NEW RELEASE: Sharpe Turn

GIVING BIRTH

st-ad

Sharpe Turn, Book 4 in the Cozy Suburbs Mystery Series, is finally here, and I must say, it was a lot like having a baby.

This book took me almost nine months to write. Why? Good question. Let’s face it, like one reviewer said about another of my books, it ain’t War and Peace.

I had some personal obstacles along the way. I started the book in January, about the time the third book in the series was coming out. Then I had some health issues. Two surgeries and two months later, I seemed to have lost my mojo.

A lot of people talk about writer’s block. I think of that as something different than what happened to me. Writer’s block is when you can’t seem to know what to write. You hit a stall. This happens occasionally, but it usually doesn’t last more than a day or so.

What happened to me was different. I lost my passion for writing. It seemed too hard, and it took too much mental energy. Instead, I turned my focus to my other business, which is online selling of vintage collectibles. After a while, I realized I missed writing and finally got back in the saddle.

WRITE FASTER

One of the comments I often get from readers is that they want me to write faster—to put books out more often. As a reader myself, I totally understand that. You find a writer you like, and you devour everything they’ve written and still want more.

I wish I were a faster writer. I know some cozy and romance writers are popping those books out once a month. If I were trying to make a full-time living at this, I would be writing eight hours a day and getting books out in a more timely fashion. But this isn’t my full-time job. I’m retired.

After spending thirty-three years teaching high journalism and English, I’m mentally exhausted. I can’t tell you the number of hours I spent sitting on the bed in the evenings and weekends reading essays, marking papers, preparing lessons, etc. Most English teachers put in more hours a day than most Wall Street CEOs. One of the first things we did after I retired was buy a new mattress because ours had a huge dent in it from me sitting on it doing my school work all the time.

FINDING BALANCE

Now, I am learning to spend my days dividing my time between the four major areas of my life: Family, Writing, Sales, and Health/Exercise. My goal is to enrich my own life while enriching the lives of others in the process.

So, how am I doing in these areas? As of this minute, I have spent an hour walking, an hour listing vintage items to sell online, and an hour planning and writing this post. It’s only noon, so there’s still a lot of day (and work) left!

SHARPE TURN

Besides the sharp turn that results in tragedy in my book, the main character, Deena, makes a turn for the better in her life. Like me, she is trying to find balance. I hope you read and enjoy the book.

For me, the release is another kind of turning point. It is a chance to get back on track doing the things I love. I plan to put books out more often and to give back to my readers as much as possible. My Wednesday blogs feature other cozy mystery writers whose books I think you will enjoy.

I love when the season’s change. It seems to mark the chance for a fresh start. Hope you are enjoying the start of fall and take time to put things in your own life into proper perspective.

Thanks for stopping by. Much health and happiness to all of you.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Musings: Seattle Trip

img_1223

Just got back to hot and muggy Central Texas from the cool and breezy Pacific Northwest. My latest book, Sharpe Turn, is set in September in the small fictional town of Maycroft, Texas. In one scene, Deena is lounging in her backyard swimming pool; in another, she’s wishing she’d worn a heavier jacket. Yep. That’s Texas in late summer.

This is the first trip we’ve taken with my son and his wife. (I was determined not to be as critical as Deena’s mother-in-law!) They were so much fun to be with. We visited Seattle and stayed in an Airbnb, which was another first. I enjoyed all the space, but there were lots of rules to follow. Also, Seattle is big into recycling, so waste separation was a big deal. Frankly, I like spending the day exploring a new location and then coming back to a hotel room with the beds freshly made and clean towels in the bath. I know, I’m spoiled.

Here are some pictures and highlights from the trip. I highly recommend Seattle as a tourist destination if you have never been. I think Deena and Gary may need to visit there in a future book. Sharpe Space Needle???

The Public Market was much larger than I expected. The shops offer local foods, crafts, souvenirs, flowers, and more. And, yes, we watched them throw the fish, too.

img_1246    img_1242img_1186    img_1184

We had great seats at the Texas Rangers vs. Seattle Mariners game at Safeco Field. I highly recommend the clam chowder and garlic fries. Too bad Texas lost. We’re still ahead in the division race, though.

img_1189

This is French toast and fruit. Amazing food almost killed my diet. (I’ve lost almost 80 pounds this past year.)

img_1290

I love taking Duck tours in cities on the water. It’s kind of cheesy, but you learn a lot about the area and get to go out into the water.

img_1201

The Space Needle is the iconic observation tower built for the 1962 World’s Fair.

img_1317    img_1299    img_1311    img_1230

We rode the ferry out to Bainbridge Island. Lots of fun shops and beautiful views. We also saw the locks at Puget Sound, but I forgot to take any pictures.

img_1326    img_1320

Visiting the Chihuly Glass Gardens was overwhelming. The art is amazing. Pictures cannot do it justice.

img_1296    img_1306        img_1313   img_1314 img_1293    img_1301

After being gone for five days, I was happy to get home to my puppy and my own bed. I’m am currently working on my next book in the Cozy Suburbs Mystery Series.

Sharpe Turn is due out on Thursday. You can purchase it here.

Thanks for stopping by. Have you been to Seattle? Where is your favorite spot to visit? Leave comments below.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Musings: Why You Should Read My Books

Have you read

I recently listened to a podcast about book marketing where the presenter said that to begin a successful marketing campaign, an author needs to believe deep down in their soul that everyone on the planet (within reason) would benefit by reading their book.

Hmm. That’s an interesting thought. Now, I could see that being true if I were writing non-fiction self-help, but what about cozy mystery? I asked myself if I really believed my books should be read by everyone.

To answer that question, I first had to dig down into what I perceive as the value my books offer a reader. The easy answer is entertainment. We all need to be entertained, right?

But I knew there had to be more. After all, entertainment comes in many forms. There are movies, TV shows, video games, sporting events, recreation, gambling, strip clubs, pornography, etc. That’s when I realized another facet of my books that make them worth reading. They are “clean.”

What do I mean by that? If they were movies, they would be G-rated and appear on Lifetime or the Hallmark Channel. As I age and grow more mellow, I’ve begun to believe in the “garbage in, garbage out” philosophy. I try not to fill my mind with ideas and images that are crude and uninspiring. I want my books to reflect that same philosophy.

The internet is filled with inappropriate content. We all laugh when we see the video clip of a toddler dropping the f-bomb, but where did she hear that word in the first place? Where did that garbage come from? And what happens when that same girl uses that word in middle or high school? No one is laughing then.

Another quality that makes my books redeeming is the universal theme of “good winning out over evil.” I hope this isn’t a spoiler alert, but a key characteristic of a good cozy mystery is that the bad guy or gal is always brought to justice. My main characters are good people doing the right thing for the right reason. That’s a message I can be proud of as an author.

I also try to put something inspirational in all of my books. Whether it is a character helping the helpless or a model of good and loving marriage, it is important to me that the reader take away wholesome ideas. Yes, cozy mysteries tend to center around solving a mystery, but you can’t conquer evil if none is presented.

Another hallmark of a mystery, and cozies in particular, is the puzzle. Solving puzzles, whether they are crosswords, jigsaws, word finds, or mysteries, helps keep the mind active. Avid readers tend to be imaginative thinkers. As lifelong learners, we all know the value of creative, engaged thinking. I would much rather see a child reading a book than watching television. Wouldn’t you?

Now, back to entertainment. My cozy mysteries tend to be grounded in reality. There’s nothing wrong with stories that have talking cats and ghosts, but I find it easier to relate to people and situations where I could see myself as part of the story. Until I see an apparition in person or stumble upon a kitty conversation, I think I will stick to realism.

I try to make my characters flawed, just like people in real life. Those characters tend to create humorous situations. But like I used to tell my students when I taught high school English, literary humor is not like TV humor. Rarely will the reader fall out of their chair laughing. Literary humor tends to be more subtle. It was always a joy when a few of my more sophisticated students could see all the humor in To Kill a Mockingbird. (Yes, it contains lots of funny one-liners from Scout and comical situations.)

So in the end, I realize that my books are entertaining and inspirational. They are positive and squeaky clean. Maybe I’m biased, but it seems to me that we all could use more of that in this world.

If you haven’t read my books, please give them a try. I’m hoping you won’t be disappointed.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

First Audio Book Now Available

audiobook cover

I am so excited to have Sharpe Shooter, Book 1 in the Cozy Suburbs Mystery Series, available in audio book format. It is available HERE to buy on Amazon, or you can listen to a sample.

It was a new adventure, and one that I hope to repeat soon. I feel so lucky to have found producer and performer Madeline Mrozek, who does a fabulous job capturing the characters and heart of the story. You can find out more about her work on her Facebook page http://bit.ly/2crMntz.

If sales of this audio book go well, I am hoping to make all of my books available in audio format. As always, thanks for your support.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

It’s Never Too Late

It's Never Too Late(unless you never do it)

Them: “What do you do for a living?”

Me: “I write mystery novels.”

Them: “Ooh! I’ve always wanted to write a book.”

Me: “So why don’t you?”

Them: Uhhh…

If I had a nickel for every time I heard this, I wouldn’t have to write books for a living.

But seriously, I hear this all the time. We are all born storytellers. That’s not a mystery. So what stops people from putting pen to paper (or finger to keyboard) and writing that story that’s been kicking around in the brain?

The reasons vary, of course, but they usually boil down to not having enough time or not knowing how to do it. Sound familiar?

I put off my author journey until I retired. No longer is time an issue. Heck, I got nothing but time. Oh, except for travelling, seeing my grandkids, running my reselling business, watching shows on Netflix, etc. If you love something, you’ll make time for it.

The second reason, the one about knowing how to write, is a little trickier. What I find is that most people who want to write are already readers. If you can read, you can write. Does that mean you’ll be a master craftsman? Of course not. No one comes out of the womb being able to write a bestseller.

Except Stephen King. But then, he’s a freak of nature that way. For the rest of us, it’s a matter of practice, study, and improvement. To quote Tom Hanks from A League of Her Own, “If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. It’s the hard that make it great.”

A woman recently told me she had an idea for a story but didn’t know how to start it. My advice is simple: Start with, “Once upon a time…” You’ll delete this phrase later, of course, but it’s the easiest way to begin. If you have an idea about “someone” who “wants something” but faces an “obstacle” in getting it, then you have the makings of an interesting story.

Writing is another way to tap into your creative side. Even if all you do is get the story down on paper and read it to your dog—strike that. Dogs are too hyper to sit still that long—read it to your cat instead. You will be better off for having done it.

If your cat gives you two paws down, you can always feed it to the paper shredder. No one will be the wiser.

I wonder if Stephen King even knows what a paper shredder is.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment