Thursday, January 31, 2013

Cassy's Corner- Best Laid Plans

Dear Friends: Last night sleep was elusive as I listened to the wind howling and the trees creaking. One would have thought a freight train was charging up the lake alongside our house. Themes for today's blog were spinning in time with the branches hitting the shingles. I was up before dawn, finally admitting that sweet dreams were not to be had. It took me a few moments after padding into the bathroom and touching the light switch to realize there was no power. Nothing. Nada.

As I have mentioned before, no power means no water, no lights, no refrigeration, no toilet flushing, no coffee pot, no heat and NO INTERNET. With no connection comes no posting of today's blog.

As you are reading this now, it is obvious the power has been reinstated. It is going on 5 pm so many of you have probably given up on today's musings. I thank you for checking in and will keep my fingers crossed that there aren't many more times this happens.

Now if I could only remember the multitude of ideas I had at 4 am for my entries here I'd be set for weeks to come. Best to you all. Cassy (who is finally taking off sweater number three and four)

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Kari's Kave: A Little Pre-writing...

I get to watch my great nephew today. He's soooooooo stinking cute!

So while I watch him, I am sure I won't be getting much writing done. Then again, sometimes it's good to do some pre-writing. You know, the stuff you do when you need to figure out where you're going with a new book, or even when you're stuck in the middle of a book and need to work out a section.

I used to do a lot of that in the car. I love long drives, especially when I'm alone and off to pick someone up from yet another event. Even if the radio is on, I find my mind wandering back to my story.

I also love to do my thinking when doing some mundane activity like cleaning the house or doing the dishes or laundry, etc. Once the kids leave for school, I never turn on the TV. I putter around, doing chores, and the next thing you know, "Bam!" the answer comes to me.

I think sitting in front of a computer and staring off into space, trying to find the answers can sometimes make you even more stuck. Yet getting up and doing something...anything...different is just enough of a distraction to throw your mind off, and suddenly, the answer is there. The same thing happens when I exercise. You would think that would be enough reason right there to make me get my butt out of the chair...

Still working on that one, folks :-)

So anyway, now that I have created a firm deadline with a book coming out every 4 months for the next 2 years, I guess I'd better finish that pre-writing.

So tell me....what's on your agenda for today?

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Barbie's Bunkhouse: No Pressure, really

I say this alot: I need to take a leave from the day job and go away to write. But seriously, I need to take a sabatical away from EVERYTHING and write. I have good intentions, but darned if life doesn't keep getting in my way. Problem is, I let it. And that's not necessarily a bad thing, because I'm committed to those areas of my life just as I am to my writing. Which doesn't make it any easier.

Yeah,'s all about balance. There's a lot of pressure that comes with trying to balance everything. it's hard enough having the day job and family stuff. Try to plug in some solid plotting, brainstorming, outlining, researching, and WRITING time, and well heck! There aren't enough hours or brain cells in one day! Been there, done that. I no sooner get all of my planets in alignment, the good juju is flowing, I'm setting goals and making progress, excitement is building...then BAM! $H!% happens. And then what???

Well, I pick myself off and regroup. I'm enjoying the ease of self publishing. Don't get me wrong, there is still ALOT of work involved and I'm enjoying it. But I've learned something recently. Just because I'm not reporting to a brick and mortar publisher, I still have to stick to my deadlines. There's a schedule to keep and it's an important one. And because the new series I'm working on relates to holidays and such, I need to be more sensitive to the "timing" of my releases, which really means adjusting my deadlines. So basically, for marketing purposes I can have my Christmas story come out in December, but it would probably do better if it came out in October/November to build up to those holiday sales.

Now I'd just set myself up with a writing plan that I thought was extremely do-able for 2013. A few more novella's and then 2 more full length books. It was working fine and I was excited over everything I would be able to accomplish. Then I was told I was pushing it for my February release. Yikes!! Really?? Now that I understand what happens when I set my own deadlines....I had to readjust the rest of the year. So the story I was planning on coming out in April, will be coming out in May. I allowed more time for 1 full length story and will have enough time for a new Holiday Story for Christmas.

Although, Sunday is the Super Bowl. And 1 year ago on Super Bowl Sunday I received a call from my agent that she was pretty sure she sold my cozy mystery series. 1 year and we're still waiting....I'm approaching Sainthood, I think. And while it would be pretty cool to be St. Barbie Jo of the Margarita, I'd much rather have that contract! And I'm more than willing to adjust my more than adjustable deadline schedule! No pressure, really, editorial goddess..... I will be polishing my stories and my halo! Not to mention coming up with some kind of saintly margarita drink!


Monday, January 28, 2013

Liz's Lair: Some Staggering Numbers About Publishing

This weekend I attended a Plotting Princess Retreat. A what?? I'm part of a group of smart women authors (some pubbed, some on their way) and we get together 3-4 times a year to help each other plot books and to learn new technical stuff. There are a few in the group who are so far ahead of the rest of us when it comes to techy stuff, and they willingly share their knowledge. 

This retreat was different in a lot of ways. First off, in less than a year, several of the women have either self pubbed or been epubbed and  several more are on the fence about it. So for the first time since we've been meeting, we didn't do any plotting at all--mainly because no one needed help -- but also because with the publishing world changing right before our eyes on a daily basis, we realize that we have to keep up with all the new marketing strategies. It's sink or swim, and we chose to swim. 

We spent the entire retreat learning how to use the free social media out there to our best advantage as well as how to tap into the  vast opportunities to promote ourselves while chatting with  cyber strangers. We learned a whole lot of other things, too, but if I told you about all of them, I'd have to kill  you!!

It did make me think about a blog I read just this week, written by Kathleen Schmidt. In it she gives her opinion of the overall state of the publishing world. You can read it in its entirety here.

It's really an informative blog in a lot of ways, but what got me were the statistics about the discoverability of books. The statistics are from Bowker and represent the book consumers from January through September 2012. 

•  60 percent of book buyers are female.
•  28 percent of book buyers are age fifty-five and above.
•  One in five people buy books on pure impulse.
•  93 percent of book buyers have a Facebook account.
•  50 percent of book buyers own a Kindle.
•  A quarter of all books published are bought from Amazon.
•  Book buyers discover print books via in-store book displays.
•  Book buyers discover digital books via recommendations from other people.
•  Consumers will purchase a physical book because of its subject and purchase an e-book because of its author.
•  35 percent of all e-books purchased are in the romance category.

My conclusions:  Social networking is more important now that ever before. We talked about street teams at our meeting. For those who don't know--street teams are likened to fan clubs where the members play an important role in getting out the news about new releases, sales, etc. In other words--sharing on Facebook and retweeting any news from a writer. I think this is a great idea. Of course, if you're retweeting all kinds of promo stuff, you run the risk of people unconnecting with you if all  you ever do is hawk books. There has to be a balance.

I have a feeling 2013 is going to bring a lot of brand new changes in the publishing industry. Are you ready for the challenge? I'm talking instant books, e-book libraries, etc.

I'd like to know what you think about all this. Are you excited for the changes, scared about them, or somewhere in between?

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Cassy’s Corner- Achieving Distance

It’s time for me to start a new book. Writing one that is. I have had a hiatus of a few months and am now ready to jump back in. As with many of us who play with plots, characters and imagery, we abound with notes for what the next adventure on paper might hold. I sat yesterday looking through one of my many notebooks letting my mind wander through the bits of phrases I’d written so as not to lose an idea. They were all over the place.
I have notebooks documenting trips I’ve taken, complete with descriptions of people in piazzas, ticket stubs taped to pages and addresses for restaurants with full menus. I have notebooks with tattered newspaper articles. I have notebooks with postcards I consistently purchase. Those are separate from the postcards stacked in a shoebox from most of the museums I have visited over the years. I love those postcards. I somehow never seem to be able to give them up, so you can imagine the size of the pile.
Most of my notebooks are brightly colored leather journals held together with elastic bands. More than once I’ve referred back, flipping through pages until I found the reference I remembered was in there somewhere. Many people have wonderful photo albums. I barely have pictures of my children growing up. But, I can find you the stub for the Peggy Guggenheim Museum in Venice.
This time in my mulling over what the next manuscript should be, I moved passed the notebooks carefully lined up on my bookshelf and instead pulled out the large three ring binders that hold my previous work. There are seven of them. Full-length manuscripts. Granted editing is needed in various forms for each. Some of them I haven’t read in a few years.
In reading them I was struck by two emotions. First, they were old friends. We, the books and I, spent time getting caught up with each other. Second, just as with an old friend, they stood on their own. They weren’t “mine.” This was a powerful realization. I could hold them at a distance, see their warts, foibles, and hiccups. I could also see characters I would invite back for tea or a glass of wine. They were a part of me but also independent.
It was a fun day to sit and visit with the pages I had written and to have them be uniquely their own, just as any other book I might pick up and enjoy.
It’s going to be fun to plan what will come next.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Kari's Kave: Killer Temps Kicking my Butt

First off, I have been under the weather, so I am just now announcing the winners of Barbra Annino's Stacy Justice Mysteries Giveaway.

Jeanne Schutts, Anna Phegley, Karen Locke, Penny and Vickie

The winners have been contacted and Barbra has the list as well. Congrats ladies!

Now back to me :-)

One minute it's 60 degrees, and the next it's 11 BELOW zero. How is that possible? It's driving me crazy and messing with my system. I normally get the flu shot, but this year I didn't. And wouldn't you know it, this has to be one of the worst seasons ever for the flu in our neck of the woods.

Okay, so I didn't get the flu yet....but I did get the stomach flu.


I can take just about anything, but throwing up is horrendous. I have tight deadlines and so much to do. How am I supposed to get anything done? And I have 4 kids. Someone is always sick. Ugh. Not to mention everything falls apart when Mom is sick. I am finally better, but so far behind.

Lesson learned. Build in time when planning deadlines for crazy winters like this one and sick days.


So tell me, how do you handle being sick and meeting deadlines?

Monday, January 21, 2013

Liz's Lair: Encore (sorta) National Good News Day

Today is Martin Luther King Day, and while the whole country honors this great man, I have a feeling no one will be reading blogs. So I decided to post an encore one and went back to last January. As I was reading it I was amazed at how relevant it is in my world today, and I decided to show you how things sometimes rarely change. I'll show you my changes in red.

As you all know I have really been stressing out about my deadline for the 3rd book in my Clueless Cook series.2nd book in A Dead Sister Talking Mystery Series.  Originally, it was January 1, but I asked for and received an extension.I've always known it was May The six-week blog tour I did for Liver Let Die MURDER FOR THE HALIBUT, plus getting Mortal Deception in print up, and the fact that I had a really hard time with Halibut CHICKEN CACCIA-KILLER just kicked my butt. It wasn’t that I didn’t have the time to write. I just couldn’t figure out how to make this book right.

Enter the self doubt
that took over where the other things left off and royally kicked my arse. At one point, I almost said the hell with it. I just can’t do it. Why can’t I just sell the books I’ve already penned and not have to write new ones?LOL. When SHATTERED goes up in March and SWEEPERS in December, I will have everything I've ever written in print. (Except for that YA under my bed.) Yay!!!

Hello breakthrough. I don’t know exactly when it happened, but suddenly one day, I got an idea that got me really excited and I was ready to burn the computer keys with the story.  Nope. Still waiting for this to happen.

Meet the copy edits for BSO HEARD IT THROUGH THE GRAPEVINE. Just when I was itching to sit down and write Halibut JAIL HOUSE CROCK, I get the copy edits that are due on January 24th. Mind you, they weren’t bad, but they still required TIME, especially because it's a longer book and I had to totally reread it the recipes in the back. These are my own recipes and I rarely measure things. Guess what? Berkley seems to think that’s important.No recipes in this one.

Hello, editor?? “And Liz, I need a synopsis for Halibut CHICKEN CACCIA-KILLER and some ideas for a cover since I’m going to the cover copy meeting next week.” Here’s where I freaked out. I had no clue where the story was going with the exception of the tiny breakthrough I had the week before. So, I stopped everything else and wrote a 9 page synopsis and sent a couple of ideas to Berkley. The good news is that it forced me to finish the book in my mind. Now all I have to do is finish it for real. My goal is 10 pages a day for 8 days. Don’t expect to see me much on the loops or Facebook, as I am committed to getting it done.This didn't happen. CCK is 2/3 written and put aside since it doesn't come out until October.

Oh, did I mention Dan and I babysat our granddaughters for 6 days while the kids lounged on the beach in the Bahamas drinking fruity concoctions with umbrellas?? And did I tell you the girls are two and a half and nine months old?? Guess how much writing I got done?This didn't happen, either, but we did both catch some kind of virus from the grandsons who were both sick this week.

Enough whining. Let’s get to the good stuff. Somewhere in that time frame, my editor sent me the cover for BSO SHATTERED, and I absolutely love it. The illustrator managed to capture the ice sculptured longhorn steer perfectly. That made my week.Isn't it gorgeous? This is my first book and is still the book of my heart.

UNTIL I got a call from my agent on Wednesday. Seems my editor called her and wanted to buy Book 4, CHICKEN CACCIA-KILLER. This was totally unexpected since Christine had already said Berkley would wait until they got a look at the numbers for presales on book 2 before any offer would be forthcoming. Since that won’t happen until sometime in May, this offer came totally out of the blue. Old News

Seems my editor knows how slow I write and didn’t want to get the books off schedule while they waited.

Moral of the story
: Sometimes it pays to write pathetically slow and to ask for deadlines.

Secondary moral of the story
: Sometimes when you write pathetically slow and ask for deadlines, you have to give up everything fun for a few weeks. Crap!

Okay, let’s make this – MY GOOD NEWS day. Tell me something fun that happened to you

More good news, MURDER FOR THE HALIBUT is getting great reviews everywhere, and yesterday, I got FOUR 5-star ones. Yippee. I worried about this book because it was darker than my other cozies. I have a subplot that deals with a man who will do anything to keep his wife--who has Alzheimer's-- in a nice facility. My editor thought that should be cut--said cozy readers want to escape reality in their books. I insisted that it stayed, but I did tone it down a bit. I dedicated this book to my mother who died of the disease and to all the caretakers out there dealing with it. 

Well, yesterday, I got the most heart-warming note from a reader. She said--well, I'll just let you read it.

Hi Liz,

I was fortunate enough to have been chosen as a First Read Winner of your latest book "Murder for the Halibut". I really enjoyed it and since this was my first book of the series my plan is to read the other one's as well. I loved all the characters and since my mother too suffers from Alzheimer's I feel a strange connection to you somehow.Not a lot of people understand the struggles and pain one goes through.

Anyway I wanted to let you know that I am leaving a review here and on Amazon as well as on FB and you have been pinned to my board of "Must read Books" on Pinterest.

All the best and I can't wait for the next book.

Of all the good news I've recieved lately for this book, this one touched my heart the most.

Moral of this story: Sometimes we have to stick to what we really believe in. It's our book, dammit!

So what's your good news? Let us celebrate with you. 

Friday, January 18, 2013

Barbra Annino Contest: 5 Book Givaway of Tiger's Eye

We have a special treat for you today. Please help us welcome Barbra Annino, author of THE STACY JUSTICE MYSTERY SERIES. Her third book in the series, TIGER'S EYE, just released. I have read them all and love them. Barbra is giving away 5 copies of the book, so comment away and good luck to you all. The winners will be announced on Monday Jan 21st on Liz's blog. Don't forget to either leave your email address in your comment, or send it to me at so I can notify you if you've won.

                                                       The Fourth Dimension

A common question authors face is, "Where do you get your ideas?" It's a base curiosity that runs through a reader's mind when she's found a book that holds her attention and tests her deductive skills. If the author has done her job, the reader turns page after page never accurately guessing what will happen next, until the final shocking conclusion of the story leaves them wondering--how did she come up with that?

As a voracious reader, I've often wondered the same thing long after I finish a book. Was the story drawn from real life experiences? Was it something that came to the writer in a dream? Or was it simply the author's uninhibited imagination that shaped the work?

Usually the answer is a combination of things. Nature, nurture, life experience, education, surroundings, entertainment, research--all of these impose on any author's manuscripts. Fiction crafting is creative, but it doesn't have to be mysterious. It may seem boring to the writer to dwell on all the mechanics that go into fashioning 300 pages out of thin air, but to readers, it adds another dimension to the characters, the setting, and the plot line when they learn how certain pieces of the puzzle were drawn. I call it the fourth dimension.

I write a series that teeters on the edge of fantasy and mystery. The Stacy Justice series centers on a reluctant witch whose family tree dates back to a Celtic tribe from County Kildare in Ireland. They practice magic in the ways of true Old World witches. There is no twitching of the nose to make anything happen. There is ritual, spell casting, and enchantments based on pagan belief systems. The properties of the herbs and crystals mentioned in specific spells can be confirmed in any craft book. The holidays are real holidays, the traditions still upheld.

In other words, some of it is made up, but some of the narrative is steeped in research. At the end of the first book, I explained why the story was set around the Imbolc holiday and what that time means for a witch. I also included recipes to try that complement the celebrations that take place on that day.

The second book features a very important historical text with a curious history and a unique, ancient language that is all but forgotten, as well as a poison with a bizarre name and an even more bizarre effect on people. I thought it would interest my readers to know that those key ingredients that drove the plot forward exist in the world and were not a product of my imagination, but rather the fruits of tireless research. Although, the way I manipulated them was pure fiction. For that title, I added links in the author's note to the ancient text and the poison, as well as an image of what the lost language looks like.

My most recent title was set in Ireland, and you can bet I pointed readers to the locations mentioned in the story in case anyone was interested in a little armchair travel.

I've found that readers love these personal letters. It's as if you're speaking to them on another level, as a friend, or a fellow book lover, that they appreciate. The added material, I think, also makes them feel as if they've received a little something extra. A little freebie, or thank you, directly from the author whose work they've come to enjoy.

I myself love writing these endnotes. Pulling back the curtain a bit not only allows the reader a glimpse at what goes on behind the desk, but they like knowing that the book was thoroughly researched, and now they get to explore it further if they wish. In fact, my readers have called for more in the form of a recipe book, so I'll be working on that for them sometime between deadlines. It will not only include culinary recipes from meals shared by the characters, but lore and history of their path, as well as recipes for spells and enchantments that anyone can do at home.

I encourage every writer to give the author note a try, even if it means posting it on Facebook, a blog such as this, or in a newsletter. Your readers will thank you for it, and who knows? It may even spark a new project.

Barbra Annino is the author of the best-selling Stacy Justice series. Visit her at


Thursday, January 17, 2013

Cassy’s Corner- My Gratitude List

As I have mentioned before, I am a nonstop list maker. I have lists for the grocery store, lists for phone calls to be made, lists for projects begging to be completed and even lists of lists. I love the feeling I get when I can cross off an item or two on one of my lists. I confess that I have been known to add a task I have already completed only for the joy of immediately drawing a line through it. These lists are factual and objective. They are about stuff- stuff that I buy in the store, arrange to have repaired or reminders to check up on work done by others.

I now have a new type of list I am working on. This one keeps growing. Nothing is ever crossed off, only added.  It is my gratitude list.

Each entry on the gratitude list is short, only a few words. In reading them I immediately conjure up an image. I have a mental picture of my daughters and of my husband, who certain rank at the top of my gratitude list. I think of the unique qualities each has and what makes those special to me. Even though this seems obvious, every time I see their names on the list I think of yet another reason to be grateful they are a part of my life.

Much more mundane occurrences make the list. I am grateful for the birds who flit by my kitchen window stopping to feed on the grain I put out. I am grateful for rain at night when it beats on my roof lulling me to sleep.

 At first I felt a little silly writing things such as, “I am grateful for the fresh homemade pasta my husband makes.” It seemed trivial. Then I thought some more. I am grateful. It made the list.

I pulled out my list this morning.  Our family is facing a critical event. I write this as I am sitting in a hospital room watching my father’s labored breathing. He already holds a place on my gratitude list, but it needs to be updated. I could write many pages for the things he has taught me, laughed with me, scolded me, always nurturing me. I am grateful for the word games we invented. I am grateful for the hundreds of hours he read bedtime stories to me. I am grateful for his teaching me how to eat lox and bagels. I am grateful he always believed in me.

I am sorry he’ll never see my gratitude list. We will most likely lose him tonight. But he will live on and on in my heart and I will continue to update the list next to his name.

If you haven’t started your own gratitude list, I urge you to begin.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Kari's Kave: Kickin' Technology

So with this new year of 2013 comes new and exciting times.

Kickin' Technology!

Books are not just on book shelves anymore. They are on cyber shelves. Gone are the days of buy my book and come to my book signing and I'll autograph it for you. What if someone bought your book and wants an autograph?

Only...they bought this particular book in cyber land.

Authorgraph has solved that problem.

It's this really cool site where you can list your books and readers can click on them, requesting an autograph. Or in this case an authorgraph :-)

My books are listed here: 

This site has a lot of cool features as well. Like you can go under Author Tools and grab the widget for you books. Then on Amazon or wherever they are sold in cyber land, you can add the widget for an autograph of that particular book right in the description of the book. How cool is that?

When people receive your autograph, you can now share that for others to see on Twitter.

Also, Authorgraph Live is coming soon. So now when you are having a book signing for your print books and someone stands in line with their kindle or other ereader, you will be able to sign that as well and give them a "live" authorgraph in person, right then and there.

I just love the times we're living in. Some VERY cool things happening these days :-)

So tell me, have you discovered any new kickin' technology that you want to share? We'd love to hear it.

By the way, my short story LOVE LESSONS will be FREE from tomorrow Jan 17th through Monday Jan 21st as a thank you to all my amazing readers. Enjoy :-)

Sometimes A + B doesn’t = C when it comes to the logic of love. 

Amanda Renee Winters is a ridiculously smart mathematician at Dreamers University in upstate New York. But when a secret admirer starts sending her gifts, she can’t put two and two together to figure it out. She enlists the help of her long-time best friend, Gavin Malone, who works in the archaeology department. Gavin is full of life and passion and has always pushed her to follow her dreams, while Mandy is full of logic and caution and has always strived to keep him grounded. Their love equals the perfect equation even if it doesn’t logically make sense, but the puzzle must be solved before time runs out.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Barbie's Bunkhouse: Beating the clock

It was nice to read Liz's post yesterday and how she gets in panic mode because she procrastinates. I find excuses to justify my procrastination. Yup, it's true. it's kind of like that with my exercise program, too. although I don't call them excuses. I refer to them as "reasons" because, well...they ARE reasons. No matter what, the fact of the matter is that the weeks fly by and I have ZERO additional pages written. I was so proud and excited and impressed with my first 3 pages! Now? I got nuttin. zip. zero. It's all blank on the page and upstairs in the brain.

What happens now? Good question.

I don't do well in panic mode. You see, I basically shut down. I've been trying to convince myself that I do have a deadline (because I do). The book I'm working on needs to come out in February. Yes, you read that correctly. since it's a novella, I have basically 117 or so pages left to write. It's not looking good and I cannot shut down. I'm playing all sorts of head games with myself, and I'm beginning to think I will have to pull an all-nighter just to make the progress I need.

So I'm out to beat the clock! Nanowrimo eat your heart out!!!

There is no panic allowed. Only progress.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Liz's Lair: Slaying The Doubt Dragon

Geez! Is it just me or is 2013 really flying by? I looked at my calendar, and I’m already 50 pages behind schedule on book 2 of my ghost series — which brings me to the topic for today.

How in the world will I ever make book____(fill in the blank) as good as book 1? HEARD IT THROUGH THE GRAPEVINE is so fresh, I know I will never be able to capture that magic again.  Surely, I'm not the only author who freaks out over stuff like this, am I?

I wrote LIVER LET DIE, the first book of the Clueless Cook series, after getting a contract on a proposal. I knew my editor liked the premise and my writing, but I was positive she would hate the finished project.

I was wrong. She loved it. If you think the doubt bugs were bad at first, it was like they were rabbits and doubled overnight — maybe even tripled. Now I had to write book 2 of the series, and when I asked her if she wanted a synopsis or three chapters, she said I was under contract and should just write the book.

Crap! How in the world would I ever write another book as good as the first one? As usual I procrastinated and ended up in panic mode — apparently a favorite place for me to be. I held my breath until her edits came. Again she loved it.

I began to get a little cocky at this point, and really procrastinated on book 3. I ended up writing 80 pages in 10 days. For those of you who know me, you’re probably wondering if I was on speed. I never write more than 25 pages a week — ever! The edits for this one were more involved than the first two, as it seems I got a little too racy and too dark for cozies. Both were easy fixes, but my little bubble of self confidence splattered like a water balloon thrown from the second floor window.

Hello, I’m Liz, and I’m hopelessly needy.

I began to doubt if I was really a cozy writer after all. Remember the editor had fallen in love with my mainstream mystery series (the one debuting from Midnight Ink on May 8) and she asked if I could write a cozy series. With this self doubt threatening to choke off the air that I breathe, I didn’t know if I could write any more cozies. (I am almost finished with Chicken Caccia-Killer, book 4.)

When the reviews came in for book 3, I was amazed. Although MURDER FOR THE HALIBUT is a little darker than the first two in the series, reviewers seem to like it. Matter of fact several have gone as far as to say in their opinion it’s the best of the three.

So what’s the matter with me? Why can’t I slay the  “I can’t write another good book “ dragon?

Help me out here. Tell me if I'm a cuckoo bird all alone with this syndrome, or if I’m just a normal writer. I remember listening once to a New York Times bestseller speaking one day, and she said that halfway through every book, she decides she needs to send the advance back because the book sucks. It made me feel better knowing a bestseller had the same self-doubts that I do.

So what I want to know is if you find yourself doubting your ability as a writer after being somewhat successful with a first book. If you’re a reader, tell me how you overcome self-doubts.

On a good note I just read a good read review tonight that said:
A funny, fun mystery. Fans of Janet Evanovich should give this series a try.

Woot! I have to admit that did make me smile. For one day at least, I’ll believe I just may be a decent writer.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Cassy’s Corner- When We are The Character

Creating our characters takes time and thought. We each has our own approach. Some writers start with a story line and then “find” the people who will act out the plot, bringing it all to life. Others hone their characters- the quirks, the color of their hair, habits, occupations, love lives, pets and the gun-packing grandmother- only to then craft the story that will wrap it all together. Most of us are somewhere in between.

Yesterday I finished a book that has been living with me for three days. It was a fast read but an emotional one. Susannah Cahalan is the main character in her own story of a disease that stole her identity. She has meticulously recreated a full month of loss. As a reporter for a major New York newspaper she has the skills to piece together a chunk of her life that is still missing. Using video clips, interviews, journal entries of her parents and as many sources she can find, Cahalan attempts to discover the story of the wild and deranged woman, the one she cannot recognize, who stars as the main character in this moving story.

Cahalan doesn’t have the luxury of deciding what the oddities of her protagonist might be or how others chose to see her. Rather, she has to take the material presented to her and reconstruct a life that she, the author, cannot remember or in anyway relate to. She is, in a sense, writing a form of historical fiction. The story threads are in part facts derived from medical reports and the videos recorded in her hospital rooms. Coupled with these are the personal accounts of those who stayed with her throughout the terror she experienced- a full month or more she is unable to remember.

Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness is a moving and chilling portrayal of one young woman’s account of a horrific illness. Thank goodness it has a happy ending. I write about it here not so much as a plug for the book, but as the beginning of a conversation about the characters in our stories. We knit imaginary people together from the bits and pieces of those around us combined with pure imagination. Cahalan had to fuse a reality she could not remember with her own vague recollections to form the main character of her story.

I stand in awe of her accomplishment. I won’t see the genesis of my work the same again.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Kari's Kave: Holiday Hangover is Hanging on....

Holiday that got your attention :-)

Just kidding. I don't "really" have a hangover, so why do I feel like I do every day?

I can't seem to get out of the crazy, stressful, exhausting time the holidays bring about. I'm not sick...don't have the flu like so many people these days, thank God...but yet I feel exhausted and stressed and overwhelmed still.

It's January.

Time for new beginnings and a fresh start. I have soooo much I to do, yet can't seem to get on a schedule and accomplish the goals I've set for myself. I have new books to write, my third Fortune Teller Mystery to promote, and freelance editing work to finish. Trying to find the balance with the hours I have is hard.

I am a schedule person. I LIVE for schedules. Yet even I can't seem to get on one and stay on one. What does that lead to? NO productivity, that's what. And THAT is something I can't afford right now.

So tell me, people. How do you get off the holiday hangover train, and get your productivity back?

Desperate minds need to know....

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Barbie's Bunkhouse: Coming Soon - Twist of Fate

I am beyond excited about the upcoming release of my romantic suspense, TWIST OF FATE.

Through a strange twist of fate, one woman is about to trade her not-so-perfect life, for a perfectly fabricated moment in time.

Here's an excerpt below:

“What do you mean you don’t know where she is?” Dante Pizzaro’s voice rattled the walls of books lining the spacious office suite. “How could you let this happen?”
A large man in a black trench coat and flat-top haircut approached the polished cherry desk. “Sorry, boss. We were doing what you asked until this dump truck came from out of nowhere.”
“Yeah,” interrupted the shorter, bald man, “he hit her car and she went down into the lake.” He slapped his gloved hands together, forming a visual explanation of events, then leaned over the desk as he spoke, “Don’t worry, boss, we took care of that driver-fella.”
Dante inched his face closer, keeping his voice low as if the walls of the twenty-story office building had ears. Since becoming Carlo Santini’s personal attorney, Dante had no privacy. Cameras were another story. “What did you do, Joey?”
Joey sliced his index finger across his throat. “He won’t be singing anytime soon.”
“This is my wife we’re talking about,” Dante growled. “It wasn’t supposed to be like this.” The curious looks from his men didn’t go unnoticed. He knew what they were thinking. The divorce wasn’t final yet, and if he had his way, it never would be. Kate and Hope were his. They were a family. The sooner she realized that, the better.
Paulie, the larger of the two, stepped forward and added, “We were going to pull her out, but then this other guy showed up.”
“What guy?” Dante narrowed his eyes, forming barely visible slits.
“It looked like the same guy she met up with at that bar.” Paulie wiped the perspiration from his brow with a meaty hand.
“She met a man?” Dante balled his fists at his sides in an attempt to channel his rising anger. Murdering the truck driver was collateral damage. Murdering his wife’s lover was a privilege Dante wanted for himself. Once Kate was safely back where she belonged, he would make the fool disappear. It would be as if the man never existed.
“She didn’t leave with him. But he must have followed her, too. Didn’t take him long to catch up.”
“Did he see you?”
“We left so he wouldn’t ask us questions,” Paulie answered. “By the time we circled back, they were both gone. We think he might have pulled her out.”
“You think?” Dante’s voice boomed through the room. He slammed his palms on the desk, knowing he’d need to stop at the dojo to burn off the tension before going home to his daughter.
“Well...” both men stammered, looking dumbfounded at each other.
“You’d better do more than think. You’d better find out if he did take her, and what the hell he did with her.” Dante rubbed the sting from his hands. “And you better hope he wasn’t smart enough to pick the number off your license plate, or we’ll all be answering to Carlo.”
“Sure thing, boss, we’ll get right on it.” Paulie shoved Joey as if to wake him up.
“Just find her.” Dante pointed toward the door. Both men scampered to be out of his sight.
His wife was missing. Soon to be Ex, to be exact, a fact he still wasn’t used to. Dante paced to the wet bar and poured a glass of single malt scotch from the crystal decanter. As the rich, buttery liquid passed over his palate, the strong peppery tones blended well to match his mood. Even though they’d been separated for eight months, to think Kate could be with another man made his blood burn. Could she be that shameless after all he’d given her? Did she once stop to consider what the media would do, or what he would do with such information?
It had been two months since she’d served him with divorce papers. And now, how dare she even think about fighting him for custody of their daughter? Dante took a slow sip of the deep, amber liquid, closing his eyes as the tension released. The corners of his mouth tipped to form a satisfying smirk. No, Kate wouldn’t block him out of their daughter’s life, she knew better. She knew there would be consequences.
There was no place she could go where he wouldn’t find her.
* * *

And there it is! My latest baby! I have always loved Sam & Kate's story and I hope you will, too.
Stay tuned for an announcement of the actual launch date!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Liz's Liar: Plotting Princesses Blog Hop

As writers, most of us belong to a lot of groups out there, some good, some not as good. I was fortunate enough a few years back to hook up with an amazing group of women from my local romance writers chapter (Dallas Area Romance Authors ) and we're still going strong. Several times a year we meet and help each other with plots. I try not to hog the meetings, but I usually do. These women have helped me plot all four of my clueless cook books and then some.

Anyway, we decided to do a blog hop and today is my day. Here's how it works. If you leave a comment you'll be entered to receive a copy of MURDER FOR THE HALIBUT. In addition, you'll be entered in the grand prize drawing: An ebook or print book from each of the 10 participating authors. That's 10 free books!

I also share a recipe with you and an excerpt from MURDER FOR THE HALIBUT. So, let's get started. First the excerpt. The set up is the first elimination round of the Caribbean Cook-Off on board the Carnation Queen, and my clueless cook is one of three judges.


Emily turned to Jordan. “And I’m delighted to have you as well, Jordan.” She stepped closer to stand directly in front of Beau. “Thank you for agreeing to be a judge also, Mr. Lincoln.”

Jordan almost felt sorry for Beau, whose tongue was nearly hanging out of his mouth after his first glimpse of the entertainment lawyer. He must have thought he had died and gone to Hooter Heaven.

“Jesus!” Jordan heard him say under his breath.

“Are we ready to get this show on the road?” Emily asked without offering her hand.

“Yes,” Jordan replied.

Beau could only nod. Jordan couldn’t help thinking Marsha had just lost out on the KahlĂșa brownies, too.

Emily moved to the middle of the stage and took the mic from Michael’s boss. “Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to what we hope will be the first of many annual Lone Star Caribbean Cook-Offs. I’m Emily Thorpe, and along with Wayne Francis and KTLK in Ranchero, Texas, I have the privilege of being a sponsor for this wonderful event. First off, I want to thank the good people at Carnation Queen Cruise Lines for their help in putting this together, as well as the talented staff at KTLK for making it happen. Of course, we wouldn't be here if it weren't for all of you wonderful listeners who chose to be a part of this fun cruise with us. So, are you already to see the chefs cook?”

The crowd went wild, all except Beau’s wife who definitely was not a happy camper and was sending daggers in Emily’s direction. Had she seen her husband’s reaction to the dazzling lawyer? And if so, why was she giving Emily the evil eye?  Her only fault was looking gorgeous. She couldn’t help it if Beau was as sleazy as they come and just as horny.

“Let's start by introducing the talented chefs who came from all over the Dallas-Fort Worth area to show off their talents.” The crowd cheered after each name, rocking the house when Stefano was introduced. “The competition will take place only on the days we’re at sea so that y’all can enjoy the wonderful islands we’ll visit. Tomorrow night we’ll begin with appetizers, and then on Thursday when we’re on our way back to Miami, the chefs will give us their best dessert recipes. We’ve saved the most challenging part, main entrees, for Friday night after which the points will be tallied and a winner crowned.

“Tonight's Greased Lightning Elimination Round will start us off. Our chefs have each chosen their own favorite fish to cook, but they’ll have to incorporate every ingredient from the baskets at their stations in their recipes.”

She reached for an opened basket from one of her assistants and held it up. “Each basket has identical ingredients chosen by the executive chef on the ship. There are mangoes, pineapples, crab meat, a few exotic seasonings and even guava berry liqueur. The chefs will have thirty minutes to prepare enough for the three judges and the twenty-five tasters.” She paused to allow the crowd to show their approval before she continued. “Now it’s time to meet the three people who hold the fate of our chefs in their hands.”

Emily turned toward Jordan and Beau. “The pretty lady with the great hair is Jordan McAllister from the Ranchero Globe. She writes the popular Kitchen Kupboard column, so we know she’s highly qualified to pick out great-tasting food.”

Jordan nearly choked on the sip of water she'd just taken.

“Sitting on her right is Beau Lincoln, owner and CEO of Sinfully Sweet, a Fortune 500 company that sells the most delicious cocktail desserts I've ever tasted.

“And I don’t think I need to tell any of you who the distinguished looking gentleman to Jordan’s left is. Please help me welcome world renowned chef and owner of the fabulous Chez Lui restaurant in New York City, George Christakis.”

The man seemed almost embarrassed by all the hoopla. The crowd’s appreciation and subsequent standing ovation brought a half smile to his face. He stood and waved, causing another storm of applause.

When the crowd finally quieted down, Emily continued. “So without further ado, let's get started. Remember, chefs, one of you will be eliminated tonight, but you'll still get to hang out and enjoy a great cruise. The final winner will receive five-hundred thousand dollars, courtesy of Gourmet Kitchens, along with the opportunity to do a national ad campaign with me for Classic Cuisine.” Her assistant handed her a remote control. “You’re on the clock,” she said as a huge digital timer appeared over the chef stations and began the thirty-minute countdown.

The chefs immediately opened the baskets and got down to business. Soon the smell of cooking fish filled the air as the chefs frantically chopped and mixed, poached and sautĂ©ed—and intermittently sprinted to the back of the stage to grab additional ingredients from a table laden with fruits and vegetables.

With only five minutes to go, the atmosphere on the stage was near chaos. Jordan watched the contestants scurrying to and from their stations, as if the clock were a time bomb. Except for Stefano. In direct contrast to the other chefs, the cocky Casanova was jovial as he tasted his dish, added more seasoning, and nonchalantly tasted again.

Maybe this guy was as good as he said, Jordan thought, watching him take one more bite before setting down his fork.

In a flash, the smile on his face disappeared and his eyes bulged open. Doubling over the table as though in severe pain, he grabbed his throat and terror flashed across his face. It took a few seconds for Jordan’s brain to register that he might be in serious trouble, but then she jumped up and ran toward him.

Before she could reach him, Stefano’s eyes rolled back in his 

head, and he fell face-first into his signature halibut dish.

And here's the fabulous Kahlua brownie recipe:

Sinfully Sweet's Chocolate Kahlua Brownies

3/4 cup cocoa, unsweetened
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2/3 cup melted butter, divided
1/4 cup boiling water

1/4 cup Kahlua
2 cups granulated sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans
1 bag (12 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350° F. In a large bowl, combine the cocoa and baking soda. Blend in 1/3 cup of melted butter. Add boiling water and Kahlua and stir until well blended. Stir in sugar, beaten eggs, vanilla, and the remaining 1/3 cup of butter, then the flour and salt. Add the nuts and chocolate chips and pour the batter into a greased 13x9x2-inch baking pan. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until chocolate brownies are firm and begin to pull away from sides of pan. Cool before cutting into squares.

So, to get the comments started, tell me about your favorite dessert with some kind of liquor in it, or just say hey. Be sure and leave your email address with your comment so we can contact you if your name is drawn.


Friday, January 4, 2013

Liz's Lair: Welcome Award Winning Mystery Author, Lois Winston

National Lose Weight/Feel Great Week

According to a website that lists “Bizarre, Crazy, Silly, Unknown Holidays & Observances,” the week of January 6th-13 is National Lose Weight/Feel Great Week. A quick Google search of the Internet found little information about this observance other than a lapel pin manufacturer and some fitness groups and spas using it as a marketing ploy. It seems there are many such holidays and observances throughout the year that are dreamed up around a conference table in marketing departments. Still, National Lose Weight/Feel Great Week is not such a bad idea, given we’ve all just come through our annual period of over-indulging, beginning with the Thanksgiving turkey and carrying through to the New Year’s Day open-house buffet.

(How many margaritas did you down in those six weeks? I know I’m guilty of more than a few. By the way, I like mine on the rocks with salt.)

Anastasia Pollack, the magazine crafts editor and reluctant amateur sleuth star of my eponymous Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series, has been fighting her own personal Battle of the Bulge for years. In Revenge of the Crafty Corpse, the newest book in the series, she runs into Kara Kennedy, her old college roommate, after more than two decades. Kara recognizes Anastasia immediately, mentioning that she hasn’t changed a bit. Anastasia attributes this to the Freshman Fifteen, which she still hasn’t lost and probably never will. She figures those added pounds enjoy hanging out too much with the additional ten she’s gained after the birth of each of her two sons.

Anastasia describes herself as a “pear-shaped, cellulite-riddled, slightly overweight, more than slightly in debt, middle-aged widow.” She’s prone to skipping meals, thanks to her crazy schedule, dysfunctional family life, and the dead bodies that keep turning up around her. Because of this, she often winds up binging on what she calls “Cloris Calories,” the various muffins, cakes, and brownies baked by food editor Cloris McWerther in the test kitchen at American Woman, the magazine where they both work.
Needless to say, Anastasia has no time to exercise away the added weight she totes around. I’m thinking if I mentioned National Lose Weight/Feel Great Week to her, I’d saddle her with a guilt trip she doesn’t need at the moment.

Then again, when do any of us need guilt trips? So I’ve decided not to tell her about this particular holiday. As much as her diet would benefit from more carrot sticks and less carrot cake, she certainly doesn’t have time to observe the week. Revenge of the Crafty Corpse finds her moonlighting as the weekend arts and crafts instructor at the Sunnyside of Westfield Assisted Living and Rehabilitation Center. 

Sunnyside is where Lucille, her communist mother-in-law and royal pain in the patootie, is convalescing after surgery for a brain tumor. Of course, Lucille being Lucille, the transition is far from smooth, and within twenty-four hours of settling in, her roommate is murdered. Lucille becomes the prime suspect, given that’s she’s been overheard threatening to strangle the talkative woman who is found with a crocheted scarf tied around her neck.

Anastasia knows Lucille is many things – annoying, mean, strident, and a pain in everyone’s tush – but she’s not a killer. As much as she’d like to be rid of her mother-in-law, she can’t stand by and watch Lucille convicted of a crime she didn’t commit. So Anastasia reluctantly begins snooping around. What she discovers is that the victim’s scandalous craft projects—and her scandalous behavior—made her plenty of enemies. Can Anastasia find the real killer before her mother-in-law ends up behind bars?

Award-winning author Lois Winston writes the critically acclaimed Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series featuring magazine crafts editor and reluctant amateur sleuth Anastasia Pollack. Assault With a DeadlyGlue Gun, the first book in the series, received starred reviews from both Publishers Weekly and Booklist. Kirkus Reviews dubbed it, “North Jersey’s more mature answer to Stephanie Plum.” The series also includes DeathBy Killer Mop Doll and Crewel Intentions, an Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mini-Mystery. Revenge of the Crafty Corpse is a January 2013 release.

Lois is also published in women’s fiction, romance, romantic suspense, and non-fiction under her own name and her Emma Carlyle pen name. In addition, she’s an award-winning crafts and needlework designer and an agent with the Ashley Grayson Literary Agency. She’s also the author of the recently released Top Ten Reasons Your Novel is Rejected.Visit Lois here,
visit Emma, and visit Anastasia at the Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers character blog.