Sunday, October 31, 2010

And the winner is ….

Thanks to all who voted for their favorite jack o'lantern. The voting was close, with only a single vote separating the top 3 picks. They are:

Friday, October 29, 2010

Friday Field Trip: Happy Halloween

Thought I'd share some of the jack o'lanterns my kids have produced over the years. Which is your favorite? Be sure to vote at the end of this post.



Thursday, October 28, 2010

Homicide - Hussey: Adventures in the Paranormal 2

I know you've been waiting for Part 2 of Homicide - Hussey's Adventures in the Paranormal. Wait no longer ... here it is. (If you haven't read Part 1 yet, you'll need to do so first. It's here

To refresh your memories, we left our stalwart office investigating some reported noises in an old, abandoned mansion. This is where we stopped last time:

I let the rookie go up the stairs first, because I didn’t think we would find any bad guys and he needed the experience of searching buildings. This one would give him plenty. The interior of the building was 180,000 square feet. We checked the first floor together, tediously looking into every room. Opening the room doors first, then looking cautiously into the bathrooms and closets. The electricity was off in the building, and thus the air conditioner was off. All the windows had been boarded up. The hot, stagnant air inside the building made it difficult to breathe. Vlad and I began to sweat profusely.

And now, on to Part 2

"Look, this place is huge and this is going to take us forever,” I said. “I'll take the second floor and you take the third. If either of us finds anything, we’ll holler for the other.”

Vlad nodded and disappeared up the stairs. I followed, checking the stairwell and landings with my “Kell” light.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Publication Means Promotion

On the home front, the weather has turned cold. Yesterday morning there was a brief but effective snowstorm. It's amazing how fast the ground turns white.

However, the sun came out, things warmed and melted, and since our daughter is visiting from Northern Ireland, we thought we might try out the new brew pub down in Woodland Park. And we're glad we did! Today, temps are hovering at the freezing point, so daughter and I tested a new recipe that might end up in one of my books. It's already ended up in my 'make this again' file.

As for writing:
Writing the book isn't enough. Unless you write for a large publishing house, odds are, a good chunk, if not all, of the promotion and marketing efforts are going to be dumped into your lap. Some of us, myself included, really don't like the time it takes, or feel comfortable having to constantly hawk ones wares. There's also the dilemma of finding the right demographic. Right now, there are still lines between print book readers and those who read e-books, although they're beginning to blur.

I try to avoid too many sales pitches on this blog, but since marketing is now part of the writing process, and I share all aspects of my writing, there will be those occasional posts that look more like sales pitches. Today's post isn't intended as a promotional piece, but I did want to share what I recently discovered.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

“YA AMERIKANKA” – An American Writer in Russia

Writers are always looking for settings they can use to create atmosphere, deepen character, build suspense and heighten realism. Today Joyce Yarrow will take us on a tour of some of the locations in Russia where she set scenes from her latest book, The Last Matryoshka.

I was staring at a collection of books and journals on exhibit at Vladimir Central Prison Museum. Each book represented a human being – a writer – a poet – an essayist - who had occupied one of the cells just a few yards away from where I stood, shivering all night long on a thin wooden plank mere inches from the concrete floor.

I had come to Vladimir Central (still a working prison today) to research the criminal sub-culture of the Russian vory—but I had not known that Alexander Solzenitzen was imprisoned here –or that Stalin’s own son had occupied a cell.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Edits are NOT Revisions

What I'm reading: Slim to None, by Taylor Smith

Our upstairs has been fully renovated. For the most part, we were 'editing' what was already here. Replacing cabinets with new cabinets, flooring with new flooring, appliances with new appliances. But now, we're looking into remodeling the basement. Down there, we'll be revising. The exterior walls will remain the same, but inside, new walls will go up, doors will be relocated, the laundry room will move to a new location.

As I mentioned last week, I was working on revisions per my agent's suggestions. She offered copy edits, but then asked for revisions.

The writing process goes through countless phases. There's the initial writing—whether you're plotting things out in advance, flying by the seat of your pants into the mist, or a combination. Eventually, you'll get to "The End."

Maybe you're the sort who likes feedback along the way, and you weigh advice and edit as you go. Maybe you keep your work close to the chest, not being willing to share until the manuscript meets your personal standards of "suitably dressed to appear in public."

Friday, October 22, 2010

Friday Field Trip - Bellingham, WA

After the Emerald City conference, I spent a couple of days with a good friend (from back in our Jr. Hi days). She had to stop by a friend's house to return a book, and the place was spectacular, even though it was a gloomy, drizzly day. Their house overlooks Chukanut Bay, and the entire back wall was a huge panorama window. How would you like this view every day?

Her friend, Art Caputi, was kind enough to send me some pictures he'd taken. I'm sharing a few of them today. Enjoy.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Homicide - Hussey: Adventures in the Paranormal 1

I'm up to my eyeballs in revisions for a new project - that's all I can say right now. And since Halloween is fast approaching, I thought we'd revisit one of Homicide Detective Mark Hussey's posts - cops and haunted houses. Gotta love it. (This is Part 2 will air next week, so be sure to bookmark or follow the blog)

Most cops, by the very nature of what they do, are stark realists. There’s an explanation for everything, and every action has an opposite and equal reaction. That’s why when something happens that can’t be explained in terms of black and white, it upsets the officer’s sense of balance. Oh, he’ll get over it, but not right away.

As I mentioned in an earlier chapter, the City of Lakeland is very rich historically. One such piece of history was established in 1927 by the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and first opened its doors in 1929.

The Carpenter’s Home, as it was called, was built on a 2,000-acre tract of pristine land along the southern shores of Lake Gibson and bordered by US Highway 98 to the west. This Spanish style dormitory was built to house retired carpenters, many of whom had worked on the colossal wooden ships of another era, making their joints watertight. Master craftsmen, who at their age of retirement, were all but forgotten. These were true artisans. Machines now do most of the jobs done by these men, or men who couldn't care less about the quality of their work.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

More on the Big E

I was going to continue Emerald City workshop recaps today, but decided to piggyback onto Pamela Loewy's post from yesterday, especially after a conversation with a couple we met while out to breakfast. The coffee shop is small, as is the community. We'd seen this couple in the shop many times, and finally made those introductions. During the getting acquainted phase, I mentioned I was a writer. Things followed the usual path from there, and I offered them my bookmarks. Normally, I get, "Can I get these at the bookstore?" This time, I got, "Are they on the Kindle?"

First, and I've said this before, I'm all for choices. Abolishing either print or digital formats is NOT a good thing. There's room for both, and definitely places where each works "better" for an individual reader.

Right now, we're watching e-publishing move from infancy to crawling. Publishing itself is changing, and digital options are nudging the changes at a speed traditional publishing isn't used to.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Brave New (Virtual) World

Romantic suspense author Pamela Loewy shares her thoughts about our new wired universe and the challenges it poses to writers, publishers and booksellers. She'd love to hear your thoughts on this topic as well. Welcome, Pamela!

As a newly-published author facing the daunting proposition of marketing my book in our 21st century virtual landscape, I’ve been thinking a lot about the future of books and the publishing industry in general.

Ebooks increasingly dominate the market, and with the advent of POD (print-on-demand), self-publishing has grown exponentially. Even as they jump on the electronic bandwagon, conventional publishers must deal with a decreasing customer base, and many bookstores face that same problem. And public libraries – in the next decade or two, will such entities still exist, at least in physical form? For those of you who are Star Trek fans, think of Captain Jean-Luc Picard (to my mind the most philosophical of Enterprise captains) caressing that rarest of antiquities – a hardbound book.

Monday, October 18, 2010

When Your Characters Aren't Talking

What I'm reading: Play Dead, by Harlan Coben

And, once again, because this is my blog and because I can, I want to share an email I got from my friend. I'd visited her after the Emerald City Conference, and she was kind enough to buy a few of my books to give as gifts to her friends. This is what she wrote about a friend she'd given NOWHERE TO HIDE:

My friend was falling asleep while we were out to dinner tonight. Seems she was up until 3:30am last night. Why? That damn book of yours! Her spouse kept trying to get her to come to bed, but she couldn't put it down.

OK, back to your regularly scheduled blog.

Working on my WIP, trying to come up with those brilliant similes, from Margie Lawson's workshop on writing gripping emotions, brought to mind the importance of a consistent character voice.

We've discussed voice here several times. Voice is that 'intangible' that makes readers recognize your writing. It's why nobody would confuse Suzanne Brockmann with Allison Brennan or Nora Roberts. It's also interesting that even though Nora Roberts also writes as JD Robb, her own voice is there. But that's your author's voice. What about character voice?

Friday, October 15, 2010

Bonus Pictures

I went outside to enjoy the great weather and found we had a few visitors. Note: this was my little point and shoot; the doe likes her ears scratched, so she'll approach. Her kids aren't quite so sure about actual contact, but they're curious.

Friday Field Trip - Seasons change

Yesterday, I received an email from someone who follows my blog AND used to live in this neighborhood. She was kind enough to send along some of her pictures, taken from the deck of her home, so I'm sharing them with you. I've also got a few shots taken Monday morning when the weather did a rapid turnaround.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Technical Difficulties

According to my preview, there's an embedded video about School Pride in today's main post. However, in 'real time' it doesn't seem to be there. Might be a browser issue. If I can find the error and fix it, I will. Meanwhile, you can go here And please pop down to the post for my recap of Bob Mayer's workshop at Emerald City.

Emerald City 2 and School Pride

Not long ago, my guest,Tom Stroup talked about his involvement with the School Pride project. It debuts tomorrow night on NBC, and I encourage you to check your local listings, and if you can't watch, set your recorders. It's gratifying to see people giving back instead of taking for a change.

And, for more of my Emerald City recaps....

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Emerald City Part 1

Thanks to Gerrie for yesterday's post. Writing seems to be something inside us, and we're going to do it no matter what.

After wrapping up notes from the Writers' Police Academy, it's time to plunge into recapping workshops from the Emerald City Conference. The first workshop I attended was about writing emotionally gripping scenes, given by Margie Lawson.

First, it's important to understand that we, as human beings, have involuntary responses to certain situations and stimuli. These are visceral responses, things we really can't control. In high-emotion situations, our hearts beat faster, mouths get dry, hands sweat, etc. These responses are tied to the body, not our conscious thought-processes.

When writing, especially in scenes with emotional impact, we should draw on these responses and make the reader feel them as well. We've all heard, "show, don't tell" and we probably know better than to say, "She was scared." Instead, we might say, "Her stomach clenched with fear." But is that enough?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Words and Places

Today my guest is author Gerrie Ferris Finger. Unlike myself, she's always known she was going to be a writer. Welcome, Gerrie.

I knew I wanted to be a writer by the time I read my first storybook. Words enthralled me and still hold that particular power. My fascination with stringing words together naturally grew into composing mysteries. I recall an early story about our barn door being left open and one of our horses getting out. Who had left it open and why? No one admitted doing it, so the silence grew into a more sinister saga. The horse was out all night and developed a cough, and I couldn’t ride in a show the next day. Evil forces at work; which opponent wanted me out of the ring?

More than one great novel has grown from a simple childhood tale like that. But when aspiring writers grow into maturity, they must deal with the trappings of character development, setting, plot, subplot, etc. and that’s when simple becomes complicated. E. M. Forster wrote: “The king died and then the queen died is a story. The king died and the queen died of grief is a plot. The queen died and no one knew why until they discovered it was of grief is a mystery, a form capable of high development.”

Monday, October 11, 2010

Writers' Police Academy, Part 5

What I'm reading: Crossfire, by Dick Francis and Felix Francis

Promo note – WHEN DANGER CALLS is now available at the Kindle Store. It's $2.99. Of course, if you want an autographed hard copy (great for gifts) you can still get them either through the regular Amazon store or via my website.

Back to the Writers' Police Academy

Dr. Jonathan Hayes was the featured afternoon speaker (again, right before dinner) and he elaborated on his earlier talk. This time, he focused on points which we authors can use to get things right in our books.

(Note: you might not want to be reading this over breakfast)

Friday, October 08, 2010

Friday Field Trip - Fall in Florissant

While I was on the road, Hubster did a Sunday hike in Florissant again. I thought it would be interesting to compare the pictures we took at the end of August with what he saw last week. We definitely have seasons here!

These two were taken August 22nd.

Hornbeck Homestead, summer

Click to see what the area looked like last Sunday

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Writers' Police Academy, Part 4 - FATS

What I'm reading: Shoot to Thrill, by P.J. Tracy

A bonus guest this week. The Hubster is here recounting his adventures in the Firearms Simulation Training at the Writers' Police Academy.

The FATS Experience, by The First Victim

The decision to sign up for Firearms Training Simulator (FATS) module at the Writers Police Academy (WPA) was virtually a “no brainer”. You handle guns and get a big adrenalin rush. However, as it turns out, not all FATS programs are the quite same.

My first experience with FATS was at the Orange County (Florida) Sheriff’s Office as a part of the Civilian Police Academy. The OCSO’s simulator was in a small room with the projection screen up front and a ‘shoot back’ function whereby the operator could shoot nylon balls at the trainee if she/he doesn’t seek cover at the appropriate time. The operator chose a ‘scenario’ for the trainee to experience and make appropriate decisions.

The trainee was equipped eye protection and with a Glock 9 mm that ‘fired’ individual cartridges that were mini compressed air cylinders. When fired, each cartridge generated recoil and was ejected. Ammunition was limited to the capacity of the magazine. I don’t remember what my scenario was but I do remember that my heart rate jumped while going through the scenario and wondering if and when I’d have to make a decision to shoot or not. I made a decision to shoot. The system tracks each shot fired and you can see how you did on playback. My wife wanted the operator to test the shoot-back function on me but he wisely declined. It was interesting to note how each student handled the Glock – where it was pointed and whether or not a finger was on the trigger at inappropriate times. A few folks were clearly in need of some serious handgun safety training.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Writers' Police Academy, Part 3

I arrived home late enough last night to be brain dead after a full day of travel. I had written today's post on the road, and hope it's relatively coherent. Two conferences almost back-to-back are draining. I'll work my way through a few more WPA posts, then start on the Emerald City recaps. Stick around.

The second day at the Writers' Police Academy got off with a bang. Literally. We were ushered into a hallway at the college, ostensibly to hear one of the deputies talk about law enforcement on campus. He was interrupted by one of the group, who began shouting about his grades, and that someone had cheated. (He was a plant, of course). The next thing we knew, shots were fired, and someone was on the floor, bleeding. The action moved down the hall to a classroom where we could hear more shouting and more gunshots. The deputy called campus police and the EMS team, and we watched as the paramedics attended to the victims, and the police ushered a classroom full of students outside, hands on their heads. Afterward, we were free to ask questions about what we'd seen and heard.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Culture Shock - American Style

I’m pleased to welcome Jenyfer Matthews to the blog today. Jenyfer is an American living in Cairo, Egypt who I met online when we were both published at Cerridwen Press, and I’ve enjoyed hearing about her life in Egypt and her travels on her blog. Today she’s here talking about culture shock, American-style.

People give me a lot of credit for living abroad and traveling as much as I do. Really and truly, while it is interesting and often fun, it’s not really that difficult.

Think about it: I am a blonde American woman living in the Middle East so I don’t blend in at all. No one expects me to know anything so they are inordinately thrilled when I can manage a few words of Arabic (or whatever language of the country I’m visiting) If I inadvertently overlook some local custom, no one expects any better of a know-nothing foreigner anyway. Truly, traveling in Asia and the Middle East is pretty easy – Europe is where I’ve had more trouble. I guess it’s all my Northern European heritage showing because no matter where I’ve gone, everyone has always seemed shocked to hear American accented English coming out of my mouth instead of the local language.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Writers' Police Academy, Part 2

What I'm reading: White Heat, by Brenda Novak

Back to my notes from the Writers' Police Academy. The latter part of Friday was spent listening to Dr. Jonathan Hayes, Senior Medical Examiner for New York City. He began by explaining what a forensic pathologist is and does. Forensic pathology is a sub-specialty of pathology, and the major expertise is the evaluation of injuries. He also explained the difference between coroners and medical examiners, the former being elected officials who may or may not have any medical or forensic background. Medical examiners are not elected officials. The trend now is to move from coroners to medical examiners who are specialists in the examination of death, and are apolitical.

To become a medical examiner, beyond the normal medical school, internship, and residency, one needs to deal with 250 autopsies, as many homicides as possible, as many crime scenes as possible, and then have lab experiences with DNA, blood spatter, criminalistics, and toxicology (and more).

Medical examiners, at least in New York, are part of the public health system, NOT law enforcement.

They must determine cause and manner of death, the cause of death being the disease or injury that leads to death. Manner of death explains how that death came about. There are only a limited number of them: Natural, Accident, Suicide, Homicide, Therapeutic Complication, and Undetermined.

Of the above, suicides require the highest degree of proof. And, contrary to what we see on television, only about 5% of deaths are ruled homicides.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Friday Field Trip - The Arizona Desert

Last week, Bill Penrose shared some wildflower pictures. This time, we're taking a look at the bigger picture.

Steep Descent To Warbonnet Ranch

Warbonnet Ranch