Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Joys to You

Whatever your faith, I wish you joy and love. May the blessings of peace and happiness fill your heart, and may you feel a renewal of energy in that faith.

Merry Christmas,

Thursday, December 20, 2007


I am thrilled to have a very special guest come to you "live" today. Her third Theda Krakow book is currently available (see the link below) and has earned some fabulous reviews. If you're looking for some great escape reading (and who isn't at this time of year?) you'll love Cries & Whiskers.

Without further ado, I present, Clea Simon! {applause; applause}

Are you addicted to cats?

Sometimes I think I am. No, I’m not a “crazy cat lady,” one of those sad old women (and they do tend to be elderly women) who “collect” or hoard so many animals that it becomes unhealthy for both people and pets.

But I love having a cat in the house. Even while I was mourning my last cat, a lovely long-haired grey named Cyrus, I longed for a feline presence. It wasn’t that I didn’t love Cyrus. At times, years later, I still think about his particular affectionate-and-yet-dignified personality, the way he would silently “mew” and then let me rub his white fluffy belly. I still think of him with love.

But I was also missing the physical presence of a cat. Any cat. There’s just something about having the soft warm bulk of a shin-high body press against you as you stand cooking in the kitchen or sit staring at another blank page. It’s not exactly inspiring, not all the time. But it is comforting. “I’m here,” that soft pressure says. “We’re in this together.”

Therefore, I confess it was a relief when we got the call from the animal shelter. A friend who worked there knew how we felt, and she’d called to say, “I have a kitten here that I think you’ll love.” “I’m not ready,” I told my husband. “We’ll just go visit,” he said. Needless to say, we left that day with Musetta, a spunky, plump black-and-white kitty who has found her own place in my heart, next to Cyrus, and her own spot behind my chair where she sometimes snores and mutters while I work.

There’s been a ton of research recently about why we love the pets we do. Some of it, like this article in the New York Times, suggests that our affection for cats might be a result of a parasite!

But I prefer to think of my connection as pure affection. She definitely inspired me through Cries and Whiskers. When I need a break from writing, or from dealing with any of life’s stresses (an ailing, elderly mother; yet another snowstorm; bills), Musetta is there for me, purring and head butting me. When we go to sleep, I feel the soft “thud” as she jumps up on the bed. When I come in, she twines around my ankles, chirping and mewing to tell me about her day. I hate to think of the day when she won’t be there. But I know, when that time comes, there will be another shelter kitty who needs a good home. Because I need that feline presence. Maybe I am addicted to cats.

Thank you Clea, for making even those of us without a cat want one! (What is it with writers and cats anyway?)

I appreciate you taking the time to make a special appearance today, and wish you all the best in 2008.

It's all better with friends.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


pair-uh-puh-TEE-uh\noun Gk

From Merriam-Webster's 11th Edition: :a sudden or unexpected reversal of circumstance or situation especially in a literary work.

One of the best things a suspense novelist (or any novelist for that matter) can do is give their reader a surprise or two. Surprises keep interest up and the reading stays fun.

But throwing curves can boomerang if not handled well. Any sudden flips you create have to be plausible, and work for the story.

As a reader, there's nothing more frustrating than feeling like you've been relegated to an outsider position (within the pages of your very "own" novel) because you don't understand what just happened, and you're pretty sure you never will.

Brainstorm peripeteia options. Pick the best of the worst. The one that throws the biggest curve, creates the most surprise or delight. But make sure it could actually happen. Fictionally, that is.

It's all better with friends.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Goal Setting Without Fear

One of my favorite sayings is "It doesn't matter where you start out. What matters is where you end up."

Are you ready to plan your route to the finish line? Do you know what that looks like for you?

And what happens if you fail?

That's the simple question. Here's the simple (though not always easy) answer. You start over. You pick up where you left off. You change the idea of failure to one of education. You understand you're that much further ahead.

But what about setting goals in the first place?

Before I throw out some strategies to think about, think about this first: carefully consider that the goals you are setting are what you want to accomplish, not what someone else thinks you should accomplish. Do not set your goals based on the expectations of others, or just because they sound good.

Man, it took me forever to figure that one out. (I'm such an approval seeker--or at least I used to be.) Sheeshkabobalino.

Most of us have heard about SMART goals. This is a great tool to keep in mind when you're sitting down to start clarifying what you want to achieve. Make each goal as Specific as possible. Details. Make them Measurable. Quantify what you're going for. Think carefully about whether or not each goal is truly Achievable. Are they Reasonable? And are they Timely?

Here's where I think people can get tripped up--your goals must be consistent with your values--without conflict. Not only must you look at where your heart is, you need to understand what makes it tick. For example, if your heart is set on getting that huge promotion, but you value time with your family, you need to make sure you can accomplish both. If not, which are you willing to sacrifice? Conflict will surely impact both goals, and your quality of life will suffer.

Another piece is to strive for balance in your life. Set goals for all six areas: Family, Spiritual, Social, Career, Physical, Educational. Don't pump up one area at the expense of another--and don't forget to check for conflict.

When you write your goals down (and that in itself is important) write them in the positive rather than the negative. Our subconscious minds focus on the written word. Make it good. Rather than saying, "At the end of the year, I don't want to still be writing my novel", say "At the end of the year, I will have a completed novel ready to be shopped." And of course, be detailed. Even to the point of recording how you will FEEL when that happens.

Take an assessment. Check your heart--your values. And take a chance on writing down some goals for 2008. If you fail, you're no further behind, and maybe even a little ahead. But if you succeed? Zowie.

It's all better with friends.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Rewrite Update

Animal pictures have such a wonderful, natural way of describing the Human Condition--without words.

But because I write, I'm wordy. It's a natural thing. . . .

I feel my head is in danger of separating from my body. There. I've said it. And boy, do I feel better. But . . .

Do you know the feeling? Not the wordy feeling. The separated head feeling. Please tell me this happens to everyone.

I'm now working on scene 14 of my rewrite. I laughingly call it my first rewrite, because officially, that's the truth. But some of these scenes have been rewritten what seems like hundreds of times. Sheeshkabobalino. And for the last week or two, my writing schedule has suffered with the Christmas calling of my heart. If only I could turn into a complete Scrooge. . . .

Only 55 more scenes to go, including scene 14. My goal is to have this done by the end of February. That works out to some serious business, especially with the holidays. And my birthday is next month. It falls on a Sunday and for some silly reason, I'm hoping to make it last a week. And I take a trip to Tucson next month as well to visit my mom and sister. Gosh, it sounds like I'm setting up excuses. I promise, I'm not.

Is anyone interested in helping me keep "on task" for the next couple of months?

It's all better with friends.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Amazon Kindle

While the debate rages, I have to admit I'm kind of crushing on the Kindle.

eBooks have NEVER intrigued me. Cold. A screen. Blick.

The Kindle is way improved from those first attempts. I'm pretty sure I sold one to our computer guy who had to fix my horrible virus--his wife should thank me--I'm that enthusiastic about it. The only glitch in my dancing (yes, literally) description of all the cool features was when he asked me if I had one.

I still hold out a dream for a partnership between Amazon and Apple to come up with the best bells and whistles (think iPod) and the access Amazon provides. What a gift and HUGE step forward that would be. Of course, a drop in price would be a good thing too.

And one more thing that would be so cool . . . publishers realizing that the ability to share a few chapters through Kindle could equate easily to more sales. Sometimes letting go means an easier path to create buzz about a book, and money in the pocket.

The cost of producing bound books filled with paper and ink (think trees and environmental hazard) isn't going to come down. With Kindle, it goes away.

I wonder if a way to hand sell will come along?

It's all better with friends.

Sunday, December 2, 2007


Readers and writers, what say you? Was this a killer-good ending to die for, or one full of possibility that laid him out flat in exasperation?

Did the ending make him want to hunt up everything the author had ever written? Google them? Or consider taking out an ad warning other readers to stay away?

That first sentence, that first paragraph, that first page, grabbed him and sucked him in. Rocked him right into the story world with fresh spirit and questions that made him crazy with curiosity. A rather slow reader, he invested hours of his play-time to read the book--not to mention the twenty-five buck investment up-front. He gave up his gourmet kibble for a month. Sheesh.

What do you think he hoped for when he curled up with the book?

As a reader, I figure out somewhere on the first page if the cover/title has set up appropriate expectations. If it hasn't, the book is placed back on the shelf and I move on. But if it does? I catch my breath and I'm sure my eyes get glittery. It's too much fun to mine a new book and horde it like a special treasure. There are few things better.

As a writer, I know it's those first few words that are either gonna grab an editor's attention or make her eyes glaze over (no glitter there). The worst thing that could happen to me as a writer, is for a reader--an editor or not--to be thinking about errands she needs to run while she's looking at words over which I have slaved.

So, in the beginning, just as God did on Earth, perfection (or in my human-case, as close as I could come) is created. I have re-written those first few words more than any other words in my manuscript. An editor may be able to make 'em better, but by golly, they were good enough to make that editor's hands tighten just a bit and her heart to flutter.

Glory! I'm good to go!

But as a reader, here's what often happens. The characters are personable, quirky and charismatic. I care for them right away. I want to get to know them. I want them as my neighbors. Well . . . maybe not the psychopath. But you get my drift.

The plot moves. It sizzles. It twists. The writing is tight. The story never stops. There's no sagging middle. Something is always happening and I'm right there. It gets harder and harder to breathe. I'm excited to tell the world about this book.

I can't wait to see how it ends.

Remember now, I've invested money to buy the book, time to read the book, and now, my emotions are all over the book--dripping off the cover every time I pick it up.

And then I'm there. The ending. The place where magic happens. The place where I get to feel satisfied, if not entirely happy. My questions will be answered. Oh, my.


Who wrote this anyway? It doesn't match any of the theme or the tension or anything of the rest of the book. And just as bad: What? You've got to be kidding. I already knew this back on page 67.

As a suspense novelist, I know endings don't have to be happy--but they do have to satisfy. They are as important as any other part of the book and often get overlooked. I want endings that leave my readers thinking about the book days later. Endings that make them think about the book the next time they're looking for something to read. *grin*

Donald Maass, in Writing The Breakout Novel, has this to say about a good ending: "The resolution phase of the novel needs to tie up loose ends and, like the final chord in a symphony, provide a moment of rest and relaxation of tension. Resolutions also need to do that in as little space as possible, for one obvious reason: at this point, the reader is anxious to reach . . .

The end."

It's all better with friends.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Book Review: VANISHED by Kathryn Mackel

Barcester, Massachusetts is an almost forgotten community nestled between major college towns. There's an excitement about the notoriety their new underground train system may bring them, but other than that, the citizens of Barcester are going about their daily lives.

Until a bomb explodes and rips the fabric of those daily lives to shreds.

Police sergeant Jason Logan, stretched by circumstances in his personal life, is called upon to lead by keeping order in the community and finding some way to assist the injured without assistance. Where is the help that should be coming? Has the strange mist that has settled over them somehow cut them off from the rest of the world?

Kathryn Mackel has created a wonderful story with a compelling plot and strong characters. Her writing skills are advanced, and the series, for which Vanished is first, promises to be a good one. Mackel describes her new series as Lost for the Christian market. The only drawback I found was that even in a series, I like to have each book stand by its own story. I'm not sure how she could have done it, but not too many threads are tied up at the end in Vanished. It's nice to have something to look forward to (and I do), but it's even nicer to have a satisfying ending with each offering.

A recommended read.

It's all better with friends.