Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Getting it Together

I was doing so well at blogging on a schedule ... and then the holidays hit and then a cold or the flu or a wicked combination of both hit, and here I am, dragging myself back into the land of the living and trying to get back onto some kind of schedule...again.

I don't know how it is for you, but for me it's a never-ending battle. There's always much more to do in the space of 24 hours than one mere mortal can possibly get done. That being the case, the days become a juggling act for as long as a person can manage to keep all the balls in the air.

Eventually, though, luck runs out and we're forced to make choices, and much as I hate to admit it, that's where I am right now. Do I keep four different blogs running (and I use that term loosely) or do I give up on a couple and concentrate on the other two? Do I give time and attention on a daily basis to the books I wrote under a pseudonym a few years ago--books I still love, by the way--or do I focus on the books form my backlist that I'm releasing again in Kindle format?

I'd love to do it all. Really, I would. In my dream world, I would get all of the Dancing on Coals workshops for writers revised and published in Kindle format, and I'd even produce a few new workshops on subjects I hadn't tackled when I stopped actively conducting workshops every month.

I'd lavish attention on Candy Shop mysteries I wrote as Sammi Carter and I'd tweet and be active as Sammi on Facebook. In my spare time, I'd judge lots and lots of writing contests, while still having time to exercise and eat right and spend time with my family.

It's just not possible.

Still, it's hard to turn your back on a pen name that was a huge part of your life for several years and to let books you would love to see doing well languish instead. But either I give time and attention to the old books--at the expense of new books I could be writing--or I let the older ones find their own way while I nurture new books into the world.

After reading the six books in the Fred Vickery series again to get them ready for Kindle release, I realized why readers are still, all these years later, asking me for more books in the series. I agree with them: I can't leave the characters that way. And there's my current WIP, a book I'm calling by the working title Dead on Arrival that's been nagging at me since 2008.

And there are big books, contemporary and historical and maybe even a few more time travels, and that Christmas romance that's been niggling at the back of my brain for the past few months. And the novellas I'd like to have ready to give away to readers next holiday season ...

And there are blogs to write and social media to visit, and covers to design and approve and ...

I'm not complaining. We're all way too busy. This is just my particular brand of busy, and honestly, I wouldn't trade it for anything--except maybe unlimited leisure time to spend with the grandkids. I mean, a woman can dream, can't she?

photo credit: Tu tires ou tu pointes ? via photopin (license)

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Day 3 - Your Favorite Series

I started doing a 30-Day Book Meme on Sammi Carter's blog a couple of weeks ago. It's not actually a 30-Day meme with me. More like a 30-ish-week meme. Because I'm easily distracted, and something else may come up that I'd rather talk about, or should talk about ... or whatever.

In case you're interested, you can find Day One here.

And you can find Day Two here.

Today's prompt--or should I say this week's prompt--is to discuss my favorite series.

Naturally, I have more than one series that could fit here and, naturally, it's a bit of a chore to figure out which one I should rate as #1.

There's the fabulous Amelia Peabody series by Elizabeth Peters. I haven't read all of the books in the series, but I've enjoyed every one that I have read. Amelia is a delightfully unreliable narrator and I love her view of the world, her family, and especially of herself.

There's the Candy Shop Mystery series by Sammi Carter and the Piece of Cake Mystery series by Jacklyn Brady, not to mention the Fred Vickery Mystery series by yours truly. Some might argue that I'm a bit prejudiced and it would be true. I am. But I love each of these series and every character in them, so I include them here.

How could I list any series without including Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple books? Though not series as we think of them now, they remain among my favorites and probably always will. Of the two sleuths, I think I prefer Miss Marple--at least I did when I was younger. I need to read them again to find out if my perspective has changed.

I could go on and on, but I suppose I should get down to the nitty-gritty of it and just deal with the issue at hand. If I had to pick one series and label is my favorite today, it would be he Ruth Galloway series by Elly Griffiths.

Ruth is an interesting protagonist--a normal sort of woman who carries a few extra pounds and who doesn't always do everything exactly right, which is why I relate to her. She has self-doubt that rings true to me, as opposed to the made up kind of self-doubt you find in so many books. The character needs a flaw and the author provides one, but it never really rings entirely true. Ruth is a forensic archaeologist who is frequently consulted by the police on cases. Her relationship with DCI Harry Nelson and his wife is interesting and, again, truthful. Griffiths' writing is clean and precise and evocative and it transports me into Ruth's world with every single book.

I stumbled across the series at the library one day and began with the 5th book in the series, A Dying Fall. I enjoyed it so much I went back to the beginning and read them all, reading #5 again when I got to it in order. Though the book stood alone beautifully, when I read it as part of the series, I enjoyed the story all over again with my new understanding of the series and the characters.

I'm eagerly awaiting the next installment!

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Oh, the Places I Want to Go

I love to travel. Love, love, love to travel. I love going new places, seeing new things, learning new history, and eating new food. New to me, anyway. When I was younger, I read about James A. Michener and how he researched an area before he wrote about it. His books Centennial and Chesapeake are two of my favorite books ever, and I wanted to be just like him when I grew up. 

So when I read that he would move to a location and live there for two or three years, getting to know the area, getting to know the people, the climate, understanding the weather and the culture, I thought how amazing that would be. That's what I wanted to do too! 

I wanted to live for a little while in a small town on the coast of Maine and spend another few years on the west coast in Oregon. I wanted to live in California and Vermont and maybe even travel to places more exotic. Of course, I didn't factor in money or how much I might miss my family. I just knew I wanted the experience. 

I've been lucky in my lifetime so far. I've traveled more than I probably should have been able to, but there are still places on my list that I long to see someday. I was looking up pictures for another project earlier and came across a few shots that stirred up that old longing. So today, in no particular order, I give you five places I want to visit. 

1.  Philadelphia, PA for all the obvious reasons. Or maybe they're just obvious to me. I am a history buff, and my favorite time period is probably the American Revolution. One of my dreams is to someday write the great American novel set around the time of the Revolutionary War. One of my favorite books in the world is John Adams by David McCullough, I've had the good fortune to visit Boston and Braintree and Quincy, MA, and I've paid a few short visits to Washington, D.C. (although I still haven't been able to see anything there.) but Philadelphia has so far eluded me. 

2.  Italy. Rome. Wherever.  I don't care what part of Italy I get to first, I'd just like to go. I have no particular reason for wanting to go, I just do. Okay, there's the obvious historical reason to want to visit, and it seems like the kind of place someone who loves to travel ought to go. It's the site of all the interesting stuff that happened during the Holy Roman Empire, the site of amazing architecture, art, and music. And wasn't Much Ado About Nothing filmed in Italy? Who wouldn't want to go there? 

3.  Hawaii.  I've never been. I think I ought to go, although, admittedly, after living in Florida for the past six years, it seems slightly less exotic than it used to. But it's still on my list and will undoubtedly remain there. I've read a few books set there and those add to the mystique. And, of course, there have been movies, but honestly, I think the appeal of almost anyplace I'd like to visit comes from a book. 

4.  France. Again, no particular reason, but it's France. Paris. The south of France. I read and loved A Year in Provence and ever since then I've wanted to ... you know ... spend a year or two in Provence. Then, of course, there's The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers and there's the food. I mean, I hear it's amazing. I'd like to find out for myself. And because having spent a long time working on my family's genealogy, I've learned that I'm related to various Kings Louis and Charlemagne, so it would be nice to visit the land of my people (as my granddaughter says.) 

5.  The Holy Land. Again, the land of my people -- which is pretty much true of everyone, right? It's the land of the descendants of Abraham (both branches of the family) and claimed by Christians, as well. So much interesting history has happened here -- and continues to happen. I'd love to see it some day. I'd love to visit the temple for which the Psalms of Ascension were written, to see the Mount of Olives, the Tower of David, and the Garden of Gethsemane. 

I'd love to stand on the Temple Mount and walk along the shores of the Red Sea. I'd just like to see it all, breathe it in, and gain a better understanding of the divisions that have existed between people for so many centuries. 

My wish list is much too long to share the whole thing, but these are the top five on my list. Do you have one? Where in the world would you like to go? 

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Think Happy Thoughts

It's been a rough few days with emotions running high. Nothing huge. Nothing major. Just a few of those days run together. They haven't been all my days, either. But you know how it is when someone you love is having one of those days. It kind of becomes your day, too.

I had planned to blog today about something I encountered online yesterday that bugged me, but as my youngest daughter was hanging up from an early morning phone call, during which we had been discussing her no good, horrible, very bad day (before the day even really got started) she issued a challenge to me to blog about something happy.

Well, clearly, venting about my new pet peeve didn't qualify, but having had a few of those days in a row, I wasn't sure where to find something happy.

And then a favorite quote from The Tao of Pooh ran through my head, and I set out on a search to find it to make sure I got it right (because clicking around on the Internet is infinitely easier than searching through all of my bookshelves to find my copy of that tiny book.)

Of course, any time I delve into the mind of A.A. Milne, I'm fascinated and charmed and I very quickly find myself smiling. Even though it took forever to find my favorite quote (it doesn't happen to be everyone's favorite, I guess) I found some other charming quotes along the way.

This one, for example. Because if you can get past the personal frustration of being disorganized, which can frequently lead you to think you're not only having a very bad day, but you're destined to always have bad days because you just can't get it together, you might just realize that being disorganized can lead to having surprising discoveries ...

Like that purse you completely forgot you owned, or a favorite shirt found at the bottom of a pile of dirty laundry, or change you left in the pocket of a pair of jeans. Really, the discoveries never end.

Okay, some of the discoveries aren't all that great, but some are. That's the important thing.

Or this one, which is my second favorite quote from A.A. Milne because it's one I so desperately need to remember. A life spent as a single mother working all the time and always feeling as if I was sprinting from one forgotten thing to another (or one thing I couldn't quite get myself to on time because of my day job), there were times when I really needed to just take a deep breath and remember that rivers are incredibly wise.

There is no hurry. We shall get there some day.

There's some real wisdom in this quote. Because, seriously, in this day and age, when it seems that everybody is busy talking at each other and very few people are actually talking to each other, it helps to remember that the other guy probably has a small piece of fluff in his ear.

In reality, that piece of fluff is probably a life just as disorganized as yours, and he's probably just as worried about what he's late for or who he's disappointing as you are.

It won't hurt to (again) take a breath and work up a little patience. I think most people would happily remove the fluff from their ears if we stopped getting irritated with them for having fluff in the first place.

I wish I had a nickle for every time in my life I've been caught up in worrying that a tree might fall down when I was underneath. I would be a rich woman, indeed.

It has taken a lot of time and energy and mental focus to occasionally suppose as Pooh does. Supposing it didn't!

It's good to anticipate problems to some degree, but it's not good to get stuck in an endless loop of problem anticipating. Yeah, today's tough, but supposing it gets better? And even if it doesn't supposing tomorrow is a great day? What then?

I think, like Piglet, I'm comforted by this.

And finally, my favorite quote:

Aren't you glad you stuck with me? Is that great, or what? The thing I've realized over the years is that, if I walk out the door feeling pretty sure than an Adventure is going to happen, one usually does.

Maybe it will be a happy Adventure, and maybe it won't, but Adventures almost always happen to those who are Ready for Anything.

So brush the honey off your nose and spruce yourself up as best you can. I hope your Adventure is wonderful and fluff-free!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Fred's Back -- No Place for Tears

I'm really excited to announce that No Place for Tears is now available for your Kindle. It's also free to read on Kindle Unlimited. 

This is Fred Vickery's fourth adventure in murder and mayhem, and one of my favorites. They always say that writers should write what they know -- and in this case, I certainly did. 

Eddie Leishman is a local musician and, in Fred's mind, a local loser. Eddie has taken up with Sharon Bolinger, daughter of Fred's old friend, Doc Huggins. Trouble is, Eddie already has a wife. Everybody knows that Doc hates Eddie, and most folks believe he has good reason to feel the way he does. But when Eddie turns up dead after receiving treatment at Doc's hands, the tide of public opinion begins to turn against the old goat.

Doc might be a constant pain in Fred's neck, but soon Doc's back is against the wall and Fred can't ignore his old friend's troubles. 

One of the fun things about being an author is being able to get justice with the stroke of a pen or the pressing of a few keys on the computer. I wrote No Place for Tears when my own dad was still alive. Dad always knew that he and Fred shared a few personality traits but he never did see himself in Doc's character in this book. Even so, it did us both good to give the fictional Eddie an untimely end since real "Eddie" (not his real name) was very much on the loose and busy ruining the lives of women with reckless abandon. 

I hope you enjoy Fred's most recent adventure! 

Monday, November 16, 2015

Book of the Week - 11/16/15

Two pieces of news this week. We have a new Book of the Week and No Place for Tears, the 4th book in the Fred Vickery mystery series is coming to your Kindle. More about Fred tomorrow. Today, it's 

Book of the Week 

Let's start with this week's featured book from my back list. The Children's Cop is part of the Women in Blue series published by Harlequin Superromance in 2004. The series tells the stories of six female police officers who became friends while in the police academy and features books by some of the romance world's favorite authors: Kay David, Roz Denny Fox, K.N. Casper, Linda Style and Anna Adams. The Chidren's Cop is second in the series.  

The lovely thing is that thanks to digital publishing, the whole series is available in e-book format. You can find them all here: 

The Partner by Kay David 
The Children's Cop by Sherry Lewis
The Witness by Linda Style
Her Little Secret by Anna Adams
She Walks the Line by Roz Denny Fox
A Mother's Vow by KN Casper 

You can read an excerpt from The Children's Cop by clicking here

I had a great time writing this book and working with five other talented and accomplished authors to come up with a cohesive plot line that would allow each book to work with the other books in the series, but also to stand on its own. 


Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Sharing a Couple of Things Today

The week has definitely gotten away from me, so today's blog post is going to be a quick one. 

First, I want to share the news that, due to popular demand, we're revving up the publication schedule for my back list and all the Dancing on Coals workshops, We'll be doing one workshop and one work of fiction every month until all the workshops and the books on my back list I can re-release are available. 

To that end, one of my most popular workshops is now available on Kindle. 

Why, Why, Why? Mastering Character Motivation is a writing craft workshop focused on helping you create strong, realistic motivation for the characters in your novels.

Motivation is one of the key elements of any novel. Strong, believable motivation can drive your story from page one to the final scene, while weak or unrealistic motivation can be the kiss of death. In this workshop, we discuss how to avoid clich├ęd and contrived motivations and how to build on your basic characterization to create characters that actively push your story forward. We also tackle that dreaded nemesis of so many writers—author intrusion. 

This is a great follow-up to Creating Characters with Character, our workshop on characterization, but can also stand alone, especially if you've already some preliminary work with your characters. This workshop has been presented in part at various writer’s conferences, including Romance Writers of America annual conference in Washington, D.C. (2009) and an excerpt from it was published as an article in RWA’s trade journal, Romance Writers Report.

I haven't decided which workshop will come next. I'm trying to decide between Plotting the Organic Way, Avoiding Author Intrusion, and Dodging the Dreaded Saggy Middle.  I'm going to be conducting a poll on the Dancing on Coals Facebook page on Friday, so please stop by and offer your opinion. 

Also, for those new here, I'm featuring one book every week from my back list of books still available for purchase. This week's Book of the Week is: 

Picture Perfect 
(originally published as Call Me Mom)  

You can read an excerpt here and also find buying information if you'd like to pick up a copy. 

I think that's it for today. Hope everyone has a fabulous week!