Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Shell Keeper/Quote Outtakes: Chapter Nine

The signs that presage growth, so similar, it seems to me, to those in early adolescence: discontent, restlessness, doubt, despair, longing, are interpreted falsely as signs of decay.
Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh

This chapter starts with Claire dealing with, Madison, her client's mischievous child. After a long day of showing homes to buyers who can't make up their minds, they've finally decided on a house. That evening Claire is processing paperwork and polishing off the late night coffee and snack she snagged on the way home at Gwen's bakery. 

The reader is starting to see the toll that Claire's life choices have made on her heart, mind and body. We experience Claire's inner struggle between protecting herself from the bad and ugly of life and the temptation to open up to the good. 

Claire has lived a successful life by the world's standards, but by the standards set forth in Ms. Lindbergh's quote, she's clearly on the cusp of growth...if she can only get over her past...

(Yep...I took the picture and that's Penny snuggled up in the chair, peeking over the top of the page!)

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Sneak Peek at Sequel to The Shell Keeper!

Hi to all! Yes, I'm hard at work on the sequel to my first book, The Shell Keeper! Sorry, no title yet-these things are harder than you'd think! But the story picks up a few months after the end of the first book, and my gals, though they are no longer all in one place, are still great friends and helping each other through some sometime daunting, sometimes humorous challenges!

I know I'm always anxious to read the next book in any series, and even more so when I know it's still in production! But I wanted to give everyone a little sneak without further ado, here's the very first scene....

If she closed her eyes, just let go, and didn’t over-think it, Claire could almost imagine she was lying beside a tropical waterfall, its warm waters splashing nearby. In the distance unknown birds called from the tops of what she imagined were palm trees swaying in the gentle trade winds. She could even smell the hyacinth. Yes, if she closed her eyes, she could almost imagine....

“Breathe deep, ladies,” a woman’s voice whispered, “feel prana flow through you, cleansing tension and bringing clarity.”

Clarity? Claire thought to herself. Jesus, she could use clarity. In fact, wasn’t that why the hell she was here, she wondered? Hadn’t she been working on deep-sixing the tension and finding friggin’ clarity for the last four months?

“Breathe out negative chi. Release all cares, all thoughts,” the woman continued, in a calm, soothing voice.

Maybe she’d get an iced chai tea afterward, she thought, and then realized she wasn’t supposed to be thinking. “Shut-Up,” she said to herself.

“Claire?” the woman’s voice asked.

“Sorry, talking to myself.”

“Good to know,” she said softly. “Well, ladies, I think we’ve come to the end of today’s class.”

The tropical forest and all its delights suddenly ended. Gone was the waterfall, the birds, the breeze in the palms. Claire opened her eyes and saw Calysta, the yoga teacher, tucking her IPod into a backpack and blowing out the candles; so long, hyacinths.

After a few minutes of stretches to get the circulation back into her now uncrossed legs, Claire rolled up her lime green yoga matt, tucked it into her brightly colored Vera Bradley tote, pulled a lightweight saffron-shaded Patagonia hoodie over her head, flipped free her ponytail, pushing back an errant strand of black hair from her face, and stood, looking at herself in the wall mirror.

Not long ago her thick, dark hair would have hung in an easy, professionally styled wave that grazed the shoulders of a neatly tailored, black DKNY suit. Her fair complexion and dark eyes would have been expertly enhanced with the aide of Mac and Bobbi Brown. An Hermes scarf would have draped elegantly at her neck, a black leather briefcase holding her laptop in one hand, a coach handbag over her shoulder.

“Who the hell are you?” she asked herself.

“What, Claire?” asked another woman, packing up beside her.

“Nothing, sorry, talking to myself again.” Since when do I talk to myself? she thought. She walked out the front door to the yoga studio and stood, looking up at the Bookcliffs of Mt. Garfield’s mesa facade, towering over the Grande River valley, home to Colorado’s wine industry. “Since you moved here,” she whispered to herself.

(photo courtesy

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Feeling the Loss of a Friend...

James Horner wrote a wonderful piece for The Field of Dreams called The Place Where Dreams Come True. I love that movie. The music always reminds me of life’s great possibilities and that there is something or someone greater at play in the universe. It’s one of those things I turn to when I need to be reminded that there’s a bigger purpose out there…whether I know what it is or not.

Time and events take and give from the cavernous spaces of the heart that hold our dearest memories. But they can’t rob you of the best of them and a gentleman named Mick will always hold one of those spaces for me. 

Mick was my friend, though I never had the delight to meet him in person. We met as writers on one website and eventually became friends on Facebook. Foolish people say the friendships you make on Facebook aren’t real, but who are they to define friendship. My apologies to those who might think me presumptuous writing about someone I knew so little. I'm sure there's much about him I never knew, still what I did know mattered to me. When I heard last week that he had died I was shocked…and so truly sad, for myself and also for those who loved him. 

I’d always expected to meet him in person one day. We have mutual friends.  My heart broke, knowing I’d never have that pleasure; never see another one of his silly conversations with squirrels he met in the trees he worked on, never another wise comment or response, never read another one of his insightful and often touching columns or see one of his incredible landscape photos again; never another one, never the next thing.

That’s what the end is like for those of us on this side. We are left to treasure what’s left behind and, from my perspective, my friend left a great deal. He wrote with a spare and often elegant prose about a life lived fully. He roamed the open spaces of the Palmer divide with his camera and dog and took such lovely photos I hoped one day he’d make it possible for us to hang them in our homes.

He built his own home from logs. He climbed the tallest trees-and killed them.  He biked across the country and stopped along the way, recording his adventures in a blog that was funny and perceptive. He saw the things many of us pass by without notice. Mick noticed and he told us what he saw and how it affected him. He had his demons, from too many beers to too many squirrels, but it was clear he had humor and love, and family and friends that added great joy and value to his life.

Today I’m feeling the loss of a friend. I’m listening to Mr. Horner’s music and thinking of what dreams are coming true on the other side for Mick. Maybe I’ll get to meet him there, one day. For now, the Lord got the better of the deal. are dearly missed, my friend. 

(Photo by Michael 'Mick' Rule)

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Shell Keeper/Quote Outtakes: Chapter 8

Woman must come of age by herself. This is the essence of "coming of age"--to learn how to stand alone.
Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh 

Del is sitting in her car in the local ShopCo parking lot. Think of it like Costco. She's working up the nerve to go inside and apply for a job, but when she finally does, every step of the process leaves her more confused and flustered than the last. I have to admit I laughed as I wrote this one...poor Del, she's in it up to her neck, but she keeps going. I'm proud of her!

Finally she takes her job application over to the food area, gets a diet coke and tries to be the most inconspicuous job applicant in history! Unfortunately for her, Gwen see her on her way out from her meeting in the previous chapter and, in the end, it's a good thing she does. Gwen's advice turns the path Del is on and points her in a direction that really will be a part of her positive life changing experience.

The chapter ends with one of my very most favorite scenes. Del stops for cigarettes-her new naughty habit!-and ends up with a lottery ticket and condoms too!! 

One of the reasons I love this chapter is that Del is so brave. Every single step of the way she is operating outside her comfort level, but she operates all the same! Not every choice ends up being the best or even that one that she'd prefer. But she knows she must make a choice and so she does. 

In life, no matter how many friends and family we have, ultimately we must make our own choices, by  ourselves.

(ps... Go Broncos!)

Monday, October 22, 2012

Short and Sweet Review: Open Season by CJ Box

This book is the first in Box's Joe Pickett series. Joe is a Game Warden in Wyoming and he's underpaid, under appreciated, living in a house he doesn't own with his devoted pregnant wife and two little girls. And a dog (who I personally felt needed more character development...but I'm a dog person).

Joe's the right guy for this job-aside from the pay and lack of appreciation he really loves what he does. Unfortunately, the bad guys don't. They are worried that Joe will discover their little secret and blow the possibility of BIG money pouring into the area and their pockets.

I'm not giving away anything here by telling you the secret involves an endangered species-every section starts with a part of the Endangered Species Act. The reader knows what's going on-up to a point-before Joe does, but once he starts figuring it out we are rooting for him before the bad guys get him-or his adorable family!

Downsides? They are there but I chalk them up to this having been Box's first book. I'm hoping others in the series will have benefited from an editor's gentle but firm touch. The segments from the Endangered Species Act are kinda long and I'm thinking many readers brush past the legalize to get on to the story. I'd have shortened those to just the most salient points.

A lot of time is spent early on setting the scene...sometime more than is necessary, and Box has a tendency to over explore Joe's inner turmoils... occasionally repeating points previously made. As a result, the book starts off a little slow-but don't let that stop you. Once the author gets rolling it's a great ride with classic overtones of Honest Cop vs. The System.

I'm betting by the time you come to the end you'll be looking forward to reading  #2 in the series. I know I am.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Shell Keeper/Quote Outtakes: Chapter 7

I mean to lead a simple life, to chose a simple shell I can carry easily--like a hermit crab. But I do not. I find the my frame of life does not foster simplicity. 

Gwen meets with her friend Terrie, the manager of the Green Valley ShopCO (think Costco or Sams Club). Gwen's finance's have led her to seek out someone who can help her pinch a few pennies on supplies for her bakery and Terrie is just the person.

During their meeting we learn a couple of interesting things. The first is that Gwen's reputation as 'nice' was well earned and follows her still. That nice side earned her a personal debt as far as Terrie is concerned, and now Terrie is happy to help Gwen collect it.

We also discover that Terrie has a little inside skinny on Del's ex-husband. It turns out his reputation for fooling around on the side of his marriage may also have been well earned. As a result, Gwen takes Del's claims, and her situation a little more seriously...which will benefit Del in the next chapter!

I felt this quote reminds the reader that even though most of us wish we could live simpler lives, as so often is the case, life is complicated. 

Friday, October 5, 2012

Short and Sweet Review: Fool Me Twice by Robert B. Parker...sorta

Just as with the sad demise of Dick Francis, I grieved not only the loss of a great literary talent,  Robert B. Parker, but the loss of the stories he might have written. But also, as with Dick Francis, someone came along to pick up the gauntlet and carry on. And I'm thrilled he did!

Over the years I've read just about every Spenser novel Parker produced-and that's a considerable amount! Oh yes, that includes those oldies but goodies with bell bottoms and afros! But Spenser, Hawk and Susan are memorable characters and I hope to read the newest installment, The Ranger, written by Ace Atkins, very soon.

First, however, I dove into Michael Brandman's latest take on Parker's Jesse Stone series. Now, to be honest, this is not a series I'd ever read. I'd only seen it on TV via the movies with Tom Selleck. But Selleck co-produced those with Brandman, who also wrote several of the screenplays. It only figured that he'd be the guy to pick up where Parker left off.

A little research has led me to believe that the time lines in the books vs. the movies differ, and I'm finding it odd that Jesse has a cat in the book and a Golden Retriever in the movies. He never seemed like a cat guy to me, though I wished he'd petted that dog more often!

So, let's cut to the chase-did I enjoy Fool Me Twice? A resounding YES! Did Brandman channel Parker well? Pretty close...though I agree with some reviewers that his version is a little more on the soft side, but he's got the staccato dialogue down!

The plot is actually three stories that don't really interconnect, but that's okay. Jesse is the Chief of Police in the small Massachusetts town of Paradise and, as such, it makes sense he's juggling more than one case. So the reader, along with Jesse, tracks the killer of an actress who was starring in a locally filmed Hollywood production, while sorting out fraud at the local water department, while taking a personal interest that intervenes in the wayward path a young local girl's life has taken. All local, all in Chief Stone's sights, and all undertaken in the way only Parker-and now Brandman can write it.

Pretty well done, after all. I still grieve the loss of the master of this sub-genre, but the apprentice lives.

(photo courtesy of Amazon)

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Shell Keeper/Quote Outtakes: Chapter 6

In a growing relationship...the original essence is not lost but merely buried under the impedimenta of life.

In chapter 6 the reader gets to know Gwen a little better. For me, she is the center of this book. Everything comes together around Gwen and spirals out, like a shell, from her. (fyi, the next book centers on Claire-who will definitely be a fish out of water in Colorado's wine country!)

Gwen's back-story involves a divorce followed by starting over, with her son, Jeff, in her Blue River bakery. Jeff has left for college and Gwen is struggling with empty nesting, among other things. 

The one thing she doesn't struggle with is her relationship with her husband, Andy; clearly these two are a good match. But we also learn a little more about the impending strike, and the pressures and choices both Gwen and Andy are facing. 

And I can't forget Cammi, a local college student who works part time at Gwen's bakery. Cammi's priorities don't always include arriving for work on time, but she's a good soul. Her ongoing efforts to learn Spanish bring mixed and sometimes silly results. Claire even questions just what kind of class she's taking!

By the end of this chapter the reader understands how accurately Anne's quote defines it. Gwen and Andy have a good relationship, but it's clear their plates are very full of the impedimenta of life.

Friday, September 28, 2012

The Shell Keeper/Quote Outtakes: Chapters 4 & 5

I'm including chapter 4 for those of you who are following along with this series. I don't want you to think I've skipped a chapter, but chapter 4 has and never had a quote. It's a short and sweet chapter of the diary entries from Gwen, Del and Claire.

This chapter fleshes out each of my characters a little bit more, and in their own words. They don't need a quote from Anne to define where they stand--these gals can friggin' do that just fine for themselves, thank you very much! (channeling Claire there a bit!)

That brings us to chapter 5...

When the noise stops there is no inner music to take its place. We must re-learn to be alone. 
Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh

I loved this quote and it is so dearly perfect for chapter 5. It is the first night that Del's children are spending at their father's home. The first night Del is home alone after her divorce. Even her beloved little miniature poodle, Sandy, has gone with them. Del is alone, truly abandoned in her own space and she's not sure how she feels about that.

As Del wanders around her home and her thoughts she is re-learning to be alone. We travel with her and learn about her children and Micky, her soon-to-be Ex. We discover how Del learned of her husbands infidelity and we see how she's handling the fall-out.

This was one of my favorite chapters to write. There is so much going on on the inside of Del that's masked by the naivete and insecurities of the outside. Del ends this chapter smoking one of her son's smuggled Camels, on her kids' swing-set, swaying in the cold mountain air beneath a deep black sky littered with stars. The reader has gone from wanting to comfort her to mentally cheering You Go Girl! A night that started with emptiness is now filling with promise, and Del is getting back the courage to dream big.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Short and Sweet Review: The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty

Years ago I read the biography of Louise Brooks, a fiesty young woman from Kansas, who lived in the early years of the last century. Louise pushed the boundaries of her day-she was politically inappropriate, and just flat out inappropriate in pretty much every way that could be unacceptable to the times she grew up in. In fact, her behavior wouldn't be so acceptable these days, either. She was damaged, and a user of people in her quest for personal gratification and success. So of course, she went to Hollywood.

The early years in the movie business, before talkies and before the censors really came to power, someone like Louise was tailor made for success. And ultimately, failure. It wasn't that she wasn't talented enough to make it, talkies and all, it was that she was born to rebel...and drink. It's a bad combination in any line of work, Hollywood just gave you the chance to do it in a big way.

So when I read the concept of Ms. Moriarty's book, The Chaperone, I was intrigued. Cora Calisle was a very traditional woman tasked with chaperoning 15 year-old Louise for a summer in New York City as she pursued her dreams with a dance troupe, hoping to never return to Kansas again.

It's been a while since I read that biography, so I can't say for certain how accurate the details of Louise's life may be (I'll assume the author did her homework and aimed for accuracy...for the most part). That's fine, I'm here for the fiction as well, and the story of our chaperone, Cora, as well.

Seemingly uptight Cora has some still water running deep along with a hidden past she's come to New York City to unearth. But she can't help worrying about Louise's virginity-though it's fairly clear to the reader that that's probably a done deal by the time Louise hits the big city.

Along the way we learn some sad truths about Cora's life, as well as Louise's. We find sympathy for both and wish them both well...though we rightly worry that Louise is a ball of fire blazing brightly on the path to burning up. Cora's life, however, takes some extremely surprising turns! I have to hand it to Ms. Moriarty for throwing some totally unexpected plot developments my way.

But the title of our book is The Chaperone, and about half way through I started to think that the chaperoning aspect-and the Louise storyline-were just a gimmick to bring in readers. In the end, Louise moves on and we spend the rest of the book following the results and continuing story arc for Cora, with only occassional glimpses of Louise's life.

At one point Cora finds an opportunity to guide Louise back onto a path that could hold happiness for her if she plays her cards right. Of course, Louise doesn't like to play by the rules of anyone's game but her own, so you know that's not likely to end up well. And the author can't rewrite history with this historical character-it's not a what-if kind of tale.

In the end the story is, of course, about Cora, the chaperone. That title leads you to believe that's the focus of the story-Cora's opportunities, seized or blown-to make a difference in her young charge's life. But it's not. The chaperone part is just a set up to tell you Cora's story-from beginning to end, and Louise is the collateral damage used to bring in readers.

Ms. Moriarty deserves props for creating a life with lots of surprises. We find out that Cora can be, in her own very private way, equally outrageous as Louise in the eyes of her contemporaries-were they to ever find out. But the title and the concept of the book are misleading. I felt a little cheated in the end. I felt that, as chaperon, Cora dropped the ball in many opportunities to make a difference-or at least find a closer connection-with Louise. She freaked out one too many times for my tastes-after a while you expect some level headedness from the adult in the room.

Once Louise has served her plot purpose she's shipped off to Hollywood and out of the story, leaving the other half of the book to tell us a much longer story that has nothing to do with the title or the initial set-up. It's two books in one and two stories in one. That kinda bugged me. I'd have been happy to read either one separately, but together each story felt short shifted-particularly Louise's.

If you're curious about Louise Brooks there are plenty of books out there-including her own version, Lulu in Hollywood. If you want a period piece about an orphan who endures difficult life twists and finds happiness in unconventional ways, read The Chaperone. But don't read The Chaperone if you want both.  

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Shell Keeper/Quote Outtakes: Chapter 3

The most exhausting thing in life, I have discovered, is being insincere.

This is the second of the series on quotes from Ms. Lindbergh's book that the brutal editing process forced me to eliminate...sniff....  This gem is the theme of The Shell Keeper/chapter 3 and is all the more illuminating when you consider the line that follows it in her book:

That is why so much of social life is exhausting; one is wearing a mask. I have shed my mask.

I can relate to that-and if you're being honest with yourself I bet you can, too. In general I think we all have a 'mask', a persona that we carry around on a day to day basis to present to the world as we go about our business. It makes life simpler.

It's why, when you hear of someone who 'wears their heart on their sleeve' you have a mix of sympathy tinged with both pity and regret. Why? Because it's just too much work to be ALL THERE all the time! But maybe part of us yearns to be there all the same. But we save those moments of personal exposure and illumination for our friends and family-if at all. Or, if you're a writer, for you books.

In chapter three Gwen and Claire do their best to stay out of the way as Del is interviewed by a female police officer. The same officer Del swears is having an affair with her soon-to-be ex-husband. Gwen and Claire don't want to intrude...but really, they can't help being curious about how that conversation is going.

Here we have three women who've been playing it close to the vest. They're accustomed to keeping their private issues private. Suddenly they are thrust into this odd and unexpected situation where they are torn between privacy and curiosity...and the temptation to let each other in is running smack up against the instinct to keep each other out.

It's a funny and touching scene, including a little white lie Del tells, with the help of Claire, to keep life simple. Even though all three of their lives are about to get pretty damn complicated!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Shell Keeper: Quote 'Out-Takes'/ Chapter 2

Any writer will tell you that what makes a novel great is as much what's taken out as what's left in. The editing process can be brutal. Tears may be shed. But if we're honest with ourselves we have to admit that the final product is usually much more what we wanted in the first place. In other words, that old maxim was right: Less is More.

For me, the More that needed to be yanked during the editing process of my women's fiction novel, The Shell Keeper, were quotes at the start of each chapter. The spirit of my book sprung, years ago, from the wisdom of Ann Morrow Lindbergh's Gift from the Sea. This small tome is packed with gems that speak to women of all ages and, when writing The Shell Keeper, I found a treasure to mark each chapter. My scenes, my characters, my plot all found roots within Lindbergh's insights.

However, that arduous taskmaster that is the final editing process made it clear that the quotes, while inspiring  were detracting from the story and adding pages (very big no-no's) in publishing. They had to go. I grieved...sniff...but I cut! And in the end only two remained, one as the theme of the book, and the other, just as you begin chapter one. But there are so many others you missed out on.

So I'd like to start a series in my blog to tell you a little about the quotes from Ms. Lindbergh that didn't make it in and why, in a perfect world, they were just right for the chapters they headed.

Chapter 2: "How often in a large city, shaking hands with my friends, I have felt the wilderness stretching between us."

In chapter two Dell has just interrupted Gwen and Claire's conversation by rudely demolishing the massive flower pot in front of Gwen's bakery while distractedly driving her mini-van.

We are about to bring our three new friends together-under duress-and the moment will show glimpses not only of their true characters, but their individual wilderness experiences colliding and blending. There is caution, havoc, relief, wariness and hope and even budding friendship-all in one scene. Think of this chapter as a train wreck-with humor!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Libraries Enter the Digital Age with Gusto!

I've been spending my spare time lately helping our local library system, Douglas County Libraries, explore the possibility of offering e-books from self-published authors. Along the way I've discovered how difficult the 'Big Six' publishers are making it for libraries to participate in the e-book revolution that clearly is the future of publishing.

I'm fortunate that my library is leading the nation in pioneering new ways to make books accessible to readers...while the 'Big Six' are rigging the playing field in their favor, and against you, the reader.

In future blogs I'll fill you in on some exciting news for self-published authors in Douglas County and ultimately across the America! Meanwhile, however, CLICK HERE to check out this article from Jamie LaRue, Director of the Douglas County Libraries, about their latest tactics to bring you the best books out there.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Short and Sweet Review: Nothing Daunted by Dorothy Wickenden

Wonderful true tale of two friends who, in the early 1900's, leave their cushy society lives behind for a year to teach school in a remote Colorado mountain town. I felt that the book started a little slow, filling the reader in on the women's pre-Colorado lives and travels. I wanted to get to the heart of the story! But in retrospect I appreciated why the author did this-it made me appreciate their pioneer spirit all the more.

The setting of their adventure lies the mountains around Steamboat Springs, Hayden and Oak Creek, Colorado. All of the characters existed-many left a lasting impact on the valley and have relatives still in the area. For readers who love that territory they will truly enjoy not only the tale, but the appreciation of the valley's history the next time they visit.

This was a very enjoyable story to read and I was truly sorry to see it end. I recommend it for both beach reads and long winter nights-whenever you have a moment to slip back in time and savor the history of two very spunky Colorado pioneers, this is the book to choose!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Short and Sweet Review: A Vow to Keep by Lana Williams

I'm trying to get better about posting reviews on Goodreads, Amazon, etc.. I'm always so grateful for readers who take the time to post their reviews of my books-especially if they liked what they read! So it seems only right that I return the favor, and I'm sharing my latest review. Here's a Short and Sweet review of my dear friend Lana Williams' new book, A Vow to Keep. Lana is a wonderful writer and a real sweetie. If you enjoy historical romance I have a feeling you'll really love this book...

I am not normally a romance reader, but I love historical tales in the medieval period and I found Alyna and Royce to be such compelling characters that I was quickly hooked.

Both the storyline and characters are well fleshed-out and, for me, that's always a recipe for a page turner! I loved the magical nature of Alyna's little Nicholas, and Royce's growing devotion to both of them, combined with a conflict between upholding a long standing vow for vengeance versus following his heart.

Ms. Williams knows how to bank the sparks that build passionate flames and leave readers rooting  for Alyna and Royce to embrace their growing feelings for each other. Her story is beautifully written, and leaves the reader waiting for the next book...when we hope to know more about Nicholas!   (no pressure, Lana! :) 


Thursday, July 19, 2012

Wish That Girl had Gone Sooner!

Short and Sweet Book Review: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

This book's concept is interesting, with alternating chapters between the two main characters, plus a 'surprise' mid-way through.

Only problem is that you probably won't be all that surprised, and after 400 some pages you will get to the end and feel like the author went to all that trouble and then forgot she's supposed to be writing something that readers will enjoy.

Instead she's playing little literary format games and pleasing literary critics (who seem to love the least satisfying possibly ending) instead of the people who read (and pay for) her books. They might be less than satisfied with this ending. 

So here's the spoiler alert and here's what critics are failing (miserably) to tell their readers: the ending is a HUGE let-down. You will seriously regret spending all that time reading this book for so little payoff. In addition, if you're having an 'off' day this book will NOT pick you up-it's a downer. I'm not saying all downer books are bad, but combined with the disappointing payoff, it's a double downer. 

My wish? That I'd let this Girl Go...and never started reading it!  

photo courtesy of 
Weidenfeld & Nicolson

Friday, June 29, 2012

My Guest Blog for Peeking Between the Pages...AND a Giveaway!!

Check out my Guest Blog for Peeking Between The Pages about my inspirations for my newest book, FRAMED...and click HERE to enter into a Giveaway for a FREE copy!! 

I grew up with books. Summertime found me curled up with my latest literary love on the back porch swing or the crook of a large branch of the silver maple out front. I clearly remember my thirteenth summer when I was physically living in suburban Illinois but mentally inhabiting the Smokey Mountains alongside Catherine Marshall’s remarkable Christy. That may have been the year a little part of me started to feel the writer’s itch.

Fast forward to my adult years, when raising three extremely energetic boys left me with little free time to read but badly in need of some sort of escape! That’s when I discovered mysteries. I love all kinds, from the classic Agatha Christie to Robert Parker’s wise cracking tough but tender Spencer. I’ve devoured enough installments of Sue Grafton’s books to make alphabet soup! The most challenging mysteries came from the pen of P.D. James. That gal knows how to plot! But I also enjoyed the fun escape of the cozy-style mystery-though I hate that term, since murder is hardly something to cozy up to!

I’ve heard that the term comes from the tea cozy, a snug wrap of sorts designed to insulate a teapot. I suppose it implies you should be drinking a proper cup of tea while reading such a book, but since these are often devoured on beaches or at pools, in airplanes, or late at night after the kids are in bed, you might prefer anything from iced tea to a nice Pinot. I know I would!

In my mind, the genre’s traits include a non-professional sleuth; no private eyes or CIA operatives here. Our hero…or more often heroine is more likely to be carpooling kids or sorting mail in a post office or perhaps even a young woman whose aunt is a ghost! From Diane Mott Davidson’s Goldie Schultz culinary mysteries to Rita Mae Brown’s Mrs. Murphy mysteries to Nancy Atherton’s Aunt Dimity series, there is quite a variety of heroines and locales.

In general, the crime is a little less graphic than Patricia Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta investigates. And the sex, while certainly implied, is nothing as graphic as some of the Harlequin romances! It’s the everyman-or woman-aspect of these mysteries that makes them so appealing. It could be your neighbor, your relative or even YOU that stumbled across that dead body or accidentally picked up that bloody knife. It could be YOU trying to prove your innocence before the law arrives to take you away…or the real murderer decides you’re too much trouble alive!

Of course, authors often weave aspects of their own lives into their writing, but finding my protagonist and crafting my plot took some thought. I didn’t have any ghostly relatives hanging around-not even a legend of a ghost! I could cook up a culinary murder…but then my relatives might hesitate to come for Thanksgiving dinner. I don’t deal in a profession that sees a lot of violent crime. Unfortunately.

However, I do have a background in construction and real estate and if ever there was an environment ripe with emotions that was it–a tale with deadly intentions wasn’t all that hard to imagine! Add in soccer moms (and dads), single parents, attractive sub-contractors, best friends, secret affairs, the PTA, a puppy with a sixth sense and a heroine with a tendency to daydream and Framed was born.

Of course, I had way too much fun writing this book…and I may have made my family a little nervous reading up on the finer points of murder, but in the end I think it’s a book anyone would love to tuck in their beach bag or pull out after the kids are in bed. My heroine, Kay Conroy, turns out to be a decent sleuth. However she couldn’t have done it without the help of her best friend and Supermom, Maddey.

Friendship–that’s one of the other things that cozy style mysteries are so well known for. Kay wouldn’t have gotten near so far without Maddey’s tenacious friendship, not to mention a very handy gym membership, to spur her on. Likewise, a love interest might come in handy when your life’s on the line. And yes, I do admit that a certain landscaper was modeled after actor Sam Shepard. He fits the laid back, effortless masculinity of Sam Barnett to a tee!

Ultimately, I think it’s the relationships that make the book. When you reach the last page and close the cover I hope you’ll miss the world that Kay, her friends and family inhabit. I hope you’ll come back for the next Kay Conroy mystery–beverage optional!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

FRAMED is Published!!

I'm so excited to finally say that Framed is published! This is the first installment in my Kay Conroy Mystery Series. Prior to publication Framed received honors from both the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and the Pikes Peak Writers associations.

You may be thinking I'm getting to be an expert at the process by now, but it sure doesn't feel like it! Despite the fact that I've done this once before with The Shell Keeper,it seemed I had to learn all the steps over again!

The Indie Pub. industry is really growing, but the reality is that, for most of us who write, only a small portion of our time is normally spent in the actual publication process. Actually, that's probably how it should be! We're writers, after all, not professional publishers!

But the new age of publishing is making the majority of new authors into well-rounded experts in all facets of the industry whether they care to be or not. On any given day I'd far rather be immersed in the worlds my characters inhabit, transcribing their adventures onto my keyboard than formatting for an e-book!

Still, I need to surface and enter the publishing world if I want to share their stories with my readers. This experience has given me new respect for both internet gurus and copywriters! But it also gives me respect and gratitude to my fellow writers who are so often there helping me through all my stupid questions (html, e-pub, Word 2010-don't get us started on that one!, formatting, etc.!!). To all of you who have donated your time and knowledge to my process, I can't thank you enough and only hope I can help others in return!

So-I hope you'll check out Framed-it's a fun book and a great summer read! Here's the blurb:

When housing contractor Kay Conroy finds her son’s soccer coach dead on his kitchen floor, her well known dislike for the man soon turns into a motive for murder.

Now, anxious to aim the finger of guilt elsewhere, the quick-witted but daydreaming single mom must squeeze her own investigation in between car-pooling her son and overseeing the construction of a home for a local socialite.  The evidence she discovers puts her at the top of the suspect list even though she knows she's being framed. Meanwhile, there’s an attractive landscaper she'd like to know better and an amorous CEO she’d like to lose.

With the aide of her salty-tongued best friend and the sixth sense of her puppy, Kay digs for dirt.  What she finds are broken hearts and bottom lines...not to mention danger!

Find the link to the right on this blog...or click HERE!

Happy Reading!! 

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Libraries That Linger in My Mind...and Heart

I am a lover of libraries so it was a pleasure to read about a book that explores their architecture. I think most avid readers have fond memories of their favorite libraries. It's called Library Architecture + Design (yes, the plus is in there in place of the word and) written by Manuela Roth. 

My favorite library had a classic Gothic feel and came by it honestly as it was built in the 1800's. There were deep stacks to wander and lose yourself in...and maybe run into a ghost or two! I know I always expected it, but all I really got were chills up my spine! Once I'd found my books (using the good old-fashioned card catalog, of course!) I found a place at one of the many long wooden tables stacked down the center of the main rooms. I sat in a solid, heavy-wooden chair and read by the light of green shaded lamps that ran the length of each table. 

This love of libraries began long ago in a Carnegie library with it's classic architecture:stone steps topped by columns, century-old wooden floors that creaked with each step, and a musty smell that only compulsive readers could love!

Now, I'm not saying a library has to be verging on decrepit to earn my affection. One of my college libraries, at the University of Denver (DU), was brand new and cutting-edge modern. It had the oddest little orange cubicles just big enough to sit in with your books and a contraband soda. Drinks in the library were frowned upon then...I wonder how libraries feel about it in this Starbucks age where it's hard to put down your latte just to pick up a book. 

One of my sons is at DU now and, unfortunately, he arrived just in time for a two year renovation of the library-just the amount of time he'll be attending.  In the meantime, students have access to books at another location, possibly waiting a day or more to have the book they want brought in from storage. 

I'm hoping that when the new library is unveiled we can go, together, to stroll it's stacks and test out what I'm sure will be a cutting edge internet version of the voluminous card catalog. I wonder if it will smell musty in there...or maybe like a double mochachino!

(photo courtesy Deering Library, Northwestern University)

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Kindle Select vs. Nook First vs. My Readers--Oh My!

There’s a lot of buzz these days about special e-pub options thrown out to authors from Kindle and Nook. Both require that your e-book be published exclusively with them for a particular period of time before you can open it up to any other e-pub site. Both have pros and cons…but those cons are really generating a bad vibe in the writing blog-o-sphere.

Kindle Select requires a 90 day commitment-that’s three months during which your book can only be purchased in e-format as a Kindle product. Great news for Kindle readers…a long wait after the initial launch build-up for everyone else. For this commitment Kindle will promote you in their lending library and…well…not that much else, as far as I can figure.

And believe me, I’ve tried! The contract is daunting, to say the least, and I write contracts in my ‘day job’! It’s full of lots of ominous CONS. There are a few other minor perks, hardly worth mentioning, and in return you give Kindle/Amazon, well, let’s just say by the time I finished reading the contract I was scanning back for the ‘First Born’ clause-certain I must have missed it as it seems they want everything else!

Who’s this one for? Not the Indie Author. It’s clearly the multi-published well-known author who gets a bump here and, generally, this is what I’m hearing from those who have tried it. If you are tempted, just be certain to read all the fine print and follow the rules-or else! Oh, the PRO is that you can hop onto Kindle Select at anytime-not just when you first publish. So maybe it helps when the doldrums hit. The jury is still out there.

Now, Nook First DOES require just what it says-you e-pub with them first, when you initially launch the book. They get exclusive rights to your e-pub for the first 30 days. Not as bad as Kindle’s 3 months, but this is a program that apparently makes it worth your while. I can’t tell you what the contract is like, because I haven’t made the cut yet. While anyone can do Kindle First, you have to submit your book to a panel for the Nook First program. They determine if it fits the needs of their particular promotions at any given time.

I contacted the Nook First administrator via a contact from an acquaintance. I have no idea how you would do so otherwise-I couldn’t find any contact info on my own. The plot thickens, eh? But if I ever do get a book accepted, I probably will participate in this program. It’s all about featured promotion on their website and emails-for 30 days I don’t think you can lose, assuming there’s no First Born clause!

Of course, in the end either of these promotions will cause some of your readers to find themselves out of the loop and unable to access your book for the duration. Yes, they can always buy a paperback-those aren’t affected. But will the initial flush of excitement to read your latest offering wear off by the time they are able to do so?

No Kobo, Sony, Smashwords, etc. access either. As you can imagine, this is leaving authors with a tough choice: enhanced promotion vs. readers. The problem is that the promotion part remains a rather elusive item-stats are unreliable and the buzz is bad. 

Our readers, on the other hand, are often loyal and true. In general it seems that, for now, authors are erring on the side of loyalty. Here’s hoping that in the future e-pub companies can find a way to bring the best of both options together.  

(photo courtesy of GETTY)

Friday, June 8, 2012

Note to Self: Publish in The Fall!

I kinda sorta get why so many books are published in the fall. Well, I'm sure marketing whizs have better reasons beside the October book shows, but from an Indie Publishing viewpoint, it's all about the summer slump!

It's not that I don't WANT to work on my launch of FRAMED, and certainly not that I don't want to hang out with the girls of THE SHELL KEEPER while rewriting the sequel. It's more that life seems to fill up with activity and obligation in the summer. More family hanging out, more BBQ's to make potato salad for, more day trips to the mountains. (Okay, so I'm planning more day-trips to the mountains!) How's a girl supposed to find the time to write!

Yes, yes, my writer's conscience...and fellow writers are telling me it's all about the placement of my posterior in front of my laptop followed by the tap-tap-tap of my fingers on the keyboard. And it's true, it's really that simple!

So...summer threw me a little there at the beginning, but I'm beginning to get the hang of its ways and next week is gonna be a fresh start!

Note to Self: review this post when the holiday season arrives!

(photo courtesy of

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Reading-A Cheap Excuse?!?

Writers have long known that reading, like doing laundry and scrubbing floors, is a cheap excuse to avoid writing. Naturally I justify such behavior with the reasoning that it feeds my writer’s soul, which is true…though not always my reason for reading. Still, I don’t think writers are alone in this diversion from life’s responsibilities. Clearly, a good book has always been a good escape, and may be a healthier version of avoidance behavior than heavy drinking or bungee jumping!

When I’m in need of total avoidance so I choose a book that will completely suck me into its literary web like a good murder mystery or heart racing thriller. However, if I’m in search of a mild diversion I’ll opt for either non-fiction or a classic, perhaps Jane Austen or Willa Cather. In fact, I feel reading those gals elevates my writing…makes me want to be a better me, writing-wise.

Of course, you don’t have to be a writer to escape into a good book. If that were the case there would be no such thing as the good ‘beach read’! Personally, there’s nothing like the latest Stephanie Plum mystery. It goes down easy and can be picked up at a moment’s notice-- like just in time to avoid conversation with that strange person sitting next to you on the plane, or when you need to hide out from the relatives at a family gathering. Not that I’d ever do that…

But you don’t need a special occasion or even a cheap excuse to read a good book! A well told story is as excellent a companion during lunch as it is on your CD player in rush hour or in the wee hours of the night when you are all alone in your alternate reality of choice. Whatever your literary proclivities, enjoy them-no apologies necessary!

Photo courtesy:

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Reading: A Source of Inspiration?

I think it’s pretty safe to assume that most writers started out as avid readers. Somewhere along the way they felt the need to take the pen…or these days, the keyboard, into their own hands. Still, the desire to create our own tales does not mean we no longer wish to read. On the contrary, in some ways it makes us want to read all the more!

Reading can be an incredible way to learn the craft of writing. In fact, I found I became a much slower reader after I started writing in earnest. True, it’s a frustrating tradeoff for me, particularly because I was never much of a speed reader to begin with. But when I am following another author’s literary breadcrumbs I’m not just losing myself in their story, I’m also paying attention to how that story is told.

Writers learn so much about structure, plot, character development and more from reading the works of other writers. Of course, we all are gladly sucked along as the drama, joy and plot twists unfold. But eventually I’ll find myself stepping back and thinking about how they did that, and why. Where the clues were planted in a mystery or where the turning points came in a history.

I notice how they handle dialogue, and develop the action in ways that push the plot where they want it to go. I notice surprising events and interesting words…and sometimes I notice when things don’t go well and I’m pulled out of the story and forced against my will to wonder what the heck the author was thinking—never a good thing!

For instance, I think there should be a ban on the image of someone ‘shrugging’ out of a piece of clothing for ten to twenty years. Or at the very least you should only be allowed to ‘shrug’ once per book. Really, it’s overused. Not to mention ‘macadam’. Honestly, who says that??

You can see how a writer’s juices get stirred up from reading the work of others. Sometimes the urge is so great it feels like a buzz in your body you can’t shake until you put it into your own words. Sure, that empty page or blank screen can be intimidating, but a writer, I think, is already listening to the words in his or her head, calling to be placed upon that page.

Next week: Reading: A Cheap Excuse? 

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Writing Outside the Outline

I went to a class once about crafting the outline of your book. This is something a great many writers are quite religious about. It’s their process and how they start out on the journey to create every new book they write. Personally, it drives me NUTS!

In this particular class the writer (VERY successful, New York Times, yada, yada, yada…) showed us a spiral road map she had created for her latest book. I think the idea was that she started on the outside, like a maze, and wound her way to the conclusion in the center. As she wrote she followed the stepping stones of the path, plugging in character, plot twists or denouement at the appointed locations along her spiral outline. It didn’t look like Greek to me; it looked like something out of trigonometry or advanced geometry…which is much worse.

While I envy writers who are so organized that they can plot each step along the way and stick to it, my efforts to emulate them have ended in great frustration. I’m like a claustrophobic cat stuck in a tiny cage...underground. Let me out!!

Don’t get me wrong, I have a very good idea of what I’m after and where I’m going when I tap out those first words on the first page of a new book. I’ve made notes, done research and, as you might have noticed in my previous blog, percolated over the whole thing quite a bit.

But if I try to force my characters to stick to an outline they get very belligerent and, at some point, they will inevitably just stand there, arms crossed, scowling at me, refusing to do anything more until I agree to release them to their own wiles.

Of course, once I do that, it’s generally agreed that I can go back in and tweak some their less brilliant decisions during the editing process. Fictional characters will get carried away if you leave them to their own devices for too long!

I’m also free to skip around and write scenes out of order if I wake up one morning writing dialogue in my head for a scene that’s yet to come. Occasionally that scene reveals something about the plot or the character that I hadn’t considered, and serves to strengthen previous scenes once I return writing in a straight line.

I know I am not alone in this method, but it’s not the sort thing that’s easily taught in a workshop, and seems more likely to be admitted to only during a heart to heart, or after a nice glass of Riesling. I, however, am proud of my process, unstructured as it may seem to those outside my head. And ultimately, it gets me to the same place: The End. 

Photo of Archemedean Spiral courtesy of Xah Lee Web

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


For some reason my brain has lately latched upon the concept of percolating when it comes to creating or making a decision. Yes, I’m showing my age if I admit remembering percolating coffee makers, but we had moved on to the drip system by the time I was drinking coffee in earnest.

Still, the concept of percolating is intriguing, and aptly applied to the writing process. What others might consider procrastination or downright avoidance is often plain old percolation! You might think when I do the laundry, vacuum the rug or pull weeds in my garden that I’m procrastinating. But you are wrong-I’m percolating!

Let me explain. The different stages of creation (coffee or art) start at the top of the pot with the perforated spreader plate through which hot water drips down onto the coffee grounds below. I like to think of this as the actual ‘hands on keyboard’ or ‘pen to paper’ process trickling down and filling the blank page with words.

Next comes the filter—obviously the editing process! And the resulting brewed coffee is the final edit, ready to be enjoyed by caffeine addicts worldwide…once published, which must be when it’s poured out of the spout! Okay, let’s not get over-similed!

But still, you see what I’m saying; it’s a process. And way down there at the bottom of the pot is a very important component we shouldn’t forget: the heat source. In coffee, it’s, well, heat!

In writing, the heat source can be any number of things that spur us to creative action. The spark of inspiration that perked up at the very start is definitely a heat source. As is the desire to express and share your thoughts. Of course, it could be the critique buddy who is waiting for more pages to read or the demands of a writing challenge like NaNoWriMo. Maybe even an agent or editor counting down a deadline.

Ultimately, proper percolation can provide a potent brew, in the cup or on the page.

image courtesy of Wikipedia

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Writing With Joy!!!

A few years ago I bought an oil painting at a local consignment shop. It was $15, on the stretcher bars but unframed. It's a lovely depiction of pink and white striped tulips in a clear glass pitcher, and named 'Peppermint Candy'.

I know the name because the artist, Helen Evensen, wrote it on the back of the canvas. Beneath the title she also wrote, in pencil,

Tulips: Red, pink & peppermint stick!! Painted with much joy in May, 1999 by Helen Evensen, painter!!! Cedar, Michigan.

All those exclamations are Helen's. If you are of a creative bent you can't help loving her enthusiasm. She painted something, she was proud of it, she was proud and excited to BE a painter!!!

The tulips hang on the wall across from my desk so that, everyday, I am reminded to take joy in the process, as Helen did. Even the unfinished work--and there is one tulip that looks not quite complete to me--is a beautiful thing. A thing to take pride in.

The writing community nurtures each other, and that is a good thing, because we are all of us, a great deal of the time, working on something that's not quite done, never quite finished or perfect in our eyes, even once it's published. But it's still beautiful and deep down, even the most jaded among us must treasure those little joyful moments when we say to, and of ourselves, Author!!!

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Science of Creativity

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal, How to Be Creative, explored the unlikely influences that have been found to spark creative juices and genius. The author explains that sometimes what seems like a sudden, magical leap between a stubborn spot on the blank page and the words and thoughts that come out of the blue to fill that spot aren't so much magical, as lurking in the back of the brain, waiting for you to put your guard down and let them through.

The science of creativity has found that the answers often come in the oddest, most disconnected ways. Putting the problem on the back-burner and letting the brain relax a little can actually allow it to plumb the depths wherein the answer lies!

This probably explains why I get some of my best ideas while driving the car, blowing drying my hair, or...reading an article on creativity! This is not to say that good old fashioned sweat and editing aren't also necessary, but the match that lights the brilliant idea in the first place is often fueled by what might seem like unusual circumstances and activities.

The author, Jonah Lehrer, lists 10 quick creativity 'hacks' to get you going. Some might ring a bell for the creative type. Daydreaming, for instance, is probably high up on my list. I'm sure my family often thinks I'm doing nothing in particular when I'm actually working my way through a plot or crafting a scene in my head.

Not surprisingly, being a little drunk...or high, I imagine, brings out the creativity. I'm sure plenty of police officers would agree with this. Still, while intoxication clearly did wonders for Samuel Coleridge when he wrote the classic poem Kubla Khan, I wouldn't recommend this as a daily writing practice. Especially if you're a one-drink kinda person, like yours truly! So, my advice on this one is to take advantage of it when it comes along, but pass it up as a lifestyle.

Other tips include getting out of your comfort zone and traveling, meeting new people, exchanging new ideas. Those all make sense to me!

Another is surrounding yourself with the color blue, which leads to 'relaxed and associative thinking.' Great idea...if I hadn't just painted my office sage green...that's a lotta wall space to paint again. Of course, I could do a lot of daydreaming while I paint!

photo courtesy of

Friday, March 2, 2012

Wine Country Inspirations

If you've been following my blog you know I'm currently tackling a writing challenge. When I first took this on I wasn't quite sure what I wanted to work on. I had a couple projects in the works, plus final edits of Framed, my upcoming mystery that I hope will be the first of the Kay Conroy mystery series! (check out the cover in an earlier post!)

But the gauntlet of a writing challenge called for just that, a challenge. In the back of my mind I'd thought that I might like to tackle a sequel to The Shell Keeper someday, but that seemed a little presumptuous considering I'd only just published it. Then came the wonderful reviews and, even better, readers who kept asking what happens next?

Pretty soon, I was doing the same thing, and when the challenge came along, I started to give my ideas more than a passing thought. I kinda/sorta knew where I wanted to go, but research, I found, can be a very inspiring thing. While The Shell Keeper was set in a fictional town inspired by Dillon, Colorado, the reservoir, and the lovely little town of Breckenridge, the sequel moves the story west, to where the Rocky Mountains give way to mesas edged by the Colorado River, and the earth and climate form a magically nurturing mix conducive to lush vineyards and ripe peach orchards.

The area around Palisade, Colorado offers much inspiration for the book's fictional location, but I have to admit the research is too much fun. Years ago I had friends who moved to the area to start a very successful winery. We've lost touch over time, but their adventure, and my brief excursions in the area left indelible memories that obviously tempted me to revisit it in fiction.

Of course, I hope my research will actually take me there in person someday soon. I'm thinking a visit to the vineyards, perhaps for the next harvest and Winefest, would be very inspiring...and tasty, too!