Not your typical holiday story

cover_27_thumbI just wanted to let you know that I posted the first chapter of a holiday story on my webpage.  I’ve missed Babet and Prosper, so my present to me was to write an urban fantasy with them as the main characters.  Instead of Christmas carols and cookies, though, the story that came to me is a bit on the gory side.  Sorry about that, but hope you like it anyway!  I love comments.  Check back next Thursday for chapter 2.


A while ago, I blogged about trying to keep up with writing a blog AND a webpage.  At the time, I was behind on my writing and sweating a deadline, AND my publisher had sent me pages to proof.  I felt buried, but thanks to my awesome critique partners, I got everything done on time.  And I started rethinking what I wanted to do and how I wanted to do it. And, once again, I decided I like both the blog and the webpage for different reasons.  I’m not toting this as something any sane writer should do or even telling you that it will increase readers or boost sales.  I’m just saying that I like it–for me.

When I write my blog, I think about the craft and business side of writing.  When I first started working on the blog, I shared writing advice that worked for me.  But let’s be honest.  You can find writing how-to tips online from Chuck Wendig (, K.M. Weiland (, and occasional articles by Stephen King (, so I feel a little out gunned.  Now, I don’t even pretend to be an expert, I just share what’s happening with my writing–the good, the frustrating, and the ugly.  I figure other writers can relate to most of it.  At the  moment, my third Mill Pond romance just came out, and I’m working on the sixth one in the series. My goal is to finish it, turn it in, and then squeeze in enough time to try to write a mystery. I have the mystery all plotted out, and I’d like to start working on it in January.  I’m thinking snow will be on the ground, temperatures will be cold, and I’ll be in the mood to hibernate and pound on my keyboard.  It sounds good on paper, doesn’t it?  My worry? When I write a romance, I have at least 40 plot points (or chapter ideas) to move the story and come up with 70,000 words–if I’m lucky. For my mystery?  I came up with 23 plot points, but they’re more involved, and I HAVE to have 70,000 words.  Will that work?  I sure as hell hope so.

When I go to my webpage, I switch gears.  When I write my webpage, I think of readers, not writers.  And it’s sort of my “spill” zone, where all the random, little ideas I have for characters or series that I can’t use in a book, spill out of my head.  For instance, when I wrote Wolf’s Bane, I fell in love with Wedge and Bull, the two werewolves who help Reece and Damian protect Bay City.  But they’re always supporting players, so I wanted to write short stories that featured each of them.  But what would I do with those stories?  Easy.  I’d put them on my webpage.  And sometimes, I put snippets from the novels I’m working on on it, too.  I even posted my one and only YA witch novel–The Familiars–on my webpage, because–why not?  Sometimes, I use my webpage as a place to experiment with writing techniques I’d never dare try in a full novel.  For Perdita’s Story, I wanted to write a story where the protagonist made one bad decision after another until the end.  I’d never do that for a book, but it was fun to play with for a short piece.  For Mill Pond, I introduced characters that would never get a full novel of their own, but I liked them and wanted to give them a happy-ever-after, so I did–in a short story.  Another thing I like to do on my webpage is introduce fellow writers whose work I like and think they might like, too.  In my  mind, when I go to my webpage, I think of readers more than writers.

As for marketing?  Well, I do my best, but I’m no wizard, so I post any new news on my author Facebook page or twitter.  It’s not the most efficient system, but it makes me concentrate on different areas of my writing:  fellow writers, readers, and marketing. Marketing, right now, is probably my weakest.  I still haven’t learned how to do rafflecoptors and give-aways, and I think I did better when I tried a blog tour and paid for advertising, but I’ve never had a publisher before, so I’m learning as I go.  One step at a time, right?  Hope you’ve found what works for you.  Happy writing!

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Chapter 7’s up!

Who’d have thought Enoch would be working with Caleb…again?  But he is, and they’re on their way to confront Samiel–the black sheep of their heavenly home.  Enoch doesn’t see any good coming from this, even if they try to compromise.  Samiel likes to get his own way, the reason he and the One always bump heads.



Writing: Same, but Different

I’ve started to write my fifth Mill Pond romance.  I still like the town.  I still like the people.  I enjoy having characters from previous books mingle with new characters for a new story.  My worry–keeping each story fresh and unique.  Catherine Bybee manged it in her Weekday Bride series.  Seven different romances, one for each day of the week.  Seven stories that have a similar premise, but a unique take on it each time.  My writer friend, writing as Julia Donner for her Regency romances, has done it with her Friendship series. Her eighth novel goes live on June 18, and I’ve already pre-ordered it.   I love her work.  Each one has a different feel, even though they all have healthy doses of her sly humor.  As a matter of fact, I think her writing keeps getting better and better, the longer the series goes.  Something I’d like to achieve.

(If you’re interested in Regencies, here’s the link for her latest:…++julia+donner)

A long time ago, I wrote a bundle of novellas to experiment with writing romance.  That’s how I ease myself into writing something new.  I try working on shorter pieces before I commit to something longer.   I liked Emerald Hills, got good feedback on each one of them (which I lost when I combined them into a bundle–didn’t think about that:), but one reviewer mentioned that she’d have liked more variety in the stories, that they felt too similar to her.  Now, I know that a writer can’t please everyone, but I wrote these as a learning curve, so her opinion stuck with me.  If I ever wrote a romance series, I told myself to vary things up–have one with some humor, another that was a little more serious, throw in some different types of characters, and mix up the plots and themes a little.  I think–at least, I hope–that I’ve achieved that.

For my Mill Pond romances, in book 1, I tried for a heavy dose of humor.  For Brody and Harmony, in book 2, I tried to create two people who’d keep butting heads.  And in the book I’m working on now, I wanted to throw in a few serious themes, but lighten them up with Miriam–a character with more snark than I’ll ever have.

When I read a series, I look forward to returning to the same setting, the same characters.  I’m reading Patricia Briggs’s Fire Touched right now, and I’m enjoying how Mercy and Adam interact as a couple, how Warren smooths things over, and how Ben has such a potty mouth.  It’s a world I want to visit and linger in for a while.  That’s the joy of a series, returning to something familiar that I’ve missed.  But each story has to be different enough to make me want to return again for new experiences.  Everything’s about balance–keeping the old and introducing the new–a happy blend.


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What Drives a Story?

When I first started writing, I wrote short stories.  I love ’em, and sometimes I think it’s harder to write an awesome short story than it is to write a book.  Books take longer, yes, but they also give you more wiggle room.  In short fiction, there’s no room for mess-ups, so I think it’s harder to tell someone how to write a great short story than it is to explain the parts that add up to a good book.

For a book, we know the drill:

  1. A hook that grabs the reader’s attention
  2. A protagonist we can empathize with, who hits a major problem that he has to fix because it deals with an internal problem that he has to fix:)
  3. Tension that cranks up the longer the book goes
  4. Conflict of some type in every scene
  5. Characters, both major and minor, who stay with us, one way or another
  6. Pacing that keeps the story’s momentum moving
  7. A big, dark moment near the end that leads to resolution of some type
  8. A satisfying ending, either happy or not

What do you say about writing a short story?

My early short fiction was all based on ideas, sort of like delivering a punch line.  The shorter the story, the truer it held.  One of the first stories I “sold” (for free copies) was about a house that had been loved and cherished by the people who’d lived in it until the city changed, owners died, and it became a vacant building where kids came to drug up.  The house suffered until it called for its dead owner to return and save it from having to witness any more.    (It’s better if you can’t read the words.  I wrote this a LONG time ago, and I cringe when I read it now).

Image (12)

The story hinged on an idea.  I think most short stories do. With a few more pages, we can become attached to a character, but even then, if the story’s short, we only watch one slice out of that person’s life.  But what a punch that one slice can deliver!  The more pages you add, the more elements you can add to the whole.

For friends who’ve told me that they can’t write short, it might be because they’re trying to use the same elements to write a short story as they do to write a book.  Yes, we still use a hook and strong verbs and specific words instead of general ones.  We still vary sentence length, so the tools are the same, but the technique’s different.  A short story has a tight focus.  Every part of the story is used to deliver on that one idea or slice of life.

And if you’d like ideas on how to write short from a pro, here’s Kurt Vonnegut’s advice:

For extra good measure, here’s advice from one of my favorite short story writers, Nancy Pickard: discuss-short.html


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Writing a Series

I have a new Babet & Prosper bundle coming out soon, hopefully later this week. Three of the stories are online. I’ll take them off to join with the new lunch-hour read for this collection. I try for four stories in each bundle. The new one, Voodoo and Panthers, is the twelfth Babet and Prosper in the series. For me, the longer the series goes, the more things I need to think about for each story.

The good thing about a series is that I’m returning to a setting and characters that I already know, that I’ve grown fond of. When I write about them, it feels like going home. I have a mountain of notes for Babet and Prosper because I’ve peopled River City with more and more characters, and I need to remember them all. I’d like readers to remember them, too, so I try not to leave too big of a gap between their appearances. I try to bring Lillian and her “girls” into enough stories that they’re not lost in the sea of Vittorio and his vampires and Nadine and her voodoo. I try to focus on the relationship between Babet and Prosper in each story, too. They’re the husband/wife team that flavors the entire series. And I don’t want the witches to get lost in the shuffle. With each new piece I write, there are more things to juggle or balance. And Hatchet has to appear in every single piece, because he’s Prosper’s partner on the supernatural detective squad and because he’s just too cool to be neglected.

As much as I want readers to immerse themselves in the familiar people and places, I also want the stories to feel fresh and unique. I don’t want to start each one with Babet and Prosper enjoying one another, as much fun as that is. The stories are urban fantasy, so there’s always going to be a battle or two, but I try to change them up, add a new element here and there.

In Voodoo and Panthers, I spend more time with Prosper’s pack of shifters. It’s under attack. The pack’s alpha has to turn to Babet and Prosper for help. A while ago, a reader commented that she’d like a romance for Evangeline, so I added that, too. All in all, I’m happy with the mix of plot and characters in this story. And that’s the trick with a series–keeping enough of the familiar–the things that give the stories the right feel–and mixing in enough new things to keep it fresh.

In the first Babet and Prosper collection I did, Babet got top billing. In the new one, to be fair, Prosper gets to be on top. (I’m talking images here, so keep it clean:)

Here’s the cover that will be inside the bundle for Voodoo and Panthers:

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Writing: a new flash fiction

I try to put a new short fiction on my webpage at the end of each month. For August, I’d already done the five part experiment for POV, so I decided to keep this story short–very short. More like flash fiction.

I just finished the romance I’ve been working on, and it put me in a happy, gooey mood–unusual for me. And it made me want to write a different kind of romance, not the fresh ups and downs of new love, but the enduring comfort of knowing someone for a long time. It’s on my webpage (in the left column under Loretta), but it’s so short, I thought I’d just stick it here:

A Mill Pond Romance of a Different Sort

Mom was having another bad day. I turned her every morning and every night, like the doctor told me, but she was still getting a bed sore on her bottom. I noticed it when I changed her diaper before breakfast. Her skin was so thin, her body so fragile.

After I fed her, I plumped her pillow and put her favorite musical in the DVD player. We talked while I started a roast in the Crock Pot and straightened up the house. Noah came over in the afternoon and lifted her into her wheel chair, so I could push her onto the front porch, and the three of us could sit outside, inhaling the freshness of a mild spring. A breeze drifted off of Mill Pond’s lake, and two ducks flew overhead. Mom usually noticed, commented. Today, she didn’t.

I sat on the porch swing with Mom’s chair pulled close beside me. Noah sat in the rocker across from us. He took a sip of the lemonade I’d brought him, sat the glass on the wicker table, then wiped his hands on his worn jeans.

“It was mighty nice of you to invite me over for supper tonight, Loretta,” he said.

“Without your help, I couldn’t get Mom in and out of bed.” I reached across to pat his knee. “Supper’s a small thanks for all you do for us.”

“I’d help you anyway. You know that.” He would, too. There was no more thoughtful man than my neighbor. After he’d lost his wife four years ago, I’d taken to having him come for supper. When he retired two years ago, he’d taken to helping me with Mom. Just having him around, in the house, gave me a sense of comfort. We often sat on the porch on warm afternoons, enjoying a midday break.

I raised my voice so Mom could hear me. “The daffodils you planted sure look pretty this year.” They bobbed their heads in the flower bed nestled under the pink crabapple tree.

Mom glanced their way and nodded. She shivered a little, and I pulled the blanket higher on her lap and buttoned her heavy sweater. Then she raised her arm and pointed to the end of the sidewalk. In a shaky voice, she said, “Look, Loretta. Lou got out of work early.” Her lips curled in a smile. “What are you doin’ home so soon, hon?”

I exchanged a glance with Noah. My dad had passed twenty years ago. Up ‘til now, Mom’s body had failed her, but her mind was sharp. I’d considered that a blessing. I reached over to touch her. “Are you doin’ okay?”

Mom gave a peaceful sigh. “I’m tired. I need to rest. Your dad and I are taking a trip soon.”

Goosebumps rose on my arms. When I stood, Noah rolled Mom’s wheel chair back inside the house, and I helped him get her into bed, then fiddled with her blankets and pillows until she was comfortable. She closed her eyes briefly, then blinked them open. She reached out and patted Noah. “Lou gave you his approval. You and Loretta will make each other happy.” Then she shooed us out of her room.

Noah looked at me and blinked. I felt restless, not sure what to think, how to feel. I went to the kitchen and pulled my apron over my head. “I’m in the mood for a pie.”

Dad had always loved lemon meringue pie. I found myself rolling out dough and whipping egg whites. Noah stirred the lemon filling. After we took the pie out of the oven and placed it on the wide window ledge to cool, we went to check on Mom.

I knew she was gone the minute I looked at her. A body isn’t the same once the soul leaves it. I remembered staring down at Dad in his coffin. A body, nothing more.

Noah came to stand beside me and reached for my hand. We stood there, looking down at her, and a ray of sunshine burst through the window, engulfing us in light. Noah gave my fingers a squeeze. “I’m glad your dad approves.”

I smiled. Mom and Dad would be happy now, and so would Noah and I.

(I have two other short Mill Pond romances on my webpage, if you’re interested.