A group blog featuring an international array of killer mystery, suspense, and romantic suspense writers. With premises and story lines different from your run-of-the-mill whodunits, we tend to write outside the box. We blog several times a week on all topics relating to romantic suspense and mystery, our writing, and our readers. We welcome all comments and often have guest bloggers. All our authors can be contacted separately, too, using their own social media links.

We find our genre delightfully, dangerously, and deliciously exciting - join us here, if you do too!

NOTE: the blog is currently dormant but please enjoy the posts we're keeping online.

Julie Moffet . Cathy Perkins . Jean Harrington . Daryl Anderson . Nico Rosso . Maureen A Miller . Sandy Parks . Lisa Q Mathews . Sharon Calvin . Lynne Connolly . Janis Patterson . Vanessa Keir . Tonya Kappes . Julie Rowe . Joni M Fisher . Leslie Langtry

Friday, March 29, 2013

The power we wield!

Last Friday, I was up to my eyes in edits for #6 in my Dylan Scott series. I took a five- minute break to check Twitter and one tweet made me snort with laughter. The tweet in question was from our own lovely Maureen Miller (aka Gladys) who included me in her #FollowFriday suggestions and described us as future world leaders. At that time, I couldn’t have led the way out of a paper bag but I was more than grateful for the laugh. 

I continued with my edits. Deadly Shadows, coming to a device near you in October, has a few dead bodies in it and my editor had expressed her regret that one particular character, a young girl, had met her end. I’d enjoyed writing the girl’s story and I, too, was sad to see her die. We all know, however, that in crime/mystery fiction, the good as well as the bad are murdered. Besides, there was no way round it. We’d have to live with it. 

Cue sleepless nights. I thought about giving the character more flaws. That way, I reasoned, readers would be less upset about her death. Nope - it didn’t work. Cue yet more sleepless nights and long, long walks with the dogs. From nowhere the germ of an idea came to me. Maybe, just maybe, there was a way round it after all.

It has involved a lot of rewriting, a lot of blood, sweat and tears, but I’ve found the way round it. Now, as much as I like killing people off in my books, I’ve discovered that it’s even more exciting to bring them back to life. 

Deadly Shadows still has a fairly high number of dead bodies but the young girl lives. Yay!

So Glady’s tweet wasn’t as laughable as I first thought. Not only can I murder people in the most cunning of ways, I can bring them back to life if I so choose. What power! Barack Obama? David Cameron? Bill Gates? Pah. As soon as I’ve had a coffee and a cupcake, I’m going to lead the world!

Shirley Wells lives in the UK with her husband and a selection of deranged pets. Her Dylan Scott series   of mysteries is available from Carina Press and all good etailers.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013



In a recent blog comment, Carina author, Julie Moffett, quoted Winston Churchill’s, “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”  That struck a chord, reminding me of a recent conversation with six close friends.  About a dozen years ago, we formed a discussion group to talk about issues relating to women.  Girl talk with a purpose.  Or so we like to think.

At the meeting I have in mind, we decided to talk about sex.  All of us are married and collectively have given birth to 18 children (I contributed 2 of the 18.), so we felt pretty well armed for the discussion.  With a lot of laughter in between comments, we agreed that we understood sex’s importance to men, but what about women?  What is their pleasure?

As we probed deeper into the subject (comma!), Eleni, who is from Athens, brought up the Greek roots of two key words she said are part of any good sexual experience--whether one is male or female--ecstasy and enthusiasm.

Here goes:  ecstasy combines “ex” meaning out of with “stasis” meaning body.  During sex, the body is left behind—presumably in a tangle of bedclothes—while the spirit soars free.  “Got that?” Eleni asked. 

Enthusiasm is a parallel emotion.  “En” means in; “thus” is a version of theos or god and “asm” is breath.  So broken into pieces and put back together, enthusiasm is the breath of the spirit within us.  And, as Eleni claims, you ain’t got ecstasy if you ain’t got enthusiasm.

While our discussion didn’t solve the topic question, it was a lot of fun and left me with a deeper appreciation of two wonderful words.  For a kind of out-of-body experience does occur when a writer soars on a passage that’s coming together flawlessly.  From time to time, we’ve all felt that fleeting presence of the muse, haven’t we?  And when we’re stone-walled, without a single idea of how to move the plot forward, isn’t enthusiasm for our craft what keeps us going even after we’ve gone from failure to failure and had to hit the delete button again and again?

Anyway, I’m going to pour myself a glass of wine and talk all this over with Deva Dunne.  She’s been very busy in Killer Kitchens, what with her day job as an interior designer and also amateur sleuthing for Lieutenant Rossi—whether he wants her to or not. But until the book comes out on April 15th she has time to relax a little and listen to some “e” words.

BTW, to see what Deva’s up to lately, visit her at and read the opening chapter of Killer Kitchens.  There’s a brief bio of Jean posted there too, but personally I find Deva far more interesting.     

Monday, March 25, 2013

Expectations: Help or Hinder?

I don't know about you, but I try to practice what I preach. Of course, sometimes it's easier said than done. I tell my daughter not to expect things. Go into a new experience with an open mind, make the best of it and let it play out the way it's supposed to. It's kind of like going to a movie. Don't you hate when you go to a movie that you've heard glowing reviews about and you leave thinking "meh?" But when you go to a movie that you know nothing about and end up having a great time, you get so happy you feel like you might smile for hours?

Take our careers for instance. We all strive to be the best we can be (in an author's case, to write the best book we can every day), but how do our expectations help or hurt us? If I expected to be a NY Times Best Seller, I might be waiting my whole life, not to mention be hugely disappointed if I never made it there. That might very well affect my writing which might affect future books. But if I go into a book, concentrating on my expectations for that ONE book and make it the best it can be and move on, then my expectations can be met (more easily). Let's face it, there are a TON of great books out there that never make lists for many reasons. Poor marketing, lack of promo...there are so many factors involved. Not to mention luck and timing.

I bring this up because in mid-March I attended the SoCalRWA Writers Conference and met Barbara Vey. I'd met her briefly years ago at an RWA conference, but never really had the chance to sit down and talk to her. Of course, I'd always (and only) heard lovely things about her and was thrilled to discover they are all true. She's fun and honest, very refreshing and I'll toss in delightful for good measure. (It all fits!) I was beyond thrilled when she asked to interview me for her Publishers Weekly Beyond Her Book Blog. What really floored me was her invitation to be one the authors at her Readers Appreciation Luncheon next April in Milwaukee. Talk about exceeding my expectations! (Of which, I should stress, I had none! BTW - Here is a shot of us after I moderated her workshop on Building Reader Loyalty.)

When you think about it, I have a conflict actually. How does my "no expectations" work with my publishing goals? I've been on this writer's road for thirteen years now and am doing the best I can to keep up with the job. (Sometimes it's overwhelming and sometimes it's pure bliss.) If I don't expect to make a list, but a list is my goal, then will I ever make it? I guess the answer is in the Universe somewhere...unless any of you can help me with it.

Let me know, what are your views on expectations vs. goals?

Dee J. Adams lives in Southern California with her husband, teenage daughter and 2 rescue dogs. Her Adrenaline Highs series is available at Carina Press and wherever e-books are sold.

Friday, March 22, 2013


Most writers toy with the idea of taking a pen name at one time or another. Whether it’s because your name is unpronounceable (Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski aka Joseph Conrad) or because of bias against your gender in the genre in which you write (Alice Bradley Sheldon, who wrote SF as James Tiptree, Jr.), there are as many different reasons for writing under a pen name as there are, well, pen names.
Maybe your last book didn’t do so well, for instance. You might want to ditch the sales history by starting fresh under a new name. Some writers prefer to write their naughty stories under a pen name. Dean Wesley Smith wrote an article on pen names that gives a brief history of pen names and expands on the many reasons a writer might choose to use one.
So far, I have only one pen name: Emma Faraday. And it’s clearly not a secret. I decided to create a pen name to keep the different genres in which I write separate. Under Emma Faraday, I publish science fiction and fantasy. Under Marcelle Dubé, I publish mostly mystery. Using different names gives the reader a clue to the kind of story he or she can expect. That way, a reader looking for some of my fantasies won’t pick up one of my mysteries by mistake and be disappointed.
Writers, do you use pen names (that you’re willing to divulge)? Readers, are you aware of all the pen names of your favourite writers?
Below, I’ve compiled a quick list of pen names and the real names of the writers. Feel free to add to it! 
Pen Name                  Real Name
Acton Bell                           Anne Brontë
Currer Bell                          Charlotte Brontë
Ellis Bell                              Emily Brontë
Boz                                      Charles Dickens
Lewis Carroll                      Charles Lutwidge Dodgson
Richard Castle                   Richard Alexander Rodgers
George Eliot                      Mary Ann Evans
O. Henry                             William Sydney Porter
Hergé                                  Georges Remi (Belgian writer/artist of the Tintin series)
George Orwell                   Eric Arthur Blair
Lewis Padgett                    Henry Kuttner and C.L. Moore (husband and wife team of SF writers)
J.D. Robbs/Jill March       Nora Roberts
Lemony Snicket                 Daniel Handler
Barbara Vine                      Ruth Rendell

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Pirates, Tramps and Thieves...

by Janis Patterson
I’ve had it. Dealing with pirates has become too much of a part of a writer’s life. No, don’t think galleons and romantic figures in worn velvet and torn lace – these are modern thieves. They take books, books which writers have worked for months, perhaps years, on and post them on the internet for free. To add insult to injury, some even charge a ridiculously low price for them – money that the writer, the creator of the work, will never see.
A third kind of pirate is oddly becoming less and less rare – the plagiarizing pirate. This particularly loathsome specimen of lowlife merely takes another writer’s book, changes the main characters’ names and perhaps eye colors, and maybe – if they are conscientious – the name of the main town, then republishes the book under her own name with a new title and cover.
The first two kinds of pirates I can understand – if not condone – because both come down to simple money. The first kind just wants to hand the book around without anyone having to pay. The second kind wants some money for himself but without having to have to do anything to earn it. Both are despicable, but their reasons are obvious.
The third kind is a mystery. There are penalties for copyright infringement. Do they really think that no fan (the stolen books are invariably from popular and well-known authors) will notice the similarities? Due to the first two kinds of pirates books from unknowns don’t make that much, so it can’t be for the relatively small amount of money they earn. They are the ones doing the stealing, so they know they didn’t really write the book, unless they think just changing the names and eye colors constitutes writing. All that is left is that they appear to the world as a Published Author. Is that so wonderful that it is worth risking humiliation and legal repercussions? I guess so to them. Every so often there’s another one.
As pathetic and annoying as these egoist plagiarists are, though, they are small potatoes compared to the first two kinds. Their numbers are increasing exponentially and there’s very little that can be done about it.
Part of the problem began back in the days when paper was all you could get. It has never been difficult to find used copies for very little in a used book store, or for next to nothing at a garage sale. This too is blatantly unfair to the writer, but until recent years the technology for fair recompense was lacking. Nowadays the technology is there (think ISBN) but no one except the writer is interested in the writer getting paid for resale of their work. Paper copies have always been traded and resold and the modern naïf thinks that electronic books are no different. They refuse to acknowledge that there is a big difference – used paperbacks are self-limiting. Given enough time and enough readings they will dissolve. Ebooks can be copied with just a button-push or two, and the millionth copy will be just as pristine as the first. All with no benefit to the author, who created the story.
This ease of duplication was not lost on the second, money-driven type of pirate. To them each keystroke was the sound of a cash register as they made free money on the work of others. Every day writers spend valuable time – time that would be better spent writing more books – sending down takedown notices to pirates. Lucky writers have publishers who pursue takedowns. Others are not so fortunate and must do it themselves, as must self-published authors.
Sometimes the crooks comply, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes when their payment protocol is disrupted the site vanishes only to reappear a few days later with a very similar name and the same list of books. As so many authors have said, it’s like playing whack-a-mole and so frustrating and time consuming that some authors have simply given up, claiming that the pirated books are to be counted as free advertising.
I will admit that I have a number of free books on my Kindle, but a book given freely by the author as a promotional offer is a totally different thing from a book taken, i.e. stolen, without permission or recompense by a third party. Many authors have used a free book as a sales tool, but the important thing is that the choice to give the book away has been only theirs.
There have always been cheats, however, and there have always been thieves. Perhaps the most frightening thing about this uncomfortable world of piracy is the attitude of entitlement which surrounds it. On several ‘file-sharing’ sites I have seen posts where those who take these free files deny that they are doing anything wrong! If it’s on the internet, they say, it should be free. Others, more bold, decry the idea that copyright equals ownership. Copyright, to them, means only bragging rights for having written it – if that – and that it is greedy and wrong of the authors who are all obviously very wealthy to want to be paid for their work.
One man’s sublimely self-serving comments stayed with me. Roughly he said – “I pay for my entertainment as much as I can. I buy what I want until I don’t have any more money, but then my appetite for entertainment is so large that I have to take free stuff to get all that I want.” Wonder how far that philosophy would get him at the grocery or the hardware store?
And that brings us to the worst part of this unholy trade. There are penalties for illegally acquiring software. There are penalties for illegally downloading movies and TV shows. Books? Who cares? Apparently no one other than the authors who see their income being ripped away. Obviously not the thieves. The law doesn’t seem to want to be bothered.
So where does all this end? I postulate that it will end in chaos, as disintegrating systems usually do. Contrary to popular belief, most professional and popular authors write for money. Not for the feeling of self-accomplishment, not for the thrill of seeing their name on a book, but for money. It’s a job. A job they may love, but still a job. When that job ceases to be remunerative, they will stop writing and find something else.
Oh, there will always be books, but books written by those who do not regard it as a profession. Those who want to see their name on a book no matter what. Those who want the fame of being a published author. And let’s face it, those kinds of books are usually lousy. The quality of books will go down as more and more professionals leave the business and eventually the glory-seekers will be pretty much the sole providers of novels.
Apocalyptic? Perhaps, but dentists don’t do crowns just for the thrill of being recognized as a dentist. Mechanics don’t give free tune-ups because they enjoy playing in an engine. I can’t think of any profession that gives away its product just because they have it. They expect fair recompense for their goods/skills. Why do people regard writers any differently?
It looks to be a bleak future, with one rather deliciously snarky exception. Something I’ve been noticing is a lot of the pirate sites have been exposed as simple phishing sites that take the buyer’s credit card information and give nothing but a big bill.
Karma, it’s wonderful!

          Janis Patterson is a seventh-generation Texan and a third-generation wordsmith who writes mysteries as Janis Patterson, romances and other things as Janis Susan May, children’s books as Janis Susan Patterson and scholarly works as J.S.M. Patterson. 

Monday, March 18, 2013

Lethal Business

How do you separate yourself from the characters you write? Or do you?

That was the question I was asked recently on another forum. Well, with my Hunter Files series it’s easy to draw the line, mainly because they’re written in the first person from a male point of view and I’m all woman! Not surprisingly, that creates a few problems because…well, I don’t want to get into the ‘men are from Mars, women are from Venus’ mind set thing, but I do believe our brains are wired differently.

That said, I had a good idea of the sort of man I wanted my hero, Charlie Hunter, to be. Tough, resourceful, cynical and emotionally damaged by his traumatic youth. (He saw his mother gunned down in front of him, which would be enough to screw with anyone’s head).

In Lethal Business the third in the Hunter Files Trilogy released by Carina Press today, Charlie doesn’t quite know what he’s got himself involved with when, returning from France in his boat early one morning, he witnesses an explosion at sea. The vessel nearest to the stricken craft then callously runs the survivors down and Charlie unable to forget what he’s seen.

The idea for Lethal Business struck me when I was watching the results of the last general election in England. All the pundits seemed surprised by the popularity of the smaller nationalist parties, which is how my fictional English National Party was born. Mind you, I’m sure that real life politicians wouldn’t behave nearly as badly as my ENP do in order to grab hold of power, would they…

Here’s how Carina describe Lethal Business –

Why kill the survivors of a sinking ship?

A speeding boat rams a life raft, leaving no survivors. A man embroiled in an investigation of potential suicide bombers disappears...

Retired inspector Charlie Hunter's belief that the two events are related leads him to accept a job working a charter between England and France. The only way to find out the truth is to be the man on the inside.
But Charlie's life is at risk on the rough Channel. All is not as it seems on the shifting seas, and some players are holding secrets that will change the game...and the sunken life raft is the key.

Lethal Business – Available now from Carina Press, and all on-line etailors.


Friday, March 15, 2013

Animals In Mysteries

I’m not a pet owner but I do love animals, especially dogs. I’ve always envied the special bond that pet owners have with their pets. So it only seems natural when animals show up in mysteries as the unofficial sidekicks of sleuths solving every kind of mystery from the magical to the small town whodunit. Whether or not a sleuth’s pet is an active participant in solving a mystery, or is just there to give moral support, pets play an important role in many mysteries. Here are some of my favorites.

Rex the Hamster (Stephanie Plum)-Though we only ever read about Rex running around in circles on the wheel in his cage, he’s always a source of comfort to Stephanie Plum when her life goes haywire, which is all the time.

Hedwig the Owl (Harry Potter)-Mostly used to deliver mail, Hedwig was a gift to Harry from Rubeus Hagrid and became Harry’s loyal companion in the wizarding world.

Backup the Pit Bull (Veronica Mars)-We never saw him very often, but beefy Backup was snarky teen sleuth Veronica Mars’ muscle and always had her back. BTW, if you’re a Veronica Mars fan, you’ll want to check this link out!

Fluffy the Chihuahua (Sierra Lavotini)-Fluffy was the child with fur of wisecracking exotic dancer/amateur sleuth Sierra Lavotini and could usually be found riding shotgun during her investigations.

Toby the Jack Russell Terrier (Peter Grant)-London police constable Peter Grant inherited Toby from a murder victim and Peter takes the magic sensing pooch with him when he becomes the apprentice of the last registered wizard in England.

Mahalia the Siamese Cat (Kendra Clayton)-Full disclosure: this is my mystery series and Mahalia actually belongs to Kendra’s landlady. In fact, Kendra and the cat hate each other. But Mahalia was once instrumental in helping Kendra solve a crime so I felt she deserved a mention.

What are your favorite animals in mysteries?

Angela ; )

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

5 Things to Improve Your Writing -- and Your Life -- Right Now

1 – Make time to read for pleasure. Once your own writing career takes off, reading for pleasure is one of the first things to go. When we do read, it’s either for research, to critique for a friend, or for reviewing purposes (which ultimately amounts to marketing and promotion – not really all that relaxing). Our love of reading was how we got into the writing biz. To lose that pleasure, that joy, would be a real shame. Find time – make time – to read with no purpose beyond your own entertainment.


2 – Get off your…couch. If you’ve ever been to a writing convention you know that writers, as a breed, are not the most health conscious of individuals. We spend a lot of time sitting on our posteriors doing repetitive wrist movements. Er, that would be typing. Well, hopefully more than typing; hopefully, it’s writing. But either way, we have sedentary jobs that are especially hard on our backs and our wrists. That’s bad enough, but there is some pretty disturbing research to support the theory that sitting all day is hazardous to your health 


3 – Make time for the people in your life. We spend a lot of time with imaginary people. Our characters say and do exactly what we need them to. After a time it’s easy to start expecting real people to be just as cooperative. It’s not only good for our emotional and mental well-being to spend time with our loved ones. It’s good for our writing to get out there and observe humans being human.


4 – Eat your veggies. One thing you should never be guilty about is buying the best food you can afford -- and taking time to eat it. Eating right not only fuels your body, it fuels your brain. Don’t skip meals. It slows your metabolism and tempts you into binging later on junk food. Treat your body right and it’ll serve you and your career well.


 5 - Turn down the occasional project. That probably sounds crazy, but if you’re like me, you’re taking on too many projects anyway. You probably accept every project that comes your way – when you aren’t actively seeking them out. Plan your writing year at least one to three years in advance, leave a little latitude for creative impulse, and then stick to your schedule. If you continually overbook yourself, you’ll drain the creative well as well as your joy in the work. If you were setting off on a cross country journey would you try to run at top speed the entire way or would you try to pace yourself? Pace yourself. Turning down the occasional offer gives you a wonderful sense of both freedom and control.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Villains—A Battle of the Sexes

As writers and readers of romantic suspense, thrillers and mysteries we’re all familiar with villains. They come in varied shapes and sizes, from different backgrounds, and can be male or female.

When a writer builds a villain they:

1. Give them motivation for their actions (even if the character’s thinking is skewed).

2. Give them a few good points to go with all the bad stuff because this makes the character more rounded and maybe a bit likeable.

3. Give them a great name because every character deserves a great name.

4. Give them a similar conflict to the hero or heroine, but a different way to solve their problems.

5. Steer clear of clichés!

But when it comes to sex, that’s when a writer can change things up. After all, men are from Mars and women come from Venus. J

A female villain:

1. She can use her sex appeal, her feminine wiles to get exactly what she wants. Seduction and sex as a weapon.

2. She can exert force and use guns, knives and other weapons to meet her goal, but she’s more likely to use subtlety.

3. She can act ruthlessly and without remorse.

4. She can be cute and sweet and have an inner core of steel. Think of some of those Southern Belles!

5. She does manipulation with flare.

6. She’s excellent at multi-tasking and is extremely intelligent.

Examples of Female Villains:

1. Annie Wilkies in Misery (movie and book)
2. Cruella de Vil in One Hundred and One Dalmatians
3. Alex Forrest in Fatal Attraction – that poor bunny!
4. The Evil Queen in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
5. Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wars Prada

A male villain:

1. He’s more likely to be upfront rather than sneaky. In most circumstances he won’t beat around the bush or aim for subtlety.

2. He’s more likely to carry out the tasks himself rather than delegate because he likes to control the situation.

3. He’s good at planning and strategy, especially if he has a military/police background.

4. He’s usually experienced with different types of weapons.

5. He’s intelligent and doesn’t make the same mistake twice.

6. He’s more likely to use brute force.

Examples of Male Villains:

1. Jack Randall in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series.
2. Darth Vador in Star Wars.
3. Lash in JR Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood.
4. James Ardmore in The Pirate Next Door by Jennifer Ashley.
5. Dr. Zachary Smith in Lost in Space.
6. Gollum in Lord of the Rings

Male or female, I’m sure we agree that the character needs to be multi-faceted, motivated and interesting. He or she shouldn’t become a laughable cardboard cutout. Here’s a link to an article on Creating a Credible Villain that gives some great tips and another link about questions to ask your villain character.

Do you prefer reading/writing male or female villains? Do you have any fictional favorites? Is there anything that makes you cringe when it comes to villains?

Note – This post was inspired by a guest post at my blog written by Carol Van Atta, The Female Villain: She’s Alive, Well and Ready to bite.

Shelley Munro lives in New Zealand with her husband and a rambunctious puppy. To learn more about Shelley and her books visit her website at 

Friday, March 8, 2013

What if...

It's a phrase that sums up what so many authors start with.

What if a tornado lands a confused young girl from Kansas in a faraway land with no way to get home but with the help of an inaccessible magician?

What if a giant shark terrorizes a Long Island beach community and the small town sheriff is forced to deal with the creature?

What if a detective must find out who killed a man on a train when half the passengers had a motive for the murder?

Get the idea? When I sit down and start plotting out a book, I always ask myself the 'what if' question. If I can't put my plot into that single sentence, I am not doing my job and chances are, I will not be able to plot out a decent book. Sometimes that question is short and simple while other times is a run-on sentence. But whatever the 'what if' is, it should be clear and the reader should care about the question. After all, the question begins with a 'quest.'

What if the ghost of a murdered woman appears to her brother and begs him to seek justice for her killer by enlisting the help of a psychic? This is the premise of my just released paranormal romantic suspense novella, Spirited Seduction.

What if a woman with a checkered past finally finds happiness but a stalker threatens to destroy the new life she's built for herself? This is the question posed in my other brand new book, Dance for Me.

What are some of your favorite What if's?

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Success is a routine?

I'm not sure where I heard it, but recently I heard someone say, "Success is a routine".

Do you agree with that?

I had to think about it for a while to decide whether I did. Finally I decided that my belief is this:

Routine can set you up for success.

For example:

A basketball player who routinely practices foul shots has a greater chance at making them (success).

A musician who practices a song over and over again has a better chance of performing it well in front of an audience (success).

An actress who rehearses is better prepared than one doing a cold reading.

A writer who writes regularly (even if it's in twice a month writing binges) has a better chance of finishing a project.


The basketball player can still miss the shot.

The musician can hit a wrong note.

An actress can forget a line.

A writer can write a story that never sees the light of day.

I train for half-marathons. I've completed three. I'm tortoises-pass-me, slow. Yet the routine of training, which I plan out in a calendar MONTHS ahead of time,  pushing myself to go slightly farther each week, sets me up for success. It allows me to cross the finish line.

Sometimes I feel like I'm doing the same with my writing. Slogging along, week after week, until I reach "The End" and then I start it up again...hoping that this time I'll be a little bit faster, a little bit stronger, a little bit better. I plan that out too, MONTHS or a YEAR ahead of time, which helps me to say on track day-to-day, week-to-week, month-to-month.

What do you think? Do you have a routine you follow to increase your chances of success? Do you have any tips you can share? 

My tip is: EMBRACE YOUR CALENDAR! (but not literally because that could give you a paper cut)

Just an FYI, next week I’m releasing THE HITWOMAN GETS LUCKY. The novella will be free for a limited time, so be sure to visit to find out all the details and download your copy.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Risking failure

Our old house was on a dead-end street, a nice long quiet road with trees and kids and people who mostly observed the speed limit. For the longest time, when I drove in and out of our neighborhood, I’d see a teenaged boy practicing skateboard tricks—or rather the same trick—over and over.

He’d do the set-up, launch—and fail miserably.

But he didn’t give up and eventually I saw him nail the move. It didn’t happen overnight. It was a gradual process. Instead of succeeding once in a hundred times, it would be one in ten and then most of the time, he jump and spin and pick up his board. Smile. And practice it again.

And after a while, he’d start on a new skill, a new trick. And fail miserably.

I can’t count the number of times I thought, a girl would never do that.

Not the practicing and the striving, but the public failure. Repeated failure. Where everyone could see them mess up and sprawl all over the pavement or the lawn and look like a dork.

I hadn’t thought about that kid in years, but a recent post brought it crashing back.

Earlier this week, a friend posted about this on Facebook.

Basically Hugo talked about the tragic suicide of a teen, Amanda Todd, following severe harassment after Todd’s decision to ‘sext’ a man who, it turns out, may have been a predator. Allegedly this man tried to blackmail her and released the pictures to her classmates and life took a horrible turn for Ms. Todd. More horribly, she didn’t see a way out.

Unfortunately, Todd’s story has been hijacked and trotted out as a warning to girls about the danger of stepping ‘out of line’ with anything sexual, another ridiculous blame to victim measure. While the article initially focused on sexuality, what is most concerning to me is the way the ‘messing up your life’ message demands perfection from young—and not so young—women, while at the same time forbidding them to experiment or risk failure. As I told Nicole in our Facebook exchange, this is the broader message for me:

[Resilience and the ability to thrive] means focusing on giving them what we've given their brothers for decades: the chance to see failure –- and even humiliation -– as an opportunity rather than as a life-destroying disaster.  

Beyond the business world and the implications there—a whole different post about taking risks and business. There is a terrific Forbes article about female entrepreneurs, who are a too small percentage of that market but a highly successful one, if anyone is interested—I kept thinking about the implications of this message, this demand for instant perfection, on creativity. Whatever the media—visual through paint, photography, glass, fiber; performance in dance or theater; or the written word—taking a chance, risking failure if you will, is inherent in creative works. As much as we try to say, “writing is a business” or “once we finish it’s a product,” the end result of our creative endeavor is still a piece of our soul.

And we offer it up to the world to critique.

If we aren’t “allowed” to take risks, to risk failure, if we have to be “perfect” before we attempt…anything, what does that say about us as a society? If we all have to fall in line and not push creative boundaries, there won’t be urban fantasies or paranormal entities or mysteries that make us think, not just about who did the crime, but what led those characters to make those decisions or any of the other layers we authors craft into our stories to make us think outside the expected. Outside the safe.

And failure to take the creative risk is a loss for all of us.

I don’t want to live in a white bread world, where everything is the same. Where people are afraid to take risks. Are afraid to challenge their deepest fears and embrace their highest dreams.
Instead I applaud everyone who steps outside their comfort zone and offers a piece of their vision. A piece of their heart.



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