Archive for Writing

Writing Retreat 2016: Day Four

Bad, bad manuscript.

Oh, the run-on sentences; using five words when one will do; the wretched passive voice…

I don’t know who created this list, but guess what stage I’m at right now?

The Creative Process

1. This is awesome

2. This is tricky

3. This is shit

4. I am shit

5. This might be ok

6. This is awesome



Writing Retreat 2016: Day Three

Have I mentioned how much fun I’m having?

Writing a book is hard. Reading one is easy, which is why so many people think that writing one must be a cinch, too. Writing is challenging (good books need to be coherent, well-thought-out, and keep the reader’s attention), butt-numbing (all of that sitting), frustrating (Oh, crap, what color were his eyes again? Great, none of that five pages I just wrote is going to work in the final draft. Gah! How am I going to fit in this Really Important piece of information?), time consuming (you can put a lot of words on the page fairly quickly, but do they translate into a good book?), and sometimes all-consuming. Until this morning, I hadn’t left the house for two days. I’m pretty sure I brushed my hair before going to the grocery store, but I’m a little sketchy on the details…

But that all-consuming part? It’s also one of the good aspects. When I read a good book (Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove, the entire Harry Potter series, to name a very few), I am IN that world. It takes over and suddenly I am a time-traveler, a cowboy, or a boy wizard. How cool is that? And when I write, I get to see all of these things unfold. I get to create worlds, people, and situations. Sometimes, I’ll be struggling so much, I think it’s never going to happen, this book is terrible, no one is ever going to want to read it, but that’s okay, because I’ll never actually finish the dumb thing anyway. Then one small thing will click into place–an idea, a piece of dialogue, a plot point–that tiny puzzle piece I needed for the rest of it to make sense.

That happened today. I had one plot point toward that end that I needed to make everything else before and after it make sense, but the reasoning I had for it didn’t work. I could tell I was trying too hard to make this one thing happen without a good reason. Then, after much struggle, the right reason popped out in the middle of a few terribly worded sentences. I wrote for about five hours straight after that, because everything now made sense.

I actually don’t need to be a boy wizard sometimes, because writing itself is magic.

Writing Retreat 2016: Day Two

Rearranging bookshelves always takes longer than I anticipate. That was my reward on Day Two. Normally, it would be an avoidance technique, but I worked on them after finishing a brand new scene I’d been struggling with for the past 12 hours or so. It involves food trucks, pot smokers and a little dalliance up against an office wall (hey, I write romance! If it was a mystery, it might be a dead body on an office floor…). I was so happy with the final result, I took some time out to read a little of Feint of Art, from one of my favorite writers (Juliet Blackwell, writing as Hailey Lind).

But I’ve been eyeing my bookshelves for awhile. I live in a tiny space, I have a lot of well-loved mementos, I love books – instant dilemma for someone who likes things to be tidy. I had seen some beautifully organized books online recently that combined said mementos with the books – on the same shelf! I know! As a book lover, I’d honestly never thought of “covering up” my books, or having them share shelf space. They needed to be front and center. But I wanted some of my treasured treasures to be seen, too, so I experimented a bit with combining the items. I’m not completely happy with the result, but there’s some promise there…

Now, back to those dalliances…

Writing Retreat 2016: Day One**

Any day that I can get writing done is a good day, so yesterday–a day dedicated to working on Tasty Dish–was heaven. It always goes slower than I hope (I usually have myself finishing the damn book on the first day of my retreat!), but I made a lot of progress, and not only added new scenes, but plumped up some sparse ones. I also fleshed out a secondary character that I’ve grown to love. She may need to make an appearance in another book.

She speaks her mind, doesn’t care what people think of her, has a blue mohawk, and is married to a guy who looks like Viggo Mortensen’s character in GI Jane. I may or may not have spent a lot of time researching that character’s appearance.

It’s all to improve the book, people. I sacrifice for you…

** I swear I didn’t crop the above picture specifically for that…area. It’s all WordPress’s doing, but I do find it amusing.

Cookie's husband Urgayle


Writing Retreat 2016: The Weekend

I kicked off my annual writing retreat by sharing the weekend with my fellow critique group members, Tracy and Cary, at Tracy’s house. We dubbed it Oasis, a true getaway, and dedicated the entire time to writing. From Friday afternoon to Sunday afternoon, we wrote; consumed many, many snacks; discussed what a crazy/wonderful business writing is; bonded; and helped each other through some difficult places in our manuscripts where we felt stuck. This included finding the perfect name for one of the characters – a very important endeavor.

After a full day glued to our computers, a little dazed from our single-minded focus, we did go out for Mexican food on Saturday night (yum!), watched part of an exciting bike race with a course that ran through the middle of town, and played “Marrying Mr. Darcy,” the card game (you read that right) for some entertainment.

But then it was back to the editing/creating. My focus right now is the third book in my “That’s Entertainment” series, Tasty Dish. This one follows Teresa Steplowski, who was introduced in In Concert, as she enters a reality TV cooking show contest and tries to make smart decisions in the face of backstabbing fellow contestants, hostile judges, and two very tasty men pursuing her.

At the end of this week, I’ll be doing a cover reveal for Tasty Dish, so stay tuned!

Here’s the current first paragraph, which may or may not end up in the final draft:

“Instead of dreading Sunday dinner with her ultra-conservative family, Teresa Steplowski brought along her pregnant, unmarried, hippie friend to shake things up. Instead of toning down her outfit, Teresa wore blue cowboy boots, a red floral handkerchief dress and denim jacket. Instead of outright bravery, which she’d been trying to incorporate into her life, she chose passive aggressive behavior.”

Book Giveaway for Reviews

Take Two


I’m shamelessly looking for reviews! In exchange for your honest review on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads, etc., I’m giving away copies of my books TAKE TWO and IN CONCERT.

Comment here, or send me a private message on Facebook or Twitter, and I’ll get a book to you. I have a limited number of paperbacks and the rest will be e-books (your choice of format).

Please share this post to get the word out – thanks!

Worried about the ethics of this? You can add this disclaimer to the end of your review: “I was given a copy of this book by the publisher for my honest and fair review.”

Why I Write Romance

I’m the guest author at the Mendocino Coast Writers Conference blog this month. Pop over and learn why I write romance. You may be surprised to learn it involves Stephen King and Mallomars.

Edited to add: Full post below, as it’s now getting harder to find on the MCWC blog (there’s some great stuff there, though, if you still want to visit!). Also, now with interesting links!


​Many people who know me are surprised to learn I write romance. On the outside, I’m generally quiet, pragmatic and reserved. The inside is sometimes a different matter. But I even surprised myself by writing and publishing in this genre, and could never have guessed my road to it would include Stephen King and Mallomars.

In college, I leaned toward literary fiction, examining relationships, human foibles and interpersonal dramas. I was terrible at it. And it was boring. I searched for other inspiration.

Drawn to the Lord of the Rings, Terry Brooks’ Shannara series, and Elizabeth Moon’s The Deed of Paksenarrion trilogy, I turned to fantasy. Now this was fun, a departure from literary angst: it wasn’t about the words, but the story. I loved writing fantasy, but hadn’t developed the discipline to build a new world and establish its rules while forming involved plots. Still, I kept writing.

Then I found online chatrooms full of fellow book lovers and writers. A group comprised of Stephen King fans who created their own versions of King’s books (The Stand, Needful Things, The Tommyknockers) was great fun. This was early fanfiction with one difference: we placed ourselves as characters into King’s plots. We took turns writing, and in a surprisingly cohesive way, each contributor built on previous posts to advance the story. I gave “my” characters all sorts of intriguing quirks and histories. I even created an evil version of myself, a catsuit-wearing, Mallomar-consuming seductress with few morals, who immensely enjoyed her life. I called her “Evil Christine.” She may or may not have been an alien. I kind of miss her.

While none of this writing could be considered romance, looking back I see I added in more romantic elements with each new plotline. Yet with the thousands and thousands of words I wrote, due to the inherent nature of these collective stories, I never had to write a beginning or an end. I could call myself a writer, but not a novelist. The other King fans drifted away from the group writing, but I wanted more. I wanted to create my own stories–beginning, middle, and end–and to be published.

So a friend and I decided we would write romances, maybe some of those shorter Harlequin ones. So many people did it, it had to be easy, right? I had that thought for about five minutes, until I actually tried to write one. My friend decided it wasn’t for her, but one of the ideas intrigued me: what if an everyday Jane found herself in a relationship with a mega celebrity and it turned both of their lives upside down? I wrote a few chapters. It was semi-terrible. But it wasn’t boring. I kept writing. Take Two was the very first novel I ever finished, it became my first published book, and it launched my “That’s Entertainment” series.

During the revision process, I not only fell in love with my characters, I fell in love with writing romance. These were the kinds of relationships I wanted to explore, and if I could immerse myself in humor and joy, with my readers knowing there would be a happy conclusion, how could I not embrace that? Along with these revelations, I experienced the romance writing community’s generosity, and learned of their fierce belief that romance should be taken just as seriously as any other genre. They fight stereotypes of the genre with each story they tell, and contradict the cynics with every sale. Being part of that world thrills and enthralls me.

Plus, there’s that happy ending. I love a happy ending. And my characters can eat all the Mallomars they want.

Happy New Year

(A basket of puppies, because…well, do I really need a reason?)

I’m very excited about 2015, for many reasons. The first is that I love a fresh start. I believe in second (and third, and fourth, etc.) chances, and the new year is a big symbol in our world for a fresh start. I enjoy setting goals, making lists (lists! love ’em!), planning, dreaming and scheming for what I want to accomplish the rest of the year.

And along those lines, I’ve decided to self-publish this year. Big, scary, exciting stuff, and I can’t wait to share it all with you! Stay tuned for more information – as the year unfolds, so will the fun!

Writing Retreat 2014: Memorial Interlude

September 11 is one of those days where the words fail. Every year on the anniversary, I send up a prayer for those who died, their loved ones, and for the residents of this planet to remember and maybe be just a little kinder to each other today, and in the future.

I also remember spending that day at work, unable to concentrate, worried about an uncle and a friend both in the New York area (they were fine, but it took a long time to get that news), then going to my parents’ house to find my dad making dinner. It was such a simple, routine thing that I remember feeling myself relax for the first time since hearing the news that morning.

I don’t remember what we said, but he gave me one of his patented hugs – a bear hug that would re-align your spine, but also reassure you that everything was okay, even if just for that one moment. It was a simple thing, but we both needed it, and I’ll never forget it, especially since my dad passed away three years ago.

Go about your day, but be kind to each other…


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