Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Life is frittered away by detail

I remember a Shirley MacLaine movie where every man she married died a tragic death and left her lots of money. She started looking for poor men in hopes they wouldn't die. It's the first time I became acquainted with Walden Pond.

At the beginning of every year, I evaluate what my goals for the year are. It's more of a wish list, but it helps give me direction. What do I hope to accomplish? How do I plan to achieve those goals? What's the end game?

This year, my plan is for simplicity. Do what moves me.

I'm expecting to release Epitaph 2: The Twins as an audiobook this spring. I began a new series with my release of FAMILY ALCHEMY in January, along the lines of Practical Magic, Karla Style. In anticipation of continuing that series, I finished Book 2 this week (or at least the first draft of book 2). Moving on to the hard part now, filling in the blanks, fixing the mistakes, stuff like that. Overall, I'm pleased with the way it looks, and hope to be sharing it with readers late Spring.

And then what?

I'm seldom without a story running around inside my head. At this point of writing a book, I'm usually already looking ahead to the next one, but for right now, I'm taking a breath while I decide if I should move on to Book 3 in the Hillendale series or take a break from the alchemists and write a romance. I'll be honest, I miss my happily ever afters, the sigh-worthy heroes and misguided heroines. As Spring approaches, is love in the air?

Stay tuned.

Feel free to share your opinions. Inspiration often comes in the form of a kind word.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Happy Valentines Day

I'm a romance author. I believe in happily ever after. When people tell me how they met their spouses, I listen with rapt attention. If we don't have love, what's left? This is a question I'm hearing with increasing frequency, and not just as pertains to romance.

Most of us have had "practice" relationships, people we thought we loved but didn't. Some of us have "the one that got away." And some of us found the loves of our lives the first time out of the gate (I'm looking at you, Scott and Kathy.) 

In the course of research, I follow a "love guru" by the name of Matthew Hussey, and I have to tell you, he has some spot-on advice. In hindsight, I wish I'd run across him years ago, but we all have our own lessons to learn. While I didn't always make the best decisions, I wouldn't change any of them.

Well, maybe one.

So as we approach this "Hallmark holiday," and maybe it is just a made up thing, but if you think of it as "Happy I Love You Day" instead of "Valentines Day," then maybe it won't seem so commercial. Then again, Happy I Love You Day doesn't have to be restricted to February 14. I know I've celebrated more than one of those days every year. On this February 14, share the love. It doesn't have to be romantic love. Instead of pointing fingers and calling people names, set your differences aside and look for commonalities. We weren't always this divided as a country. Once upon a time, we exercised human kindness with one another. Let's see if we can do that again, starting with Valentines Day. And then maybe the day after that, and one more day, until it becomes a habit again.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

In a world full of angst...

I've reached that part of my current work in progress - the climax. I ALWAYS struggle with "when all hope is lost" moments in my books, partly because I tend to be an optimist, and partly because I hate acknowledging the worst in people.

A few years ago, I was called to jury duty. I lived a sheltered life growing up, and while I've acquired a lot of world experience during the course of my life, there is still a darker side to humanity that I'm fortunate I don't have to deal with on a regular basis. In the trial I was chosen for, the bad guy stole something out of a vehicle. The owner of the vehicle saw him and chased him down the street, and the thief then slashed the guy with a box cutter. Pretty serious stuff. The thief on trial used the "I found it" defense, and the subsequent slashing as self defense from the guy who was chasing him. Enter my naivete. They'd dressed the defendant up nice for court. I don't have a lot of experience with this level of bad guy. In the jury room, one of my fellow jurors pointed out some key parts of the case which clearly pointed to the defendant's guilt, points I never would have understood unless someone with firsthand knowledge was there to point them out. I like to think the best of people, see the good in everyone, many times to my own detriment. I wanted to believe this guy was innocent. Sometimes you have to take off the Polllyanna glasses. With my fellow juror's knowledge and other folks in the jury room in agreement, I felt compelled to join them in convicting the defendant. When it was over, the judge came into the jury room and told us we'd done the right thing, that the defendant had a long rap sheet and there was little doubt of his guilt.

I've been called for jury duty again this month. It's a very interesting, eye-opening experience, but I'd be lying if I told you I hoped to be selected for a jury again. What I'm hoping is to take along a book to read and be dismissed - unneeded - at the end of the day. (fingers crossed)

Which brings me back to the bad guy in my book. That jury duty experience reminds me that there are bad guys in the world (and yes, some of them live VERY close by), but I don't write urban fiction. Nor do I want to. Still, I have to find a way for my villain to act villainously. That means taking a walk on the dark side.

In a world where I'm not sure we aren't heading toward Armageddon, when the end days feel like they're right around the corner with fires in Australia and locusts in Kenya and other disasters too numerous to dwell on here, Anyone see Noah? Is he building that ark yet?

I REALLY hate stepping into the dark side, but the thing about evil is that good always wins. There's this thing called Karma. By stepping into the dark side, I want to give my readers hope for a brighter tomorrow. No, these books aren’t romances, but I’m going to slip back into #MyLifeIsAMusical, because this song says it all.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

What's wrong with this sentence?

When you write something, anything, and then you check it over, often your brain deceives you into seeing what's supposed to be there rather than what's really there. I read my work, I double check my work. My crit partners read my work. My editor reads my work and then I read it again. STILL, there's always something that sneaks through. The same is true in any job, anyone who has to write something, whether it's a technical brief or a legal opinion or a financial report. Multiple eyes on a project and still something will sneak through.

I recently got an email from a friend who pointed something out to me. I swear, it took me reading it three times to realize what was wrong with this sentence, because I know what it's meant to say (but that's not what it says).
They sliced cheese to drink with their wine.

In this age of technology, the error is easy to fix, but holy cow. With all the people who have read this, you'd think someone would have noticed sooner. One must always factor in for human error.

And now, back to work on the second Hillendale novel. Have you picked up FAMILY ALCHEMY yet?
"The main characters Brynn and her aunt Nora, with their supernatural powers, grab you by the heartstrings right from the start and keep hold until the very last word." - Jennifer L. LeClair

You can buy it here!

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Going down the rabbit hole

One of the fun parts about writing is learning new things.

One of the hazardous parts about writing is chasing those new things down rabbit holes or, to use another analogy, chasing squirrels.

Sometimes, in the interest of adding authenticity to a story, it's necessary to do a lot of research. Sometimes, that research drops in your lap. Which brings me to where I am right now.

I've been writing the second book in the Hillendale series, and in December, I went to a winter solstice party. Essentially, it's a celebration of the changing season, and what better ritual to incorporate into a book about two "maybe" witches? Since my new book also takes place in the summer, I switched the calendar to observe a summer solstice, but with summer comes different rituals.

And down the rabbit hole I go.

Google is a wonderful thing. You can find out dozens of things about dozens of cultures and rituals. I even found a street sign I was looking for on Google images when my friends who live in the area I was looking for "forgot" to get back to me. Seriously, people don't understand why I ask certain questions, I mean what could be so exciting about a street sign? Nothing, but I was looking for authenticity. Which takes me back down the rabbit hole.

As an author, I'm entitled to engage in artistic license. As fellow author Mary Doria Russell said when I saw her recently, "fiction means I get to make sh!t up." So yes, I can make up everything about how indigenous people might celebrate the summer solstice, and I can make up everything about how witches might celebrate the solstice, and I can make up everything about how paganism intersects with Native American customs, but I'm looking for some measure of authenticity.

The funny thing is that once I get the information I'm searching out, a lot of it doesn't actually make it into the book. Nobody wants to read an author recounting her research in the middle of a story. As they say, the devil's in the details. It's in the nuances that the authenticity comes through, but you don't get those nuances without understanding your subject matter.

That artistic license often becomes a conglomeration of everything I learn. Take, for instance, COOKIE THERAPY. I interviewed three different firemen for that story, and each of them told me something different. From the "expert" who counsels writers, to a friend who said "It's fiction. Make up whatever you want," to the third guy who said, when I ran a scene by him based on information provided by the first two, "If you do that, the fire's going to kill him." This is where the author throws her hands in the air and cries uncle. Enter artistic license, and a disclaimer that any mistakes are the fault of the writer. In the end, I think I got it right, and attending the Writers Police Academy (which also had firefighters) confirmed it.

Tapping my sources, but soliciting others. Do you know anyone who celebrates the summer solstice? What rituals do they practice?

Tuesday, January 14, 2020


By now, you know that I have a NEW RELEASE today (you did buy your copy of FAMILY ALCHEMY, didn't you?).What's it about? Well, let me put it this way. If you liked PRACTICAL MAGIC, I think you'll like FAMILY ALCHEMY.  So, without further ado, here's an excerpt.

Buy it here!

Let me know what you think. This one has all the supernatural without the love story. Thmbs up? or thumbs down?

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Walking through the past

How was your holiday season? Did you survive? Are you happy it's behind or are you missing the company of friends and family?

Where I am, the weather has been unseasonably warm, so we've been making the most of it by going out for walks every chance we get. I've seen some fun things, which I post on my "Out and About" posts on Instagram, and in an effort to get out of the house, I talked the Big Guy into a trip to my hometown to see an outdoor light display.

Overlooking the koi pond
When I was a kid, my sisters and I walked to school (not going to call up the folk story about "two miles uphill through a foot of snow" stuff). It was about a mile each way, though, and yes, sometimes it snows in Illinois. The best part of the walk was the place that makes Lombard, Illinois famous--Lilacia Park. Every year the town has a Lilac festival, and the park blooms with several colors and varieties of lilacs and tulips. My sisters and I often walked through the park on our way to school. I remember stopping to read the sundial (never did figure out how that worked) and looking over the koi pond (before koi ponds were fashionable).

A few years ago, I'd heard they did a Christmas light display in the park, but I'd never taken the time or found an opportunity to go back. Through the magic of social media, I'd seen some of my family and friends who still live in the area post pictures, and while the Big Guy and I were sitting around on New Years Day, we figured we needed an adventure, so we made the trek--quick before the display ends.

On one end of the park, there is a deer statue that children have climbed onto for as long as he's been there. His name is Rastas, and he has stubs where his antlers should be. Naturally, Rastas was my first stop.

As I led the Big Guy along the familiar paths, past the light displays, beside the knoll that used to be shrouded in trees making for a secret hiding spot, past the wishing willow tree, I saw so much more than the abundance of colored lights and Christmas designs that decorated the park. Memories filled in all the spots left barren in the winter. The time spent with friends and family. The building inside the park where I bought my summer pool pass. The library where I spent so much time growing up.

Moving lights - a Christmas train

Sometimes when you need to recharge after the holidays, it's nice to revisit those places that are dear to you (or revisit the deer!). What are you doing to "recover" from the holidays?

Now available in audio!