Archive for My Books

My Books

New Book and Holidays

The new book came out yesterday, and you should be able to find it at most places. It may take a while to show up on the various library services, and I just remembered that I haven’t yet put it on Google Play (but I haven’t sold a single book there yet, so that’s low on my priority list right now), but it’s at the big ones, and the paperback is available via Amazon. It should also eventually show up at other places, but it takes time to propagate.

This will be my last release of the year. I don’t yet know what the schedule will be for next year. It depends on a lot of things. I’m frantically writing the start of what I hope will be a new “traditional” fantasy series (secondary world, quasi-medievalish setting with horses and castles and an adorkable wizard because of course).

In the meantime, I’ll be taking next week off for the Thanksgiving holiday, so no blog posts from me. I need to do a little writing in between feasts and travel days, so keeping up with other stuff is more than I want to do when I need to take some time off.

See you after the holiday.

My Books

Pre-order the Next Mystery

I can’t believe how quickly this crept up on me, but the holidays are almost upon us, and that means we’re a week away from the release of my holiday paranormal mystery, the latest book in the Lucky Lexie series, Mystery of the Secret Santa. It’s available for pre-order now. The release date is November 17, for those of you who aren’t like me and can’t deal with Christmas at all until after Thanksgiving. Or you could just make sure you’ve got it before you dive into Christmas stuff. The action in the book begins on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, in case you want to be totally in sync.

Mystery of the Secret Santa book cover

This is a fun little book that doesn’t get too dark. I didn’t want to write a murder for Christmas, so there are different kinds of cases. Mostly, it’s about Lexie getting to live out her Hallmark Christmas movie fantasies as the town goes all-out with a spectacular holiday celebration and finds out that Wes isn’t a big fan of Christmas. She thought she was living the “big city career woman comes to small town and meets local guy” story, but maybe it’s the “Christmas lover persuades Christmas grump to learn to love Christmas.” Unfortunately, she’s sidetracked in this effort by the Secret Santa, someone who seems to know all the secrets in the town and is sharing them, leaving notes for people letting them know what other people are doing behind their backs. There’s also the occasional gift left, things people never told anyone else that they needed. The gifts are good, but the secrets are really damaging the holiday vibe. And then there’s the wave of robberies at fast-food places and convenience stores — crimes in which the robber only takes small things, not money. Who is it and why is he doing this?

This is a fairly short book, so it should be good for the busy holiday season. You can sit down and read it when you have time to take a break. Make some cocoa, get some cookies, put on your favorite holiday music and escape to a small town right out of a Hallmark movie for a couple of hours.

The order links are on the book’s page.

My Books

Book Hunger

The new book is out in the world, and I’m busy revising the next one. I’ve realized while working on these that I talk a lot about food in these books. Probably not enough for them to qualify as “culinary” cozy mysteries, but still, there’s a lot of food, considering the heroine herself doesn’t actually cook. She just appreciates good food when it’s given to her.

I started cooking a lot of Mexican food when I wrote the first couple of books, after all those scenes in the Mexican restaurant. I got a good recipe for cheese enchiladas and for chili con queso.

Then in Broken Bridge, it was hamburgers. So much talk of hamburgers cooked out on a grill. Hamburgers are a big comfort food for me. If I’m not feeling well, kind of tired and run-down, a burger is my go-to cure, possibly because I don’t eat a lot of red meat, so when my body needs iron, I crave burgers. Oddly, though, I don’t think I ate a lot of burgers while I was writing this book. The act of writing those scenes satisfied the burger craving. Instead of the writing making me hungry, I imagined the food so much that I felt like I’d eaten it. I’ve done that before, when I spent a day writing a dinner scene, then felt dizzy at the end of the day and realized I’d forgotten to eat because writing the scene made me feel like I’d eaten dinner.

The next book takes place in December, so I talk a lot about hot cocoa and cookies. There are fewer food scenes, in general. I’m not craving cocoa, since I wrote it during the summer and it’s still hot as I’m revising it. I think there are more breakfast scenes in this book than I usually write.

Maybe I should have written a culinary series, like with Margarita as the amateur sleuth who follows up on things she hears at her restaurant. But I’ve worked in a restaurant and when I was in high school I had a summer job working in the kitchen at a summer camp, so I’m not sure I want to relive those days. I’ve also worked as a reporter, but that wasn’t quite as miserable. It just wasn’t a great fit for my personality.

I hope I don’t make anyone too hungry from reading these books. All my favorite local Mexican restaurants have closed recently, so I’m glad I learned to cook some of those dishes for myself in case I make myself hungry while I’m writing.

My Books

Pre-Order the Next Mystery

Case of the Broken Bridge book coverI got my act together, so I will hit my targeted release date. Case of the Broken Bridge will be released next Thursday in e-book. I’m aiming at getting the paperback around that time, but you never can tell how long it will take for those to go live and be shipped. You can pre-order at Amazon, Kobo, and Apple, so far. I’ll try to keep up with the links as stores go live. Check the book’s page on my site for all the information and purchase links.

This book was a very long time in the making. I first outlined it last year. I think it was going to be #4, happening during the summer and before the back-to-school timeframe of Vanishing Visitor. And then I realized there was no way I could get three books written before Halloween, and I really wanted to do the Haunted Hotel book then. So, I put this story aside to use it later.

Early this year, I got out those notes to write the book. It actually fit even better in the timeline this way, since it involves a bridge that got washed out during a storm, and there’s a bad storm in Haunted Hotel. There was just one problem: I seem to have knocked over a water glass and spilled something on my notes, and the ink washed out on the page where I wrote my ideas for how to resolve the story. So, I had all the setup but I couldn’t remember how to resolve it and had to figure that out all over again.

Then as I was writing the book, on the scene in which the victim is found, I heard several loud pops coming from the street by my house, and soon I was watching a crime scene team on the street my office window overlooks for what turned out to be a murder investigation. It was a shooting, someone in one car shooting at the person in the next car, and from what I can tell, the actual shooting happened right in front of my office window (my office is on the second floor, and it overlooks a major road that’s on the other side of a tall brick wall from my house). I didn’t see anything because I was writing, but I heard the gunshots. Not long after that, I was watching the evening news, and they mentioned a shooting at a coffee shop in a nearby town — and I knew the victim. She was the daughter of some friends from church. I’ve known her since she was born. In fact, I had her baby photo on my refrigerator until I got a new one a couple of years ago and cleared off the baby photos of kids who were in college.

At that point, I just couldn’t make myself write murder mysteries. Murder wasn’t something for fun and entertainment. I put that book aside and worked on something else. But then this summer I found myself thinking about it, and I wanted to get closure, so I finished it. And then the timeline worked out so that I needed to do a Christmas book.

This book is a locked-room mystery, but with a paranormal twist. I ended up having a lot of fun writing it, and I think that the emotions I associated with it because of everything that happened around it ended up making it a really strong book, probably the best in this series so far. I’m proud of this one.

I’ve drafted the Christmas book, and I’m about to start revising it. I hope to get it out just before Thanksgiving.

I’m not sure at this point when or if I’ll do more mysteries beyond that. I’ve found that I still don’t really want to read mysteries. I have a few vague possible plot ideas, but nothing firm. We’ll see what pops into my head, but for now I need to take a break from these characters. You’d think I’d learn my lesson about doing two books in the same series in a row. I can’t read two books in a series in a row. And we’ll see how the series sells. It’s been profitable, but based on the time spent writing and the amount it’s earned, I’d have made more money working those hours at a grocery store. There are some promo things I’d like to try, but if things don’t perk up on this series, I may have to call it quits at 7 books and try something else. That’s more books than a regular publisher would have given it before pulling the plug. I tried the move to mystery because it seemed like there was a big crossover audience from the Enchanted, Inc. books to cozy paranormal mysteries, but it seems not. Or else they haven’t found out about it. It’s a pretty crowded field. I don’t know if it’s a visibility/discoverability issue or a problem with the books themselves, but I need things to tick up a bit before I invest a lot more time in these. Or maybe I’m just tired after a few months of crunching and I’ll be eager to return to this series after I work on something else. I’ve actually planned my writing schedule for the next two quarters, so maybe that will help me stay sane.

My Books

Progress Update

I finished the first draft of the new mystery book on Monday, so I guess that’s going to happen, after all. I don’t think there will be too much editing required. I’m sure I’ll have to fine-tune the words, possibly add some description and emotion, but I don’t think the plot requires major surgery, so that should all happen pretty quickly.

Assuming I can get it all done and get a cover designed, I’m going to aim for a September 22 release. I haven’t talked to the cover designer yet, so I’ll have to see what her schedule is like. She’s usually pretty quick, though.

And I already have an idea for the next book. I guess letting those characters rest for a while gave them a lot of energy. I realized that the book I’ve been working on takes place in November, leading up to Thanksgiving, which means that the next book would be the Christmas book, so either I’d have to release a Christmas book at some other time of the year, wait until next year, or write one quickly.

I suppose there’s nothing terribly wrong with releasing a Christmas book at some other time of year. The Enchanted, Inc. book set around Christmas was released in April. But I think it helps the marketing to release a holiday-themed book around that holiday. I’m still brainstorming the plot, so I don’t know how quickly I’ll be able to write it, but if I keep up the pace I’ve managed for the past few weeks, I think I’ll be able to pull it off easily. This one will be a bit lighter, without a murder, since I don’t want to kill anyone at Christmas time. It’s a different kind of crime. It’ll be weird writing a Christmas book during the summer. I don’t know that I can make myself listen to Christmas music to set the mood as I write, but it might help me feel cooler to mentally put myself in December. Then again, it’s a Texas December, so it could be anywhere from ice storm to 80 degrees F.

In other news, the first two mystery books are now on the Hoopla service that allows you to check out e-books through the library. The rest are supposed to end up there eventually, but it takes them more than a year to get books up on that service. If your library offers Hoopla, you can read them for free (and I get paid!). Here’s the listing for the first book.

I’m taking Friday off because my birthday is this weekend and I just finished a book, so there will be no blog post on Friday. I’ll be back next week. I’m going to enjoy a leisurely breakfast and then go to the library and an exhibit at the city’s arts center. Then I’ll have a weekend of movie nights, lounging around reading, and at-home spa treatments.

My Books

The Harry Potter Question

Enchanted, Inc. book cover, showing cartoon fairy and frog prince in business attireA question that’s come up a lot over the years since the first Enchanted, Inc. book was released, in both reader mail and professional reviews, is whether it started as Harry Potter fan fiction. Did I ever write a story about the Harry Potter gang all grown up and working at a magical corporation and then change the names and situations so it was “original” fiction?

The short answer is a definitive NO.

I never wrote fan fiction for the Harry Potter series. I didn’t even do a lot of mental fan fiction, where I think of stories in my head without ever writing them out, aside maybe from some speculation about what would happen in the next book while we were between books, and even there it wasn’t full plot lines.

I’m not even entirely sure why people might think that because I don’t believe Enchanted, Inc. maps all that well to Harry Potter. The best I can come up with is Owen being an orphaned wizard with dark hair. But aside from that, he’s not much like Harry. Harry wasn’t actually all that powerful or skilled as a wizard. He tended to prevail because he wasn’t corrupted—he wasn’t out for his own gain or power—and because he had allies. Owen’s probably more like Hermione. Katie would be our Ron, the one who lives out in the country with older brothers and who feels ordinary and overlooked. And from there, the comparisons break down. If I’d filed the serial numbers off a Harry Potter story to make it “original” so it could be published, I would have had to have done so with a chainsaw.

However, the Enchanted, Inc. books were somewhat inspired by Harry Potter in the sense that I wanted something like that but about and for adults, with magic in a contemporary setting and a dash of whimsy (I first came up with the idea before I read the fourth Harry Potter book, when it started getting a lot darker). At that time, fantasy was more likely to involve a medieval-like setting. You didn’t see a lot of fantasy stories set in the modern day, with cars and telephones, etc. At first, I just wanted to read that kind of thing, and when I didn’t find much (and what I did find was rather dark), I realized I’d have to write it. But that’s the extent of the Harry Potter influence.

When I created the characters, I was mostly playing with romantic comedy tropes because I was writing it as a chick lit/rom-com with magic in it. We’ve got our spunky girl-next-door underdog of a heroine, and I was originally going with a potential triangle involving the guy who seems great but turns out to be Mr. Wrong and the guy who seems like trouble at first but who turns out to be Mr. Right. I knew I wanted there to be a guy who uses a handsome illusion because the magically immune heroine would see the real thing, and we’d get the contrast between the way she sees things and the way other people see them — like the real-world situation where there’s someone everyone seems to swoon over while you just don’t get it. My initial idea was that the guy with the handsome illusion would be the shy, awkward one, and the one who was handsome would be smooth and confident. But then I realized that was pretty cliched and ordinary. I switched personalities between the two guys and they suddenly came to life and became the characters we know. That also killed the triangle because as soon as I figured out the characters, Owen was the obvious guy.

I also tried to take some of the standard rom-com events and situations and add magical or fantasy elements to them.

So, if it’s a fan fiction of anything, I would say that Enchanted, Inc. was more my spin on romantic comedies, taking a lot of elements and tropes and making them magical, than any kind of play on Harry Potter. It’s not any one particular rom-com, though. When I was plotting the book, I watched Bridget Jones’s Diary, When Harry Met Sally, You’ve Got Mail, Working Girl, and a few others like that.

I’m still surprised that publishing never really capitalized on the number of adult readers of the Harry Potter books (or HP readers who became adults as the series was being published) and published more of that sort of thing for adults. There are the Harry Dresden books, and maybe the Rivers of London series, but there hasn’t really been anything that captured a similar tone. I think it’s because the publishers only saw the HP phenomenon as a children’s book thing, in spite of the adult readers. Publishers are very narrow in their view of the market. In fact, the first Enchanted, Inc. book came out not long before Half-Blood Prince, and my publisher shot down my suggestion to play upon the idea of Harry Potter for grown-ups because the Harry Potter books were children’s books and we wouldn’t want to compare mine to that. I ended up doing an end-run around them and had a copy sent to the local reporter who’d been writing about the Harry Potter series and got one of the best media placements we had with that book, in a story about what to read while you’re waiting for your kid to finish reading the new Harry Potter book so you can get to it.

And I still want to read something like that, but about adult life that I didn’t have to write.

writing life, My Books

No More Murder

I’ve been working on the next Lucky Lexie mystery, hoping to have something to release by spring or summer, but I’m putting that on hold for now because murder is hitting a little too close to home right now, and it just upsets me to write about it.

First, I heard a murder happen near my house last week. In my neighborhood, the houses don’t face the main street. That street is just lined with trees and brick walls, and the houses face side streets or cul de sacs. My house is on a corner, so my office window on the second floor of my house overlooks a lawn, a wall, and then that main street. Last Thursday, I was sitting at my desk, writing, when I heard five loud pops in quick succession. I was still trying to figure out if that was gunfire and if I should call the police when I heard sirens, and soon an ambulance and a bunch of police converged. They closed the street, and it looked like there was a crime scene team taking pictures and measurements. In a later news release, the police department said that a young man had been found shot in his car, and he’d died on the way to the hospital. According to security footage they got from a business across the street, someone in another car leaned out the window while he was stopped at the intersection behind my house and shot him. The license tags of the shooter’s car were covered, which makes it sound like it was a planned hit. Last I heard, they haven’t made any arrests.

I wouldn’t have seen anything even if I’d been looking up at the right moment, but it’s still a bit shocking to know that I heard the shots that killed someone, and someone was killed right by me, in what’s normally a very quiet neighborhood.

Then Wednesday night this week, I was watching the evening news when they did a story about a young woman being shot outside a coffee shop in the adjacent town. Then they said the victim’s name, and my heart dropped because I knew her. She’s the daughter of some old friends. I’ve known her since she was born. I was at her baptism. I had her baby picture on my refrigerator until a couple of years ago when I got a new one and cleared off all the clutter. I used to tease her about still having her baby picture on my fridge. I’ve watched her grow up and go off to college. The age they gave seemed a bit too old, so I was hoping against hope that maybe it was someone else with the same name who lived in the same town and was close to the same age. I was trying to think back to how long ago she was born, trying to reassure myself that she couldn’t be the victim because the age was wrong. But then I got an e-mail yesterday morning from the church giving the sad news and offering condolences for the family.

I’m utterly shattered. This beautiful, talented, sweet girl was shot by someone she knew, who then killed himself. And now I can’t make myself look at murder as something to make entertainment out of. I can’t write a funny, quirky story about the thing my friends are going through as they face the loss of their daughter. Not too long ago, I was laughing at myself because when I wrote the murder in the book I’m working on, I cried for the loss of this fictional person who hadn’t actually appeared in the book and I cried for his family’s loss.

Which is making me wonder if maybe this is the wrong genre for me. I think it’s important to humanize the victims and not dismiss the pain of their loved ones, but at the same time that really gets to me. When I was feeling burnt out last year, I wonder if maybe this had something to do with it, if it wasn’t so much because I was tired from working a lot or if writing about murder and what it does to the people left behind was getting to me.

I’m going to focus for now on this fantasy book I’m developing. I don’t think anyone will die in it. There’s no murder investigation, just some courtly intrigue. It’s possible that I may be able to return to the mysteries, but definitely not soon, and I’ll have to think about whether or not this is something I want to do. Until the mysteries, I hadn’t killed a character in a novel. I’d planned for a dragon to eat Mimi in No Quest for the Wicked, but I couldn’t bring myself to kill even her.

My Books

Frequently Asked Questions

I think it’s time for another Frequently Asked Questions post, since I’ve been getting questions in e-mail and social media.

Will there be any more Enchanted, Inc. books? There are so many potential stories, like with their kids.
I don’t have anything planned at the moment. The door in my head seems to have shut on that series for me. I came up with the idea 20 years ago, started writing 19 years ago, and wrote nine books. That’s a lot and a lot of time to spend in the same world. I’m not all that interested in writing about parenthood. I’m so far removed from the corporate world that I don’t have a lot to say about that anymore. These days, I’m not even all that interested in contemporary settings. It’s possible that I might do some short pieces about other aspects of that universe (something like the TV series and non-Skywalker Star Wars stuff that explores other parts of that universe), but not in the near future. If I come up with an idea, I’ll write it. Those are still my best selling books, and it would be nice if I could come up with more in that world, but it’s just not there right now.

Will there be a fourth Rebels book?
I have one planned, but I’m kind of in limbo at the moment. The rights on the first book are close to reverting to me, so I’d control the whole series and could actually do things to promote the first book. But if I put out a new book, that would increase sales of the first book, which would reset the clock on the rights reverting. I haven’t been able to sell that series to other countries or books beyond the first in audio, so it’s not a very profitable series for me, and steampunk is kind of dead right now in the publishing world. So it’s all on hold either until the first book goes out of print or the sales shoot up for whatever reason.

Will there be a fourth Fairy Tale book?
Again, I have one planned, but I can’t get the same cover artist (she’s hit the big time, doing stuff for Marvel, and good for her!), so I’ll probably have to repackage the whole series and reissue it, and I just haven’t been up to dealing with that. And then there’s that contemporary setting issue. So, we’ll see. If it starts revving up in my brain, I’ll do it.

Will there be a sequel to Make Mine Magic?
I left room for one but don’t have anything specific planned. That book was commissioned by Audible as an Audible Original, but they’ve changed that program, so they don’t want another book for it. Sales of the e-book/paperback have been pretty low, so it may not really be worth my time to write another book.

Will there be a sequel to Spindled?
Back when that book went on submission, I did come up with a proposal for a second book. Sales have been so-so, but it did sell to the Japanese publisher. If that publisher wants a sequel, I’ll write it and also publish it in the US, but I probably won’t do anything otherwise. I only published it for fun and because it wasn’t doing me any good sitting on my hard drive. I first wrote it more than ten years ago, so it’s pretty “cold” in my head.

So, if you’re not writing any of those books, what are you working on?
I’ve got another Lexie book plotted that I may start writing this month while I’m still developing my new series. I’m planning a more traditional secondary world fantasy series that has taken over my brain. That’s the kind of thing I’ve been reading lately, and it’s where all my ideas seem to be right now. There are some other things that could happen that I’m not ready to talk about yet. I’m trying to get some promo stuff organized so that the books I’ve already written will sell more. I have other ideas I want to play with but that are on the back burner.

What about audio/foreign languages?
If a foreign publisher or audio publisher is interested in any of my books, I generally take them up on the offer. Doing my own translations or audiobooks would be very expensive, and my books don’t sell well enough for that to be worthwhile (which is probably why there haven’t been a lot of foreign editions other than in Japan or audiobooks). If your country didn’t finish the Enchanted, Inc. series in translation, it was because sales of the earlier books weren’t good enough to justify doing more.

I think that covers most of the questions I get frequently.

My Books

Weird Weather

Secret of the Haunted Hotel comes out tomorrow, and you should also be able to order the paperback. It will eventually be in online stores beyond Amazon, but I don’t know if that listing has propagated yet.

I’ve realized that this is the second book in the series that involves Lexie being stranded by weather, but that really is a thing that happens in the part of the world where the series is set. In this book, it’s also part of that kind of story. There’s no story if the cops can get there right away or if people can leave. They have to be isolated in the creepy country house while knowing that one of them is a murderer.

Just as the ice storm in Interview with a Dead Editor was inspired by multiple situations I’ve experienced, the storm in this book was inspired by a specific event.

A few years ago, there was an outdoor event at a venue not too far from where I’ve set the fictional town in this series. It had been a wet fall, so all the creeks, rivers, and lakes were already high and the ground was saturated. Then a system hit us and seemed to just sit there. The rain wasn’t that heavy, but it was constant. The outdoor event wouldn’t have been all that bad, though, except that a nearby creek had overflowed, and it sent a sheet of water down a hill, so that the entire event site essentially became a flood plain, with water ankle-deep. The water was flowing to another creek down the hill from there, and the road leading to the venue crossed that creek. It was so deep under water at that point that you couldn’t even see where the bridge was. That meant there was only one road leading out of the site. Fortunately, it was the way I would have been heading, anyway, but most of the side roads were closed. I would not have wanted to be driving out there after dark because all of a sudden, the road would be a creek. There were a few spots where the water was coming down a hill and across the road. You could still see the road because it wasn’t that deep, but it was a few inches deep all over the road. At night, you wouldn’t have been able to tell where the road was.

Even though things were bad and getting worse, there was also a tornado warning, so I didn’t want to get on the road. They herded everyone into one of the indoor facilities at that place until the danger passed. Eventually, the rain eased up, but everything was still under water. Eventually, I was able to drive home, and I was totally drenched and covered in mud.

In that part of the state, there are often flash floods where they have to get people out with helicopters, and there are high-water rescue teams for when the roads flood and people get stranded in their vehicles. So, I’m not stretching things to have a couple of severe weather events in the same area within a short time frame. It’s a hilly area with a lot of creeks and a few rivers, so you get flash floods. I did restrain myself and didn’t include the tornado. I think I’ll save that for another book. I also left out the drastic weather change that followed that system. The next day, it was sunny and muggy, though the ground was still soaked and there was standing water. By the time I got home after the event, another front was coming through, and it dropped something like 20 degrees. It was just starting to get chilly when I got home, and then it got downright cold.

Basically, if you like having weather affect your plot, Texas is a good place to set your book.

My Books

New Mystery for Pre-Order

The next Lucky Lexie Mystery, Secret of the Haunted Hotel, is now available for pre-order at most of the major e-book sellers. It will be released on October 21, so it’ll be just in time for Halloween reading.

All these books have ghosts, so I guess any of them would work for seasonal reading, but this one is about a haunted house and takes place near Halloween, so it’s especially suited for reading when you want things a bit spooky. There’s a storm and the power goes out and there’s a murder in an isolated haunted house. To complicate matters even further, it’s during the haunted house’s grand-opening party for the bed-and-breakfast in the house, and the owners have invited ghost hunters from around the country, along with Lexie, as the local reporter. That means Lexie, who can really see ghosts, will be there along with people who claim they can. That may make it hard for her to keep her secret so people outside the town don’t think she’s a total crackpot.

I’ve been wanting to write a book like this for ages because I’ve always loved those British “house party” mysteries, where there are a bunch of guests at one of those remote country houses, and then someone is murdered. That means one of them is the murderer. I absolutely love that trope and have been wanting to play with it. Adding ghosts makes it even better.

My mom says I should warn people that this book will make people want Mexican food (Margarita caters the party). There’s also hot cocoa and a discussion about what kinds of chocolate make the best s’mores, so you might want to stock up before you read.

I’ve got links to the places where you can pre-order on the book’s page on my site. There will be a paperback, but they don’t let us set up pre-orders for those.

And after this book, I’m done for the year. I’m taking a little time off to refresh myself and recharge, and then I’m going to work on developing an idea I’ve been playing with for a while. You can follow along here and see something about how my process works.