Archive for My Books

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.

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.

My Books

Return of the Blog

I know it’s not September, but it’s close enough, and I have some things to discuss and announce.

For one thing, I think I figured out my blogging problem. A lot of it has to do with a change of routine with a ripple effect. I used to use writing a blog post as a kind of warm-up exercise as I eased into my day. I’d sit down with a cup of tea, read through the blogs I followed, catch up on social media, read and respond to e-mail, and then write a blog post. After all that, I’d be ready to write.

But a couple of years ago, I learned that I was actually far more productive if I wrote first. Instead of easing into my day, I’d go straight to work, then get at least an hour of writing-related work done before I took a break to check social media, read and respond to e-mail, and write a blog post. I generally wrote the blog post first, while I was still offline, then let it rest while I read stuff before I went back to edit it and post it. That made for a huge mental gear shift. I’d be deep into whatever I was writing or editing, then stop to write a blog post and had no idea what to write about and wasn’t all that enthusiastic about any topic because it felt like an interruption in my work.

Which goes to show that you can’t change one thing without changing other things. I think what I may do is start writing posts in the afternoon, after I’ve done my writing quota for the day, then post the next morning. That way, I don’t have to stop work to think of something to post, and posting doesn’t disrupt my writing groove.

I think I’ll also start a schedule of posting on Wednesdays and Fridays. The blog will focus on longer-form discussion. If there’s any news, I’ll post it in the “news” block on the home page and on social media, though there may be longer discussion about the news in the blog.

Now, for the announcements …

If you haven’t signed up for my newsletter yet, you may want to do so soon, especially if you’re an Enchanted, Inc. series fan. I found an old story I wrote soon after I finished writing the first book. It’s essentially fan fiction of my own book that I wrote because I wanted to keep playing in that world, but I was waiting to hear from an agent who was looking at it, so I didn’t want to start writing the sequel yet. It’s really more of a vignette than a story because there’s no real plot. It’s just what happens with Owen right after the events of the first book, from his viewpoint. I’m going to make this story available for free to my newsletter subscribers. The info on how to get it will be in the newsletter I send out early next week, and later it will be a welcome gift to new subscribers. I’ll be adding more free fiction for subscribers as I go along. You can sign up for the newsletter here. I put out a newsletter once a month with some behind-the-scenes discussions about my books and news about what I’m working on, and then there will be notices when there’s a new book coming out, so you won’t have to worry about missing anything.

The other announcement is that I’ve settled on a release date for that mystery book I’ve been working on. Interview with a Dead Editor, the first in a new series, will be published October 1, and probably up for pre-order before that. I’m wrapping up the proofreading, and covers are being designed right now. I’m excited about this series and hope that my readers like it as much as I do. It’s a humorous paranormal mystery with a hint of slow-build romance, and I think people who liked Enchanted, Inc., will also like this. I’ll be sharing more info about this series in the next month as we count down to release day.

My Books

Enchanted, Inc. Anniversary

Yesterday was the 15th anniversary of the first publication of Enchanted, Inc. I can’t believe it’s been so long. Amazingly, that book is still in print and still selling. It’s never been a bestseller (outside of some really narrow Amazon categories), but it’s sold steadily for a decade and a half, which is pretty good.

Thanks to all the fans who’ve gradually spread the word over all these years so that people keep discovering it.Enchanted, Inc.

My Books

New Book, Mailing List, and Other Updates

The e-book of Spindled has been set to publish and should start showing up at the various retailers soon. It’s already available at Amazon and Kobo.

I’ll keep posting chapters for those who want to keep reading that way.

I would say this is the fastest I’ve gotten a book published, since I really just started getting things in motion last week, but considering that I started drafting this book in 2007, it may actually be the longest time it took me to get something published.

Meanwhile, I’ve finally gotten around to starting a mailing list. People keep asking me if I have a mailing list, and I’ve resisted, but I’ve realized that it might be a good idea. The plan is to have a monthly newsletter that would have content similar to what’s in the blog — what I’m working on, some behind-the-scenes info on my books and their inspirations, what I’m reading, what I’m watching, maybe some insights into the writing process. Then there would also be reminder e-mails when there’s a new book coming out. You can sign up for the newsletter here.

I think after I’m done with the serial, I’m going to stick with doing blog posts just a couple of times a week (unless I’m inspired or have news). I don’t seem to have a huge blog readership, so it’s probably not the best use of my time to compose daily posts. I’m trying to focus my efforts on the most effective things, and if I put the number of words that go into the blog into books, I could probably write an additional book a year. For little daily updates, there’s Twitter, but otherwise, I’ll focus on putting meaty content in the newsletter and spend my daily time actually writing books. I’m doing occasional guest posts on writing at Fiction University, and I’ll be submitting some more posts on writing to the SFWA blog. That kind of thing broadens my audience because it’s not just going to people who already read my books.

So, that’s what I did yesterday — formatted a book, set up a mailing list service, and got a book published. Not bad for a day’s work.

My Books

New Anthology on Kickstarter

I mentioned a month or so ago when outlining what was coming up for the year that I’d contributed a story to an anthology that was going to be Kickstarted soon. Well, that Kickstarter is now live.

The anthology is called Where the Veil is Thin, and it’s a collection of stories about the fae from a range of authors, including me. I don’t write a lot of short stories, and if this book ends up happening (it has to be fully funded up front), it will be my first official short story sale.

Here’s the Kickstarter page if you’re interested or want to support it.

I’ve toyed with the idea of doing a Kickstarter for a book, mostly as a way of raising awareness/excitement, but I think for now that it would be a lot of work, so I think I’ll just keep funding the production costs myself and hope that the books turn a profit. It is cool that things like this exist to help people get their dreams out into the world, though.

I should probably try to write more short stories, but I’m more of a novelist and most of my stories tend to grow into novels. I think having a prompt helped. They invited me to contribute to this book, which was a huge honor. I guess it helped that I knew one of the editors. We met at the Serenity premiere event in LA years ago and ended up sitting together at the movie. It’s strange how something like that ended up coming around to something work-related. You never know. The world is a funny place.

My Books

Audiobook Day

For those who’ve been waiting for the audio version of Enchanted Ever After, it should be available today. Once they got all the contract stuff ironed out, they moved pretty quickly. It’s the same narrator as in the other books. I love what I’ve heard of what she does with them, though I have to confess that I haven’t listened to much because hearing my words spoken by someone else kind of wigs me out. It’s really weird and unsettling.

Then again, I’m not big on audiobooks, in general. I have a hard time staying focused on people talking when I can’t see them, and it takes a really good speaker for me to stay tuned in to someone reading something even if I can see them. I also don’t listen to podcasts or talk radio. I can deal with audio dramas with a cast, but just someone reading a book will go in one ear and out the other, and I won’t register the words at all. I can just barely manage to take in the information from a radio weather or traffic report.

This is highly ironic for someone who trained in radio news and used to produce radio feature stories.

I’m not sure how I’d react to seeing a film or TV version of one of my books. I suspect it would be a bit weird because the people playing the characters wouldn’t be precisely the way I pictured them, even if the casting is just about perfect. But for film or TV, they’d rewrite it pretty thoroughly. It wouldn’t be exactly my words being read, and it would be translated to a totally different medium with different visuals.

I am willing to test my reaction, however, if someone who knows what they’re doing wants to give it a shot.

Anyway, new audiobook today, hooray!

My Books

New Book Day

It’s new book day! My Audible Original book (which means it’s only available in audio), Make Mine Magic, is available today.

This is a fun contemporary fantasy with a touch of romance, along the lines of the Enchanted, Inc., books, but in a different fictional “universe.”

A woman taking her dream vacation honeymoon on her own after getting left at the altar does a good deed that leads her into a strange and magical side of New York that tourists don’t often get to see, and she finds herself in the middle of a magical power struggle.

The germ of this idea came from something that actually happened to me, though the outcome was very different. When I was in New York doing my location research for the Fairy Tale books, I was waiting for a “walk” signal to go from Columbus Circle to Central Park, and the woman standing next to me asked if I could help her cross the street. She was blind and using a white cane. The funny thing was, when I was in college, I volunteered for the services for blind students office, which mostly meant recording textbooks and exam questions by reading them out loud, but I sometimes was asked to escort students around campus, so I knew how to assist the woman. I found it interesting that out of all the people who were at that intersection at that time, she managed to ask a person who knew how to assist her.

When I was brainstorming ideas for a book proposal, that incident popped into my head as a good “what if” — how did she know, what if she had some way of reading who/what I really was, and what might have happened next? In reality, we went our separate ways after I got her safely to the other side of the street, but what if …?

Incidentally, this was an “oh, by the way” idea. When they asked if I’d like to write an Audible Original, I gave them several ideas. A couple of them were story ideas I’d been playing with for ages. I had chapters already written and had thoroughly developed those worlds. Right before I submitted the proposal, this idea popped into my head, and I added it as an “oh, by the way” thing. It was the idea they chose.

There may be a print version coming later, but it’s exclusive to audio for at least a year.