Where You Stumble

file5721279006391“Where you stumble, there lies your treasure.” ~Joseph Campbell 

I have been picking up and putting down the same novel-in-progress for the last year. It’s romantic suspense, could grow into a trilogy, and I’ve plucked a teeny bit from one of my real life adventures to get me started. Each time, though, something else has drawn my interest…another story, something shiny out the window, a sudden urge to alphabetize my penguin collection. And each time, I’ve lost my mojo at the same point—just when the switch gets flipped and my protagonist is confronted with the down side of the bargain she has made. Continue reading

Genre Bender

TPOC_cover300I hate genres. No, put down the torches and pitchforks; I don’t mean genre fiction. Genre fiction is fabulous. But fitting into one of those slots? I’m having a harder time there. It’s been a problem ever since I finished my first novel and someone asked, “What’s it about?” Oh, I could have told her all day long (and I may have) about the hero’s quest to find his biological father, the inconvenient romantic entanglements, things he learns about himself along the way. Then, as the silence drew out, she finally asked, “No, I mean…is it a romance? A mystery? A comedy? A thriller?”

“Yes,” I answered. Continue reading

If a Blog Tour Falls in the Forest, Does Anybody Read?

Typewriter - Once upon a timeHappy Monday! I’ve been invited to join the “My Writing Process” blog tour by the wise and witty Lynne Cantwell, an author with a background in journalism and a compelling interest in Native American cultures, mythology, and knitting cool things that look like star maps. If you don’t know Lynne, you should. Please visit her website to learn more about her and her books. Continue reading


AngerSometimes I see questions like these in social media groups: “Just sent my book out to an editor / reviewer / contest / publisher…but now what? I can’t STAND waiting!”

My usual glib answer is to suggest the writer find something else to do. Start another project. Pick up one you’ve put aside. Write press releases. Update your website. Beta read for another author. Distract yourself from thinking about whatever is hanging out there. Because sending your stuff out takes TIME. Professionals are doing professional-type things to it, some are being handled by volunteers nice enough to give you their attention and expertise, and it’s going to take however long it’s going to take. So the best thing you can do is get on with your day.

Until I’m the writer waiting, of course. I’ve written three first drafts since November. One is “composting” until I’m ready for the next draft. One is out with beta readers. Another is in that irritating, luffing-in-the-middle stage and I need a little break from it. I have books submitted to three different contests. And a bunch of reviewers. So I whined to a Facebook group about the current state of agitated ennui in my writing life, and the answer was… find something else to do.

Yeah. I’m sensing the irony here. That’s why I’m making a list. I’m including all the things I put off while I was working on two first drafts since November, held captive by a character who kept insisting I listen to Frank Sinatra while I wrote his stories. Maybe I can get around to some of these things now:

  • Buy Christmas presents.
  • Dust my penguin collection.
  • Rinse and return all the Sam Adams bottles that have been accumulating on my bookshelves.
  • Find a pen that works. Maybe two.
  • Install the software that my husband gave me for my birthday. In August.
  • Throw away the empty peanut butter jars in my writing room.
  • Ditto the Nutella jars.
  • Stop buying Nutella.
  • Vacuum.
  • Get a haircut. (You’re welcome.)
  • Go through the closet and find the two manuscripts I wrote and only have on floppy disks.
  • Cut up the three bottle’s worth of seven-year-old solidified Bailey’s Irish Cream and dispense. (Yes, if it sits that long, it becomes a solid.)
  • Read the seventh Harry Potter book.
  • File the three-foot-high stack of printouts of old manuscripts that exist on backup media newer than floppy disks.
  • Write more blog posts so I don’t have to resort to lame lists.

What do you do when you need a distraction?





Sliding Past Vertical Entered in Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards!

SlidingPastVertical300Hi, folks!

I just entered Sliding Past Vertical into the 2014 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards contest, and blatantly stealing paying homage to a brilliant idea by author Charles Ray, I’d love to share a preview of my entry here.

I’m always open to feedback if you’d like to provide it.

Good luck to my author friends who have or will be entering. You have until March 2 or until they reach their quota or we break the website, one or the other. Have a great day!

The problem is…

Typewriter - Once upon a time…I don’t know how to not write. I go into a kind of fugue state when I finish the first draft of a manuscript. Intellectually, I know I’m done for now. I’ve reached the end of the story, and I know to tuck it in the drawer and come back with enough perspective so I can wave my little magic wand and rewrite the kinks out of it.

But in my heart I want to keep playing with it. I want to write the backstory to the big first kiss that started it all. I want to do more character work; I want to know MORE. I want to go back into that document and clean up those messy lines I left. Around ten thirty, eleven at night, I get this pang. Because that’s when Charlie, my protagonist, wants to sit down with a few fingers of scotch, play his Frank Sinatra albums, and tell me stories. I miss him. I know that I’ll be with this universe of characters for six, seven, eight drafts. It’s not like I have to say goodbye right now. And maybe when I do that rewriting I’ll need to write new material and I’ll need to call on him again. (I do love when that happens!) But for now, I need the separation. I need the break. My writing mind is tired and needs to do other things.

Okay, I cried. It feels that real to me.

Maybe the novel isn’t the only thing that needs perspective. Maybe I do, too. I love my work, editing and writing, and the three months I spent working on the first draft of this story have been intensely rewarding and a continual surprise. I learned that I can (sort of) work from an outline. That I can (sort of) write a sequel. And that (maybe) I can write from the POV of several people I will never be. Although sitting in front of the keyboard day and night not only makes this Jill a dull girl but also means forking out extra for chiropractic adjustments.

So I’ll take my break. At least from this story. And then I’ll come back to my people, pour a virtual scotch, and see where they take me next.

Writing Characters Outside the Box

Fisheye Scorn - You're in Deep TroubleI hate stereotypes. I get why they exist; human brains like order. They process a lot of information, so they want to sort things into boxes and get on with the day.

But we—individual people—are not tick boxes on a form. We are not the sum of the things people claim we are. We are not X, Y, and Z because our skin is a certain color, or our grandparents were born in a particular country, or because of whom we love.

When I think about how stereotypes apply to writing, I keep coming back to an amazing author and professor I studied under years ago, who cautioned women writers never to write from a man’s point of view. It’s a topic I’ve tackled before but it still applies to so many situations. Continue reading

Have You Read a Banned Book Lately?


Have you ever read a banned or challenged book? Chances are that if you had a public school education, you’ve already read plenty of them. The Grapes of Wrath? Banned for its religious and labor union references. Brave New World? Banned for references to drug use and sex without benefit of marriage. The Catcher in the Rye? You name it. One of my favorite novels, Lolita, has been on a banned or challenged list pretty much every year since its publication.

First launched in 1982 and held during the last week in September, Banned Book Week celebrates and supports the freedom to read. It seeks to bring together everyone in the book community—schools, libraries, bookstores, publishers, writers, and more—to preserve the freedom to share ideas, even those out of the mainstream.

Part of that celebration has included some great videos on YouTube. For weeks now, people have been uploading videos either about banned books or of someone reading from a banned book. Why not make your own? Or check out some of the other events going on this week, like Twitter parties and virtual hangouts. Here are a few of my favorite videos.

A Catcher in the Rye

About Banned Books

Bookmans Does Banned Books

What’s the last banned book you read?

(Note: Part of this blog has been stolen, er, borrowed, from one I wrote on the subject for Indies Unlimited.)

Risk and the Novelist

iStock_000017146993XSmallOne summer afternoon, not too many months after Husband and I had bought our house, I walked up the hill to a neighbor’s. She and her family were hosting a barbecue. We’d been invited to events at their home before, but that was during the winter. As I reached their yard, another neighbor screamed up to me in her little red sports car.

“Get in and hold my watermelon,” she yelled out the window. I asked why, which felt like a perfectly natural question. Weren’t we here already? Where were we going with a watermelon, and why did I need to hold it? She didn’t seem to understand my confusion. We went a couple of rounds and she finally said, “Just get in the freakin’ car already.”  Continue reading

The Kindle Book Review Awards: Finals!

Don't-Tell-Anyone_cover1Most of you might know by now that out of the danged amazing writers chosen to be semifinalists in The Kindle Book Review‘s 2013 Best Indie Book Awards (several are friends and three of those friends are fellow Indies Unlimited minions or alums), the final five have been chosen in each of the eight categories.

I’m still in a bit of shock that out of those amazing books, Don’t Tell Anyone is in the top five in the Literary Fiction category. I’m also Snoopy-dancing for Nicole Storey, making the finals with the first book in her Grimsley Hollow series, and Rosanne Dingli, chosen for her  Camera Obscura. Also, once again I’m standing beside Hugh Howey in a final, and once again grateful that we are in different categories.

Hugh Howey!

Hugh Howey!

Cooler still is one of the perks of reaching the finals. The forty finalists have been asked to write two guest posts for a contest sponsor’s blog: one, a dream interview; the other, a dream review. Stephen Woodfin, the gentleman who sent me the email request, set a high bar for entries. Informal “bragging rights” for last year’s finalists went to, yes, Hugh Howey, for his dream interview done by Natalie Portman while giving him a massage.

So I could not resist having a bit of fun with that. Here’s my entry, Good Things Gone Bad.