Thursday, September 25, 2014

Genre Hopping

This post has been a long time coming. I've started it, erased it, and started it again. It's time to come clean.

I'm often asked when my next book will be coming out. Of course, there is always a story (or two or three) in the pipeline. Most recently I've finished my ninth book, Memories and Matchsticks, a romantic mystery, the first in my planned Sam McNamee Mystery Series. Right now it's in the queue for editing and cover art. If all goes as planned, it should be out in November sometime. It's a contemporary novel, a quirky romantic mystery that will, hopefully, make you laugh, cry, and have you rooting for the heroine, Sam McNamee, an accident prone romance writer who ironically avoids dating, until fate throws a wayward mutt named Bump into the path of her car and she meets veterinarian, Dr. Clint Chastain.

In the near future, I'll also be following up with a sequel to my first dog story Say No More which, although it had a slow start, has gained a steady following and rave reviews.

Some have asked if I'll be releasing any more historicals. The truth is, I don't know. Not soon, certainly, but in the future, who knows? Never say never, right? Some readers have even suggested historical figures I could write about. While there is an endless list of interesting people from the past I could explore, the reality is that my interests are leading me in a different direction. And I'm more excited about writing than I've been in a looong time, because now I'm writing stories that come purely from my heart and my imagination. There are no limitations.

The onus of writing historical fiction is that there is a great deal of responsibility that goes along with it. It is a VERY research intensive endeavor. I've often stated to friends that I could have researched and written an entire PhD dissertation with every historical novel I wrote - and I am not exaggerating. I spent two years digging up obscure scientific articles for a Biology masters degree, so I know.

Putting together a historical that is honest to the events of the time and people who lived it is not unlike academic research. When it comes to facts, you have to cover your a** -- or suffer the scrutiny of the Accuracy Police. In many ways, writing HF is like piecing together a puzzle. You have names, dates, places, events, and some details about each of these. Then, as a writer of fiction, you have to fill in the blanks and provide plausible motivations and reactions. You have to make the one-dimensional into three-dimensional. In that regard, few things have pleased me more than bringing people like Robert the Bruce, Isabella, and Owain Glyndwr to life and I am grateful to every reader who has reached out to me, left a review, or shared the books with friends.

Those stories came from a time in my life when I was in search of heroes. People in places of responsibility who fought against tough odds, who had the courage to lead, to fight, to stand against injustice, whether personal or political. I started writing about Owain Glyndwr first over fifteen years ago. I was a stay-at-home mom, who had the luxury of taking 2-3 years to write a book. I wrote five historicals while waiting for a publisher to discover me. And when efforts to find a traditional publisher fell through and the (better) opportunity to self-publish arose, I jumped at it. I was able to release my first several books more quickly because, for the most part, they were already written. They found readers and all was good. For a while.

It would be impossible for me to release new biographical historical fiction at a rate of more than one book per year, if that often. Putting out HF faster than that would, for me, compromise the integrity of the facts -- something I am not willing to do. Another bummer about writing biographical fiction is that you can't resurrect already dead characters. If you follow their story all the way to the ends of their lives as I have, you're at a dead end (pun intended).

To feed the beast, a writer must keep writing. And release frequently. Over time I've seen sales (and subsequently income) slip due to my slow release rate. The algorithms at Amazon are unforgiving, but they keep us writers on our toes. So about a year ago I started struggling with whether or not I was going to keep writing Historical Fiction. I even renewed my teaching certificate (gasp!), thinking I'd stop writing altogether in lieu of a regular job. It was a sobering prospect and a low time for me.

It took me awhile to realize that I still wanted to write, very much so, but my heart was leading me in a different direction. Circumstances in my life are vastly different now than ten years ago. I'm happier, more focused, and feel a deep need to connect to other human beings. Writing is also more than a hobby now; it is my career. I've brought to life the lives of a handful of real people that I was interested in, and I feel very fulfilled about that. But history also has its limitations. I wanted the freedom to create characters from scratch that just about anybody could relate to, in situations that are relevant to a wider audience.

Several years ago I joined a writer's site called Authonomy. One thing that being there did was open my eyes to a lot of new genres. I used to only read Historical Fiction. Now I read Romance, Science Fiction, Dystopian, Young Adult, New Adult, Cozy Mysteries, Literary Fiction,  General Fiction ... I never run out of books to read and I love that.

So when I sat down to write Say No More during the 2013 NaNoWriMo marathon that is November, the words gushed out. I LOVED writing from Halo's perspective as a dog. I couldn't wait to get the whole story down and out there. My passion for writing had returned. Soon I had a notebook full of new story ideas. Enough to keep me busy for the next five years.

Many writers explore new genres at different times in their careers. Some juggle them simultaneously, like Stephen King or Denise Grover Swank. Others, like Debora Geary, finish one series or genre and move on to something entirely new. 

New readers will continue to discover Robert, James, Isabella, and Owain. The fantastic thing about e-books is that they never have to disappear from the virtual shelf.

I am excited about the future, about Halo's story and Sam's, and hope you'll follow me. The possibilities are endless.

Until later,

Monday, September 22, 2014

Isabeau: German Edition

Look! It's almost here!

I am proud to announce that the German language edition of Isabeau will be released by Amazon Crossing in mid October at

Click here to view it in the German Amazon store.

I am truly grateful for this opportunity to reach new readers. The journey to bring this to fruition  has been virtually seamless, from acquisition to translation to cover art. The folks at Amazon Crossing are simply the bomb. And the best part is that all this took less than a year - lightning speed in the world of publishing.

This is something I wouldn't have imagined a year ago. And to think, just five years ago I was pretty sure the chances of Isabella's story ever being read were slim to none. Then I learned about Amazon's self-publishing venture, KDP (then DTP), Kindle Direct Publishing. So I released it into the world, hoping for the best, expecting nothing. And, to be cliche, the rest was history. What I thought was the low point of my hopes to be a published author was actually the beginning of a new leg of my journey and the chance to reach even more readers than I ever dreamed possible.

This is so surreal, but ... squeeee! Isn't that cover GORGEOUS?!

Until later,

Thursday, September 18, 2014

What To Read Next - Sept. '14, #2

Here are some more don't miss reads!

1) The Martian, by Andy Weir

"Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars.

Now, he's sure he'll be the first person to die there.

After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive.

Chances are, though, he won't have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old "human error" are much more likely to kill him first."

Intense, page-turning, reflective and sometimes funny, Weir's The Martian is topnotch Science Fiction told in gripping fashion (even with all the math equations). Seriously, I cannot wait for the movie! Any Hollywood producer who doesn't see the potential here is simply daft.

2) Call Me Tuesday, by Leigh Byrne

"At eight-years-old, Tuesday Storm's childhood is forever lost when the death of her older sister, Audrey, sends her family spiraling out of control into irrevocable dysfunction. In the wake of the tragedy, Tuesday's mother, distraught and looking for a scapegoat, singles Tuesday out from her siblings to take on the blame for Audrey's death, and then targets her for unspeakable abuse. 

Suddenly the loving environment Tuesday has come to know becomes an endless nightmare of cruel "games" and twisted punishments, as she's forced to confront the dark cruelty lurking behind the beautiful face of the mother she idolizes."

 Emotionally intense, this novel gives you an inside look into mental illness and emotional abuse from the child's perspective. Tuesday's story alternates between hope and powerless despair. One word: POWERFUL.

3) Take Me With You, by Catherine Ryan Hyde

"August Shroeder, a burned-out teacher, has been sober since his nineteen-year-old son died. Every year he’s spent the summer on the road, but making it to Yellowstone this year means everything. The plan had been to travel there with his son, but now August is making the trip with Philip’s ashes instead. An unexpected twist of fate lands August with two extra passengers for his journey, two half-orphans with nowhere else to go.

What none of them could have known was how transformative both the trip—and the bonds that develop between them—would prove, driving each to create a new destiny together."

No secret, I'm a Hyde fangirl. It's not always easy to find stories that are told with so much clarity and simplicity, yet still strike a profound chord. Take Me With You has my favorite Hyde characters yet.

Happy reading!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Isabeau Is Only 99 Cents!

Isabeau: A Novel of Queen Isabella and Sir Roger Mortimer, is just 99 cents on Kindle for a limited time!

Buy now on

 The story of Queen Isabella, who sought revenge on her husband Edward II, and her lover Sir Roger Mortimer, who masterminded the invasion in 1326 that accomplished it.

     "As I made my way across the floor, I overheard Edward mumble above the rustle of my skirt’s fabric: “I am no man’s chattel. I swear on my life ... there will be requital.”
      With that utterance, any hope I might have held – for lasting peace, for my children’s future – crumbled into a dust so fine that even the slightest whisper of civil war would blow it away without a trace."

Happy reading,

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

What To Read Next - Sept. '14

I know! Where have I been? Never fear. I have been busy. In a good way. My ninth book is two chapters away from completion. The editor and cover artist have been penciled in. New ideas keep popping into my head and going into the story ideas file. I can't wait to get started on the next Halo book, and then to return to the new Sam McNamee series I've begun. More on that later. Meanwhile ...

I've compiled a great -- and eclectic, as always -- list of books that I want to recommend. This will take two installments, or more, so stay tuned.

1) Sand, by Hugh Howey

"The old world is buried. A new one has been forged atop the shifting dunes. Here in this land of howling wind and infernal sand, four siblings find themselves scattered and lost. Their father was a sand diver, one of the elite few who could travel deep beneath the desert floor and bring up the relics and scraps that keep their people alive. But their father is gone. And the world he left behind might be next..."

Whether or not you've read Howey's Wool series, if you like world-building and imaginative storytelling, pick up the Sand Omnibus. I'm one of those who used to say, "I don't read that genre", but great writing can definitely change your mind.

2) Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes, by Denise Grover Swank

"Somebody thinks Rose has something they want and they’ll do anything to get it. Her house is broken into, someone else she knows is murdered, and suddenly, dying a virgin in the Fenton County jail isn’t her biggest worry after all."

Rarely does a series keep my interest after three books, but even after five novels and a novella, I'm still eager for the next installment of Swank's Rose Gardener mystery series.  This is a cozy mystery series (meaning most of the violence takes place off page), with an ongoing love triangle and a good dose of humor. Rose is absolutely endearing and her visions add an interesting twist.

3) When Shadows Fall, by Paul Reid

"Still haunted by the British army’s treatment of soldiers during World War I, Lieutenant Adam Bowen returns to Dublin in 1919—and discovers a new war destroying his hometown. When his well-bred family ignores the violence between Irish revolutionaries and the British government, Adam turns his back on Britain and secretly aligns with the Irish Republican Army.
Then Adam meets golden-haired, blue-eyed Tara Reilly, and finds himself drawn to her quiet beauty..."

Artfully woven, masterfully written. This is a wartime love story you'll long remember. Adam and Tara are on opposing sides - but neither is aware of the other's secret. Can love overcome?

More to come soon. I have a book to finish writing!

Happy reading,

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Writing Ergonomically: Treadmill, Sitting, and Standing Desks

Those of you who sit at your job all day know that being sedentary in one position for hours can lead to problems. I've dealt with high hamstring tightness, piriformis syndrome, back pain and the like for years. At first, I'd put my laptop on the floor and write on my stomach. Most of Isabeau was written in this position. But after awhile, that took its toll on my shoulders and simply wasn't comfortable after more than an hour or so.

Since my husband is an engineer, he put his practical brain on and decided to create some more ergonomic writing arrangements for me.


The first thing he did was make a treadmill desk (above). I got the idea from a thread. Here are some specifics for it:

1) It cost nothing, since he made it out of scrap lumber and we had extra polyurethane to finish it.
2) The 'desk' rests on the handrails and is kept in place by wood fixtures (blocks) on the underside. It is easy to put on and lift off of the handrails.
2) There is a 1/2" lip at the bottom of the desk surface that keeps the laptop and mouse in place.
3) Speed will vary by personal preference. I started off writing at less than 1.5 mph and worked my way up to 2.0 mph. I find that any faster than that and my typing accuracy suffers, although a lot of people do just fine at faster speeds. I do tend to write more slowly on the treadmill, so I most often use it when editing or when I can't stand to sit still any longer.


The second change was to alter my posture while at the desk. Sitting for long periods made my hamstrings tight, and crouching forward to reach the keyboard rounded my back and shoulders, causing low back pain and shoulder pain on one side. (I'd lean my left elbow on the desk for support and hold my right arm back to work the mouse.) Here are the changes we made to my sitting desk:

1) Putting a footstool under my desk allowed me to stretch out my legs, decreasing hamstring tightness and the PIA of piriformis syndrome.
2) Memory foam pillow under my bum. I also put a small pillow behind my lower back for lumbar support when needed.
3) Moved the keyboard to a portable keyboard/laptop tray on my lap. No more reaching forward.
4) Mouse placed on stool to my right. No more twisting sideways.
5) Comfy chair with arms. Keeps me more upright and even, left to right.


The standing desk was our final project. The important thing here was getting the placement of the keyboard right. I write the most words per hour sitting. Second would be standing. Slowest output for me is on the treadmill. For some writers that works in reverse, though. So when hamstring or gluteal pain makes me not want to sit and a flare-up of plantar fasciitis (one of the drawbacks of being a runner) keeps me off the treadmill, I stand. Here's what we did for a standing desk:

1) Added a shelf above the desk for a second monitor. At first I considered just moving the all-in-one computer up when I needed to stand, but that sucker is heavy. I didn't want to drop it. Monitors these days are affordable. There's some doo-hickey that connects the two monitors. All I have to do is turn on the top monitor, slide the file to the right, and it pops up above.
2) Added the second monitor and hardware to connect them.
3) Added a sliding keyboard tray beneath the shelf. The height of the shelf was determined by the height of the original monitor below and the space needed for the keyboard tray.
4) Use the footstool in the horizontal position to stand on, since the shelf is up a bit high. And no, I haven't fallen off. Yet.

The stool I use is a KidKraft Nursing Stool. It can be purchased in several finishes, from Espresso, to Honey Oak, to Natural.

The bamboo desk is by Legare. They have several finishes and configurations. I have the smaller wheat finish desk in the secluded writing area and a larger espresso finish corner desk and extensions in the business office. You can order it via their web site or from Amazon. I was able to put all of their furniture together myself. No tools required!

I'm much more comfortable these days, since I have options. Feel free to share your ergonomic writing tips in the comments!

Until later,

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Sins of the Past - A Five Novel Boxed Set for 99 cents!

Recently, I was invited by Steel Magnolia Press to include The Crown in the Heather as part of a 5 novel boxed set, along with four other hugely talented authors. You can now buy Sins of the Past for only 99 cents here:

Barnes and Noble

Take a sweeping journey through history and across the world with this limited-edition collection of 5 full-length historical fiction novels.

For lovers of mystery, war and adventure! 150 5-star individual reviews.

1100s - SEASON OF THE RAVEN (A Servant of the Crown Mystery) - Denise Domning

Sir Faucon de Ramis, the shire's first Crowner, must make an official declaration of the cause of a miller's death. But first he must thread the tangled relationships between the sheriff, the village of Priors Holston and the priory that once ruled it. As a simple task takes a turn to the political, what seems obvious isn't and what appears safe turns out to be more dangerous than he could imagine.

1300s - THE CROWN IN THE HEATHER (The Bruce Trilogy) - N. Gemini Sasson

Robert the Bruce faces love, betrayal and unlikely alliances in his rebellious bid for the empty throne of Scotland. But freedom, throne and wife together are not so easily won. Keeping his crown against Edward Longshanks' son and new King of England -- even with the aid of the brilliant James Douglas -- may mean giving up what Robert loves most: his beloved Elizabeth de Burgh.

1800s - A STORM HITS VALPARAISO - David Gaughran

The Spanish Empire holds South America firmly in its grasp. Only a ragtag force of adventurers, mercenaries and prostitutes would be fool enough to make a bid for freedom: two brothers torn apart by love; a slave running for his life; a disgraced British sailor seeking redemption; and José de San Martín, an Argentine general who deserts the Spanish Army to lead a bloody revolt against his former masters.

1920s - SANDS OF TIME (Out of Time Series) - Monique Martin

High-spirited Elizabeth Cross and her brilliant Professor of the Occult husband, Simon, are in 1920 Cairo on a special assignment for the Council for Temporal Studies: Find a missing pocket watch and bring it back to the present. But a shadowy foe is also on the hunt ... and after far more than a watch. The price for success this time just might be their lives.

1940s - WOLF HOOK - Michael Wallace

Sometimes in war, a good man can be on the wrong side. Jim Heydrich, the nephew of a Gestapo kingpin -- yet uncertain where his loyalties lie -- finds himself a suspect of both the Nazis and the Resistance. His harrowing experience sets the stage for this immersive mystery that follows Jim across occupied Holland and Italy ... right under the nose of the SS itself.