Monday, December 12, 2016

Enjoying the Season

Christmas is coming upon us faster than we expect. Or maybe faster than I, personally, have expected. It seems to me that as I get older, time moves faster. Or maybe I'm just less organized?

Let's go with time moving faster.

Perhaps it's this time of the year, with so many things competing for our attention, that we feel a compulsion to not miss a thing. Time is too short, we think, so we try to cram as much into every moment that we can. The result is that we tend to overbook ourselves and spread ourselves very thinly, trying to be everything to everyone, everywhere.

 As the years have gone by, I've forced myself to stop and take a good hard look at what is really making demands on our time. As we get older, we accumulate more friends, more family, more obligations. We long for a fairy-tale holiday we THINK we celebrated as children, forgetting that we never saw how harried and stressed out our parents and the other people who put those celebrations together really were.

The truth is that stress and a desire to please everyone is what sucks the joy out of the holidays. The urge to make everything "perfect" takes the fun and spontaneity out of the simplest things. And the more obligations we take on, the more pressure we put on ourselves to celebrate the season in full-blown gaiety and excitement.

Doing more things faster isn't the way to celebrate. Peace and joy are the hallmarks of the season. Let's give ourselves a break and take the time to enjoy what we can and savor the moments that creep up on us when we least expect it. Those are the moments that make memories.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Sometimes, It *IS* All About YOU

Sometimes I think a lot more people would be happy if they would focus on themselves.

Didn't see that coming, did you?

I know it sounds selfish, but one thing I've observed is that people who are generally unhappy, perennially grouchy, and downright unpleasant to be around are the people who are always watching what other people are doing--or not doing--and how wrong they are doing it. It's no surprise that they are usually blind to the things they, themselves, do wrong or else have a perfectly justifiable reason for what they do or don't do.

A lot of struggling writers fall into this category and I'm not blameless. It can be depressing to see the numbers on amazon when one compares a magnum opus that took a whole year or longer to write, edit, and publish with a traditional publisher with that of a writer who cranks out a new book every two to three months by simply using the search and replace function on their word processing program and changing the title before self-publishing their latest creation. I've succumbed to reading a few that are offered for free and know whereof I speak.

It's not even the money that creates the rumblings of the green-eyed monster (as evidenced by the fact that many of these books are offered for free), but the effusive glowing reviews which number into the triple digits. Where do they find their readers (oh, right... free books) and, more importantly, how do they get them to write reviews?

This is what I've discovered and what's more, it works for every facet of my life, not just the writing part of it.

The answer is this: forget about what "they" do. "They" are not living your life, paying your bills, writing your story. What you are letting "them" do is take your focus off YOUR life and YOUR goals. You are wasting energy, time, and passion worrying about "them" instead of investing your energy, time, and passion in living your life, paying your bills, and writing your story. Learn what you can from them, but then focus on what YOU can do to reach your goals. Realize that not everyone works like you do or wants what you want. Define your own goals; don't let others' successes tell you what you really want. Sometimes you may have to sacrifice one thing to have another, sometimes you may have to take into consideration what is realistic. And sometimes you have to ask yourself if what you're striving for is what is really going to make you happy.

Sometimes, all it takes to be happy is to take the focus off what everyone else is doing and focus on what you are doing.

Monday, November 21, 2016

An Interview with Author John M. Wills about His Latest Novel, "The Storm"

Since I'm still working on NaNoWriMo (supposedly!), I'm turning the Back Deck Blog over to friend and fellow OTP author, John M. Wills, as he tells us about his latest novel, "The Storm"!


Hi, Amy. I’m pleased you’re hosting me so I can let your readers know about my latest novel, The Storm. First, however, a bit about myself. I’ve been writing professionally since 2004. My credits include more than 150 published articles regarding police officer training and safety; 10 books, both fiction and non-fiction; various poems and short stories; and one technical manual. I also write video scripts for The William McLain Foundation in Atlanta that honors first responders killed in the line of duty. I’m an avid reader and I write book reviews for the New York Journal of Books. I’m also a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

Now a bit about my latest novel, The Storm. Anna’s life in the small town of Heavenly Harbor, Michigan, seems idyllic. Married ten years to her childhood sweetheart, Mark, she wants for nothing, except a baby. Unfortunately, her husband doesn’t share her enthusiasm. Anna has been secretly keeping a journal. She’s recorded her suspicions about Mark’s reluctance to share her dream and his possible infidelity. As she is about to confront him, lightning strikes, literally, causing her to lose her memory. The Storm will not only damage Anna physically, but possibly destroy her marriage as well—and Mark’s secret life is about to implode.

Why write such a story? Well, I was inspired to write this book simply because I’ve had people in my life who’ve suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease. I’ve witnessed the steady progression, sometimes developing slowly, other time coming on quickly. Either way, the destruction the malady causes is beyond description. After a while, the victim hardly realizes what is happening. Sadly, however, those close to the patients suffer immeasurably. Their once vibrant loved one disappears before their eyes. In the final stages, it’s not unusual for the victim to be unable to recognize family and friends.
So while I was pondering a story involving memory loss, I thought it would be interesting if it centered around a young person. And rather than Alzheimer’s, I thought an injury-induced case of amnesia would make for a compelling story. Thus, the making of Anna’s story began.

The tale required research with respect to injuries resulting from lightning strikes—how they affect the physical and mental well-being. In addition, I wanted the protagonist to be likeable, believable, and strong. Anna is that person, and her tenacity after her injury makes her character even more powerful. The injury transforms Anna’s character, once a one-dimensional teacher and wife, into a strong determined, complex woman who knows what she wants and how to get it.

Of course, what would a story be without at least one antagonist that readers dislike right from the very beginning? We have such a character in Vicky, a personal trainer at the local health club. Her chicanery and outright lack of morals wreaks havoc upon Anna’s marriage. Add to the mix a shady private investigator, a couple of fantastic cops, and the recipe for a great novel is complete and ready to serve.

Early reviews have been outstanding and I look for more to be posted. Now excuse me as I need to start the wheels turning and come up with an idea for my next book.

Thanks, Amy, for allowing me to introduce my newest novel—The Storm.


Monday, November 14, 2016


This post was originally written December 17, 2013. Since I'm still trying to work on my NaNoWriMo word count, I'm rerunning it today. Check out my blog next week when fellow Oak Tree Press author, John M. Wills, will be joining me on the Back Deck to talk about his latest book, "The Storm"!


Most people believe that writing is a completely solitary endeavor.  They picture a writer in a lonely garret, with an oil lamp for companionship, and their lofty thoughts being turned into words by their quill pens on parchment in peaceful silence.

Not even close.

As the years have gone by, I realize that what makes us writers is the way we see the world around us... and that includes the people that inhabit it.  There's only so much you can learn, however, from just sitting on a park bench (or mall bench) and watching people go by... or the less-socially-acceptable eavesdropping on people in restaurants.  That is where having a "real" job comes in handy.  The normally reclusive writer is "forced" to interact with people which, under usual circumstances, the writer wouldn't associate with.

Lest anyone think I'm being insulting, let me elaborate.  Most of the people we meet at work would probably never answer a personal ad to be our friends. They are people who are very different from the people with whom we would choose to associate--different interests, different lifestyles, different ways of thinking.  Even different age groups.  Come on... how many 40+ year olds would normally "hang out" with 20-somethings (that aren't their children?)  And vice versa?

Co-workers add so much to our lives.  Some good, some bad.  To a writer, this helps enormously in creating compelling and believable characters.  Not only can you actually learn how different people act, speak, and think, you also gain the valuable insight on how you--and others--react to their actions, words, and thoughts.  Sometimes you may disagree, in principle, with your co-workers but because you have been interacting with them on a regular basis and know their kids' or siblings' names, their favorite foods and TV shows, the problems they have with their in-laws or best friends, you are able to look beyond their views to the person voicing them and the story behind what makes them view things that way.

These people are our links to the world outside of ourselves and the world we create on paper.  A world inhabited only by people just like ourselves, or worse, a world populated with the people we THINK are out there, is flat and colorless.  When we know who those "other" people really are, our stories become richer... and so do we.  We shouldn't be afraid to get to know people who, at first glance, are not "compatible" with us.  We all feel hurt, pain, betrayal, hope, joy, exultation, contentment, insecurity, satisfaction, and love.  Examining how other people experience those emotions helps us grow as writers and as people.

I am grateful for the co-workers who have touched my life, become friends, become a part of me.  No, I'm not using you for characters, but I am using you to make the characters I create real, characters that I and, hopefully, readers care about. 

Thank you.

Monday, November 7, 2016

The Changing Face of Publishing

I'm trying to work on Book 6 in the Black Horse Campground series by doing NaNoWriMo this month, so today's post is a re-run from October 14, 2013. Now back to upping my word count....


Not long ago, I was talking to a friend about how I "had" to get an e-reader... something I once vowed I'd never do.  I contended that I loved the feel, the smell, the sight of paper and ink.  And I still do.  I've used my Kindle (first generation, gently used, no color, no pictures, and I have to push buttons) to read one book and the experience was not horrible, but I still prefer a real book.  However, I have started doing reviews on soon-to-be or recently released novels and the truth is that publishers rarely send out ARCs (advanced reader copies--cheaply bound printed copies of novels) for reviews anymore.  It's faster and much less expensive to make the book available for download on to a computer or reading device.  The reading device is far lighter and easier to use for reading than my laptop, so here I am, the reluctant Kindle owner!

Reading a book is the one thing I never expected to see go electronic.  I should have expected it to be inevitable, given how the way a book is written and published has changed dramatically over the last few years.  If you want an example of the way the publishing business used to be (about 20 years ago or less), read the late Olivia Goldsmith's novel, "The Bestseller".  Drama aside, you read about the business of publishing that most young writers these days can't begin to imagine:  TYPING the manuscript on a TYPEWRITER.  Making copies (several) on a copy machine.  Sending a printed manuscript (all 400 pages!) to a publishing house or agent with an SASE (do I have to explain what that is?)  Waiting 4-6 months for a response (usually a bulky manila envelope with your address written in your own handwriting... that SASE) and not being able to submit to more than one publisher or agent at a time.  Getting an edited manuscript with red ink and notes all over it, changes that have to be made by the deadline.  And let's not even talk about marketing the book.

Nowadays, submitting a manuscript is as easy as hitting the "Send" button.  Editing the work, checking for spelling errors, making corrections and changes is all easier than it's ever been.  And publishing has become a do-it-yourself project.  There isn't even a need to wait for a publishing contract.  You can be published on-line in a matter of minutes.

Sadly, this hasn't exactly resulted in a boom in good books.  Since there is little effort involved in simply getting published, many writers have succumbed to the temptation to put little effort in writing.  The main goal is no longer to write, it's to get published.  Or as I put it, few authors want to write, they want to have written.  Writing, as I've said before, is hard work.  Writing well is a mammoth task.

Even on their best days, the best writers in the world have had to edit their work.  Just getting it on paper isn't enough.  Traditional publishing forced writers to do their very best, to double check, not once or twice, but as many times as it took to get their story and characters to be the best they could be.  Because the opposite of a successful book wasn't just a story floating in cyberspace with no readers--it was piles of unsold books being returned to a publisher, an advance not being earned out, and the possibility of a contract not being renewed.

I know there are hundreds of writers whose work was good enough to be published traditionally, but the deck was stacked against them--publishing houses with small budgets, competition from big name writers, a shrinking market for their genre (or conversely, an exploding market with an equally large number of submissions), and many other obstacles.  So they turned to other publishing options.  But here, too, their work rarely receives the credit it deserves.  Many "publishers" unscrupulously prey on struggling writers and charge exorbitant fees to read or publish their work.  Others will publish anything and gain a not-so-reputable reputation that reflects badly on even their best authors.  And many still get published by print-on-demand or e-book publishers and hit a brick wall when their book receives little marketing and doesn't reach the audience it should.

Things are not going to change back and in some ways, that's good.  Having to retype a 400-page manuscript because of one correction is something I'd never wish on anyone (before you curse your word processing program, think about that for a minute.)  Neither is sending that same manuscript in a double box with return postage (I still have issues of "Writer's Digest" where you could order five such boxes for $19.95!)  But I think it would be well for writers to write as if those nightmares were still true.  There are still small publishing houses and editors and agents who are looking for quality fiction for which THEY are willing to pay.  Even if a writer chooses to go the self-publishing route, it would be well for them to make their writing the best it can possibly be, as if their work were being scrutinized for the Nobel Prize in literature.

Or better yet, write as if they were writing for that one person in the bookstore who stops, picks up their book, and is drawn into the author's world and wants to return again and again.

These authors all did for me.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Who's Your Audience?

One of the first pieces of advice a writer is given is to "know their audience". For whom are you writing? What age group? What genre?

Many times, if you look in the mirror, the answer will literally stare you back in the face.

Author Toni Morrison said, "If there's a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it." Another way to look at this is, if you want to write a book, but you're not sure what you want to write, you must look at what you like to read.

Even children's book writers must look at themselves when they were children to see what kind of book they would have enjoyed reading at that age. When I was a child, I loved reading books that were about children just like me (the Little House books, stories by Beverly Cleary or Judy Blume) or in settings with which I could identify, even if some of the animal characters were gentle fantasy (E. B. White's novels, especially "Trumpet of the Swan".) I was never into science fiction or fantasy and I doubt I could have really enjoyed the dystopian fiction that is so popular today (let's not even start with the whole vampire genre), so it stands to reason that, if I wrote young adult or children's fiction, I would probably write books like the ones I enjoyed reading.

I write mysteries that appeal to people who live fairly uneventful lives--some would even call their lives "boring". Work, school, laundry, bills to pay, daily interactions with family, friends, and co-workers make up the fabric of their lives, just like those of the characters who populate my stories. Some of my readers appreciate reading about characters whose lives have more drama than their own--very few people would want to discover a dead body in their own home or business! Others, whose lives are fraught with a lot of tension and drama, enjoy a story that has a sense of peace and order when all is said and done, with love and loyalty being treasured character traits. I see myself in both camps, through different periods in my life, and I write what has always appealed to me.

Perhaps one of my earliest "audience members" was my late sister-in-law, Dawn. Twenty years ago, when we were living all together (her family and mine) in Mt. Kisco, NY, we both had developed a love for Mary Higgins Clark novels. The fact that a new novel was released every year in April, right around Dawn's birthday, made gift-giving easy and we loved the fact that the settings and characters seemed so real. And then we both read "Loves Music, Loves to Dance" and fell in love with the main character's love interest--such a handsome, supportive, loving guy!--only to discover in the end that he was the villain! I'll never forget Dawn's reaction: "I hate it when the author makes you really like a character and then he turns out to be the bad guy!" She was so disappointed that she almost swore off the MHC books. She didn't (and neither did I) but I learned that readers come to trust authors to deliver consistency with their books. Whether she received a slew of complaints or not, I'll never know, but I did notice that never again did Mary Higgins Clark disappoint us with another enormously appealing villain.

So that is one audience member I always wanted to deliver the goods to. I think she was always pleased with my work. In any event, when you write for your audience, you must be true to yourself and what you enjoy reading, That's how you find your true audience.

Thanks, Dawn.

Monday, October 17, 2016

The Best Place to Sell Books (Part 2)

A couple of weeks ago, before I took a much-needed vacation, I had posted about the best places to sell books, having just come off of a very successful weekend with a book signing at a bookstore and having a booth at my parish festival. I know that authors, especially those of us who don't have name recognition or the backing of a huge publishing company, need to be actively promoting their books if they're going to find any readers or make any sales. That brings me to today's blog post.

I received my 47th review on “End of the Road” just the other day... courtesy of a chance encounter in a northern New Mexico winery on July 4th.
My husband, Paul, and I had spent our anniversary weekend working a wine festival in Santa Fe. After two days in a hot, crowded tent with no air conditioning, tons of people, and precious few bathroom breaks, we decided to take an extra day—July 4th—and visit Vivac Winery in the tiny town of Dixon, about an hour north of Santa Fe. When we arrived, the place was starting to get busy. We tasted some wine and managed to snag a table on the patio under the grape arbor. Shortly afterward, a couple arrived and went into the winery. By the time they emerged with their own glasses, the patio had filled up with a large party and no other tables were available, except for two chairs at ours. We waved them over, introduced ourselves, and spent a lovely hour enjoying wine and the company of new friends.
Naturally, my husband—my PR person extraordinaire—mentioned to them that I was a mystery author. The woman, Patty, expressed interest, as she is a travel planner and is always looking for something to read on long flights. Paul promptly went out to our Jeep and grabbed a copy of “End of the Road” (yes, I always carry copies of all of my books... don’t you?) and offered it to her for free. She and her husband were both surprised, but (here’s the important thing) she expressed an interest in my book before we gave it to her. I had already given them bookmarks with all the books listed and she had started looking them up on her phone. We friended each other on facebook and then she messaged me to let me know she had written a review and posted it! Here is her review (did I mention it’s the 47th one???)
“This is a fun read with likable characters, a whodunit plot, and a touch of romance. I took it on a long plane ride and it made the trip whiz by. It would also be a perfect summer read. Now I have to read the next in the series to find out if Corrie and Rick make it past friendship, or if JD returns to give him some competition!”
In addition, we returned to Vivac a week ago to help out with the grape harvest. We had a fun day and spent some time talking to one of the winery owners, who happens to be a friend of the winery owner that I work for. Again, Paul told him that I was a mystery author and we offered him a copy of “End of the Road” and slipped in the fact that my boss carried the books in his winery (probably because the winery is mentioned in the books) and Jesse, one of the Vivac owners, grinned and said, “Any chance your characters might visit Vivac?” I guess we’ll have to wait and see!
We also met another couple from Missoula, Montana who had traveled down to help with the harvest (they were wine club members and were in the loop) and they agreed to meet up with us at Noisy Water in Ruidoso (where we work) in a few days after we had returned from Colorado. I had given them bookmarks and when they arrived at the winery, not only did they buy a few bottles of wine, they also bought all four of my books!

It goes to show that an author should always be prepared to meet potential readers! If you can’t keep a supply of books in the trunk (I was actually out of “End of the Road” a week ago) at least carry bookmarks, business cards, whatever it is you use to promote your books. And don’t be shy about talking about them (or else, have someone like my husband along!)

I have two more events planned for November--one is a "vendor blender" which is a monthly gathering of home-based businesses in Alamogordo, the town where I work my "real" job (Walmart, that is), and the other is the first book festival hosted by the El Paso Writers' League in El Paso, TX (my hometown). The "vendor blender" will cost me $20 for a three-hour slot and they provide the tables and chairs. I just have to bring my books and the items I need to spruce up my space. The EPWL festival won't cost me anything but my time and my annual dues. Of course, I have to pay for the books I will (I hope) sell at the events. Otherwise, the biggest investment is time and travel. 

None of this means I will suddenly leap to the top of the best-seller lists. It might not even mean that I break even. But if my master plan was to make money, writing is the wrong profession to take up. I write because I love to tell stories and I hope to find readers. The promo and selling is all part of the package and because I have to sell in order to keep being published by a traditional publisher. It's all worth it in the end and I've come to really enjoy it!

This was my table at our church fiesta in September... one of my best day of book sales ever!

Monday, October 3, 2016

The Best Place to Sell Books

This past weekend was one of my busiest (overall) and most successful (as an author) I've had in the last three years!

A couple of months ago, I signed up to do a book signing at one of my favorite bookstores in the world: Treasure House Books & Gifts in Old Town Albuquerque. The owners of this fiercely independent bookstore sell only books set in New Mexico, by New Mexico authors. Based on that criteria, I'm sure many people would be impressed by the number of books they carry. Anyhow, knowing from previous experience that the first book in a series is always the best-seller at a signing, I made it a point to stock up on over a dozen copies of "End of the Road", the first book in my Black Horse Campground mystery series.

Then three weeks ago, our parish church announced they would be holding an apple festival as a fundraiser the day before the book signing in Albuquerque, and they were looking for people to sign up for arts and crafts and other booths. It occurred to me that this might be a great way to help out my parish, encourage some fellowship, and maybe sell a book or two. I already had my book order for my Albuquerque signing, so I figured I could set up a table at the apple fest, eat some great festival food, and chit-chat with the neighbors and other locals. If I sold a book or two, it would all be gravy.

Little did we expect that we would have a lot of impulse festival-goers stopping in on their way to Ruidoso for the Aspencade festival. People from as far away as San Antonio (among other out-of-state places) pulled off the highway to check out our little festival. Not only did we sell out of apple pies and fiesta food, I sold 17 books. I had 40 to start with. And of those books, only six copies of "End of the Road" were going to make it to Albuquerque.

The next day, I arrived in Old Town Albuquerque with five minutes to spare for my event (that included being dropped off on the opposite side of the plaza and hoofing it through the crowds of people who had descended on the Duke City for the annual hot air balloon festival.) I no sooner set foot in the door when a woman pounced on me to say she had been waiting for me and did I have the first book in my series available? Turned out that Jim and John (the father-son duo that runs the bookstore) only had about five copies of my books available and none of them were "End of the Road". The customer graciously agreed to wait until my husband, Paul, had found a parking space (two blocks away) and brought my box of books to the shop.

Over the next two hours, I sold a total of 13 books (including the six copies of "End of the Road".) That's 30 books in a 48-hour period. Not enough, of course, for me to make the New York Times best-seller list, but enough to learn something important: you never know what places will be great for book sales. Honestly, I didn't consider the church fiesta a "real" bookselling venue. I did it more as a courtesy and a way to help out my parish. My cup runneth over, folks! And being able to score a slot at a bookstore on a busy weekend was a huge help, too. In Albuquerque, I met people from Oregon and Washington in town for the balloon fiesta who bought my books.

If there is one thing I learned that I can share about this weekend, it's this: never pass up a chance to sell your books. Readers are everywhere. You can't wait for them to find your book. Sometimes, you have to take your book to them.

Me, at a previous signing at Treasure House (and still wondering how to get people to buy Book 2!)

Monday, September 26, 2016

What Makes Characters UNlikable... and What Doesn't

With some authors, the plot line of a story comes first. What's going to happen? What is at stake? How will it all be resolved?

With me, characters come first. Something happens to someone. Someone has a great deal at stake. Someone must fight to get what they want.

Who is that someone?

For me, the "someone" doing the "something" matters a lot more than whatever the "something" may be. I have to like the characters in the story or, at the very least, find them interesting. There are many ways to kill my interest in a character.

I hate whiny characters, in real life and in fiction. Whining is a habit, not an endearing character trait. There is a reason why I trained my children out of this habit at a young age--I didn't want to hear it. Nobody likes to listen to a whiner, so if a character has this unpleasant habit, the writer better have a good reason for it. And never let that character be the main character! The main character may have reason to complain, but he or she should be more focused on getting things done rather than bewailing the way things are.

I also dislike characters who are in complete control of everything. Their life, their jobs, their emotions, even their hair, is always perfectly in order and runs smoothly. Now before everyone jumps on me and says, "Hey, what about...?" Yes, I know, it seems that my character, Sheriff Rick Sutton, has it all together, BUT... yes, if you've read "At the Crossroad", you know it's all a facade to hide a lot of pain. He's not a robot; he's human and he's trying to protect himself. A lot of people can relate to that.

It's easy to understand why boring characters can be unlikable. We all have met someone who goes on and on and on about everything and nothing at all. A boring person is one who focuses almost exclusively on him or herself. While it's necessary to know things about a character, focusing solely on that one character--especially a character focusing on himself--and nothing else, makes for a story that is very easy to put down and walk away from... especially since most of us who come into contact with boring people feel trapped and unable to walk away.

I really dislike villains who have no reason for being a villain other than... well, the hero needs someone to fight. All villains, like heroes, have a goal and it has to mean enough to them to make it worth their time and effort to achieve it. True, it's very likely not a good goal--after all, they are the villains--but it has to mean something to them, something important.

What creates an interesting character is that they remind us of real people, of ourselves, even. Real people have real reasons for the way they act. We can't always delve deeply into the lives of the people we interact with in the real world, but a writer can and should do that with the characters in a story. A character with a motivation rings true, is relatable, even if not likable, and makes a story more interesting.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Pantser vs. Plotter? In Writing and in Real Life

Before I go any further, let me clarify what I'm talking about, since this seems to be a question that makes sense mostly to writers.

"Plotter" is pretty easy to decipher--it's someone who plots out their stories before they begin to write. Details, such as the characters' names, eye color, backstories, motivations, and their exact roles in the story are carefully noted. Timelines are mapped out to the exact minute (especially in murder mysteries) and charts are drawn up to show exactly what direction the story will take, including the "unexpected" twists and turns.

"Pantser" is short for "flying by the seat of your pants"--someone who just sits down, with only an idea for a story in their mind, and starts writing. They might know who the characters are, what they look like, and why they do what they do, but the details will be ironed out as the story gets down on paper. They know what the story is about and what's going to happen, but it might take a 38-hour day in the first draft to tell it (that's what editing is for, right?)

My style of writing falls somewhere in between. Of course, I have to know who  my characters are and what's going to happen in the story, but plotting a novel down to its every detail would drain me of energy and creativity. I'm not a recklessly impulsive person in real life--I do like to think ahead--but when it comes to having fun, I like to give myself a little freedom to "wing it". And writing is fun!

My husband and I are planning a long weekend getaway in a few weeks. I have often said that, for me, it's not a vacation if I have to look at my watch. Having an itinerary for every moment of a vacation seems to suck the joy and excitement out of the experience. If a vacation is meant to give me a chance to relax and recharge, then being on a schedule won't help. However, there are times when it's important to think ahead to what one might want to do on vacation. Certain things--a train ride, a whale watching tour, a special dinner event--do require planning because they are being arranged by someone who isn't on one's particular schedule. It's possible to take a chance and go on vacation and just hope everything falls into place--tickets won't be sold out, reservations aren't required, etc. If you don't really have your heart set on doing this particular activity, that won't be a problem. But if you do, then some planning is sure to be involved.

Just like we have planned out a grape-picking party at an estate vineyard, a lunch time train ride, and a VIP tasting at a winery during our long weekend, a writer has to plan key events, elements, and situations in a book. The fun, unplanned things can connect those points and eventually, they will all make sense and flow into one another to make a story work (with a lot of editing to take care of those 38-hour days!)

In a way, an author is like a cruise director. We have a lot of planned activities and interesting people to meet, but not all of them necessarily contribute to the story. So take some "planned spontaneity" and enjoy the unexpected. It makes for a better story and vacation!

Monday, September 12, 2016

Why do you write Murder Mysteries? A guest post by Marilyn Meredith

Today I'm hosting fellow Oak Tree Press author, Marilyn Meredith, author of the Rocky Bluff P.D. and the Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series. She is set to release the 15th book in her Deputy Tempe Crabtree series, "Seldom Traveled", and she graciously slowed down long enough to sit on the Back Deck and talk about why she writes murder mysteries and to tell you about a contest she is sponsoring for readers who comment on her posts:

My host, Amy, posed this question as it’s one she gets asked a lot. I haven’t been asked that much, but I think the difference is, Amy is young and appears to be sweet. (And she is.) I’m old, and probably appear a bit more on the grumpy side, the type of person who might like dipping into the darker side of life.

Since that’s not really the right answer, I’ll give you my motivation for writing murder mysteries.
Our world today is full of evil—people are killing one another for all sorts of reasons. Some of the bad guys get caught and are killed or punished, but some get away with what they’ve done.

When I’m writing a murder mystery I know from the start that my villain will be caught, no if, ands, or buts! This is one place I know justice will be done, because I’m in control.

Another reason I write murder mysteries is I like the puzzle. Yes, it’s a puzzle for me too because though I think I know who the murderer is from the beginning, sometimes as I’m writing, I know I’ve chosen wrong. When that happens, it means a bit of rewriting to make sure it will all make sense to the reader.

I can understand why people might ask the above question—it might have a hidden meaning, like why don’t you write sweet romances instead? (Or whatever reading genre they prefer.) When you think about it, that question is better than someone asking you where the restroom is, something that happens a lot in a book store signing.

No matter what anyone might think, I’ll continue to write (and read) murder mysteries until I’m no longer able and I hope that’s a long, long time from now.


Seldom Traveled Blurb:
The tranquility of the mountain community of Bear Creek is disrupted by a runaway fugitive, a vicious murderer, and a raging forest fire. Deputy Tempe Crabtree is threatened by all three.

Marilyn Meredith’s Bio:
Marilyn has had so many books published, she’s lost track of the count, but it’s getting near 40. She lives in a community similar to the fictional mountain town of Bear Creek, the big difference being that Bear Creek is a thousand feet higher in the mountains. She is a member of Mystery Writers of American, three chapters of Sisters in Crime, and is a board member of Public Safety Writers of America.

New contest:

Winners will be randomly picked from those leaving the most comments on the blog posts. Each winner can choose one of the earlier books in the series as either a print book or e-book.

You can find me here tomorrow:

Monday, August 29, 2016

Author Branding--A Way to Market Books

A few weeks ago, I was privileged to attend a meeting of the El Paso Writers' League and got to hear a talk on marketing by League treasurer, Robyn Gold (who writes under the pen name R. S. Dabney--her first book, "The Soul Mender", was released in May.) In addition to talking about how to effectively utilize social media to market your books, she also talked about creating your author brand.

Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised to realize that I had done this without consciously deciding to do so.

An author brand is something that marks an author's books as being unique to that particular author. You can look at a book's cover and immediately recognize that the book was written by a certain author or belongs in a certain series. My author brand, unique to my Black Horse Campground series, is the black horse logo that appears on all my book covers and the tag line "A Black Horse Campground mystery". If you write a series, this is a great marketing tool to help fix your series in the minds of readers and also to set the series apart from other books or series you might write. A great example of this is OTP's own, Marilyn Meredith, who writes two different series. Her Rocky Bluff P.D. series, published by Oak Tree, features a police badge on every cover and distinguishes it from her other series.

Another way to brand your books is to have a recurring title tag. Radine Trees Nehring writes a series in which every title contains the words "to die for". Dac Crossley's "Texas Ranger" series includes--you guessed it--the words "Texas Ranger" in each title. The tag line can be either part of the title or a subtitle to identify the series, such as my titles (example: "End of the Road: A Black Horse Campground Mystery")

There are other ways to brand your books whether they go in a series or not. Using the same font for every title, the same color scheme, or the same layout for the cover can also identify your books as belonging to a series or to the same author. Mary Montague Sikes does this with her landmark lodgings series. Holli Castillo combines a number of these elements in her covers--recurring font, black and white scheme, and the word "justice" combined with Cajun recipe names.

With so many books in the market and the possibility of so many similar titles (and author names!), developing a unique author brand to distinguish your books from others is a good idea to keep in mind, whether you write a series or not. When you find your fans and reading audience, make it easy for them to find you!

Monday, August 22, 2016

Going for the Gold--Finding Your Focus as a Writer

Recently there has been a new meme circulating on Facebook showing US gold medal-winning swimmer, Michael Phelps, in the lead during a race, looking straight ahead at the finish line. In the next lane is the silver medalist with his head turned, watching Phelps. The meme reads, "Winners focus on winning. Losers focus on winners."

While calling the second place finalist a "loser" might seem a bit harsh, it illustrates perfectly what some writers feel when their books aren't selling well or a less than stellar review pops up on their amazon page. It's heartbreaking to see a book that isn't well-written showing up in the Top 100 list on amazon while your own languishes somewhere in the millions.

As writers, it's essential for us to read, not only in order to keep learning, but to give ourselves a break. The problem is, it's hard for us to keep the reader's opinion from being tainted by our experience as a writer... and vice versa. I have a hard time reading a book that is rife with grammatical errors, with typos, with cardboard characters and stilted dialogue, with poor writing. It's even harder when one downloads the book and finds out the reason why it was free.

What is easy, unfortunately, is to fall into the habit of comparing those authors' work and rankings and sales with our own. Their books are always ranked in the thousands, not millions... like mine. Their book has seventy-eight five-star reviews, not twenty total reviews... like mine. And their book is nowhere near as good as mine.

The point we have to remember is this: So what? So what if their book is full of mistakes and is poorly constructed? So what if they have ten times as many reviews as our books do? So what if their book is ranked in the Top 100? So what if their book is just another tired, done-to-death, latest fad sub-genre, complete with recycled storyline and setting? It's not our book. We have no control over the content or (brace yourself) how other people perceive it. Just like we can't control how people perceive OUR OWN work.

What we can control is how much energy we focus on OUR OWN work instead of someone else's. Is our work the very best it can be? Are we investing energy in promoting our work (that's promoting OUR work, not denigrating someone else's, no matter how badly we feel we must warn the world about it)? And most importantly, are we wasting energy that would better be put to use writing our next book?

Focus on the finish line. Focus on the gold. Focus on making your own work worthy of it. And don't waste energy on the people in the "other lane". Save that energy for your own work... and celebrating when you win!

Monday, August 15, 2016

Where Do You Get Your Story Ideas? Would You Believe... Walmart?

It sounds like a snarky response, but it's amazing the story ideas you can gain from observing people while they shop... and sneaking a peek at what's in their shopping carts.

I've said before that working in retail has many benefits for a writer. The main one, of course, is being able to meet and interact with people that wouldn't normally cross my path. But there are days when actual interaction--making eye contact and speaking to people--is not part of the plan (the plan being picking up a gallon of milk and a loaf of bread and getting out of the store at the end of my shift with killing myself or anyone else!) That's when I do most of my story idea gathering in the check out line (where, no matter the time of day, I will ALWAYS have a lot of time to spend!)

This past week, I saw the following stories in shopping carts:

A woman with a basket loaded with hamburgers, hot dogs, chips, beer, sodas, and all the fixings and extras for a big gathering. It wasn't a holiday weekend, so I bet on a family reunion or some family party. Then I see the giant bottle of Tylenol and the economy-sized bottle of antacids. They pair perfectly with the "death row" expression on her face. There's a story there. You can bet it's family drama... especially given the fact that her purchase could easily fill two carts, but she's alone so she manages to make do with one cart.

A young woman, very attractive, unloads a basket that contains--expensive nail polish (the kind that costs about $13 a bottle) and a new manicure set; an entire celebrity name-brand makeup set; expensive body wash and lotion; expensive shampoo; and a new pair of lacy thong panties and matching bra. She stops herself from biting her nails as she watches the total climb. It seems apparent that she's used to buying the most economical store brands, but she wants to impress someone. A real-life Cinderella who has to be her own fairy godmother...?

A young man with a toddler girl in the cart seat and another baby in the carrier he has strapped on stares helplessly at the assortment of baby food jars and formula and diapers in his basket. The only "grown up" food in the basket is pasta and frozen pizza. He looks shell-shocked. The little girl is wearing mismatched clothing and her ponytails are sloppy and she softly whines, "I want Mommy." Where's Mommy? The only thing certain is that her absence is new and raw... though it's unclear whether she chose to be gone or not.

Of course, not every cart has a story. Sometimes people just need stuff. At least, that's what I was hoping when I saw the lady with a giant box of cat litter, a toilet plunger, and four bottles of Crown Royal in her basket....
Shop at your own risk when there is a writer around....

Monday, August 1, 2016

Recharging the Batteries

I've often said that there is no such thing as "writer's block". Just like I can't call in to the "real jobs" and say, "I'm not coming in today because I have cake decorator's/vino slinger's block," just because I don't FEEL like doing the job, doesn't mean I can't actually DO the job.

Of course, there is a difference. While I might not feel like doing the real jobs, just showing up and doing them earns me a paycheck. Cakes get decorated (note--there really isn't a lot of room for creativity at a supermarket bakery. Just follow the design pattern and anyone with a modicum of skill in handling an icing bag can decorate a cake.) Wine gets poured and served (bartenders are required to know how to paste on a "genuine" smile and keep our true feelings in check) and sold.

After writing five books in my Black Horse Campground series, some people think I have nothing else to write. If anything, I have even MORE stories to tell... so many that it can be overwhelming at times. And tiring. And maybe just a little intimidating. It can create a bottleneck in the writer's mind and it seems that nothing can get through onto the page.

When it comes to writing, just "showing up" doesn't cut it. Just putting words down on paper, or a screen, isn't enough. The words should make sense, should tell a story, should make a point. And they should entertain or at least engage the reader. That's where a writer suddenly develops what is commonly called "writer's block"--because they can't seem to write anything worth reading, therefore they think they can't or shouldn't write.

The beauty of writing is that it doesn't have to be done right the first time. Editing and rewriting are the master tools of  writing. So when the dreaded "writer's block" creeps up, I tell myself that I can't call out from the job. Write something. Anything. It can be fixed later. Just like a vacation away from the "real jobs" helps me recharge the batteries to keep on going, so can reading (for fun and for work--since I read fiction for reviews and evaluations) and other creative endeavors recharge the batteries for writing.

I'm just now taking my writing out of the charger and starting with a fresh pack of energy to go on with my series. Let's do this!

Monday, July 18, 2016

New YA Fiction! "Unclaimed: The Memoirs of Jane E., Friendless Orphan" by Erin McCole Cupp

Today, fellow Catholic Writers Guild member and friend, Erin McCole Cupp, presents her latest release. If you're a fan of Jane Eyre and you like dystopian fiction, don't miss "Unclaimed"! Here are editorial blurbs to whet your whistle and a purchase link is included!

"Unclaimed, the Memoirs of Jane E, Friendless Orphan, is a book set in a future world created by Erin McCole Cupp. Her imaginings may just be how our planet and its population turn out if the negative forces we see in this day and age are left unchecked. This genre of writing is something I've never read before and to be honest, I've never read the book Jane Eyre either, so for me the story line is all new. That being said, the book captivated me from the start and I was impressed by Cupp's creativity and her flair for descriptive prose. I read it in one sitting and I'm looking forward to reading the other two books in the trilogy." Amanda Lauer, A World Such as Heaven Intended

Most of us have a favorite story that we have re-read a few times. Perhaps we enjoy the plotline, the character development or the writing style. But no matter how many times we re-read a story, nothing will quite compare to the thrill, excitement and anticipation of that first read. Until now. Erin McCole Cupp has taken the classic, beloved tale of Jane Eyre and reawoken all those joys of reading a story for the first time. Jane is truly Jane, though now she can speak multiple languages, send encrypted messages, fight, and travel around the world with a perks ring instead of a credit card. It doesn't matter if you've read Jane Eyre a dozen times or have never once opened the cover. Unclaimed will speak to your soul and challenge you to see our present world with new eyes.” Kate Taliaferro, Daily Graces

In a style that's engaging and unputdownable, Erin McCole Cupp grabs readers, sucks them into her world, and makes Jane E a part of our hearts. Be warned: you'll finish this book and demand the next one.” Sarah Reinhard, Word by Word: Slowing Down with the Hail Mary

"A riveting, heart-wrenching retelling of Charlotte Bronte's classic novel, Unclaimed packs a punch that brings the timeless truth of the original Jane Eyre to Millenials, Generation Z, and beyond. Bravo! Bring on the next installment..." Antony Barone Kolenc, The Chronicles of Xan Trilogy

If you needed proof that Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte is a timeless classic, Unclaimed: The Memoirs of Jane E, Friendless Orphan—Book 1 is it. Erin McCole Cupp expertly re-imagines Jane as among America’s least wanted in the near future: an unclaimed embryo brought to life but unloved then laboring anonymously half a world away from home. Interestingly, Jane’s hidden existence in a quasi-school/sweatshop extends beyond merely weaving textiles, but hidden messages as well. Her only solace is the companionship of the ill Aidann, whose backstory is also modernized, and the compassion of her instructor Bhenji Nealingson. Unclaimed takes the dear reader to Jane’s first encounter with her absentee employer Mr. Thorne in his fortress beneath the American desert. Jane Eyre has long been a favorite of mine, and I enjoyed the first part of this retelling immensely. While appealing to the modern reader’s ear, it remains faithful to the truth of the original, even retaining the charm and tone of Bronte’s voice. You do not, however, have to have read Jane Eyre to enjoy Jane E. Much like the character herself, chin lifted high, it can stand on its own.” Carolyn Astfalk, Stay With Me

"Unclaimed is gripping and creative. The futuristic topics are thought-provoking and compelling. With its well-developed characters, the reader connects to their stories with ease. The suspenseful events make it hard to put down. The pro-life issues it raises are currently heading society down a similar path. Brilliant and inspiring with a unique blend of genres. This book is for classic and sci-fi fans alike. It will leave the reader anxiously waiting for the next installment." Tanya Weitzel,, Contributor

"Science fiction readers will love the creative futuristic elements in 
Unclaimed by Erin McCole Cupp. At times humorous and other times heart-wrenching, this story delves into issues worth considering as society advances. Having developed a strong connection to Jane E, I found myself incredibly moved by a climactic scene where faith plays out in a natural but powerful way. Unclaimed: The Memoirs of Jane E will leave you wanting more."  Theresa Linden, The Chasing Liberty Trilogy

"Jane Eyre does not need to be updated.  It needs to be read and re-read and treasured for its timelessness.  But too often, the people of a world obsessed with progress refuse to remember the wisdom of the past.  Sometimes, an author must dress the eighteenth century in futuristic salawar kameez to remind the present day that the human story never changes.  Whether in Georgian England or the global community of a technocratic future, there will always be orphans who can teach the rest of us how to love, if we will only take the time to learn.  This is the reason we need books like Unclaimed." Karen UlloJennifer the Damned

"This dystopian spin on Jane Eyre transports the reader into a world that, disturbingly, seems just around the corner. I was captivated by Jane E's boldness and resilience as she navigated the challenging circumstances of living with a genetic defect in a designer-gene world. Erin McCole Cupp's novel is a blend of three genres I rarely read (19th-century novel, dystopian fiction and fanfic) and it's definitely a combo that works." Barbara Szyszkiewicz, Editor,
"I really enjoyed [Unclaimed] because it was quite different from anything out there right now; the setting, the voice and the story... a good addition to any library or home."  Anna delC DyeKingdom by the Sea

"Unclaimed, a remake of Jane Eyre, has all of the sophistication of the original and an intriguing, futuristic spin that makes the book hard to put down." Dawn Witzke, The Catholic Underground 

"This is a genre I'm not very familiar with, so my expectations were a blank slate when I embarked. Before I could catch my breath, I was completely absorbed into the setting, and developing a maternal love for the endearing main character, Jane. I so desperately wanted Jane to find hope, love and acceptance, and her journey towards these things resonated deeply within me. As well, the element of faith in this novel absolutely intrigued me, and I cannot wait to read more of Jane's story!" Tiffany W., Life of a Catholic Librarian

"[Unclaimed] is a dystopian sci-fi take on Charlotte Bronte’s well-loved gothic/romantic novel. Jane Eyre, as a person and as a story, translates well into a new setting--a near-future cultural mélange that will make Browncoats smile while Bronte lovers nod along to the beat. Erin McCole Cupp has got something here. With barely a bump in a smoothly-written narrative, she combines faith and philosophy with a familiar-but-new story and delivers an ending that’s a pleasantly cruel tease of the gothic that will leave fans checking the release date of the next volume." Joseph Wetterling, The Baptized Imagination

"As deftly and intricately woven as the 'contracts' that the Naomi girls produce in the story, Unclaimed tells the powerful story of Jane E, an unclaimed embryo who has grown up in foster care without the love of a family.... This is a riveting story, set in the not-too-distant future, that raises many questions about the morality of reproductive technology and the effects of it on a society that does not value human life for itself, but for what it can provide for others." Amy M. Bennett, The Black Horse Campground Mysteries

"Unclaimed is a unique take on the classic Jane Eyre but it's much more than that. When I started it I kept trying to compare it to the Bronte version but instead I ended up getting swept up in the story and just going along for the ride. The settings and cultural details of this world immerse you in the story. It really doesn't matter if you are a Jane Eyre fan. If you like original science fiction then this is the book for you." Sherrie Palmer, Sherrie's Scriptorium

"What a great read! Jane E has Hollywood written all over it: strong, complex characters; rich settings, adversity, action and intrigue—it’s all here in this modern updating of Jane Eyre. I couldn’t put it down!"  Rhonda OrtizThe Virtuous Jane Austen

"A brave and thought-provoking story rich with vivid details and authentic, memorable characters." Therese HeckenkampAfter the Thaw

The amazon link:

Monday, July 11, 2016

Working for a Living

It's inevitable when you meet someone new that one of the first questions you'll be asked is, "What do you do for a living?"

I'm willing to bet that many authors who aren't in the same league as James Patterson, Stephen King, or J. K. Rowling will not respond with, "I'm a writer." I know I don't. That's because writing is not how I make my living.


Though I've had four books published in my Black Horse Campground mystery series, it's far from being "what I do for a living". I don't make enough money from my writing to make a living. Therefore, I have a full-time job and a part-time job. The full-time job--cake decorator at Walmart--is the job that pays the bills and buys groceries. The part-time job--"vino slinger" a.k.a. bar tender at Noisy Water Winery--goes into savings and pays for emergencies and for some fun stuff. What both jobs have in common is that they allow me to do the third job... writing.

That's the really fun job!

The other thing my "real" jobs (a.k.a. paying jobs) do is help me find material for my writing. Interacting and speaking with people, doing work other than sitting at a laptop, all that feeds my imagination and helps me create characters and stories. Then, after the work day is done and I can sit at my writing desk, those experiences come back and fuel my creativity and the fun job begins! Being able to create characters and tell their stories is how I have fun. It's the job I want to do regardless of what pay (if any) I receive. It's more than a hobby; it's how I want to live my life.

So while writing may not be how I "work for a living", it's how I "work for life"... the life I love to live!

Me and my "agent" enjoying the best of both worlds!

Monday, July 4, 2016

Celebrating Another Anniversary

Yes, I know it's Independence Day and a national holiday, but Paul and I celebrated our 28th wedding anniversary two days ago and that's what is foremost in my mind!

Anniversaries are supposed to be wildly romantic events with candlelight and roses and surprise getaways to exotic locales... at least, they are if you listen to the ads from travel agencies and read their magazine articles. Those are better pieces of fiction than I could ever write.

I'm not saying they don't occur and I'm certainly not saying that I'm opposed to celebrating an anniversary in that way. It's just that I always find myself wondering about things like... Is it going to rain? A lot? Is the restaurant's chef about to walk out because he had another fight with the head waiter? Am I going to fit into that dress I bought for the occasion two months ago? Is the car going to break down en route? You know, all those things that never happen in the pages of a romance novel.

It's said that fiction mirrors fact, but whenever I read about such stories, I seriously doubt that it's anything but an unrealistic fantasy. Maybe because my ideas about romance don't exactly mesh with that ideal. My husband and I celebrated our anniversary--indeed, just about every potentially romantic holiday or event this year--doing something we both enjoy very much. Working.

As I've mentioned before, I work part-time at Noisy Water Winery and the people in charge there know that, if Paul's available, they get a two-for-one deal whenever I work. Life, unfortunately, demands that bills be paid and that sometimes means having to work extra hours. Much as I would like to spend every waking hour with my husband in a relaxing way, I'm willing to accept that sometimes our time together involves working together.

I've discovered that when two people agree on what's important--being together vs. being someplace really cool--then every day can be a honeymoon. Oh, one of these days we'll have time and money to have our romantic getaway in some exotic locale. For now, sharing a house with three other people (who are extremely cool and fun to hang with--Amber, Fabian, and Daniel!) who are co-workers and spending two days pouring wine for hundreds of strangers in a crowded tent in 85 degree weather (with few bathroom or meal breaks!) and finishing up the day sweaty, tired, and smelling of wine wiped off on our t-shirts... yeah, I'll take that. As long as we're together.

Getting ready to sling vino at the Santa Fe Wine Festival!

Dinner at Andiamo's in Santa Fe on our actual anniversary with the wine folks!

Monday, June 27, 2016

I'm a Cover Girl!

Yes, the truth comes out... I am the person who takes the photos for my book covers.

What did you think I meant? Is that why you're laughing hysterically??

I've received a lot of compliments on my book covers which I take as high honors because I'm not really a photographer. I don't have an expensive camera, I've never taken a course in photography, and I delete many more photos than I save (there are just so many shots of the inside of my tote bag that I'm willing to keep.) I do, however, love to take photos and since my Black Horse Campground series is set in the region where I live, it only made sense to me to use photos of the area for the covers of my books.

This photo for my first book was taken on the road near my home. While the term "end of the road" may have some negative connotations, for me, this scene is what signals to me that I'm almost home. I like to think that the Black Horse Campground feels like home to a lot of my readers.

The photo for "No Lifeguard on Duty" illustrates how important it is for authors to have connections. At the time "No Lifeguard" was written, my husband worked in pool maintenance. He had to be there one morning (before sunrise) to get the pool ready for an early event. I went along to keep him company and take advantage of the eerie atmosphere of a deserted pool that would be the backdrop for the murder in the book. This is one of my favorite covers. 
When I wrote "No Vacancy", I had a really original concept for the cover: a "no vacancy" sign. In my quest to get a good photo for the cover, I discovered that the majority of "no vacancy" signs that I found were neon signs... something that the Black Horse Campground didn't have (I'm sure I could have changed that, but the Black Horse just isn't the place you'd find a neon sign. Trust me.) So I came up with the idea of taking a scene from the book and using that for the cover. The KOA in Alamogordo, NM is run by Kelly and Sandy Rodwick and they graciously allowed me to use one of their cabins for this picture.

This book cover is the one for which I took many shots that were eventually discarded. My husband, sister-in-law, and I went on a quest, visiting little towns and their church cemeteries one Sunday to try to find the perfect wooden cross hidden in the weeds and tall grass. We had a great time but when I looked at the pictures, nothing seemed just right. A few days later, I was coming home and decided to stop and check our local parish's cemetery (about a mile from our home.) After taking a few pictures in the cemetery itself, I decided to walk back to my car through the ditch that ran behind the cemetery. It was starting to rain and I slipped and almost twisted an ankle. Then I looked up and saw one of the crosses I had photographed earlier through the trees and thought, "That's it!"

Right now, I'm working on the edits for the fifth book in the series. So far, I don't have the title, but I have an idea for the cover and I'm looking forward to whatever adventure comes my way in finding the perfect photo for it!