So, I’ve got a funny story for you. You know last December, when my Scribes post listed all the things I meant to accomplish in 2019? I can proudly report that…
I might not have done so well.
Or at least I’ve been telling myself I didn’t accomplish much. Getting ready for this post, though, I looked over the list from last year – you can find it here if you’re curious – and I didn’t entirely suck.
I didn’t write another book for my agent to send out on submission, but I did self-publish Lost & Found (previously known as L’Ami Mysteriuex), so I get partial credit for this one.
Last January I’d written ~ 1120 #PostcardsToVoters, and today I’m at ~ 1850, which means I’ve averaged ~ 15 postcards per week. My goal was 20. Close enough.
I said I’d spend 15 minutes a day teaching myself French. HAHAHAHA.
I meant to write another Trevor story. He’s the hero in The Clockwork Monk & The Christmas Prince (which is still a free download for the next week or so), and while he’ll get another story, it didn’t happen this year.
Next was rewriting the Creepy Doll story. Funny thing, that. I started a rewrite, changing the time period from 1940 to 1900. Then I cut the vampire. Then I moved the location from New Orleans to Seattle. Then…uh…I cut the doll. And then I had to admit I was writing an entirely different book, but it was my NaNo project and I’m about 10k words shy of finishing the first draft.
I promised to keep my senators on speed dial, and I have.
I didn’t get back into Weight Watchers, but I’ve been going to a weekly spin class and taking yoga a couple times of week, so I’m going to count this as a win, too.
Looking back, there were only two resolutions I really did no work towards (and yes, Babbel, I’m looking at you). Here I thought I was going to write a 500-word mea culpa, but in reality, I did pretty good.
Now I guess I should figure out what to do to capitalize on this success. A clever person might make another list of resolutions and since I’m nothing if not clever, here goes…
I hereby resolve to use my planner.
Guess you could say I’m aiming to quit while I’m ahead. I do have a mental list of what I want to accomplish, and tbh, using a planner is a pretty big step that will allow me to translate my mental list to action. I’ll let you know how it goes!
I hope your holidays were happy, however you chose to celebrate. Thank you so much for reading along!!
Happy Sunday! I hope you’re all having a good weekend. This is just a quick post to let you know that my holiday novella, A Holiday Homecoming, went live this morning! Homecoming is part of Dreamspinner Press’s Advent Calendar series – you can click HERE to see the whole package – along with books by Kim Fielding, EJ Russell, CS Poe, and a whole bunch more.
It’s a great bunch of authors, and a lot of fun reads!
I had so much fun working on this story. It’s a bit of a departure for me; it’s contemporary, which means I didn’t have to figure out how to turn on the lights or how long it takes to get from point A to point B on a horse, and it’s NOT paranormal – nary a vampire in site! So if you’re in the mood for a sweet and slightly spicy holiday romance, this might be your book!
Ten years ago, Jon’s passion for the piano took him across country to New York, where a demanding concert career consumed his life and left him no time to look back. His father’s stroke is the only thing that brings him home to Seattle. The sick room makes for a dreary holiday until Jon runs into Bo, whose inner light can make anything sparkle.
Bo loves the holidays; the food, the crafts, the glitter! A fling with an old school friend – who grew up to be his celebrity crush – makes a good thing better. The season turns sour, though, when Jon is offered a gig he can’t refuse. He wants Bo to share the moment, but Bo doesn’t fly. Anywhere. Ever. Is this good-bye, or will a handmade ornament bring Jon home to Bo?
You can find A Holiday Homecoming on Amazon & other stores HERE, and on the publisher’s website (for slightly less money) HERE.
…as long as I’m here, I figure I’ll mention that Irene and I put Bonfire on sale for $0.99. It’s Christmas with a vampire on the bayou, y’all!
It started with a tweet (I think). A tweet that, as of this evening, has 22.5 thousand likes. I couldn’t coax twitter into showing me the number of responses, but quite a few of my friends tweeted their accomplishments, and it’s even filtered over onto Facebook. People are sharing what’s mattered most to them since 2010.
So, uh, I decided to use the tweet as a point of departure for this blog post.
So, without further ado, here’s a brief summary of what I’ve done since 2010.
The husband and I got two kids into and out of high school. They’re both in college now. The house is quiet. I’m beyond proud of them.
We brought Burnsie home about seven years ago. Ed-the-dog joined him about three years later. I discovered I’ve secretly been a dog person all along.
I left the employer I’d been with for 20+ years to go to work for UWMC. They think I’ve been with them ten years; I’m pretty sure it’s only nine. Either way, I still love taking care of babies.
I transitioned from church musician & front person for a cover band to author. I decided I’d sung all the songs I needed to sing – although if you wanna go to karaoke some night, I’m down.
At the risk of turning myself into a stereotype, I have discovered a deep-seated belief in democracy. Unfortunate that it took an existential threat to prompt this discovery. If you need me, I’m writing #postcardstovoters or getting ready for another demonstration.
I always knew I was going to be a writer when I grew up, and while it took me almost 50 years, I published my first novella in January of 2012. Since then, I’ve published six novels, five novellas, and nine or ten short stories. Two of the novels and two of the novellas were co-written with Irene Preston, and I’d count her friendship as another accomplishment all on its own.
I’ve lived in the same house with the same husband for over twenty years now, and we’re ready for many, many more. I’m a lucky girl.
ETA….I also changed hair color rather substantially… (A couple years ago I wrote a post about letting my hair go gray. Here’s a link.)
In the interest of getting back to my NaNoWriMo project, I’m going to end here. I hope you enjoy the last few weeks of 2019, and that the ’20s give you all the reasons to dance!
Back in 2015 – yikes! I’ve been blogging here for along time – I made a post called Ten Good Vampire Books. At some point along the way, that post got caught up in Google’s SEO magic algorithms and it’s had more views in 2019 than it had the year it was published.
At any rate, when I sat down to write this post, I planned to make an updated version of the old post, except almost immediately I ran into a problem. I haven’t been keeping up on the vampire literature.
In part, that’s because I have a vampire of my own. Thaddeus Dupont is 100 years old, and he was a monk before he was turned back in 1925. He and his boyfriend Sarasija Mishra appear in the Hours of the Night series I co-write with Irene Preston. (Jump HERE to learn more about Vespers, book 1 in the series.)
Some of you have seen me post about the Hours of the Night and Thaddeus Dupont before, so maybe this won’t be news, but bear with me for a bit. There were a couple compelling reasons I chose to write a vampire character – above and beyond Irene telling me I needed to write another vampire. (She can be very persistent.)
First off, I’ve always loved stories about vampires. Whether it’s trad vamps like Dracula or naughty vamps like Bill & Eric from the Southern Vampire Mysteries (the books that inspired True Blood), I’m a fan. For a while, I made something of a study of vampire fiction, reading as much as I could get my hands on.
When Irene and I first started working on Vespers, I had a good knowledge of what was out there in the world of vampire literature and some ideas about the kind of character I wanted to create. The popularity of vampire fiction rises and falls, following some unspoken cultural zeitgeist.
Victorian vampires addressed the cultural fear of death. Later in the ’80s and early ’90s, the themes were blood and infection, likely a response to the AIDS crisis. Then in the ’90s to early ’00s, vampires explored our ideas about eternal youth and sexiness.
At the risk of taking myself too seriously, when I write Thaddeus, there’s a similar theme at play. See, I’m the elderScribe, a good 10-20 years older than the rest of the gang who blogs here, and Thaddeus Dupont is my attempt to express my sometimes bewildering experience dealing with the modern world.
Thaddeus was born in 1900 and grew up in the bayou, speaking a patios of English and French, in a time and place before most of the modern accouterments we take for granted. His mildly confused response to his 21st century boyfriend is an echo of my own feelings. I try to keep up, but kids these days….damn….
There’s another, more personal reason for Thaddeus Dupont’s creation, specifically, why I gave him a strong Catholic orientation. I’m a cradle Catholic, and while my relationship to the Church has waxed and waned over the last 50-odd years, it’s currently on indefinite hiatus. The dissonance between Thaddeus’s relationship to the church and the love he has for Sara give me a place to work out my own feelings – in a hopefully-entertaining way.
Irene and I are currently working on Spooked, book 2 in our spin-off Haunts & Hoaxes series. The first book, Haunted, was written for a freebie giveaway, but readers liked the characters so we turned it into a series. I made the first cover (b/c freebie), but we recently unveiled a much-improved version that brands the series.
Haunts & Hoaxes is a mash-up of Supernatural + The X Files with naughty bits thrown in, and we’re hoping to release Spooked sometime in early 2020. Keep your eye out for it!
This post turned into kind of a ramble, but in summary, I probably know more about vampires than is good for me, I hadn’t kept up with vampire fiction b/c I don’t want it to color my own vampire, I have several reasons for how Thaddeus Dupont took shape, Irene and I are headed in a slightly different direction but will come back to HotN soon, and this is one of the longest sentences I’ve ever written.
Oh, and…uh… I have a couple gift codes for a free copy of Vespers. Leave me a comment and I’ll hook you up. (In the off chance that I get more comments than I have codes, I’ll draw names or something.)
So…yeah. In the interest of getting back at it, I’m going to close here with the blurb for Lost & Found, along with an excerpt and a link to where you can find it. The preorder price is $2.99 (regular $4.99) so it’s a bit of a bargain right now. Thanks….
A dancer who cannot
dance and a doctor who cannot heal must find in each other the strength to
History books will call it The Great War, but for Benjamin
Holm, that is a misnomer. The war is a disaster, a calamity, and it leaves Benjamin
profoundly wounded, his mind and memory shattered. A year after Armistice,
still struggling to regain his mental faculties, he returns to Paris in search
of his closest friend, Elias.
Benjamin meets Louis Donadieu, a striking and mysterious
dance master. Though Louis is a difficult man to know, he offers to help
Benjamin. Together they search the cabarets, salons, and art exhibits in the
newly revitalized city on the brink of les
années folles (the Crazy
Years). Almost despite himself, Benjamin breaches Louis’s defenses, and the two
men discover an unexpected passion.
As his memory slowly returns, Benjamin will need every ounce of courage he possesses to recover Elias’s story. He and Louis will need even more than that to lay claim to the love – and the future – they deserve.
Excerpt In which our heroes, Benjamin and Louis, make their acquaintance…
The table on the other side of me was
empty, at least until I’d poured myself a second glass of wine. Then, crossing
the room in a familiar halting rhythm, my neighbor, the man from the café on
the Place du Tertre, took a seat.
I raised my glass in a toast of
alcohol-fueled enthusiasm. “It’s nice to see you.”
He blinked as if surprised by my words.
“I’m not sure I know you.”
His gaze suggested otherwise. “A while
ago, you were at L’Oiseau Bleu.” I swirled the wine in my cup. “Are you
“I had a taste for fish.” Hooking his
cane over the edge of his table, he shrugged again. “And I have better things
to do than observe the habits of a drunk American.”
We were interrupted by the arrival of
my dinner. There might have been humor in his tone, but still, the sting of his
words quashed the impulse to invite him to join me.
Turning to the waiter, slick black hair
gleaming, he placed his own order. When the waiter brought his wine, I took the
opportunity to raise my glass a second time. “Cheers.” I deliberately did not
smile. “Comment allez-vous?” How are you, using the formal “vous,” not the more intimate “tu.”
Tu. In all my time in France, I’d never regularly
used the personal form of address. To be honest, if English had an equivalent
construction, I could have said the same about my friends and family at home.
I am well.”
His tone, and the slight tremor of his
fingers on his glass of wine, hinted otherwise. He turned as if to shield
himself from my appraisal. I couldn’t help myself. It was my nature to observe.
Assess. Diagnose. “I’m Benjamin Holm.” The distance between us was too great to
bridge with a handshake.
He raised his glass. “Louis Donadieu.”
I forced my fork through the crisp crust
of fish. Juices ran free, and my mouth watered. I ate, hunger keeping my
attention fixed on the food on my plate. Though it had been almost two years
since I’d last sat at an army canteen, I still attacked each meal as if someone
might steal it away.
At my last bite, I glanced at Louis. He
watched me, a pool of stillness amidst the confusion around us. “Did you even
“Yes.” Swirling my fork through the
drippings on my plate, I fought the urge to smile, unsure of the rules for the
game he played.
He sniffed. “Bien.” Shifting in his seat, he poured himself more wine. As long
as he wasn’t looking, I continued my assessment. He held his right leg
extended, as if he was unable to bend it at the knee, but was otherwise quite
vigorous, virile even.
I finished my peas and potatoes,
bemused by my strange dinner companion. After a week in Paris, I’d had no luck
with my main goal, and this conversation, though tentative, intrigued me.
“Were you injured?” I gestured at his
feet with my wine.
“In the war. Your leg.” His narrowed
gaze suggested I’d transgressed. So, no questions about his health. “Pardon. I did not mean to—”
“No, I was unable to participate in the
He turned his attention away, leaving
me confused. This was less a game than a jousting contest. Rather than bring another
helping of rudeness on my head, I swallowed the rest of my wine and prepared to
“What are you doing?”
I paused in the act of reaching for my
wallet. “I’m finished. I need to be going.” Though I had no real destination
beyond the poor comfort of my solitary rooms. Instead of my wallet, I fished
out the photograph. “Here.” I stood, leaning over his table and offering him
the picture of Elias. “I’m looking for my friend Elias. Have you seen him?”
Always the same words, bringing the
same blank response.
“Maybe he doesn’t want to be found.” He
tapped the white edge of the photograph, and I snatched it away.
“He’s my friend.”
His acid tone burned through my good
humor. Who is this man to follow and then
abuse me? “Have a good evening.”
“Good evening, though if you give up so
easily, you must not really want to find him.”
Surprise kept me planted by his table. “Do
you know where he is?”
He tipped his glass in my direction, the corner of his lips curling in what could not truly be called a smile. Though it wasn’t a scowl either. “No, but if I do see him, I will send him to the heavy-footed American man who lives on the floor above me.”
Tired of being the target of his sport, I straightened, falling into the habitual pose of a military officer. “Again, good evening.” Annoyed beyond what the situation called for, I departed.
I didn’t take many liberties with Michelle’s vocal style. Like, I pretty much copied her note-for-note. Well, maybe not every note but I stayed true to the way she interpreted the songs. Save that thought for later.
The thing that made me sad about remembering Michelle is that when I googled her name, I got her Wikipedia page, a couple hits about a supposed homophobic rant, followed by her apologies for said rant…or denials, or something. Then I went to youtube, and all I could find were really sketchy covers of some of her songs.
Dear god I hope my band sounded better than that.
Which got me thinking about writing. Okay, you’re right. Just about everything gets me thinking about writing, but still. The thought I’ve been chewing on this time has to do with what’s good and what’s not.
It seems to me that the difference between me and the authors that find a place in the broader cultural landscape is larger than the difference between Serena Williams and that seventeen year old kid she played on center court in Arthur Ashe Stadium last night.
Catherine McNally played well – she won the first set, which is not easy to do against Serena – but by the middle of the second set, they could have been playing in different universes.
Catherine is good. Serena is the best, possibly ever.
The thing that hangs me up is figuring out where I fit on the spectrum between “good” and “best”. Do I even reach “good”? I don’t know, and sometimes that uncertainty makes it hard to get any words on the page.
There’s this contradiction between “there’s so much crap out there” and “everyone’s voice is important”. Can both, “you’re a shitty cover band singer” and, “you are uniquely creative and no one else can tell your stories” be true?
And does it matter that my old band’s version of If Love was a Train doesn’t stray far at all from the original?
I don’t need to be Serena, but I’d like to see if I could play on the same court at least once.
I’ve been pondering whether it would be worth my while to get my MFA, maybe at one of the low-residency programs that focus on genre fiction. (I can’t stand to read much literary fiction, so don’t look for me on the lit fic bestseller list, like ever.) They programs I’ve looked at are expensive (!), and while I’m sure I’d learn, I’m not sure I’d learn more than I could teach myself by, you know, reading and writing.
Artists learn to paint by copying the masters. Singers learn to scat by mimicking Ella Fitzgerald. (And yes, I’ve had Mr. Paganini on constant rotation in my brain for the last couple weeks.) I’ve never sat down and said “I’ma write just like _______,” but I do take mental notes while I’m reading.
And I read a lot, hitting just about anything but horror and YA. (And Lit Fic, but we already covered that.) I read, and I write, and I try to push myself.
You may be wondering what brought on this little bout of naval gazing. See, I read an article about the Dunning-Kruger effect. That’s the one that says when you first learn something, your confidence is low because you know you don’t know anything, but once you learn a little, your confidence goes up, higher than your relative skill would warrant.
Once you move toward expert, you know what you don’t know, and your confidence goes down.
I won’t ever play as well as Serena, and I do still tend to sing a lot like Michelle Shocked, but I have too much writing to do to worry about how my work will eventually be judged. So, on that note…
Last October I heard Damon Suede speak at the Emerald City Writers Conference. He’s a terrific speaker who wraps a lifetime of knowledge and experience in an entertaining – like, LOL funny – presentation.
Damon could explain this a lot better than I will, but the basic premise to his master class was this: a reader gets to know a character by the character’s actions. Period. And those actions make it on the page in the form of verbs. So, rather than spend hours developing a detailed character biography, pick a handful of verbs and a few adjectives and make that the template your character grows from.
I recently wrote a holiday novella, the first piece I’d started from scratch since hearing Damon’s presentation. Over the years I’ve done my share of character biography worksheets – the more detailed, the better – but this time I came up with names, chose half a dozen verbs and the same number of adjectives, and wrote simple goal-motivation-conflict statements for each of the two main characters.
Here’s the beginning of my character worksheets for Bo and Jon, the heroes in my holiday novella:
Background: big family, Italian, local Seattle, Midnight Mass at St. James
Jon Cunningham – the artist: Adjectives and Verbs: dark, deep, methodical, dedicated, passionate, reserved, commanding, distancing, consider, create, observe, listen, measure, perform, practice, reflect, teach
Background: Seattle family, missed out on much of high school, studied at Juilliard, Dad had a stroke
Can’t you just picture them? Instead of pages of detail, I had a few lines, yet I felt it took me less time to get a handle on Bo & Jon than just about any of my other characters. I’ll admit things morphed a little during the writing process, particularly in terms of their goals/ motivations/ conflicts, but the characters’ essence, who they were, was pretty solid.
That essence was captured in the verbs and adjectives I chose for them.
Whenever I wasn’t quite sure how a character would respond or what they’d do next, I had my list of verbs and adjectives to guide me. Even though both my heroes changed over the course of the novella – because that’s what the plot is for – still, their core remained constant.
You’ll have a chance to see how well I did, because Dreamspinner offered me a contract for the novella, so A Holiday Homecoming will be released ~ 12/1/19. If you have the change to hear Damon speak, do it. You’ll learn a lot. And the next time you’re stuck with on a character, focus on their verbs and see if it helps.