This Indie Journey

Finally! After three long years, Murder in Madden, is being released in October. Once the links on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other outlets are available, I’ll post them.

People talk about being on a “journey” so much that it’s become a cliche. Forgive me, but I have to tell you this experience has indeed been a journey. When I finished the first draft of my manuscript, I thought I was near the end. Wrong. Several revisions later, I thought I was almost finished. Wrong. When I finally produced the final draft, I thought surely this was the end. Wrong again—the journey continued.

As it turns out, writing the book was the fun, easy part, although I didn’t realize it at the time. Lately I have longed for those wonderful days when I was holed up in my office, cranking out pages of my story, and reveling in the joy of writing. I can’t wait to start book number two in the Enid Blackwell series so that I can relive that experience.

Publishing a book after it is written is way harder than writing. All along, I assumed I would follow the traditional path and submit my books to an agent and/or small presses, suffer through the inevitable rejections, and eventually find a publisher willing to take on a debut novel. However, I as I began to study the publishing landscape, my outlook changed. If you have any interest in the book world at all, you’re likely aware that the publishing world has been turned upside town. Jane Friedman said in her blog post, “Of all the ages of publishing that I’ve lived through, this is the one I’m happiest to be part of. The one that feels most exciting, most aglow with promise.” What she is referring to is he world of self-publishing. Inspired by Friedman and others who have voluntarily walked away from traditional publishers, I decided to become an “indie” author. I joined the Alliance of Independent Authors (Alli) and learned all I could from them. I knew it would be difficult, and that my learning curve was steep, but I made an informed decision to start my own publishing company, Pondhawk Press LLC.

Being an indie author doesn’t mean you take short-cuts. On the contrary, you still have to prove yourself as a serious author by producing the best quality of work possible. To that end, I hired a writing coach, a developmental editor, a proofreader, and a book designer. It’s been a LOT of work—and not cheap. One of my friends recently asked if I would do it again. Without hesitation, I replied, “Absolutely!”

I’m sure some of my author acquaintances will turn up their noses at self-publishing, but one of the things I’ve learned on this indie journey is that your true friends and supporters will shine through. Everyone else is just noise.


Guns & Madness

I’ve been busy finishing the book edits and haven’t posted in a while. However, the events of this past week have been on my mind, so I wanted to share my thoughts.

It may seem odd that a mystery writer who lives in an imaginary world where people are killed all the time is railing against gun violence. But … there’s a big difference in play worlds and real worlds. In my play world, I create and kill characters all the time. But they are not real. They don’t have real families and friends who will mourn their passing. I know the difference. Apparently, real killers do not.

Many of my right-wing acquaintances say “people don’t kill—guns kill.” I think that’s a poor excuse for not outlawing assault weapons that have no place in our society. Normal people should have no desire to own a weapon of mass destruction. Sorry if you disagree, but I feel pretty adamant about that position. In fact, I just unfriended a couple of people on Facebook whose views on gun rights were so foreign to mine that I couldn’t, in good conscious, call them “friend.”

Having said all that, you may think I’m anti-gun. I am not. In fact, I just completed a concealed weapon permit class a few weeks ago. I own a 9mm Smith & Wesson M&P Shield. I keep it for protection, and I pray to God I never have to use it. I wish no one owned a gun, but I agree we have a right to bear arms. Unfortunately, we are so far down this road of gun ownership that we will likely never get guns off the streets. The sad fact is that if bad guys have guns, the good guys have to defend against them. It’s madness.

I try to relate these posts to my book and its characters, so I’ll end with this comment. My editor questioned why I mentioned in one of the scenes that my protagonist had a concealed carry permit. She asked, “Why was that relevant?” I eliminated the sentence, but after thinking further about it, I added the sentence back in. Enid is a responsible person. Even though this is a fictitious story, it was important to me that my “hero” reflect my own values. I believe in responsible gun ownership, and so does Enid. Just like in real life, Madden is not immune to the craziness of the world or to the irresponsible actions of a few individuals. Yes, I’m afraid we live in a mad, mad world.

What’s happening in our country right now is truly madness. Leonard Pitts, Miami Herald columnist, said it best. If you haven’t read his recent article, please do:


Yesterday was Mother’s Day, and I admit that, for the most part, I eschewed it as just another Hallmark moment. Yes, it’s nice to remember our mothers—alive or deceased—and it’s nice to set aside a national day for it. It’s the commercial hype I rebel against.

In spite of my rebellion, I spent most of yesterday missing my mother who died years ago. Instead of putting flowers on her grave, as I usually do, I set her photo on the kitchen counter and burned a candle in her memory all day. It was nice to see her smiling back at me while I was making lunch. Her presence was palpable, and very loving and comfortable.

In Murder in Madden, Enid misses her mother and that grief plays a part in her actions. Rosie’s behavior was also driven by the loss of her mother. But … that’s all I’m going to say for now, because I don’t want to give anything away. You’ll just have to read the book.

The Next Chapter

As I reach the end of the process for this first novel, I know I will miss spending time with my characters, especially Enid. Being a restless soul, much like Enid, I am ready for change. I toyed with the idea of the second novel being a totally new story—new characters and a new setting. But while the idea of change is enticing, in reality, I’m much like my cats. I like familiarity and the comfort of knowing the people I hang out with, even if they are only in my imagination.

Perhaps the most compelling reason for doing a sequel to Murder in Madden, rather than a totally new novel, is that the story isn’t complete. Don’t worry, I won’t leave you hanging without a resolution to the story, but Enid’s story won’t end on the last page. She’s too complex to capture fully in one novel. In fact, she’s been talking a lot to me lately about the next chapter in her life, and I keep telling her to be patient—let me finish this one before you bug me about the next one. But, like me, she’s not very patient, so I need to wrap this one up and listen to what she has to say.

Stay tuned.

Letting Go

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about letting go. Yes, I know that phrase has become somewhat of a cliché, and I’d like to replace it with something new and catchy … but “letting go” still works.

I have a friend who can’t let go, mentally or physically, of things or the past. She is both blessed and burdened by a lifetime of memories. She holds onto physical things that belonged to dead relatives, because she’s afraid if she discards the item, she’ll lose the memory too.

I’ve also noticed that as she ages, she has become prone to rewriting the past. Mistakes and bad judgments have now been rewritten as happier memories. I suppose that’s easier than admitting you have made bad choices. Perhaps I will do the same one day.

In Murder in Madden, Enid has made some choices that may, or may not, be bad ones. She may live to regret those decisions. Or not. As Enid’s creator, it has been painful to let her make choices I feel are bad ones. But, just as I’ve had to let go myself and allow my friend to choose her own path, I’ve had to do the same with Enid.

Not Just for Kids

Last night, I drove to Charlotte to attend John Claude Bemis’ presentation on writing children’s books. Mostly, I went to accompany a friend who has written one. My assumption was that the discussion would interest her far more than it would interest me.

I was wrong. Bemis’ message was universal to all genres and ages. Children’s books, he said, are about self-discovery, in which kids are trying to figure out themselves and the world round them. Well, aren’t we all in this boat together—trying to figure things out? And isn’t that what most fiction is about?

In a typical novel, the protagonist is a flawed person who needs something, even if that person is not sure what it is. What the characters says they want, and what they really need are usually different. The need is usually a primal desire: love, acceptance, recognition, revenge, etc. The characters’ strengths and flaws are revealed through the story as they try to fulfill that desire. In the process, true character is revealed and self-discovery takes place for them, as well as the readers.

Enid, my protagonist, is working through some “issues” from her past, while dealing with family dynamics. She is trying to figure herself out, as well as the world around her. Through this process, I’ve learned a lot about her … and about myself.

Being Forgotten

We all fear being forgotten whether we admit it or not. The next time you’re in a cemetery, take a look around at the elaborate headstones and mausoleums. Memorial providers make big bucks “pre-planning” funerals, burials, and other ceremonies because many people want to manage the way they are remembered.

Being forgotten after death is one thing, but what happens when you’re forgotten while you’re still alive? When people retire or lose their jobs for other reasons, they often feel “invisible” or irrelevant. While some people rejoice at fading into obscurity, others launch into charity work, write a book, or take other actions to retain their relevancy. This need to remembered is a human, universal reaction to a change in our environment. 

In Murder in Madden, both Enid and Jack feel forgotten. How does this drive the actions they take? You’ll find out when you read the book.

The Meaning of Food

Lately, I’ve been thinking about food. I don’t mean in the usual sense, although I love a good meal as much as the next person. During the recent holidays, I didn’t even have to think about food–it just magically appeared before me everywhere I went.

The reason food has been on my mind is because of its role in certain kinds of mystery novels. The publishing world calls these “cozy” mysteries. Typically, owner of a cupcake shop or a bookstore finds a dead body in the freezer or in the alley behind the shop. And it’s an amateur sleuth who shows up the local police by solving the crime. (Think “Murder She Wrote”) Besides amateur sleuths, food typically plays a role in cozies.

Murder in Madden is not a typical cozy, but it does have elements of that genre. For example, the protagonist is not in law enforcement, and she’s a female who is old enough to know better but young enough to get herself into trouble anyway. And then there’s the food that somehow kept showing up in the manuscript.

Which made me start thinking: What’s the role of food in our lives and what meaning do we ascribe to it? I don’t have a professional response, but I do have an opinion. As I said in earlier posts, family relationships play a key role in Murder in Madden. When I think of family, at least the pleasant moments, I often recall family gatherings during holidays, which all things center around huge spreads of food. Or I recall special meals by candlelight to celebrate birthdays. Or I think of my deceased mom’s cooking. As I’ve been writing this novel, family has been on my mind a lot, ergo food has been on my mind.

My point in all this is that once you get past the physiological need for feed on Maslow’s hierarchy, food takes on a different meaning for each of us. I didn’t set out to make food an element of Murder in Madden, but somehow it crept into my writing. Like family, food is primal. It’s basic to life.

Well, enough thoughts about food. I’m going to wrap up this post and join my husband by the fireplace for a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon and some freshly baked mushroom and cheese focaccia bread I picked up from the bakery this afternoon. Fire and food and, well, you know … now that’s primal. 


As I talked with Enid this week about her story, the word “redemption” kept popping up in my mind. According to Merriam Webster, redemption is the deliverance from the bondage of sin; emancipation or liberation through payment of a price. Perhaps redemption wasn’t Enid’s to pay. Perhaps it was … well, you’ll have to read the book to answer that question for yourself.

We all pay for our deeds in some way or another. Some might call it karma. As a former life coach, I used to tell clients that what they put out into the universe is returned to them in like kind. I’ve come to realize that the only way to be free of the obligation of our deeds is through redemption. There’s no way to escape the past, but through redemption, we find a way to live with ourselves.

Redemption does play a role in Murder in Madden. Is that why Enid was driven to pursue Rosie’s story? Is that why I am driven to write Enid’s story? What are we trying to redeem?

Families and Christmas

This will be my last post for the year, and as I reflect on the holiday season, I am reminded of Christmases past and times spent with family. No, I’m not going to make a Hallmark statement here. In fact, just the opposite.

Family dynamics are complex, and this complexity often fuels suicides, murders, depression and a host of not-so-great emotions like envy and fear–especially this time of year. Having said that, you may be expecting me to pass long pearls of wisdom gleaned over the years on how to deal with family issues. Ha!

My best advice to you is to become a mystery writer. That way, you can kill off the in-laws or anyone else in a story. Don’t like Aunt Tillie? Then get rid of her! Change her name, of course, but think of all the delightful, creative ways you can dispose of her body. It’s actually quite therapeutic.

Okay, enough of the dark humor. My point is, just try to laugh it off and find a way to release your family frustration. Christmas comes only once a year, and then you can resume your normal life again.

One thing I learned from Enid as I was writing this book is that you can’t always make everyone in your family happy. Sometimes you have to do what’s right for you–and then deal with the consequences. As I’ve said in previous posts, Enid is much more courageous than I, although she doesn’t always make the right decisions. But do any of us?

On that note, I’ll end. Enid and I wish you Happy Holidays and a Joyous New Year! See you here next year.