Thursday, September 27, 2012


Photobucket Anyone who knows me can tell you that I am not the sharpest tool in the shed when it comes to social media. Really. I suck.  But even I know a good deal when I hear about it, so here goes:

From September 28-30th, hosting a multi-player Blogfest, to benefit bloggers of all types and those who visit their blogs. With each blog you visit, you enter into a contest to win fabulous prizes, just for taking the time to take a look at a web page.


Each blogger will be giving something away, and there will also be a GRAND GIVEAWAY at the end of the BlogFest. Play along and you'll have a chance to visit some great blogs. So, even if you don't win... YOU WIN.

My prize is a digital copy of Cocktails & Dreams!

Once you've entered here, don't walk! RUN! RUN TO THESE OTHER GREAT BLOGS:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

For the thousandth time that week, I turned around from the thousand and one things I did every day and found myself thinking about Shauna.

Though we'd graduated from the same high school, even in the same graduating class, we went to a big school and had never met. Then, the summer just before I turned twenty-one, we met through a mutual friend (well, my friend, her boyfriend), and bonded over Bull Durham (if you don't know that movie and won't look it up, I can't know you). Shauna quickly broke up with my friend (Psshht! I could have told her he was a playa), but we developed a deep friendship. We spent pretty much any time that we weren't in classes together; she eventually even got a job at the same government agency for which I worked, so we carpooled. I have no sisters, and have always had an easier time making friends with guys than with girls, so having someone to be girly with was a revelation. Shauna was with me the first time I tried an illegal substance (yes, I was kind of behind in this respect), and she was with me the night I met the guy who would become my husband a few years later--in fact, on our first double date, he was her date.

Time passed, my relationship with The Man got more intense, and Shauna and I became less close, though she was in my wedding and I was in her first. I became a mom and decided to make that position full-time, she became fabulously proficient in her chosen career... and soon calls were seasonal. Then they ended. I heard through the grapevine that her first marriage failed, and then a few years later that her second was struggling, but daily life with three small kids and a major home remodel seemed overwhelming.

In the spring of 2002, that little voice started whispering, wondering how Shauna was doing.

Then it talked.

Then it yelled.

Finally tired of shouty brain, I decided to give her a call. Easter was coming up, and that seemed like a great time for a good long catch-up.

I never got that chance.

A week before Easter of that year, my beautiful friend decided to end her own life.

Friends later pieced together some things: her parents were having financial troubles; she was under tremendous stress at work; she'd returned to the religion of her youth, one wherein one divorce was barely tolerable and two was shameful to the extreme. All conjecture, of course, because she was serious when she decided: there was no note, and no way anyone could have stopped her.

I wish I'd made that call the first time that little voice started nudging me. Before anyone gets crazy, telling me it's not my fault, rest assured that I know that. But everyone needs to know that they are not alone and that someone cares about them. No matter what. And know that I never ignore that little voice that tells me to check on someone anymore.

I'm telling y'all this because I want you to understand why I'm so passionate about the fundraiser and giveaway that's being hosted by my fellow Omnific writer and terrific person, Justine Dell. Together with YA author Sarah Fine and a host of other authors, editors, and literary agents, Justine is raising money and awareness for Out Of The Darkness, a suicide prevention giveaway and fundraiser.

If you're a reader, this giveaway is heaven. There are dozens upon dozens of books that will be given away, from so many authors and in so many genres that I can't list them all. There is a truckful of 'swag', as well. For authors, there are many opportunities for agent and editor critique of your works in progress--folks, this is invaluable. All it takes for your opportunity to win is an entry to the contest and a donation. I can't even get into the auctions! SO MUCH STUFF TO WIN.

Please, please take a look at Justine's link.

Make a donation.

Listen to your little voices.

And let whoever is close to you know that they are loved.

No matter what.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

... TIME?

It's something most of us never feel we have enough of, right?

Between work away from home, work at home, busy brain keeping you awake (admit it, you know exactly what I mean), families, dinner, being a taxi service, homework duty, hunching over your keyboard and typing furiously in the middle of the night--well, maybe that's just me. But I doubt it--there never seems to be enough time to do everything right.

Anything right.


I've been thinking tonight, though, about how much of that furious rush is self-imposed.

Example: Today.

As some of you know, I'm a wife and mother of four, from college-age to first grade (and if you don't think going to #1 Son's high school graduation the day before #2 Son's Kindergarten graduation wasn't funny, I can't know you).  I also volunteer in the library at my younger kids' school, shuttle people around, try to spend time with a parent that has a chronic illness, teach religious education to fifth graders at my church, and try to slip in a little writing here and there. And editing of a new manuscript. And research for another book. I volunteer with Fictionista Workshop (, a fabulous resource for writers, and work as a freelance editor for several authors, which I love. In between all this, I tend to read a lot.

Hey, can't be a decent writer if you don't read, right? Part of reading, to me, is writing, so I review most of what I read as well, both on GoodReads and Amazon.

Because of the publication of my novel, the reviewing, and the editing I've done I've had some lovely opportunities come up: first, I'll soon be reviewing novels for the New York Journal of Books (! My dream! Free books and an excuse to read them! I spent a lot of today setting that up.

Second, I've been approached to edit for an up-and-coming political site. This is right up my alley, as my degree work was in political science and history. Getting prepped for this is taking time, too.

In between, I was dealing with paperwork for my oldest's college, and beginning paperwork in preparation for starting the next phase of my own education: after more years than I care to think about, I'm exploring the possibility (see how I hedged my bets there? I'm tricky--remember that) of working toward a Masters in English.

See what I mean about how much stress is self-imposed?

But as I sit here tonight, punchy and tea-sodden, I keep asking myself, "What would you give up?"

The family is off the table, of course (though there are days...).


Reading? NEVER!

Writing? PFFT. AS IF.

Reviewing? CAN'T. JUST CAN'T.


Maybe I need stress to be me.

Regardless, tomorrow, after a quick morning check of emails and posting this brain dump, I'm not turning on the computer all day. I will walk my horsedog. I will visit with my mother. I will watch a horrible movie with my Little Man.


And I refuse to feel guilty.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


I heard about this wonderful game from Helen Mallory at  Helen is the author of the just-published short story,  "Casual Day at the Crazy House,"  and a fine writer. 

Without further ado, here are my answers to ten questions about Cocktails & Dreams:

Ten Interview Questions for The Next Big Thing:

What was the working title of your book?
It was always Cocktails & Dreams, mostly because I have a terrible time coming up with titles! My current WIP is the first wherein I changed the title after the book was finished and in edits.
Where did the idea come from for the book?
The germ of the first idea came from a conversation with an old college friend. She pointed out that a very handsome member of our rowing team had a thing for me (that I missed entirely) during my Freshman year. I thought back, and saw so many ways I was a complete idiot. Then my writer brain asked that fateful question, "What if..."

What genre does your book fall under?
Contemporary romance
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Toughie! If I could jump back a decade or so (lol), I'd say Thomas Gibson (who my handsome rower closely resembled) and Neve Campbell. Now... not sure.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Does a modern romance stand a chance when it starts somewhere in the middle?

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
Nine months, give or take a week. It was my brain baby!

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Another toughie. I don't read to compare, so I'm not sure on this one.
Who or What inspired you to write this book?
Rick, my rower, and the friend who shook me up a bit (pity it was quite a few years too late). I still wonder what happened to him after he walked off in the swirling snow that night...

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
It's a realistic story, with believable situations, great banter and other dialogue, and a sweet/hot romance!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

... MUSIC?

For my blog hop! post today, I want to talk a little about the power of a song.

So, I was driving home from taking the kids to school, enjoying the blast-from-the-past songs the iPod was playing this morning, and "My Confession", by Josh Groban swirled out the speakers and through the car.


I'm riding along with a gooney, girlie, dreamy smile on my face.

I could say it was because of the dramatic strings.

I could say it was because of the beautiful Spanish guitar work.

I could even say it was because of Groban's gorgeous voice (even if he DOES look like a Muppet to SOME ;D)

I would be lying.

It was because of THIS:

No, not because it's a skinny Brit with painted on abs, but because this image and this song are inextricably linked in my mind.

I hear those strings and in an instant, I am transported to the first time I read Midnight Sun, by Stephenie Meyer (yes, I read it. More's to the point, I loved it. Don't judge.), and reminded of how the character she created in that book fragment became the prism through which I read her other books. That song is Edward to me--his state of mind when he steps out into the sun in New Moon.

Music, words, and images are difficult for me to divide. I can't write without the 'right' music, and each of my manuscripts has a very definite soundtrack that I listen to and that run through my mind as I think about my stories. Afterward, there are certain songs or artists that evoke full sensual recall of stories.

I can't hear Jonny Lang's 'Breakin' Me' or 'Stevie Ray Vaughn's 'Close To You'  or anything from James Morrison's first two CDs ('If You Don't Wanna Love Me"'... *sighsob*) without having entire scenes from Cocktails & Dreams play through my head.

Turn on Jack Johnson, Paolo Nutini, or Ray La Montagne, and I'm lying on the beach, watching surfers ride to shore (book I'm currently editing).

Got your basic '60s Motown? I have a book about a Gordon Ramsey-style chef and an organic gardener for you.

My current story is languishing because I just can't get the right music mix.

I'll get there, though.

Just you watch.

(Maybe Johnny Flynn would be right...)

Maybe I should wait a while before reviewing this book, because all I'm getting are disjointed words: Beautiful. Ugly. Funny. Heartbreaking. Above all, POWERFUL.

THIS IS HOW YOU LOSE HER is a series of stories that (mostly) center around one character, Yunior. He's a young Dominican American; tough, proud, scared, angry--all of these are decent descriptions of the protagonist. What we see over and over, though, is his deep, deep desire to love and be loved. Unfortunately, he shoots himself in the foot over and over again, choosing sex over the love he craves. One by one, he has and loses women who are willing to give him that love, but not willing to be used.

What drives Yunior's self-destruction? Maybe it's being the 'other son', the one who feels like the also ran for a mother's love. Maybe it's the example set by his philandering father and brother. Maybe it's having grown up poor and feeling like he has to prove his worthiness over and over, to whomever will pay attention to him. Regardless of the reason, he repeats the same patterns of love, betrayal, and repentance over the course of many years.

My feelings for this boy (for so he remains, despite his physical age, right up to the end of the book) changed from story to story: first, I felt sorry for him. I really did--felt sorry for a cheater. With each successive story, though, I got more frustrated with him...until the last couple of stories. That boy broke my heart even as he broke his own in finally becoming a man. We're left at the end with a Yunior who has lost much, but perhaps finally gained an honest view of his own soul. When in the concluding paragraphs he concluded, "The half-life of love is forever," I knew he would be okay. And I cried for him.

Earlier, I said that this book is mostly about Yunior, and that's the truth. There is one story that doesn't seem to be connected to him at all. In it, the reader is introduced to the Dominican Latina experience (and the cheater experience from the distaff side). It is also well-written, but I know that I will be puzzling out for a while how it fits into the narrative as a whole. I know the connection is there--Diaz is far too good a writer to have just tossed it into this slim (only 212 pgs)volume--and I'll eventually find it. Lovely excuse to read this treat again.

I have no criticism at all of this precise, concise, well-written book. I do have a wish that I spoke more Spanish; I could puzzle much of the Spanish narrative out, but I'm sure that I missed shades of meaning. If profanity bothers you, you might want to skip this book. That doesn't bother me, as long as it is tonally correct for the book, which it is in this novel.

I've not read Diaz prior to this, but I'll be quick to remedy that.

One of the many hats I wear is Program Director at the fabulous Fictionista Workshop ( for a series called Courting the Classics. If you have any aspirations as a writer and you haven't heard of FW, you're really missing out! Amongst many other things, FW offers writing prompts, book reviews, workshops and collectives to help a writer polish his or her manuscript, and helpful writing tips.My program encourages people to read classics with 'real people' reviews of books that someone might have tried to make you read, but you're afraid will just make your head ache. THEY DON'T. Well, most of them...

Anyhoo, this month Courting the Classics is focusing on classic dystopian fiction, and I've reviewed the modern classic The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood.

Seriously good, seriously timely. This book has the power to make me shudder each time I use my debit card--read the review and see why:

Monday, September 3, 2012 in books?

Okay, so here's the thing: I have nothing against sex in books. NOTHING. If it's well written, in character, and fits the tone of the book, it's perfect! Take a book series like J.R. Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood: that series SCREAMS for the sexual content it carries.

 My Zsadist

My "Hollywood"


 It fits all of my criteria: well-written, in character, and fits the tone; Ward's vamps are VERY sexual beings--there's no Victorian sublimation with them! I'd venture to say that the sex in her books is largely their raison d'etre (I know I sort of skimmed the subplots, everything about those baby-powder smelling dudes--I can't even remember what they're called). They're erotica-lite, right? Sex happens early. often, and carries the story.  And that's absolutely fine.

Then there are romance novels, chick lit, and popular fiction. THOSE are where handling of sex is more of a tightrope walk--sex may be important, but it isn't usually the primary driver for the narrative. As a writer, I can't even begin to express the headaches it can cause, and the temptation to really overdo it to appeal to those that are looking for a rush of blood... somewhere (lol). It can be an ego stroke to have people rave about a particular scene... but is that ALL you want them to be talking about? Is that ALL you want them to take away from your narrative?

Here's a personal example: In the first drafts of Cocktails and Dreams, there was a lot of sex. A LOT. It's fun to write, people like it, and it gets you word count for the day (Writers: you think about this, don't lie).  Here's a scene that was ultimately cut from the final manuscript: 

                        Nicholas would never get tired of showering with Jena. Watching the last of the shampoo slip from the ends of her hair as she tipped her head back under the spray of water and ran her hands from her hairline to the dangling, silken ends, her lips slightly parted, made his mind go blank and his heart speed up alarmingly. 
                        He tried to remind himself that someday soon this would be old hat, and he’d barely notice the way she turned so gracefully to nab her bath pouf.  He probably wouldn’t even register the low humming she always did when she was content,  and he definitely wouldn’t notice the soft smell of her, which he had finally identified as lavender.
                        Jena looked up suddenly and caught Nick’s open-mouthed stare, and her soft laugh coupled with the delighted look in her eyes instantly drew his smile. What a crock of shit. There would never be a time that he didn’t notice everything about her.
                        “See something you like, Nicholas?”  She turned, chuckling, to rinse the scrubby, and Nick reached out to trail a finger lightly from the base of her skull to the end of her tailbone.
                        “Definitely,” he whispered.  Nicholas stepped behind her. “Interested?”
                        Jena turned in Nick’s arms, touching his chest lightly with her fingertips as she stretched on tiptoe to kiss him lingeringly. “Always. I always want you, Nicholas.” The plain truth evident in her voice made Nick catch his breath.

                        “How do you always do that to me? Make me stupid, I mean?”  Nicholas ran his hands slowly over Jena’s back, stroking her soft skin and sleek hair as he inclined his head to kiss her temple.  “No one is supposed to be as honest as you are.”
                        “It’s that verbal filter thing again, I guess.  I told you before, you get what you see, Nicholas, the good and the bad.”  Jena shrugged, twisting to hang her pouf on the bath caddy before snuggling against him with a sigh.  Her hand ghosted across Nicholas’ stomach.
                        “Nothing bad.  All good.” Running his tongue lightly against the pulse in Jena’s throat, Nick felt it speed up.
                        “Don’t be ridiculous. I’m pig-headed as hell and I hate to lose.” Her hands gripped Nick’s shoulders.
                        “Determined. That’s good.” The tip of Jena’s breast was too tempting to resist, so Nick licked it as she arched back slightly, moaning.
                        “I have a big mouth,” she gasped
                        Nicholas laughed, arching an eyebrow as he looked up at her. “That’s bad?”  He was rewarded with a visible blush that even heated the skin under his tongue.
                        “You can’t look at me like that and expect me to make any sense, mister.”  Jena cupped Nicholas’s face with her hands and pulled it up. “I mean, I can’t keep my mouth shut.”
                        “Again, that’s bad?”
                        Jena smiled and shook her head, kissing Nick’s chest. “You’re bad. Here’s something else. I’m lazy.”  One hand tugged at the ends of Nicholas’ hair while the other drifted to his hipbone. Nicholas captured her hand and wrapped it around him.
                        “You’re only lazy about laundry, and I like that. You know I like to imagine you not wearing underwear most of the time, and I know I’m right at least some of the time.”
                        “Perv.”  She laughed softly, her breathing elevating as she looked up from watching her hand and caught Nicholas watching her. “This is probably a bad idea.  I just started the pill –-- it’s not enough for a few weeks.”
                        Nicholas grinned and stuck his hand out from behind the shower curtain, groping for the nearby counter and coming back with a foil packet. “I was sort of hoping…”
                        Jena shook her head. “I’m so predictable already? Maybe I should say no. Don’t guys like girls who play hard to get?” She playfully pushed at Nick’s chest, and gasped as he kissed her, capturing her tongue and thrusting against her at the same time.
                        They were both breathing hard when Nicholas finally loosened his hold on Jena and rested his forehead against hers. “Really stupid guys, maybe. I like ‘yes’ to mean yes and ‘no’ to mean no. Which is definitely not encouragement to say no, because I think I’m past that point.”
                        “Yummy,” she purred.  She took the packet out of his hands and quickly tore it open, holding his eyes with hers while she rolled the condom on by touch alone.
                        ‘You’re very good at that, Ms. Baker,” Nicholas murmured, watching his hands as they ran smoothly down her sides.  He hooked his thumbs inside her hipbones and rubbed them in the gentle dips there before sliding his hands around to cup her behind and squeeze.
                        “Lots of practice lately.” Jena looked slightly concerned. “I’m not sure how this will work. I’m a shortie. We can adjourn to the bed again.”
                        “Uh-uh. Can’t wait that long,” Nicholas murmured, dipping his knees and pulling her closer.  He licked her neck, and she moaned, straining up on tiptoe to allow him inside her. No dice.
                        “Wrap your legs around me,” Nick suggested, lifting her and almost dropping her on her ass when their wet skin just slid apart. Damn, she was slippery!
                        Jena giggled and clutched his shoulders to keep from falling. “That always did sound a little too ‘romance novel.’.” Her calf slid across Nick’s ass and he staggered, grabbing onto the wall. “One wrong move and we’re going down, sweetheart,” she said
                        The feeling of her skin sliding against his and the soft pressure of her body against his as she laughed kept Nicholas hard, even as he snickered along with her. He felt the tip of his cock just enter her, and they both gasped. Jena ground down, eyes closed, seeking full penetration…
                        And Nick’s foot slipped.
                        With a yell, he reached out and grabbed for any purchase he could find, and stared at his hand stupidly as the towel bar broke away from the wall and they were falling.  Jena shrieked with laughter as Nicholas hit the bathroom floor on his back, shower curtain billowing around them, thankfully catching herself before she crushed his balls.
                        “What the fuck is going on in there?” Conor bellowed as he tried to open the door.  Luckily, Nicholas’ head was against the wood, and Conor couldn’t open it more than a fraction of an inch.
                        “Go away, Conor,” Nick barked, groaning.

                        Conor knocked again. “Jena? You okay?”
                        “Fine,” she gasped out between giggles.
                        Conor hesitated outside and then slapped his hand against the doorjamb, muttering, “Holy God… you people will get your freak on anywhere.” Nicholas heard his door slam and chuckled.
                        “Two guesses what he’s doing right now.”
                        Jena slapped at his chest. “Gross. I don’t want to even think about that.”
                        Reaching up to tangle his hand in the hair at the back of her head, Nicholas brought her face down for a deep, lingering kiss before he whispered in her ear, “Liar.  You love to think of me coming for you.”

                        He laughed breathlessly, hugging her. “We’ll have to work on that shower sex thing.” Nicholas kissed her hair. “I’m not ready to give up yet, even if you are slippery when wet.”
                        Jena laughed as she got to her feet. “It’s nice not to be the only one whose mouth doesn’t consult their brain before talking.”  Pulling Nicholas to his feet, Jena whistled before shutting the water off.  “You look pretty good for an old doctor-guy.”
                        Nick tossed her a towel. “Is that a hint? Am I an old doctor and you the sexy nurse for the party tonight?” Just imagining her with skintight polyester hugging every curve, and the front opened enough to show cleavage, was getting him going.
                        “Nice try, Nicky.”  Jena grinned as Nick grimaced at the name. “You’ll find out in about an hour. And besides, I told you it was a group costume. What are the others?”
                        “Mental patients?”
                        Jena snickered and continued to dry her body. 
                        By the time they got out of the bathroom, Conor was gone, leaving a one-word note on the fridge:

It still makes me laugh. And I had a good reason for writing it: I'd noticed a rash of unreasonably easy shower sex in stories I'd been reading, and this was my semi-satirical answer. Nick and Jena had the accident that's coming whenever this is attempted (lol), but everything got to end reasonably well. 

When I was finishing the manuscript for publication, though, I had to take a hard look at what my goal was for the story arc. Was it "Adventures in Sex" (there were more scenes in this vein-lol), or did I want the reader to get something different from the story? Ultimately, what I decided was that sex was important to the story--it started with the aftermath of a one-night stand, after all--but it couldn't carry the story. I wanted the reader to ask his or herself whether this relationship had 'legs'; whether it had a chance of succeeding after it started in the middle, so to speak. If I emphasized sex scene after sex scene (all pretty satisfactory, if I do say so myself), that might not occur to the reader.  Sex becomes a distraction rather than a plot mover.

SO. What I decided was to de-emphasize the actual sex (though there is plenty implied), and to focus more on what REALLY carries a relationship long term: COMMUNICATION. Anyone who has been married a while will probably agree with me on this.

As I recently told an author for which I edit, unless you're writing erotica, think of sexual description the same way you do food or clothing description: unless it is important to the story, tells us something important about the characters or their relationship, or moves a plot point forward, we don't need the details. 


GONE GIRL by Gillian Flynn

This is this summer's "IT" book, apparently, so I thought I'd give it a chance. And I'm glad I did! Quick recap: On their fifth anniversary, Amy Dunne goes missing, and her husband, Nick, is the prime suspect.

GONE GIRL was a pretty darn good summer read! The novel is split into three sections: the set up, the twist, the pay off. As far as I'm concerned, the first section is by far the strongest of the novel. Without giving too much away (I try not to spoil), it gives the reader a chance to meet Nick and Amy... sort of..., but we see them as voyeurs, as the police and outside observers would see them. The case against Nick builds page by page, block by block. In this section, we also come to know that both characters are unreliable narrators--Nick goes back to tell us things he 'forgot', while Amy's journal also holds er own confessions of unreliability when she tells us she 'might have exaggerated' or 'forgot' things. In a journal? Who lies in a journal and then admits it to themself? Amy, apparently.

The second section deconstructs the first section, and gives us another angle of view entirely. Up until this point, GONE GIRL reminded me strongly of Scott Turow's PRESUMED INNOCENT (in tone, not particulars), and I can't help but think that it could have been well served thematically to retain that perspective until closer to the end. Still, this section is interesting.

Where the book falls a little is toward the end of the third section, when a series of Scooby-Doo 'twists' happen. They strain incredulity, and I found myself eye rolling a couple of times. Flynn finishes a stronger than I expected, though, with a final chilling line that left me wondering.

This is a fun book. It retains some of Turow's phrasing and pacing, which works beautifully for this novel. It fumbles a bit near the end, but recovers and finishes well. Overall, it is much stronger than SHARP OBJECTS, Flynn's last novel; I like to see growth in an author, so I liked that. Definitely a re-readable book!