Archive for September, 2020


Falling Into Mystery

One more day until the new book comes out! My original plan was to release it in March. It’s set in late February, so I thought that timing would fit well. Unfortunately, it was nowhere near ready at that time. But I think it’s appropriate to be unleashing mysteries upon the world in the fall because that’s when I usually think about reading mysteries. I’m a seasonal sort of reader. Although I will mix things up throughout the year, depending on what I’m interested in reading at the time, what books are coming out, and what series I’m into, generally I read romance and women’s fiction in the summer, mysteries in the fall, and epic fantasy in the winter. I don’t seem to have a book preference for spring.

I think maybe it’s that association with spookiness and death that makes me turn to mysteries in the fall. There’s a hint of darkness even to a light mystery because it’s about crime. That fits well with fall. A fall night is a good time to curl up with a cup of tea and a mystery novel. Even when the book takes place in other times of year, my brain tends to decorate the scene with autumn leaves.

It is possible that I’m especially prone to thinking of English cozy mysteries in the fall because both times I’ve been to England, it was in October. My mental image of English villages has autumn colors and a hint of wood smoke in the air.

Oddly enough, this is about the only series I’ve written that doesn’t start around the fall. I guess I think of that season as a time for new beginnings, going back to the start of a school year. I also tend to start writing new series in the fall. With this one, I did do that, even as I was writing about February.

I’m probably not going to be reading many mysteries this fall because I generally don’t read the genre I’m currently writing, and I started writing book 3 in this series yesterday. I’ll read that kind of book before I start writing or between books, but I don’t want to risk absorbing anyone else’s style while I’m writing. I did go on a mystery movie binge last weekend, though. I rewatched Knives Out (which has a lovely autumn setting), then watched One for the Money, which was based on the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich. I’m way behind on books in that series, but at one point I’d read enough to contribute an essay about them to a book. I’d heard bad things about the movie, but I thought it was a pretty faithful adaptation, and the casting worked well for me. It’s a pity they didn’t get to do more so that they could have highlighted all the fun supporting characters who were barely introduced in the first movie.

I’m hoping people discover my new series, though I’m a little worried because there haven’t been that many pre-orders. I’m playing the long game here, with the idea of building as I go and increase awareness, so I’ll try not to fret over it.

My Books

Mysteries and Me

A mystery novel may seem to be a big departure for an author who’s been writing fantasy, but it really isn’t for me. I noticed not long after Enchanted, Inc. came out that many of the books listed under the “people who bought this also bought” section on Amazon for that book were mystery novels, and in a lot of ways, the Enchanted, Inc. books work like a cozy mystery series. We have a (mostly) amateur sleuth who gets dragged into solving cases and stopping bad guys, working with the hot guy who’s a kind of official, and the ongoing development of their relationship happens alongside the cases.

I wasn’t thinking in those terms when I was writing the books, but it makes sense, since I’ve been a mystery reader ever since I discovered Nancy Drew when I was in third grade — ironically, when I was looking for books about witches and got a Nancy Drew book with a misleading title. I remember always trying to find the last book in the Nancy Drew series to see if Nancy and Ned ever really got together for good. Little did I know that there really is no end. Around that same time, I also found the Trixie Belden books, the Cherry Ames books, and other mysteries aimed at younger readers.

When I was in junior high, I discovered Agatha Christie, Mary Stewart, Dick Francis, and Ellis Peters. I love the Cadfael books by Ellis Peters, but when I was a teen, it was her “contemporary” (from the time she was writing them, but they were set in the 60s) books that I really liked. There were several about the twenty-something son of a police inspector who tended to stumble upon crimes when he was traveling with his friends, but the one I really liked was Never Pick up Hitchhikers, which I wished would be a series, but I think it was a standalone. I still remember the nightmares I had when my mom made me turn out the light and go to bed just when I reached the part where the hero was about to go investigate something, thinking he’d surely make it out before that building closed. The last line of the chapter was “famous last words.” My brain kept trying to figure out what happened next, and I got no sleep. I may as well have stayed up to finish it.

These days, I lean heavily toward the cozy side of things, mostly because I can’t take a lot of stress right now. My new series wasn’t begun with the COVID world in mind, but I think it may be the perfect tonic for these times. If you’re looking for edge-of-your-seat suspense, these aren’t the books for you, but if you want to escape to a fun little town, where you can maybe try to solve a puzzle or just go along for the ride, hang out with nice people, and see bad guys get a comeuppance, this may be what you’re looking for. These books are also shorter than my other books. They’re the sort of thing you could easily read in a weekend.

Speaking of the COVID world, I made a conscious decision to ignore the pandemic, even though book 2 would have taken place during the first wave when the state was shut down. I never say in the book exactly what year it’s all taking place, but there is an election mentioned in book 1. I hope people are reading these books for years to come, and because it’s an election for the US House that’s mentioned, that could be two years from now or two years ago, as well. The ice storm that hits in the first book didn’t actually happen in that part of the world this year. And, besides, there are ghosts and people with supernatural powers in this world, so it’s already an alternate reality.

My Books

Welcome to Stirling Mills

Interview with a Dead Editor CoverMy new mystery series, like many cozy mysteries, is set in a small town. I have to admit to having mixed feelings about small towns. We moved to one just before I started high school — a truly small town that had only about 3,000 residents around the time we moved there. At that time, there were two stoplights. The only restaurants were the Dairy Queen, a little local barbecue place that kept going out of business and being reopened, and a fried chicken place. It was a major event when they opened a McDonalds near the freeway that passed by the town when I was a sophomore in high school. They subsequently moved the city limits down to the freeway so that the McDonalds and the Burger King that opened on the other side of the street a couple of years later would be officially in the town.

I wasn’t very happy living there. It was a big culture shock for me, coming from a military upbringing to a place where a lot of my classmates had been friends since kindergarten. We lived in the country outside the town, so getting to events was sometimes a challenge. I didn’t fit in at all. I couldn’t wait to graduate and get back to a city. But I still love the idea of small towns. I don’t like driving on freeways, so when I travel, I usually take back roads that go through lots of little towns. I love seeing the different kinds of little towns — the railroad towns, the county seats with courthouse squares, the old market towns. The neighborhood where I live functions like a small town even though it’s part of a big city. It’s a self-contained little bubble separated from the rest of the city by a freeway, with a mix of houses, restaurants, and businesses, all within walking distance. I’m not sure I’d want to live in a truly urban area.

I think one of the main reasons small towns are popular for cozy mysteries is that sense of everyone knowing everyone. There’s a ready-made pool of suspects whose secrets are already known, even if there might be additional secrets beneath the surface. That sense of familiarity gives the amateur sleuth a reason to get involved in solving crimes, and the police department might not be as procedure-bound as in a big city with more bureaucracy. You can imagine the local newspaper editor getting away with poking around and investigating a case in a small town, while that would get shot down pretty quickly by a big-city police department.

In creating Stirling Mills, the fictional town where my mystery series is set, I merged aspects of a couple of real towns that are in the general area where I’ve mentally placed the town, then created my own ideal setting that has all the things I’d love to have in a town. It’s a place where the old downtown has been restored and revived, where there’s a lovely historic district. The old movie theater still shows movies. There are newer things on the outskirts of town, the more common chain stores and restaurants and new subdivisions, but I haven’t explored that yet in the books. My focus has been on the downtown area where the heroine lives and works.

This is also a town with secrets, and some of those lie in the paranormal realm. One of my favorite TV series ever was Haven, which was based on a Stephen King book. The series focused on a strange small town in Maine where there were a lot of secrets. I loved the mix of the quirky small-town personalities and the eerie elements people didn’t talk much about. I’m trying to capture some of that feel in my books, but with a Texas accent. In my book, one of the odd things about the town’s history is that a carnival sideshow troupe got stranded there during the Depression when the troupe ran out of money. It wasn’t a run-of-the-mill sideshow. Many of those people had uncanny abilities that they used in their acts, and now half the town is descended from those people, with many of them inheriting the abilities. Their abilities might be used for good or for ill, and their existence makes crime-solving more of a challenge, especially because it’s not the sort of thing the police can use as evidence.

Now we’re just a little more than a week from launch day! And I’m about to start writing book 3 in the series, so I’ll find out what else there is to learn about this town.

In the meantime, if you never tried my Fairy Tale series, you’ve got a good opportunity to do so while also getting a bunch of other books. The first book is part of a Storybundle, available from now through Oct. 8. You can get all the information here.

My Books

Meet the Heroine

I’ll be spilling a few more details about the new book as we get closer to the release date. Today, I’m going to tell you a bit about my heroine, Lexie Lincoln. She’s probably my most autobiographical character so far, and yet that wasn’t really my intention. It was just that I had to make a lot of decisions about what she was like, and for mostly plot purposes I chose a lot of things that happened to be similar to me or were from my life. She’s kind of like if you took a few of my traits and put them together in another person who also has some other traits.

For instance, her profession. Lexie is a reporter. I went to journalism school and have worked in print, radio, and TV news. My degree is actually in broadcast news, but I’ve worked more in print. I worked on the school newspaper in high school, which also meant doing some work with our town’s weekly newspaper. In college, I spent a semester reporting for The Daily Texan, and I spent a summer working for a weekly entertainment newspaper. My first job out of college was as assistant editor, and later editor, of the monthly campus newspaper at an academic medical center. In my initial plan for a mystery series, the newcomer to town who ended up solving mysteries was going to be a doctor, in a “Northern Exposure” kind of situation, in which she got a scholarship to med school in exchange for working a certain number of years in this small town, first as an apprentice to the town doctor and later taking over his practice. Because it’s a small town, the local doctor also serves as a medical examiner.

But as I thought about it, I figured she would be way too limited in what she’d do, since if she ever worked as medical examiner she might have to keep things official. I didn’t want every case to be a murder mystery. Plus, that would have required a lot more research to be at all accurate. I have some medical background from working at a medical center, but I don’t know the nuts and bolts of a small-town medical practice, and from what I’ve seen, a small-town doctor wouldn’t have time to solve mysteries, especially not if she’s also serving as a medical examiner. And I didn’t want to have to get into the gory details of death that would come with being medical examiner. I know about autopsies and have seen one (thanks to working at the medical center), but it’s not something I want to delve into. So, I thought, why not go with something I know a lot more about, someone who would have an excuse to do unofficial investigations, and make her a reporter?

Then I was wrestling with whether to make her a city girl coming to a small town or to have her be originally from a small town and finding herself back in that kind of environment. I could see pluses and minuses to both approaches, but then I thought of something else — why not make her a military brat, someone who doesn’t really have a hometown? Again, that’s something from my own background I was stealing, though my dad was in the army and Lexie’s dad was in the air force. The military life is in a weird twilight zone between small town and big city. There’s a degree of sophistication that comes with it because you move around a lot, experience a lot of different cultures, and deal with a variety of people. You get good at adapting and fitting in, and you’re always meeting new people. A small town can get pretty insular, and people who went to school with the same people from kindergarten through high school are the polar opposite of a military brat. At the same time, a military base can function a lot like a small town. Everyone’s parents work for the same employer, and if a kid gets in trouble, it will get back to the parents. The community is very tight-knit. You form these instant bonds with your neighbors, who become like family — until they move and you start over with the next people. I thought that background would be interesting for my heroine who moves to this town to take over the newspaper. She’s never had a hometown, so this is a novel experience to her, something she longs for but that also makes her a bit itchy. She fits in easily, but also feels like an outsider.

She’s also a tea drinker, like I am. That just sort of appeared as I was writing. There was a scene in the town’s diner, and I needed to give her a bit of business to give her a reason to interact with the waitress and we would get to see her around someone other than the cop. A scene about her trying to get hot tea in a diner in a small Texas town popped into my head (because that can be an epic ordeal), and thus she was a tea drinker. That fit in with her being an air force brat, because air force is more likely to have been stationed in England, and she might have picked up the habit then. I do sometimes carry my own tea bags, as Lexie does, but mine aren’t anything special, and I don’t think I’ve ever actually ordered boiling water in a diner so I could make my own tea (I did once resort to asking for iced tea, no ice, in a mug, and microwave it). I just usually have mine for situations like coffee breaks at conferences. I suppose there’s also some research avoidance involved because I don’t drink coffee and don’t know how to make it or what’s supposed to be good, so it’s a lot harder for me to have a character with a coffee-related quirk. Katie drinks coffee in the Enchanted, Inc. books, but you may notice that I never get into much detail about it or describe her making it.

Really, those are about the only traits I stole from myself. I’m not nearly as brave as she is. I’d probably let the police handle things rather than wanting to do my own investigation of something like a murder case. I wasn’t a very good reporter. I’m a good writer, but I hate making phone calls and asking people personal questions, so I was miserable while I was reporting. It wasn’t so bad in TV when I could just show up at an event with a camera, and people usually wanted to talk, but working on a newspaper requires making a lot of phone calls. I probably should have thought about that when choosing a career path because I’ve always had a phobia about making phone calls.

But there are other things about her that are different from me. One of her other quirks, aside from the tea, is that she’s addicted to Hallmark movies (though in the books I generally just refer to them as “cheesy cable romances,” or something to that effect). That’s her release valve from her high-pressure job. After a day spent covering mostly bad news, she likes to escape to those idyllic small towns and their seasonal festivals. When she finds this town, she feels like she’s stumbled into one of these movies, and she can’t help but see things through that lens. While I like romantic comedies, I’ve generally only watched Hallmark movies ironically so I can snark at them. I find them a bit too bland and trite for my taste. They’re frustrating because they sometimes have great casts, and they have lovely settings, but the scripts are weak, and it wouldn’t take much to fix them up a bit. I’ve read that they actually force them to be that bland. Anyway, that’s one area where I differ from my heroine because she loves these unironically. Maybe if I had her kind of job and hadn’t actually lived in a small town, I might see things the way she does.

So, that’s my heroine, a Hallmark-watching, tea-drinking air force brat who became a reporter. Which is totally different from me, a PBS-watching, tea-drinking army brat who became a reporter before becoming an author.

Next, I’ll tell you a little about the small town Lexie finds herself in.

My Books

New Book Alert!

Book one in my new mystery series is now available for pre-order, so it’s definitely real.

I started working on this last November after I went to Bouchercon (the mystery convention). I’d had some vague idea about writing a mystery for years, and I’ve always read them, so when I learned the mystery convention was going to be in town, a short train ride from home, I decided to go, and that confirmed for me that I was going to give it a shot. The week after the convention, I sat down and got specific about the setting and characters, then figured out a crime. And then I wrote the book. This was a National Novel Writing Month book, since I wrote the whole first draft during November.

Then because I wanted to make sure the premise would sustain more than one book, I started drafting the second book in February. I was near the end of that draft when everything got crazy, when we were seeing horrifying reports of the pandemic in Italy and then in New York, and then when our area went on lockdown. I think I must have emotionally shut down because the last few chapters of that book read like a recap. It wasn’t until April or May when I was able to go back and fix the second book, but I still wasn’t happy about either of them.

Then in the middle of the summer I had a burst of inspiration and figured out what I needed to do to fix these books and did another round of revisions. Finally, I was happy enough with them to start getting things into production mode.

And now, here they are. Book one is coming October 1, and I’m planning on having book 2 released on October 29. I’ve got a third book roughly outlined, and that’s probably going to be my October project, aiming at a release in January (if it all comes together and isn’t one of those books I have to rewrite a dozen times).

I’m publishing these as cozy paranormal mysteries, but they’re very similar in style and tone to the Enchanted, Inc. books. There’s a case to solve, a smart and snarky heroine doing a lot of the work, and there’s a guy who might become a love interest. This series verges more on paranormal than outright fantasy, but there are people with uncanny abilities — something that can both help and hinder the crime fighting. The setting is what’s really different. It’s a small town in central Texas, not too far from Katie’s hometown (I haven’t yet decided if these two towns exist in the same fictional universe). It’s a fictional town I made up based on a couple of real places mashed together and a lot of imagination. Basically, it’s the kind of town you’d find in a Hallmark movie, but in Texas rather in some snowy place, and with a lot of stuff going on beneath the surface that you’d never find in a Hallmark movie.

I really have fun writing these. The town of Stirling Mills has been fun to escape to while I’ve been stuck at home. I’ve put an excerpt on the book’s page on this site so you can get a taste for the style. This scene happens after our heroine goes to a job interview, only to find the person who’s supposed to be interviewing her dead on the floor. Of course, the police want to talk to her about that. The links to order the book are also on that page.

writing, My Books

The Birth of Ideas

When I was looking for blog topics, one reader suggestion was to talk about where my ideas come from. That’s a pretty complicated discussion because I feel like my best ideas are cumulative. There’s no one flash of light that results in a book.

The closest I’ve come to that lightning bolt feeling was when I came up with the idea for Enchanted, Inc., but really, the lightning bolt was just that I wanted to write something that felt like a contemporary “chick lit” kind of book that had magic in it, a book about a woman getting a job offer from a magical company out of the blue (a fantasy that struck me because I was really hating my job). The rest gradually built from there. I figured that my heroine would have to turn out to have magical powers, but the hero/heroine finding out they have powers has been done to death, so I flipped it and had her finding out she has no magic at all, but that’s useful. I’d wanted to write a small-town Texan in New York story ever since my first trip to New York, and I decided this would be the one. Those were the big ideas, but there are thousands of little ideas that built up along the way as I planned and then wrote the book.

For the Rebels books, it started with the general idea of wanting to write something steampunky. I love the aesthetic, and I love the sense of adventure. I just had zero idea of a plot. My initial lightning bolt that set it off came when I was finishing up writing the first Fairy Tale book but was distracted and procrastinating by studying the bookshelf nearby. I noticed my copy of Jane Eyre next to a Madeleine Brent Victorian Gothic adventure novel, and I felt a “click” in my head. I could write a book about a governess in a house full of secrets who ended up having adventures. The original idea was that Henry would be a mysterious, shadowy Gothic hero type figure, but he refused to cooperate, aside from having secrets. The revolution plot came from me thinking about how bizarre the British class system is, the idea that some people are better than other people because of who they’re descended from. I started thinking about what if there really was something different about the nobility. They’d certainly want to guard that, which would explain a lot of the rules of Victorian morality, though it would apply equally to boys and girls. It would ruin their hold on power if suddenly “common” girls started having babies with magical powers. The nobility wouldn’t be different anymore. Then I started thinking about how that would affect history, and I ended up with the idea that maybe the American Revolution would have failed, but in the Victorian era there would be more technology, so maybe they’d stand a chance. That was definitely a gradual build kind of story because I did tons of research, and each bit of research added an idea I wanted to explore.

The origin of the Fairy Tale books was a lot more nebulous. I had a dream-like mental image of a very dainty woman walking a bulldog and disappearing into the mist, and I tried to come up with the story behind that image.

There’s no one “aha” moment behind the mystery book that’s about to come out. Nearly ten years ago, I first started thinking of writing a mystery, and I came up with a reason for an outsider to come to a small town with secrets, her boss dying, and her being the suspect, so she had to solve the case herself. I revived that idea, but I changed the heroine’s profession and finally figured out what the secrets were. I really have no idea what sparked the decisions I made. It was like things started popping into my head, and I went with them.

Generally the process is that I get a burst of inspiration that sets me off on a voyage of discovery, and it takes a lot more thinking and work before it turns into an actual story idea.


Romantic Comedy Trends

My attempt at my traditional Labor Day rom-com weekend fizzled because I wasn’t really in the mood for watching movies. I mostly ended up watching episodes of The Office, which kind of count because I was at the part of the series when Jim and Pam finally get together and Angela and Dwight were breaking up. I did watch My Man Godfrey Monday night, a classic screwball comedy, but that was largely because I needed 1930s references for something I was working on.

I didn’t really want to sit and watch anything for the length of a movie. A half hour or so (including the deleted scenes) was about the right length before I wanted to read a book instead.

But I did put together a list of various movies to watch when I am in the mood for that sort of thing, maybe in the fall when it gets dark earlier and I don’t want to sit outside and read. I scrolled through the list on IMDB of everything tagged both comedy and romance and picked out the ones that sound good that I haven’t seen, which isn’t a lot.

Looking at that list showed some interesting patterns. This kind of movie comes in waves. There was a big golden age in the 1930s and early 1940s when the screwball comedies were big. To a large extent, that was a response to the Depression. People wanted fun, uplifting movies, but there was also an underlying theme, usually with the couple consisting of a wealthy woman isolated from the ills of the world and working man who helps her wise up. The movies showed that the wealthy could be brought down to earth to appreciate what everyone else was going through and that an honest working man could win the “princess.” So, yeah, probably pure fantasy.

There was another wave in the late 1950s and early 1960s with the battle of the sexes comedies exemplified by the Rock Hudson and Doris Day movies, though there were some outliers like Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

The next golden age was in the late 1980s through the 1990s. That was the era of Meg Ryan, Julia Roberts, Sandra Bullock and then Reese Witherspoon, Cameron Diaz and Drew Barrymore. It sort of held on through the early part of the 2000s, with Amy Adams looking like she’d be a contender, but then the genre began fizzling out. At the same time, starting in the late 1990s we had the rise of the male-oriented rom-coms that went more in the gross-out direction, starting with There’s Something About Mary and going on to things like 40-Year-Old Virgin. The movies became mostly about overgrown man-child types who were forced to grow up by humorless harpies. Then the women-led films started trying to outgross the guys, and it pretty much killed the more traditional romantic comedies.

I can’t really find a clear theme for this age like there was in the previous clusters. There’s no thematic link between movies like When Harry Met Sally, Pretty Woman, Working Girl, Four Weddings and a Funeral, etc. There was a lot of variety during this era, a lot of challenging the formula and telling the familiar story in different ways.

Oddly, some of my favorite movies came toward the end. That’s when we got films like The Holiday, Enchanted, and Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day. And some slightly more obscure films that I love, like I Capture the Castle, I’m With Lucy, and The Very Thought of You. For a while, it looked like Henry Thomas (yes, the little boy from ET, all grown up) would end up being the Tom Hanks of his generation because he kept popping up as the love interest, and he was quite good at being the ordinary guy who deserves the girl, but then he seems to have fallen off the radar.

Now it seems like there’s been a revival, but not on the big screen. Netflix has been making a lot of romantic comedies. From what I can tell, they tend toward the teen movie, but there are still plenty that fit the classic mold. I don’t watch enough to make having a lot of streaming services worthwhile, but I may have to get Netflix for a few months to check out what they’ve been doing.

I did come up with a story idea for a rom-com, though. I may have to write it up as a screenplay because Netflix and Ron Howard are doing regular screenwriting contests, with a different kind of film each quarter. I should be ready when they want a romantic comedy.


The Chick-flick Holiday

It’s Labor Day weekend (almost), and I’ve had such a productive week, getting my main task done, that I’m going to take the holiday. I’ll probably do a little work-related stuff, some things that almost count as “fun,” but otherwise, my traditional way of observing this holiday is with chick flicks.

That started the year I was gearing up to write the first Enchanted, Inc. book. Since I was trying to capture that “girl in the city” tone, I spent that weekend watching a lot of romantic comedies. There was Bridget Jones’s Diary (since I was pitching the book as “Bridget Jones meets Harry Potter”), When Harry Met Sally and You’ve Got Mail for the New York settings, and then Kate and Leopold for New York plus a hint of magic (interestingly, the guy who wrote Kate and Leopold was the screenwriter for the Enchanted, Inc. movie that didn’t make it beyond the script stage).

I continued the tradition the next year because I was gearing up to write the second book in the series, and I happened to be watching a movie on cable when a friend called. We spent the afternoon on the phone, watching the same movie together, and we did it again the next year.

I haven’t necessarily done it every year. I don’t force myself to do things for fun that I don’t want to do, so if I’m in the mood for something else, I do something else.

I think this would be a good year to continue the tradition. I’m in the mood for something light, fluffy, and fun. I just don’t know what. Do I want to see if I can find something I haven’t seen on Amazon Prime? Watch an old favorite? Modern setting or costume romantic comedy (like a Jane Austen movie or A Room with a View)?

There’s something so reassuring about an old favorite, and I’ve been burned by trying something new that ends up not being what I expected it to be (or wanted it to be). The last time I tried something on Amazon that looked like a romantic comedy with an amazing cast, it turned out to be a rather depressing dark comedy about someone losing everything. Fun!

Then again, there are only so many times you can watch something without getting distracted because it’s too familiar, and I don’t want to wear out any favorites. Maybe I’ll try something new but have an old favorite in the mix.

The menu is set. I found the chili con queso recipe for one of my favorite restaurants, and I have avocados, so it’s going to be chips, guac, and queso for dinner. I’ll do boiled shrimp another night to balance it out, health-wise.

I may not take Monday as a full holiday because I have a lot to accomplish in the next month or so. I have a huge to-do list, and I’ve told myself that I get to take a vacation (well, a holiday, since I won’t likely be going anywhere) in October when I get it all done. I need to take some time when I don’t think about work. I’ll take long walks, bake, and read, maybe do some other creative stuff. That’s a good motivation for checking things off my to-do list each day.

TV, My Books

Mental Casting

If you’re subscribed to my newsletter, you should have received the link to get the Enchanted, Inc. short story (it was in the newsletter). If not, you can still get it by subscribing. A link to get the story should be in the welcome message (if I did it right).

Re-reading and editing that story was an interesting experience, taking me back to when the series was brand-new, with everything but the first book only being a vague idea in the back of my head. I have to admit that the story got me a little misty. I’ve generally felt like writing emotion is my weakness, but it seems I can do it when I try. I think it helped that this story was purely self-indulgent. I didn’t think anyone else other than maybe one friend would ever read it, so I went further than I might normally go with the pathos. Maybe I should let myself go more often.

It’s been interesting continuing my rewatch of The Office while working on this because it reminded me that one reason I first started watching that show was that when I saw one of the promos, it hit me that Pam was pretty much the way I imagined Katie. The series came on not long before the first book was published, so at that time I’d written two books in the series. I didn’t have strong mental casting for Katie, but then this show came on, and there she was. I didn’t imagine Katie with the curly/frizzy hair Pam had in early seasons. Physically, she looked more like Pam did when she got a bit of a makeover and her hair was straighter and a little shorter. But the way she dressed and her mannerisms were very much like the way I saw Katie. It’s weird to have a character you’ve been writing suddenly be brought to life for you in some entirely unrelated thing.

But then over the years as I wrote more books, Katie became more her own person in my head and although she still looked more or less the same, I no longer saw that specific person, mostly because I wasn’t thinking about The Office anymore. Then lately, the two things converged once more, with me editing a story in which Katie was discussed and made a brief appearance while I was watching the part of the show where she changed and started looking more like Katie, and poof, the Katie in the story was basically Pam in my head.

Alas, even if they did make an Enchanted, Inc. series, Jenna Fischer has probably aged out of the role, since Katie was 26 in the first few books and turns 27 between book 3 and book 4.

I have no idea who would be good casting now. When they were talking about a TV series, they were planning to go with an unknown they could make into a star, though at one time there was mention of going after Hillary Duff. And before that, there was a time when apparently Anna Faris was trying to get something put together for a movie. I don’t know how real any of that was or if it was just agents and producers talking and spouting off names.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed the story (or enjoy it, if you don’t have it yet). I’m planning to add some other free stories as newsletter exclusives along the way.