Friday, December 30, 2011

Dream a Little for 2012

This post originally appeared at Meanderings and Muses, the wonderful blog of Kaye Barley. Because it's almost 2012, and a lot of people are thinking about what they want to accomplish next year, I thought I'd re-post it here.

Happy New Year.


One day, I quit dreaming—and it took me over forty years to figure it out.

At some point, it became easier to turn my back on a dream, to let it fade, then to not be perfect each step on the way toward making that dream a reality. (Perfection is really a stupid concept, but that’s another topic.)

What I had, when I quit dreaming, were flat goals. Goals that belonged to other people. Goals I committed to for some reason: to keep my job; to make a loved one happy; because everyone else had a similar goal. They weren’t wrong, they just weren’t mine.

A few weeks ago, while writing my morning pages (if you haven’t read The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, what are you waiting for?), I recognized the little girl who used to dream (with a certain amount of fearlessness) had stopped, and I began work to get her back.

I heard this as recently as last week: “Unless it’s specific, with a timeline, it’s not a goal. It’s just a dream.”

Just a dream.

A little belittling to dreams, if you ask me.

I’m not saying my life for forty years consisted of dull days and a series of tasks. Far from it. But I am saying I missed the richness—the possibility—dreams provide.

How do you keep a soul in your goals? Inspiration in your perspiration?


I’ve decided a dream is a little like a new idea for a novel. I toss it around for a while. Turn it over. Is it something I can build a whole story around—a life around? If it feels good, grabs me, then I begin to plot it out. Or, for those of you are more of a “live life by the seat of your pants” kind of person, dive in until your dream begins to take shape. If the idea has staying power, it’s full speed ahead.

The best goals begin as dreams. The best dreams are your dreams. Dreams that fill your soul. They demand you go after them. It’s your pursuit that makes the dream stronger and turns it into (gasp!) a goal.

Before you kick yourself for not accomplishing everything on your list in 2011, consider whether those things were your goals or someone else’s. And before you begin to contemplate what you would like to have happen in 2012, dream a little.

CR: Just finished reading an ARC from Debbi Mack. It was terrific. Be looking for Riptide in February!

It's all better with friends.

Friday, December 9, 2011

An Invitation

Today is "my" day at Crime Fiction Collective. I'm talking about keeping track of all of those details, especially those details crime writers have to deal with.

Actually, I'm asking for help.

Got any?

CR: Incinerator by Tim Hallinan

It's all better with friends.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

OT: Crockpot Dressing

To be honest, I found a picture of a cuter dog, but this one seemed to epitomize everything we have to be thankful for. 

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!


Never Dry Crockpot Dressing

1 cup butter or margarine, melted (You can get away with using a little less, but heck, it's Thanksgiving!)
2 cups chopped onion (I usually add a tad more, but then we love onion in our food.)
2 cups chopped celery
1/4 cup parsley (fresh or dried)
2 cups canned mushrooms, drained (I use fresh sliced.)
2 eggs, beaten
3 1/2 to 4 1/2 cups chicken broth, or enough to moisten well
13 cups dry bread, cubed (I can never find unseasoned, so it takes about two of the Italian loaves from the bakery.)
1 1/2 tsp poultry seasoning
2 tsp salt
2 tsp sage
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp marjoram

Melt butter or margarine in LARGE fry pan and saute onion and celery until soft. Mix with remaining ingredients and toss well. Pack in large crockpot. Cover. Cook on high for 45 minutes, then turn to low and continue cooking for 6-8 hours. 

Oh . . . the aroma!!!!!

CR: Incinerator by Tim Hallinan

It's all better with friends.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

1940's Noir, Kelli Stanley Style

Read and write about the 1940s? Whatever your answer, you'll enjoy this interview with Kelli Stanley.

CR: I'll make a decision about a new read tonight. I love the anticipation.

It's all better with friends.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Self-Editing, Elizabeth George Style


Are you shaking in your boots?

One of my all-time favorite writing books is Write Away by Elizabeth George. If you're looking for a craft book where the author lays out her process in a clear and easy way, I recommend George's work. Of course, it could be I love it because it's similar to what I have bumblingly put together on my own. However, because I want you to get something out of this post, I'll go with George's detail, not mine. She's much clearer because she's done it some twenty-five times. Me? Um . . . twice.

George does an incredible amount of prep work before she begins. Because of the preliminary work, when she's finally ready to settle down and create her first draft, she doesn't have to worry about what's going to happen next or how her characters should respond. She's able to focus on the best words and use them to create a compelling story.

That doesn't mean things don't change and new ideas don't surface, it just means she's free to allow them to do so without concern about how they fit into the story she is telling.

When she's finished with her first draft, she prints out a hard copy and tries to read it through in a couple of days. She makes no changes to the book. Let me repeat that, because—at least for me—this is the hardest thing to do. She makes no changes to the book during this read through. On a separate piece of paper, she makes notes of where the story needs some kind of work: clarification; delete areas of repetition; delete purple-prose; improve sub-plots; etc. She's simply looking for ways to make the story better, in an editorly way.

Then she writes herself an editorial letter as a guide for her second draft. She doesn't say this in Write Away, but I hope she gives herself a few pats on the back while she points out the weaknesses of the manuscript.

Her second draft is done pen-to-that-untouched hard copy. She goes through and deletes, adds and moves things around with the real cut and paste concept. If she needs to create something longer than three handwritten pages, she'll consider typing it up. Otherwise, this is where she literally gets her hands dirty, uses a bright red pen to slash through paragraphs, and scissors and tape to move paragraphs or scenes around.

This second draft is done at the rate of about fifty pages per day. When she's finished with her marked-up, cut-up and pasted draft, she types all of the changes into the computer, prints out a new copy and gives it to one cold reader. She includes two documents. The first one contains questions her reader should know about prior to the cold read, the second one is sealed and contains questions George didn't want her reader to be influenced by beforehand.

If there are further changes that need to be made, she makes them. Then it's off to her editor.

Have you read Write Away? Does this process appeal to you?

CR: Seed by Ania Ahlborn.

It's all better with friends.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Meandering and Muses

I'm guest blogging today at Meanderings and Muses, the most wonderful blog of Kaye Barley.

If you have the opportunity, I'd love it if you could come by and cheer me on. My subject is dreams and how they relate to goals.

It's all better with friends.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Words, Words and More Words

I feel as if I've discovered The Secret.

Many of my writer friends regularly write 2,000 words a day. Some as many as 8,000 words. I know of one man who can belt out 10,000, and one particularly prolific woman who I've heard can slam out 20,000 when she gets a full head of steam.

These are multi-published authors, not someone racing down one rabbit hole after another. These are people who know words, which ones work and which ones don't. (They probably never, ever use "was" in a sentence.)

For the longest time I decided the difference between their output and mine belonged solely to the concept of deadlines. Commitments. A responsibility to produce. They had real deadlines. Mine were only pretend.

But last week I tried something. And it worked. I hit my word count for the day. A fluke?

So, I tried it again the next day. Bingo.

On the third day I really gave it a test, and upped the word count I wanted by the end of the day. Ta-dah!

Do you want to know what I did?

Before I tell you, you need to understand I am not writing (yet) 20,000 or 8,000 or even 2,000 words a day, every day. But I have been successful at hitting between 800 and 1,000, which for me is like opening a whole new world of wonders.

I did not get my rough draft completed by the end of October, but heck . . . I didn't know this secret until a few days ago. Now that I'm pumping, it should come sooner rather than later.

Are you ready? It's ridiculously simple. On my To Do List, I write down how many words I want my manuscript to contain by the end of the day. Once I hit that number, I can play. I can veg with my husband in front of the television, or read, or paint my toenails, or go for a long walk. I can "close up shop."

I'm not naive enough to believe this will work every day, but I can tell you, I have a lot better chance at upping my word count doing this than just wishing it so.

So now I'm off to get those words in. 

Do you have something that's been difficult for you to accomplish with your writing? Have you figured out the secret that works for you?

CR: The Charlestown Connection by Tom MacDonald. I'm pretty sure this is his debut novel, and dang . . . it's pretty good.

It's all better with friends.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The Juggling Pins of Suspense, a Guest Post

by Lise McClendon, author

I started out as a mystery writer, cutting my teeth on Marcia Muller and Sue Grafton. I wrote my first books in first person, the way of tradition. The detective asks you to tag along on her case; you as the reader see what she sees, know what she knows. The clues are fair, the world is -- mostly -- rational and sensible (and violent.) There is a strong attraction to this type of novel. It appeals to those of us seeking justice in an unfair world, for ourselves, for others. And especially for the detective, and whoever she is working for in the mystery.

Suspense, like the rich, is different. I found that out when I started to write more complex novels with multiple points of view. A variety of characters is not really what makes the suspense novel different from the mystery. It’s the difference between the rational and the emotional. But it’s not that simple either.

When I first started to write, expressing the emotions I felt into words was one of the hardest things. I would be sitting at my computer, crying my eyes out because what I wrote moved me. (Yeah, I know! We all love our own words, right?) But did anybody else feel the same emotion when they read what I’d written? To figure out what moved me, how I felt, was one of my main motivators to write. I was, and still am, a completely intuitive writer. (This means I usually have no idea what my book is truly “about” until I write it. I can outline and plot -- and must for thrillers -- but the underlying theme is often revealed en route.) And I am emotional. My friends will tell you that I cry during Hallmark commercials. But transferring that feeling inside me to the written page was difficult. It still is.

But the cool thing about writing suspense is that creating feeling -- emotion -- is what it’s all about. According to Wikipedia suspense is “a feeling of uncertainty and anxiety about the outcome of certain actions, most often referring to an audience's perceptions in a dramatic work... may operate in any situation where there is a lead-up to a big event or dramatic moment, with tension being a primary emotion felt as part of the situation.” In the thriller suspense becomes the main narrative thrust. (I love that term: narrative thrust! I think it means, um, suspense.) What will happen to the protagonist? Will the bomb go off? Will the city be saved? Usually there are a number of unanswered questions, possibilities, mysteries. The writer must juggle them all to keep suspense going strong.

Organizing the suspense thriller is challenging. Where to stop a scene for maximum effect? When to show the point of view of the antagonist? In my new novel, JUMP CUT, one of my main challenges was keeping the threads of two seemingly separate criminal cases and one terrorist action from fragmenting the suspense. Plus keeping the focus on the main character, a television reporter in Seattle, who is not actually an investigator but is a seeker of truth. The other (sort of) main character is a narcotics detective who the reporter meets when three prostitutes overdose on tainted heroin. Between their personal career implosions they have to save Seattle from a terrorist attack. Just a few things going on.

It’s tough keeping those balls in the air. But man, I love to juggle. Good thing, right?


JUMP CUT is the debut thriller by Rory Tate. As Lise McClendon the author has written seven crime novels, including Blackbird Fly, a suspense novel. Both of them live out where the deer and the antelope play in Montana. For more about JUMP CUT, and to read a sample, visit the website. JUMP CUT is available in electronic and trade paperback through all major bookstores, including Barnes and Noble; Amazon Books; and Amazon Kindle is currently holding a contest for free copies of JUMP CUT. Enter and win! Rory Tate is featured on the Thalia Press Authors Co-op.

Sunday, October 23, 2011


One of the first things a new writer learns is that the word "was" does not belong in her story in any kind of large quantity. I learned that the other words to avoid can include "that" and "just" and well . . . about any other word we tend to overuse.

But "was" is a biggie.

Awareness kept my wazzes to a minimum, as did my critique partners. Fast forward to no cps and a natural tendency toward laziness. Of the 15,000 or so words I sent out to be read by other authors to make sure I had a grip on the story I'm writing, "was" made up about 18,000 of them. At least that's how it felt when I went through and made revisions.

I think I'm cured. My manuscript is not was-less, but it is less was-y. My plan is to finish this story with a minimum of wazzes.

How about you? Have you ever known better? Let a bad habit infiltrate your work?

CR: The Baby Thief by L.J. Sellers.

It's all better with friends.

Friday, October 14, 2011

What I Think Donald Maass Said

I attended a workshop a couple of years ago conducted by Donald Maass (author of Writing the Breakout Novel and The Fire in Fiction and "more than sixteen novels" which he's rumored to have written using a pseudonym). I took pages and pages of notes, mostly exercises using the manuscript I'd completed at the time.

Looking through those notes this morning, I couldn't actually find this, but I swear he said it:

"If it isn't on the page, it doesn't exist."

So, I've decided he said it. And since this is my blog, I've decided he said it more than once.

Apparently, for me, it might have been a good idea to say it One. More. Time.

A few wonderful authors reviewed my First Fifty pages recently, and one catch (among many great catches) revolved around my minimal use of physical description and other personal detail. Wow. True.

I know my characters so well, see them in such a highlighted and defined way when I tell their stories, that I made the fatal assumption everyone else could see them as well. I neglected to put their descriptions on the page.

The trick is to find a balance. I do not want to become the Tom Clancy of characterization. I want to give just enough detail that my readers can take it from there, and enjoy their own mental images of my characters.

Have you ever read a book and half-way through you're told the brown-haired protagonist is blonde? Not only does it take me out of the story, it kind of ticks me off.

I recently read a wonderful series of books featuring the same protagonist. Unless I missed it, no description appeared in the first few books. So, in my mind, he bore a strong resemblance to Brian Dennehy—a kind of gentle giant. Imagine my shock when I read that he was small and wiry? I shook my head and decided to stick with Brian.

So, part of my First Fifty revisions include a bit more description. Hopefully, just enough.

For those of you who are much like me, here it is, One. More. Time:

"If it isn't on the page, it doesn't exist."

Today is also my blogging day at Crime Fiction Collective. I'm tackling my need to be perfect and would love you to stop by there as well.

CR: You're Next by Gregg Hurwitz. I'm loving this book and at about half-way through, feel like I can highly recommend it. It's such a pleasure to be reading something I enjoy.

It's all better with friends.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A Little About Scrivener

There are a lot of software programs out there for writers. I selected Scrivener because I'd heard nothing but raves about the program. In fact, one of the primary reasons I stepped over to the dark side and became a Mac user was to get Scrivener. There is now a beta program available for Windows.

I use Scrivener to write novels, but it includes all kinds of writing assistance, including screenwriting.

I am hardly an expert on Scrivener, but here's a snapshot of what I work with:

On the left, the Binder reflects each scene, and the POV of that character's scene is color coded. I give each scene a description so I know what it's about.

Below the color-coded scenes, I have each of my character studies, and several other folders, including Places, Research (where you can import Internet pages with your information—but I'm old school enough I still print it out), and whatever other folder you want to create. I have three for this manuscript: NOTES/BLURB/PLOT; SOC (Stream of Consciousness) Plot Concept; and STEP OUTLINE which is more of a scene by scene synopsis I work with to get more detailed. By the way, the program also has a synopsis piece that can help.

The center area is where the magic happens, and all of the hard work to make sure it does.

On the right is what Scrivener calls Inspector. It's where I create cards for my cork board, and make any notes I want to make for that scene, or the project.

Scrivener has many more facets than I've figure out how to use. In fact, I have two books that supposedly will enlighten me and provide an even greater experience. As anal as I am, I don't have the patience (at least not yet) to work through them. BUT, their support team has been magnificent.

One thing I love is the easy way it works with Dropbox, so I can seamlessly transfer my work from my iMac to my MacBook Pro.

Here are the links:

For PC Users (remember, this is beta):

CR: The Halo Effect by M.J. Rose

It's all better with friends.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

My Bad

Okay, maybe writing out of sequence isn't all it's cracked up to be. At least all I cracked it up to be.

After making this big wahoo-discovery (last post) and thinking I'd latched on to something pretty spectacular, well . . . mea culpa.

To be honest, I find myself in a place where I need—desperately need—to know what happens next. And because I've not written sequentially, I'm all discombobulated about what has already happened. So now, I'm reading through the scenes that are linked. Scenes that are in order. Scenes I'd written before my Great Discovery.


I still think, when supremely stuck, or when a certain scene falls into your head fully formed, non-sequential writing is okay. But I took a good thing and, as I often do with chocolate and peanut butter, I overindulged, resulting in an upset stomach. For me, moderation is the key.

Some people may be able to put a jigsaw puzzle together willy-nilly. I need to frame it first.

CR: The Halo Effect by M.J. Rose

It's all better with friends.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Three Reasons to Cut the Chapter Cords That Bind You

I used to write chapter by chapter, scene by scene. A sequential recording of events. Chapter One was always followed by Chapter Two, followed by Chapter Three. It was unimaginable for me to write Chapter Eighteen because I wouldn't even know for sure it was Chapter Eighteen, and what about everything else?

And heaven help my mental state when I decided that Chapter Four and Chapter Twenty-Two needed to be switched.

I now write using Scrivener, and love it beyond reason. But the first manuscript I wrote using Scrivener, I wrote the same old way. Chapter by chapter, scene by scene. Scrivener makes it easy to move scenes around, but they still needed to be renumbered and it was tedious.

By not writing chapter by chapter, I am finally free!

  • I can moves scenes around and when they're moved, I'm done;
  • I can add scenes in between scenes, and when I do, I'm done;
  • When I'm not quite sure what comes next, I can write what comes later.

If you have a plot concept, you are wildly ahead of most other writers, and can fill the story in as you go. I have found it immensely freeing.

Today, I'm writing a scene and the only thing I know is that it's important to the story. Where it finally gets placed is irrelevant, and I love it.

What about you? Have you tried this?

CR: The Halo Effect by M.J. Rose.

It's all better with friends.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Perfection Perspective

We have all seen a perfectionist at work. Someone who dots and crosses all the right letters and always leaves a room tidier than when she walked in.

The psycho serial killer on television who always lines his pencils up just so on the desk and considers everything in his bizarre and whacked world to be squared and precise. In control. Perfect.

As a former Weight Watcher's Leader, I know that another form of perfectionism relates to body image. "If I can't be perfect, why bother?"

But none of these describe Peg Brantley. Even though I learned as a child that if I was going to do something, I'd better do it right. And even though I was told that while babysitting the neighbor's kids, I'd better clean the kitchen and dust and vacuum and do whatever else needed doing in the house (and do it right), I felt I had a good handle on the difference between doing something right and being a perfectionist.

So I thought.

When my friend, Kel, and I had lunch yesterday, I realized that releasing a book by the end of the year just wasn't possible. I mean, it's September. So I told her next spring.

And then, this morning, while writing my morning pages, it occurred to me that not only was I doubting myself, I was doubting God (who I love to believe is my partner and makes things go well) not to shoot for the end of the year.

Naturally, I felt bad, but that's an entirely different discussion.

I decided to challenge myself, wrote that I needed to finish the first draft of Rough Waters (the story I'm working on now) before I began editing Irrefutable Proof—just to make sure I had a handle on RW before setting it aside for a bit.

I decided I wanted to have the first draft finished by the end of the month. All systems were green. I got that goose-bumpy feeling we all get when we've made a decision and are ready to charge, full-steam ahead.

I wrote these thoughts down and then said something to the effect that it had become important to me that my first drafts not be, as Anne Lamott calls them, "shitty first drafts", because then it's almost like writing from scratch when I go back to edit. (It isn't of course, but hey . . . my rationalizatin is able to twist things up just as well as the next guy's.) I was telling myself that I needed to do it right, completely negating the fact that it is after all, a first draft.

Does "getting it right" mean it has to be perfect?

After writing this bold new plan down (and almost sabotaging it in the same breath) I opened up The Artist's Way (which I highly recommend) to read.

One of the things that TAW has taught me to be open to is the wonder of synchronicity. These are all from Week 7 (highlights are mine):

Perfectionism has nothing to do with getting it right. It has nothing to do with fixing things. It has nothing to do with standards. Perfectionism is a refusal to let yourself move ahead.

We correct our originality into a uniformity that lacks passion and spontaneity. "Do not fear mistakes," Miles Davis told us. "There are none."

Instead of enjoying the process, the perfectionist is constantly grading the results.

To the perfectionist, there is always room for improvement. The perfectionist calls this humility. In reality, it is egotism.

Perfectionism is not a quest for the best. It is a pursuit of the worst in ourselves, the part that tells us that nothing we do will ever be good enough—that we should try again.

"A painting is never finished. It simply stops in interesting places," said Paul Gardner.

If you want to know how messed up I can get if I don't pay attention, my post for Friday on Crime Fiction Collective is about procrastination.

Go figure.

It's all better with friends.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Human Remains Detection Dogs

A lot of you know one of my primary manuscripts—that I'm working to finalize—involves an HRD dog. The video I'm sharing is a little long, but consider the implications while you watch it. It's training, but in real life it could mean the difference between closure for a family, evidence for a conviction and assurance that we will always take care of our own and ultimately track down the bad guys.

To me, this profiles man's ability to recognize his limitations, and work with another species to overcome said limitations. Together.

Search and Rescue dogs, Human Remans Detection dogs are heroes. Partly because that's what they do, and partly because that's what we've asked them to do. It's one of the best partnerships in the world, in my opinion.

Here's a basic description for this video:

Uneditted. Dog working Independently.
Cloudy. Winds variable 8-13mph WNW swirling. Blood and Tissue scent transfer to gauze pad covered by grass. 30 minute rise time. general location known by handler. A little bustin' treadmill action at the end.

It's all better with friends.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

When Research Gets Uncomfortable

I've just spent most of the afternoon researching really ugly things. Horrible things. The occult and various religions. Human sacrifices to protect a drug cartel. Innuendo regarding musicians and Hollywood celebrities.

Things I've read about in novels and seen in movies. Fiction.

But there's something about a website that looks just like any other website that made everything real to me. I didn't dwell in these places, but I understand that others must. And they aren't reading a bit of fiction, or watching a movie for a good scare. They're not even writers who are trying to get a few things right. People like me who pop in and pop out and thank God for their lives, and that they are writing fiction.

A lot of the people visiting these websites are not anyone I ever want to meet.

But I might have to write about them.

CR: Snake Skin by CJ Lyons.

It's all better with friends.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

When to Play 'em, When to Hold 'em

I've been writing a new story—a police procedural—and really think this one has some potential. The main idea continues to center around the importance of organ donation (my old manuscript), with a new strong sub-plot of illegal immigration and racial prejudice. I hope I can craft it well enough to give everyone things to think about after they close the cover on a satisfying story.

Today, I read the first thirty pages and realized I'm trying to give readers too much too fast. Just because I know the primary characters really well doesn't mean my readers do. I need to give them the time and space to get to know them. That means that several of the scenes I've written will be held back for now.

And hopefully, I won't have to Fold 'em. (But I will if that's what the story needs.)

As writers, have you ever piled it on too quick? What made you discover you needed to slow down?

As readers, have you ever been frustrated by being jerked around from here to there and back again at the beginning of a story?

CR: Snake Skin by C.J. Lyons

It's all better with friends.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

1950's Forensics

My thanks to Tom Adair and his terrific blog, Forensics For Fiction, for bringing this movie to my attention. I may not watch the movie (probably won't), but this clip is terrific.

It highlights the science of the day, with an acknowledgment at the end.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Character Studies

Some writers always begin with a character, then when they fully understand the person who has been following them around, they see the story that character is leading them to.

For me, I usually begin with the idea of a story. And when it expands and feels large enough to move to the next step, I take a look at the people who would live that story—who are the ones to make it come to life.

When I get to know my characters, the story blossoms. If I don't get to know them, the story falters. When my words feel flat, that's a signal for me to look at a few things, chief among them my character studies.

I have a three-page list of things I use to develop the people who populate my manuscript. It's a compilation of several, plus things I've considered on my own. I'm happy to email it to you if you'd like.

What's important to any character study, or list of traits you use, is that you don't go down the list and answer each question. Yuck. Talk about boring. What I suggest you do is have the list out and handy while you practice writing about your character in a stream-of-consciousness style.

To further understand the character you're getting to know, write some of that character study in first person. It's amazing what you'll learn, and the subplots that will become possibilities.

What about you? What things do you like to do to get to know your characters? Do you get to know them before you begin writing, or do they get more fully formed as you go?

CR: Snake Skin by CJ Lyons.

It's all better with friends.

Monday, August 1, 2011


I'm getting ready to send my First Fifty Pages to a few readers for their input. Am I going in the right direction? Does the story flow? Are you interested? What bad habits do I need to change now before I make a mess of the entire project?

Some of these readers are people I've worked with in the past. They already know my strengths and weaknesses. But there are a couple, who are amazing writers well-affirmed with their legions of fans, that I'm sort of hoping are too busy.

I should have my First Fifty readable by mid-week. Or maybe mid-2012.


It's all better with friends.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Writing a Novel by James Andrew Wilson

I admit, I wanted to see how he depicted the next stage—letting it go. Actually letting others see the creation.

I'm in EDITING. You'll know when you see this video that I hope and pray there is something beyond the editing stage.

Or . . . am I in a Stephen King novel, perpetually stuck in the middle of the forest with nowhere to turn?

Please, no.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

A Rewrite? What was I Thinking?

Through the wonder of morning pages, I became convinced that the manuscript I completed about a year ago would be better as a police procedural. It needed some rewrites anyway, so I figured this wouldn't be much more involved.

Yeah, right.

Don't get me wrong. This is still the best way to go—and I'm oh-so-much-more excited about this story—but it is requiring some careful crafting and so many changed scenes/new scenes/deleted scenes it's almost like writing from scratch. Sheesh.

So, Rough Waters continues to be about black market organs and the importance of organ donation, but with a competent detective in charge rather than a distraught father.

Have you ever changed the direction of a manuscript you're writing? Or have written?

As a reader, have you ever read a book that felt like it was missing something? That if the writer would have taken just a bit more time and fleshed it out, she would have really had a winner?

CR: I confess I'm currently reading a book that's interesting, but not engaging. It's The Apostle by Brad Thor. Kind of a military thriller. I think my husband will enjoy it a lot more.

It's all better with friends.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Crazy Gratitude

I'm grateful tonight for so many things, and I need to express that feeling. (It's my blog and I'll do what I want.)

In no particular order:

I'm grateful for having a husband and soul-mate who indulges me in every way he knows how. He has seen passed the 19 year-old fresh-faced, semi-firm-bodied girl he met more than thirty-six years ago. His desire for me is to see a manuscript of mine turned into a book, and read by people I've never met. Can there be anything better than that?

I'm grateful for Cedric. Our wounded deer who I pray for every day (well, two so far), and wonder at the way God works. We've had an array of odd animals at our home over the years. From lost dogs and cats to snapping turtles to foxes to mallard ducks to peacocks . . . what's the big deal about a deer? Except for right now, God has placed him—at least partly—in our care.

I'm grateful for the friends I've met, both online and in person, who are part of the structure that supports who I am, and the dreams I have. Some of these friends I've know for decades, some only days. But I'm grateful for each one of you. You bless me.

I'm grateful for the familiy that extends beyond my husband. My sister, my nephews, my mom and dad and all of the bonus-people in my life. That's Paula and Cameron and Tyler and Jason, Shirley and Bud and Judy, Darla and Jeff and Krysta and Akila. Kel and Sheila and Joni and Gin and Ginny. And more. Way more. Okay, to be real here . . . my sister Paula weighs in heavy as a primary person. I'm just sayin'.

And, the idea that spurred this post? That's actually writing related? I'm grateful for finding the exact right name for a new minor character in the manuscript I'm rewriting. In case you're curious, his name is Efraím Tómas Hanks Madrigal. I'm thinking he might turn out to be a little bigger character than I had planned.

The thing I notice is . . . not one thing I'm grateful for involves a bank account or a flat screen TV.

So for today, I invite each of you to indulge in some Crazy Gratitude and the counting of blessings.

CR: The Apostle by Brad Thor.

It's all better (way better) with friends.

A Writing Distraction

If I didn't know better, I'd say there was a good chance this would be my Crime Fiction Collective partner, Andrew E. Kaufman, working hard on his next novel.

But it really isn't about him . . .

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A lot of you know that my most recent manuscript involves what I call "Hero Dogs". To me, Hero Dogs include Search and Rescue, Human Remains Detection and Therapy dogs. They all give back to us in ways we can only hope to match. And yet, I think all these dogs want is our love.

The following picture shows you that S&R dogs are not only discerning, but even they have lines they will not cross.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Not For Publication—Until Now

One question I get asked a lot is how and when I decided I wanted to write.

As a student in a writing class, we were told to write a story that might be selected to appear in print in a special publication, either by the school or the district, I don't remember which. At the top of my story, I wrote "Not For Publication." The instructor gave me an A, but wanted to know why she couldn't submit it.

I didn't have an answer for her.

I don't remember the story I wrote then, but I do know this. If I'm moved by something, I write. If I'm angered by something, I write. But those are words for me. They're private. They're "Not For Publication."

I was involved in what was (in those days) a very hip journalism class. We were the cool kids who knew how to make things happen via our school newspaper. Journalism was okay, but I found it restrictive—that truth thing, I think. And almost everything I wrote for the newspaper was flat. Without magic. It may have been interesting, even controversial. But to me, because there were no private bits of me tossed in the mix, it was all finally forgettable.

People who loved me encouraged me to chose something more predictable in terms of income and stability. If writing had happened to be on my list, it quickly disappeared. I created a passable success in Corporate America and enjoyed, for the most part, both income and stability.

Decades passed, and I found myself caring for a family member requiring additional attention while he rehabbed from a stroke. He'd been with us for almost two years when it suddenly hit me . . . I may have been home all day, but I was not focused on the post-stroke exercises all day.


Today, I try to put just enough of me into every scene I write to bump up the magic. I'm old enough to know that whatever private thoughts or secrets I have, they're not unshared by others. It makes publication okay. Probably.

So, what about you? How did you get serious about this business?

CR: The Apostle by Brad Thor.

It's all better with friends.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

When The End Isn't

I wrote my ending the other day. Relief flooded me. I had struggled and fought and avoided and did all of those clever things writers do when what we need to do is sit our butts down in the chair and press a few keys. And then a few more.

Don't confuse my having written the ending with actually finishing the first draft. I'm now facing the stickies on my computer reminding me about the threads that need to be pulled and tied up, but Irrefutable Proof is one step closer to the next phase.

And, just so you know, I now have two additional stickies related to the ending thanks to thoughts from my go-to guy for all things law enforcement. If this thing ends up working, it's thanks to Denny. If it doesn't, no one will ever know because it will be in a very dark (and deep) drawer.

For a manuscript that began by almost writing itself, it sure didn't turn out that way.

CR: Just finished Think Twice by Lisa Scottoline. It really held my attention, moved fast, and I love, love, love short chapters. There were over one hundred chapters in this book, so you know there were some teensy ones. I'm thinking about either a Brad Thor or an oldie . . . This Rough Magic by Mary Stewart. I loved it once. Will I again?

It's all better with friends.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Naming Characters

This morning I was brainstorming the name of the sheriff in my current manuscript. I'd called him "the sheriff" too many times. Obviously, naming this minor character (who somehow appeared in more scenes than I'd thought), was in line.

I wanted to find someone who was a reader and who I knew, well, at least kinda knew, in that strange new Internet way of knowing people to name him after.

John Bohnert was already taken, showing up as a detective in L.J. Seller's Jackson series . . . so who?

The sweet name who came to mind first, who has a Sweet Wife, I had to let go. The name Jack Quick sounded a whole lot more like the bad guy, in spite of the fact that I could imagine some terrific campaign slogans. Even though I won't be using him for the name of my sheriff, I'll file him somewhere for something far more nefarious. Something, I'm sure, Jack would like.

So the big news for the day (other than the fact that I wrote my Bound-To-Be-Changed ending) is that I've decided to name the sheriff after an Assistant Fire Marshall who gave me some terrific help to formulate my ending. I hope Jerry Coble doesn't mind crossing over to the dark side from fire to law enforcement. *wink*

CR: I just finished reading a most amazing story that should be available in September. Be looking for a very different novel from L.J. Sellers called The Arranger. It's a futuristic thriller that isn't so far in the future that we can pretend this kind of world won't happen while we're alive.

It's all better with friends.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Oh, my. Oh, my.

This is a post that originally appeared on Theresa Rizzo's website. I liked it so much, I asked her if I could reprint it here.

And she said yes. So without wasting another moment, please welcome Theresa to Suspense Novelist.

The publishing industry is really tough to break into. In the USA alone, in 2010 there were ~ 51,156 new fiction books published. As few as 2,500 fiction writers can make a living at writing. The odds of breaking in and being able to make a living at writing fiction aren't good, so why try? What's the point?

I've been writing for almost 13 years now and though I've accumulated over 400 rejections and spent a lot of money, I am still unpublished. But it hasn't been time and money wasted. I've recently had an epiphany that success truly is the journey - not the destination. Cliche as that might seem, it's true for me.

So I made this video to celebrate my writer's journey. It's tempting to dwell on the negatives when trying to get published, however there are so many blessings.

I've finaled in many writing contests and even won a few. I've been privileged to travel to wonderful, interesting places like Maui, Seattle, San Diego, Crested Butte, Nashville, and more to attend writing conferences. I've met and befriended many charming best-selling authors such as Susan Wiggs, Jodi Picoult, Terry Brooks, William Bernhardt, Don Maass, David Morell, Catherine Coulter, Joan Johnston, James Scott Bell . . . and the list goes on...

And then the best blessing being, not just my supportive family but, all my writing pals and agent/editor friends I've made --all because of the journey. THAT'S the true brass ring.

Sure it'll be great to see my book in print one day, however people will love it, some will not, I'll have other headaches, insecurities and worries, but my friends will remain a constant joy and blessing. And I wanted to get that message out before I got published 'cause it's easy to claim that, once you have the perceived "brass ring", but I don't have that yet and I'm still loving the journey.

And it's those blessings that keep me coordinating The Sandy writing contest and co-coordinating the Crested Butte Writers Conference.

I get huge joy from writing. I'm proud of my rejections. They signify effort and time put into my career. While this video shares the tough aspect of the business, it's meant to be an inspiration and celebration. An entertaining way to remind me of all the blessings writing has brought me.

My fondest gratitude to my family and friends - old and new - those I have pictures of and those I don't. Thank you, all.


CR: I took a couple of hours off this afternoon to finish L.J. Seller's Dying for Justice. If you haven't read her Detective Jackson series, you really should. Not sure where I'll head next.

It's all better with friends.

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Artist's Way

You know I'm appreciating this book more and more. If you don't have The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron sitting on your shelf as I did, put this on your list of books to check into.

Here are two bits I've read this week I especially loved:

I like to think of the mind as a room. In that room, we keep all of our usual ideas about life, God, what's possible and what's not. The room has a door. That door is ever so slightly ajar, and outside we can see a great deal of dazzling light. Out there in the dazzling light are a lot of new ideas that we consider too far-out for us, and so we keep them there. The ideas we are comfortable with are in the room with us. The other ideas are out, and we keep them out.

And this:

My grandmother knew what a painful life had taught her: success or failure, the truth of a life really has little to do with its quality. The quality of life is in proportion, always, to the capacity for delight. The capacity for delight is the gift of paying attention.

This morning, in my morning pages, I brainstormed some ways to bring the book I'm writing to a more satisfying ending than what I've managed to come up with so far. I think I may have done just that. And, I also had the most amazing moment related to a completed manuscript I have that will make it oh-so-much better. Of course, it will require a complete re-write, but I was sort of looking at that probability anyway.

OT (but not so much): Because of a sore ankle, I've been trying a little yoga in the morning. Trust me, I'm horrible at yoga. I can't get through (yet) an entire session, and the moves I do get through are horrible imitations of what the instructor is doing. But still, I work at it a little. And even with my feeble attempts, I've noticed I'm a bit more limber each time, and I'm sitting up a little more straight at my desk. I might have to practice my poor yoga moves in the middle of the day!

CR: Dying for Justice by L.J. Sellers.

It's all better with friends.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Morning Rituals

At the moment—this moment—I love my morning time. Well, mostly. Except when it's hard.

For the last couple of weeks, I've been faithful at one thing for sure. My morning pages. The Artist's Way encourages even the busiest among us to get up twenty minutes early (for me it would take thirty minutes. Just sayin'.) and write out three full pages, long-hand, in a pretty much stream-of-consciousness style. The idea is to begin to identify your Censor and kick it to the curb. And at the same time, connect with the huge and immense creative center so many of us block. It's not always easy, but it's never wrong. Week Two gave me a big clue, but I needed to get through Week One to understand.

The processes and background in TAW keep me filled with trust that it will ultimately yield to good things. So I'm plugging along, sometimes getting an aha moment, sometimes just glad to finish the three pages. Trust really is a big part of this.

Thus far, I think I've uncovered that I'm a little leery of uncovering anything that might release my driven side, and well, there's always the comfort in the status-quo, even if it means staying in that stuck spot I've been comfortable in for so long. If you've done the work in TAW, maybe you know what I'm talking about.

Aside from TAW, I'm LOVING, LOVING, LOVING Elizabeth George's Write Away. Her process gives me so much hope. I guess, in the end, there's a part of me that craves a certain amount of structure. And her stream-of-consciousness plotting had me practically jumping up and down in our courtyard this morning. She gives insight to a process that doesn't seem stifling.

In the meantime, LoML is putting together an amazing road trip for us. Can I just say I love his wanderlust? His romanticism? His never ending interest in the world around him?

CR: Dying for Justice by L.J. Sellers.

It's all better with friends.

Monday, June 20, 2011

A Crime Fiction Writer Who Keeps Getting Better

I've always figured that even a favorite author can't hit a home run every time they're at bat. I forgive them and look forward to their next book. It's just the way it is. And a miss to me will be a hit to someone else.

It is really a rare thing to find a writer who doesn't disappoint. I have to tell you, that writer for me has been L.J. Sellers. Beginning with The Sex Club (the title of which has always been a great debate, originating with L.J. herself), and ending with the current book in the series I'm reading, Dying for Justice, Sellers has simply gotten better at her craft.

I've wanted to mention this for a while now, but have hesitated because we're now partners in a blog aimed primarily at readers, Crime Fiction Collective, and I didn't want there to be any appearance of conflict. But I finally decided I needed to let you know about this most excellent writer.

Check her out. Read her books (the order isn't that important, except to see the growth of Sellers as a writer) and let me know what you think.

CR: Dying for Justice by L.J. Sellers

It's all better with friends.

Friday, June 17, 2011

My Date With ???

So, did that get your attention? You know I'm totally and completely in love with my husband. You're wondering . . . "What the . . . ?"

Here's your answer.

I'm working through The Artist's Way. I've been doing my Morning Pages (designed to put my Censor Snake in its place) faithfully.

Morning Pages are a daily event, but there's another assignment. You must take your inner artist on a date once a week. Before I proceed (and OT), I was reminded of the weekly dates LoML and I had back when he was still working. I want to engage those again as well. A special time when it was just the two of us. A special few moments every week.

My planned date for today got squeezed a little bit. But because it got squeezed, it actually expanded. I needed a haircut. Because of my hair stylist's schedule, it was either get there today or wait for six weeks to get in to see her. I'm not stupid. I opted for today.

My planned date was to a wonderful Asian market known locally as H-Mart. I love walking into that space. If you want the suburban grocery shopping experience, you will be disappointed. When you walk through those doors, you walk into a different culture. I love it.

Here's a little list I made today of some of the 'different' things I found and would love to know how to prepare: Lotus root; Pepino melon; Dragon Fruit; Rambutan; Sesame Leaves; Bacha; Nagaimo; Dried persimmon; Mugroot (I so flashed on to Harry Potter); Bellflower; King Trumpet Mushrooms; Enoki Mushrooms; Indian Bitter melon; Whole Kimchi; Acorn pudding; Yellow croaker; Dried octopus; Salmon heads; Snail meat; Sweet Fish Roe; Dried cuttlefish; Dried squid; Beef Blood; Pheasant; Frog legs; Tube squid and Squid Flower. For things LoML and I love—fried Calamari for way more than two people for $2.99, and Wild Caught Sea bass for $2.99/pound.

I was early to my hair appointment by a good 45 minutes (this is where the expanded date begins). And the shop (which had moved since the last time I'd been there) was right next to a little restaurant, the Monaco Inn, which had a delightful patio. I had my Kindle (loaded with an L.J. Sellers book), and opted to have a light lunch, a glass of wine . . . and L.J.

To round it out, I was talking about TAW to my stylist, and lo-and-behold, she's been giving that book away to people for years, but never studied it on her own.

I love when this happens.

CR: Dying for Justice by L.J. Sellers.

It's all better with friends.

Thursday, June 9, 2011


Okay, six days ago I marched out my smart self and told you about four books for writers I was going to read my way through.

Yesterday, I parked two of them back on my shelf. Not because they aren't wonderful, but because The Artist's Way was clearly going to demand a little bit more of me than to simply read my way through it. And the third book . . . well, if it doesn't hit the shelf soon, it will at least be read in even smaller bites.

I think I'm going to gain a lot from working through TAW. Of course, at this point, there's a lot of trust involved. And patience. Kind of like when I broke my ankle in two places. I was just this side of surgery. While my head heard what the orthopedic surgeon was telling me, my heart just knew I was gonna set all kinds of healing records. They'd be writing about me for years in JAMA.


Trust and patience.

Are any of you familiar with TAW? Please someone, say yes. I hate the idea of hanging out there all on my own. It's freaky.

CR: The Help by Kathryn Stockett.

By the way . . . I almost made this a seperate post. If you're looking for a terrific police procedural series, you can't go wrong with L.J. Seller's Detective Jackson. Seriously. I have yet to be disappointed.

It's all better with friends.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Books on Writing

I don't know about you, but I have shelves of books on the craft of writing. Some are terrific, some not so much.

What's important to remember when you buy a book on the craft of writing, is that it won't do you any good if it just sits on your shelf looking good. I know this from personal experience.

So, as a kind of accountability, here are the craft books I'm reading bits from every morning (beginning this morning) while I sit outside in the Colorado sunshine:

The Art of War for Writers by James Scott Bell. As opposed to craft, this is more about the writing life, and how we can get through it. I'd begun reading it ages ago, but for some reason (probably the need to organize my desk), I shelved it.

The Fire in Fiction by Donald Maass. I don't always agree with him, but I always learn from him. Again, I'd started reading this one a long time ago and had to pull it off the shelf this morning.

Write Away by Elizabeth George. This one has been untouched on my shelf, but not for very long. George is going to walk me through her process, and I have the feeling she'll hold my hand if I need it.

The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron. I confess that this book has been in my home longer than I can remember. Even before I seriously considered writing a novel. Unread. I think because I thought it might be a lot of psycho-babble. But, along with Write Away, it's probably the book I'm most excited to read now. She teaches us how to unblock our creativity. I'm willing to give that a shot.

What books on craft are you committed to reading right now?

CR: Passions of the Dead by L.J. Sellers.

It's all better with friends.