Friday, August 31, 2007

Sleepless in Orlando

What I'm reading: Taken, by Lori L. Harris

What I'm writing: Mixed bag. Edits for When Danger Calls, Revising Chapters 12 and 13 for Randy & Sarah's sequel. Mostly it's emails and data entry for work. The deadline is tomorrow, so I'm hoping things ease up. I should collect the excuses people use for their last-minute requests for special treatment.

Tonight, the alumnae of the Civilian Police Academy have been invited to observe a Labor Day DUI checkpoint (I think they invited us because we bring food). It's too hot to bake, so they're getting store-bought this time around. I thought it would be interesting to watch police procedures, but the checkpoint runs from 9 PM tonight until 4 AM tomorrow. Maybe I can pick up some bits for future scenes.

At the preliminary explanation of the event last month, the deputy told us how stupid some people can be. First, by law they have to post warnings that there's a checkpoint ahead, so anyone with half a brain would turn around right there if they were doing anything suspect. Second, also by law, all they can do is ask to see a driver's license. From that point, they're free to look into the vehicle and if they see anything questionable, they can make an arrest.

So, one bright driver, when asked to show his license to the officer, says, "Sure. Hold my beer and I'll get it for you." And proceeds to hand the deputy an open can of beer. Now, if I put that in a book, would anyone believe it?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

A First Review for Starting Over - Five Hearts

The Romance Studio gave Starting Over Five Hearts in the review it posted today. What a wonderful first review.

Odell’s characters are complex and endearing. Colleen can’t stop thinking like a cop, even though her experiences have left her with nightmares and insecurity. Graham is a good-looking ladies man who is suddenly feeling protective and confused. And he can cook. Both are complex, likable and clearly drawn. Harrigan’s new boss is both gruff and understanding. And Colleen’s new best friend Tracy helps her face up to the truth about herself, and a lot about men. The reader is left wanting to know more about all of them.

The mystery itself is both satisfying and complex. Real estate fraud, computer hacking, and birdwatching all play a part. The conclusion is both believable and highly moving. This is extremely well-written and a highly recommended read.

Reviewer: Lynn Bushey

Don't blame me if you didn't plan ahead

What I'm reading: Map of Bones by James Rollins

What I'm writing: Chapter 13.

In my attempts to have a "me" weekend, I ignored email even though it was a crunch time, and spent a lot of the time writing, doubling my usual output. Of course, I had to pay the price yesterday, and am only caught up through Saturday's incoming workload, but my motto at this time of the year is:

"Failure to Plan on Your Part does NOT Constitute an Emergency on Mine."

The organization I work for has a Biennial Conference in late November, and their early registration deadline is this week. I handle memberships, and of course, members get a better registration rate, so everyone's clamoring to get their applications processed. Since I'm a part time, work-at-home consultant, and am only supposed to work 10 hour weeks, I shut down Friday afternoon. It's not like these folks didn't have plenty of time to take care of this months ago.

So, I spent the weekend with my characters. And yesterday dealing with procrastinators who all want special treatment.

Friday, August 24, 2007

On looking back--and forward

What I'm reading: The Burnt House, by Faye Kellerman

What I'm writing: Chapter 11, scene 2.

This morning, I performed an annual ritual. I went to the closet, up on that high shelf under a pile of "don't want to throw it out, but don't really need access to it" stuff, and took out the dusty box. Inside, in its protective plastic, is the heavy white album with "Our Wedding" embossed on the cover.

I open it and time does an immediate reversal. Tears spring to my eyes as I see my late grandparents walking proudly down the aisle. Little did I know how soon they would depart this earth. And my father-in-law is there, too, tall and a bit uncomfortable in his city finery.

My parents, on the other hand, have hardly changed—except for the clothes and hair. Curls piled on top of Mom's head; long sideburns on Dad (which despite the passing years still remains the same almost-black). My brother's smile hasn't changed a lick, as he stood in as "best boy", barely old enough to be a legal witness, but it between it being field season and military obligations for so many of my husband's circle, he was the only one who could be counted on to be there. He's still got all his hair, too—although a bit more gray than our father. Thanks for the genes, Mom & Dad!

And to Mom, for saving the dress all those years—both daughters used it. You got your money's worth.

Because I know my husband reads this, I'd like to take this moment to say, "Thanks, honey, for thirty-eight years. And yes, I, too, would do it again." I knew he didn't have the good hair genes and it didn't stop me then. Bald is beautiful.

And, thanks to Photoshop's ability to take those old, faded pictures and make them look new, here we are. If only there were the same kind of buttons for us in the flesh.

Here's to another thirty-eight.

With love…

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

On Taking Breaks

What I'm reading: Force of Nature by Suzanne Brockmann

What I'm writing: Chapter 10 (new version)

My writing has slowed to a crawl for a variety of reasons: some new plot ideas; reading a book that makes me afraid the author's voice, which I envy to the nth degree, will bleed over into mine, so I have to step back and read something entirely different. Or, it's just plain hot. I've never really adjusted to the Florida climate. I grew up in the more desert-like environs of Southern California, and humidity is NOT my friend.

So, today I'm going to share something I found tucked away in my computer.


~ The birds have to use potholders to pull worms out of the ground.

~ The trees are whistling for the dogs.

~ The best parking place is determined by shade instead of distance.

~ Hot water now comes out of both taps.

~ You can make sun tea instantly.

~ You learn that a seat belt buckle makes a pretty good branding iron.

~ The temperature drops below 95 and you feel a little chilly.

~ You discover that in August it only takes 2 fingers to steer your car.

~ You discover that you can get sunburned through your car window.

~ You actually burn your hand opening the car door.

~ You break into a sweat the instant you step outside at 7:30 a.m.

~ Your biggest bicycle wreck fear is, "What if I get knocked out and end up lying on the pavement and cook to death?"

~ You realize that asphalt has a liquid state.

~ The potatoes cook underground, so all you have to do is pull one out and
add butter, salt and pepper.

~ Farmers are feeding their chickens crushed ice to keep them from laying

boiled eggs.

~ The cows are giving evaporated milk.

The good news? August is almost over. The bad news? September is usually hotter.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Cover Contest Winner

Thanks to everyone who took the time to leave a comment. My winner is ....

N.J. Walters.

Congratulations! Please email me (address at the right, or via my website link) with your address and I'll get your prize to you.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Welcome to Syneca - Cover Artist

One comment I've heard over and over about my books is, "Gorgeous Covers." Today, I'm pleased to share this space with Syneca, the artist who's created so many gorgeous covers for EC and CP books.
As authors, we fill out a 'cover request form,' and then sit back and hold our breath. What happens between sending in that form and having a cover to display? I asked Syneca to share the process.

The first thing that happens when the Graphics Department receives a cover request is that Will, our cover liaison files it into a folder for me. I read the request and then either assign it to an artist (including myself).

In the case of Starting Over, we went through a bit of a refining process to get Terry's vision correct, but once we understood the feel of what she wanted I knew what would work. I'd taken some shots of an eagle in my back yard in the spring and one of them was perfect for the cover. Will and I scoured around through all of our photo resources and found two women that I used to create the woman in the background. (One for the face and the other for the hair). Once I had the cover completed I took it to my boss, Exec. VP Darrell King. In case you all don't know, Darrell is to cover art what Yoda is to the Jedi. A master baby!! He can spot a problem in a cover in a nanosecond. The man has an amazing eye along with being an extraordinary artist. In this instance, Darrell gave the cover the green light and it was a go. We did some tweaking with color and focus and everyone was happy.

I have to say that as a general rule of thumb most of the writers for CP and EC - and now Lotus Circle, are easy to work with. Normally authors are a bit apprehensive on their first cover and tend to be a little less trusting of the artists. Once they have a book under their belt, they relax and start to trust us. Some of the writers are so trusting they just send a character description with a synopsis and say "wow me". LOL, we try and I have to say that I love it when we're allowed such creative freedom. It enables us to really do what we do best and that is create covers. We love getting suggestions from authors and to be honest, there are a lot of authors who have incredible ideas and combining creative talents with them is a lot of fun.

We do sometimes run into difficulties with cover requests. Sometimes things authors ask for just are not possible. It's not like we can rush out and do a photo shoot for each and every cover. When that happens I'm straight up with the authors and find that being straight with them and working on a variation on the original theme often produces great results.

Some things like backgrounds or landscapes, or even sets we can do on the fly. We're always digging into the prop box (things we pick up from flea markets, garage sales, and even a couple of times stuff that people are just throwing away) and setting up a table or desk in front of a window or a photographic backdrop and shooting background stuff for a cover. Or running outside and getting shots of trees or cars or the sky. I tried staying up one night to get shots of the meteor shower but fell asleep sitting on the patio waiting.We have some amazingly talented people working for and with us. Staff and freelance all, they are a great bunch of people. We use photos we take in-house at our own shoots, stock photos we purchase the rights to, and have a fabulous photographer, Les Byerley, who does photography and covers for us. As a rule, we do all of the title work in house. We're a bit picky about the kind of fonts we use and text placement, so normally artists turn in covers without titles and names. When those come in, I do the titles. All covers from the artists come to me. If I feel they're ready to be shown to Darrell King, then I do so. If they need work, I ask the artist for the changes I see that need to be made. When the cover meets my approval then I present it to Darrell. If he deems it worthy then it's a go. If he sees changes that need to be made, then I go back to the artists and we work on making the changes.

And then, of course, the covers go to the authors and we all cross our fingers, hold our breath and pray that we get a response saying "Yes!" That is an extremely happy moment for all of us. I'd like to thank you, Terry and all of the authors I've had the pleasure of working with on covers. Everyone realizes the importance of a good cover and we all take it quite seriously. We all understand that whether it's your first book or your one hundredth, each book is part of you and therefore important and worthy of respect. We try hard to make each cover the "most" important one on our plate. Do we always hit the nail on the head? Well, more times than not, I think

Leave a comment and I'll give one lucky poster a copy of the cover for Starting Over. I'll announce the winner on Monday, so be sure to check back.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Starting Over -- RELEASE DAY!

Today's the day. I've learned the Cerridwen site isn't updated at the stroke of midnight, and am waiting patiently -- ok, moderately patiently, if I can be forgiven for two adverbs in a row -- for Starting Over to show up.

Meanwhile, there's a new Free Read on my website. Every couple fights now and then, and Colleen and Graham are no exception--even though they're not even a couple yet. Take a peek at their first spat. It's in the Free Reads section -- "Their First Fight."

Then, keep checking the Cerridwen site for the official release.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Counting Down - Another excerpt

What I'm reading: The Ever-Running Man, by Marcia Muller

What I'm writing: Chapter 9, scene 2

Here's another taste of Starting Over. This is Graham's first POV scene. If you want to catch up, the prologue is on my website in the Free Reads section, and the start of Chapter 1 is here.

Deputy Graham Harrigan sat at his computer in the sheriff’s office, the normal sounds of office activity fading to white noise as he hunted and pecked his way through the report he needed to file. As he’d told himself countless times, he needed to take a keyboarding class so he could get through the drudgery faster. The smell of stale, burned coffee permeated the room and he wished he’d taken a few minutes to stop at Starbucks.


Graham looked up at the sound of his name and saw Jerry Clarke’s midsection precede him into the room.

“Heard you got stuck with a patrol call. Thought you were looking for a promotion, not a step backward.”

Graham’s jaw clenched. “Some of us don’t run for the john when the office needs extra help.” Heat rose in his face and he refused to turn to meet Clarke’s eyes.

“Next opening in Criminal Investigations will be mine, Harrigan. Get used to it. If they thought you could cut it, they wouldn’t keep sending you on wild goose chases.”

“It’s not your decision,” Graham said. “We’re both at the top of the list and you know it.”

He watched Clarke leave and admonished himself for letting the man get to him. Still, Graham knew if Clarke got the CID slot, it was unlikely another would open in time and he’d have to requalify.

Clarke had unlocked that place inside where Graham kept his doubts. He’d been promoted three years ago, qualified for CID, but until there was an opening in the Criminal Investigations Division, all he could do was wait. He turned his attention back to the screen. Finally satisfied, he hit “Save” and “Print”.

Being a team player had to count. Or so he’d thought when he’d volunteered to cover the check on well-being call. He dug through the papers scattered on the desk, found the number he needed and dialed the phone.

“Mrs. Simon? Deputy Graham Harrigan. I’m the officer assigned to look into your father.”

“What did you find?” There was an unexpected edge to her voice.

“Ma’am, there’s no sign of anything out of the ordinary. Maybe he isn’t checking his answering machine.”

“I don’t know why he wouldn’t return my calls. Billy’s birthday is coming up. He’ll be eight and I know Daddy promised him something special.”

“I asked at the guesthouse, but the tenant said she didn’t know your father.”

“My aunt Doris lives in the guesthouse. She has for years and she sure as hell knows Daddy.”

“Well, Mrs. Simon, there’s someone else living there now.”

After a brief silence, Mrs. Simon spoke again, more quietly. “I do remember Daddy said he was thinking about putting the old witch in an assisted living place. Said she was starting to forget things. You know, leaving the stove on, not bringing her purse to the grocery store. Maybe he decided to let her live in the main house where he could keep an eye on her.”

“It was early when I stopped by. Maybe they were asleep and didn’t hear me. I’ll try again.”

Her tone regained that edge. “Well, far be it from me to tell you how to do your job, but I think you’d be wise to check out this new tenant as well.”

Graham held the phone away from his ear against the woman’s shrill exhortations. “Yes, ma’am. I’ll do that.”

“I would think so. My father could be missing and there’s a stranger living on his property. I expect to hear from you right quick.”

He gritted his teeth before he replied. “I’ll be in touch.” He hung up the phone as gently as his irritation allowed. Right quick, she’d said. Like hell. If he turned this over to the detectives, it could be weeks. No foul play, nothing out of place. This would sit at the bottom of their piles. Maybe he’d see what he could do on his own first. Besides, almost anything beat pointing a radar gun at tourists. He started clicking through databases.

The house and cottage were owned by Jeffrey Walters. No mention of a Doris. Property taxes were paid in full. No record, wants or warrants on either of them. Jeffrey seemed to be self-employed. A land developer, so travel wouldn’t be unusual.

DMV records showed a Buick Park Avenue registered in Jeffrey Walters’ name, the one he’d seen when he’d peeked in the garage window earlier. Graham bounced it around his brain for a minute or two. If the guy was missing, why was his car in the garage? No, still too many possibilities that didn’t mean anything. Walters might have taken a cab to the airport, or someone drove him. Hell, the jerk was probably away trying to buy up some property so he could build a bunch of condos or time-shares.

Everything hush-hush, get in before anyone else found out, like Walt Disney had all those years ago.

He shook his head, told himself to keep an open mind. He’d never get assigned to the Criminal Investigations Division by jumping to conclusions. Start with the basics. The man was single. Probably off for a bit of R and R with a woman and they took her car. Look for a woman.

A woman. What about Colleen McDonald? He found himself smiling involuntarily as he thought of her. He’d like to find a reason to talk to her again. The way she’d looked, bundled in that plaid robe, almost standing at attention when she spoke to him, yet with an air of defiance. Her fair skin sported a light sprinkling of freckles and he’d bet when her hair dried, she was a glorious redhead. A natural redhead. Especially with her bright green eyes. Tall, about five-eight in her bare feet, but making allowances for the dark circles and haunted weariness in those eyes, he’d say mid- to late-twenties.

Graham shook his head. He wasn’t used to being rebuffed. Quite the opposite in fact. Women usually went for the uniform and if that wasn’t enough, he’d turn on the Irish charm. He’d discovered most people, especially innocent ones, tended to babble when they spoke to the cops. Colleen had given him no more than absolutely necessary. Experience with the law, perhaps? He’d check her out. As he went to enter her name in the database, he realized he wouldn’t have to make up excuses to see her. He had a name, but hell, he hadn’t even asked her how she spelled it. Okay, there were only two choices, but any excuse worked for him.

Graham pushed away from the desk and went in search of Sergeant Briggs.

Briggs looked up from the pile of papers on his desk. His bald head always made Graham think of a dark chocolate truffle. “What can I do for you, Harrigan?” The sergeant’s deep voice filled his office. “This got something to do with that patrol call you took this morning?”

“Yes, sir. Everything looked fine—only today’s paper in the driveway, no mail backup, grass is cut. No answer at the door. The guesthouse had a new tenant and the daughter who requested the well-being check didn’t know anything about it. I thought I might give a few speeders a break this afternoon and go back. The daughter seemed upset.”

Briggs steepled his fingers and stared at Graham. “You’re still waiting for a CID slot, aren’t you? You and Clarke?”

“Yes, sir, but this won’t interfere with my Motors duties. If you prefer, I’ll look for Mrs. Walters on my own time.”

Briggs gave a noncommittal grunt. He inhaled, stared at the ceiling and then exhaled loudly. “Finish your morning Motors route. You can take half an hour after lunch.”

“Thank you, sir,” Graham said. After speeder duty, he’d grab a quick bite at First Watch, which would put him minutes away from the Walters’ house. Melinda might be working the lunch shift. But instead of Melinda’s face, he saw Colleen’s, with those haunted green eyes.

Laughter erupted from the squad room. The sound of his name, coupled with Clarke’s guffaws, eradicated Colleen’s image like windblown storm clouds. Damn it. It had been five years. He was a damn good cop and he was going to beat Clarke into CID no matter how many times the man tried to dredge up his past.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

The Countdown Continues -- Meet Graham Harrigan

There's a new free read on my website.

Here's a taste:

I tap on the door.

"Come in," says a female voice.

I enter and see a cluttered desk in an equally cluttered office. The woman seated behind the clutter looks up. Her eyes roam up and down my body, and she gestures to a chair with a well-manicured hand. "Sit. Relax. It's not painful, I promise."

I guess it's obvious I'm not sure what I'm doing here. I sit in the chair she indicated. "Um…Terry Odell said you're expecting me?"

"That's right." She clears a spot on her paper-covered desk and sets a tape-recorder in the middle. "All right if I record the interview? Less chance of me getting something wrong."

Now I know why I feel so strange. I'm the cop. I usually conduct the interviews. Being on the other side is awkward. "No problem, as long as I get a copy."

She nods, her mouth curving upward. "I can do that. Or would you like to use your own machine?"

I don't tell her my recorder's been running since I hit her receptionist's office. Old habits die hard. Instead, I pull it out of my sport coat's pocket and make a show about fiddling with the buttons. "Might save time," I say.

She gives me another smile. Broader. White teeth flash. Definitely some interest there. I look a little closer. Light brown hair with gold highlights. Blue eyes, small nose. Slender figure, nice breasts.

I give her a polite smile back, not wanting to get into that game. Terry explained Desmond Morris' Twelve Steps to Intimacy while we were working on the book, and this interview isn't going past step three, so when she makes room for my recorder, I'm damn careful not to touch her hand when I set mine next to hers.

It hits me, then, like the baton I carried when I was a patrol cop. Terry's ruined other women for me since the Starting Over gig with Colleen.

You can read the rest on my site.

Friday, August 10, 2007

More countdown to Starting Over

Coming August 16th from Cerridwen Press.

Graham Harrigan cooks when he needs to clear his mind. He's agreed to share some of his recipes with my readers. You can find his first, for buttermilk pancakes, on the Free Reads section of my website.


Thursday, August 09, 2007

On Writing - The Good and the Bad

What I'm reading: High Noon, by Nora Roberts, Kiss me Deadly, by Susan Kearney

What I'm writing: Chapter 8 of my WIP, and making revisions on Dalton & Miri's story.

Last week, our chapter hosted a workshop by author Debra Dixon, and she joined a group of us for dinner the night before her session. As we ate, she put each of us on the spot asking for the best and worst things about the way we wrote. There were almost as many responses as there were people there, but it did force me to think about what I'm really doing when I write.

Some spoke of specific points, such as dialogue, or description as strengths or weaknesses. After some consideration I realized that because I love character-driven stories, I tend to spend far too much time on the page with them. I can put my characters on the page, and they'll talk and talk and talk—about everything, and too many times it's not something needed for the plot. That's probably why my first writing mentor said, "You write a beginning, a middle, more middle, and more middle. Wrap it up!"

My strength, at least as far as being a "writer" goes, is probably that I can sit and write for long stretches of time, and usually produce a halfway decent word/page count at the end of the day. Where some folks said they were too easily distracted by the chores of everyday life, I see from the other side. If I wasn't writing, I'd have to deal with laundry, ironing, grocery shopping, cleaning…the list goes on, and none of it includes anything I really like to do. For me, it's a no-brainer.

After dinner, we convened at the Barnes & Noble across the street where Deb conducted a mini-session on first chapters. Getting started is usually a problem, since I don't plot much in advance. Starting with deciding whether or not your opening scene begins with the characters already there or making an entrance, and moving on to what should be included in that chapter, and who's point of view to use, she had us all eager to get home to our manuscripts and see if we were on target, needed to tweak, or do a massive rewrite.

Monday, August 06, 2007

The Countdown Continues ... a new free read

What I'm Reading: Rusty Nail by J.A. Konrath

What I'm writing: Chapter 8

Starting Over's prologue was one that almost didn't happen. It was cut and replaced so many times, I'm amazed I could find the file. Writing a book in a series poses challenges. You want readers to enjoy the book without scratching their heads and wondering what they've missed. (Of course, when I realize a book I'm reading isn't the first in a series, I'll usually stop and go read the others first. )

I'm also not a big fan of prologues. They're usually nothing but back story or full of characters who aren't even in the book itself.

The book itself has to stand on its own merit. Starting Over was the second book I wrote, and for a while, it looked like it wasn't going to have Finding Sarah behind it. I debated whether to keep the prologue, call it Chapter 1, or ditch it altogether and try to weave in the back story.

However, once Finding Sarah was accepted, my editor urged me to include the prologue, as it would tie the book to Sarah's.

I've posted it on my website as a sneak preview. (Check the Free Reads section in the LINKS column.)

Next time: I had the pleasure of attending a workshop with Debra Dixon this weekend. I'll post some of the highlights later. Please check back.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Counting Down to Starting Over

Less than two weeks until the August 16th release of Starting Over.

Although it's my third release with Cerridwen Press, it's the second book I wrote. Colleen McDonald, a character in Finding Sarah, insisted on more page time. I felt bad since I'd cut so many of her scenes out of Finding Sarah that I gave her a book of her own.
I'll be posting bits of interest on my website and here as the release date gets closer.

If you haven't read Finding Sarah, there's plenty of time before the 16th! If you have read it, drop me a line (honor system) and I'll send you a quick, whimsical short-short. My email address is to the right of this page, and there's a link on my site. There are two free reads with Colleen on my site. You can get there via the Links column on the home page.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

A new month, an updated site--maybe

What I'm reading: Same as last time.
What I'm writing: Chapter 6.

A new month reminds me once more of how much we depend on technology, and on timing. I've switched web hosts, and things don't work exactly the same under my new system. I try to update my site with new announcements, contests and free reads. However, I'm more of a 'brute force/trial and error' programmer when it comes to things like that. I still need to find out how I can use the services of my new host without having to redo my entire site. And, of course, my son the web guru is on vacation in Cabo this week. And Blogger is having 'technical difficulties' so posting this has been delayed.

Please stop by, and if you can find any glitches, pop me an email. Enter my contest. Say Hello. Let me know I'm still hooked up to cyberspace!