Monday, January 31, 2011

Day One of Mary's Blog Tour



Please help me welcome my good friend and fellow blog mate who is kicking off a blog tour for her new release, Classic Murder: Mr. Romance. Mary lives in Magna, a little town west of Salt Lake City, Utah. Together with her husband, she has six grown children, and five wonderful grandsons and 2 beautiful granddaughters.

Mary and her husband love to travel, especially to the Caribbean for relaxing and Italy for the wine. With the experience from the exotic places she has visited, she is able to fill her books with colorful descriptions of cities, painting a colorful backdrop for her characters.

Mary and her husband are avid college football fans. They have season tickets to the UTES, University of Utah Football and they tailgate every game. They love tailgating so much, that they were married at a tailgating in 1999.

She's honored me with her first day of the blog tour, but you can follow her through the entire tour and maybe even win a copy of her book. For each blog, she's answering a single question about her book. Here's mine.

Liz:
How did you come up with the idea for Classic Murder: Mr. Romance?

Mary: First off, thanks for hosting the kick off day of my blog tour. I have scheduled 10 days, each blog a different question from the host. Sort of like a continuing interview. I will also have two giveaways at the end of the blog tour. At the bottom, I’ll tell you how you can participate.

Now to the question. Liz, you know I’m a pantster, so basically it was a germ of an idea that started the ball a rolling. I love classic movies, and I watch them all the time. I can’t remember which movie I was watching, but it had Cary Grant in it. He was suave and debonair. I thought what a great character he’d make in one of my books.

And that’s how Classic Murder: Mr. Romance began. Adam Russo is handsome to a fault and has that suave and debonair air about him that makes all the women want him. A son of a factory worker in Detroit, he’s a self-made entrepreneur.

Then there’s Katie. Born with a silver spoon in her mouth and beautiful, she got tired of everyone only wanting to be her friend because of her money and looks. But never for her. In order to find out who her true friends were, she hides behind drab clothes and ugly glasses. Until she lands a job at the university with the great Mr. Romance. Then it’s time to stop hiding.

And as I said before, I’m a pantster. I had no idea who the villain was for a long time. Like my readers I had to figure out who it was and why.

Here’s a blurb for my new release Classic Murder: Mr. Romance

Adam enjoys a lifestyle most men only dream of. Then one day he wakes up to find the morning headlines blaring, "Another victim falls prey to Mr. Romance. Who is next?" He suddenly realizes his way of life is not only frivolous, but deadly.

Dubbed Mr. Romance by New York society for his romantic adventures, Adam Fernando Russo loves women. But lately he realizes how lonely it is coming home to an empty house. Can he settle for only one woman? After he makes a list of qualities worthy enough to merit giving up his desirable existence, suddenly recipients of his coveted attention mysteriously fall prey to a murderer. The murders seem unrelated with one exception--all the victims have recently returned from a fabulous weekend rendezvous with Mr. Romance.

Adam’s assistant, Katie Sinclair, knows Adam is innocent with airtight alibis. The police are at a loss so Adam and Katie work together to discover the link between the murders. As luck would have it, their plan to prove the murderer is copying classic Cary Grant movies goes astray just as Adam realizes his perfect woman has been by his side all along.

Available from BookStrand Publishing (Electronic Format, Print coming in spring 2011)

For an excerpt and to see the trailer visit my web site: http://www.marymartinez.com/mrromance.html

Now to the giveaways, everyone one who participates by commenting on each day of the tour will have their name placed in a drawing for a Photo Album and a signed copy of Watching Jenny.

Everyone who participates and comments on half of the days will have their name in a drawing for a download of Classic Murder: Mr. Romance (or they can wait until it’s in print for a signed copy)

Friday, January 28, 2011

Cassy's Corner- Memory

I've been thinking a lot lately about memory and memories, especially the different kinds of memory we all have- short term memory, long term memory, sensory memory, kinetic memory, and I'm sure there are more that don't come to mind (pun intended). Then, combine that with the stories we have that are our memories.

Short term memory can be quite a challenge at times. What did you have for lunch yesterday? There were three things you were supposed to pick up at the store and you came home with only two of them. How many lists do you make in a day? I often forget where I put the list so I could at least check off one item. Of course age has a lot to do with those challenges (I really am not THAT old). Overload, fatigue, plus a myriad of excuses all add to the puzzle.

Long term memory is plays a different role. I can remember our phone number when I was in first grade. Not impressive, you say? My family moved 11 times before I went off to college. That's a lot of phone numbers. But, I can recite it in a moment--the address too. Why? Why does my brain retain such a trivial piece of information more than 50 years later?

Sensory memory we all relate to. Sitting around with your family telling stories of "remember when," inevitably starts the tales of the day mom burned the dinner and you still can't stand the smell of those peas. We had a family disaster with bad scallops. I won't go into the details, but to this day I can barely look at one of those little white things without flipping my calendar back to age 10. My husband loves them, but kindly only orders them in a restaurant so I don't have to face the prospect of letting them in our house. That's sensory memory!

Kinetic memory I find fascinating. How do musicians play intricate pieces that go on for many minutes without needing to glance at their scores? I am a rapid typist, but only if I don't pay attention to my fingers. Once I think about it, all of my accuracy is lost. Combined with that is the sense of spacial memory. I have more than one computer. If I switch among them, it takes time for my fingers to readjust to the very slight difference in the spacing of the keys. Somehow I make the transition, but how does that happen?

I am rambling about this, for on this blog we talk about writing. We have had discussions about how to translate our lives and our experiences into print. I'm completing the final edits for my current manuscript and have been working at how to be descriptive without overdoing the explanations. That means I have to draw on what I have felt, seen, and done. Memories.

Do you have any you are willing to share as to how they have shaped your writing?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Mary's Rants

It's Thursday and it's time to rant... But about what? Is the well dry? I went to my blog and looked over my posts and wallah found one.This is a re-post from 2006. How many of you have had an experience like this and used in your story?

Chivalry is Dead in Utah

Saturday morning on the way to our monthly meeting of Romance Writers of America, my car just sputtered and died. I'm barreling down the interstate at seventy miles an hour and the speed-o-meter needle just starts to go down. I signal and coast over to the side of the road. I put on my flashers, then get out and lift the hood to look under it in bewilderment.

Getting back in the car, I try the ignition and, bless its little heart it tries to turn over, but it just can't. I call my dear hubby and tell him where I am and he promises me he'll be there as soon as he can. I turn on the radio to jam a little while I'm waiting.

As the cars, trucks and diesels swoop by my car is rocking in their current, I decide it's best to put back on my seatbelt. Then I tried to start the engine again, it sounds to me like it's out of gas. How can that be? It shows over a half a tank. Wait, it said that yesterday and the day before.

Thank goodness for cell phones, I call my husband again and ask when the last time he put in gas was. He hasn't all week and neither have I. I told him I think I'm out of gas; he sighs and tells me he'll get a gas can and gas.

I'm back to waiting and listening to the radio. I watch the cars buzz by and I see men of all ages, not even slowing to see why I'm stopped on a hot July morning. Apparently, they all are too busy to stop and help a lone woman in distress. I'm a romance writer, so of course I'm trying to think of a story line to come out of this predicament. How can I do that if no hero stops to help? Do I look like an ax murderer? Are they afraid that I'll turn their good deed into an accusation that they tried to assault me?

Men you should be ashamed of yourselves! Would you want your wife, mother or sister sitting out in a car waiting for someone to stop and help? Well maybe I can salvage the story line. I could always write about a stranded woman taking down license plate numbers of the men who passed her by. I could write a murder mystery.

Finally, my husband, my hero shows up with the gas. He pours it in, I turn the key and the battery is dead. What can I say I need my tunes! So of course he has to maneuver around to give me a jump-start, and after nearly being hit he had his precious baby (his corvette) turned the wrong way facing my car.

All is well. After my car is running beautifully, I get off the exit, get gas and head to my meeting. I arrived in time to hear the end of the workshop.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Cassy's Corner- What Expressions Did You Grow Up With? And, do they still haunt you?

We all have stories to tell about the "rules" we were raised to believe. For me these came not just from my parents, but also from my older brother. He was enough older than I to be an authority in about anything. I find it amusing to notice the expressions, rules, adages-- whatever you want to call them-- that permeate our speech. I work at keeping them out of my writing, but they are insidious, sneaking in when I look the other way.

Let's make a list. Add to this. These are not all mine. I've been creating a list culled from many. So, Mom, if you are reading this, it's not just our family but from many.

- "Clean Plate Club"- you didn't get dessert if you didn't eat everything you were served (I still can't eat dessert).
- "Try it, you might like it." You had to take at least one bite of everything even if it happened to be an odious color.
- "Clean underwear." You never know when you'll be in the emergency room. Be sure to have on clean underwear (like I got up in the morning thinking that by nightfall I'd be stretched out on a gurney?).
- "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all" (where is the fun in that?).
- "That's a lazy man's load." This happens when you pile too many things in your arms, trying to carry the entire contents of the car all at once. You then drop half of it on the way to the house and then need to make three trips back and forth to clean up.
- "In for a penny, in for a pound." It took me until age 12 before I figured out what the relationship between a penny and a pound was.
"You made your bed, now you have to lay in it." My grandmother said this with a waggle of her finger. I guess I was not the best of kids.
- "Live and let live." Liz!! This is your chance here to make a plug.

The list goes on. Well, it does if YOU add to it. What are the ones you had? Now that my brain is going in this direction, more and more come to mind. The real question is not what are the expressions that are the common ones out in the world. Rather, what are the ones that touch you and those you know.


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Tuesday Tidbits with Kari: Featuring Pets in Mysteries

Good morning Tuesday readers :-)

I woke up today thinking about my work in progress: Corpse in the Crystal Ball, and how I was going to handle the characters. What I was going to have them do, and what I was going to throw at them this time. This is book two of The Fortune Teller Mystery Series.

In Tempest in the Tea Leaves (book one), I created the character Morty. He's a big beautiful white cat with jet black eyes and fur that seems to glow at times. You never see him eat or sleep and he seems to literally appear out of thin air at times.

There's no proof that he's immortal, but my main character, Sunny, suspects he is (that's why she names him Morty) because of the reasons above, as well as the fact that he was in the house when she moved in. The house had been locked up tight for months so who had been feeding him and how did he survive? She also suspects that the house everyone thinks is haunted is really Morty's doing to keep people away.

Morty is very regal acting. A cat with attitude, who acts like he rules the house. He doesn't like many people, acts snobbish at times, like he's better than most, can be finicky. Yet he is fiercely loyal and very protective of Sunny.

This all got me thinking about my characters and how pets are really characters, too. And Morty is one of my main characters. That being said, I thought I should really develop him. Give him a back story. Where did he come from? How did he become immortal? How did he end up living in Vicky (the ancient Victorian house Sunny bought)? Does he have any goals, motivations or conflicts. Maybe show some sort of growth and change in each book, even if it's just a minor one like softening a little or coming to accept a certain character, etc. Taking his character and his bond with Sunny could be a really cool, fun part of this series.

What do you all think? Do you have pets in your books? How have you handled them as "characters"? Any tips or ideas?

Inquiring minds want to know...

So bring on those comments, then sit in your chair and write :-)

Kari

Monday, January 24, 2011

What is Wordle? Ask Guest Blogger, Dale Mayer


Please help me welcome back my friend and fellow author, Dale Mayer. You may or may not remember that Dale is one of the finalists in the Writing With The Stars contest. There were ten finalists in the beginning, and now there are four, and the winner gets a contact with Kensington. Dale is a single mother of four and she's an excellent writer, so please take a moment and vote for her. She's here today to tell us about a few gadgety things she's discovered to help her recognize her overused words and other useful things. So without further ado, here's Dale:

As a writer there are many tools available to us to give us what we need to make us the best we can be. However, there are some lesser known programs that are just plain fun. Some of my favorite of these unique programs are generator sites. One of my favorites is:
WORDLE - Off their own website, the creators of Wordle consider this a toy. It generates ‘word clouds’ from text that you give it. The clouds give the words that show up the most in your text more prominence. These clouds can be tweaked with different fonts, layouts, and color schemes. The word clouds you create from this program are yours to keep. They are printable, savable and or however you like. But, you say, why do I care about a Wordle? There are practical and creative uses for a Wordle. Let’s start with the practical.

•You can enter the text you want into this program. So enter your first scene – your work-in-progress– in its entirety. Then create a Wordle. Look at it. Is it what you expected? Take a close look at the size of the words. Are some of them huge? Those are the words that you have used the most often in your work. Did you know that you’d given those particular words that much prime time in your manuscript? Are they relevant words or those meaningless filler words we often use too much: that, apparently, or how about very.

•It will show you the overuse of certain words, the frequency of words and by the same measure – the words that only show up rarely. That in itself is valuable. The most prominent words will show up huge and others go smaller as they are used less often. It’s really fun when a theme shows up in your work that you hadn’t recognized. It was written in but you hadn’t seen it in your own words – until now.

•The Wordle example here is actually my website. In this way, I can see the message I’m sending and people are receiving in a unique way. It’s certainly not necessary to do this but it’s a great way to check how you are marketing yourself.


There is also a creative benefit to using this program.

•There is nothing quite like seeing your story show up in a visual to stir the creative juices. The pictures are often incredibly inspiring and will appear in many different forms. It often you can sentences or even a story to from the image.

A second and very similar program is called TAGXEDO. This program is like an upscale version of Wordle. I like both programs and use the differences to suit my needs. With Tagxedo you can do more customization of the end result.

Some of the customization allows you to remove common words, combine related words, combine identical words, normalize or moderate the frequency that words show up. Also there are visual themes that you can have your words turned into. It offers more customization than Wordle and it doesn’t matter – I love them both.

These are just toys but ones with both a practical and visual affect on our creativity and besides...they’re fun!

Me again...now go vote!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Cassy's Corner- Working in Unique Places

Usually on Fridays we have a guest blogger. Well, I am chasing my tail and didn't arrange for exciting and new ideas from a special person for today. So, you are "stuck" with me. Today I thought I'd write about where we work and how that influences what we produce.

My father is in the ICU in a hospital two states away. That means for the last week I have also been two states away. Thank God for laptops, WiFi, my iPhone and my iPad. I'm a traveling technology store (if only I were better at knowing how to use it all). Most hospitals have a rule that you can't use that list of gadgets on a unit that is monitored for cardiac functions-- kinda like turning it all off when the plane takes off or lands. My hands nearly shake at having hours of no access. Like an addicted smoker, I have been stepping out of my father's room not to take a puff, but to sign onto my email, write some words and check voice mail. How sick is that?

But, the point of this is, I have continued to edit my manuscript with vengeance. So, picture me in the waiting room of the ICU with 310 pages stacked on my lap. I edit better with a sharp pencil on hard copy. Next to me is a couple who are holding each other and sobbing. On the other side is an elderly man, his head in his hand and constantly nodding side to side. His grief is palpable. Our family rotated time with my father. Only two people are allowed in at a time.

When it was my turn to enter the sanctum, I packed up my stack of papers. Then I got thinking. How much do we "own" a story? Can we turn it off and on? What does disruption do to the plotting and pacing of our work? With the editing process, I suspect disruption is less of an issue that with the initial writing. I'm a plotter in style so the in and out would be hard. But with editing there is a different pace.

My apologies, I have rambled on. But, I am interested in hearing how you work in different locations, with interruptions, with the distractions of life. Many of you have small children or other "not able to predict" circumstances. Yet, we still get it out the door. How does that feel? How do you protect your writing time? Anything you can share?

And, my father is much better. I hope to go home tomorrow. Thanks for listening.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Mary's Rants - Stages

Have you ever noticed that life comes at you in stages?

Have you ever noticed that writing is a lot like life. It comes at you in stages. Shall we compare?

The first stage of your life is birth, correct?

What is the first stage of your writing? Where do your ideas come from? You have a kernel of thought or image and it grows until you give birth to a full blown idea.

The second stage of your life is infancy / toddler.

Your story is toddling on wobbly concepts. If you're a plotter, this is the beginning when you're writing down your first scene, and throwing out more than you keep. Or if your a panster this is when you're whipping out your words, getting to know your characters.

The next stage of your life is adolescent.

The characters are still gangling and awkward. You as the author are still trying to form them.

Then comes the young adult stage.

Finally your story is becoming innovative, character or plot driven. It's turning into a fine young story.

The next stage in life is adulthood. Maturity.

Your story has found it's footing, and direction. The black moment has passed an it moves into maturity to the finish.

Then in life it's time for old age, the time of reflection. The time of life when you have wisdom. The wisdom you wished you'd had during young adulthood, and/or when you were raising your kids.

Your story is done, it's time to edit. Review the characters, the middle to see if it's sagging. Make sure the words shine. Now you know your characters inside and out, it's time to make sure the reader does. And likes them. The time for refection and wisdom.

There are many things that you can compare to writing if you think about it. But for some reason today I was thinking how my life changes with each stage I go through. Not unlike my stories when I'm writing.

Okay my rant is over for the day. Have a good one.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Cassy's Corner- New Words

I have been finishing up the last edits on my current manuscript. As part of the process I have been searching for those repeated words that haunt most of us. You know, the ones that seem to keep appearing. Some of mine are:
Just
Appeared
But
Didn't
Though
Sat
Looked
That

There must be many more. So, (that should be on the list as well) I was looking through a book my sister gave me enjoying the prospect of finding new words. It's called Oxford: A Century of New Words. What makes this book so interesting is that it's organized by decades, covering from the 1900's to the end of the century those words that came into use based on scientific and cultural changes.

I offer you a few:
1900's- Adrenaline, airliner, canned (as in laughter), panties, questionnaire, radio
1930's- electric blanket, deoxyribonucleic acid, curvaceous, jukebox, housey-housey (later renamed bingo)
1950's- coffee bar, body bag, hi-fi, jeans, information technology, silent majority, sputnik
1970's- Big Mac, couch potato, downsize, hacking, paternity leave, politically correct
1990's- blog, bling, fashionista, emoticon (that's the little smiley face you type in an email), spam

The list goes on. The book isn't going to help me rid my work of redundant words or phrases, but it is a grand walk through history, especially with the definitions and origins offered for each entry.

Do you have the same problem with the over use of certain words? Do you write historical novels and have to research what word should not be included in your work as it hadn't yet been "invented?" What resources do you use to broaden your language? Do you have a particular process to find all the words that appear too frequently?

I'm interested to hear your thoughts on this. Bring it on!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Tuesday Tidbits with Kari: Featuring Cozy Mysteries

Ever wonder what a cozy mystery really is?

I know so many people who "think" they know what a cozy mystery is, but they really don't. Ever thought about writing one? If you have, then you need to do your homework.

Google is a wonderful thing.

There are so many types of mysteries out there. A lot of sub-genres within the genres. But my personal favorite is the cozy mystery. Think of the TV show Murder She Wrote, and you'll start to get the picture.

A cozy mystery usually revolves around a small town, or at the very least a select group of people like in a theatre or hotel or something where a sense of community is established. The murder takes place off screen, and the focus of the story revolves around an amateur sleuth type of hero solving the crime, with plenty of clues and red herrings along the way. There is no swearing (or little), no blood and gore, no sex, etc. All of that happens off screen, hence the word cozy. You can still have a romance in the story, just make sure the main focus remains on solving the mystery.

Whereas a hard boiled mystery usually takes place in a big city with more of a seasoned detective solving the crime, and just about anything goes.

Another huge aspect of the cozy mystery is in its cast of secondary characters. The community and its colorful, charming cast of characters are what appeal most to a lot of cozy fans. The more unique and quirky you can make them, the better. And don't forget the tone. A cozy, even a humorous one, should have that "cozy" tone as in, "It was a dark and stormy night," type of feel.

Finally, a cozy series usually revolves around a certain theme. A career or hobby or interest of the main character. So if you're considering writing a cozy, try to come up with something you haven't seen done before.

Here are some great cozy mystery yahoo groups filled with both writers and just readers who love cozy mysteries. They give reviews as well as tons of recommendations and discussions on new as well as already established cozy mystery series.

cozyfirstmysteries@yahoogroups.com

cozymysterykorner@yahoogroups.com

cozyarmchairgroup@yahoogroups.com

cozydiscussion@yahoogroups.com

Good luck to you! Happy writing and reading :-)

Kari

Monday, January 17, 2011

Becoming My Heroine Sometimes Requires An Underwear Change


When I watch America's funniest videos, I always laugh the hardest at the ones where someone or something jumps out and scares some unsuspecting soul. One of my favorites is when a group of school kids(8-12 years old) pass a snowman in a front yard, and the snowman jumps at them. Throwing their books in the air, they run like there's no tomorrow.

What does that say about me? That I have a sick sense of humor? Then there's the one where some young men run a mouse on a string across the floor in front of an unsuspecting frat brother who screams like a little girl and jumps on the counter. That one usually brings tears to my eyes. And Red Skelton and Mickey Rooney in the cave with Elliott the Dragon in Pete's Dragon can set me off just thinking about it.

In my latest WIP, I had an opportunity to include a scene like that, and I jumped all over it. The problem was I couldn't stop laughing. It felt like I was right there at the lake house with my characters. I decided to post the excerpt, although my guess is, although you might think it's cute, it won't have the same effect on you as it did me.

The set up is that my girl, Jordan, and her 70-ish friend, Lola, conspired to help a young girl who has just inherited a lake house from her grandfather. She thinks it's haunted, however, because she hears pounding sometimes. The plan is for Lola, who does tarot card readings, to convince this girl that she's talking to the ghost while Jordan blows the candle to make it flicker as part of the ghost’s response. The story starts just as Lola slams the table for effect.

Without warning, she slammed her hand on the table, nearly spilling the water in the center. "Speak to us now. We mean you no harm and only want to communicate with you to understand why you’re here."

The room was so quiet, Jordan was sure she could hear her own heart beating. She knew Lola was good at what she did, but this performance was Academy Award worthy. Despite being a true skeptic, she halfway believed Lola was actually talking to a dead person.

"There’s only one spirit here," Lola continued, turning to Sandy. "It's your grandfather, and he wants to know you'll be okay before he can leave this earth."

Tears formed in Sandy's eyes. "Tell him I'm fine. Tell him I miss him terribly."

"Tell him yourself. He's here with us now." Lola leaned closer. "If you want to speak to your granddaughter, give us a sign." She glanced up at Jordan nodding toward the flame again.

"It's him," Sandy exclaimed as the flame moved slightly when Jordan blew on it. "Oh, Grandpa, I miss you so much."

Jordan concentrated on the candle, her heart still racing from when Lola banged on the table. Out of the corner of her eye, she caught a slight movement next to the fireplace, behind the drapes on the right, and she gasped.

When Lola shot her a reprimanding look, Jordan mouthed “Sorry.”

Sheesh! She was more than a little freaked out.

"Your granddaughter’s fine," Lola began, before turning to Sandy. "What was his first name?"

"Douglas."

"Douglas, you can have peace now. Be gone..."

Just then the furnace kicked on, causing the drapes to flutter, and Jordan's nerves got the best of her. As she screamed, she watched in horror when one side of the drapes pulled away from the wall and headed directly toward her.

Jumping from the chair, she ran for the door, glancing back, only to see the other drape chasing them, too.

Lola nearly knocked her over, trying to reach the door before the drapes attacked. Sandy ran past both of them, screaming at the top of her lungs. She flung open the front door, and all three women poured out into the cool night air, nearly rolling down the steps.

Panic twisted Jordan's insides, and her silent scream was suffocating her. When she had almost made it to the car, she tripped over Lola's caftan, tumbling across the front lawn. Struggling to get up, she felt the drape touch her shoulder.


I have started using Dragon Naturally Speaking, a voice recognition program because not only does my typing suck, but I'm still recovering from hand surgery. Anyway, I talk - Dragon types. As I'm reading the dialogue, I can't stop laughing. Dragon keeps asking me to please say that again. By now I'm nearly wetting my pants imagining the drapes chasing them, and I holler "I can't. Wait a minute." Dragon keeps typing. Still laughing I holler "Quit typing, dammit". You know what Dragon typed. By the time I was able to get control of myself, I had about 10 lines of idiot commands typed.

The point I'm trying to make with all this is in that short period of time when I was dictating my scene, I was actually Jordan, in the room with my friends running from the drapes.I felt her fear, although she wasn't laughing.

So my question for you all is do you ever find yourself in that situation? Do you ever imagine yourself as your heroine? Does it help writing certain scenes?I would love to hear the dialogue that put you there.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Guest Blogger- Rhonda Lane: Five Ways to Keep Your Mystery from Killing You

Folks, help me welcome Rhonda Lane as our guest blogger today. We are talking about the physical aspects of writing. No, not the moments you see if you can really jump up onto the counter in a single bound or the times you’ve timed how long it took you to catch a bus so your bad guy won’t be able to follow your heroine. We are talking about YOU. What does it take to stay healthy when you spend hours with your tush tucked into the chair.

I faced some of these issues that Rhonda will talk about and ended up purchasing a WalkStation. That’s another story, but boy, does it make a difference. If anyone wants to know more about that- ask!

Rhonda Lane is neither a doctor nor a fitness expert, nor does she play either one on TV. She’s working on a suspense novel and writes the horses-and-culture blog The Horsey Set.Net, She lives in an oak grove on a hillside in Connecticut with her husband and their three spoiled cats.

Please put those fingers of yours to the keyboard and welcome her to Mysteries and Margaritas.

Best of health you all in this New Year, Cassy

Five Ways to Keep Your Mystery from Killing You

Rhonda Lane

I’m not talking about terminal writer’s block. Or, researching what it’s like to ride drugged and bound in the trunk of a car by popping a couple of xanaxes, then having someone wrap your hands and feet with duct tape.

I’m talking about the actual writing itself. The butt-in-chair-for-hours part.

On Tuesday night, when my husband paused the DVR playback and took a call, I slipped off to check email. I dropped by the Poe’s Deadly Daughters blog and found a post written by author and former Army nurse Sharon Wildwind.

The gist of Sharon’s post, in which she references an article on The Scientific American website, is that one hour of walking/running/circuit-training can’t make up for sitting around for the rest of the day.

Even scarier? All the sitting around, even if it’s sitting required by one’s job, can be deadly. Let alone hazardous to one’s waistline.

Trust me – none of us want to hear that doing our work can be as unhealthy as an all-fast-food diet or chain-smoking. Let alone that hours of progress on our manuscripts has the same deleterious effects as cocooning for a “Burn Notice” marathon.

So, what can we do?

Sharon suggested just getting up and walking for five or ten minutes each hour. Every hour, we need to take a break to get up and move. We need it like air, food, and water. Come to think of it, forget the food, except for meals. Better yet, get a glass of water because we all tend to be a bit dehydrated.

Anyway, here’s a list of things we can do for five, maybe ten, minutes out of each hour. Believe me, I’ve been tapping this list myself.

o Walk on the treadmill. If you can, raise the incline to at least 1%. I also keep my mp3 player downstairs with the treadmill so I can listen to podcasts.

o Walk around the house, up and down the driveway or – better yet - up and down the stairs. Don’t start out running, though, unless you do that anyway. You want to be able to move again later.

o Five minutes of some weight work. Standing pushups from the wall. Access your inner Black Swan (you know she’s in there, waiting, watching … ) and pump out some plies. Some bicep curls.

o Remember those old moves from tai chi or qi gong? Or a sun salutation from yoga? Or just “wash the car/wax the car.” Make Mr. Miyagi’s car shine.

o What’s your favorite dancin’ tune? Boogie down! Just one dance, though, for now. For extra ooph – sing along. Just avoid the 5-inch heels unless your name is Beyonce.

I’m a binge writer. I love to dive into the world of my story or dig into research stories for my horse blog The HorseySet.Net. A “good day” used to mean that I’d surface hours later with a bunch of pages and a nice meaty blog post, as if I’ve been in a mad trance. And that doesn’t count my husband and me “watching our stories” on TV in the evening.

But I have to alter those practices a bit. Since I finished my first first draft last summer, I’ve gained weight, and the rise in my bad cholesterol has my doctors baffled. However, thanks to Sharon’s blog post, I suspect I can change that.

After all, I want to be healthy and, well, here. I do confess that I’ve jumped into the new hourly practices with a bit of gusto. I hope I can walk tomorrow.

The important point is that you must move. A little tiny something each hour is better than six hours of sitting and one blast of movement.

I wish all of you a wonderful New Year with lots of activity. Would you share with us what you do to keep feeling energized? I’d love to hear about your yoga, running, stretches, and whatever it takes to keep our bottoms from spreading too wide.

Cassy mentioned her WalkStation and I know will happily discuss that as well. So?? What does it take for you?

Thanks for having me today. Rhonda

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Mary's Rants: 1st Person vs. 3rd Person

I need to know...

I've heard from a very reliable person, well actually several reliable people, if you want to know what publishers are buying in your genre go to the bookstore. This is a very dangerous place for me since I always go over budget.

Okay sorry I got off topic for a minute. Anyway, my new WIP is women's fiction and I've been good and done my homework. Everything I've read in that genre is 1st person.

I'm in trouble. I've always written my stories in 3rd person. I've never really cared for stories in the 1st person. However, since I've been reading women's fiction I've actually enjoyed it. But now I need to decide--Do I go back to page one and convert to the 1st person? Or write how I've always done.

What are you thoughts? Do you think I should go with what the industry seems to be looking for? Or go with what I'm familiar with?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Cassy’s Corner- Ideas

How do you track your ideas for the next manuscript? I have been talking with a number of my writer friends and have found this a fun question. Here are some of the responses I have received. See what you think.

- -I have a shoe box that I throw plot ideas into. When I’m bored I pull it out and read through the bits of notes. Something comes from that.

- -The newspaper. I clip articles all the time. There is more good stuff in the local newspaper than will ever be on the shelves of the bookstore.

- -My kids. They are outrageous and funny.

- -I have worn weird clothing. Miss-matched and color terrible stuff. I wait to see if anyone says anything. Most people just stare. The only one who has ever had the guts to comment was about 10 years old. She told me I was really needing to get some help.

- -Have you ever sat at one of our holiday family dinners? No one can beat my in-laws for a story that probably shouldn’t be written. (This friend is from a large complicated family who, well, she is right. The stories should probably not be made too public).

- -On an airplane or in a restaurant I eavesdrop. Shamelessly. Great stuff.

- -I work in a hospital. There is nothing that tops that for ideas. Did I tell you the one about… (I’m editing here).

- -I started a new game. When I’m alone and talking with a stranger I make up some really stupid story about myself. I keep it going for as long as I can so I don’t laugh and blow the deal. What people will believe is off the charts, but it’s fun. I hope I never really run into anyone again. Gahh, that would be awful.

These are all comments from writer friends. I can’t lay claim to any of them.

Two days ago I did have an experience that set me thinking about a scene in my next book. I write mysteries, so keep that in mind. I was at a small family-owned local grocery store, checking out my purchases at the counter. A little boy about three tugged on the edge of my jacket. I stopped pushing my carriage so I could pay attention.

“Are you a bad guy?” he asked.

“I don’t think so. Do you?” was my response.

“Bad guys aren’t good.”

“True. But I try and be good. I hope someone would tell me if I weren’t.”

He screwed up his face and with his hand still holding my jacket seemed to give this terrific consideration. His mother shrugged and said everyone was a bad guy in his estimation.

I asked, “Do you know the expression, Happy New Year?”

He nodded with solemn consideration.

“Well, then, Happy New Year to you,” I said.

“Okay,” he said. “I guess you’re not a bad guy anyway. A bad guy wouldn’t hope for me to have a good year.”

He let go of my jacket. As I was walking to my car I wondered what it must feel like to be about three years old and worry about who the bad guys were. The next thought was, how do I wrap that encounter into my next book?

What vignettes do you have? How do you keep track of special details that must not be lost? Do you have crazy behaviors that should only be reported anonymously? We’re family here, you can spill.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Tuesday Tidbits with Kari: Featuring PR Campaigns

It is day two of The Samantha Granger Experiment: Fused blog tour!

Now, Fused came out November 2nd 2010, and I am just now doing a month long blog tour that goes from Jan 10, 2011 until Feb 4, 2011.

This got me thinking about PR campaigns for books.

It's so hard to know what to do as a first time author, but believe me, I have learned a ton after the release of my first book. I plan to implement this knowledge for Tempest in the Tea Leaves: A Fortune Teller Mystery which doesn't release until Aug 2011.

What I basically learned is that a book's first month of numbers is crucial in the success of the book, especially a first book in a series. If you are a debut author, then no one will know who you are or anything about you. So...you need to start at least 6 months early to get your name out there and create buzz.

First of all, do your homework!

Start with the obvious...a website, blog, newsletter, social networks, etc, and actually use them. Make posts about interesting topics, not just your book. Then move on to digging deeper. Find out exactly what your publisher is or is not planning to do for you. Then research a bunch of review sites, especially ones that love the genre you write in. Pat Rouse Rousepat@aol.com has a wonderful list of chain bookstores, independent bookstores, reading groups and book clubs that you can purchase by contacting her at the email above.

After you compile a list, contact those groups. Ones who are interested in reviewing your book often want your ARC 3 to 4 months early. That way they have time to read and post your review "before" your book comes out so people will hear about you and be chomping at the bit to buy your book when it comes out....or if you're really lucky, pre-order your book. Pre-orders are huge because that helps determine your print run.

You can also send out bookmarks to these groups since many people love bookmarks and collect them. RT also has a service where they send out 7000 bookmarks for you to bookstores all over the US. Remember, if someone sees your bookmark and tells someone else, that's how you create buzz...aka word of mouth!

Advertise in relevant magazines, on author promotion sites, and even sites and magazines that have to do with your main character's hobby, career, interest or even just a cool aspect of your book. If it relates to a group of people of any kind, you just might pick up a ton of new readers. Your local library has a book called The Encyclopedia of Associations that has a list of clubs and organizations for all different topics. Post your book banner on reader sites and review sites as well, many offer them for free.

Set up a book tour to start about a week before your book comes out and make it run throughout the whole first month, with guest posts, interviews, fun posts and giveaways. Again, these people will need your book ahead of time to prepare, along with copies of your finished book for giveaways.

When your book does come out, send out a press release to your local media like newspapers, TV, radio, and writing chapters, etc. Any exposure is key, and local people love to support local authors.

Set up booksignings for the first month that your book comes out, especially in your local area. As well as library talks and speaking at schools (if you have a MG or YA). Have bookplates ready and offer them on your website for anyone who buys your book and wants it signed who doesn't live locally. Offer to send bookmarks as well.

Send promo baskets to conferences you can't attend both ahead of time with swag, as well as after your book comes out with actual signed books as giveaways. Then go to your booksignings and bring goodies. And don't forget to stop by all your local bookstores and libraries to network and sign their stock. Again bring goodies.

Then cross your fingers and pray like hell that all your hard work pays off :-)

Good luck! I know it sounds overwhelming, but I hope at least some of my tips have helped you organize your PR Campaign.

Kari

Monday, January 10, 2011

You Might Be A Writer If.......

The New Year has just gotten underway, and I wanted to have a little fun. I’ve been reading “You might be a writer IF…” posts and cracking up. I’ve decided to make up a few myself and then throw it out to you great readers to come up with your own. I’ll send an ARC of LIVER LET DIE (when it becomes available) to the one that makes me laugh the most. (I’ll enlist the help of my fellow blogmates to actually pick a winner. So here goes mine:


If someone with a cold tells you he's blocked and you suggest he read a good book until his muse returns...you might be a writer.

If you have a special gadget on your night stand that lights up when you pull out the pen for writing down great dialogue that comes to you at two AM….you might be a writer.

If for two solid weeks, you eat bologna sandwiches and Hostess HoHOs because that’s what your heroine likes…..you might be a writer.

If you’re convinced your writing sucks one day, then dream about how brilliant you are the next….you might be a writer.

If you love finding unusual ways of killing people…you might be a writer.

If your TBR pile is higher than a crackhead neighbor…you might be a writer.

If when you read a book, you wonder why they’re published and you’re not…you might be a writer.

If when you read a book you are ready to give up your dream because you’ll never be as good as XXX…you might be a writer.

If someone tells you they got a request for a full and you don’t say full what?...you might be a writer.

If your idea of romance is keeping two people apart for a long time and making them as miserable as you can, you might be a writer.

If someone mentions your voice is weak when you have laryngitis and you rush home to hone up on your craft….you might be a writer.

If you think every herring is red…you might be a writer. (I stole this one!!)

If you start crying because of something you’ve done to a fictitious character….you might be a writer.

And my favorite one:

If you are on the watch list for Homeland Security because you researched weapons of mass destruction and terrorism,,,.you might be a writer.


I do or have done all of the above. Oh hell! I’m a writer.

Now let me hear yours. Remember the free ARC, so make it good. You can enter as many times as you like, but put each one in a different comment. They have to be original. No cheating, people.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Mary's Rants on Goals for 2011

Everyone have their resolutions ready? I don't, I never stick to them, so why bother? However, 2011 is going to be a huge change for me in more ways than one. I'm writing this on Sunday because on the 3rd I start my new job. Yes I officially started my new 'day' job 11/29/2010, however it's only been training.

What I'm doing instead of resolutions is re-evaluating the changes in my life and adapting. Setting realistic goals, and then not beating myself up if I miss one. Planning ahead, as with my M&M blog post. I'll prepare and schedule the post ahead of time whenever possible. Setting aside at least 20 minutes a day to write and 20 minutes to edit. If I can swing more I will. But with a full 9 hours between work hours and lunch away from my writing, I can't promise myself more.

Why set myself up to fail right out of the shoot of the new year? Why say I'm going to write an hour a day when I know that's going to be tough? I don't know how my new schedule or the actual job will take a toll on me. My hours are 1pm to 10 pm which are usually the hours, that when I actually do write, is when I write. 

I quit my 'day' job over 5 years ago to stay home and write. I planned to write hours every day like a full time career. Did that happen? Nope, I would wake up and get all my email, blogs stuff, Facebook, Tweeter and anything else out of my hair. Then it would be time for lunch and then I settle in to do whatever--sometimes. And usually by 10 pm I'd realize I'd accomplished nothing. I'd think, 'what the heck have I been doing all day?' I hadn't a word on the paper to show for it. Granted this did not happen every day, but way more often than I care to admit. And most of it's because I knew I had all day the next day to write. I'd let myself get caught up watching the grandkids. Getting involved with RWA chapter, which is not a bad thing except in the fact I let it take over and I'd volunteer for everything. Then I'd complain because it ate up my writing time. As if I didn't dilly dally enough anyway.


I wrote more consistently when I worked full time. So here it is, 2011 and because of circumstances beyond my control I'll be writing around a full time job, again. Maybe now I'll write more consistent. And if it is only 20 minutes a day, it's better than frittering away the whole day with nothing to show for it.

If you haven't set all your resolutions or goals, please consider carefully if you're setting realistic goals and/or resolutions for yourself. Are you going to pull them out at the end of the year and wonder what you were thinking. Or slap your forehead and say, "That lasted all of a month." Or are you going to pull them out and check off everything you accomplished and be proud of yourself, even if there are one or two small tasks you weren't able to finish. If you finish/accomplish the majority of your goals and/or resolutions you're ahead of about 90 % of the population.

Good luck to all of you in 2011. May all your hopes and dreams be accomplished.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Cassy's Corner- New Year's Resolutions

Have you made any New Year's Resolutions for 2011? Some years I do and many years I don't. Rather, it seems as though I make promises to myself all year long that I keep and well, often don't keep. You know, things like:

- I will reduce the salt in my diet (yeah, right).
- I will increase my hours of exercise (again, right).
- I will be better about keeping up with the details such as balancing my check book, writing little notes to people, making sure the oil is changed in the car every 3,000 miles.
- I will be sure to check in on those I love and be sure to be there for every one of them every time there is a twitch-- that one I'm pretty darn good at keeping.
- I will...... it goes on.

Well, this year is different. I have made only one resolution. It's totally selfish. It's only about me.
Yes, I will be there for my family. Guys, you know you are the best and are at the top of my "importance list." But, this year there will be a change.

Writing is my job. More than that, it's my love. So, in front of you all, I make my New Year's Resolution, and my declaration, that as much as I depend on all of you, love you, look forward to hearing from you, and will respond to each of you.... I am turning off my email and only checking it a few times a day. I am writing. My characters have been begging for attention. It's their turn.

So, tell me. Yes, I'll keep the email going all day today so I can read what you have to say. Tell me. What are your New Year's Resolutions? What are your goals for 2011? Share!!

But, please understand that if I am slow in getting back to you (after today), my imaginary friends have taken control.

I wish each of you a wonderful year ahead.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Tuesday's Tidbits with Kari: Featuring The Importance of Book Packaging

Okay, so Liz's post on openings got me thinking about other aspects of books that are sooo important. Like the packaging of a book. Covers and blurbs and quotes and teasers for instance. Studies show that readers are first drawn to a great cover and title. Then they flip the book over and read the blurb. Finally, they open the cover and read the quotes and most importantly the teaser. If the teaser does it's job, they might actually read the first page, and if you're really lucky, they buy the book. So if a book's packaging is off, it truly can affect the sales of a book.

Covers have to reflect the tone of a book, and the title has to hint at what the book is about and the genre. What goes on the back cover of a book called the book blurb is more of a book summary, but what goes inside the cover is more of an actual teaser of what the writing and voice are like, and is usually a great way to hook the reader into wanting to read more. And quotes from fellow authors lend testimony and credibility to a book's value. If one of your favorite authors says you have to read this, it's great...then chances are you will believe him or her and take a chance on it, especially if it's a new series by a debut author.


So I thought I'd share what the amazing people at Berkley Prime Crime have come up with for my debut mystery TEMPEST IN THE TEA LEAVES: A FORTUNE TELLER MYSTERY. By the way, the book comes out in August, but you can pre-order it now at http://www.karileetownsend.com/10.html

For the cover they did a great job of capturing the cozy feel of the novel. The colors are gorgeous, and the added elements of the tea set, old fashioned street lamp, and immortal cat are intriguing enough to capture a reader's eye.

For the title they chose a clever play on the saying, "Tempest in a Tea Pot" which means there's a storm brewing in a small place or basically making a big deal out of something trivial or innocent. So in my case with Tempest in the Tea Leaves, the authorities are pointing a finger at Sunny when she didn't do anything wrong except try to warn the poor librarian, but now she has to clear her name.

As for quotes, I received some fabulous ones by some pretty incredible authors:

"My tea leaves and my tarot cards agree--Kari Lee Townsend is riding a bullet-train straight to the top. I predict this vivacious, talented author will soon join the ranks of the superstars. Tempest in the Tea Leaves is a stellar launch for the Fortune Teller Mysteries, and every one of them is destined to become a classic. the author herself--well, she already is. And soon the whole world will know it!"--NY Times Bestselling Author of Twilight Prophecy, Maggie Shayne

"Stephanie Plum, watch out! A perky, quirky psychic named Sunny Meadows is right behind you and catching up. The smart, funny, and gutsy fortune teller is a delightful new star on the psychic horizon. Witty, captivating, and refreshing."--Author of The Martha's Vineyard Mystery Series, Cynthia Riggs

"Kari Lee Townsend has a hit with her delightful new series about a fortune teller who finally leaves home to pursue her dreams and finds herself solving a murder. A little romance, a big white cat, and a Victorian house make for a fun read. The true meaning of what Sunny sees always reveals itself--and in this case, a killer."--Author of A Touch of Gold, Joyce Lavene

Next comes the back cover blurb:

In the fortune telling business there are a lot of pretenders, but Sunshine Meadows is the real deal--and her predictions can be lethally accurate...

Leaving behind the Big Apple for the quaint town of Divinity, NY, Sunny is determined to make it on her own as a psychic. With an ancient Victorian house as her place of business, Sunny uses various tools to interpret her visions. and aid the town's residents. But when she uses tea leaves to give a reading for a frazzled librarian, what she finds at the bottom of the cup is anything but helpful.

Sunny informs the police of her deadly vision, but her warning comes too late. And with hard-nosed, ruggedly handsome Detective Mitch Stone denying her abilities and naming her as prime suspect, it doesn't take a crystal ball to see that the situation is dire. Now Sunny will have to use her visions to clear her name, before the killer can put an end to the psychic's future...

And finally, the inside teaser...

A Psychic Suspect
Twenty minutes later, I heard sirens wailing and screeching in the distance. My heart started pounding, and all I could do was pray it wasn't the librarian. Or if it was, then maybe they'd gotten to her in time and caught the bad guy before he could hurt her. Either way, justice must be done.
The siren was so loud now, it sounded like it was right outside. I went to peer out the window and jumped back when someone pounded on my door.
"Who is it?"
"Detective Stone, Miss Meadows. Open up."
I scrunched up my face. What on earth was the detective doing back at my house? Exhausted and weary, I wanted this day to be over. I opened the door wide to a pair of handcuffs dangling from his fingertips.
"W-What exactly do you plan to do with those?" My voice hitched.
"Nothing if you come along peacefully." His eyes studied me as he finished with, "I'm taking you in."
I pushed my fear aside and allowed my outrage to consume me. "Taking me in for what? I haven't done anything wrong."
He simply stared me in the eye with that stern unreadable expression of his. "Just doing my job," he answered, his deep voice void of emotion. "Sunshine Meadows, you're wanted for questioning about the murder of Amanda Robbins."
So tell me...what do you think of this book's packaging? Have they done their job? Are you hooked into reading more? And share with us the teasers for your own books or one's you've picked up to read. What hooked you or made you want to read more? In fact, what do you all value most as a reader? Titles? Covers? Quotes? Blurbs? Teasers?
Inquiring minds want to know :-)

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Characterization in the First Pages


I'm a little gimpy since I had surgery on three fingers last week, so I decided to try something that didn't involve a lot of typing. I've been thinking a lot about how to make my characters special and how to get the reader to fall in love with them quickly. In my infinite wisdom, I've deduced that it has to be done quickly. So, I'm posting part of my first scene in LIVER LET DIE to see if I accomplished that. Here is your introduction to Jordan McAllister, my Clueless Cook. I don't have a real cover yet, so this one will have to do.

Single white female stuck in a dead end job who barely makes the rent on the closet she calls home – looking for tall, dark, handsome rich guy who loves...

Jordan McAllister jumped, slamming her finger on the Delete key when the shrill ring of the phone on her desk jarred her from her daydream.

“Personals,” she answered.

“Ms. McAllister, this is Jackie Frazier. Mr. Egan needs to see you in his office.”

Jordan frowned. She’d been at this job less than three months, and already she was being summoned to the editor’s office. Since the administrative offices were on the second floor, she hadn’t even met the man yet. “When?”

“Now would be good,” Jackie said, inserting a touch of sarcasm and ramping up Jordan’s paranoia another notch.

Hanging up, she leaned back in the chair, trying to guess where she’d screwed up. Other than allowing an ad to run several days past its contract, nothing popped into her mind, but she was still on probation, which meant they didn’t need a reason to fire her.

Jordan glanced around the room at her co-workers, all either chatting with each other or busy at their cubicles. Since the only person who bothered to talk to her was the chubby guy in the mail room who hit on her every chance he got, there was no one to calm her fears.

Why was the editor summoning her to his office?

Yanking her purse from the bottom drawer of the desk, she powdered her face. If she was going to get tossed on her butt, she didn’t want to have a shiny nose. Shoving her purse back in, she locked the drawer. She didn’t know these people well enough to trust them with her lunch, much less her purse.

Jordan smiled. First of all, everyone stayed clear of her, acting like she was a leper after their jobs. And second, there was a grand total of six dollars and fifty-two cents in her wallet. She knew this because when she’d paid for the crunchy chicken sandwich at the deli on the corner an hour ago, she sacrificed adding a latte so she’d have enough money to buy a package of bologna on her way home.

How pathetic was she? Big city, college graduate with dreams of becoming a sports columnist for a famous city newspaper, wasting away in a small time newsroom writing personal ads for desperate people looking to hook up. Even more pathetic was that the one she’d been working on before the phone rang was her own.

She reached in the top drawer and pulled out a Hostess HoHo, thinking this was the drawer that should be under lock and key. God forbid she go through a day without one or two of these suckers. Glancing around to make sure no one was watching, she unwrapped one and popped it into her mouth, closing her eyes as the chocolate immediately elevated her endorphin level. Common sense told her it couldn’t possibly work that fast, but there was something to be said for the placebo effect.

Standing, she blew out a calming breath and shut the drawer. She’d save her last chocolate treat for when she was cleaning out her desk. She walked down the aisle to the other side of the room, feeling twenty pairs of eyes on her. The newsroom was small, and it was a given that everyone knew she was on her way to getting canned. Kinda like at NFL training camp when a player got called to the head coach’s office and was told to bring his playbook.

Still, she kept her head high and tried to convince herself the editor was doing her a favor. Now, she’d be forced to go out and find the job of her dreams.

Who are you kidding?

After Brett dumped her for the cute little weather girl with perky clouds of her own before she’d even had time to find gainful employment after the move to Dallas, Jordan had spent two months searching for this miserable job. Seems the Metroplex had as many wannabe sports reporters as it did cowboys driving pickups. Her only shot at a career that didn’t include flipping burgers had brought her to Ranchero, a small town north of Dallas. The short, squatty, Human Resource Director at The Ranchero Globe had offered her the “opportunity of a lifetime” writing personal ads until “something else opened up”.

After a month on the job, Jordan realized “something else” was never going to open up. This was Ranchero, Texas, population twenty-two thousand, seven hundred and seventy-three – seventy four after she rolled into town with four suitcases and Maggie, her goldfish. Most of her co-workers had worked at the newspaper since high school, some even before. Unless someone got reassigned to the big newsroom in the sky, there would be no job openings anytime soon.

She stopped at the desk in front of the editor’s office and got her first look at Miss Sarcasm herself. “Jordan McAllister. I’m here to see Mr. Egan.”

I'm ready for critiques. Tell me if you get a sense of who my girl is and if you liked her. Then post a short scene introducing us to your hero/heroine. Don't be a chicken. We can all learn something that way.