Saturday, August 22, 2015


A Fair Comparison?

When I finished reading Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins and left my review on, I noticed how many people had compared it to Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn. Until then, I hadn’t been aware of the critical buzz concerning their similarities.
      I enjoyed both books. Suspense is what I read almost exclusively, and I read both books eagerly. I read Girl on the Train nearly a year after reading Gone Girl, but only months after seeing the movie of Gone Girl. Did I make a mental comparison between them? I did, but only as far as recognizing that both books had a central theme of a missing woman.
      That similarity in theme, for me, in no way detracted from my enjoyment of the book I read second, Girl on the Train, so the negativity with which they were compared surprised me.
      Let’s be honest. If you are a constant reader of suspense like I am, you know that the old saying about new ideas holds true. Mark Twain said it best:

There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations. We keep on turning and making new combinations indefinitely; but they are the same old pieces of colored glass that have been in use through all the ages.

      Each book dealt with the idea of a woman missing in a new and unique way. The creativity of the authors is what kept both books on the bestseller list for so long. Girl on the Train’s huge success is proof of Twain’s literary wisdom.

            What we can learn from this as authors.
1.     Don’t be afraid to use an old, established plot if you like, but Develop a new, creative twist, remembering Mark Twain’s mental kaleidoscope.

2.     Timing  Two things: A new book can ride the wave of an earlier, successful one, as Girl on the Train did, and that can be sales magic. But publish too soon and your book could drown in that wave. Best to hold off until the other book has died down in popularity.

3.     Characters are everything  To pull off a book like Girl on the Train, the characters have to be new and unique, nothing like the ones from the predecessor. It is our characters that make or break a book’s popularity, and interesting characters are even more vital when writing a book with a popular theme.

4.    Title While both titles include the word, girl, each is unique and catchy. I loved the title, Girl on the Train. The title alone made me curious about what was inside.  So the title too, by having a similarity, put the book on the popularity wave. Take time to think of a catchy title.

      My only complaint about these two books, (and my issue really isn’t about them), is
whenever a book (or a movie!) gets such lavish praise as these two did, by the time I got around to reading them, it was impossible not to be somewhat disappointed. Nothing could have lived up to all the hoopla surrounding them. Does that mean too much publicity be a bad thing? I would love to have that problem for my next book!

Dear Readers,
There have been a lot of good suspense books out lately. So much that reading is distracting me from my writing. I probably need to set a timer when I read, but I excuse my literary distraction by telling myself how much I’m learning when I read!
Keep writing, reading, and have a wonderful end of summer.

Friday, July 24, 2015


Since I published my first novel four years ago, I’ve been waiting to hear from James Patterson. In my wildest daydreams, he asks me to coauthor a book with him. I’m also an avid reader of his suspense books and admire his creativity and no-nonsense writing style. So when I saw that he was offering a writing class for authors, I signed up. 

Why I signed up

1)   I need help changing from a Pantser to an Outliner.
I am a true, write-by-the-seat-of-my-pants author and harbor a strong resistance to any form of outlining, despite trying every method I’ve come across. In an interview with Patterson, I heard that he does fifty-page outlines. I figured if the master of outlining can’t inspire me to change, no one can.
2)   I want to entertain my readers
Scoff at Patterson’s style all you want—(it is no accident that he’s a millionaire)—Patterson’s books are sheer entertainment. His fans gobble  up his books by the hundreds of thousands.

What I’ve learned so far

1)   Love, love, love, this Patterson quote on self-editing. “Go through your manuscript and delete everything a reader would skim over.”
As a reader I skim over any sections that bore me, especially backstory and family history. Not my thing, and judging by Patterson’s popularity, not many others’ thing, either.
2)   Using an extensive, Patterson-style outline, a good story is constructed on a rather bare outline, and then built upon and worked into a thing of sheer entertainment much like a symphony is arranged by a musician. The huge payoff to spending time outlining, is that when you’re ready to write the story, it will practically write itself. For me that means no downtime from writing when I get stuck in the dreaded nowhere land that is the middle of the novel or spending weeks trying to figure out how to wrap it all up.

Who should not sign up

 (Patterson’s style is not for everyone)

1)  Anyone striving to be a “literary” novelist, don’t even think about Patterson’s lessons. You know who you are and I refuse any attempt to define literary writing.
2)  Authors who love to embellish with extensively-detailed backstory, description, and family history.

Dear Readers,
I’m resolved to do my sixth novel, #3 of the Detective Kendall Halsrud series, using the Patterson method. I have a good start on my outline and I am already frustrated because I want to start writing. I’ve overcome the urge by extending my outline, and feeling excited about my progress.
Thanks for stopping by, will add more on this topic later.



Saturday, June 13, 2015

7 Things I Learned About Book Formatting


Why I Learned Book Formatting

The first ebook I published on I formatted myself with the help of a friend. I had no clue what we were doing! I muddled through using the Smashwords directions and published the book. A year later, I paid a service to reformat the same book in order to make it look professional.
            Since then, I’ve published three more books and paid to have to of them formatted for me. I finally formatted the fourth by myself.
            The first service that formatted for me did a nice job. But I quickly learned that if I had to go back into the document for any reason, especially to fix that “one more typo” a reader discovered, the process involved getting in touch with the formatter, filling out a form, possibly paying a fee (most services allow a few fixes before charging), and then checking it over after republishing to be sure it was properly fixed. I hated having to use a middleman to make corrections.
For book two, I used a different formatter. I paid a rather large amount this time, nearly $300. When the returned my document, he suggested I go over it before publishing. It didn’t take many pages to discover that there were a lot of things that needed correcting! He had totally ignored a note I’d sent with the request for a few things I wanted done, and missed many others. It took hours to find everything that needed fixing. Then I had to put each and every item on a request form for him to edit, along with a page number and what the correction should be. More time spent. After it came back I had to check over everything once more, and again found many he had missed. He had ignored a separate note I sent with something I needed done that didn’t fit on the form. This process continued until it was finally right. This back and forth resulted in two days work for me.
 I’ve always hated the thought of doing my own formatting, but determined to avoid any future agony (that I’d PAID for), I had a friend show me how he formatted. He uses the html method, which, while considered the “best” way to do it, for me, was way too detailed and painstaking. I gave up after a while and hired the job out once more.
            I went back to the original service, since they had not put the burden of checking the work totally on me. But, apparently, since the first time I used them, they had changed their procedures and I went through the very same pain-in-the-butt process as the one before! I spent hours again trying to fix someone else’s mistakes after paying a few hundred dollars for the service. After that I vowed to do my own formatting.
           Another friend volunteered to help me. It wasn’t easy, as she uses a Windows program and I have a Mac. But we did it, and my newest book, Iced Malice, was formatted by yours truly.

                        Things I learned the hard way:

1.      Find a friend to help you, one who formats regularly and thinks it is easy. One with patience!

2.     No matter who teaches you, or whose directions you use, formatting is a challenge. I'm not sure that any set of directions will be exact for your system.

3.     Be prepared to experiment to find what works for you. A lot of trial, error, and patience is required.

4.     Take notes for future use when you do find what works.

5.     Formatting the print version of a book is a lot more difficult than an eBook. All the above apply. Createspace has user forums that are very helpful.

6.     When asking a question online, be sure to add which  program you are using and detail your issue as much as possible.

7.     About books on the subject. They are helpful in acquainting you with how formatting works, but don’t expect any book to have exact directions for you. If anyone knows of one, tell us about it! I use an iMac with Word 2008 for Mac and found most of my answers online. And not all in the same place.

Dear Readers,
The most important thing I’ve learned is how good it feels to be able to do the nasty job of formatting by myself. I'm fortunate in that I have a friend who is on standby for me to answer questions. I’m still learning. Formatting is something that the more you use it, the easier it gets, so don’t give up. I haven’t tried using templates (available for a fee online) but do know even those require some formatting knowledge. There are just so many times you need to make changes, even to add your latest book to your list, that being able to do this yourself makes things a lot easier.
Good luck, hope you find something that makes your writing life easier,

Monday, May 18, 2015

Amazon's Kindle Scout Program

Dear Readers,

My guest blogger today is fellow author Katie Mettner who is going to educate us on the Kindle Scout program. I'm not very familiar with it myself, so thought it would be helpful for us to hear from an author who is giving it a try. She would also love your support!
Till next time,


About the Author

Katie Mettner is the author of three inspirational and contemporary romance series: The Snowberry Series, The Sugar Series and The Northern Lights series. When not writing she’s busy being a band mom for her three kids. Katie’s stories are about empowering people with special circumstances to find the one person who will love them no matter what. She has a slight addiction to Twitter and blogging, with a lessening aversion to Pinterest now that she quit trying to make the things she pinned



Have you heard of Kindle Scout? Some of you may be familiar with it already, but for those who aren't let me tell you the basic idea behind it. Kindle Scout is a program where READERS get to pick the BOOKS that get published by Amazon! Sound too good to be true? It's not, and this is how it works. If you have an Amazon US account you click the link that says Kindle Scout nomination and it takes you to the book's nomination page. It will go on your nominations bar and as long as you leave it on there until the nomination period is over, if Liberty Belle wins, you get an early reader's copy before Amazon publishes it! Simple AND cool, right? If you click the nomination link you can read an excerpt and a Q&A with the author.

The categories for Kindle Scout include: Literature and Fiction, Mystery, Thriller and Suspense,
Romance, Science Fiction, and Fantasy.Those may seem like broad categories, but essentially they accept every subgenre of those major categories. The author has a chance to pick four categories that book fits into, and Amazon will list those on the nomination page, so the reader is well informed to the kind of book it is. The reader gets a free book and a chance to find new authors they may not otherwise know about.

What does the author get out of it? A publishing contract with Kindle Press, which is owned by Amazon. Along with the publishing contract comes the opportunity for a greater audience with the force of Amazon and Kindle behind his book, and they also publish the book in foreign and audio book formats.

Kindle Scout Nomination Link for my submitted book.

Photographer Bram Alexander has his viewfinder focused on the only sweet thing in Snowberry, Minnesota - the beautiful Liberty Belle. Handed the reins to her family’s bakery early in life, Liberty works nonstop to protect their legacy. When Bram finds her on the bakery floor injured and alone, Liberty must decide if her tattered heart can trust him with her secret. Armed with small town determination, and a heart of gold, Bram shows Liberty frame-by-frame how falling for him is as easy as pie.

Living in a small town myself, and knowing Katie well, I asked her where she got the idea for the Liberty Belle bakery and how she pictures it in her mind. This is what she told me.

Great question, Marla! As you know I lived for several years in the very town you are from and they have the best little bakery there. There is a little green awning that hangs over a window with the name centered across the front. There's a bench under that awning where a person can sit and rest while walking the Main Street and enjoy the smells coming from within. There's a glass door that when you push it open the aroma of fresh baked bread, apple pie and homemade cake tickle your nostrils. Laid out before you are dozens of different kinds of pastries and donuts to choose from, and there is always a line of people waiting on Saturday morning when they straggle into town from the campgrounds.

I worked in several bakeries in my hometown of Eau Claire, Wisconsin before I moved north. I can do every job in a bakery from front of the house work, bread slicing, cake decorating, baker, donut fryer and even making homemade bagels! Have you ever seen an industrial sized batch of Rice Krispie bars made? Let me tell ya, it's a LOT of Rice Krispies!

All of those experiences were the reason I wanted to write a book about a bakery. Bakery work isn't just about the pastries and the bread, it's about the people who come in day after day for the same type of pastry or loaf of bread, and the stories they have to share. It's about the relationships you make with people who come to the counter every morning before work for that apple fritter, or the little old lady who comes in once a week for her loaf of unsliced Pullman bread. You become like a family, and when that little old lady doesn't show up one week you worry about if she's okay. It's about creating a new donut because 'you know this guy who would just love a new twist on an old favorite', and it's about providing the memories for graduation and baby showers, and the comfort for grieving families.

Liberty Belle isn't about the quaint little storefront with the red and white striped awning that blows lightly in the breeze. It's not about the cute wrought iron tables and chairs where Liberty's patrons can sit a spell and enjoy a roll with a friend. It's about when the person who usually holds the pyramid up, falls, that the people of Snowberry are there to raise her to the top of the pyramid. It's there that Liberty Belle looks out and sees the landscape of the rest of her life.

The Snowberry Series on Amazon

Monday, April 27, 2015

Publishing an Audiobook

             To Have An Audiobook Made - Or Not!

After deliberating for a long time, I signed up to have one of my books done as an audio book on I added the book to their site and waited for narrators to sign up for an audition. And waited. And waited.  ACX recommended I listen to samples from various narrators and ask the ones whose work I liked if they would be interested in recording my book. 
           There are two ways of paying a narrator. The first is by a percent of the royalties received, which is 20%, (the author also receives 20%) or pay them an hourly wage rather than a royalty. Narrators who only work for an hourly fee specify that in their information. If you pay the narrator an hourly rate, then you will receive the entire 40% royalty. 
Narrators who only work on a PFH rate, per finished hour, charge anywhere from $50 to $200 or more PFH. So the longer your book, the more expensive to pay by PFH.
            After making two separate attempts to get my book narrated by splitting the royalties, both narrators fizzled out after a few chapters! Then, by surprise, I got a message from ACX that my book had been awarded a stipend. I knew about stipends as one of the narrators I’d tried to work with had asked me if my book had one. I applied to ACX for a stipend at that time and was turned down.
            Suddenly, I had dozens of narrators asking to audition for my book. A stipend, paid by ACX to the narrator, gives them a salary of $1,000 for narrating the book and they also get paid the royalties. So for a narrator, a good deal. For the author, it is an opportunity to have a really great narrator record your book.
            I listened to dozens of voices before selecting a narrator, and oddly enough, I chose the very first one who responded, KC Cowan.              
KC did a lot of theater acting in the 90’s and believes that her acting talent really helps her do all the voices in a novel. It’s quite different from the “instructional” voice she uses for animated training videos. KC says, “No matter HOW GOOD an audition I do, if my voice doesn’t match the one in the author’s head, I won’t get the gig! But when I do get hired, invariably, the author will at some point say, ‘your voice is JUST how I hear my heroine in my head.’” 

              I can certainly confirm KC’s quote. Her voice was perfect for my main character, Lisa Rayburn, who is a psychologist and in her early forties. The book has another main character who speaks with an unusual dialect, and KC did a super job with it. And with male characters! I was thrilled with her abilities for narrating my novel, She’s Not There, which was my first suspense novel, and first in the TJ Peacock & Lisa Rayburn series.

A few tips on using ACX

-       I didn’t find their site to be very user-friendly. But they do give their phone number and their customer service is excellent.

-       When you contract with a narrator to do your book, get an agreement on when the book will be finished. Don’t lose touch with your narrator, check on the progress regularly.

-       ACX lists the requirements for a book being considered for a stipend. Check them to see if your book is eligible.

-       I highly recommend picking up a copy of the eBook, Audiobooks for INDIES, by Simon Whistler. He explains in great detail all the steps involved in doing an audiobook on ACX.

Dear Readers,

A lot more could be said here about doing audiobooks, but I didn’t want to bore you with too much information. Please comment if you have a question or an opinion. Again, download a copy of Whistler’s book if you’re considering doing one. It has a wealth of information on the subject.

Thanks for stopping by,


Sunday, April 19, 2015

My second-in-series suspense book, ICED MALICE

New, Second in the Detective Kendall Halsrud Series, suspense book, ICED MALICE!

ICED MALICE is the second book of my suspense series that stars Detective Kendall Halsrud. I enjoyed writing about Kendall so much that I decided to continue her as a series. The story again takes place in Eau Claire, Wisconsin where Kendall is a police detective and is backgrounded by the winter of 2014, the coldest and longest-lasting winter in the area since the early 1890s. Although the book is the second in the series, the story can easily be read as a stand-alone. I hope you enjoy the first chapter!


Sunday, 2:30 a.m.

Amazing that the below-zero temperature coupled with high winds and icy snowflakes hadn’t kept the drinkers home tonight. Cabin Fever Night at the bar had exceeded Nick’s expectations, and even the cost of the taco buffet and that of bringing in a DJ from Menomonie, Wisconsin, wouldn’t take much of the profit. Almost twenty minutes from closing and the crowd hadn’t even dwindled. Nick would have to give them a last call soon.
Crap. He had a drunk to drive home. Ever since opening night, he vowed to make anyone who overindulged give up their keys. If they didn’t have a ride, Nick drove them home after closing. So far, it was working. Chuck Wetzel, a regular and a known alkie, had tossed Nick his keys tonight after ordering his third drink. Unfortunately for Nick, Chuck lived with his parents in a subdivision south of town—about as far from Nick’s place near Lake Hallie as possible.
Nick couldn’t wait to get home, crawl into his warm bed with Sara and give her the good news; tonight’s take was the best since opening night. Nick and Sara had owned the bar on the northern edge of Eau Claire for seven months, and the finances were just starting to edge into the black. This freaking cold winter hadn’t helped.
He saw that Chuck had managed to get off his bar stool and take a trip to the john. At least he was walking; Nick was weary of dragging Chuck’s sorry ass out of the bar and driving him to his front door. When Chuck came out, he walked back to his barstool and pulled on his coat.
“Hey, Chuck,” Nick called, “ease up a minute. I can’t leave yet.”
“No prob, Nick,” he called back. “Keep the keys for me. I’ve got a ride.”
Relieved, Nick flipped on the Last Call sign and announced, “That’s it, folks!”
A few people ordered their one for the road, as most of the crowd wandered out into the night, the open door letting in a blast of frigid air. The icy draft hit Nick’s nostrils when he inhaled, and for about the hundredth time during the long stretch of below-zero days, he thought about adding an entryway to keep the cold air at bay.
Next year.

3:00 a.m.

Shortly after midnight the snow made its first appearance, and the wind picked up, spreading mournful howls into the frigid night.
Patti Olson edged over to the window. Snow had drifted across the front of the house, accumulating nearly to the windows. The weatherman on the TV said this was the worst winter in twenty-five years.
Patti had begged to be able to stay alone all night. After all, she was eighteen now, an adult. And Mommy kept saying she wanted Patti to be able to do things that “normal” girls did. Patti knew she wasn’t normal. One time she heard someone call her a “downs,” whatever that was. She never got to do half the things other kids did.
Normal girls could stay home alone when they were over sixteen. Patti knew that, because her cousin Emma, who was fifteen, told her that at her last birthday party.
Patti hated that scary noise the wind was making, and the rattling windows set her teeth on edge. She ground them, nervously. Mommy always told her not to do that, but who would know? Mommy wasn’t here. Patti’s palms were sweating and she couldn’t sit still; she even wished Mommy hadn’t given in and let her stay home alone. Her little brother Keithy—he hated when Patti called him that—went to bed a long time ago and nothing ever woke him up.
She thought about calling Mommy. The telephone number of Mommy’s friend was on a little pink note stuck to the desk by the phone. But Patti had called her three times already, and Mommy said not to call again unless it was an emergency. She said that after the third call, when Patti called to ask her if she should wash the dishes she used to make popcorn for her and Keithy. The list Mommy left for her said what she could and couldn’t do tonight, and the list hadn’t included washing the dishes. So Patti had to call and ask her.
Taking care of her little brother was a big responsibility. Patti thought she shouldn’t go to bed when everything was so scary, so she stayed in the living room and watched TV. After turning up the volume to drown out the noisy wind, Patti leaned back on the sofa and covered herself with the afghan grandma had made for her. It was crocheted in her favorite colors, red and blue. Keithy said it was ugly. But he was only eight, and he was a boy. Everyone knew that boys didn’t know about what was pretty or not, and Patti loved the afghan—took it to bed with her at night, too.
When the first knock sounded at the front door, Patti thought it had to be coming from the program she was watching. It wasn’t, though, because she was watching her favorite show, Friends, and right now the friends were all sitting on the couch in the coffee shop and no one had to knock to come in there.
The second knock was louder. Patti’s heart pounded. She thought she heard a voice, a man’s voice, but that was impossible. No one ever came to visit in the middle of the night.
She looked at the clock and saw that it was after three in the morning. Maybe she should call Mommy. Was this an emergency? No, she didn’t think so. Emergencies were when someone was hurt, or got shot, like they did on the TV programs Keithy watched. If the house was on fire, that would be an emergency, but the house wasn’t on fire.
Another knock.
The voice again, louder this time, but Patti couldn’t hear what the man was saying, not over the wind’s dreadful screaming and the loud commercials. She covered her ears. Mommy said to never, ever, open the door to a stranger, no matter what. She counted to ten to keep from crying like a little baby. Then to twenty-five.
Patti knew how to count all the way to a hundred, so she kept going. After reaching thirty, her fear caused her to stumble on some of the numbers, taking her nearly five minutes to get to a hundred. When she did, she uncovered her ears and turned off the TV. She listened.
The only thing she heard was the sound of the wind. Patti listened for another five minutes. No more noises.
Good. She wouldn’t have to call Mommy again. 

8:10 a.m.

After sunrise, bitterly cold air embraced the Chippewa Valley with icy arms. The snow had drifted as high as six feet in some spots, and then stopped after spreading a thick layer across the yard of a small bungalow in a blue-collar neighborhood west of downtown Eau Claire.
The house, a modest two-story like many others on the block, had a police car out front and an ambulance in the driveway, and behind it an old black Town Car belonging to the medical examiner, Franklyn Teed. The frigid weather had discouraged onlookers, and the only people stirring about the neighborhood peered out at the scene through hoods, scarves, and multiple layers of protective clothing as they struggled with snow throwers.
Detective Kendall Halsrud, and her partner, Detective Ross Alverson, pulled up in front and put the dark sedan into park, hesitant to leave the warm air from the car’s heater and step into the cold.
“I still don’t see why they called us in on this,” her partner griped. “The guy was drunk. He froze in front of the wrong house, end of story.”
“Have a little respect for the dead,” Kendall said. “The poor guy has a mother and maybe a wife and kids. You know it’s routine for us to be in on any death that’s by anything but natural causes. And someone will have to talk to the man’s family, tell them what happened to their son.”
“Yeah, you do that,” he said as he stepped out of the car.
Kendall hated breaking tragic news, too, but better the parents hear it from her, a person at least sympathetic to their loss. Alverson must have had a bad night. Though never someone you would call a warm and fuzzy kind of guy, he usually wasn’t this callous. The two had been partners for only a few weeks, a pairing appointed by their boss when Kendall’s previous partner retired after having a heart attack. Despite a raunchy attitude toward women, Alverson happened to be a good detective—a fact Kendall discovered a couple of months ago when they worked a case together.
Kendall donned a scarf and gloves before she left the car and joined Teed on the small, cement porch. Teed knelt over the body, grunting a hello through a Marquette University scarf that was wrapped around his neck and pulled up in front to protect his face from frostbite.
“What do you think?” Kendall asked. “Can we get him out of here?”
“Yes, right away. I was waiting for you before giving him the send-off. There’s nothing here to indicate anything other than what it looks like—an accident. I can’t check his blood alcohol yet, but there are no signs of a struggle or any kind of violence. His fingers and hands have some scrapes, probably from pounding on the door. It looks like an alcohol-related death right now, but I’ll know more after I do the autopsy. He’ll have to thaw out, so don’t expect quick results.”
Kendall trusted Teed’s opinion; they’d always had a good working relationship. “Then go ahead and take him away. We need to talk to the first responder.”
“He’s inside with the family.”
After Kendall rang the doorbell, a short, burly cop opened the door.
“Hey, Kenny, Ross, good to see you,” he said. “This is really a mess.”
“Why? I thought it was pretty cut and dried.”
“Or fast-frozen,” Alverson quipped, walking in behind her. Kendall shot him a look.
“A divorced mom, a Merilee Olson, lives here with her two kids. The daughter is eighteen, but she’s a Downs—oh, sorry, I mean she has Down Syndrome—I can never keep all this PC stuff straight. The son is eight.
“Mom left the daughter here alone last night babysitting the boy. They’re out in the kitchen now. The daughter—her name is Patti—was afraid to open the door when she heard the guy knocking. Thought that was what she was supposed to do in order to keep the kid brother safe. The mom blames herself for the guy dying. She says she knew she shouldn’t have left the kids alone, but Patti begged her for a chance to take care of her brother all night. This is the first time she didn’t have someone stay with the kids when she was gone overnight.”
“Wow, that’s tragic, all right,” Kendall said. “We’ll talk to them. You can leave if you want, we’ll take over from here. Teed’s removing the body now. We need the name and address of the deceased, then we’ll notify his family.”
The cop handed her a sheet of paper torn from his notebook and left.
As Kendall and Alverson entered the kitchen, the mother, a short, brown-haired woman with a curvy figure poured into a pair of black leggings and a long turquoise sweater, stood at the stove stirring a pan of scrambled eggs. When she looked up at their entrance, her face blotchy and tear-stained, Kendall introduced herself and Ross.
“I’m Merilee Olson.” She dumped the eggs onto a plate that held two pieces of buttered toast, and brought the food to a table where a heavy-set girl with typical Down Syndrome features sat staring at the empty place setting in front of her. “This is my daughter Patti. My son Keith is in his room.” She set the plate in front of Patti and led them to the living room.
“I knew better than to leave Patti alone all night, but she kept pleading for a chance to prove to me she could do it.” Merilee pulled a tissue from her pocket and wiped her eyes.
Kendall didn’t blame her for feeling responsible. “Don’t be so hard on yourself. What happened isn’t your fault.”
“I don’t know why that man was here. Why would he come to our door at that time of night?”
“We don’t know yet,” Kendall replied, “but he might have been intoxicated. It’s possible someone dropped him off at the wrong house, or if he was under the influence, he could have directed his driver to the wrong place. Many of the homes in this neighborhood are similar, and at night, with so much snow blowing around, it would be hard to tell them apart.”
Kendall glanced at Alverson, relieved he was letting her do the talking. The woman didn’t need any sarcastic commentary. But Ross appeared lost in his own thoughts; he wasn’t even eyeballing Olson’s attractive body.
“Patti thought she was doing the right thing,” Olson continued. “I’ve told her not to open the door to a stranger under any circumstances. I knew she was nervous about being alone last night; she kept calling me at my boyfriend’s house. I would have come home, but the weather was so awful and neither of us have a vehicle that could handle the drifting.
“After the first three calls, I told Patti not to call me again unless it was an emergency.” Her admission brought on another round of tears.
“What time did you come home?” Kendall asked.
“I came home this morning as soon as the roads were cleared. It was about nine o’clock. A service had plowed the driveway—I do the sidewalks myself—so I pulled in and parked in the garage. I came in through the back door like I usually do.
“Patti hadn’t slept all night. When she saw me, she nearly became hysterical trying to tell me what happened. I opened the front door and saw him—well, only part of his shoe, really—and I knew she hadn’t imagined the knocking. The snowdrift on the porch made it impossible to see him except for that one foot. Anyone passing by wouldn’t have noticed him. I called the police right away.”

Dear Readers,
Thank you for letting me share the beginning of my fourth novel with you. As you know, I have two series going now, and am now working on the third in the TJ Peacock & Lisa Rayburn series. I hoped to have that one ready by the beginning of summer, but have been learning to format my own books, and that has taken up a lot of my time. Undone, the one I’m working on now, will probably not be done now until the end of the summer.
Hope you are all having a wonderful spring season,


Saturday, March 7, 2015

What's Luck Got to Do With Writing?



March, the month of four-leaf clovers and little green leprechauns, is right around the corner, bringing visions of green beer and that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. We are all Irish on St. Patrick’s Day, and we all hope to be showered with that famous luck of the Irish.

The word luck, beaten and bastardized, gets tossed around like a day-old doughnut whenever Indie authors discuss success (or lack thereof) of their book sales.

The first time I ran a KDP free book promotion, and placed my suspense eBook, She’s Not There, free on, I only had 8,202 downloads at the end of my two days. This result was disappointing compared to those of an author friend, who had 26, 000 using the same promotion. When I asked her about it, she said that her huge number of downloads were a matter of luck. A popular eBook site noticed her promotion and highlighted it for their readers. I know firsthand that her success is not all due to luck. She is a devoted marketer and spends every available moment working to maintain her book’s sales momentum. Me, I’m addicted to things like playing bridge, reading, and watching soap operas; my marketing ethic is not nearly as fierce!

Here is a universal truth: Luck is more likely to happen to those who go after it, especially us writers. 

I know you don’t want to hear that. We would all prefer to cling to magical thinking: I’ll get rich when I win the lottery, the perfect man will come knocking at my door, a stroke of fate will send my book sales through the roof.

   It ain’t gonna happen!

Secrets of Lucky People

1.    They believe they will be successful.
Research shows that if you believer you’ll succeed, your odds of hitting a lucky streak go up. There is no magic involved—expectancy is a real driver of results. Expecting something as opposed to wanting or hoping for it, will affect your decision–making and you’ll put in more of an effort than you normally would have. Find ways to stay positive and expect success—it works!

2.    They Notice What Others Miss.
Lucky people are more open to random opportunities. They notice chance situations and act on them. They are flexible in their thinking, and it’s that relaxed, open attitude that allows them to see what others don’t.
Keep your eyes open for opportunities—they’re out there!

3.    They Say “Yes”
Lucky people do not remain passive. Instead, they seize opportunities as they come without endless second-guessing.
When chance encounters occur, don’t over-think them, act on them!

4.    They Switch Things Up
 Lucky people increase their chances of getting opportunities by meeting new people and trying new things. Luck won’t come looking for you or call on you on your Smartphone.
The more you put yourself out there, and try new things, the more likely it is you will find luck.

5.    They Practice Bouncing Back 
Lucky people don’t let one failure sidetrack their road to success. When you let a bad break get you down, you close the door on new situations that could lead to a lucky break. Closely linked to the first trait, expecting the best, bouncing back means you will have a greater chance of success with each failure, because you’ll be trying more often.
Regard every bad break as an opportunity to find the right course for you!

Dear Readers,
         So many of us, myself included, wait for that magical break that will mean success for our writing. But magical thinking delays success. Practice these habits of lucky people and reap the rewards.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day,

Note: I seldom repeat a blog, but this one on luck has been so popular that I repeat it every March when the luck of the Irish is on our minds.