Saturday, December 14, 2013

OT: Favorite Holiday Recipes: SPICED PECANS

My sister, Lala Corriere, shared this recipe with me in 2004. It remains one of our favorites.


2 cups water
2 cups plus one teaspoon granulated sugar
1/4 plus 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
3 cups vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Combine water, 2 cups sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon cayenne in medium size heavy saucepan. (I use the same dutch oven I use to make peanut brittle.) Heat over medium high heat. Cook, stirring often with a wooden spoon, until the mixture becomes slightly thick. About 10 minutes.

Add the pecans and cook for about 5 minutes more, stirring frequently. Drain the pecans in a colander.

Heat the oil to 360 degrees in a deep frying pan. Carefully add the pecans and fry until they are a deep mahogany color, about 4-5 minutes, stirring often. Remove quickly with a slotted spoon an drain on parchment paper. laid out so they won't stick to each other. (This means you're gonna need a LOT of parchment paper.)

Combine the salt and remaining cayenne and sugar, along with the cinnamon. Sprinkle on top. Let cool.

Can be stored in an airtight container for up to one week.

It's all better with friends.

Thursday, December 12, 2013


One of the cool things with this recipe is that you aren't taking up stovetop or oven space to make it.

Never Dry Crockpot Dressing

1 cup butter or margarine, melted (You can get away with using a little less, but heck, it's the holidays!)
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!!!!!!

It's all better with friends.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

OT: Favorite Holiday Recipes: SUGAR COOKIES

Sugar Cookies

3 cups flour (I substituted 1 1/2 cups with soy flour... it cuts the carbs a little, as if that would make                                          any difference this time of year)
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 1/2 sticks butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 large egg
1 Tbsp whole milk (why don't they sell this in those little containers???)
1 tsp vanilla extract

I have to say, this is one of those recipes that makes me fall in love with my KitchenAid stand mixer all over again.

Combine flour(s), baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.

Beat butter and sugar in a separate bowl (or in your stand mixer) on low speed until combined, increase speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy. Add egg and beat on medium until combined. Beat in milk and vanilla.

Slowly beat dry ingredients into wet on low speed. (This is when I had some interesting flour-cloud effects in the kitchen. It didn't really bother me, and actually made me feel productive in a messy kind of way.) Increase speed to medium-high and beat until the dough begins to clump. Scrape dought into plastic wrap. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours and up to 3 days.

I made three different types of cookies with this recipe. All of them call for 375 degree ovens.

In brief:


Roll out on confectioner's sugar and use your favorite holiday cookie cutters. Bake the cookies, on parchment, 11-13 minutes (until just beginning to turn golden on the edges) and thoroughly cool.

Put some chocolate chips (I used dark chocolate) in a bowl and microwave in short segments (20-25 seconds), stirring after each, until just melted. Using the back of the spoon, spread the melted chocolate over roughly half of each cookie, then sprinkle with either crushed peppermint candy or shredded coconut.


Do the confectioner's sugar thing, and cut out 2-3" rounds with a cookie cutter or glass. Make an even number. Set them out on parchment and sprinkle with whatever you'd like. I used chocolate sprinkles because I'm a chocolate kind of girl and those are what I had on hand. Bake them the same as above.

Once they're cooled, turn the cookies over and spread half of them with marshmallow fluff or cream, and the other half with your favorite jam or preserves and sandwich them together.


Roll the chilled bowl into 1-inch (or smaller) balls, then roll each ball in beaten egg white, then in finely chopped peanuts and pretzels. Put them on your parchment lined cookie sheet and make an indentation in the middle of each with your thumb. (You might have to reconnect bits of the dough if it splits.) Cut chewy caramel candies in half, and put one-half in each indentation. This will need about 20 minutes to bake, until just brown around the edges.

It's all better with friends.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

OT: Some Favorite Holiday Recipes: PEANUT BRITTLE

One of my favorite people has asked me to post a few of my favorite recipes. So, Donna Fasano, the next few posts are for you!


Basic Recipe:

1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp water
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 cup white corn syrup
3 Tbsp butter                                                                                  
1 pound shelled peanuts (salted, raw, roasted, it                                                                                      doesn't seem to matter)

Butter two baking sheets and set them nearby.

Combine the soda, water, and vanilla in a tiny bowl and set aside.

Combine sugar, 1 cup water, and corn syrup in large saucepan. (I use a rather large dutch oven pan.) Attach your candy thermometer. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the candy thermometer reaches 240 degrees. (This step can seem like it takes ages and ages. And it pretty much does. I've found that, at least in my mind, the heat comes up a little faster if I set the lid on the pan as much as possible, given that the thermometer and wooden spoon I'm using to stir stick up quite a bit.)

Stir in butter and peanuts. Tip: I have my peanuts ready to dump, with the butter waiting happily on top of them. (Don't be discouraged when the temperature falls. It will build much faster this time.) Stir constantly until the thermometer reaches 300 degrees. Be diligent! The mixture can easily burn during this step. (However, I will take a moment or two while this is going on to stir my soda mixture and keep it fairly well blended. But then, I'm anal.)

Remove from heat immediately and add the soda mixture. Pour half of the candy in each pan and spread thin, working very quickly (this can be quite the trick, and you might want to enlist some help, though it's not entirely necessary). Allow to cool.


Add some jalapeño powder to the soda mixture, increasing the liquid bits just a little.

Add some cinnamon to the soda mixture, increasing the liquid bits just a little.

It's all better with friends.

Friday, November 15, 2013

When Writers Shouldn't Read

My post today at Crime Fiction Collective might offend some people. If so, I apologize. I just needed to tell it the way I see it.

It's all better with friends.

Thursday, November 7, 2013


The new story I'm working on brings back Jamie Taylor and her working dogs in a big way.

In my first book, Red Tide, Jamie and her sister Jax were almost burned alive. Because of that horrific experience Jamie added an accelerant detection dog (sometimes incorrectly referred to as an arson dog) to her family.

Gretchen is the name of her human remains detection dog (sometimes referred to as a cadaver dog).
Socrates (or Socks) is her search and rescue dog.
McKenzie is her medical/therapy dog.

And now there's her accelerant detection dog. He's a golden-lab mix.

Right now I'm calling him Smokey, but that's just too darned predictable. So, I've decided to open up the naming process. Whoever submits the name I choose will win one of my books (your choice), either Kindle or paperback.

If two people suggest the same name (and it's selected), whoever submitted the name first will win their choice of books.

Thanks for your help!

It's all better with friends.

Friday, November 1, 2013

My New Baby

Thanks for bearing with me for just a little more BSP for The Sacrifice. I share my two wonderful endorsements at Crime Fiction Collective.

What a ride.

It's all better with friends.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Reader Connection

First, I want to thank all of you for the tremendous reception you've shown for my new release. THE SACRIFICE scared me just a little because it was different from either of my earlier two books. Thank you for the warm reception.

To celebrate it going live, I put RED TIDE up for free for three days (ending Thursday, 10/24) and THE MISSINGS at a bargain price of only $1.99 which will end Friday.

And here's this odd little thing I'm working through… when I look at the numbers, the first thing that hits me is their scope. Through Amazon, my books are being read around the world. And then there's this: readers who I may never meet will read my words, and I will in some way be connected to them. Whether they like my books or not (and oh, I want them to like my books), I have connected to someone living in another country, another state, even down the street. It's a one-on-one, almost intimate connection. That's a little freaky.

It's a wonderful thing to work through.

And it's all good with friends.

Friday, October 18, 2013


'Tis the season, right?

I'm talking about scary stuff today at Crime Fiction Collective. There are so many different kinds…

It's all better with friends.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Photo Shoot

When I published my first book, I set the timer on the camera and scuttled to the sofa. It's not a bad picture at all (and continues to be one of LoML's favorites).  With the second book, LoML took a few shots and knew immediately what the right choice was. I agreed.

But for this one? I decided I needed to step up my game. Here's what I have to say: if you are in a position to go "pro", don't hesitate.

Thursday morning I went for my first professional photo shoot that wasn't for LoML. It was for a headshot for the cover of my new book, The Sacrifice, scheduled for release on October 22nd.

I'm almost forty years older than I was when I did that first one, where I donned enormous earrings and sexy lingerie. (It was all GP, in case you're wondering.)

And to top off the age thing, I woke up Thursday morning not feeling on top of my game. I was "off." Not in the moment by any stretch, with a stomach that was queasy and a breathing pattern that made me dizzy. And a stiffness that was unusual even for me.

With everything that could go wrong going wrong (I left the house that morning with only a general idea as to where I was going, and the GPS in my car just laughed at my efforts) the professionalism of one photographer made it all okay, and made it happen. The photos could have all been horrible, but she both instructed and inspired and I'm happy.

Kelly Weaver Photography (recommended to me by authors Shannon Baker and Jeanne Stein) did a bang-up job. It's scary to think what might have happened had I been on top of things.

Oh, and.. LoML has chosen the photo for the new book. Gotta love it.

It's all better with friends.

Multi-Cultural Characters

Today at Crime Fiction Collective, I'm talking about writing multi-culturally. If a writer hasn't been intimately involved in another culture, how do they develop a character from that culture?

It's all better with friends.

Friday, September 6, 2013

A Bit of a Rant

I've got a little rant going on today at Crime Fiction Collective. Stop by and let me know what you think.

It's all better with friends.

Friday, August 23, 2013

The Writer's Triad of Love, Hate & Trust

Pop over to Crime Fiction Collective if you have a few minutes. I'm getting closer to wrapping up my edits—well, the first round of professional ones—and I'm beginning to have a little hope.

It's all better with friends.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Editing Nirvana

Today at Crime Fiction Collective, I'm revealing a little bit about how I feel about the editing process. I hope you'll stop by and share your opinion.

It's all better with friends.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Crisis of Character

My Friday post at Crime Fiction Collective involves what I thought was a failing plot, but was actually an incomplete character.

I'm learning one step at a time… even when I trip.

It's all better with friends.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Conception through Birth (for Books)

by Peg Brantley
Evocative Characters. Intriguing Crime. Compelling Stories.

Every author has his or her own process. This is mine. (At least for now.)

Idea. Mull. Mull some more. "What if" a little bit. Stream of consciousness plot concept. Research.

If it hasn't fallen apart by this point, I might have a book.

Then I'm on to character development. What makes him tick? Who is he? What life events have formed him? This applies to both the good guys and the bad guys. This step, for me, is extremely gratifying.

If my concept and my characters are strong enough to carry an entire novel, I set to work.

I'm not a pantster (someone who just sits down and lets their fingers fly without a thought ahead of time). I've tried "pantsing" it from time to time and although it's kind of fun and liberating, I end up with a manuscript that's more like a Rorschach test than an actual story. I'm also not a detailed plotter, although I sometimes think this would be the way to go, I just can't seem to get there. I write more like a bloodhound. I know what the general issue is. I know a few elements I need to track. I sense the trail and follow it, not always knowing where it's leading me, but trusting my abilities to sniff it out.

So then I'm done. I have a beginning, a middle and an end.

But does it work?

Then I do a quick read-through, looking for obvious issues. I hate when I find them, but the more books I write, the more issues I find. This is the first round of edits.

And then I do an audio edit. I employ my text to speech feature and try to pay attention to that mechanical voice as he points out my overuse of words and phrases and the occasional word that makes it past spellcheck but is absolutely not right.

I finished this phase this afternoon for THE SACRIFICE.

My next step are my beta readers. These are the readers that are almost, if not more, trusted than any member of my family or friend-circles. These guys are gonna read my manuscript in an almost raw state. It's far from polished. No editor has seen it. The bloodhound has made a report, but it doesn't always make sense.

Once my betas have had their say and I've evaluated their input, I revise for the third, fourth, seventh time. Then it's off to my editor.

(Did I tell you about my editor for THE SACRIFICE? I think I'll post about that very soon. I'm stoked.)

After my editor is finished (and I've made yet another round of revisions) it's time for my detail-oriented copyeditors/proofreaders to take a gander. A chapter that may have been without typo flaws before editing can undergo horrendous upheaval and end up with all kinds of issues. Editing can create its own subset of problems.

And then finally, it's time to let it go. Push my book out into the world.

Readers, are you interested in this process? Writers, how does yours differ?

It's all better with friends.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Summer Reads

I was surprised the first time I heard that book sales dropped in the summer.


I remembered that as a kid, I'd spend long afternoons transported to other places, introduced to other ideas, all summer long through library books. Summer, to me, was prime time for reading.

As an adult, it all kind of seemed the same. Who in the world would stop reading just because it was summer?

The rationale is that people spend more time doing other things in the summer. Gardening, golf, pool, beach, hiking, whatever. Really? Enough to make that big of a difference?

So I'm asking, what are you hoping to read this summer?

Opening my Kindle (which doesn't come close to completing the books on my TBR list) I find these intriguing titles:

THE BONE POLISHER by Timothy Hallinan ( I can't believe there's a Hallinan out there I haven't read);

A few Michael Connelly's (ditto what I said about Hallinan);

THE SHOP and ICON by J Carson Black;

WHOSE HAND? by Judith Yates Borger (I enjoyed WHERE'S BILLIE? so much I can't believe I haven't read this one yet);

Something from J.D. Rhoades, who I've truly enjoyed;

And OMG… just found a Lisa Gardner in my cloud!!!

Then there's the new Alafair Burke and Zoe Sharp and oh-so-many more.

So really, what's on your list for this summer? Are you reading less?

It's all better with friends.

Friday, June 21, 2013

The Sacrifice by Peg Brantley

Where better to share my new cover and bit about the book? 

Mex Anderson is a former lawman from Mexico whose family was brutally gunned down by the local drug cartel when Mex refused their bribes. After chasing the two men directly responsible for the horrific murders to Honduras where the two ended up getting killed by their peers, Mex settles in Aspen Falls, Colorado where he tries to forget. 

But when Mex is approached by a man from the cartel responsible for the loss of his family asking for help to find his own missing daughter, Mex wonders what the man could possibly have to offer. As it turns out, it’s something as simple as more information on why his own family had to die. Who conspired to have them killed? Who gave the order? When Mex’s own sister—his last surviving family—is kidnapped for insurance, the stakes are even higher.

Now Mex must find a way to keep a cartel member’s family whole while his is gone; to save the life of an innocent little girl even as the depression resulting from the loss of his own family wants to claim him. To save his sister.

The Sacrifice is a novel of guilt and redemption, forgiveness and family, proving that with love, there is always hope for tomorrow even in the midst of evil. 

Coming Fall 2013

It's all better with friends.

Friday, June 7, 2013


I finished the first draft of my new story, The Sacrifice, Thursday night. Writing a satisfying ending is almost as fun as writing a great first scene.

There's a reason why it's important to let a recently completed manuscript sit for a few days before beginning the first round of revisions.


Yes, part of it is to allow for enough time to revisit the story and characters with fresh eyes but it's also to take care of all of those little details of life you've let slide while writing.

So today, I'll be cleaning my house. Probably tomorrow and the next day too. The physical activity will feel good. Accomplishing a project in hours rather than the months it takes to create a manuscript.

With my house all sparkly, I'll sit down with the printed mansucript, a red pen, and a pile of sticky notes. Scissors and tape will be on hand for those scenes that need to be cut and spliced and moved around, and for the next few days the little details of life will once again be put on hold.

I love this process.

It's all better with friends.

Monday, June 3, 2013

For Writers - Feeling Your Way Through Emotions

I'm not going to tell you to show, don't tell. You already know that following that bit of advice more often than not will help your writing come alive and engage your reader on a more intimate level.

It isn't easy. You need to think more, find the right visible detail, and figure out how to translate it to the page.

I read something the other day that really got my attention. One way to make your reader sit up and take note is to have your POV character experience an unexpected emotion. A surprise. Obviously, what that helps do is add depth and fullness to the person your reader is getting to know.

One more thing: imagine that both you and your character are sporting a tight piece of duct tape over your mouths. You cannot tell what that emotion is. Instead, your character must express it visually.

And now I have a great resource for you. Of course you can get this book anywhere, but here's the Amazon link for The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to Character Expression by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi is a fabulous, well-organized reference tool. The Bookshelf Muse is a connected blog and one you should consider subscribing too.

A random selection from the book:


DEFINITION: the state of feeling unsettled and being easily agitated

…Rapid blinking
Rubbing the back of the neck
(and many more)

…Dry mouth
(and many more)

The desire to flee
…Overreacting to noise
(and many more)

(and many more)

MAY ESCALATE TO: (emotions and reference pages are listed)

A pasted on smile
…Not meeting anyone's gaze

WRITER'S TIP: Body movement and external reactions alone will not create an emotional experience for the reader. Pairing action with a light use of internal sensations and/or thoughts creates a depper emotional pull.

Do you have a resource you like for showing emotions? Do you have a resource for developing an emotional experience for your readers?

It's all better with friends.

Monday, May 6, 2013

An Open Letter to Authors

Somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,000,000 books are published each year in the U.S. alone. That's more than 83,000 a month.  2,700 a day.

114 books a minute. Every minute. In the time it takes you to read and comment on this post, more than 1,000 books are likely to have been released.

Is it any wonder that it's difficult for new authors to get noticed?

The internet, which has given us wonderful things like Google and Amazon has also given us social networking opportunities like Facebook and Goodreads. There's Twitter and Pinterest and LinkedIn and new things popping up almost every day. As authors, we're are using these things like crazy to try and get the word out about our books.

There's nothing wrong with marketing ourselves. We all have to do a certain amount of promotion regardless of whether we're traditionally published or independently published. Doing nothing pretty much guarantees that your books will languish at the bottom of the pile. And the pile just keeps getting bigger.

Most of us are learning that a constant blast of "notice me" in any form is sure to backfire. But there's more than just the one-dimensional person who is only about Blatant Self Promotion, there are those who are so desperate to get attention they'll do almost anything, including buying followers on Twitter.

Are you kidding me?

There are so many Don't Go There possibilities we've all heard about. From writing fake reviews (positive for you and negative for an author you consider competition) to spreading rumors to calling yourself a "bestselling author" because your book hit the top 10 when it was free.

Here are some of my personal requests to all of my fellow authors:

1. DON'T ask me to vote for your book if I haven't read it. I'm constantly asked to vote for a book or a short story in one competition or another and I'm pretty darned sure the author knows I've never read anything they've ever written. They're desperate and I understand that, but don't ask me to sacrifice my honor for your fake moment of pride. Because it would be fake, wouldn't it?

2. DON'T offer to trade reviews with me. What if I don't like your book? Are you going to dis mine? And don't give me a great review, then send me your book expecting the same in return. That just feels sleazy. And once again, you could be asking me to basically lie.

3. DON'T ask me to "like" a review for a book I haven't read. I hereby announce that I will no longer trade my self-respect for one stupid "like" just because someone I truly do like asked me. And by the same token, don't ask me to say a bad review wasn't helpful for a book I haven't read. Between you and me, those bad reviews can be goldmines for sales. Something to think about.

4. DON'T ask me to "like" every Facebook page your mind can dream up. Some of you caught me unaware and it took me five or six pages before I finally realized you were in serious need of an intervention.

5. DON'T ask me to read your manuscript with the idea you can save money on an edit. I'm not an editor. You need to hire one. Sorry, but you do. And don't go cheap.

These are mostly Facebook and Amazon things, but I'm sure there are plenty of Twitter issues along the same lines.

As a new author, I appreciated the support of those who had gone before me, and I want to do the same. But desperate to the point of total crap doesn't cut it with me.

Authors—what have I missed? What requests or other things make you cringe?

Readers—have you come to be able to see through a lot of these ploys? Is there anything you trust any more?

It's all better with friends.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Shelter In Place

A term I'd never heard before. A term I've heard countless times today. Shelter in place. A term I hope never to hear again in my lifetime unless it applies to weather.

I think a side-effect of Boston is exhaustion. Did I sleep last night? Yeah, no better or worse than usual. So it isn't lack of sleep. It's Boston.

A friend of mine went on Facebook and said that she'd been watching the news and felt like she was living in a Bruce Willis movie. And she was very sad. I couldn't disagree.

As human beings I think we can all agree that we're both exhausted and saddened over the events of the last few days, whose violent beginnings were at one of the preeminant marathons in the entire world. And, as of the time I'm writing this post (five o'clock Friday evening in Colorado) it's not yet over. I want it over. I want the authorities to bring our world back to normal and I want to move on.

As a crime fiction writer, I have a lot of questions.

Focusing on the youngest brother, what happened between the time he was in high school and a year or so later? What event or idea or influential person took this normal to great kid (from all accounts) and changed his course completely?

How did these at one time engaged young men walk among the spectators at the Boston Marathon with bombs strapped to their backs and not think about the lives of the people they passed?

What abou you? What are you thinking and feeling and wondering about?

It's all better with friends.


It's a short post. It's at Crime Fiction Collective.

It's about not giving up on your dream.

And truly, it's all better with friends.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Audio Interview

Bill Thompson, of The Bookcast and Eye on Books, interviewed me Wednesday regarding The Missings.  

I was nervous but in the hands of a professional interviewer, I don't think it really shows. Too much.

I submitted the information Bill requested for consideration for an interview and to my delight I was accepted. We scheduled a time for his Skype call and that was about it.

When he called Wednesday, we chatted a few minutes for a couple of reasons: 1) he could check our audio; and 2) he could put me at ease enough so I wouldn't throw up in the middle of the interview.

Afterward, we chatted a few minutes while he confirmed everything was a go. A twenty to twenty-five minute easy conversation was distilled into a fifteen minute interview.

Here's the direct link.

It's all better with friends.

Friday, April 5, 2013


Thanks to the generosity of several fiction authors, some beautiful auction items have been put together to benefit a very special organization. Visit Crime Fiction Collective for the details.

It's all better with friends.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Left Coast Crime 2013

On the first full day of the conference, I sat in on a very interesting presentation. Even more interesting were the two women I sat next to.

They each looked like everyone's favorite aunt, maybe even grandmother. I overheard part of their conversation. Knitting, patterns, a craft magazine. I fell for it. 

After saying hello, I asked them what type of crime fiction they most enjoyed reading. The woman nearest me answered, "I like a little violence in mine." Then she thumbed to her friend, "She likes even more."

Since my mama didn't raise me to be stupid, I immediately handed each of them a bookmark. Lo and behold, one of them had The Missings on her phone. How cool was that?

Here are a few photos:
LJ Sellers, Marlyn Beebe,
Gayle Carline, Andrew E. Kaufman, moi, and Jodie Renner

At my first ever signing table!

Fellow Colorado author, Chuck Greaves and I 
at the Sisters in Crime reception.

L.J. Sellers talking to a fan.

Mark Stevens and Darrell James

Laura DiSilverio and a nice looking guy.

The Awards Banquet

Toastmaster David Corbett

Guest of Honor, Laura Lippman

Guest of Honor, Craig Johnson
NOTE: The new season of Longmire begins in June!

Special Guest Lou Diamond Phillips who plays
Henry Standing Bear in the Longmire series.
(Thanks to Lourdes Venard for the photo.)

It's all better with friends.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

When Someone Dies Suddenly

No, this isn't a plot point. It's a life point.

A friend of mine died suddenly on Sunday night. I think it was Sunday night. I can't remember much about the phone call I received this morning and I don't have any of the details.

I just know

she's gone.

In a blink.

Caron and I have had some pretty intense and deep conversations. Life issues (work, that drew us together to begin with; then an unfaithful spouse—hers not mine) followed by both religion and politics. Once we were no longer dependent financially, we were free to become connected spiritually. It would be a perfect world if every financial partnership included spiritual conversations, but ours did not. Once the financial pieces were behind us, a whole new world opened up. Complicated, but good.

It was liberating to have a relationship with someone where I could tell her she was way off base. Of course I always tried to do it diplomatically. From a place of love. And she responded back with the same love I threw at her.

Caron always excelled. If she wanted to be something—anything—she wanted to be the best. A musician? First chair in the orchestra. Loved animals? A vet. Sell real estate? Number one. Make money? Millions.

Then some tough lessons hit the fan. And because Caron was Caron, she had a really big fan.

One of the last conversations we had related to where she found herself at this point in her life. I think she finally got it when I told her she was in the perfect place. That everything that had happened had not been a mistake. Those things weren't against her, but for her. She fell completely apart and I knew she heard the words God was trying to send her through me.

Oh, God. I feel right now like I'm talking to her again. You know?  Right this minute. She's poked her lovely head in and I can hear her voice. She's sending me love vibes, the way only Caron could send them.

So here are my words to you. Take the time. Make the connections. Never walk away. Always be as honest and truthful as you can. Sometimes you have to throw off the detritus to get to the soul, but hey… we all have detritus. It's the soul that survives. It's the soul that understands and matters.

Caron/Karen Andrews/Richardson, child of God, you were perfect and beautiful. You are perfect and beautiful. You touched lives. You changed lives. I know you blessed mine. You were always exactly what I needed, even when I didn't think so.

It's all better with friends.

Friday, March 8, 2013

The Dynamics of Self-Publishing

When I first began writing, I never would have considered self-publishing. There was a negative stigma (a valid one at the time) attached. I was going to be traditionally published and agented. After all, those two characters were the actors in my daydreams about my writing career.

I confess that I hadn't garnered a gazillion rejections from agents and publishers—probably less than a dozen if you count those who didn't even bother to respond—before I decided to go in a different direction.

But after about eight years of study, I finally thought I might have a manuscript that could hold its own in a very competitive marketplace. And thanks to the very well-placed encouragement of a few other authors, L.J. Sellers in particular, I decided to suck it up and try this thing on my own. I would finally take control over my career, and not leave it up to the whims of others.

But I would do it right. And that's the reason for this blog post. I hope you find it informative and encouraging.

Write your first draft. (I love, love, love that Anne Lamott gave me permission to write a shitty first draft. Sometimes I forget that it really is okay, but that doesn't mean she didn't mean it—and wasn't right.) When you've finished with your manuscript, celebrate! I'm told, and I believe it, that less than 1% of people who sit down to write a book actually finish one. So when you finish that first draft, understand how rare and fabulous you are. Swish your hips a little, or swagger, whatever makes you feel fabulous. Because you are!

Let it sit for a day or two (while you continue to pat yourself on the back and celebrate), then begin your self-edits. This becomes another draft. (Side note: one thing to consider while self-editing is to read your manuscript aloud, or have it read electronically to you, so you can hear the repeated words or other glitches.) This is actually kind of fun. The hard work has been done. You're just pumping it up.

Once you've got your self-edits taken care of, look for a few beta readers. These aren't editors. They also aren't your mother and BFFs. They are smart people (not saying anything negative about your mother or BFFs) who read your genre and will offer you good suggestions and comments about what works and what doesn't. You are building your publishing team when you bring on these early readers. The ideas or changes you choose to accept from them become yet another draft.

Whatever you've done up until now, do not skip this step.  It's time to find a fabulous editor to add to your team. Someone with a solid reputation in your genre. Don't fool yourself into thinking you can achieve this step on your own. This is when you need to bring in the big guns. One good way to find a possible editor is to look in the acknowledgement section of books you've enjoyed reading. Especially books that have been self-published. Check the editor out. What's his/her process? Is he/she a good fit for you? Does he/she believe they can contribute to your final product?  It could take several attempts. This is your first major expenditure. Your first investment in your book aside from your time. Take a breath and make sure you feel good about your choice. And be happy to pay for the experience. (My editor of choice is Jodie Renner. I love her process and her approach. And it doesn't hurt that she likes the words I offer up.)

Going through edits with an editor who knows what they're doing, like Jodie, is one of the most enjoyable parts of this process. It's a collaborative effort with the joint goal to make your creation even better. As good as I think my writing is, a good editor can always make it stronger. Always.

Now is the time to find a cover designer. Unlike editing, it's possible you might have the design skills to do this on your own. Most people do not without training. I figure I have enough things to learn, so I hired a designer. Once again, check out the acknowledgement section in books whose covers you love. Your cover is going to be a huge factor in whether or not someone decides to buy your book.

Of special consideration these days, make sure your cover "pops" as a thumbnail. That's how most people are going to see it on websites. A tiny little stamp mixed in with a bunch of other little stamps.

Your cover designer can also be your interior designer for the trade paperback version of your book, if you don't want to go through the learning curve to do it on your own. A paperback isn't necessary, but not everyone has an e-reader and it's very nice to have something to hand to someone else… and it's nice to put your book on your book shelf. (The cover designer I've used for both of my books is Patty G. Henderson. She has an amazing intuitive ability coupled with the desire to work and work and work and work to make you happy.)

A fun website about what NOT to do for covers is this one: Lousy Book Covers. (Oh, please, please, please God, don't ever let a cover of anyone I know end up on this site. Especially mine. Amen.)

This step is totally optional, but well worth considering. Establish a publishing company as an LLC and buy your own ISBNs. If you want to look and feel professional, this is the way to go. Buying ISBNs onsey-twosy is very expensive. But you can buy a group of ten at a much lower cost. You'll want to use one for your ebook version and one for your paperback. As most everyone does, I used Bowker.

You've got the final product and you've got the cover. Now what?

You need to have your manuscript formatted for ebook and paperback. Again, this is something you could probably figure out how to do yourself (and many do so successfully), but I've seen plenty of really bad results. Now is not the time to pretend like you're an expert.

After a lot of research, and anecdotal data, I elected to focus on Amazon as my distributor. They have a worldwide reach and every author I spoke to told me that by far, most of their sales came through Amazon. Even those readers who only read on their Nook, or iPad, can read books formatted for Kindle and available exclusively through Amazon. The marketing benefits of an exclusive relationship with Amazon are pretty darned impressive, but that's another post.

**It's important to note here that there are options for your ebook's distribution. Those include Kobo, Pubit, iTunes, etc.  You can publish to all of them, including Amazon if you choose. But if you want to enroll your book in the Select program with Amazon, you agree not to have your ebook available for purchase through other distributors. To me, the benefits of the KDP Select program through Amazon far outweighed the benefits of having multiple distributors. You may want to experiment.**

The bottom line here is that I needed to have my manuscript formatted for Amazon's Kindle. There are a lot of people who can do that for you, but I loved the quality and service (and price) I received from Liber Writer. If you've got more complicated formatting to deal with, you might want to take a look BookNook. Hitch is a friend of mine (and a fellow blogger at Crime Fiction Collective) and knows what she's doing from one end to the next. You couldn't be in better hands.

Upload your ebook and paperback to KDP Select and CreateSpace. Because I'd made the considered choice to publish my ebook exclusively with Amazon, KDP Select was a no-brainer. Signing up for this program allows my books to have quarterly promotions (this is a marketing post) and available to be lent through their library. The first time Red Tide was checked out of the library was as good as gold to me. Plus, I got paid!

CreateSpace does an amazing job of producing a trade paperback you can actually hold in your hands. My biggest piece of advice here is to take the time to get a proof. Make sure the colors on your cover are exactly the colors you had in mind. Make sure the layout is perfect. While changes and corrections are fairly easy for your ebook, they can be a little more complicated for your paperback.

Dang! You're done. Now what? Prior to your release date, line up some solid reviewers for your book. Liber Writer has, as part of their program, a way to send your ebook to reviewers with the reviewer's name as part of the ebook. The more reviews you can have at or soon after your release, the better off you'll be. A word to the wise: try to make these legitimate reviews, not friends and family.

If you have any other questions, please say so in a comment. I'll do my best to answer them and update this post.

It's all better with friends.

**Updated 03/09/13 - Thanks, Rashda!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Police Procedruals… The Process

My post for Friday's Crime Fiction Collective comes directly from a reader who wanted to know what goes into making a police procedural. I hope you'll stop by and add to the discussion.

It's all better with friends.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Regardless of Current Headlines


Verb: Isolate or hide away (someone or something): "the artist sequestered himself in his studio for two years".

Noun: A general cut in government spending.

Thank you, M-W. But forget the noun. I'm seriously looking at the verb. I need the verb. I'm wanting the full frontal focus that crawling into a cave can give me so I can make the progress I need to make on my current story.

The problem? I also need to interact with people. My husband appreciates a clean smelling wife, we have a meeting with our CPA next week and, as a professional, he expects numbers and organization and well… you know. There are other little things like dinners that need cooked and errands that need run and blog posts that need written and emails that need replied to and presentations that need to be made and there's that black tie event and marketing plans to be figured out and chores to be taken care of and…


It's becoming one of my favorite words.

Have you ever successfully sequestered? How did you do it?

It's all better with friends.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Guns - No Roses

Friday at Crime Fiction Collective, I'm grousing a little bit about the bureaucratic red tape involved in getting my concealed carry permit.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Dirt and Stuff

Between us, I had the hardest time coming up with my expected Friday blog post for Crime Fiction Collective. A commitment is a commitment, so I plowed ahead…

It's all better with friends.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Publicly Private

After all of the things that violently threaten our security as individuals, I take a look on Friday at some of the ways we can be "out there" and stay safe as writers at Crime Ficiton Collective. I'd love to hear your ideas.

It's all better with friends.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Love is A Choice

Have you ever had someone in your life—probably your family—who you had a hard time loving? I'm talking a little about it beginning Thursday at the Indie Chicks Cafe. I'd love it if you'd stop by and assure me I'm not alone.

It's all better with friends.