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.