The best of – 2018

Like most people who write, I read a lot. I mean, a crazy amount. There’s rarely a moment in my day when I’m not reading something. I also listen to audio books, which means I “read” almost twice as much as I ever have before, driving, cooking, walking, shopping, getting ready for work and everything in between. These days I’ll read one book in the traditional way, while listening to a different book throughout the day. Depending on the book, I’ll switch back and forth between the two versions. Since the audio version can often feel like watching a movie or play, I’ve also been known to read the entire book then listen to the audio version. Taking in a story in two different ways always reveals something new. Since audio books can be crazy expensive, I borrow them from the library which helps satisfy my endless craving for more.

Bottom line is, my consumption has risen this year, which makes choosing the best more difficult. I’m going to list ten, but they are in no particular order. Continue reading

So Many Words …

Once again, I have neglected this blog. My neglect stems from the good news that I’ve been very busy writing other things and/or participating in events that have to do with writing. So, it’s all good.

I’m having fun with rewrites of the next Desert Goddess book. A few beta readers have given me some ideas and I’ve been busy incorporating them into the work. My brother, Larry, an enthusiastic fan, gave me lots of additional work to do, but he was right (for once) so it meant adding and subtracting and reworking and it’s taking a lot of time. Which is okay. Even with tightening and moving things around, Book II, The Bonding Blade, will be the longest book I’ve ever written. I’m not going to predict a publication date this time since I keep pushing it back and pushing it back. Just know that when it does finally see the light of day, it will be the best book I could write.   Continue reading

My first essay

Several months ago, I attended a writing workshop that prompted me to try my hand at essay writing. I wrote something I was happy with and, at the advice of several writer friends, sent it out to a few places. Then, as usual, I collected a series of rejects. Now, I get to add newspapers and magazines to my list of rejection sources, which is fine. Rejection is just part of the deal when you write for publication. When I did find a home for it, I was frankly, surprised that I’d finally received a yes. You’ll find it published on The Good Men Project, a place I plan to send more essays to as they come to me. But, considering it’s been MONTHS since I’ve blogged, I’ll post it here too. Let me know what you think of it. And if  you’ve already read it, I hope you’re not sick of seeing it. 

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Trifecta of creativity

How do you measure creativity? Is it liquid so you can measure it in a cup or a bucket and carry it? Maybe it’s wind since I often say someone’s creativity blew me away. Or is creativity something solid that smacks you upside the head?

Three things that carried, blew, smacked me this week.

First, is the novel, The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, by Claire North. I’d never heard of it, but evidently it was a big hit and all the talk when it first came out in 2014. Not her first book, Claire North made a name for herself after this one came on the scene and I understand why. Continue reading

I keep saying yes

I once heard someone say, “My dance card is full.” I understood what they really meant was that they were overbooked, had too much to do, maybe had said yes one too many times.

There was a time when I lived by the creed that you could never have too many invitations to dance. If too many people asked, just bring ‘em ALL out on the dance floor! In my younger years, when I wore shiny silver platform shoes and dance shorts under my dresses for those times when I was flung over someone’s head, a good disco evening was when most of it was spent under the glitter ball, leaving your sweat on the multicolored floor of flashing lights. Continue reading

This is my rifle

**Warning** political rant – I know. as an author I’m supposed to keep my trap shut when it comes to this stuff, but feck it. I can’t right now.**

I’m a slick sleeve. I don’t have a combat patch. I don’t know what it’s like to hear a bullet meant to kill me as it zips by my head. I’ve never seen a fellow soldier killed nor have I ever killed anyone. The entire time I was in uniform, if you can imagine it, this country was at peace.  Perhaps my opinion about weapons, for those reasons, count for shit.

Despite the peace through which I served, I still had to fire a weapon at least annually. Every time I aimed my M16 at a human-shaped target, and every time I pulled the trigger, I felt mixed emotions. Part of me loved it. The power, the feeling of success for striking where I aimed –which was rare. I enjoyed the way I imagined I looked—all helmet and ammo pouches and dusty boots and that sleek looking weapon in the hands of a woman in the best shape of her life. I’d smile my wide, white smile, my dark brown skin glistening under a sweat stained helmet band and stroll out to the target, the business end of the weapon pointed down range, and count the holes I’d made. I’d analyze my shot group, which was usually crap, like I knew what I was looking at and knew exactly what to do to improve it. For most of my career in uniform I was a terrible shot.

But that didn’t stop me from looking forward to the times when we checked out weapons and spent a day on the range.

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A different kind of writing contest

Once again, I’m helping best selling  author RR Haywood judge the semi-annual writing contest he conducts in his closed The Living Army or TLA Facebook group. The group, made up of a couple thousand mostly British, American and Australian fans of his Undead zombie horror series, has lately become populated with fans of his new best selling time travel series, Extracted.

His Undead series, which now numbers 26 books, each of them best sellers on their own, is the kind of series with which fans become obsessed and inevitably find themselves looking for like-minded readers. It’s that search for connection with others who share obsessions which spawned the TLA  group, many of whom have read the entire series a number of times, have listened to them in audiobook and spend days and days arguing over who should be in the dream casts for hopeful TV and movie adaptations. (Hint, hint, movie and TV producers. This series is screaming for TV time.) I reviewed one of the books in the series here. Continue reading

My best reads in 2017

best of 2017I was asked by Andria Williams to participate in her annual Women Writers Recommend Books blog post she puts together for her Military Spouse Book Review, site. I never turn down a chance to spread the word about good books. And 2017 was an especially busy reading year since I had to take any and every opportunity to escape from the reality of 2017 … if you know what I mean.

Some of the best I read this year were, Dinner at the Center of the Earth, by Nathan Englander, In Farleigh Field, by Rhys Bowen, A Confusion of Languages by Siobhan Fallon and Janet Oakley’s expertly researched historical thriller, The Jossing Affair.

Andria told us to giver her our top three books of this year. An impossible task! So, I’m going to cheat and give you my top three picks, in no particular order, which all happen to be part of a larger series. Continue reading

I love soup

I love soup. Almost every day for lunch I eat a salad and homemade soup of one sort or another. I’ve been making soup for years and it’s nothing for me to whip up something on a Saturday morning, freezing some so that I have enough to last a few weeks. I thought I knew quite a bit about making soup.

Until I went to a, “Chef’s Table” meal on the cruise I took. Continue reading

New Release

The opposite of rejection is acceptance. I’ve had plenty of rejection in this writing life. The stack of letters I’ve saved over the years sits in a file drawer. I keep them, thinking one day I might go back and read them again, but I never do. I just collect more.

It’s partly because of that folder full of carefully worded and imaginative ways of saying no, that I’m so excited to be a part of The Sexy Librarian’s Dirty Thirty Vol. 2, released today. My story, ‘Spider Two Come In,’ is part of this steamy erotic anthology and I couldn’t be more proud.

Acceptance, no matter how rare, makes the rejections worth it. Continue reading

Interview – Nicholas Sansbury Smith

Too often, authors create one dimensional super-killers in uniform who cold-heartedly carry out his or her duty like a robot. The character perpetuates the myth that the military is filled with people who mindlessly do what they’re told regardless of right or wrong. Orders are orders, in these worlds and service members shouldn’t think for themselves.

I’m convinced authors regurgitate the TV and movie style combatant because the number of people who know and understand real military life is minuscule compared to those who haven’t served. People simply make it up, call it creative license and do whatever they think makes for the best plot.

Often times, these are the books I want to throw across the room.

TrackersOn the other hand, there are some who go the extra mile, do some research and present accurate portrayals of military members and veterans. They work at getting at the truth of what goes through the mind and soul of people trained to go to battle, why they do it, what their motivation might be, and how what soldiers do impacts them before, during and after their service.

Nicholas Sansbury Smith, while never having served in uniform, masterfully draws three dimensional characters in uniform in all of his books. Many readers are familiar with the soldiers in his bestselling Extinction Cycle series which features Delta Force teams up against a deadly threat and a world in collapse. Through the multiple books in this series, we watch a team of men who had fought side by side for years in hot spots around the world. They weren’t best friends. They didn’t all hang out together, but they knew each other professionally and, like most people who go into danger with weapons in their hands, their connections are visceral and organic. When they lose half their team in one encounter with a kind of threat they’d never seen before, it rips them apart. They drive on, they continue to function and Smith shows us what it takes to continue your mission even though you’re torn up inside.

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It’s been a year?

Learning of his death was hard to believe. Even harder to believe is that it was one year ago today. RIP Prince.

I wrote this short story upon learning the news. I am reposting it here in remembrance of the legend.

Rock Star – A short story

“Two Tom Collins, two rum and cokes, one with lime, one with lemon and a Heineken. Anything else?”

“I’d like a water please.”

“Of course. Water all around.”

The five women would nurse their drinks slowly, mixing in sips of water, marking time until they found likely admirers to buy their next rounds. Marcie had observed the efforts of this group of girlfriends before in their sparkly dresses, platform shoes, big hair and flirtatious ways. While Marcie didn’t exactly approve of their strategy, she had to admit it usually worked for them. Sometimes, the men they lured tipped big to impress, so Marcie didn’t mind the women’s slow consumption. Considering the growing Friday night crowd, her patience would probably pay off.

The shiny silver dance floor reflected the fractured gleam of a large, mirrored ball onto a small group of line dancers, regulars warming up before the club filled with amateurs who would just get in their way. Continue reading

R. R. Haywood’s *Write A Chapter* Contest

You’re going to want to enter this contest.

If you read this blog at all, you know I’m a big fan of R. R. Haywood’s Undead series and that I love hanging out in his Living Army Facebook group. It’s a lively place with lots of motley characters who all have a love of the written word either as readers or as writers.

About six months ago, Haywood held a *Write A Chapter* Contest. He provided a prologue and then asked contestants to add 500 words to it. The one who made the best use of those 500 words was the winner.

Guess who won. Go ahead. Guess.

Yep. That was this girl (double thumb point).

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A chat with the author of Chaos Theory, Rich Restucci

chaos-theoryIf you haven’t found it already, ‘Book Reviews N’ Stuff is a public Facebook group  started by R.R. Haywood as an offshoot of his The Living Army  closed page. It’s a great place to read honest reviews on a variety of books in a wide range of genres. If you’re an author, it’s also a place where you can go to request reviews. Just be prepared for the reviewers to be honest. They are not about sugar coating and since they aren’t being paid for their efforts, their reading time is precious to them. If they didn’t like your book, they will tell you and anyone following the page, what they really think.

One of the intrepid reviewers, Lyndsey McDermott, had this to say about Rich Restucci’s book, Chaos Theory:   The zompoc genre is very easy to do badly and it can be hard for an author to stand out amongst the crowd. The author manages to keep the action going, our interest held and aforementioned gripes aside, [Chaos Theory] was a good read which has the potential to be far better. It ends on a suitable cliffhanger leaving the reader eager for the sequel.

Lyndsey has a lot more to say about the book. You can read the entire review here. After reading Chaos Theory myself, I had a few questions for the author.  In his bio, Rich Restucci describes himself as “a practicing chemist and writer. His stories have been published in Dead Worlds 7 and Feast or Famine. He enjoys drinking beer, stocking up on weapons and supplies, and reading/writing anything zombie related. Rich resides with his family in Pembroke, Massachusetts.”

Me: In the acknowledgements of your book, you thank people for encouraging you to publish. Did you write this story without the intention to publish? Has the experience of publishing this series been what you expected?

 Rich: This book was written with the intent of publishing each chapter, one at a time, to a website in blog format. The website is zombiefiend.com. I did that for a while and the readers seemed to enjoy it. Several of the readers and many of my online friends told me I should self-publish it, which I researched. I compiled the blog posts and ended up going with Severed Press, who had already published my first novel, Run. Severed was excited to get a second story line from me, and their excitement got me excited. Insofar as my expectations, I really didn’t have any. I was hoping the book would be well received, and it seems to have been. I don’t think of myself as a professional writer, more of a hobbyist, so when the book began to sell, I was very happy. Continue reading