"The notion that such persons are gay of heart and carefree is curiously untrue. They lead, as a matter of fact, an existence of jumpiness and apprehension. They sit on the edge of the chair of Literature. In the house of Life they have the feeling that they have never taken off their overcoats."
- James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times

Sunday, April 10, 2016

You do not write away heartache

My fingers drag across the keyboard, typing, then deleting. When you are a writer and you experience sorrow, your first impulse is to write it all down. You believe that, if you get the feelings up and out of you by writing them, the pain will lessen. 

I won't try to tell you differently. There is a release, a bit of steam off the top. But feelings are wordless. Getting them "up and out" is not a job for the brain. It's a job for the heart, the gut, the body. Typing words is just one piece of the healing process.

We lost a friend this weekend. I say "we" because it's not just me, it's a network of people I have grown to love and trust and enjoy. She had cancer and fought it and just couldn't overcome it and all we are left with are memories of this bright, strong, beautiful young woman. 

Alyssa Barnes was 23. She lived several hours north of us, in Sacramento, but I saw her often on Facebook and once a year when we'd gather for a vacation together. I miss her already. My days did not always include her, and yet there is a black patch in the corner of each hour now that she is gone.

Before she died, she had wanted to be married to her love, RJ. For their wedding, I got her and RJ stars with their names -- something you can do via starregistry.com. Alyssa loved the outdoors, so I thought having stars with their names would, well, ground her memory in this world. On Friday, I rushed to Sacramento to give her the certificate, but I was too late.

This is the constellation, Lyra, and the coordinates of their stars. 

It reminds me of the line in The Little Prince: "If you love a flower who lives on a star, it is sweet, at night, to look at the sky. All of the stars are in bloom."

Alyssa Barnes was a warrior nymph, at home on earth or in water. She was as sturdy as an oak, with many branches for stray birds, and as deep as a mountain lake, with secrets known only to a few. She was grounded and rich as the soil of the earth, and her smile was as clear and open as the sky. She was a rock for her family during life's storms. And she picked her friends like flowers, and pressed them in the pages of her heart.

I will look for her spirit where my feet touch the earth and I can see the heavens above me.

Friday, March 18, 2016

But... will you still like me?

My fourth Peri book, A MORE DEADLY UNION, has a cover, jacket copy, has been edited and formatted. It is *thisclose* to being ready to release, apart from all the hoopla that surrounds a book before it's unleashed upon the world.

My editor, Jennifer Silva Redmond says, "A book is released too late for the author and too soon for the publisher." She is correct. My author's heart is telling me to hurry up and hit the bright red Publish button, while my publisher's head is saying, "Whoa, there, Flicka."

I need to make people want it first. It's the tension before the kiss, the suspense before the fright, the build-up that makes you run screaming for the Buy-Me option on Amazon. So here's your first tease:

"How far would you go for someone you love?

Someone is threatening Peri Minneopa’s client. The most likely suspect is a man whose past relationship with her client could ruin his chances at being elected mayor.

This would be easier if her boyfriend, Detective Skip Carlton, wasn’t in a coma after being shot. Peri’s been dating him for 10 years, but without a marriage license, she can’t even visit him in the hospital.

She knows better than to interfere with the police’s efforts to find Skip’s shooter, but her case keeps showing up in the middle of their investigation.

Now she’s questioning her skill and her need for independence. What is she willing to do to solve her case and see Skip wake up?"

I worked and slaved over this story. It was important for me to tell it well and get it right. Granted, my goal is to make each book a well-told, wonderful story, but this one cuts close to my bones. For this one, I aimed for excellence, not knowing if I could settle for exceptional.

Before I release this story to the world, we need to talk.

One thing I've learned in three Peri mysteries is who my readers are. Most of you are women, and of those women, many of you are of a certain age. With Peri being in her 50s, she is a gal you can relate to. There are women (and men) within my age group that hold attitudes about people, attitudes that I will not judge, but that I may not agree with. It's all okay. We can still be friends, I hope.

My original idea for A MORE DEADLY UNION came from the repeal of Proposition 8 (this made gay marriage illegal) in California. Not being gay, Prop 8 didn't affect me personally, except that it did. Being married to a black man, I'm aware that interracial marriage was not approved in the US until 1967, that it wasn't approved by over 50% of public opinion until 1994, and that Biblical verses were cited as being the reason many people disapprove.

A MORE DEADLY UNION is a mystery, of course, but it's also about Peri's fight to be with Skip as he lies in the hospital, in a coma. To underscore her predicament, she is working with a gay couple, who help her understand the importance of marriage from their own experience.

I'm not certain if some of you will be turned off by a gay couple, but I'm hoping for one thing: that you trust me. You know that my mysteries do not feature graphic violence or sex. And my discussion here about the book should let you know that I'm sensitive to your opinion, I'm aware of potential backlash, and I'm not going to blindside you. 

Well, almost... I admit, the ending of this book surprised me. Sometimes characters do that.

If you're still (or even more) interested in the book, you can pre-order the ebook on Amazon here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01D3MMZ9K. Don't worry, there'll be a paperback version, too. 

And stick around for any contests, launch party swag, etc! 

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

March madness

No, I'm not talking about the NCAA championships, although they certainly drive my husband mad. I'm referring to Saturday, March 26th, when I'll be joining a few other authors from Orange County to have a Book Fair at The LAB Antimall in Costa Mesa. 

I've never been to this anti-mall, but the pictures of it look interesting. It's not exactly close to me, but I have traveled much further to sell books, so color me enthused.

What books am I bringing? Just my mysteries this time around, for two reasons:

1. For this particular fair, I wanted to represent a clear brand. I figured the mysteries would be more enticing.

2. Rumor has it that parking at this location is in Far Far Away, so I cannot be schlepping a ton of books to the event.

I'm also noodling over what kind of enticements to offer people to get them to either read more of my books, or to purchase my ebooks if they are not into buying tree-books. I might offer them a some kind of opportunity to win a prize, or get an early copy of A MORE DEADLY UNION. 

Whatever I do, you know I'll report back here on how it turned out. In the meantime, here's the link to some of the authors who'll be joining me: http://ocwriters.org/book-fair/

And here's the link to The LAB, so you'll know how to find me: http://thelab.com/

It's from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. I'd love to see you at the event!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Another conference. Done and done.

I've just spent three-and-a-half days in San Diego, at the Southern California Writers' Conference and I'm both exhausted and supercharged. I was up every night until after midnight, and up every morning by seven a.m. and there was copious amounts of sushi and wine and discussion and laughter and hijinks in between. So it was a success.

Here are the highlights:

1. I kept my voice for the entire conference. This is a highlight because, for the past TWO conferences, I have lost my voice on Friday night and had to power through teaching my workshops. I owe this to avoiding all colds and viruses, and beginning every morning with a witches' brew that looks like this:

It's oranges, lemons, honey, ginger and turmeric. I put a hearty tablespoon in hot water and drink it. What a throat soother!

2. I got to hone my pitch/logline for A MORE DEADLY UNION in Jenny and Marla's Pitch Witches workshop. Now when someone asks me what my book is about, I can tell them,

"Peri is a 50-year old private investigator who knows two things: She doesn't want to get married AND she is happy to stick her nose in police business when she's solving a case. Suddenly, her boyfriend Skip is in a coma, and her case is interfering with the police's ability to find his shooter. Now all she knows is, she'll do anything if Skip will wake up--even marry him."

Jennifer Silva Redmond and Marla Miller, taking your calls.

I recommend their sessions highly for cutting through the fat of your pitch or query, and getting to the meat. 

3. Every night ended at the bar and every morning came too early, the sign of a good conference.

4. My workshop went well, so well that we were still talking when Laura Taylor came in to teach hers--oops! My apologies to Laura, and I tried to get out from under her feet as quickly as possible.

5. It was the conference's 30th anniversary and we celebrated!

With cake.

Wes Albers (left), and Michael Steven Gregory, blowing out the candles.

6. I came away with renewed energy, fond memories, and a burning desire to see these people again. What shocks me about this group of people is that we're not actually a group of people. We're not an organization - there is no membership roll, no dues, nothing but two conferences a year. And yet, we are a tribe, a community of writers who love to gather and discuss writing and feel that no one has an agenda, that we are happy for each other's successes, and that we are in safe company.

This particular weekend was about the quality of our writing. Without going into detail that would be unnecessarily painful and harsh, our tribe recently experienced a disturbance in the force. Someone we thought was one of us turned out to be not-so-much. Most of us spent the weekend going through the five stages of grief every half-hour. But it's okay, because it allowed our relationships to be cemented stronger, and to improve our writing even more. 

We will lift our words up until the universe sings our stories. We will aim for excellence and settle for exceptional. And in the meantime, we will write more and suck less.

I can't wait until September. Go here if you can't wait, either- http://writersconference.com/la/

Sunday, February 7, 2016

A pirating day

I'm still choosing a cover and refining the jacket copy for Peri's latest adventure, A MORE DEADLY UNION. Currently, I'm striving for a June release date, although I may push it out if necessary. I'm also planning a big, fat launch party. It's been awhile since I had one of those, but as my age advances, I feel the need to celebrate milestones.

Life is short. Celebrate the happy.

In the meantime, I'm still working on my girl pirate book. It's fun to write, because it's like Play-Doh, molding and massaging and creating whatever comes to mind. I'm not sure where the story might go, and the characters and their motivations keep getting stronger, and they reveal secrets to me the more I write them. 

So much so that my first chapter got scrapped, and I'm now writing it all in first-person because Lisette wants to tell this story. I don't know whether it's because she's nobility or just strong-willed, but she's a girl who will do anything to get to her goals, including narrating her own tale.

And then there are the dragons.

Here is the new first chapter of the current work. I hope it whets your appetite.

* * * * * *

When I was five years old, I saw a dragon kill my uncle. This would be unremarkable if dragons existed, but my entire family told me I had a wild imagination and dissuaded me from telling anyone else. For anyone I had told, they tsk-tsked and explained that, poor child, I was so traumatized by witnessing my uncle’s death, I had dreamed up a horrid beast to explain it to my wee five-year-old brain.

When you’re young, parents are always telling you the vegetable on your plate is really magic candy, and it’s midnight on New Year’s when the clock rings eight. You believe them because they are your parents and they are wise and you love them.

So when they said I must have been mistaken and frightened and there are no dragons, I tried to believe it was a knife and not talons that slashed my uncle’s throat, and it was a torch and not a beast’s breath setting fire to his body.

What my parents did not know, what I never told, was that after killing my uncle, the dragon came to me. His image is seared in my mind. He was the size of a horse, crimson and black, with a line of golden spikes down his back to his tail. His coat was not scaled, as the tapestries portrayed them, but silky and long, like luxurious fur.

As he sniffed me, his nostrils widened from narrow slits to rounds, and the crescents in his eyes glowed, matching the waning moon. His breath smelled of ashes, and he brought his tremendous talon to press me against the wall. My body quivered, waiting to be sliced into ribbons, but I faced him. His eyes drilled into mine, searching for something within me.

After some moments of what I can only describe as a combination of terror and excitement, he turned from me and flew away, with a cry that expressed both anguish and victory. Even if I could have forgotten the smell of his breath, the weight of his claw upon my breast, I could never forget that scream.

I am now on the eve of my 18th year, a grown woman, preparing to be a bride, and leaving behind my childhood dreams and fantasies. I must learn to stop looking for great beasts of fire and claw. Still, there is a corner of my heart that keeps watching, both fearing and hoping to see another.

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