERFECT TIMING (newly released by Berkley), I found myself facing a curious challenge.  I needed another hero, but I had no desire to repeat a formula.  I had to think long and hard about who this guy would be and how his story differed.   In dreaming up Aidan Roycroft, I found that my muse insisted on certain opposites. Instead of edgy, I gave him confidence and talent.  Instead of the guy that made you glance twice because his looks were a dare, I gave Aidan golden-boy looks (but naturally I had to marr this by also branding him with a snake on his neck):   She opened the beer and guzzled it. Isabel’s eyes trailed over shaggy blond hair. The shade tended to fluctuate, framing a face that had hit the genetic lottery. There was no getting away from it. All of him was veiled in a satiny complexion, a blemish never the having the audacity to show up on Aidan Roycroft’s face. His eyes were more cornflower in September than sky in winter—Isabel Lang on Aidan Roycroft, Perfect Timing. Okay, so far so good.  Physically, I had a near perfect specimen.  Although, I should mention that in the very next line, Isabel goes on to list Aidan’s equally evident flaws—which, on occasion, included lazy, indulgent, and slightly self-centered—Isabel Lang, Perfect Timing.   
            I began to think about what all this might add up to in the “real world” and who a guy like that might
be.  After a bit of mental sketching and working with my then malleable subject, it occurred to me that I had all the makings of a rock star. I think in every woman’s mind there lives a rock star image that does it for her. Depending on your tastes in music, age, and socioeconomic background, that can range from a cleaner-cut John Mayer to Adam Levine to lead singer of the Muse, Matt Bellamy. And, of course, there are the classic rock star components that never fade—everyone from Mick Jagger to Jon Bon Jovi. Overall, an it factor drives the rock star, a presence that plays off but dominates over physical looks.  With these things in mind, I made it my business to make sure Aidan had all of these qualities and then some. Conversely, Aidan’s flaws, his story, the way he loves Isabel are what fills him in as a character and keeps him from the precipice of a cliché.  
Writing a book with a rock star at its epicenter was not on my to-do list. No one is more surprised than me to find Aidan Roycroft cast as the main character in a novel of mine. And before I go, let me tell you a little more truth. I signed up for that online romance writing class by accident—my love of romantic fiction coming from the click of a wrong key.  But years later, I’m wondering if that’s how it’s all supposed to work, discovering your passion—whether it’s a storyline, character or real romance—when you least expect it. Something to think about as we all continue on writing and living life.  

Laura Spinella is the author of the award-winning novel BEAUTIFUL DISASTER, and the newly released PERFECT TIMING. Visit her at

Friday, December 6, 2013

A Life of Her Own

My husband came home after a run-in with someone at work who inherited wealth and who specializes in not doing the work she’s responsible for, creating discord and trouble for/with everyone who works with her, and then having loud, angry, public meltdowns to get her way. Husband’s the only one at work who will stand up to her, and once again he’d had to draw a line in the sand and tell her that her behavior was inappropriate. Our son asked how she can possibly expect to keep her job with such incompetence and unprofessional behavior. I told him she felt entitled because her inherited wealth had always cushioned her from consequences and quoted someone, as I often do. It could have been Helen Keller, Emerson, the Dalai Lama, Eleanor Roosevelt, but this time it wasn’t. I quoted from my newest book, Every Hidden Fear, which I’d just spent the day with as I pored over page proofs. “As Skeet says, ‘It’s amazing the crap people will put up with from someone with lots of money.’” 

My son looked at me with a little concern and said, “You do know Skeet’s not a real person, right? I mean, she’s not really alive. She didn’t really say that—you did.”

Of course, technically, he’s right. I write every word that comes out of Skeet’s mouth. But Skeet says and does things that surprise me all along. I can begin a book or chapter or scene expecting to write about Skeet doing this and saying this, only to find once it’s written that Skeet’s actually doing and saying something else entirely, something I never intended or planned or even wanted.

Skeet’s not the only character who’s become her own person. I have some others from the Skeet books and from other stories and books I’ve written or am writing who have come to life and move and speak in ways I don’t expect. It’s an extension of my lifelong reading, in which beloved characters come alive for me and continue their adventures in my head long after the book’s adventures are over. 

I just notice it in Skeet so much because I’ve written three books with her and am planning the fourth, planning that she will blithely disregard as soon as I allow her on the page again. So I quote Skeet and other characters and ask myself what they would do in certain situations that call for strengths they have that I don’t. And yes, I am aware that very little separates me from the bag lady with the shopping cart who walks down the street having arguments with the voices in her head. I just don’t do it in public—yet.

So, tell me, am I alone in my affliction, or do you also have these people in your head who insist on living lives of their own?

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