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

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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Two big things

First, a whole bunch of the Lei Crime Kindle World authors got together for a Valentine’s Day Facebook hop. Some lucky person is going to win a $170.00 Amazon gift card. You don’t want to miss this contest.

The sweet part, aside from thlei-crime-valentinese fat gift card, is that each Facebook post features a unique Hawaiian recipe –Get it? The sweet part? Since most of the Lei Crime stories take place in Hawaii, the recipes get you closer to the world. I want to try them all. Hawaiian king bread, Kalua pork and cabbage, Hawaiian pineapple Cake… So many yummy and fairly easy ideas to bring to the table.

All you have to do is visit some Facebook pages, leave comments and move onto the next one. Lots of us are playing. You can start on my page ( and go get familiar with other authors who write in the Lei Crime world. It’s a talented bunch who write mystery, romance, fantasy and much more.

The second big thing is the Association of Writer’s and Writing Programs (AWP) is this weekend. I’m so excited to be going back again this  year. I will be on a panel alongside some amazing veteran writers. I went to AWP for the first time last year and the experience had a lasting impact. I wrote about it when I got home and now I can’t wait to see some of the friends I made. Here’s a description of the panel I will be on. It would be great fun to see you there!

Friday, February 10, 2017

9:00 am to 10:15 am

Marquis Salon 6, Marriott Marquis, Meeting Level Two

F110. The Middle Americans: How Flyover Country Responds to War. (, , , , ) By various measures, rural Americans are more likely to enlist in the US armed forces. Despite isolation from traditional centers of publishing and military power, voices with Midwestern roots have sprung forth like dragon’s teeth to deliver clear-eyed, plainspoken views of war, service, and sacrifice. The civilians and veterans of this stereotype-busting panel of published writers offer their insights regarding themes, trends, and markets in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry.


Bloody pages

Blood_SpatterYou know that hopeful feeling you get when your pages come back from an editor, but then you open it up and all you see is red? It feels like a jab to the guts when you realize it looks as if someone killed a chicken and sprayed their sacrificial blood all over your pages. And then you understand it’s not blood. Those are edits. Hundreds and hundreds of the bloody things and you feel as if it’s not a chicken’s blood, but your own ripped out insides someone has danced on and smeared all over your work. Continue reading

An interview with author of The Remaining, DJ Molles

ExtinctionI first posted this interview on September 25, 2013. I’d just finished reading the first four books in The Remaining series and I couldn’t get them out of my head. In my opinion, they are the best zombie books ever written and a perfect example of how exciting it is when you find an indie published author who does amazing work.
At least, he was indie when I talked to him.I wasn’t the first person to read the series and get hooked. Thousands of other readers already knew D. J. Molles was the real thing. After a few emails back and forth, I couldn’t believe how laid back he was and I loved how surprised he seemed that so many people wanted to read every word he wrote. The guy doesn’t even have his own website!
Still, by the time I talked with him, several publishers had already been knocking at his door, and when we did this interview, Molles had finally decided to sign with one. I just happened to be the lucky person to help him announce it.
Since we talked, Molles and his publisher Orbit , re-released the entire series again along with two novellas, The Remaining: Trust, and The Remaining: Faith. He also released the fifth book in the series, The Remaining: Allegiance. 

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Christine Nolfi does it again

Seeker w KW logoSince the Lei Crime Kindle World launch in April, Christine Nolfi’s, The Shell Keeper has spent much of that time in the number one spot of the Kindle World Contemporary category. The only book that has moved The Shell Keeper from that top spot, (which is on sale right now for less than a dollar!) is her second Lei Crime Kindle World novella, The Shell Seeker.

There’s a good reason Christine’s work has been hugging the top of the charts. Great settings, rich and lovely characters and an intriguingly magical story that takes Toby Neal’s vibrant character, Lei Texeira, to places Lei has never been. Here’s a description of The Shell Seeker.

In South Carolina, there’s more than magic in the air. Now policewoman Lei Texeira must solve the case of the Pirate Necklace.

 The famed emeralds, spirited in the 1700s from the pirate Blackbeard’s ship, have been snatched once again. This time, the bling was taken from Marie-Therese Belvedere, a woman whose cruelty is only topped by her arrogance.

 Lei doesn’t care for the icy socialite, but she feels an instant connection with the woman’s stepdaughter. An unlucky star has followed Sydney Belvedere her entire life. If the necklace isn’t found, she’ll lose a treasure more dear than the finest gem.

 Only the magic of Lei’s intuition stands between Sydney and unspeakable loss.

Sounds great doesn’t it? I had to quiz Christine about her experience and get some insight into what drove her to keep writing in Toby Neal’s Lei Crime Kindle World. Continue reading

An interview with author Gale Deitch

Fine DiningI’ll remember 2014 as the year several writer friends I know and respect published or republished great books. Mark Willen’s smart and poignant mystery, Hawke’s Point, Cindy Young-Turner’s republication of her engrossing fantasy, A Thief of Hope and the second book in Gale Deitch’s popular culinary cozy mystery series, Fine Dining.

Gale Deitch developed an impressive fan base after her first book, A Fine Fix, was published last year. Her readers have been asking for more in the series, and now they finally have it.

The star in Deitch’s kitchen-centric stories is Trudie Fine, a caterer who loves brightly colored clothes, is growing accustomed to a new boyfriend in her life in the form of a handsome detective, and whose loyalty for a close friend lands her in the middle of a murder investigation.

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Things I learned from the Baltimore Book Festival

A great chance to talk about writing with fellow authors.

Multiple authors sharing a booth and my professional looking banner helped make the festival worth it this year, at least for me. Participation should be carefully considered.

My writer friends and I have had multiple conversations about book festivals. The bottom line question is, are they worth it? We toss around questions like, can you sell enough books to cover the cost? Is it worth it to invest in banners, posters, cards and other give-aways? Does participation result in readers who look for you later to buy books online?

This is what I learned from participating in the 2014 Baltimore Book Festival.

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Baltimore Book Festival 2014

What a weekend! The Baltimore Book Festival was a bit overwhelming and a lot exhausting. As crazy as it was to get past the massive crowds and find a place to park, it was amazing to see so many talented authors of every genre imaginable all in one place. I loved the opportunity to meet and talk to other writers about their experiences, but by far, the best part of the weekend was the opportunity to meet and talk to readers. What a joy it is to watch a stranger purchase your work–people who don’t know me as a person let alone as a writer. People who don’t know the books and yet, they still take a chance and buy the work. It’s an amazing feeling.

I’ll write more about the experience soon. Until then, here’s a little gallery of photos from the event.

Editor Edits

paper trashYou write a book, you rewrite the book several times, you send it to a bunch of folks to read, you absorb their comments, you decide you’ve got your final product, you send it to your agent, your agent makes comments, you absorb those comments and finally it goes to your publisher.

Eventually, the manuscript lands in the hands of an editor who reads every word, analyses every phrase and comes back to you with more comments.

In my opinion, the pages and comments that come back from your editor are the pages that require the hardest work.

For every other set of comments, you as the writer can choose to accept or reject any of those comments. Some comments you will know immediately are spot on. You incorporate them with gratitude. Other comments aren’t so easy to hear. Some you accept, others you reject because they don’t fit your vision, perhaps you don’t trust the reviewer or perhaps you’ve decided as the writer, the comments are just wrong.

But comments from an editor are different. This is the voice of your publisher. These are changes direct from the person who will turn your chick into the bird ready to leave the nest for good. You’re not as free to ignore these comments and suggestions as you would any other. These comments, at the very least, should be strongly considered.

So you work with them, you wrestle with them perhaps. Rewrites should be fun. But to me, the rewrites that happen as the result of an editors comments have an extra added pressure to them, and aren’t quite as much fun as others.

The good news is, these rewrites could be the final rewrites before your book finally makes it to the shelves. So we wrestle with them, we dedicate ourselves to them and we try to answer every question the editor has. Hopefully, the comments, no matter how difficult they may be, will lead to a better book.


There may be something to this…

Most successful authors will tell you they write every day, and while I thought I understood why – they make their living with writing, therefore they must have to do it often enough – I didn’t really understand. After committing myself to the lunacy of NaNoWriMo, I’m beginning to see things differently.

Prior to November my writing had taken on a life of its own. I’d just started the third novel in my mystery series and the story was drawing me to the keyboard every day. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I was having so much fun with it my evenings and weekends were filled with nothing but throwing down words to move the story along. Puking out the plot, I sometimes call it. Just get it down and worry about the consequences later. The best part about the plot puking is, often, it’s the characters who are doing all the work for you. I was simply along for the ride.

Not only was the novel going well, but I had this idea for a new series in a genre I’d never written before. Somehow, in between working on the novel, I managed to write a romance novella that grabbed hold of me and wouldn’t let go. In just a few days this thing gushed out. I literally couldn’t sleep until I had the thing done. Even before it was finished another novella idea started to nag me, an idea that would go along with the first one. And so, I have a new mini-series to work on. It’s a refreshing new thing, a totally new direction and so far, it’s a surprise and a joy to write.

Then I heard about National Novel Writing Month. I’d heard people talk about NaNoWriMo, but didn’t understand the commitment, to write 50k words in 30 days. Essentially, writing what could be the first draft of a novel in one month.

What the hell? I thought. Why not?

So I came up with another idea, in a genre I’d never written before, did some research, threw down some thoughts about what the story was, some character background and on November 1, I got started. Today, on day 12, I’m 24k words into the story. I’ll be well over half way to the goal by the end of today.

I don’t think I’d be anywhere near that 24K number if I hadn’t already been writing every day. If I’d been new to the practice, I’m sure I would have needed time to work up to that kind of output.

And that’s when I figured it out. Successful writers don’t write every day because they need to in order to earn a living. Sure, they need the output and the output puts food on the table.

Successful writers write everyday because they need to stay in shape, they have to flex the muscles, get the blood pumping and keep the engines tuned. Trying to write 50k words in a month without having done some of the preparation would have been like trying to run a marathon without having done a few 5ks first, without the daily workouts that are necessary to prepare yourself for the challenge.

Can you write 50k in a month without the prior workout? Sure. But you’d probably be huffing and puffing in the end and the finish might not be pretty. Untrained, it’s still possible to dash through the finish line knowing that you’ve accomplished something.

But don’t we all want to finish pretty? Don’t we want to be that person who finishes the marathon looking just as fresh as the moment we started?

So this writer will continue to exercise her writing muscle daily, if possible. And if the ideas keep coming to me, I’ll have to in order to get them all down on paper.

Running with words

Sometimes long hours at the keyboard, the act of writing, feels like you’ve somehow released endorphins, like the endorphins runners talk about, the hormone that gets activated when they’ve reached a physical peak that flips running from a chore to an addictive mood altering endeavor that can’t be ignored.  They say endorphins are the reason runners need to run every day. To feel that buzz, to get the jolt of goodness that makes you feel like there’s a reason for being. Sometimes writing can feel like that.

When the pistons are firing correctly, when the creative juices flow without obstacle, when you glance at the clock, then glance again only to learn most of your day has disappeared and you’re facing thousands of new words that have flowed from your fingers, that’s when it feels like I get a jolt of endorphins.  Writing days like that are frickin’ awesome.

It doesn’t happen every day. Sometimes writing is like a hot poker in the eye.  You see what you’ve just put to paper and you wince, recoil, wonder why you ever thought you could be a writer in the first place. I try to have a short memory about those kinds of days.

I’d rather run, be a runner, imagine my fingers are runners and they’re all grinding out mile after mile, releasing mini-endorphin jolts to my brain, dragging out the good words so that when I’m done, I’m breathless with how good the crap is that I’ve just written.  That would be kinda cool.

Zombie Apocalypse preparations?

In light of rising concerns about the coming Zombie Apocalypse (I believe it’s time to capitalize the ZA, so those of us in the know can cut to the chase), I’ve had several discussions with people about what one should do. Hunker down? Head to a designated homestead where you can band together with preselected friends and family to battle the ZA together? Head out on your own (your family and friends might already be infected) to a remote place, take the high ground and wait it out? Or something else?

And for you skeptics out there, even the CDC prepared a guide to help families prepare for the ZA, so read up on the lists and preparations your government suggests.

In my own preparations, since I work on a military installation, one suggestion I heard was that I should just stay here. What could be more secure than a federal military reservation stocked with food, fuel, weapons and lots of people who know how to us them? Not to mention being surrounded by dedicated and brave service men and women.

Oh contraire, I am told by others. Get as far away from that military base as possible. The masses will ALSO think a spot behind the secure fence line is just the place to be. The hoards of victims of the ZA will flock here, looking for safety. All military reservations will be mobbed. Overrun. The walls will only hold so long and once they fall … well, it’s that slow shuffle walk, decaying flesh and wordless moaning for you. —

Someone put together this map of where seemingly related incidents took place to illustrate the growing evidence that now is the time to plan for the ZA. What do you think? Military base, or no military base?

This is how I get into trouble

This is how I get into trouble. I start to write, run into a rough spot, then decide I need a break to think about it. Taking that break, I pick up my Kindle. I start to read, and damn it if I don’t find some freakin’ book that sucks me in, whips me around, makes me want to live there, find out what is going to happen, have all my questions answered.

The latest book to suck me in is WOOL, by Hugh Howey. Howey creates a post apocalyptic world confined to the limits of a silo, where life is closely regimented and where questions are capital offenses. I couldn’t put it down. Turns out, he’s just recently sold the movie rights to Ridley Scott. Can’t wait to see the story turned into film.

I downloaded the WOOL Omnibus yesterday and have been reading it ever since. Before I knew it, hours passed and this morning, I’m still faced with the same damn writing rough spot I left hours before.

That’s how I get into trouble.

Why she gotta be black?

Warning. I’m climbing on a soapbox and it might take me a while to get off.

I’ve been fascinated with the discussions about the movie version of the bestselling book The Hunger Games and the racist tweets that flew around the internet.  The tweets expressed disappointment and downright anger of some fans when they discovered that a black actress was cast in the role of one of the more sympathetic characters in the story. Amandla Stengerg, in my opinion, was perfect for the role of Rue, but evidently some readers not only didn’t like that she was black, they claimed that her race changed their positive opinion about the character.

“Now I don’t care that she died,” one young tweeter wrote.

Clearly, their reading comprehension skills weren’t up to the task of visualizing a character in a story they enjoyed as being anything other than white.

As shocking and disturbing as the tweets were, they served to prove a point I’ve been trying to make for some time.

In 2008, I blogged about my frustration with brick and mortar bookstores and their practice of sticking every book written by a black author in the African-American section of the store.

“To make it easier for shoppers to find what they want,” I was told when I asked about it.

But, the only people who browse the African-American section of the book store are African-American. I’ve never seen a white person shopping in that section. Why would they? When I wrote my blog post on the subject, I argued that the bookshelf segregation only serves to ensure that black authors aren’t exposed to an audience made up of people other than their own race.

Sure, lots of white readers are fans of Walter Mosely, Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison, Octavia Butler, the black mega authors whose work crosses the racial boundary and authors the brick and mortar stores feel comfortable placing on tables alongside books written by white authors.  But for the most part, African-American authors are segregated into the African-American section, where only African-Americans shop.

Frankly, even I don’t shop in those sections. I’ve found that a majority of the books offer views into Tyler Perry-type worlds where black people only live and work with other black people. Their lives are all about being black, about the black experience, basically books centered around race.

That is not how I live. That is not my life. That is not the life my characters live.

A recent critique I received from an editor about my novel went something like, “Okay, your character is a female soldier and she’s black. So what? I kept expecting to see more of her blackness in the story.”

Because I’m a black author, all I get to write about is being black? Do female authors only get to write about being a woman? And when has a white author written about what it means to be white?

The editor’s reaction leads me to believe the only reason black authors are writing about being black is because white publishers expect that from us. Black = the black experience, whatever the hell that is. The character can’t just be black, they have to talk black, act black, suffer some sort of discrimination, be a drug dealer or gang banger or fill some kind of stereotypical role to remind us all that they are black. After all, all characters in books, unless told otherwise, are white, so we’re forced to make the distinction.

The tweets from the disappointed movie goers proved to me that I was right about the African-American sections of book stores. These sections do nothing but segregate authors from people who would simply not browse there. If you don’t want to read a book that features a black character, you can easily avoid the exposure to them.

I hoped that ebooks would change the practice as they’ve changed so many things about the publishing world.  I am happy to see that there aren’t African-American sections in ebook stores.

Instead ebooks written by black authors are simply stuck in the mass ebook pile. They’re not also listed in Romance, or Mystery, or Fantasy. They’re just in the giant list of ebooks which means they rarely, not even Walter Mosley, make it into the top 100 lists.

One of the racist Hunger Games tweeters said, “Why does Rue have to be black? Not gonna lie. Kinda ruined the movie for me.”

The tweeter doesn’t have to worry. When it comes to black characters, it’s unlikely they will ever stumble across that unwanted black central character just by browsing the ebook lists.

Not gonna lie. Kinda pisses me off.