Thursday, December 30, 2010

An Uncommonly Delicious Book

Every once in a while, I run across a book that's uncommonly delicious, and I want to tell you about it.

I began reading Least Wanted by Debbi Mack yesterday afternoon. I would have finished it last night but my eyes got tired. I finished it this morning.

This is Mack's second novel featuring attorney Sam McRae, and I liked it. A lot. She took risks with this one. Any time an author tries to reproduce dialect, there's a challenge. Mack does it well in this book. Least Wanted takes on some topics most writers would steer clear of, but she handles them with just the right amount of reality and compassion, without dwelling in judgement.

It's an e-book, and for a grand total of 99 cents, you have hours of solid entertainment. There is no better deal.

If you haven't discovered it already, not all e-books are created equal. The technology to format and keep the editing solid is still getting the kinks worked out. (And between you and me, I'm pretty sure there's a slew of e-books out there that haven't met an editor who knew what she was doing.)

Mack delivers it all. A great story, developing characters, excellent writing and an e-book experience that sets the bar.

For those of you who received a Kindle for Christmas, treat yourself to a Mack for the New Year.

CR: Secrets to Die For by L.J. Sellers

It's all better with friends.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Post-Holiday Fog

I'm having a bit of trouble getting refocused. From November through the first week in January, we go from one celebration to the next. All of them important. All of them filled with love. All of them mentally staggering in their consumption of available attention.

Half of me loves to be carefree and willing to take off on the spur of the moment. The other part of me needs structure. Routine, and a good schedule, go a long way in helping me stay disciplined and focused. Disciplined and focused helps me feel good about what I've accomplished at the end of the day.

So. Part of my post-holiday plan (and I'm including everything post-Christmas) has to be making a schedule to get back on track.

What about you? Do you have trouble refocusing? What tricks do you use to get back where you want to be?

CR: The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz.

It's all better with friends.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Colorado Christmas, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band!

There are parts of Colorado where people are wearing shorts and playing golf, I'm sad to report. Here's my wish, on so many levels:

It's all better with friends.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Friday, December 17, 2010

E-Book Reading

This quote was posted on the Sisters-in-Crime loop recently and I loved it:

"Technology is not a barrier to depth, to engagement, to the cultural discussion, and that perhaps we want the same thing from our reading as we always have, regardless of the form it takes.... The issue is not what we read on, just as the issue is not what we read. The issue is that we read, that we continue to interact with long-form writing; by altering the conditions of the conversation, e-books and e-readers have already served an essential purpose.... This, I think, is what e-books have to offer: the promise of immersion, enhanced or otherwise, just as their analog counterparts have always done."
--David L. Ulin, Los Angeles Times book critic, in an essay that will appear in Sunday's print edition of the paper

If you're debating whether or not to get an e-reader, maybe you should wait. It doesn't matter . . . as long as you read.

Some amazing new books, as well as a large number of out of print books, are only available electronically. A Kindle is my best entry into their pages. The application is available free for dozens of venues, but I vastly prefer reading on my Kindle to reading on my computer.

For me? I love my Kindle 3. I gifted my Kindle 2 to my husband, who has yet to finish off his pile of DTBs (Dead Tree Books) to familiarize himself with the wonders and benefits of electronic immersion into words. I'm not worried. He will. And I will continue to read DTBs. Because I love them as well.

It's the words that are important. Yesterday, today and tomorrow. It's the stories. The worlds. The magic.

CR: Skin Deep by Timothy Hallinan on my Kindle

It's all better with friends.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Writing with Vulnerability

I like my stories intense. To me, intensity builds to extremes when the stories aren't just about plot. They're about character. The people are touchable and real and maybe someone I know. They might even be me.

Not only is this video not related to suspense, it's also not related to fiction. But the emotions and memories and leap of faith to another place and circumstance are definitely tools, as suspense novelists—or any novelists, for that matter—we need to employ.

When I write scenes requiring honesty, self-reflection, and vulnerability I always need to take a moment first. To say a prayer, or more often the case, groan one. Then I can sink a little deeper into myself and come up with something worthwhile. Something with impact that has that magic goo every single one of us shares. The stuff we don't talk about but all know about.

You know. That stuff.

Koren Zailckas looks like she's about seventeen, yet in this short interview, we get a sense she's lived however many years she's been on this planet with great depth.

CR: Skin Deep by Timothy Hallinan on my Kindle.

It's all better with friends.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Criminal Profiling

I confess. I occasionally watch Criminal Minds. In fact, one of my all-time favorite episodes of any television program ever is a Criminal Minds show. If you can get your eyes on one called Riding the Lightning, don't hesitate. Just make sure you have some tissues nearby. I will watch that one I-don't-care how many times. And I don't care how accurate it is. It gets to me.

But as a series, CM has never felt quite right. Too many leaps. Too many things that seem to be pulled out of a hat, magician-style.

At Lee Lofland's Writers' Police Academy I attended a class on profiling serial offenders by Rick Helms. In addition to being a retired forensic psychologist, Helms is an award winning author of ten published novels.

This presentation covered inductive verses deductive criminal profiling, and for the sake of brevity, I'll boil it down to a seriously low level.

Inductive profiling (the kind we see most often on television) is focused primarily on a broad criminal base. Time after time, in actual cases, this line of reasoning has proven fallible, and is often referred to as 'cookbook forensics.' It uses demographic characteristics, primarily of those criminals who are behind bars—not necessarily the smartest examples of criminal behavior.

A strong cornerstone of inductive profiling is the Macdonald Triad: animal cruelty, obsession with fire setting and bedwetting.

Deductive profiling (which to many professionals is the preferred method) drills down to the individual criminal with a heavy emphasis on victimology. It also calls for strong analysis of the crime scene, forensics and motivation.

The motivation analysis for deductive profiling suggests that:

-no offender acts without motivation
-no two cases are alike
-motivations are unique to the offender
-behavior develops uniquely
-most recent offense may not resembe the first offense
-an offender is capable of multiple motives
-those motives can change

So, when you're writing your law enforcement response to a killer, you might want to check out the difference between what used to be used with regularity (and is the staple of most television programs) and what professionals are relying on today.

CR: Skin Deep by Timothy Hallinan.

It's all better with friends.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Spelling Matters

The first thing I notice is that this guy can talk fast. He obviously doesn't live in my house.

The second thing I notice is that the word "researcher" doesn't quite fit the explanation. But who cares?

It's all in fun.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

From Agatha Christie to Johnny Mathis to WIDOW'S ROW

Please join me in an enthusiastic welcome to my sister, Lala Corriere, whose debut novel, Widow's Row is currently available through Amazon. You can order it by clicking here.

It's a terrific read, with wonderful characters and a spitfire of a story. For $4.99 you will get huge entertainment value.

Now, here's Lala.

Peg writes suspense. I write suspense. Perhaps this is a learned behavior. Our mother always enjoyed afternoon time curled up with an Agatha Christie or, later, a Mary Higgins Clark.

Nancy Drew was every little girl’s favorite read, me included, but I admit I’d often venture over to see what the Hardy Boys were doing.

Then came Dark Shadows. OMG. I couldn’t get enough of Barnabas Collins. I devoured every word of every book.

I’ve been writing full-time since 2001. What a journey! My first manuscript largely reflected my life, or what I dreamed of for my life. It is widely known that budding novelists’ first works are all about ‘me’. I tried to deny that little annoying fact.

Contemplating my first finished manuscript * I soon realized that my favorite scenes to both read and write delved into the dark and the nefarious.

Shrink Analysis I:
I don’t know why I like to be scared. It’s my mommy’s fault.

I prefer writing suspense over the mystery. Maybe I’m bad with clues. I like to have a pretty good idea who the bad guy is and I want to scream, “Breecie. It’s him! Watch out!”

Vampires and wizards are big money. So says the market. I’m more afraid of the dark side of man. The neighbor next door or the man sleeping next to me. Sorry, Barnabus Collins, but I’ve moved on.

Shrink Analysis II:
There’s probably something else you should know, since you’re charging me by the minute. My father’s influence is inescapable. He is a deeply spiritual man who finds the true meaning of life with every breath he takes. As a suspense writer, that makes me a walking and writing dichotomy. It’s my daddy’s fault.

So yes, my first novel was about me. With Widow’s Row, you’ll get the dueling sum of me. You’ll say, “Breecie Lemay, look out for him!”, but you’ll never know for sure until the end. As one reader wrote, ‘There’s more twist and turns than Space Mountain’.

You’ll finish Widow’s Row and walk away with something good. It will be a lesson of acceptance for some. A reminder, for others. My readers can expect a ride on the dark side of humanity while absorbing the light of goodness. Kindness. And all without pontification. Sorry, Mr. Grisham, but your latest release, whether we agree with you or not, was delivered from a disappointing pulpit.

Shrink Analysis III:
I was all of fifteen years old when one line from one song from one artist, Johnny Mathis, captured my heart. While I never forgot the lyrics, I also never dreamed what those words would mean to me.
‘What a writer has to feel like, when suddenly, he discovers he’s been read’. Arianne/ Johnny Mathis.

So yes. I’m nervous. I’m exposed. I’m feeling vulnerable. What are we going to do about it? Okay. It’s Lala’s fault.

* Did you know that only less than one percent of all persons sitting down to write their first manuscript actually FINISH it?
If you’re in this elite group, I applaud you! Happy reading and writing!

A writer's life @
See the trailer!
Widow's Row Available NOW!

Thanks, Lala. Below is a photograph of Lala's writing space. Doesn't that desk look like it was made for a writer?

CR: I'm about finished with House Rules by Jodi Picoult. Looking at a Hallinan next—on my Kindle.

It's all better with friends.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Behind the Scenes at a Museum

I had the opportunity to go behind the scenes at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, thanks to my membership in Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. From dung beetles to crazy spiders, oily polar bear remains to advances in preservation and flesh eating beetles, the time we spent was amazing, and only a fraction of what there was to see. Our tour guide was very gracious, gave us some extra time, and barely flinched when we questioned him about how he would dispose of human remains.

Did you know that only .2 percent of what the museum has catalogued is on public display? POINT 2. Sheeshkabobalino.

What struck me even more was the passion and energy and pure academia these guys employ. Excitement over a trip to the Congo (and I'm sort of making this part up, but only a little) was equal to the excitement over the research being done regarding two types of insects on chipmunks. The enormous level of character and dedication made me want to begin writing another story using these wonderful academicians and researchers as models. Totally not boring.

Here's a lesson for writers: When you have the opportunity to get out from behind your desk and actually stretch into another world, do it.

My husband is a lifelong learner. There is little more intriguing to him than exposure to something that creates depth to our humanity. A new factoid. A new realm. A new layer reflecting the amazing endeavors of mankind. As writers, we should always be ready to seek out these elements. They will only add depth to our stories.

Have you ventured out in the name of research or writing?

CR: House Rules by Jodi Picoult.

It's all better with friends.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Dogs and Those Who Love Them

Man, I fit that title. My heart has already fallen in love with a puppy who is yet to come into our home. Who may not even have yet been born. I could tell you all about him, but since he's only in my heart, and not in the plans, it would be cheating both of us.

Dogs are half love for humans and half exuberance for life. That doesn't leave much room for grace. Or ego. Or subterfuge. If they have a moment of grace, trust me, it's almost certanly accidental, and quickly replaced by reality.

I admit to some ego. I confess to subterfuge from time to time (in my past, of course). But that lack of grace thing? That is so me. Probably why I love every clumsy attempt they make at being graceful. Dignified. Pulled together. I can so identify.

My WIP (Work In Progress) has some secondary characters who happen to be dogs. They are a trio. McKenzie (named after my white shadow who we lost almost eight years ago) is a therapy dog. Small and loving, he's never a threat to anyone, but a hope to everyone. Socrates (Socks, for short) is a Search and Rescue dog. He lives for finding survivors. Then, there's the star of this story, Gretchen. Gretchen helps her handler find bodies so there can be closure. Her forte is death. Her purpose is to help those that death leaves behind.

I hope you find a smile somewhere in this:

CR: House Rules by Jodi Picoult.

It's all better with friends.

Monday, November 29, 2010


As a writer, I like things to be tense. I appreciate conflict and go out of my way to inflict damage. Interior and exterior bruises are the sweetness of fiction.

As a person, I like smooth sailing. No sharp corners. I don't run with scissors and I put plastic bags in places where they're hard to get to. Boring routine is something to be treasured.

A good friend of mine lost her father yesterday morning. He'd fallen the other day and fractured a hip. According to the doctors, he made it through surgery with flying colors. My friend was flying to San Francisco early yesterday to spend some time with him and spell her sister.

I don't know yet whether she got there in time to speak to him, or if he died while she was on her way. I would write it one way as a writer, and hope for it another way as someone who's trying to keep emotional bruises to a minimum.

Since this isn't part of a story, but real life, I pray for an ease for my friend. For comfort. For minimal bruising that can heal quickly. For solace.

CR: House Rules by Jodi Picoult. (And Shirley, I'm really liking it!)

It's all better with friends.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

So You Want to Write a Novel

Did you have a vague idea of what this process was like when you first began writing seriously? My closest mental picture was from the opening of Murder She Wrote where Jessica Fletcher is typing away at her kitchen table, pulls out the last piece of paper and places it in an impossibly thin leather binder—manuscript perfect, complete and ready to go off to her publisher. All before breakfast.

Did you think you were going to be discovered? I know I did. For about a week. Then I began to learn a few things.

If you had known then what you know now, would you have ever sat yourself down to write a book? Me? Probably yes. Because knowing something and living it are two different things. And because it's just what I do. Who I am.

CR: House Rules by Jodi Picoult.

It's all better with friends.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Perfection? Yeah, right.

I have to learn to relax at this time of year. I want everything to be perfect. Well, guess what? It never is. My house will never be perfectly clean, perfectly decorated or perfectly laid out. Things will be old, worn, or mismatched. My food will never be perfect. I will never be perfect.

The thing I have to remember is that the people who are coming to our home aren't coming for the cleanliness, the decorations or even the food. They're coming to spend some time with the people who live here. To share some conversation and maybe make a little memory.

It's easy to get bent out of shape over things that won't matter in two days. Or two months at the most.

I learned about allowing myself to be less than perfect through writing. I don't know of any writer—famous, infamous or unknown—who comes out with the perfect manuscript the first time around. Anne Lamott blessed me with this knowledge.

So, I gave myself permission to be imperfect this year. It won't be easy, but I'll try.

CR: House Rules by Jodi Picoult.

It's all better with friends.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Future Belongs to Those Who Read

This is a picture of my oldest granddaughter. Who, I'm proud to tell you, graduated from law school this spring, took and passed the bar this summer, and is now living in London working for an international law firm.

She reads.

I volunteered yesterday for the Scholastic Book Fair at a local elementary school. Aside from the fact I am now convinced kindergarten teachers have the patience of angels, the charisma of rock stars and the insight of Freud, what impressed me the most was the excitement and delight all of those young eager faces projected toward books. BOOKS.

I have always firmly believed that reading is the gateway to accomplishment. When there's a seed in your heart to do something, reading is the water, encouragement by loved ones is the sunshine, and well . . . the hard things we have to overcome to make it worthwhile? The fertilizer.

My friend and fellow writer, Jenny Milchman has hit on something tremendous and inspiring and simple. It's something we can all do.

In Jenny's words:

A new holiday this holiday season--Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day.

When I was a child, there were no fewer than three bookstores in my hometown. I once came across a copy of Stephen King's CUJO, and walked all the way back home to beg my father for an advance on my allowance--only to return so I could buy it.

OK, my tastes may have been a bit weird for a ten year old.

But that's the point of Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day. A child can always find something on the shelves that will fit his or her unique taste--fit the person she or he is becoming.

In books, children will find themselves. And bookstores can lead them there, with guidance and interest from a bookseller, as no website or digital device does.

In order for bookstores to thrive and flourish in the future, children have to experience the unique pleasures they offer today.

Just as I did, walking through the streets of my hometown.

This December 4th, 2010...take the child in your life to a bookstore.

Visit Take Your Child to a Bookstore to learn more about supporting Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day in your area.

If you don't have a child, borrow one. They'll remember the experience, and so will you.

The future belongs to those who read.

CR: Live to Tell by LIsa Gardner.

It's all better with friends.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

King of Kindle by Parnell Hall

Many of you have probably seen this already. If you have, here's another chance to smile.

As tongue-in-cheek as it is, it underscores a Brave New World that we are experiencing in publishing. There is uncertainty and upheaval everywhere we look.

The good news? The great news? It's not a demise, it's a dawning. And I think there will be room for a lot of wonderful things.

CR: Live to Tell by Lisa Gardner.

It's all better with friends.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Police Procedural Detail Alert

It's those tiny details that can you get in huge troube with your readers.

So take heed.

Today's tough talk might be tomorrow's bad information. I mean, when you refer to a Crown Vic in your manuscript, don't you feel just a little tough? A little in the know? Like maybe you have some insider's juice into the workings of a police department? I know I do.

Although most police departments don't replace all of their cars overnight (or even every ten years) you don't want to miss this little detail:

Ford plans on ceasing production of the ubiquitous Crown Victoria next year. Here's the full story.

This information is thanks to Pat Browning.

Is there anything else we should be aware of?

CR: Live to Tell by Lisa Gardner.

It's all better with friends.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Story Matters

Lisa Tracy's interview assures us that we all work different. And different is okay.

What a blessing to know that we are all perfect in our own way.

We are all authentic.

Our perspective, when we apply it genuinely, is worthwhile.


CR: Live to Tell by Lisa Gardner.

It's all better with friends.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

OT: Bring Your A Game/Lose the Lie

I'm known as a Book Giving Grandma, so in that light, this post is still a bit on target because reading is mentioned in this film more than once.

This is important.

Plan on about 25 minutes. It is directed toward African-American men and those who love them.

It effects every one of us.

Please. "Snag" this film and move it forward.

Watch more free documentaries

CR: Evil at Heart by Chelsea Cain.

It's all better with friends.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Jaden E. Terrell's RACING THE DEVIL

This isn't a book review. I don't do those any longer. Well, mostly.

I met the author of Racing the Devil in September at Lee Lofland's Writer's Police Academy in North Carolina, and came home with an autographed book that, frankly, appeared on the surface to be closer to amateur than promising. Know what I mean? I placed it on my TBR pile and looking at it over the past few weeks, was pretty much guilted into reading it. Although I enjoyed meeting the author, someone I believe will be a friend beyond that one little conference, I was concerned about not liking Terrell's words and finding myself kind of stuck for a response.

Turns out, that isn't a problem. (Phew!)

Terrell straps us on to a ride from the first page, and doesn't let us get off until the last. Racing the Devil is quite simply a fast-paced, well-written, character infused, plot-driven, gorgeous read. I literally gave myself the gift of time to read on when I should have been attending to other things. 

Part of Suspense Novelist's reason for existence is, in its own small way, to showcase talent. Jaden E. Terrell has it, and this first novel is Exhibit A.

CR: Evil at Heart by Chelsea Cain.

It's all better with friends.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Burning Questions About E-Publishing

With the emergence of the e-book market, I have a few burning questions, in no particular order:

1. Where do agents fit if an actual sale isn't involved?

2. If you're offered a contract from a publisher, what sort of provisions do you want in the e-book clause? When Amazon is offering 70% to the author , and allowing prices as low as $2.99 in order to achieve it, what are publishers offering? And does it make a difference to you?

3. How long do you intend to continue your pursuit of traditional publication? Is there a point where you will get tired of leaving your fate up to the whims of others?

4. Does knowing that much of the marketing is left to you whether you make pennies on a sale of a traditionally published book or dollars on an e-published book make a difference?

5. Is there an opportunity here for small presses that the large houses can't (or won't) take advantage of?

6. What about the unpublished author with no reader base? Is the Sales Hill the same climb the e-pub route as the traditional one?

7. Do you see the time coming when e-pubbed books will have the editors name on the front as well as the authors? Or some kind of Better Writing Seal of Approval because it's been professionally edited?

Here's a terrific tie-in blog post from Michael Hyatt, the CEO of Thomas Nelson:

What are your questions? Do you have any answers, or even guesses? What do you think about this as an author? A reader?

CR: Racing the Devil by E. Michael Terrell, and wondering why I let it sit in my TBR pile as long as I did.

It's all better with friends.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Debbi Mack's 20 Questions Blog Tour

Please welcome Debbi Mack to Suspense Novelist. Debbi will be guest blogging for 20 days on 20 blogs about writing related topics.

Question 2: What's your day-to-day writing process?

Thanks, Peg, for hosting me here at Suspense Novelist and for the opportunity to talk about my day-to-day writing process.

The question is appropriate in that writing is a day-to-day process. Many people assume that writers simply write whenever inspiration strikes. Not so. Writing isn't about having a muse whisper in your ear, followed by a dash to the keyboard (or writing pad – whatever).

Writing is, in fact, about showing up. And by showing up, I mean sitting at your computer (or typewriter or writing pad – whatever) and putting words down. And doing this regularly. Not just when you feel like it. Not just when inspiration seizes you.

Writing is being willing to make a regular (ideally, daily) commitment to simply sitting at your desk and doing the work.

Having said that, let me tell you my own writing process. It's to do what I can, as much as I can every day.

First, I should explain that I live by a highly structured schedule. Every night, I actually sit down and pencil out what I'm going to do the next day on my calendar. I schedule time for email (time-consuming!), marketing, promotion and networking (all part of the process) and (finally!) researching and writing my work.

I do this every day. And every day I work on my novel or short story, I get a little bit closer to the finish.

Now, some days are harder than others. Some days life just gets in the way and I can't completely accomplish my mission. I have to cut myself some slack and say, "Well, there's always tomorrow."

The point is that you can't use that as an indefinite excuse. The point is I work at my writing one day at a time, one page at a time, one word at a time.

So whether I'm able to write 200 words or 2,000 on any given day, it just means I've come that much closer to my goal.

The trick is not to get discouraged. Writing a novel takes time. It's kind of like building a cathedral. Or Rome. You can't do it all in one day.

You also can't afford to wait for this so-called "muse" to get in touch with you. Jack London put it best. "You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club."

What about days when you're tired or sick? Well, on days when I'm sick, I give myself a break. I sleep in and try to take care of myself. I won't be able to write anything if I kill myself, will I?

That's why it's an important part of my process to pace myself. I try not to put too many things on my to-do calendar, so I won't feel overwhelmed. I try to space out my obligations, so I won't overburden myself.

In this way, I can get things done through careful planning and preparation. I factor in the time I think it will take to get tasks done and account for it in my schedule. This provides some assurance that I will (in fact) get them done and have time left over to actually write.

As you can see from the photos of my workspace, I haven't exactly devoted a lot of time to cleaning. LOL I'll tell you something about myself. For good or ill, I'm a bit of an Oscar Madison. (Hey, he was a writer! LOL) In fact, my writing consumes so much time, I often feel I'm ignoring other (possibly more) important things.

This is why I find it crucial to set up a regular writing schedule. That way my time is marked out and managed. If I keep to my schedule, as best I can, I don't have to worry about getting the work done. I don't have to scramble at the last possible moment to finish a job.

Another part of the writing process is knowing when to quit. By scheduling a specific time on my calendar, I know I've also scheduled time for other things by default. I've scheduled time to be with my husband, go catch a movie or a play, or even take a vacation. I've scheduled time to talk to family and friends, go to the occasional party or just hang out.

Because what's the point of doing something you love, if you can't do it on your own terms?

Hey, even writers are entitled to a life. (What a concept. LOL)

* * * * *

Thanks for reading, everyone! Don't forget to leave a comment with your email address if you'd like to enter the drawing for the 10 autographed copies of IDENTITY CRISIS I'm giving away. (One entry per person, but comment as often as you like.)

The drawing will be held on my blog My Life on the Mid-List after the tour is finished. Check my blog for the entire tour schedule.

And please join me at my next stop tomorrow: The Unread Reader.

* * * * *
Debbi Mack is the author of IDENTITY CRISIS, a hardboiled mystery and the first in a series featuring lawyer Stephanie Ann "Sam" McRae. She's also a short story writer whose ebook anthology, FIVE UNEASY PIECES, includes the Derringer-nominated "The Right to Remain Silent," originally published in The Back Alley Webzine. Debbi's work has also appeared in two of the CHESAPEAKE CRIMES anthologies.

Be on the lookout for her next Sam McRae novel, LEAST WANTED, which will be published soon (in print and ebook versions).

Debbi practiced law for nine years before becoming a freelance writer/researcher and fiction author. She's also worked as a news wire reporter covering the legal beat in Washington, D.C. and as a reference librarian at the Federal Trade Commission. She lives in Maryland with her husband and three cats.

You can find out more about Debbi on her Web site and her blog My Life on the Mid-List. Her books are available on Amazon,,, Smashwords and other sites around the Web, and by order at stores. You can also buy autographed copies of her novel from her Web site at

Thank you, Debbi. We'll be watching you move through this blog tour and wish you all the best.

CR: Racing the Devil by E. Michael Terrell, which, a few chapters in, I'm loving.

It's all better with friends.

Friday, October 29, 2010

OT: Bear Tagging

Rough day? A little gloomy for whatever reason?

Sometimes a bit of simplification is a good thing. Sometimes we need to take a break. And sometimes, it feels good just to feel good.

Bear tagging, you ask?

A friend sent me this video. I must say, it kind of made me want to be Canadian.

CR: The Burning Wire by Jeffery Deaver.

It's all better with friends.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

When the Words and the Reader Meet in the Middle

We're experiencing a couple of very busy days at the Brantley abode, culminating with an ER visit this afternoon with my MIL that began shortly after noon and is yet to end. My belief is that there is nothing imminently life-threatening (or I wouldn't be here now), but the focus has been elsewhere.

The thing is, when you get to a certain stage in your life, regardless sometimes of the strength and certitude of your faith, there's an element of fear that eeks into the thoughts of even the strongest among us. Such is the stuff that makes us human, interesting, and worth loving.

Please enjoy the message from this interview with Shawna Yang Ryan, and revel in the magnitude of living.

CR: The Burning Wire by Jeffery Deaver.

It's all better with friends. ALL of it.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Agent Update

It was one of those gem-encrusted fall mornings in Colorado. The trees were red and orange and yellow and gorgeous. The mountains were a darker blue than the sky and topped with some fresh snow that the sun lit on fire. If nothing else, the day was already perfect because of my drive to the mini-conference sponsored by Heart of Denver Romance Writers, a chapter of RWA.

Not very many years ago I regularly spoke to strangers. To large groups. To people up and down the social ladder. All with confidence and fully-formed thoughts. I've noticed lately that often I'm at a loss to communicate verbally in any meaningful way. Could be I spend more time than I should inside my isolated little writing bubble.

My time to pitch the agent attending the mini-conference was moved from before lunch to immediately after. Which of course is when I wanted to take a nap. I don't know why I got so nerved up, but I did. We finally settled on calling my manuscript a thriller because it isn't a mystery and doesn't have much romance. Fine. Call it whatever you want. She said my 80,000 word count was perfect. I handed her the written pitch because for the life of me I couldn't string three words together, let alone a cleverly crafted sentence or two. Then, because I was a little presumptuous and just wanted to show her that although I couldn't speak, I was prepared, I handed her the query letter.

She asked for a synopsis and a full. Which is nice, but I imagine she asked everyone for a synopsis and a full.

Just sayin'.

CR: The Burning Wire by Jeffery Deaver

It's all better with friends.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Publishing's Teasin' Season

Colorado is entering what I call the Teasin' Season. We have two of those. People—who don't live in Colorado—often refer to them as Spring and Fall. Right now we're getting teased from summer into winter. We're probably looking at our first freeze next week, but we've enjoyed many Thanksgivings in short sleeves. Looking for all four seasons in one day? Check out Colorado.

I love Teasin' Seasons. Change holds promise. An opportunity to start with a clean slate. I like Mondays for the same reason, call me crazy.

The changes in publishing are almost overwhelming. In a weird way, I've been kind of glad to not be personally involved. At least I'm not personally involved at this minute. I'll be happy to figure out the lay of the land when I'm actually walking on it, ya know? Why get all nuts over something I have no control over? I don't have a dog in the fight . . . today.

Is publishing teasing into another season? Probably. But no one knows for sure what that season is going to look like. I sort of think it's going to be fantastic. A mixture of traditional and alternative. Something for everyone.

And parity. More informed people than yours truly are the ones to look to for information on this part of the change, but that doesn't mean I can't feel it in the wings.

What we're going through now is the shake-out. The leaves falling to make way for new buds.

Some of those buds won't open. To me, those are the people who haven't learned the craft, who haven't paid their dues. People (I can't quite call them writers) who have shifted from vanity press to the electronic options. They'll figure out they need to invest more time, or they'll move on.

Is it an accident I'm using the analogy of budding trees to the e-book industry? I wish I could say not, I figured it out a split second before I asked the question. But I have been called a tree hugger once or twice.

This entire post actually came about because I had the opportunity to read what I'm calling the E-ARC for a book scheduled to be available in November. This author has not yet been published, but she's paid her dues and studied her craft . . . and made the decision to take control of her own destiny. I'll be talking about her a little more as we get near the release date, but make a note to be looking for Widow's Row by Lala Corriere online next month.

CR: The Burning Wire by Jeffery Deaver.

It's all better with friends.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Waiting for My Next "R"

Querying agents sucks. Makes me begin to doubt my critique partners who said I need to "get it out there." I'm waiting for one more rejection (snail mail) before I feel like I can get my legs underneath me and move on.

I have a new, thricely (or more) revised query letter. To be fair, I think this latest round (okay, a round can be three) of agents didn't have the advantage of the Top-Of-My-Game query. My newest incarnation starts out with a kick. Pretty sure no one would be able to resist asking for a partial at least. Because they didn't get the newest and blingiest, I can't entirely blame them for not seeing the possibility.

Ugh. Anyone want to buy the Brooklyn Bridge?

For some reason, I can handle rejection only in so many numbers. It's easier to say "Next!" when you aren't getting blown down the sewer by fifteen people who (some nice and some not), tell you you're not their cup of tea. My magic threshold seems to be something under six. Three, I can do.

My cheerleader/critique partner/freelance editor, Susan Lohrer, thinks the worst that will happen with my new query letter is that an agent will wonder what else I'm working on and I'll be able to tell him/her that I have this awesome new project . . . and my other cp, author Kelly Irvin, is as bad—or is it good? Sometimes the people who have faith in us become a (loving) thorn in our sides.

In the meantime, I'll keep working on my newest. It's both my anchor and my escape.

CR: The Burning Wire by Jeffery Deaver.

It's all better with friends.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Kelley Armstrong: What Keeps Them Coming Back

Some terrific advice concerning characterization and what you should do after your first book is published from Kelley Armstrong.

How do you keep your characters from being two dimensional?

CR: The Burning Wire by Jeffery Deaver.

It's all better with friends.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Timothy Hallinan's Poke Rafferty Series

I finished Timothy Hallinan's The Queen of Patpong this morning. Well, twice this morning.

Forced to stop reading a little after 1 a.m. because my vision was going wonky (I'm usually lights-out by 11 at the latest) I got up this morning, pushed the button for my French Roast and continued until the end.

For those reading this series (and everyone should), here's my tip for Queen: Do not read chapter 19 thinking you'll go to sleep afterward. Ain't gonna happen.

But there's more from a writer's view. It is totally interfering with my own work at this point. Until I get it out of my system (thank goodness for blogs) it's in the way. I try to focus on the story I'm writing (which I totally adore, and has some potential in its own right) but this unseen element keeps punching me in the shoulder. So. In the interest of me getting back to my cadaver dogs and foolish humans, here's what I want to expound on.

The Poke Rafferty series in general: The second one is the weakest of the four, but still good. Don't skip it. They all hang together like some delicate lace. Read them in order. Read them all.

Hallinan's characterization:They are rich and complex. They live in a rich and complex society (Bangkok) and one bleeds into the other. They both will rip your heart out. Heroes abound in the most unlikely places. And no one, no one, has given me an eight or nine or ten-year old girl better than Timothy Hallinan.

Chapter Length: I haven't checked this, but my impression was that somehow they got longer in the last two books. There were scene breaks, but personally, I miss the shorter chapters. Could have been an editorial/publisher/cost thing. (So, in reference to my tip, Chapter 19 in Queen is long. And intense. Just sayin'.)

Third Person Present: This is awesome. I don't know how long it took him to find his voice there, but you have got to check it out. I don't know if it's operator error or truth, but on my Kindle edition of the first book in the series, A Nail Through the Heart, I did a search for the word "was". Guess what, it showed up a grand total of . . . . ZERO times.

Action scenes: We've been taught that short, bullet-type sentences help convey the speed and urgency of a situation. I get that. It's true. The problem I've seen with this technique in the past is that an action scene can come out sounding like a To-Do list. Hallinan conveys intensity using a zillion commas. Here's one sentence (if I can choose just one—okay, I picked three in succession) from page 256 of The Queen of Patpong :

She's emitting a high, earsplitting squeal, as even and unvarying as an electronic alarm. Her assailant brings up a hand and hits her with a heavy slap that rocks her head and loosens her grip, and she pitches forward onto her stomach. The man brings back a foot to kick her.

I just sat back and said, "Oh, wow."

CR: Think I'll begin a Jeffery Deaver tonight. One I bought at the Writer's Police Academy. Sorry, can't think of the name right now.

It's all better with friends.

Monday, October 11, 2010

E-Book Price Points

Well, whaddayaknow? I found out I actually have a Go Ahead & Buy price point.

Ready to download a sample for Lisa Gardner's Alone, I noticed it was priced at $2.39. Since Gardner is not a new author to me, there was little risk, and for $2.39, why bother with all the extra steps? Mark that one SOLD.

This came as kind of a surprise to me because I hadn't actually considered I had a price point for purchase without inspection. Would I have bought it at the more traditional $2.99? I don't know. But more than $2.99, I'm pretty sure I'd be sampling first.

For example, I love Dean Koontz, but rather than bankrupt myself, I have about five of his in my sample folder to test before I buy. Purchasing every book I WANT would probably lead to household angst, not to mention an empty refrigerator.

I don't think the variety of pricing will impact much of anything. I will buy what I want to read. Period. If that's Koontz for $5.99 or $24.99, or a 'new to me' author for $1.99, I'm likely to sample first. If I like the story, the writing, I'll purchase it. Rather then denigrating the value of an author, I'm simply tickled pink at what I paid for something. A bargain is fun. Those in publishing know where the paychecks are going, and why.

But it seems, at least for one moment, with one author and one book, my price point was $2.39.

Have you discovered yours? That magical price where you throw all caution to the wind and take a wild gamble?

CR: The Queen of Patpong by Timothy Hallinan (who has the grand plan to blog for 365 days straight).

It's all better with friends.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

POV Shifts and 100 Queries

POV Shifts. We're encouraged to avoid them like the plague. Head-hopping is one of those things (and I totally subscribe to this notion) that gives the general reader a sense of disquiet. They're not sure why, but they really don't like this particular book.

But there are transitions that, artfully implemented, can make the shift flawless.

I think the first instruction I've seen for this notion was from Vicki Hinze, and I couldn't tell you what she said. I just want to give her credit for pushing me to consider an alternative.

Tonight I read a downloaded sample of award-winning author Louise Penny's Bury Your Dead. It's received flattering comments on DorothyL and 4MA (two online groups of mystery lovers), and I decided to check it out.

Ms. Penny's POV shift threw me at first because of my training. When I went back to see what happened, I saw a master at work. I described it to my critique partners as taking her POV character and walking around a corner, where the next one takes over flawlessly. If you can download a sample of her book, I highly recommend it as a study piece.

How long does it take? I just read a guest post on agent Nathan Bransford's blog about two siblings having a contest as to who could get 100 rejections first. This from agents, not publishers. Can I just say . . . ugh?

I've re-begun the query process for a complete my critique partners tell me is worthy. I think I have about six rejections so far, and at some level, I've felt every one of them. The little girl in me who wants to please everyone is having a difficult time making room for the big girl in me who is determined to carve out a path in this jungle. There are poisonous plants all around, teeth-baring tigers, and vines so thick I have to hack my way through. But still. This is where my heart is.

CR: The Queen of Patpong by Timothy Hallinan in hardback.

It's all better with friends.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Social Networking Marketing Etiquette


Do you sense a little desperation?

If someone I know recommends an author or a book, it means something. That person and I presumably have a little history. They know me, what I enjoy reading and whether or not I'm in a financial position to buy something. Well, maybe not that last bit, but then there are always libraries.

But when I've just met you? Via Twitter or Facebook? And you slam me with a double-edged marketing sword?

Thank you for following me/friending me. I love you already even though I don't know you. And guess what? You will simply love my book, even though it's self-published, don't worry because it was edited by my sister-in-law. Here's the link: buy buy buy.


I'm trying to become more active on Facebook. I adore the conciseness of Twitter, but occasionally there are bigger fish that need frying. Enter Facebook. Unfortunately, I've discovered where all the fish go no one has bought. It's like a reverse hook. Blick. And ouch. And P-U!

I know this takes time—and maybe you feel like you've run out—but let ME discover you. Let ME decide I want to find out a litte more. Let ME begin to hear what others are saying about you. After all, when it's my dollars, it really is all about ME.

Yeah. I know that in this day and age of instant gratification, of communication that is almost mind-reading, anything longer than two shakes is too long. But too bad. If you're on a social network, become my social friend first. Be interesting. Be supportive. Make me want to seek out more information about you.

I like the process of discovery. And I might even tell a person or two about it. And then, I could actually put out some money.

Just sayin'.

CR: Breathing Water by Timothy Hallinan on my Kindle. And who, btw, I have absolutely no hesitation in doling out my my hard-earned cash to read. Seriously. Getting ready to head to his backlist.

It's all better with friends.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Writer's Police Academy: Personal Highlight

If the photograph was of me alone, it would be destined for the delete key (one of the most amazing elements of digital photography in my estimation), but because Jeffery Deaver is in it, it's a keeper.

Jeffery Deaver was the keynote speaker at this year's WPA. Not only that, he attended the workshops! No kidding.

I was sitting in the workshop presented by Richard Helms examing the difference between inductive and deductive criminal profiling when Jeff Deaver walked in and took a seat. I thought Dr. Helms would either bust a gut or float off into never-never land when that happened. To his credit, the instructor recovered and probably not too many people noted his Fluster Moment.

For those of you who may have missed it, here's a post from the past regarding Jeffery Deaver's writing process.

CR: Breathing Water by Timothy Hallinan on my Kindle.

It's all better with friends.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Writer's Police Academy: Jail Search

As a volunteer (patsy) for the jail search portion, I was moving lickity split to uncover contraband with my partner, Pat Brown. (Doesn't it look like my hair is flowing? That's totally the talent of my cp/roommate/photog Kelly Irvin. Trust me. With the humidity of North Carolina, nothing much really 'flows'.)

If, during a search, a prisoner is found to have a stockpile of issued items (ie: toilet paper), he or she has opened a store. The question is, what is the currency?

And here's a visual for you:

Prisoner intake involves a visual strip search if the offense was violent, or if drugs were involved.

Visual strip search:

—all clothing is removed

—spread buttock's cheeks



I gather the intake personnel at the jail have been surprised more than once to see the items 'issued' from this type of search.

With the exception of a photograph tomorrow, this will end my Writer's Police Academy posts.

In addition to what I've covered here, I have notes on CSI, EMS, the reenactment of a campus shooter, a session on why people kill (that has some significant, lingering images), a ton of notes on Forensic Pathology, some significant information regarding inductive vs. deductive criminal profiling and a few bits about going undercover.

If you'd like some additional detail I may have, please feel free to email me.

CR: Breathing Water by Timothy Hallinan on my Kindle.

It's all better with friends.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Writer's Police Academy: Underwater Recovery

This was fascinating to me. I suppose it might have something to do with all of the "Lake" movies I've watched over the years where bodies were stowed underwater.

The thing is, most of the Underwater Recovery Team's time is spent recovering evidence—weapons, stolen property and things along those lines. Not so much bodies.

But, if you are writing about a body in the depths, here are some interesting bits:

Prior to body recovery, photos are taken and as much area as possible is processed for evidence.

The bag (pictured) used to recover the body is easily 6+" long and about 4" wide. It is bright yellow with bright blue straps. It comes in five pieces.

There are at least two divers involved in a recovery. One is literally the mule who carries all of the equipment down. The other diver is responsible for making sure the body is kept as intact as possible, and knows exactly what needs to happen first, second, third, etc., in terms of securing it within the body bag.

A pony bottle (pictured in the foreground) holds about 19 cubic feet of air and is used to fill the bag with enough air to slowly float the body to the surface. The divers are with it as it rises.

This is just a sampling of what Underwater Recovery had to offer, so I would encourage any of you to dig a little deeper if you need to. Contact your local unit, or consider attending the next Writer's Police Academy.

CR: Breathing Water by Timothy Hallinan on my Kindle.

It's all better with friends.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

So, You Want Me to Buy Your Book? Are You Kidding?

Rant Alert.

I met up with my critique partner at the Dallas/Ft. Worth airport. We were on our way to North Carolina for the Writer's Police Academy. She was traveling from San Antonio, and my flight originated in Denver. Since there are no direct flights from either of our cities, DFW was where we could catch a connecting flight. (Either Dallas or Chicago. What???)

Kelly and I have become friends over the years, but still spend most of our time talking about books and writing and everything else related to it. Our friendship is a gift, but the writing discussions are like breathing. And when you only get so much time to breathe, well . . . that's what you do.

We were sitting in the boarding area, talking about our recent reads. I was telling Kelly about Tim Hallinan when I noticed a woman across from us perk up and follow the conversation. Turns out she was an author from a state west of mine, and north. I'd never heard of her, but then there are a lot of us. She had a nice smile and seemed interesting. New friends are always nice.

We exchanged cards (hers was really cool) and we moved on to the next stage of our journey as we boarded the flight. When we landed in North Carolina, the three of us regrouped a bit and talked some more.

That's when she found out that we weren't 'big name' authors. From that point on, she never said a word to either one of us. Not one. Except to quickly inform us we couldn't join her at her table that evening because she was expecting someone else. Not a word of regret. Not a word of kindness.

Fine. Be that way. We made our own table.

Now, here's the deal. I know what it is to have someone attach themselves to me. Not only is it not a growth experience, it's not fun. But I'm here to tell you that neither Kelly nor I look like a leech. We're writers. Heck, we crave solitude from time to time. So I'm not buying that argument.

Was 'pleasant' too much to ask?

I went online and checked out this author. Turns out she's written a LOT of books. Turns out some of them sound interesting. Turns out she could have been on the list of authors I want to check out. Turns out she won't be.

I'm just sayin'.

CR: Breathing Water by Timothy Hallinan on Kindle.

It's all better with friends.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

From My Writer's Police Academy Notes: On Firefighters

A group of student firefighters raised the flag our first morning on the campus of Guilford Technical Community College in Greensboro, North Carolina. We were attending Lee Lofland's (The Graveyard Shift) Writer's Police Academy.

When the students placed their hands over their hearts and recited the Pledge of Allegiance, most of the attendees (who were paying attention) followed suit. It was a nice moment.

Then, one of the students broke rank and walked over to a bell. He rang it five times, pause, five times, pause and five more times.

In the days before cell phones and 9-1-1, call boxes used to be scattered throughout towns and cities across America. The communication device in the old ones was a bell. Each call box was numbered. If someone spotted a fire, and the closest call box was 762, they would ring 7-6-2 so people would know the approximate site of the fire.

5-5-5 is the code for a downed firefighter.

CR: Breathing Water by Timothy Hallinan on my Kindle.

It's all better with friends.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Things We Say Wrong

I'm off playing in Greensboro, North Carolina at the Writer's Police Academy. I'll post a few highlights when I get back to Colorado, but in the meantime, there's nothing better for Word Wizards than to know we're not alone.

Sit back. Enjoy.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Worst Thing I've Ever Written

No excuses. Naked and embarrassed. I'm about to show you something I wrote. Not twenty-five years ago. Not five years ago. I'm about to show you something I wrote THIS MONTH.

A writer/editor/teacher once imparted the advice that it is impossible to write over the top. If you think it's maudlin or overly dramatic, it's probably just perfect. I'm here to tell you (and then show you) that not all advice is good advice. At least not 100% of the time.

Two questions come to mind: What was I thinking? and Why in the world would I admit writing such drivel?

Before I answer those questions, here are the uglies (if you happen to be an agent or a publisher, please stop reading now and move on to that long list of queries you're considering):

"Tonight, the FBI agent fell to his knees in front of the fire. He fought to breathe. Pulled in tortuous, nail-filled air. His lungs could hold no more and he expelled the gaseous oxygen."

If that wasn't bad enough, the following was a mere two short paragraphs later:

"Nick rolled onto his stomach and crawled to the phone, the pain casting around in his back. Fire and ice battled for victory and his body was the battlefield."

What was I thinking? I adore deep POV. Strike that. I adore deep POV that's done well. This was an emotional moment. Emotional moments often call for deep POV. But clearly, this would have been better written almost any other way. Or not written at all. Maybe I was tired. Or desperate. Or distracted. Whatever I was, I was not on top of my game.

Why in the world would I admit writing such drivel? To make two points. The first one is that it is possible to grind out over-the-top garbage even after having written for years. And the second one is . . . (this is important) . . . I now have something to fix.

Several people have said, "You can't fix a blank page." I don't know who said it first, but they got it right.

The words are awful. But the idea is there. I have something to work with. Something to move forward with. I've already changed those words, and will probably change them again before I'm done.

It's a process.

What's the worst thing you've ever written? Dare to share?

CR: The Fourth Watcher by Timothy Hallinan.

It's all better with friends.

Sunday, September 19, 2010


I had the privilege of going on a ride-along last Friday night through the Citizen's Police Academy I'm attending on Tuesday nights. If you write in any sub-genre of mystery, I encourage you to contact your local police or sheriff's department and ask about any classes they offer civilians.

I'd requested District 1 for the action it promised. It covers the northwest part of town which tends to have the highest number of calls for the . . . um . . . most interesting crimes. Turns out my guy's sector was the southern part of District 1. I'm thinking it's not quite as interesting.

There was no blood on my ride-along. One DK (drunk) domestic and a few other routine and rather boring calls. A young kid is hopefully getting a wake-up call by being cited for assault and battery, a man in the ER asked what made the cop check for warrants on him and was told it was because he was mouthy, a woman is receiving creepy but legally non-threatening messages from an ex but needs to wait until Monday to request a Restraining Order, another cop asked for help because the domestic violence suspect she had handcuffed in the back of her cruiser was saying he'd slip the cuffs, so we followed them to the jail. I'd never seen such a swivel head on a live person before. He kept spinning around to see if we were following.

What struck me as totally weird is that no one, not one person, questioned why I was standing with the cops while their screwed up evenings (and lives) were playing out in front of me, a total stranger, without a uniform, who said nothing. Just stood there and watched.

The value, as a writer, was in the details: how the shift begins; what equipment is checked; what (if any) radio code is used; where cops tend to stop when they need a bathroom break (my guy will only use restrooms at police or fire stations); their approach to suspects and civilians. Those kinds of things are invaluable.

Two years ago, I "tagged" along with detectives. I wrote a few posts about that experience beginning with this one, if you're interested.

CR: The Fourth Watcher by Timothy Hallinan in hardcover.

It's all better with friends.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Writing Software

We've discussed this before, here. It's a topic that comes and goes, but never quite disappears. I don't think it ever will.

Frankly, when I first heard about writing software, I was appalled. It sounded like the supreme cheat. Talk about formulaic . . . blah, blah, blah. Convinced it would trample my creative side, I formed a cross with my fingers and backed away whenever the subject came up.

Then a writer I respect started talking about something called Scrivener and how much she loved it. Say what? I decided the fact that Scrivener was only available for Mac was a clear sign I was to stay away. Protect my honor. Save my soul.


Many think I crossed over to the dark side when I became a Mac user. And guess what? I became a Mac user so I could get Scrivener. One of the best decisions I've made for my writing career.

A good writing program, like Scrivener, doesn't quell creativity. In fact, it gives you more freedom to make changes easily, store research, have notes accessible, see visually what's happening and has options for just about anything you can imagine.

There's another program I have that is available for both PC and Mac users. It's Snowflake Pro and one that I think will be invaluable in the initial aspects of developing my next project. Even though I had it in time for this current one, I experienced a total brain-freeze and didn't utilize it when I think it would have been the most useful. Sheesh.

Do you use writing software? If so, which one and what do you like most about it?

CR: The Fourth Watcher by Timothy Hallinan.

It's all better with friends.