Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Wednesday Wisdom for Writers and Those Who Love Them

"The chief cause of unhappiness is giving up what you want the most for what you want at the moment." —I Wish I Knew

This is one of my favorite quotes, applicable to everyone, and particularly relevant as we begin a new year.

It's all better with friends.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Plot Twists

In FLAME GAME I have some plot twists. Hopefully they provide a momentary surprise, but once they're revealed they feel quite natural. I think that's the key to a good plot twist.

I'm struggling with wanting to have a huge twist at the end of this book. Actually, what I want is a jaw-dropping, head-smacking, OMG moment. But I'm not finding one that feels organic to this story.

To be fair (to me), even when the current plot twists transpire, and the reader knows what was done by who, I think they might still want to hang in there to find out how the good guys find out what happened.

What do you think about the jaw-dropping plot twist at the end of a book? Do you love it? (Duh.) Is it necessary?

I really want to know.

It's all better with friends.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Wednesday Wisdom for Writers and Those Who Love Them

"When writing a novel it's faith, not confidence, that will help you finish." —Peg Brantley

Merry Christmas, everyone!

It's all better with friends.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Wednesday Wisdom for Writers and Those Who Love Them

This is one of my all-time favorites:

"Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass." —Anton Chekhov

Showing is more difficult to do then telling, but it is much more powerful. And while there is such a thing as too much showing and not enough telling, every writer should work hard to show the glint of light on broken glass to bring the reader into the scene.

It's all better with friends.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Wednesday Wisdom for Writers and Those Who Love Them

"I write because I'm afraid to say some things out loud." —Gordon Atkinson

I know this has been true for me. It's easier to tell a story that highlights an idea or create a character who isn't afraid of anything, including what other people think.

It's all better with friends.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Wednesday Wisdom for Writers and Those Who Love Them

"What we do for ourselves dies with us. What we do for others and the world remains and is immortal." —Albert Pike

It's all better with friends.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Wednesday Wisdom for Writers and Those Who Love Them

"There is no rule on how to write. Sometimes it comes easily and perfectly; sometimes it's like drilling rock and then blasting it out with charges." —Ernest Hemingway

I'm simply thankful to write.

It's all better with friends.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Wednesday Wisdom for Writers and Those Who Love Them

"Worry is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do but never gets you anywhere." —Erma Bombeck

What are you worried about?

Deadlines? Expenses? Reviews? Skill?

Let them go.

Meditate instead. Take a walk. Ride a bike. Clean a room.

Then decide to get somewhere.

It's all better with friends.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Wednesday Wisdom for Writers and Those Who Love Them

"What I like in a good author is not what he says, but what he whispers." —Logan Persall Smith

This is powerful.

This means the author is strong enough to trust the reader to get the subtle implication.

And isn't that the most amazing thing?

It's all better with friends.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Wednesday Wisdom for Writers and Those Who Love Them

"A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction." —Virginia Woolf

Money to pay the bills and a quiet place to work, that's what I read  here. And while a lot of writers (male and female) need to have day jobs to make this happen, I'm constantly impressed with their commitment to do just that.

It's all better with friends.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Wednesday Wisdom for Writers and Those Who Love Them

"My language is the common prostitute that I turn into a virgin." —Karl Krause

Here's my take on this concept: taking a cliche and turning into something fresh.

An example:

Cliche: The killer stared coldly at his victim, ice running through his veins.

Fresh: The killer looked at his victim and saw his father standing over him with a switch.

Fresher: The killer felt the rush running through him. It didn't quite take away the pain, but the momentary flush of his memories set him free.

Build on this. What takes a common prostitute of words and turns them into something virginal? It has a little to do with Deep POV, I think.

It's all better with friends.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Importance of a Title

When I go to the Menu button for my television cable service, the first thing I see as I scroll through the schedule are titles. Usually I'm looking for a movie to watch.

If I see a title that intrigues me I can get more information.

But only...


With the cable menu program, there's not even a cover that can enhance the intrigue.

Titles are important.

I read recently that some research indicated many readers responded with interest to the word SECRET in a title. I immediately began second guessing the working title of my newest manuscript where arson plays a huge role, FLAME GAME. I couldn't come up with anything that didn't sound like someone having an affair.

Are there words that catch your attention?

I think for me they might be DEATH, MURDER, LIES

or, since I've published three books: RED TIDE, MISSINGS, SACRIFICE.

But seriously, are there words in a title that make you look at the description? Does it depend on genre? Curious minds want to know.

It's all better with friends.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Wednesday Wisdom for Writers and Those Who Love Them

"How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live." —Henry David Thoreau

Thoreau's statement put me in mind of one of the most amazing things I've read recently:

"We must always take sides." This could haunt me. Especially when it's appended with "Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim."

When you sit down to write, make sure you've stood up to live. 

It's all better with friends.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Chillers and Thrillers for October

I just finished reading The List by J.A. Konrath. This book sucked up a lot of time today, but I don't feel bad in the least. Well worth it. No woo-woo, but a lot of science. Very cool. And scary.

And before that I read Eerie by Blake and Jordan Crouch. You think it might be woo-woo, but then it isn't, but then again...

Both of these stories engaged me. After all, it's the month to be frightened.

Are there books that scream October to you?

It's all better with friends.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Wednesday Wisdom for Writers and Those Who Love Them

"A critic can only review the book he has read, not the one which the writer wrote." —Mignon McLaughlin

When a writer strings words together, it's sometimes magic and sometimes labor. Everyone one of those words is a personal choice. The book is a personal offering.

A reader comes to a book with his or her own expectations and biases, and they don't always match up to the those of the writer.

One of the easiest things to understand is also one of the most difficult things to believe: Some people aren't going to like my books.

I've learned, by listening to the likes and dislikes of other readers, that our tastes are as varied as the choices of reading material. And that's very cool.

I've also decided, just for the heck of it, that people who don't like my books also don't like chocolate. Or bacon. Or puppies. It helps.

It's all better with friends.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Reach Out And Read

I recently discovered a wonderful literacy group and want to share it with you. Reach Out and Read is all about children. And helping parents understand the importance of reading aloud to babies.

Parents have more influence than they can imagine. The simple act of reading can empower a child to become a reader. To change his or her life forever. 

Because with reading the world opens up. Possibility. Power. Knowledge. Choices.

I'm preaching to the choir with you guys, but Reach Out is holding auditions. If you're looking for a place to donate a few dollars, this one ain't half bad.

It's all better with friends.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Wednesday Wisdom for Writers and Those Who Love Them

"Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart." —William Wordsworth

I write thrillers. But if I don't write characters readers connect with, who cares?

For me, breathings of your heart, means writing a story that matters. Energize the plot with stakes that touch our cores with situations we can relate to. Breathe a story that's filled with humanity and an energy we don't always find when we step out our doors every day.

It also means going beyond just understanding the character. It means giving them purpose. Giving them sorrow and hope and failure and... well, you get the idea.

I think I'm getting better at that bit, and that makes me feel good.

It's all better with friends.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Wednesday Wisdom for Writers and Those Who Love Them

"What is written without effort is in general read without pleasure." —Samuel Johnson

I'm working on a manuscript that is requiring a lot of effort. I hope in the end I don't give up. I hope in the end, it's the best I can offer. I hope in the end I offer a bit of pleasure.

And by the time this posts, I will have read an amazing manuscript written by Tim Hallinan, who happens to write one of my all-time favorite series—Poke Rafferty. I blogged about one of them here

In the past, Tim has freely said that the Poke books are often some of his most difficult books to write. And it's no wonder. They're filled with detail and passion and history and sadness and hope and people who are incredibly real. And still, he sticks things in that make me laugh out loud. 

That ain't easy.

It's all better with friends.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Wednesday Wisdom for Writers and Those Who Love Them

"Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand." — George Orwell

The thing to me is that there are moments of complete surprise. Even confidence and ecstasy. Without those moments (seconds, perhaps) to experience and then to dream about occuring again, writing would become a drudgery. Many of us who write would be on to the next thing.

But we're not. Because we're hooked.

It's all better with friends.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Wednesday Wisdom for Writers and Those Who Love Them

This really is one of my favorites... (I'm pretty sure I first discovered this quote from an episode of Criminal Minds)...

"What we hope to do with ease, we must first do with diligence." — Samuel Johnson

It's all better with friends.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Any Time Now I Will Love to Write

I love to write.

I hate to write.

Let's start over: I love to create. I love to edit. I love to tell a story.

I love to have written book.

The writing part? Well, I'm pretty much on the hate side. Except for the times I love it. Which becomes kind of like a drug addiction. I'll work through days of hating it because I know—I just know—that I will love writing if for even just a few hours any time now.

Dangling carrot. The cocaine-high of effortless brilliance. The part where I get to play a kind of writing god where I create the world (in seven days? ha!), and I create the people and their backstories and their fears, and decide what fate has in store for them.

That's a lot of responsibility.

And even more work.

Writing my first draft is wild. They often begin like silk. The words flow. I can't possibly type fast enough.

"This is gonna be the fastest first draft (and perfect, by the way) in the universe. It's magic!"

Yeah, right.

Then comes the first speed bump. And the second.

I've found I write best when I have a bit of a roadmap—an idea of where I want to get to next. That doesn't mean that little bits of flotsam won't work through whatever filter I have in place and make its way onto my page. The magic part is... (are you ready?) I don't immediately delete those things that feel, at the moment, like dust-bunnies. Pieces of lint I'm eventually going to have to vacuum up.

Trusting the process is one of the key elements for a writer. My process can include a lot of deleting, but it can also include a lot of surprises.

"Oh, yes! I see the connection now between that earlier dust-bunny and this trigger for murder!"


"That dust-bunny sure set up a great metaphor for the overall theme of this story (which I rarely know about ahead of time): global terrorism!"

Which is part of the whole addiction.

You get my point. In case you haven't, it's to trust the process. Sometimes you've just got to let it flow.

Thanks to my Sisters in Crime sister, and good friend, Sheila Lowe, for encouraging me to write this post. You can read hers by clicking on her name. She writes an awesome series featuring a handwriting analyst. Which works really well for her because she is one. (And waving to Dennis Palumbo, whose fabulous book, PHANTOM LIMB, I finished reading this morning even before turning on the news. Yes, it's that good. And who, by the way, provided a beautiful endorsement for my last book, THE SACRIFICE.)

Check out another Sisters In Crime blog (and yeah, she's really my sister): Lala Corriere.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Wednesday Wisdom for Writers and Those Who Love Them

"You only get true perspective of your book when you put it out there for readers." —Peg Brantley

It's all better with friends.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

The Difference Between Male and Female Authors

Grammarly, a grammar-checking site, recently polled in excess of 3,000 men and women to examine some of the differences between male and female authors.

Do you see anything interesting here?



It's all better with friends.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Wednesday Wisdom for Writers and Those Who Love Them

"The first draft of anything is shit." —Ernest Hemingway

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

It's all better with friends.

Monday, September 1, 2014

The BookCast

Do you enjoy discovering new authors? Do you like listening to professional interviews of those authors about their newest releases? Then you'll love The BookCast.

It's all better with friends.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Aurora PD K-9 Demonstration

These dogs (and their handlers) are amazing. Recently, the Aurora, Colorado Police Department took over a section of the parking lot at a popular restaurant to strut their four-legged stuff.


It's all better with friends.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Wednesday Wisdom for Writers and Those Who Love Them

Short but sweet (not):

"The road to hell is paved with works-in-progress." — Philip Roth

To avoid this... get 'er done!

It's all better with friends.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Audiobook Contest/Promotion

This is so much fun!

If you or someone you know enjoys audiobooks, this is a contest you'll love!

The buses are Metro Buses in Nova Scotia, Canada, but the contest is open to a whole lot more people!

For more information, go to StoryFinds and check out the deets.

I need to share that I'm pretty stoked to see the cover of The Missings on a bus.

It's all better with friends.

Friday, August 22, 2014

The Importance of Research

Without good research, we can put our characters, and thus our stories, in unbelievable situations. Readers will throw our books against the wall.

With good research, we can be in the same unbelievable situation, but readers will be right there with us.

Are you with me here?

It's all better with friends.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Wednesday Wisdom for Writers and Those Who Love Them

"The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don't want it badly enough. They're there to stop the other people." — Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture

There is hardly a day that goes by when we aren't faced with a brick wall. When we see that fortress, feel it, smell it... we have a choice to make.

What choice do you make?

It's all better with friends.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Manuscript Avoidance

What writer, if you're honest, hasn't been here?

This is when anything, no matter how mundane, seems much more interesting than the scene you're working on.

Here's what helps me get back to it:

Remembering My Readers. Period. The biggest impetus ever.

I've found that simply not wanting to let even one reader down can push me to plow through whatever personal issues I'm dealing with.

Not wanting to let even one reader down can make me understand that someone believes in me, enjoys the words I write, and is eager to read more.

What more could a writer want?

It's all better with friends.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014


I had this weird thought the other day.

What if (and I know this is edgy) we let the marketplace dictate who wins and who loses?

Before I continue, I think the major contention is the price Hachette wants to set for their ebooks. If that's incorrect, I'm ready to listen.

In my admittedly limited brain, I see an epic fail in Hachette's future given their insistence to price their ebooks outrageously.

Maybe Amazon should simply allow them to work themselves into bankruptcy and everyone could save on attorney fees.

It's all better with friends.

Wednesday Wisdom for Writers and Those Who Love Them

"I'm writing a first draft and reminding myself that I'm simply shoveling sand into the sandbox so that later I can build castles."  — Rachel Stirling

There are days when the sand seems to slip away, so

It's all better with friends.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Meet Jamie Taylor (no, not that one)

If you’ve ever wondered where characters in your favorite author’s books come from, this is a terrific blog hop to follow. The Meet My Character series, written by authors, sheds terrific light on a single character of their choosing, which also might shed a little light on the author!

I was invited to join this parade by Lala Corriere. Here’s a little about her (and how you can meet one of her characters):

Lala Corriere is the author of four titles in suspense, with her most recent work, Bye Bye Bones, scheduled for release in late winter, 2014. Her credits include the endorsement and long-term mentorship from the late Sidney Sheldon, and blurbs from Andrew Neiderman [author of the Devil’s Advocate], J.Carson Black, Paris Afton Bonds, KT Bryan, and CJ West. Lala’s a desert rat. She nestles there with her husband of twenty-five years, two Teacup Yorkies, and an American Curl.


Jamie Taylor recently agreed to be interviewed by Suspense Novelist. What follows are excerpts from that interview.

SN: What makes you interesting?

JT: (laughing) That’s kind of direct. I suppose it isn’t me so much as my dogs. I have four of them, and they’re all working dogs. When we’re not looking for lost hikers in the Colorado High Country, we’re looking for signs of arson, making ill people feel better, or finding evidence of human remains. Each of my dogs has his or her specialty and I just go along to write the reports.

SN: Have you always had dogs?

JT: We got our first dog when my dad took early retirement from an international security company, and we moved to Aspen Falls. I’d always liked dogs—from a distance. But when we got Sammy, I fell in love. If I’ve been disappointed in people, dogs prove that God got something right.

SN: How have people disappointed you?

JT: Where do you want me to start? I have a lousy record of choosing men. Is that me, or is that the men? I was married once, and the only thing I took with me from that experience, aside from the clothes I was wearing when I left, was a six-inch scar that runs from my belly button up to my left breast. I’m not sure an intimate, lasting relationship is in the cards for me.

Then there’s the fact that my mother was murdered.

SN: Wow, I’d say “disappointed” is an understatement. Did they catch whoever murdered your mom?

JT:  We did, but that’s another story.

SN: What are you working on now?

JT:  My accelerant detection dog, Kaji, and I are working on a series of fires in Colorado, many of which have turned out to be arson, and dodging threats from the arsonist, which, as you can guess, makes everything personal. In addition, I’m trying to figure out my relationship with the FBI agent I met a year or so ago. It’s a little dicey given my history.

SN: If readers want to get to know you a little more, where can they find you?

JT: Red Tide is a terrific book, and you can find out about what happened to my mom there, and a little more about my ex-husband. Peg is working on telling the story about arson in Flame Game, where Kaji and I are trying hard to help the investigating detective. That should be available by the end of this year.


Next: (Just so you know, I feel incredibly fortunate to have these two authors coming up. You should take advantage.)

On August 14th, it's Sheila LoweLike her fictional character Claudia Rose in the award-winning Forensic Handwriting Mysteries series, Sheila Lowe is a real-life forensic handwriting expert who testifies in handwriting-related cases. She holds a Master of Science in psychology and is licensed to provide continuing education for marriage and family therapists. She also authored the internationally acclaimed The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Handwriting Analysis and Handwriting of the Famous & Infamous, as well as the Handwriting Analyzer software.

On August 18th, it's L.J. SellersL.J. Sellers writes the bestselling Detective Jackson Mysteries—a two-time Readers Favorite Award winner—as well as the Agent Dallas series and provocative standalone thrillers. L.J. resides in Eugene, Oregon where many of her novels are set and is an award-winning journalist and the founder of Housing Help. When not plotting murders or doing charity work, she enjoys standup comedy, cycling, and social networking. She's also been known to jump out of airplanes.


And then:

On August 22nd, you'll get to hear from Michael W. Sherer: Michael W. Sherer is the author of Night Tide and soon-to-be-released Night Drop. The first book in the Seattle-based Blake Sanders series, Night Blind, was nominated for an ITW Thriller Award in 2013. His other books include the award-winning Emerson Ward mystery series, the stand-alone suspense novel, Island Life, and the Tess Barrett YA thriller series. He and his family now reside in the Seattle area.

Please visit him at or you can follow him on Facebook at and on Twitter @MysteryNovelist.

Also on August 22nd, it's Gayle Carline: Gayle Carline is a typical Californian, meaning she was born somewhere else. She moved to Orange County from Illinois in 1978 and finally nested in Placentia a few years later. Her husband, Dale, bought her a laptop for Christmas in 1999 because she wanted to write. A year after that, he gave her horseback riding lessons. When she bought her first horse, she finally started writing.

Gayle soon became a regular contributor to Riding Magazine. Then, in March 2005, she began writing a humor column for her local newspaper, the Placentia News-Times, entertaining readers with stories of her life with Dale and their son, Marcus. In 2009, she published her first mystery novel, Freezer Burn, featuring housecleaner-turned-detective Peri Minneopa. She has now published seven books, three Peri Minneopa Mysteries, two humor books, and two books featuring her favorite hobby – horses.

In her spare time, Gayle likes to sit down with friends and laugh over a glass of wine. And maybe plot a little murder and mayhem. She’ll continue to write columns and mysteries as long as there are stories to tell.

It's all better with friends.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Wednesday Wisdom for Writers and Those Who Love Them

"A person who publishes a book willfully appears before the populace with his pants down."
— Edna St Vincent Millay

Being vulnerable is never the place we seek. It is what it is... and

It's all better with friends.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Scene Suck

Sometimes a scene doesn't do much of anything. Have you noticed? It doesn't provide any additional information about a character; it doesn't propel the story forward; it feels like filler.

How do you react when you read one of those scenes?

  • Do you even realize it at the time, or do you wonder later why that scene was in the story? 
  • Is it irrelevant to you?
  • Are you mildly disgruntled?
  • Are you over the top ticked-off and feel cheated?

I'm working on a scene now for my new book that I really want in the story. It does show some additional characterization but I think it needs to also do something for the plot. 

Without contrivance.

I've decided to give myself a day, two at the most, to see if I can dream up something that would work. If I can't, my single-mother detective isn't going to meet up with the new guy in town who's a volunteer firefighter as well as a professor at the local college.

Just sayin'.

It's all better with friends.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Be Hard on Your Characters

The best thing you can do for your story is to put your characters in difficult situations.

Readers, are you with me here?

Who cares about the cat sitting in a cozy box with the sun shining bright. Well, maybe you do...

but how much more fun is it to catch said cat in a compromised position?

Imagine a sudden bolt of adrenaline and the resulting chaos.

Good work!

It's all better with friends.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Wednesday Wisdom for Writers and Those Who Love Them

I love this one:

"Don't turn away. Keep looking at the bandaged place. That's where the light enters you." — Rumi

It's all better with friends.

Friday, July 25, 2014

A Contest With Free Stuff

Summertime, and the livin' is easy
Fish are jumpin' and the cotton is high
Oh, your daddy's rich and your ma is good-lookin'
So hush little baby, Don't you cry

I'm feeling a #contest might be like jumpin' fish and high cotton, so here it is:

For every 25 new signups to my Incredibly Infrequent Updates between now and the end of August, I'll gift one of my books, plus another book of your choice (with a maximum price of $4.99) both for your Kindle app, OR an autographed paperback copy of one of my books, your choice. The more signups, the more gifts. The more gifts, the more high cotton.

*Note: Everyone who has previously signed up is elgible. You early supporters deserve something!

Where do I sign up, you ask? You can sign up on my blog,, or my website,http://www.peg/

The winners will be selected by Rafflecopter, or some other random selection service.

It's all better with friends.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Bad Reviews

Bad reviews are not the end of the world. But just in case you think it's pretty close...

It's all better with friends.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Wednesday Wisdom for Writers and Those Who Love Them

"Being an author is being in charge of your own personal insane asylum." — Terri Guillemets

It's a very strange village, and...

It's all better with friends.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Action Scenes

Action scenes often require the writer to physically duplicate what she writes on the page. In this case, rethinking that last move might be a good idea.

It's all better with friends.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Arson Dogs

I love doing research for my books.

For Red Tide, I learned about Human Remains Detection Dogs, sometimes referred to as Cadaver Dogs. I purchased a couple of reference books about training and techniques. 

I also learned about Karenia brevis, the name for saxitoxin, sometimes called harmful algal bloom (or HAB), but more commonly called red tide. Fascinating stuff.

With The Missings, I needed to know about organ donation: how it worked and why so many lives were at stake. It was a sad eye-opener.  I also needed to learn a little about undocumented people living in our country. Another sad eye-opener.

Learning more about police procedure was critical, and I will be forever grateful to the crime scene investigators and detectives who helped me make the details shine. And for the police chief of Aspen, Colorado, for helping me with a critical plot point.

In The Missings there's another possibility early in the book explaining deaths in the area, and I had to research cults. The little bit of information I obtained made me want to shut down. The normal presentation of some very dark material bothered me, and I was glad the story I was writing wouldn't be in that place very long. 

But because cults both fascinated and repelled me, I knew that The Sacrifice would have one front and center. I learned about Santeria. 

And I wanted to help bring depression out of the closet. To make depression both real and unashamed, my wonderful, strong, primary male character shows how he's living with it day in and day out without dwelling in it. To me, Mex Anderson and everyone who battles those demons, are heroes. I learned a lot.

And now, I'm writing Flame Game, with a wonderful new dog named Kaji, Japanese for fire.

Here's something I ran across this week. Check it out:

It's all better with friends.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Wednesday Wisdom for Writers and Those Who Love Them

I especially like this one:

"A synonym is a word you use when you can't spell the other one." — Baltasar Gracián

(Or when you're not sure if it's lay or lie or laid or lain.)

It's all better with friends.

Monday, July 14, 2014

My Street Team is a Dead End

Okay, that's not really fair.

I never tried to form a Street Team, and I doubt if I ever will.

Wait! What's a Street Team, you ask? Basically, a Street Team is a group of people who help promote a product or a service... or a writer. For more information, here's what Wikipedia has to say: Click Here.

I was thinking about this today as I was posting something on Facebook about my friend Tim Hallinan's new book, Herbie's Game. I help promote Tim's books (and other writers I enjoy) because that's what I want to do, not because they've asked me to do so.

And not because I'm part of some kind of a team.

I'm so not a joiner.

I have some readers whose support I treasure (you know who you are), but I would never presume to make them part of a team. I see them as individuals, each of whom are capable of making my day. With most teams, there's one or two who assume the role of Captain.

I'm so not into Captains.

Am I losing some sales? Maybe a couple. I don't really know.

What I do know is that I'm much more comfortable with a bit more of one-on-one. Yeah, I'm hopeful in time that will be more difficult to handle, but I don't see it ever going away. At least I hope not.

If you're familiar with Street Teams, what's been your experience?

(And, by the way, if you're looking for a series with a truly unique crook, Tim's Junior Bender series is perfect.)

It's all better with friends.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Wednesday Wisdom for Writers and Those Who Love Them

"Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia." —E.L. Doctorow

(And I promise to try and get these out earlier. Sheesh.)

It's all better with friends.

Monday, July 7, 2014


Have you ever wished you had the opportunity to browse ahead of time rather than download tons of books just because they're free and you don't want to miss something?

Now's your chance!


It's all better with friends.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Wednesday Wisdom (for Writers)

"We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master."—Ernest Hemingway

It's all better with friends.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Wolves & Writers

I have several writer friends who are experiencing stress for various reasons. They include:

  • fear of not getting another contract;
  • fear of not meeting deadlines;
  • fear of declining sales;
  • fear of not writing a book an agent or a publisher wants;
  • fear they'll be abandoned by their agent or publisher for the next big thing
  • fear they might have to go indie.

From my perspective, fear has replaced the one thing that matters:

  • love of what they're doing.

And from my perspective, most of the fear is tied to traditional publishing. 

Take a look at that list. Do you agree?

One writer I know is about to turn in another book. It's the last one he owes his publisher under his current contract. And then he's taking a break to reevaluate what he wants out of his career and out of his life.

This is the same writer who was screaming with angst because it had taken him over a year to get his second book out. He was worried he'd lose the readers who'd found him with his first book.

And he loved his readers.

What happened?

Again, this is what I see from the outside looking in (and my vision could be seriously distorted): 

  • Attention from either an agent or a publisher is an incredible affirmation of the work we've created and the value we have as an author. 
  • Affirmations are the things we say to ourselves to help us feel more confident and sure. Build up our egos.
  • If we're getting affirmations from a source outside of us, it can be difficult to truthfully analyze it for potentially negative consequences, especially if that source is something we began our careers dreaming about.

What's a writer to do?

  • Understand that fear-based decisions are never as good as love-based decisions. Not ever.
  • Focusing on those things you love will help you cut loose those things you fear. 

There's a Cherokee legend about two wolves. While the legend describes one of the wolves as evil or full of anger, I think substituting the word "fear" is equally appropriate. The other wolf is usually described as good, and I think substituting the word "love" works just fine.

"A fight is going on inside you," the old Cherokee said to his grandson.

"It's a terrible battle between two wolves. One is filled with fear. He is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, hate, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.

The other wolf is filled with love. He is joy, peace, hope, harmony, serenity, humility, kindness, awareness, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, faith, and light."

The grandfather continued, "The battle is relentless. It's to the death. And it's in you."

The young boy considered the words of his elder. "Grandfather,"  he asked, "which wolf will win?"

The old Cherokee looked his grandson in the eye and said, "The one you feed."

It's all better with friends.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

I'm at THAT Place and it SUCKS, sort of

When I talked with a writer friend earlier about my insecurity about where I am with this manuscript, her advice couldn't have been more clear... don't let on that writing a book isn't a natural flow of my creativity. In other words, pretend I come out of the starting gate with the book that gets published. First draft. I'm that good. 

Just smile.

That's not how I roll.

Writing a book, at least for me, is one of the most amazing processes ever. Mostly because I'm not that good. I struggle. I search. I regret. I chastise. I belittle. I get on my knees. 

I'm amazed at the words that came out of nowhere. Surely they didn't all come from me. The rotten ones? I remember writing those. They stunk then and they stink now. The brilliant ones? They surprise me as much as I hope they will ultimately surprise my readers.

The bad news? I feel like I'm floundering. There's a great thread (several, actually) that should weave this new story together perfectly. But as soon as I feel as if I have a grasp, they're teased away.  It's as if all of the planning and research I've done to get this point is a big pie in the face. Larry, Moe and Curly have nothing on me. I'm the butt-end of slapstick with the best of them. Or the worst of them. Or whatever.

The good news? This is my fourth (publishable) book. It's also the fourth time I've felt this way. Feeling like a fraud is part of what makes me close my eyes and trust the process. Move on. Push through. Let it happen.

Take a breath.

I trust that in the end, FLAME GAME will have an entertainment value that will resonate. In the meantime, I'll just keep writing. And then rewriting. And then rewriting some more.

It's what I do. 

In the meantime...

It's all better with friends.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Deadly Dilemma

An author I know is deathly tired of writing mysteries. She wants to write psychological suspense.

After having written a successful series with a character people have enjoyed, she has tried to express the fact that this last novel is the end. Readers however, are contacting her to say how much they loved the book and can't wait for her next one.

The next one.

As a writer, I know how she must feel. I've heard it before from bestselling authors—they're bored to tears with the character but the sales are too good for their publisher to allow them to move on. It's like being trapped in a once wonderful, but now terrible, marriage year after year after year.

As a reader, I would be terribly disappointed if a favorite character was abandoned by their author. But would I abandon the author? Probably not.

What about you?

It's all better with friends.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Ending a Series

Since I'm just in the throes of beginning a series (or two!) that's where my focus has been. It's exciting and I love the characters.

But what about ending one?

I'm about half-way through the last installment in a long-running and popular series. And right now I'm not very satisfied. There's a story there, I know there is, but there also seems to be a whole lot of backstory and that's troublesome. 

Is that the only way to wrap soemthing up?

If you've read a series through to the last, I'd love to hear from you. What made that last book work? What didn't?

It's all better with friends.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Research: Accelerant Detection Dogs

The story I'm working on now features an accelerant detection dog named Kaji.

Research is critical to crafting a believable story, and You Tube is one of the best places to find research that will provide some flavor, not just facts. Often, flavor is far better than information to keep the story moving forward at a good pace and not getting bogged down in what feels like a lesson.

While I do a lot of research, preliminarily and while I'm writing, it can get in the way of actually finishing the manuscript. At some point, I have to pull my nose out of Google or You Tube or a reference book and write.

When I'm done with the first round of edits (the ones I do on my own), I'll ask one or two professionals to check out particular scenes for authenticity. In the case of this manuscript I'll ask a firefighter and a handler for input.

It's all better with friends.

Monday, May 12, 2014

The Writing Process Blog Hop

I confess that had I been asked by just about anyone other than former CFC blogmate and thriller-writer, A.M. Khalifa, to participate in a Blog Hop I would likely have taken a pass. But A.M. is a friend, he's talented, and I want to stay connected with talented friends and readers. To find out what A.M. had to say in a brilliant way, you can check it out here.

Everyone's writing process is unique (mine is always getting tweaked), but even after only three books, I have found some things that work well for me. I hope those of you who are writers can find something useful, and that readers will find something interesting.

At the end of this (way too long) post, I'll be passing the baton to some other writers so they can share their madness. Their posts will air on May 17th, so be looking for them. Each of us are answering the same four questions. So without further ado... because this is easily the longest blog post I've ever written...

1. What am I working on?

I love this question because it let's me express how incredibly lucky I am to have readers who not only enjoy the stories I write but have grown to care about the characters as well. Because of them (the readers more so than the characters), I'm writing what will ultimately be the third book in the Aspen Falls series. This one is called Flame Game.

FG will bring back Jamie Taylor and her dogs with a wonderful new addition who shines in the spotlight. Kaji, Japanese for fire, is an accelerant detection dog. In Red Tide, Jamie and her sister Jax were almost killed in a fire. Yes it was one they set, but they didn't have much choice. Kaji is a natural addition to Jamie's four-legged brood. We'll also get to know Terri Johnson a little more. Terri is a detective who, in The Missings, adopted the daughter of a woman who was a victim of domestic violence.

Although I don't write romantic suspense, relationships will always play a role in my books because they play a role in our lives. In FG, the pairings that showed some promise in my first two books are continued, and there might be a new one in the offing. Just sayin'.

And since I have your attention, my fourth book, The Sacrifice, will also be turned into a series thanks to reader interest. The Sacrifice was a finalist for an award from Colorado Authors' League and is also a finalist for the Colorado Book Awards. Both acknowledgments provided affirmation that fed my own fire. I'm hoping to put some of my international travel to good use in the next installments, 'cause Mex Anderson is just that kind of guy.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

As a thriller writer who happens to be a woman my books are going to automatically differ from the norm. My female characters might be flawed, but they're strong.

And while the plot is critical, the connection to the people I toss into the plot is as important.

Another thing I try to do with each book is to expose a relevant social issue. For example, in The Missings, topics include illegal immigration and organ donation. In The Sacrifice, I attempt to take depression out of the closet and highlight its manageability. All while still providing an entertaining escape for my readers.

3. Why do I write what I do?

In a much earlier incarnation, The Missings was women's fiction as opposed to a thriller. Say what? Yep. I was about to submit it to a contest when it occurred to me that I might actually win. And if I did I might be stuck writing women's fiction. Not that there's anything wrong with women's fiction. I love Anne Rivers Siddon and Maeve Binchy and many others. But writing it? Again and again? It would have been wrong for me.

The night I made the decision to not submit my manuscript and to rewrite it as crime fiction was one of the best night's sleep I'd had in months.

4. How does my writing process work?

For the longest time I thought I was obviously wrong. I'm not the kind of writer who can sit down at my computer and create a great story with no planning. And I'm not the kind of writer who can keep things fresh while working from a detailed outline. It might be fresh for the reader but it certainly wouldn't be fresh for me. I sort of think that in the end, stale will tell.

Here's what works for me at this moment (and remember, if you quote me, date me... things change):

SOC for Flame Game 
This is my favorite part: Ideas come constantly. The trick is to figure out which ideas are big enough for an entire book and which are best suited for short stories. Or a blog post. So I need to kick ideas around for a bit. If one sets its hooks in my head and I can feel a book in its bones, I sit down and write a free-form stream-of-consciousness blowout. I type (or write longhand) like a madwoman. I'll ask questions and answer them. I'll pose a possibility and veto it then move on to something else. It's the messiest bunch of seemingly disjointed thoughts you'd ever want to see. And believe me, you probably wouldn't. But for me, it confirms that the idea will stretch and hold.

This is my favorite part: From my SOC document (Stream of Consciousness) I'll get a ton of stuff I need to research. The cool thing about research is that it often leads to new plot ideas. And I learn so much! From just the few books I've written, I've learned about human remains detection dogs and how they search; about a special algae and drones; about organ donation and depression and prisons. And now I'm learning more about fire and accelerant detection dogs. How cool (or hot) is that?

Scene List for Flame Game
This is my favorite part: Developing a Scene List. A fluid and incredibly delicious roadmap. I know I want to get from one plot point to another but I'm not exactly sure how I'm going to get there and I'm completely open to taking a side road. When I sit down to put flesh on those scenes and bring them to life is when the magic happens. Sometime I just sit back and become a recorder of events. Those are the days when writing is especially invigorating.

Timeline for Flame Game
This is my favorite part: After I finish the first draft, I read and revise and rewrite and delete and buildup and add and well... really write the book. I do my best to check for flow and timelines and bumps and holes. If I don't completely hate the story after hammering and cutting and stretching and barfing occasionally, I know it holds promise. I'm not at this stage for Flame Game, but I've learned one of the things that always trips me up is my timeline. And I'm visual. So the windows by my desk get converted. By the end of the first draft it will look like a weird stained-glass sticky-not window.

This is my favorite part: I send the manuscript out to beta readers for their input. My beta readers are like a critique group on steroids. They help me push my story to the next level.

And then truly, this is my very favorite part: I hire a fabulous editor who can easily catch my vision. Who pushes and prods and questions and hardly ever gives me a high-five. Who, in the end, is as much responsible for the success of my book as I am.

Oh, wait... another favorite part: Working with a talented cover designer to come up with a cover that reflects the story with a quick pass of an eye.

Can you tell I love what I do? And I'm so grateful to the readers who make it possible. You're as much a part of the writing process as anything!

NEXT WEEK, look for some more fun and secrets from Michael Sherer and Leslie Budewitz on their blogs. You won't be disappointed!
Michael W. Sherer is the author of Night Tide and soon-to-be-released Night Drop. The first book in the Seattle-based Blake Sanders series, Night Blind, was nominated for an ITW Thriller Award in 2013. His other books include the award-winning Emerson Ward mystery series, the stand-alone suspense novel, Island Life, and the Tess Barrett YA thriller series. He and his family now reside in the Seattle area.

Please visit him at or you can follow him on Facebook at and on Twitter @MysteryNovelist.

Leslie Budewitz is the bestselling author of the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries, featuring Erin Murphy, manager of a local foods market in Jewel Bay, Montana. Death al Dente, first in the series, won the 2013 Agatha Award for Best First Novel. In Crime Rib, a hot new TV show comes to town to film the annual steak grill-off. When a contestant is killed, Erin must investigate to keep the town’s reputation from going up in smoke. (Out July 1---available for preorder now.)

Visit her at

It's all better with friends.