New Books, New Year

Happy last day of 2013!

I hope you got all the Hanukkah/Yule/Solstice/Christmas/Kwanzaa presents you asked for.  And I hope you saved room on your bookshelves, your Kindles, Nooks, iPads, and nightstands.

It was a great year for publishing, whether you were a reader or a writer.  I published Deadhill in February and XZA: A Novel in October, followed by the paperback version in November.  (You can read the opening pages on the right-hand sidebar.)

Here's what you have to look forward to in the next few months:

January: Green Hill Press will release my husband Josh's first chapbook (short collection) of poems.  If you think you know what poetry is, you haven't read his.  These aren't maudlin ramblings of love and loss.  His poetry is the real deal, and I'd rank it right up there with Viggo Mortensen's Recent Forgeries and George Kalamaras' The Theory and Function of Mangoes.

In February, I'll release my first short story under the Green Hill Press imprint.  I already mentioned “Harlequin" in my interview with Cathrine Garnell, but I'll set the stage again.  It's dark, slightly twisted, haunting, beautiful, and picks at the deepest fear in all of us that maybe we're better off hiding our most vulnerable places.

Have a great New Year's Eve whether you stay in or go out.  Stay warm if you live in the cold.  If you're already toasty warm, especially on a beach somewhere, we in the US Midwest envy you.

For updates on Green Hill Press' upcoming releases, stay in touch with the buttons on the right - Facebook and blog-by-email.


K. Kirchner Book Signing Tomorrow

If you're in the northern Indiana/southern Michigan area, check out the bazaar being hosted at Down to Earth in Granger, IN, tomorrow, Saturday, December 14th.  They're really working hard to support local crafters and entrepreneurs, bringing you holiday shoppers great local food and items.  My husband and I shop there all the time, and we love it.

The author K. Kirchner will be there signing books from 10 a.m. to noon.  I haven't met her yet, but I started reading her fantasy novel, Era, and I'm pretty impressed.  K. Kirchner is an observant writer, and I look forward to reading the rest of her book.  Did I mention she's only 17 and starting her own publishing company?

As usual, click the cover for the summary and to buy copies.  To learn more about K. Kirchner and see her beautiful photography, her website is www.wordsforwrite.com.

Have a great weekend!


A Bookish Escape's Giveaway Palooza

One of my favorite blogs for giveaways and finding out about new YA/NA books is A Bookish Escape.  For reaching over 5,000 Facebook likes, the blog is hosting a fantastic giveaway full of prizes like Amazon gift cards and free ebooks sponsored by author Jacelyn Rye.  Who doesn't like free ebooks?

Click the banner for details.  It's just as fun and colorful as the blog.  Their book reviews are really insightful, too.



Name Marcus Sakey's New Book: Win A Kindle

Marcus Sakey is a writing god in our house.  Our Christmas wish list could probably be described as Marcus Sakey Fest.  (If you're not a big reader, you can still enjoy his flawless flow with words and biting wit on the Travel Channel show "Hidden City."  Mr. Sakey hits all the big cities, unearthing murder, betrayal, and the hidden parts of history you don't want to miss.)

This morning, my husband Josh stumbled across this challenge from Mr. Sakey: Help me name my next book and win a Kindle!

Click the link and the cover of Brilliance for details, but it's no joke.  Marcus Sakey is offering prizes - good prizes - for even attempting to name the sequel to Brilliance.  The book is written, but titles can be slippery, elusive things.  The contest ends Friday at midnight, so go get 'em!  You've got nothing to lose.  And a free Kindle to gain!


XZA Goes Viral

My new book, XZA: A Novel, is spreading like wildfire today!  Check out the interview on Cat's Bookish Blog here:

If you want to follow what I'm up to or connect with me on social media, links are on the right and are also provided on Cat's blog post.  Thank you for your support!


Writer Interview Goes Live Tomorrow

I'm excited to see my first author interview in years go live on the award-winning Cat's Bookish Blog tomorrow.  I'll answer all of your most burning questions:  What is XZA: A Novel about?  What is my writing style?  Who are my influences?  And of course, would I rather base jump or deep sea dive with sharks and no cage?

Check out Cathrine Garnell's other promos and giveaways while you're there.  Today's feature is Muse by Erin McFadden, which has a fantastic-looking cover.  Cat has her own imaginative books for sale, too, including my favorite title:  Basil, the Bionic Cat.


XZA Print Copies Are Go!

I will never know how many hours of writing, rewriting, squinting, designing, swearing, and sweating went into this book, but it all led to today: getting my first paperback copy in the mail.  And it looks beautiful.  So now you, too, can grab a copy of XZA: A Novel in print.

Here's the official CreateSpace order page.

Or you can find it here on Amazon if you have other Amazon shopping to do.

If you want to buy directly from me because you or someone you know with excellent reading tastes (ha ha!) wants a signed copy, hold tight.  I'll be opening an Etsy shop with my husband to offer all the titles we're rolling out under our imprint, Green Hill Press.

As always, thanks for sharing in my publishing milestones.  I hope to see you around Goodreads!


Small Business Saturday = Free Ebook

Black Friday.  Small Business Saturday.  Cyber Monday.

Are you worn out yet?

Treat yourself with a copy of my book, XZA: A Novel, available for free on Amazon any time this weekend.  It takes place from fall into winter, so it's the perfect time of year to read it.  (For those of us with changing climates especially.)

XZA: A Novel

If you're on Goodreads, add it to your reading or to-read shelf to let your friends know you snagged yourself a new book.  It's already gotten as high as #88 on the Bestselling Free Books list for women's romance.

Happy holidays and happy reading!


International Elimination of Violence Against Women Day

I had a happy, lighthearted post planned for today, but when I saw the white ribbon on the Google search page, I had to take the opportunity to share important information.

The white ribbon is in honor of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.  The United Nations has a very useful page for this with easy-to-find links full of resources and ways you can help prevent violence around the world.

I didn't think in depth about violence against women when I wrote my book, XZA: A Novel, but it figures into it several times.  Because my main character, Xan, is dedicated to exposing and personalizing social crimes, we get to see the effects of such violence in the excerpts of the books she writes.  My other main character, Jessie, isn't good at standing up for herself or others.  She's repeatedly manipulated, put down, and intimidated by her boyfriend, Dick.

Verbal abuse counts as abuse and can be just as destructive as physical abuse.  If you or someone you know - male or female - is in a bad situation, there are lots of great options for getting help and support.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline lets you call in or chat online.  Its website also defines abuse and describes what a healthy relationship should be like.

RAINN is the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network.  It's also the nation's largest anti-sexual violence organization.  The work they do is widespread, and many celebrities help further its reach.

For men who are abused and want help, the opportunities to get help without the stigma of appearing weak are really improving.  Abuse is abuse.  If you need help or more information, you can start here:

AARDVARC stands for An Abuse, Rape, and Domestic Violence Aid and Resource Collection.  This page talks about gender and abuse, and gives support options for men being abused.

The NCADV is the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.  The page I've linked to is an informative pdf about why it's important to also recognize violence against men and some pretty eye-opening statistics.

Have a safe day!


Book Genres: Now 3 Times Easier!

I've had some great interactions with readers over the years.  Signing books.  Meeting amazing people.  Getting to be an inspiration for those readers who also aspire to write.

Then there are the weird conversations that make me realize some people have more interest than knowledge about the complex world of books.  And I can't blame them.  As a writer, how much do I know about music genres?  Sub-genres?  Movies?

So in case you run into me or another unsuspecting author who's crawled out of their writing cave, here's an easy break-down of the most common book genres.  Anecdotes included.

Non-Fiction.  There are dozens of sub-genres here.  In short, if it's a true story or self-help, it's non-fiction.  The best way to remember this is the phrase "fact vs. fiction."  It gives you a built-in conversation starter if you want a cheesy one.

Fantasy.  This means imaginary worlds, races, and creatures.  Possibly magic.  Think Lord of the Rings.  It's the kind of story that transports you somewhere that only exists in the author's mind.  When I wrote fantasy 7-10 years ago, one guy thought "fantasy" meant "romance."  I don't, haven't, and won't write romance because I can't work within the confines of the genre (to be discussed below).  Fantasy is a flight of fancy, not a book of romantic fantasies.

Science Fiction.  Often partnered with fantasy as in "Sci Fi/Fantasy" because science fiction takes just as much imagination.  It can be an interpretation of our reality and society.  Sci fi usually incorporates futuristic elements, machinery, technology, and/or outer space.  Philip K. Dick is one of the most prolific and well-known sci fi writers, especially since his book Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? was turned into the movie Bladerunner.

Romance.  Believe it or not, there are strict guidelines that readers expect in this genre.  If someone tells you they're writing romance, you can likely expect: a woman meets a man, they both have flaws but also good points, and although their flaws threaten to keep them apart, they eventually give in and accomplish something together.  This is the genre that Danielle Steel has ruled for decades.  Paranormal romance, which is gaining popularity, is a sub-genre here combining - you guessed it - romance and the paranormal (ghosts, demigods).  Books with same-sex characters being involved get their own genre: Gay and Lesbian.

Graphic Novels.  Some people think this term means books that are graphic in their violence or portrayal of sex.  But graphic novels are books with graphics - pictures.  They're the perfect blend of a comic book and a novel.  Some are historical, some are hilarious, some are autobiographical, and some are serious.  Take your pick.

Erotica.  I was recently asked about my new book, XZA, and explained it's in the general/women's fiction category.  The woman asking me about it got hung up on 50 Shades of Grey and kept asking how graphic my book was, insinuating my book was going to reveal something about my bedroom preferences.  Number one, the difference in genre should've been enough to tell her not to compare it to 50 Shades of Grey, and number two, XZA isn't non-fiction, so I'm not giving away as many secrets as she thinks.  Erotica like 50 Shades of Grey or Anne Rice's Sleeping Beauty Trilogy is designed to be erotic.  It's equal parts story and sex (give or take).  It's graphic, and not in the "picture with words" kind of way.  Where romance teases and titters, erotica shamelessly bares it all.

All the genres that are what they sound like.  Crime fiction centers around some kind of crime and/or cover-up.  Historical fiction takes place during a specific time period - Middle Ages, Victorian, Edwardian, Regency.  Horror involves things that scare you - killer clowns, blood-sucking vampires that don't sparkle.  Mystery is great because by convention, you're supposed to meet the guilty person long before you find out who did it, therefore putting the "mystery" in the mystery genre.  Thrillers are usually fast-paced thrill-rides, and the suspense genre keeps you in suspense on the edge of your seat.  Westerns take place in the west, sometimes the wild west.  Children's books can be written for any young age up to about 12.  The young adult genre takes over from 12-18.

General and literary fiction.  If a book doesn't belong in one of the categories above (or a genre listed on another site), it goes here: general fiction.  My Grandma Z. used to try to convince me my first novel, How Angel Fell Down, was a romance.  But it's not - it focuses on the title character and her repeated attempts at relationships.  Plus it lacks the kinds of scenes romance readers pay to read - and bookmark so they can reread later.  Literary fiction is similar but focuses more on the language and the telling of the story than just developing a story.  Cormac McCarthy's The Road is a great example.  As regular commercial fiction, it would've probably been slightly campy and focused more on the interactions of the people in a post-apocalyptic wasteland.  But in McCarthy's more-than-capable hands, The Road sets a tone of bleakness that lets you feel what it's like to wander this landscape with so little hope.

I hope that helps.  Remember, most writers love to be asked about their work.  It's how my husband and I got together.  Memorize a thing or two about genres, and you might turn a writer into a fan of you.


Guest Interview on Cat's Bookish Blog

A month from today, December 6th, you can find me promoting my new book, XZA: A Novel, on the fantastic Cat's Bookish Blog.  It's hosted by fellow author Cathrine Garnell.

Why am I telling you this so far ahead?  So you can jump right into Cat's blog and start enjoying the endless parade of guest authors there.  There are frequent give-aways and contests for books of all genres, interesting interviews, and links to Cat's children's books.  The current give-away is for a paranormal romance, so if that's your bag, go grab it.  (I think it looks like a good read.)


First Novel Release in 7 Years

I'm proud to announce that my novel XZA is available for download on Amazon.com.  It's my first published novel in 7 years, the first full-length work I've put out there under my real name, and the first book of the label my husband and I are putting together, Green Hill Press.

You can read the official summary of the book by clicking the cover.  But since you were kind enough to stop by my blog, I'll give you a little extra insight into what the book is about.  It's about two women, Xan and Jessie, a writer and one of her readers.  They don't know each other, and they have opposite problems.  Xan has a great guy but doesn't want to risk getting hurt by being completely emotionally available.  Jessie's dating a royal piece of scum but isn't quite ready to embrace the idea of being single.

XZA is loaded with pop culture references, many of which you can see here on its Pinterest board.  If XZA doesn't make you laugh out loud and seriously think about crying, I don't know what to tell you.  And I wouldn't be my Grandma D's money-saving protege if I didn't mention that XZA is one heck of a deal.  Between Xan's story and Jessie's story plus snippets of Xan's 3 novels, you're really getting 5 books in one.

And who doesn't like more books?


Exclusive Sneak Peek on Facebook Tomorrow

I'm proud to announce I'll be revealing the cover of my new book, XZA, on my Facebook page tomorrow!  This is the result of nine years working on this story off and on.  I haven't published a novel in seven years, so I consider this a long overdue comeback.

The cover is just the first in a line of goodies leading up to the release of the novel (including the answer to the question: what the heck is it about?, which the cover will partly answer).  Remember to join my Facebook page so you don't miss out on all the fun!


Death of a Character

Two huge story-telling legends teamed up to premiere "Agents of SHIELD" last night, Marvel and my long-time hero Joss Whedon.  (At our house, the feeling of heartache caused by watching characters die before getting to enjoy a new love is called "getting Whedoned.")

The return of my favorite fallen character, the coy, comical, and confident Agent Phil Coulson, got me thinking about character deaths.  Not to mention the last two episodes of "Breaking Bad."  (Vince Gilligan and his writers are not afraid to create "Oh *&^%!" moments in their scripts!)

Spoiler alert for the rest of this post.

The book character death that affected me the most is still Prabaker from Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts.  Prabaker, more affectionately known as Prabhu, provides nothing but warm-hearted, well-meaning comic relief through much of the book.  Until his untimely death off-page.  I learned of it the same way the main character did, through dialog, and for a day or two, I felt like I had lost a friend, too.  A close second was the murder and suicide at the end of Katherine Dunn's Geek Love.  If you ever want to feel pure sadness in the face of self-sacrifice and self-destruction, here it is.  When main character Oly ends her life while taking down the woman who might "normalize" her beautiful but freakish daughter, the floodgates just open.  Third place:  the death of Gogol Ganguli's father in The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri.  The main character becomes fatherless, his mother widowed and alone.  It's very real, and for that reason, gripping.

One of the most shocking deaths in terms of emotion and criminality was the main character's discovery of his close friend Sophie and her husband in Marcus Sakey's The Two Deaths of Daniel Hayes.  For a protagonist with amnesia, Daniel needs all the friends he's got that he can remember.  Losing a close friend/literary agent and finding her lifeless, tortured body staged for his discovery?  That's a rough day.  And one more thing that makes their murderer Bennett such a widely-discussed villain - slimy, shameless, brutal, and unpredictable.

Most heart-wrenching graphic novel death?  Morpheus, King of Dreams, the title character of Neil Gaiman's series The Sandman.  He doesn't even die right at the end, leaving me to grieve and contemplate and start the series over with Morpheus rising to fresh triumph.  I have to continue the story, watching his son Daniel claim his title and step into his role.  It creates a beautiful but sad cycle like the way winter fits into the cycle of seasons.  It's necessary, but parts of it hurt.

What are your favorite character deaths?  What makes them so memorable?


Is The Lonely Island the New Schoolhouse Rock?

The first time I saw computers used in the classroom was about fifth grade - about 1992.  Today, 21 years later, my nieces have their own electronics, and they're not even in kindergarten yet.  (How times change!)  But back in 1992, for maybe a half-hour to an hour a day, my class would jump on computers for some cutting-edge learning fun.  It was all about getting to the next level on Super Munchers and keeping your party alive through malaria epidemics in Oregon Trail.

Even before computers got big, David McCall recognized the importance of learning through fun, and his idea to help his son learn math through familiar rock songs led to the 70's & 80's phenomenon of Schoolhouse Rock!.  If you're not familiar with the series, it combines simple lyrics with catchy songs and cute animation to teach kids (and anybody, really) about basic subjects like math, science, history, and grammar.  For those of us who can't get enough, there's the Schoolhouse Rock! Rocks album from 1996 featuring bands from Moby to Biz Markie doing covers of the classic songs.  (Moby's wailing guitar on the verb song makes it my favorite.)

So what does all of this have to do with The Lonely Island?  Whether you're an English nerd or a pop culture fanatic or just need some Friday fun, check out this hilarious (and informative - just wait til the end) video on proper semicolon usage.  Fair warning: probably not for kids.  Second warning: once you've seen it, you'll never want to misuse a semicolon again.


JK Rowling's Alias Outsells Other Bestselling Authors

Have you been following the news surrounding JK Rowling and her latest book?  Here's one of numerous articles about it if you haven't heard.  In short, Rowling tried to go anonymous under the pen name Robert Galbraith and write a mystery/crime novel called The Cuckoo's Calling.  Galbraith's true identity was leaked, and two big things happened.  The book's modest but successful sales blew up to bestseller status.  Rowling also lost the opportunity to remain anonymous, something she was obviously enjoying before her cover was blown.

The Cuckoo's Calling is still at #1 on the bestseller list.  Here's the list if you want to see it.  Look at who Galbraith is beating out as a "debut author" thanks to Rowling's huge following!  Dan Brown, Danielle Steel, Khaled Husseini, James Patterson, and Neil Gaiman.

I haven't read the book myself, but the Amazon page lets you peek inside, so I looked at the opening paragraph.  (I always check out the opening and/or last paragraph of a book if I can.  They're the trickiest parts sometimes to get right, and I love to see how other authors bookend their stories.)  The writing is certainly deft and experienced, which is why so many readers and critics alike were anticipating a big-named author behind the name Robert Galbraith.

Thoughts?  Opinions?  If you read the book, did you like it?  The use of a pen name is such a tricky thing, that's a whole topic in and of itself.


Top 5 Reasons to Read Neil Gaiman

5.  He recently got his own 14 Things You Don’t Know About Neil Gaiman article on Buzzfeed.  I’m not saying everybody who has a top number-of-things list devoted to them is awesome, but it doesn’t hurt in this case.  Neil Gaiman’s a fascinating person.

4.  He can sum up his entire graphic novel series, The Sandman, in a single sentence.  Many of us struggle to sum up one short story/novella/novel/trilogy in three paragraphs.  He’s a writer who obviously knows his characters and stories intimately well.

3.  He’s a British transplant to the US, and his imagination is as vast as England’s history is long.  Neil Gaiman brings immense creativity, knowledge, and realism to any subject he touches.  His familiarity with England and the US bring great detail to his books, wherever they’re set.
2.  Neil Gaiman once proclaimed his favorite work of his own was Mr. Punch.  When I read that statement, I went out and bought Mr. Punch.  I’ve read it at least three times, and every time, I discover something new to the story.  It’s touching in that sad but nostalgic way thinking about the past often makes you feel.  So if you’re not sure where to start with Neil Gaiman’s numerous works, you might start with Mr. Punch.  (I started with The Sandman #5, A Game of You, because it was assigned in my graphic novels class.  Then I moved on to the novel American Gods.)

1.  Neil Gaiman is the perfect writer for fans of graphic novels, all-text novels, or both.  With the sheer number of works he’s put out - short, long, for children, for adults, realistic, fantastical - he’s gotta have something for everybody.  And if you're not a reader, several of his works you can enjoy as films.
If you’ve never heard of Neil Gaiman, do you think you’d read his work?  If you’re already a fan, what are your reasons for liking him?


Happy Birthday, Franz Kafka

It's always a good day when you open your Internet browser to the Google search and recognize the picture of the day.

If author Franz Kafka hadn't died in 1924, it would be his 130th birthday.  (Although I'm confident he would've gone at some point along the way.)

The Time online news feed has a great, short article on the meaning of the picture itself, a classic sepia drawing of the man who becomes a cockroach in the widely-known novella The Metamorphosis.  It's at this moment I must confess I've never actually read it despite spending 6 1/2 years in college.  But it's so well known on college campuses, I know most of the story instinctively.  And the Google tribute image only makes me want to read it more.  There's probably a copy of it somewhere around the house.

Amazon's author page for Franz Kafka has even more information about this morose yet fascinating man.  Like most authors who are serious about writing, although he died at 40, he has quite an impressive number of works under his belt.

So whether you're unfamiliar with Franz Kafka or a long-time fan or about to become a fan, take a moment and learn your something new for the day.


Free Summer Reads!

Summer was made for reading.  So were cold winter nights, but we'll get to those six months from now.

Today and tomorrow, download your free copy of My Best Friend's Diary for a good beach read.  Sunday and Monday, download Deadhill for free just because you can.

This is how I'm celebrating my birthday this year, with free books for you.  (I love free books, too.)  Pin the picture above to your Pinterest board and spread the word!


Tibetan Sky Burials

I found this short but interesting article on Tibetan sky burials I wanted to share.  It's got gorgeous, Pinterest-worthy pictures in it of the countryside and burial sites.

I never thought much about the multiple ways people bury their dead until I read the Sandman graphic novel series by Neil Gaiman.  The huge differences between cultures was a driving force for writing Deadhill.  It's always a transporting feeling to read about other cultures and their traditions, but it's always unifying.  Whether burying by sky, fire, earth, or water, it's still a way to remember, a way to honor and say goodbye.


Skeletons in the Writing Closet

Yes, I’m working on a novel.  I won’t be publishing one-shot short stories forever.  And yes, I’ve begun to consider my work-in-progress as progressing rather well.  My main character, Xan, is a novelist both like me and unlike me in many ways.  But what’s interesting me now is one of the items we - unfortunately - share:  an elephant’s graveyard sized amount of unpublished works.

I decided to dig around and unearth a few of these pieces which will likely never see the light of day.  Here are some of my favorite, awesomely bad ideas:

Lelia’s Tale.  The fact this story has a title is frightening - it means I once thought it might be suitable to share with people.  It’s not.  My title page summarizes it as “The tragic story of the daughter of a lord in the middle ages.”  Today, with the Internet as my guide, I can pinpoint and research specific time periods, but as a teenager in the late nineties, my realistic details are sorely lacking.  The names are especially horrific.

Everything about this story makes me cringe.  It’s a maudlin tale in which the overly dramatic Lelia falls in love with the wrong man - a man who would be nothing if he hadn’t saved her from drowning years earlier and been appointed a military officer by her father.  Despite her feelings, Lelia’s father marries her to a man she hates, and when Lelia finds out the man she loves is involved with her best friend, she tries to drown herself in the castle moat.  Her mental health deteriorates until she follows the image of her recently deceased father into the road, where she’s trampled to death by galloping horses.  The final scene shows her husband and her former lover putting aside their differences long enough to dig her grave and take one last lingering look at her.  Ugh.

How Angel Fell Down.  My first full-length novel.  Slightly less maudlin but no better researched.  Several people have read it and were kind enough to take pleasure in it, but I’d never spend time on it again.

The heroine is small town waitress Angel Statton.  She meets a good man with the horrible last name of Dickinsheets (this is an actual surname).  When Mr. Dickinsheets takes a job transfer to California, their jagged breakup leads to the aforementioned fall - Angel starts an affair with a sympathetic druggy and writes a semi-autobiographical novel about her experiences.  This not only gets published (I like the hopefulness of my young writing self, don’t you?) but gets turned into a film.  Then Angel moves to LA because she’s somehow snagged the main role.  Filming reintroduces her to a man she knew when they were teens, now a hot, flirtatious movie star whose marriage is disintegrating.  Angel rekindles her affair with Hottie, runs into Mr. Dickinsheets, and rekindles that affair, too.  She gets pregnant, leading to an uncomfortable scene in which Mr. D reveals he’s sterile.  Woops.  He dies in a car crash, Hottie’s divorce goes through, Angel decides to marry him, and the final chapter graciously skips ahead.  Angel’s son is turning 18, and she’s about to give him a watch from Mr. D’s estate.  It would be touching - if Mr. D was the father instead of “the other man” in Angel’s relationship with Hottie where she was “the other woman” to his unhinged and self-centered wife.  Double ugh.

The Price.  This is the only story from this list I might resurrect because I like the premise, but I’d approach it much differently.  A teenage girl lives in a boarding house with her mother who runs it.  One of the guests is a mysterious woman who keeps to herself but has a surprising knowledge of films starring one particular actress.  As the teenager pries, she discovers, of course, that the boarder and the actress are the same woman, dramatically changed by a brutal physical attack and resulting plastic surgery.  I’d make it a short story, but I’d never try to make it a novel.

The Hitler Project.  The edgiest of the list.  A group of neo-Nazi’s plans to take over a facility researching the human genome.  No reason to revisit this premise, although with the right director, I’d watch the movie version of it.  (American History X + varied geneticists & a sensual masseuse on retainer.)

So those are some of the overwrought and unpolished works I have stored away in my filing cabinet.  Thoughts?  Reactions?  Do you have literary skeletons in your own home office?  I’d love to hear about them in the comments.


Commercial Incoming!

The time to submit reviews for "My Best Friend's Diary" to be included in the commercial is now over.  Thanks to everybody who downloaded a copy!

I'll release the commercial by the end of the weekend.  You can find it here, on my Facebook page, on Pinterest, and on You Tube.  I'm excited about it, and depending on feedback, it might spawn a whole series of commercials for my stories.


Books for Tomboys

I might finally have gotten over my aversion to wearing pink, but I was a real tomboy growing up.  We had three maple trees in our yard, and I probably climbed all of them.  My dad would take my brother and me for treks through the woods of our favorite local parks.  Any dress I owned was a hand-me-down - taking me for dress shopping probably would've been like sticking your hand into a tiger cage.

So I put together a short list of the books I always loved for the spunky, non-lady-like heroines they contained.  It was always nice to see myself in book form.  How many of these have you read?

The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope

Long before Bella Swan of the Twilight Saga, this book's heroine Kate Sutton was awkward and trying not to trip while standing still (a feat I can't always master).  Kate is quickly summed up by her parents as being too smart and less desirable than her gorgeous simpleton sister.  In the end, Kate doesn't worry about her appearance first and saving the day second.  Even when told to run to safety, Kate stays, saving the life of the complicated man she might have feelings for and putting an end to the danger surrounding the castle she was banished to.  Her stubbornness and strength don't keep her from finding love - they're rewarded when the saved man chooses her over her sister.  This book gets an extra nod for its villain - a woman whose motives are only shadowy not cruel or unnecessary.  She leaves the book much as Kate does - on a path of her own choosing and with self-made dignity.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis

Although the book revolves around four siblings - Peter, Susan, Edmond, and Lucy - it's the youngest, Lucy, who becomes the central heroine.  She's the first one to find a route through the back of the wardrobe into the magical land of Narnia, and she's promptly shot down by the others as telling one fantastic lie about her discovery.  As the others journey with her to Narnia, Lucy changes from being the outcast to the experienced guide, and the plot takes off from there.  The extra nod I'd give this book is that when the siblings are awarded special gifts, they're distributed without strict gender lines.  Susan gets a bow, arrows, and a signalling horn.  Lucy gets a vial of healing cordial, which I think is perfect for her character.  When doubt and greed and misfortune plague the siblings, Lucy is the glue holding them together, forgiving misdeeds, and looking ahead with enthusiasm.  If youth is wasted on the young, it isn't wasted on Lucy.

The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin

I received a copy of this book a few weeks ago in the bottom of a box of books my husband's coworker gave us.  (Boxes of random books make great any day presents, by the way.)  I hadn't read it in 20 years.  There's a reason this book is still assigned reading in schools - it's fantastic.  But the reason I love it is for, you guessed it, the plucky young heroine who kicks anyone in the shins who dares to pull her pigtails.  Stuck with the nickname Turtle and stuck in the shadow of her beautiful older sister, this girl isn't afraid of a haunted house or making her presence known.  The Westing game itself is a puzzle, a word and mind game with over a dozen people trying to figure it out to win a handsome prize of 2 million dollars.  Turtle might not walk away with the money, but her attention to detail coupled with her unending tenacity help her discover the biggest secret within the game - who set it up and who watched them compete.  It's a secret she never tells, showing mature restraint and reaping benefits the others will never know.

That's my list for now.  What books sum up your childhood?


The Pain of Loss

I write a lot about death. Murder, suicide, loss, grief.

This last Saturday was the five year anniversary of my grandmother’s death after numerous bouts with cancer. It’s a horrible, eerie feeling. How have I lived five years without her? How do I go the rest of my life without her?

In the six and a half years since meeting my husband, our lives have been marked by funerals and loss. My grandma, his two grandpas, his aunt, his uncle’s father, my father’s girlfriend, a good friend I loved like a sister, and the dads of two friends. And those were just the wakes or funerals we went to. Suicides affected two families we know of in that time. Two people close to us lost younger brothers.

And I’m not alone in my inability to move past some of these losses. This beautifully worded piece of autobiography chronicles a fellow Etsy seller’s journey back to functionality after the unexpected passing of her husband. I’m comforted to be let into the healing heart of a woman who’s lived through my own worst fear.

Even “Bates Motel” had an eloquent speech on grief in its recent fourth episode. The future killer, now impressionable youth Norman Bates told his classmate what he believes grief to be: the amount of time it takes for your body to let go of expecting the deceased to come back into your life. I might have misparaphrased it, but I can’t shake the feeling that he was absolutely right.

So why do I constantly focus on death? To understand it? To overcome my fear of that inevitable end?

Maybe it’s these self-exploratory reasons, but maybe it’s more. Maybe in writing about death, I’m also writing about how to move past death, reconcile it in our actual lives. Every time my characters bury a friend or loved one, even though I’m the one controlling how they grieve, I get to watch them heal. I get to see them pick themselves up and move on the way I want to - with strength and dignity and hope for tomorrow. I can’t let all of my characters heal this way, but the ones who do become role models because sometimes a death is too personal to talk to other people about.

I hope that writing about death will help other people, too, because I believe that writing should bring people together, not pull them apart. So if you’re hurting, I’m sorry, and I hope we keep moving toward a place where we feel better. I hope we focus on the good and the living and the better memories of those we loved.

I hope it brings us comfort.


Your Review: My Commercial

You might be wondering, what is "My Best Friend's Diary" about? How about a commercial showing you instead of me explaining it only with words?

I'm working on a commercial for it, but the hitch is that I'd love to put some reviews at the end, and I haven't gotten any. That's where you come in. Anybody who writes an honest review about "My Best Friend's Diary" on Amazon, my Facebook page, or in response to this blog entry is eligible to have part of their review included in the commercial. I'll accept entries for the next few weeks, and I'll post when the contest is over.

Does this mean you have to leave a positive review? No, I appreciate constructive feedback and differences of opinion. Your reviews will still be up for others to read, but I reserve the right to choose what parts I use. The funnier or more unique the better. Have fun with it!


"Deadhill" Available Now

"Deadhill" is available for you to download and enjoy. As with "My Best Friend's Diary," it's free to borrow for Amazon Prime subscribers. Everybody else gets the lowest price Amazon will let me set.

Thank you for supporting my work. If you're interesting in supporting other independent authors, you can check my favorites out here on my Pinterest board.


Deadhill Cover Debut

This is the official cover art for "Deadhill," which should be coming out in the next few weeks. If you have comments about it, feel free to leave them here or add to the Facebook discussion.

When a young man's murder rocks the strange, small town of Bonehinge, Rowena Necroden fulfills her duties to the community's well-being while leading her own personal investigation into the possible involvement of her vivacious lover, Persephone Hillcroft.


Did You Download Your Copy?

People are still grabbing copies of "My Best Friend's Diary" on Amazon. The more copies that sell, the harder I work on my next short story, "Deadhill." (If spunky, coming-of-age stories aren't your thing, the much more serious "Deadhill" might work for you. If you like both of them, great! I do, too.)

I also had 8 new people start following my Pinterest boards this week. If you're an avid reader, a fellow writer, interested in steampunk or photography, you can see my boards here. I love to connect with like-minded people.