Wednesday, May 15, 2024


The best parts of getting away are the unexpected surprises you encounter along the way.

My writing buddy Terry and I planned a writing retreat after reading a Nora Roberts blog post about her "haunted" B&B. Last week, we took a few days in Maryland to brainstorm our current writing projects and put some words down. We arrived and were enchanted by the lovely inn and its many, almost maze-like rooms. Our first night in, we went to the "happy hour" room for wine and charcuterie and discovered we'd come just in time for "Girls Night Out," which is an event centered around Nora's bookstore across the street--where Nora would be signing books! Well! That was an unexpected surprise, and good timing on our part. AND we would still have a day before the event.

On Day 2, we got our steps in by walking to scenic caverns up the road a piece. They were very interesting when you consider no one knew they were there "once upon a time" and stumbled on them accidentally. Of course, what do you do when you discover underground labyrinths beneath your land? You make them into a tourist attraction. The rock formations were interesting, and the ongoing evolution of new formations, which take hundreds of years, inspires respect for how nature creates its own artwork. 

We walked back into town to scope out Nora's other businesses, including the gift shop and the bookstore. We saw our breakfast server doing a shift in the bookstore, and we'd been told she could tell us ghost stories (because, you know, I collect ghost stories) so we asked her about the ghosts at the inn. She didn't volunteer a lot, but one thing I've discovered. When you ask for a story, you'll find people to tell you one. Two other ladies who worked in the shop were only too happy to share their experiences. I find it interesting when I find similar stories in different parts of the country! At any rate, after we'd chatted a bit, we got an ice cream, returned to the inn and settled down to work.

On Day 3, we took advantage of our package deal for pampering and got a ride into Shepherdstown, WV. We had lunch and had our nails done and walked around the town a bit. The funny thing about visiting the East Coast (at least from my perspective) is how many states you can see in a day. Granted, I live in Northern Illinois, so it's not a big stretch for me to drive to Wisconsin, or Iowa, or Indiana easily (but it still takes a couple of hours to get to ONE of those other states). On the East Coast, we hit three states in an hour. I experienced that same thing last year when I joined my friend in Maine. We hit four states (and could have done more had we done a different route) in a day. But I digress... We discovered that we were far enough from civilization that it might be a challenge to find a ride share back to the airport, so we talked the one who picked us up in WV to take us the following morning. 

When we returned to the inn, we did some more brainstorming, went to the Inn's happy hour, and then across the street to meet our hostess. It was raining. There was a long line. We soldiered on. Terry had been hoping to get the new JD Robb book, but Nora was signing early copies of her Nora Roberts book. Here's the thing. I'm not a huge Nora Roberts fan (don't shoot me, reading is subjective, after all), so neither one of us bought a book. We did, however, go through the line to meet Nora. She is a powerhouse, no matter what you think of her books. She advocates for all authors and she carries a lot of clout. I appreciate the heck out of her as a person, so I wanted to thank her for all she does. (Now I want to read a JD Robb book just to see if I like that better than her NR books).

Terry, me and Nora

Day 4 produced another delicious breakfast, our ride share driver showed up as promised, and we were on our way home - a successful retreat that provided writing (at least for me, Terry had technical issues, but we did a lot of brainstorming with handwritten notes), entertainment, surprises and inspiration. 

And now it's back to work. I have a book to finish!

Wednesday, May 8, 2024

I've been busy!

And so has my narrator!

Yes, I'm out of town writing all the words for the new Elspeth Barclay novel, but I have news to share. THE SELKIE is making its way to all the audiobook outlets. (If it isn't there yet, it's coming, I promise. It takes time.) Narrator Karen Frantz did a beautiful job with the Irish in this, with the main characters starting out IN Ireland, and then on the return trip home with Liam McCormick's Irish mother. Did I mention Liam brought a ghost home with him when he returned? 

Like I did with The Architect during its first month, I'm offering The Selkie at a special launch price this month only while it finds its way to all the retailers. Not an audiobook fan? You can always pick up the e-book or the paperback. 😁 In case you haven't read it. I think you'll like it. 

I'll be back next week with the low-down on my writers' retreat.

Wednesday, May 1, 2024

Prepare to be Inspired

At least that's what I'm telling myself. I'm working on Elspeth Barclay #4 and, as always, the writing process unlocks thoughts and ideas I didn't realize I was thinking or dreaming. Not to mention something left unaddressed in The Jane Doe Ghost. I'm still feeling my way. Yes, I'm largely a pantser when I write. I like to be surprised by what's hiding inside my own head.

What you can look forward to - Elle isn't quite as neurotic as she used to be, but she has a few new quirks as a result of her accident. One is speaking her thoughts out loud - "oops, did I just say that?" 

One of the things that made me giggle as I was writing was that tendency I have to "trip on air." You know, an innate clumsiness? I wrote other aspects of my clumsiness when I wrote Cookie Therapy. I figured I wasn't the only one in the world who had unfortunate accidents as a result of not paying attention or just dumb luck. But what if those accidents were caused by playful ghosts? That's the theory I'm toying with in Elle 4. Not going to share any more than that, because I'm still working out all the details, but hey, it makes sense, right? You might not see that foot stuck out in front of you, or something that suddenly moves into your path. 

Next week, I'm embarking on a writers' retreat/girls' trip where I hope to get a lot more writing done, along with some pampering and sightseeing and ghost hunting at a haunted B&B. I'm preparing to be inspired (but prepared if I'm not). Seems like I have a lot going on inside my head most days, anyway, but seeing new things and having new experiences often unlocks things I didn't know I was thinking. 

I'll keep you posted. (Oh, and if I don't post next week, it might be because I'm busy communicating with the advertised ghosts at the B&B.)

Wednesday, April 24, 2024


With The Architect completed and out in the world (Audible finally listed it - they're always the last), I'm moving ahead with the last three Epitaph novels in audio. Next up is The Selkie

Once a novel is finished, there usually isn't a reason to revisit it, and I'm generally busy moving forward with the next one, so going back to review the audio files comes with a touch of nostalgia. Where I was in my life when I wrote that book. The things I researched. The tips my sources provided me for authenticity. Sort of like hearing a song from the past that takes you back to certain memories.

Then there's the "moving forward" part. These side trips into audio are forestalling my momentum. I've had enough people asking me for the other Epitaph books in audio that it's worth the time and effort. (Shout out to narrator Karen Frantz for nailing the Irish accent in The Selkie.) Meanwhile, I'm sifting through ghost stories, looking for the right one for Elle to deal with in her next adventure. I've been procrastinating until I've visited the haunted B&B in a couple weeks' time, but I usually have an idea of how the story is going to go, or at least pieces of it. I'm "head writing," which provides me with snippets, but still toying with the big picture. The main ghost. The theme. And I'm feeling BEHIND. Or am I just being lazy?

All in good time. During this quiet time, I've been visiting with family and catching up on all the other things that fall by the wayside when I'm "in the groove." Sometimes it's okay to stop and breathe in the scent of those roses, ya know?

Random moment of free association - who else is in the zone for the cicada-pocalypse? Expecting the invasion in another month's time. I should be firmly planted in front of my computer by that time and out of the flight path aside from my daily forays "out and about." 

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Haunted Vacations

In case you haven't heard 😉 the new book is out. I can't wait to hear what everybody thinks about THE JANE DOE GHOST! With the new baby successfully launched into the world, I'm preparing my next. My editor wants me to keep going with the Elspeth Barclay series - says she's really enjoying them. To that end...

I'm going on a trip to stay at a "haunted" B&B in a couple of weeks' time. We'll see if we can scare up any ghosts to write about. A few years back, The Big Guy and I went to NOLA. Rumor has it that all the hotels in NOLA are haunted, and the one we stayed at was no exception. Did we see any ghosts? (No.) In June, I'm headed to Savannah, which is purported to be the most haunted city in the states. Will we find any ghosts there? Not holding my breath, but it's always fun to hear the stories. 

Everywhere I go, I hear ghost stories, and I keep a journal of what I consider the more interesting ones. Hoping I have plenty of inspiration to draw on for Elspeth to work with. 

Do you have any ghostly experiences/stories to share?

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

How do characters get their names?

The Jane Doe Ghost is less than a week away! In honor of the upcoming release, I thought I'd share some fun facts about how the characters got their names.

Elspeth (Elle) - I've wanted to use this name FOREVER. I first heard it when I used to listen to Mystery Theater on the radio. The actress, Elspeth Aric, was a frequent performer, as was Mercedes McCambridge. I wrote a story once using both those names that was a dud, and my critique partner tells me the names are outdated. Old names are making a comeback! For instance, my granddaughter shares my grandmother's name. I figured it was time to bring Elspeth out of the mothballs.

Laine - One of the ladies I interviewed for Horned Owl Hollow has a boyfriend named Lane. As I tossed about for a name for Elle's sister, I didn't think he'd mind if I adapted his name and changed his gender to be Elle's sidekick.

Chance - This one is funny (at least I think so). I'd been out with a group of my husband's friends (and wives) and one of the wives mentioned to me she loved the movie Being There with Peter Sellers. It's not a well-known movie, but yes, I've seen it. We joked about it and all the nuances. When the caretaker of the Horned Owl Hollow estate showed up for the first time, I reached into the recesses of my mind for a suitable name and wouldn't you know it? Chance, the gardener, popped up. At the time, I wasn't sure what his role was going to be. Obviously, my Chance isn't anything like Chance the gardener, but his name stuck.

The rest of them? I keep a database of names to use, along with names I've used in other books (so I don't reuse them). Names pop out at me every day as I live my life. Most of the names I pick are random, or appropriate to the role based on free association. When I named the people in Maine in this book, I did do a search to see what names were popular in Maine for a taste of authenticity. 

Sometimes I do have name snafus. For instance, in Cookie Therapy, I'd named a character Shannon. Time came for a last name, and I was searching about for what fit with Shannon. Somewhere in my subconscious, I picked Doherty. An Irish first name should go with an Irish surname, you know. It got all the way to my editor before she pointed out there was "someone else" name Shannon Doherty, and did I really want to use that name? Oops. Sometimes there's a reason those names sound so good together! I tend to Google names to make sure I haven't conveniently forgotten someone with that name, a lesson I learned writing my very first book that I neglected to do with that book.

Now I have to remind you that you can preorder The Jane Doe Ghost! Oh, and have I mentioned the audiobook of The Architect is available? If you buy it this month, you get the discounted launch price. Get it while it's hot!

Click here to preorder

Buy it now before the price goes up!

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

The end is near

How's that for gloom and doomy! Except it isn't gloomy OR doomy!

The audiobook for The Architect is done and making its way to the sales outlets. The sample is live on my website and I will be adding links to buy as they go live. I've priced it at a special launch price of $5.99 this month only, so you should buy it sooner rather than later {wink wink}. I'd love to know what you think of the narrator. The final three books in the Epitaph series will be going into audio, as well. My Facebook followers all agree they prefer a woman narrator, even if the final three books center on "the boys." They're romances (with ghostly intervention), with alternating male/female points of view. Have I mentioned how much I loved revisiting The Architect? (I think you'll like it, too!)

ALSO, I'm doing my final review for The Jane Doe Ghost, listening as Word reads the final version back to me to make sure I haven't missed any mistakes. By now it should certainly be perfect but, you know, just in case. Fingers crossed! Two weeks until release day. Promotion is scheduled for her launch into the world and scheduling the audiobook for THIS book, as well. 

So, yes, these things are taking up most of my time right now. I'm also writing a short story about Chance (from the Elspeth Barclay novels), but you'll have to subscribe to my newsletter to get that (free!). 

In the meantime, anyone know how you get a black eye spontaneously? (Asking for a friend.)