Sunday, November 20, 2016


Thanksgiving is coming. People are coming to my house to celebrate. I enjoy the planning that goes into the feast. I’m thankful that it’s one day of the year when no one gives me a hard time about my control freak tendencies. Everyone will have a place to sit, all the food will be ready to eat at the same time, and I’ll have most of the kitchen clean before everyone is done eating. Yet no one will say, “Do you always have to be so fastidious?” Attention to detail will be appreciated for a change. We’ll enjoy a meal and share our blessings because all kidding aside, my family gives me plenty of reasons to be personally thankful.

But how am I professionally thankful? What am I most thankful for as a writer? I could say readers. I could say getting to do what I love. Those are great answers and certainly sources of gratitude. What would I put at the top of the list though?


I am most thankful for the many kinds of ideas. There are of course good ideas, the ones that push a story forward. And there are bad ideas. I once had a character filling out a long survey, which made for very dry reading. I’m still thankful for the ideas that let me laugh at myself. I’m thankful for cute ideas. My kids have said things that I’ve worked into stories. I’ve received some wonderful suggestions over the years. They make me thankful for shared ideas. I’m even thankful for dumb ideas, like some of the things my brother did as a teenager. “Bush surfing” and “mud sledding” give me potential additions to future material. Above all, I’m thankful that I don’t have to worry about running out of ideas.

For fiction. I have serious doubts about ideas for blog posts. I mean, come on. Right now I’m trying to pass off thinking of ideas as an idea. Did it work?

Thursday, October 13, 2016

What's Next?

I have something of a love/hate relationship with this question. On the one hand, I’m a planner. It’s in my nature to constantly ask myself what I should be working on right now so that I know what I’ll work on after that and when I can get to the other thing that I can do while I’m waiting for this and so on. I always want to be working toward some goal, usually several.

On the other hand, I’m sort of insane. I spend too much time thinking about and revising my plans to make sure everything I do still fits into a plan when “life” happens. Sometimes my favorite goal is having good goals. I have, for example, already spent a lot more time planning what to write for this month’s blog post than I will spend actually writing it. It’s possible to make the argument that I’m really dedicated to creating good content or that I… Let’s just stick with dedicated.

I was thinking about what comes after my Coffee and Donuts series long before I finished that series. I have a rough draft of the next book. The part I haven’t figured out is whether or not I’ll release it with a pen name. My children (one of them in particular) have been asking me for some time to please, please, please write something that is not a love story. My next two releases will be children’s novels. They are a pair of adventures with no love interests in sight.

This is a temporary reprieve for the kids. I’m also planning a new Christian romance. I expect it will not be part of a series, but it’s currently a few pages of notes and imagination. I have time to revise that plan. I’m hoping it will be finished sometime next summer.

In the meantime, I’m about to release large print editions of the four main Stories From Hartford novels. This sounded easy. Just change the font size, right? I only predicted a couple of days for the project. But changing the font size changes the page count, which increases the spine, which requires a larger gutter and a new cover file. I also need to register new ISBNs. And revising all the books at once lets me clean up a few things that weren’t uniform in the originals. Every time I tweak something in one book, I have to tweak the other three to match. Yeah, I have to. It’s part of the plan.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Connecting the Dots (again)

Not Complicated was released earlier this month, which means all four of my Coffee and Donuts books are now available. This feels like a good time to write about what makes this series a series. How are these books linked?

In a lot of series, each book picks up a timeline shortly after the end of the previous book. (I could put in a plug here for Stories From Hartford being a fine example, but I won’t.) The Coffee and Donuts books, however, happen at the same time. They all start on the same day and end on the same day and even share a few settings. This makes the characters occasionally pop up in each other’s stories, even though they don’t know each other.

They do have a few mutual friends. In the opening scene of Said and Unsaid (1), Alexa is sitting with Linda, Suzy and Joyce. Linda is Molly’s mom in Not Complicated (4). Suzy is Maddie’s mom, also in Not Complicated (4). And Joyce is Austin’s grandmother in Sofie Waits (2). Austin even shows up briefly in the first book, then that scene is repeated from his perspective in the second book. (See Excerpt 2 and 4 for details.) Anyone paying attention can pick up a few other places where characters from other books are recognizable. But I also had some fun slipping in some uncredited roles. Here are a few.

From Sofie Waits (2):
    [Monsignor Loy] just kept smiling. “You two have been delightful. I must mingle some more now. Have a good day.”
    As he moved to a young couple by the donut table, Sofie was left wondering if he meant she and Amber were delightful or his Tuesdays with Amber and Joe.

This scene continues in Said and Unsaid (1), as the young couple by the donut table is Tracker and Alexa.

From A Perfectly Good Man (3):
    I made my way through the building to wave at Monsignor Loy before I left. Then I tossed my cup in a trash can by the door and stepped into the bright sunshine of a summer day. There were flowering trees along the sidewalk, the scent of coffee followed me from the parish hall, and a little boy was laughing hysterically on his dad’s shoulders. The idyllic scene was marred by the feeling that I was running away from something and by the uneasiness of not knowing what it was.

The little boy is Emmet from Not Complicated (4). There’s a line in that book that shows him being lifted onto his dad’s shoulders.

From Not Complicated (4):
    A pretty woman with a blond ponytail showed up with two fresh drinks. “Griffin got a little tied up and asked me to deliver these,” she said. “Your food should be ready any minute. Can I get you anything else in the meantime?”
    “No, thanks,” I said, offering her an appreciative smile. She had an open friendliness about her that was nice to see even if only for a moment.

Molly is at The Sleepy Crab in this scene. The blond woman is Heidi from A Perfectly Good Man (3).

From Sofie Waits (2):
    He crossed paths with Monsignor Loy on the sidewalk. “Good morning, my sheep.” The priest smiled and smoothed his beard. “Are you alone today?”
    “Looks that way,” Austin said.
    “Physically but not spiritually, of course.”
    “Of course.” Austin nodded at the correction that was not insignificant. He was trying to rely on God to find a time to talk to Sofie. The reminder helped. It was harder to be impatient with God than with Sofie.
    “I hear there’s a bug going around,” Monsignor Loy said. “I hope that isn’t the reason you’re without family.”
    “No. They were all fine last night. I’m sure they’re just coming later.”

Monsignor Loy is the only character who appears in all four books. The bug he mentions here is a reference to the one that hits Linda in Not Complicated (4) and Tracker in Said and Unsaid (1) around this time.

From Said and Unsaid (1):
    I noticed a couple about to pass us on the other side of the street. They were holding hands. I began to panic that Tracker would think I was wishing I wasn’t holding leashes because I was getting ideas about him holding my hand and he wasn’t thinking anything like that and didn’t have any intention to ever be thinking anything like that and he was probably freaking out about me getting ideas like that when he only wanted to be friendly and hadn’t planned on walking halfway around the city with his lazy, or maybe just old, dog. I needed to say something.

That couple on the other side of the street is Heidi and Tyler from A Perfectly Good Man (3). They notice Alexa, too.

From Sofie Waits (2):
    [Austin] passed a couple in the parking lot on his way to his car. He didn’t know what was going on between them and didn’t care, but he felt a slight pang of jealousy because the guy appeared to have the girl’s rapt attention. His life would be a lot easier if he could get Sofie to stay in one place long enough to spell out exactly where he stood with her.

The couple may or may not be a couple. The woman is Heidi from A Perfectly Good Man (3). Who is she talking to after church on the 3rd Sunday?

There are other instances of overlap, but I don’t want to give away all the secrets. Feel free to read the whole series to look for more of them.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Stage 6 - Hope

I’m not sure if my husband was surprised or amused to find I’d put Hope last in my writing process. Shouldn’t Hope be first, he wondered? Don’t most good things begin with Hope?

I didn’t list hope first because I’ve gotten past that in my current writing process. I’ve come to a point where I’ve written enough books that I know I can write another one. I don’t know how long it might take, and I don’t know how frustrated I might get. But I believe that, eventually, I’ll get there. My hope now is that the book will be read. Hope is the stage when I release a book, cross my fingers, pray really hard, and wait for people to read the book. There are some people who do read my books. Anyone can look at sales ranks and reviews to see that I’ve had mild success. I Hope for more. As long as I’m writing more books, I’m Hoping for more readers.

Now I don’t just hope. I have done nearly everything I have thought of to get copies in front of readers. Potential readers. And even when the books are free, this is difficult. I’ll be utterly transparent about how difficult it is. Here’s what I’ve done:

1) Digital giveaways – The simplest way to pass out copies of my books is to make them free at one or more ebook sites. The main problem (reason this does little good) is that it’s too simple. Free ebooks are largely ignored or dismissed as not worth the price. As a reader, I know exactly why. I’ve still used this method. I’ve given away thousands of books in the last several years.

2) Goodreads giveaways – The nice thing about these is that it gets people to add books to their “to read” shelves. That makes my book pages look healthier. But it doesn’t mean much beyond window dressing. Most users treat their “to read” shelves as “of the millions of books out there, this looks like something I might read if I suddenly have twenty years of free time” shelves.

Even of the users who have won free copies of my books, only about a third have posted a rating or review. That’s the only way I know the books might have been read, and I cannot overstate how much I appreciate the ones who do write detailed reviews.

3) Advertising – I have paid for a few book ads. What I spend is crystal clear but the payoff is murky at best. Even when you can see the clicks, it’s difficult to measure sales. My budget is so small this is hardly worth mentioning anyway.

4) Review copies – The only socially acceptable way to offer a complete stranger a free book is to call it a review copy. In a perfect world, I would never contact strangers to beg for their opinions. I hate doing it. That’s the truth. I don’t actually beg though. It just feels like begging after all the hoops I jump through to get the contact information in the first place.

To search for reviewers, it is a bad idea to type in “book reviewer” or “book blogger” or anything simple. The top 200 results (at least) will be sites so popular they are no longer accepting requests. Or scams. There are plenty of sites that promise to get reviews from their subscribers (usually for a fee) if you also subscribe. Guess who the subscribers are. Guess how many are actually writing reviews.

It’s marginally more productive to include genre keywords in the search. The first thing I do at each site anyway is find out if the reviewer accepts books like the one I’m pitching. I try very hard not to spam. The next thing is to find out if the site is still active. Many people start a book blog, write a few posts, then abandon the effort. I am not judging these people. Seriously. I only post once a month, and it feels like it’s always time to post again.

After I narrow the field, I narrow it further to rule out contacting anyone who admits to having a significant backlog (because that sounds like someone I don’t want to bother), anyone whose reviews look like reworded summaries (because we all know why), anyone whose own book is prominently displayed on the blog (because that person is likely looking to exchange reviews, only good ones), and anyone who rates romances based on how badly the hero suffers after cheating (because I’m not a psychologist).

I don’t keep stats, but I feel as though I visit dozens of sites for each one where I decide to submit a review request. I’m sure I send out at least five requests for every one that gets a response. (And most of those are “Sorry, I’m too busy.”) When I do finally send out books, I’ll consider myself lucky if half the recipients write reviews. Hello needle! Welcome to my haystack.

5) Shady practices – I said I’d be fully honest. This is the part where I admit I got a few friends to review my first book. I justified it by asking them to only post reviews if they could do so honestly. Yeah, I know how that sounds now. That book has been retired. I’d like to call it a rookie mistake and move on.

I have since tried to avoid anything that moves into gray areas. The temptation is strong though. Other authors offer to swap reviews. All I’d have to do is post a few vague lines next to 5 stars on a book almost no one will ever see – and use a fake name to do it – and one of my books can have a glowing review. Sock puppet accounts are easy to create. I could write believable reviews for my books because I’ve actually read them. I could pay for reviews. I could join online groups and forums only to promote my book. Some things that may not be explicitly wrong still don’t feel right.

Sometimes those things work though. I have seen books amass tons of what I know are phony reviews. (Not because a book doesn’t look deserving, but because I’ve encountered the author publicly trading for those reviews.) It can be difficult not to be jealous. I have to remind myself how unsatisfying an insincere review would feel.

6) Try anything – Desperation may be the mother of creativity. Sometimes it feels as though my books are stranded on a tiny island and potential readers are all in airplanes. I’m slapping at the signal fire with anything that’s free and ethical and hopefully not annoying. I post blogs and reviews to keep content fresh. I’ve made videos. I almost wrote a pirate song. You’d have to read the Coffee and Donuts books to understand the relevance. I’ve dropped vague hints hoping to spark curiosity. You’d have to read the last sentence to understand the relevance.

I wrote a novelty story on an Amazon forum in an attempt to make my other stories stand out. I’ve posted excerpts of my books on goodreads with personal notes attached. I’ve written a blog with the thought in the back of my mind that someone might see how challenging it is to get reviews and spontaneously write one.

That’s not unethical, right? It’s just hopeful. I’m writing about Hope. I know it might sound like I’m whining, like I’m complaining that not enough people read my books. That’s not the point. The point is that I’m willing to do an awful lot to attract readers to my work and after all the struggles, Hope is alive and well. I don’t write books because it’s easy. I don’t write because I think I’ll get rich. There are no delusions here, only Hope. I write because I enjoy the stories, and I want others to enjoy them as well. As many others as possible.

I will carry that Hope as I prepare to release each new book. The next one, Not Complicated, will be available in two weeks. There’s a giveaway on goodreads. The kindle version will be free Sept. 8-10. Book bloggers and even casual reviewers can contact me privately for a copy. I Hope to pass out a lot of copies. I Hope to hear from those who enjoy it. And I Hope to get an excerpt posted soon.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Stage 5 - Help

I read an article many years ago about the value of critique groups for writers.  The only thing I really remember about the article is that it seemed to be picking on my grandmother.  It said a lot of things like, “Your grandmother will love what you write no matter what,” and “Your grandmother thinks she’s being kind when she says your book is perfect the way it is,” and “Your grandmother doesn’t want to admit to herself that your book has flaws, let alone say that to you.”

I know what a generalization is and I know why that one exists, but I still sort of wanted to introduce the article’s author to my grandmother.  She was a retired English teacher.  She was sharper than the best cheddar and not afraid of hard truths.  Her belief that letting students see her smile would make her appear soft earned her the nickname “Stoneface.”

When my grandmother read one of my early works, she only said, “The past tense of lie is lay.”  Then she changed the subject.

While I’m not going to lie and say I wouldn’t have enjoyed a little praise mixed in – because this was my grandmother – she did actually tell me exactly what I wanted to hear.  She gave me something concrete and fixable.  (The only thing that would have made it better was the page number where I made that mistake.)  Concrete and fixable is usually what I’m after when I look for help with my books.  Once I have a book to the point I’m pretty happy with it, I find as many people as I can to read it and tell me about the things that shouldn’t make me happy, the mistakes I can’t see because I’m too familiar.

Imagine that someone pushed text under your nose that you know by heart, maybe the Lord’s Prayer or favorite song lyrics.  You wouldn’t actually read it, would you?  You might be looking at the words, but they’d already be printed on your brain.  You probably wouldn’t notice if something was misspelled or mixed up unless you forced yourself to go slowly and study each word.  I try.  It’s hard to do that for an entire book.  This is when I need help from those who don’t have parts of the book memorized.

So I ask for help. 

And I get help.

Comments from other family members have included: “I just don’t think that would happen.”  “Is it too late to suggest changes?”  “You can call that a style thing, but it bugs the heck out of me.”  “I stumbled over and reread that sentence many times.”  “Your characters are so nice I want to gag.”  “Can I have a copy of that manuscript so I can try to fix it for you?”

I didn’t need that article I mentioned above to convince me of the value of critique groups.  I truly value any feedback I receive.  I try to listen for valid points even when those points are stabbing holes in my pride.  I have made changes based on some of these suggestions.  But that’s not what Stage 5 is supposed to look like. 

Stage 5 is about polishing.  It’s about getting typos and concrete mistakes pointed out.  The help stage is about people telling me specifically where I’m wrong.  People handing me a list of mistakes.  People making sure I know how perfectly human I am in nice, simple lists.  I could call it proofreading.  I call it help because everyone loves me enough to be more honest than I ask.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Stage 4 - Acceptance

I am the first person to proofread each of my books.  When I’m sure I’m done with any significant editing, I begin to read the story looking for typos or inconsistencies.  I clean up dialog, adding or subtracting tags to be sure it’s clear who’s speaking and still flows smoothly.  I rearrange sentences, check comma placement, consider synonyms and just get as nit-picky as I can make myself.

In truth, I don’t have to make myself nit-picky.  I’m naturally a detail person.  (Doesn’t detail person sound nicer than nit-picky?)  The danger of this phase lies in the fact that it could have no end.  I could find something to change every time I look at the project because I’m not simply looking for errors.  I’m looking for anything that might sound a teeny bit better another way.

There was an adverb in a recent book that would not sit right for me.  I changed it over and over, usually back to what it had been on the last pass.  At some point though, I need to be able to close a book.  I need to be able to say to myself, “I’ve done my best.”  I need to be able to say, “If there is a person out there who is going to judge this book entirely on whether I said someone did something casually or carelessly, there’s really nothing I can do about that.”

This is what acceptance is all about.  Acceptance is getting to a place where I feel as though I’ve fixed what needs to be fixed and can let everything else go.

Let’s review the steps.  Stage 1 is Floundering, when I brainstorm ideas for a book.  Stage 2, Insomnia, is when I try to get all those thoughts on paper before I forget them.  Stage 3 is the major editing, the Pain of admitting where I’m wrong and sometimes working backwards.  Then comes this 4th stage of Acceptance.  Last month I wrote that I hoped to be on this stage with the last Coffee and Donuts book by now.

I confess that I am not.

This is actually good news.  I have so far left out the most important part of my writing process.  This part is not a separate step but the overall driving force behind my writing.  It’s called Doing Whatever the Heck I Want. 

As my own boss, if I want to backburner the last Coffee and Donuts book to work on a Stories From Hartford prequel, then that’s what I’m going to do.  And it’s what I have done.  My next release will be Hearts on the Window (Stories From Hartford#0.5)It’s set about two years before Andrew’s Key and tells the story of how Jill met her husband.  Because it’s shorter than most of my work, a novella, it will only be available as an ebook.  It should be out by the end of this month.  An excerpt is already posted on goodreads.  Enjoy!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Stage 3 - Pain

Remember all that stuff I knew in stage 2? How I said I knew exactly what happens at the most important scenes in my project before I even start writing it? At some point I usually need to admit that I didn’t know everything I thought I knew. Something in the book doesn’t work, or isn’t working, or won’t work no matter how hard I might want to make it work.

This is Pain.

Pain has taken many forms.

Pain has caused me to delete pages of text, text I lost sleep over. Pain has removed characters, added characters, sent me back to stage 1, demanded an extra 10,000 words and even killed off a dog.

I don’t like Pain.

This 3rd stage doesn’t even know that stages are supposed to be linear. It doesn’t wait until I’ve finished writing out the draft of stage 2. It just shows up uninvited at some point, like someone at my front door with a clipboard and really long sales pitch. He calmly explains to me what I’m doing wrong. I call him Pain because I don’t like to admit when I’m wrong.

But Pain has also made me laugh at things I thought were good ideas. Pain turned a book into a series. Stage 3 is the point in each project when I force myself to look for ways to make improvements. Even when those improvements make a lot more work for me.

Everything I write can always be better. I pray for guidance when Pain hits. I pray that the final book will reflect my best ideas, not necessarily my first ideas. But it’s nice when there’s a lot of overlap.

So where am I in this process with my current project? The 4th Coffee and Donuts book has already given me plenty of insomnia and pain. I hope to be solidly in acceptance by the time I write about that next month.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Stage 2 - Insomnia

I like to be able to picture what happens in a book before I actually write it down. I know I’m ready to start the first draft of a new book when I can picture how it ends. Not the last line exactly, but I know where and when that last scene takes place. I know how the characters are feeling and I’m running lines in my head to determine the best way for them to express it. I know what obstacles or misunderstandings have led to that point. I can imagine all of those, too. All the key scenes are showing in my head like my own private movie projection. Especially when it’s dark and quiet and I’m supposed to be sleeping.

I lie there while my imagination rewinds and replays a bit of the book, possibly only a few lines, over and over and over and over…

You’d think that would put anyone to sleep.

It’s a little different every time though. Those changes keep me awake because I’m always sure that the next version will make me happy. Then I have to face two competing impulses… the one that says I can’t get the words on paper fast enough because I might forget something and the one that says I could be even happier with that scene if only I let it play out a few more times.

The fact that I don’t want to get out of bed wins out over both impulses.

So I just keep thinking about the story – trying not to forget it and trying to fix details at the same time – until I do eventually fall asleep. If I’m lucky, I only go a few nights without sleep for each book. If my family is lucky, I don’t take it out on them.

How long does this stage last? The fastest I’ve ever written a first draft was only two weeks. It typically takes between one and two months. But it’s called a first draft for a reason. Words on paper is not a book yet.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Stage 1 - Floundering

I was planning to write about my writing process this month. Not the writing process, but my writing process. I was going to try to describe the steps it takes for me to get from idea to book.

The problem I ran into was that I found I had a lot to say about each step. Too much. I couldn’t decide how to describe the steps concisely. Then I realized that I didn’t have a problem at all. What I actually had was a brilliant idea. Each step was enough for a separate post. Why not write about each step individually? Why not give myself a several months long break from the struggle to come up with a blog topic? Oh, yeah. I like this idea.

So these are the topics… uh… the different stages I identified in my writing process.

1 – Floundering
2 – Insomnia
3 – Pain
4 – Acceptance
5 – Help
6 – Hope

Stage 1 is Floundering. This is the part where I think I’d like to write a book, but I haven’t figured out the story yet. I’m still asking myself a ton of questions. Some of these might include:

- Who is this story about?
- What do I like about the main character(s)?
- Is there any reason this shouldn’t be a love story?
- What does she look like?
- What makes him attractive?
- What family do they have?
- How many of these family members do I have to name?
- Am I going to have to read the phone book again to find last names?
- Do we even still have a phone book?
- Is Sparkly Alligator a better name for a band than Sparkly Crocodile?
- What sort of timeline do I need to tell this story?
- Am I writing in 1st person or 3rd?
- How can I fictionalize that tree beer incident?

Let’s explore a few of those questions. Yes, sometimes I use last names I find in a phone book, though that isn’t the only source. For first names, I frequently turn to baby name lists. I figure out what year a character would have been born, then look up the top baby names for that year.

I can usually imagine a character on my own. I have occasionally resorted to people watching for help. There are never people I know in a book, but a few times I observed people at the grocery story, the park or church. I asked myself how I would describe the people I saw until I found an interesting facial feature or distinctive mannerism that fit a potential character.

For a love story, the plot usually begins with one important question. Do the hero and heroine already know each other? If they don’t, figuring out how they meet and get together drives the story. If they do know each other, there is probably a reason they aren’t already dating. A good chunk of the plot will include resolving that issue.

Once I have a general feel for the story I plan to write I begin to scribble various notes, everything from details on specific events or subplots to random sentences that might make good lines somewhere in the book. It’s all eventually arranged into at least a basic outline before I start writing.

I believe this is where I went wrong in the past. Before I finished my first book, I spent several years starting and subsequently abandoning projects. I know now that I was so determined to write that I didn’t let myself spend enough time discerning what to write. This doesn’t mean I can’t change my mind later. I’m still stubborn about keeping the outline flexible. A lot of the planning stays in my head, which is why the next stage is called Insomnia. But I’ll get to that next month.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

What did she say?

Have you ever had a conversation and then later started thinking about what you might have said instead? A very cool thing about being an author is that I have time to think about what people should say before they say it. Sometimes this is simple and fun. I just let the characters talk. Sometimes I get stuck though. Sometimes I don’t know what I want someone to say, and I need to brainstorm possibilities until a response feels exactly right.

What follows here is an example of the latter from A Perfectly Good Man. The main character (Heidi) is talking to someone named John. Olivia is his 5-year-old niece and Kim is his sister and Olivia’s mother.

  “Of course you’re nice,” I said, shifting under the weight of my own guilt more than any perceived interrogation. “Olivia thinks so and she seems pretty smart.”
  He smiled. “You know she also thinks I work for Santa Claus.”
  “What? She doesn’t really think that, does she?”
  “She does.”
  “Why would you tell her that?”
  John put his hands up defensively while he laughed. “It wasn’t me. Kim said she asked about my job and she didn’t want to scare her with how boring it really is so she said I worked for Santa, that I work on a program that helps him keep up when kids move. I tried to tell Olivia the truth, but Kim had told her that I’d have to deny it because keeping the secret was part of my job.”

How should Heidi respond to this? I was stuck long enough that I started jotting down everything that popped into my head. Here are several ideas I had for continuing this conversation.

…I’d have to deny it because keeping the secret was part of my job.”
  “So that’s why Olivia likes to hang out with you.”
  John rewarded me with amused sarcasm. “Thanks for pretending that was a mystery.”

…I’d have to deny it because keeping the secret was part of my job.”
  “Wow. You are like the tallest elf I’ve ever seen.”
  “Nobody said I was an elf. They make toys, not software.”

…I’d have to deny it because keeping the secret was part of my job.”
  “That’s funny.”
  “It’s funny until she tells a bunch of kids that she has an uncle who knows where they live. Then I sound creepy.”

…I’d have to deny it because keeping the secret was part of my job.”
  “Wait a minute. Did you tell Santa I moved? Is that why I didn’t get a plant last year?”
  John laughed, but then he said, “Did you really want a plant?”

…I’d have to deny it because keeping the secret was part of my job.”
  “I’m surprised she didn’t say you worked on the naughty and nice list.”
  “I think Kim didn’t want Olivia to think she could ask me to tweak that list.”

…I’d have to deny it because keeping the secret was part of my job.”
  “Interesting. Next time I see Olivia, I’ll tell her that Blitzen considers you his best friend.”
  “Everyone knows Blitzen is the coolest reindeer.”
  He sighed at me. “I meant why would you encourage that?”

…I’d have to deny it because keeping the secret was part of my job.”
  “That is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.”
  “Really? That’s because I haven’t told you what Kim did to me when I was ten.”

I don’t think any of these ideas are really bad (I’m not sharing the ones that were bad), but the trick was that I wanted John and Heidi to end up talking about something else. I needed to figure out which response I could use to steer the conversation towards that topic. Which ended up in the final book? If only there was a way to find out.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Coming Soon

I post something here about once a month and whenever possible, I like to make it relevant to what I’m currently working on. What I’ve been working on most recently is the cover for my next book. I have no artistic background so this process involves a fair amount of trial and error. I save a lot of reject files along the way because I know going backward remains a strong possibility until I’m completely finished.

Rather than write – again – about the steps and difficulty of creating a cover, I have decided not to let all those saved, non-cover-worthy images go to waste. I narrated a brief video montage. Watch the new cover take shape here.