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Beginning on book #2 in Enid Blackwell series

Before I say anything, I want to acknowledge my writer friends to manage to juggle a full-time job, fulfill family obligations, market their already-published books, and still find time to write. It’s a challenge!

As I begin the second book in the Enid series, a year has passed in the story. If you’ve read the book, you know book one left some unanswered questions to be resolved. Most will be addressed in book 2; others in later books.

I’ve missed Enid, Cade, Jack, and the other character friends I made writing the first book. Reconnecting with them is like going to a reunion and seeing folks you haven’t been in regular contact with. It’s exciting to hear what they’ve been up to. And they are anxious to share the second story with me. I am, after all, just the channel they use.

Stay tuned–more about writing the second book as it progresses.

Readers’ Feedback on “Murder in Madden”

Yes, I know it’s been a while since I posted anything, and I apologize. Like many of you, I got caught up in a zillion holiday-related activities with friends and family. It was fun, but I am feeling a bit guilty about ignoring my blog, so I’ll try to catch you up.

As you know, Murder in Madden is is my first novel. I’m an experienced business writer and editor, but writing novel-length fiction is something altogether different. During the past three years, I’ve studied with some wonderful writing coaches: Cynthia Morris, Al Watt, Jerry Cleaver (sadly, now deceased), and others. While I was studying and writing, many of my friends kept asking, “So, when are you going to actually finish this book?” Well, I can say with certainty that my patience and diligence in studying story structure and learning the craft paid off. The feedback from readers has been overwhelmingly good. They have made comments like, “Great character development. I feel like I know them personally.” And, “It kept me guessing.” My favorite comment by far, which I’ve received from numerous readers is “I couldn’t Put it down.” Whew! I knew I had written a good book, and now my readers have validated it.

I’ve done some personal appearances and hope to do more. This month I was at The Coffee Shelf in Chapin, South Carolina, and on the 21st I’ll be at the Burry Bookstore in Hartsville, South Carolina. If you know of a book club or event I might be interested in, please use the contact form and let me know. I’d appreciate it.

Last week, I started on book number two in the Enid Blackwell series. I’ve committed to four Enid books. No, I won’t take three years to write each one. Hopefully, I can do one a year—that’s the goal.

Well, I’d better get back to writing. Thanks for checking in with me.

Book Launch Celebration

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October 30 was a fun day for me. Not just because it was the day before Halloween, but because I celebrated the launch of my book with friends and family. I shared my writing journey, which began with the idea for Murder in Madden and ended with its publication. Most of the people in attendance were instrumental, in some way, in helping me along the way. I appreciate all their support.

I’ve gotten good feedback from those who have read it. Many have asked when the next book will be out. During my discussion, I committed to doing four books in the Enid Blackwell series and to starting book #2 in January. For now, I’m going to enjoy the holidays and also set up some signings.

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: http://www.miamiherald.com/opinion/opn-columns-blogs/leonard-pitts-jr/article88403142.html

Mothers

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.