Monthly Archives: October 2012


Participant 180x180 (2)

I’ve signed up for National Novel Writing Month! This is the first time. I’m psyched, but a little nervous too. But I have a writing buddy signed up too, one of my coworkers, and joined the local group. I’m going to work on a sequel to Cited to Death.

1,667 words/per day (at least) for 30 days! I think I can, I think I can….

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Cover art

My covers are ready! The artist gave me five choices, and I’m pretty sure which one I want. I’m going to show them to a couple of other people to see if they agree. They look GREAT. I still don’t know how much it’s going to cost me, but whatever the amount, it’s worth it. They look very professional. I could never have put together something like this myself.

I’m getting closer! I believe I will have Cited to Death published by mid-December.

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Serial killers

Serial killers are one of the staples of crime fiction. We’re morbidly fascinated by real serial killers; their lives get made into movies (Ted Bundy, Aileen Wuornos) and bestselling books. So it’s natural that the fascination would carry over into fiction.

I read two books over the weekend about fictional serial killers. The first was Patricia Cornwell’s latest, The Bone Bed. It features forensic pathologist Kay Scarpetta. This was the first Cornwell book I’d read in a while. The Scarpetta series had gotten so dark that it was no longer enjoyable to me. The mysteries were excellently crafted, but the books were just too darn depressing. So I left off for a while. I decided to give Scarpetta another try when The Bone Bed arrived at the library where I work and I had first dibs.

Well, it’s still dark. Scarpetta is located in Boston now, and it’s cold and raining all the time, and she still has dysfunctional relationships with almost everyone in her life, and spends a lot of time in the book worrying about what other people are thinking. The actual plot is excellent, but the book could have been shorter and tighter if Scarpetta hadn’t been doubting herself and everyone around her at every turn. And ruminating on that for pages and pages. For a woman in such a high-powered position, she has the emotional makeup of a high school kid. In my opinion.

The second serial killer book I read was Murder in Mykonos: An Inspector Kaldis Mystery by Jeffrey Siger. It was a freebie on Kindle, and I was pleasantly surprised. It’s very well written. It still involves a serial killer, so there is still darkness and angst, but it takes place in the sunshine of a Greek island. And some of the characters have sunny dispositions. There was much more focus on solving the crimes and much less on the internal dialogues of the main characters. But the personalities of each of the characters are nicely drawn out; it’s just that they don’t spend pages and pages obsessing about what everyone around them is thinking. It was a much more enjoyable read. I see that there are other Inspector Kaldis mysteries available, so I may check some of them out.

Would I ever write a mystery with a serial killer? I don’t know. My protagonist’s boyfriend is a professor of psychology, with a specialty in abnormal and criminal psychology, so I guess it would be possible to work it in. But I don’t have any plans for it right now.

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Two of my beta-readers gave me their feedback yesterday, and it was excellent. I spent most of the day making the revisions they’d suggested. I lost about 600 words, but I think it’s a cleaner story now.

One suggestion was that I lose one character. She only existed for one specific purpose, and I was able to give that action to someone else, and blend it into the rest of the plot better. Another suggestion was a change in the ending, and that was the toughest to write, because it required rewriting of the entire climactic scene. But it’s more consistent with the characters’ personalities and more believable. So it’s a good change.

When I finished I sent the revised version back to them, and they’ll be getting back to me within the next couple of days. Once they’re satisfied, I can sent the whole thing to the copy editor. I’m working with the cover artist, and I think the cover is going to look great.

As of yesterday’s final version, the book is 181 pages long.


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Sequels – Writing like Goldilocks

I started getting ideas for sequels to Cited to Death even before I finished writing it. Since it is finished now, and my beta-readers have it, I’m working on a sequel while I’m waiting. I’m still having fun writing!

The one difficulty I’m having with the sequel is introducing enough information about the main characters that this book could stand on its own. I have the characters and everything that happened to them in the first book in my head, of course, and it’s hard to write as if I didn’t know any of that. But I don’t want someone to pick up the second book and be completely lost. I’d like to incorporate just enough from the first book that someone new to the series would want to go back and read the first one.

So it’s a tricky balancing act. Not so much information from the first book that it bogs down the pacing, but not so little information that the reader is wondering who the heck these characters are.

I have to write like Goldilocks. It has to be just right. 🙂

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I write for fun. I love my day job, and it pays me well enough that I’m comfortable. I don’t need to make a living by writing, and I’m not sure that I’d want to. (Although I love the thought of working from home.)

I wouldn’t be writing novels if I couldn’t self-publish. I have no interest in trying to get a contract with an established publisher. For one thing, it takes too long, and I might never find a publisher who would take me on. For another, I don’t want to give up control or lose the rights to my books.

And I’ve read several accounts lately of people who have been royally – um – screwed by the publishers they’ve signed with. Not getting paid, not getting the representation they thought they were getting, small publishers going out of business unexpectedly…who needs that?

So I’m going to self-publish. I have a book, Let’s Get Digital by David Gaughran, that presents a lot of good reasons to self-publish and step-by-step instructions for doing so on several platforms. He also gives excellent advice on marketing your book.

I’ve had a couple of coworkers ask me if I intend to send my book to publishers, and they’ve always seemed surprised when I’ve said no. One of them even keeps recommending small publishers to me, as if I’m going to change my mind.

I’m not. I’m going to self-publish. First on Kindle, then on a couple of other platforms.

Getting a publisher for your book was the only way to go in the past. Not any more. I want the control and freedom that self-publishing provides. And, if I do generate any revenue, I don’t want to share it with a middleman.

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A scene from Cited to Death

I figure my book is about two to three months from publication. It’s with the beta-readers now, then it needs to be copy edited, and I still don’t have a cover. But I think I can get all that done by the end of the year. Until then, here’s a scene from the first chapter…

Now here he was, standing in my doorway. I tried to smile; it must have looked more like a grimace. “Hey, what are you doing here?”

Pete smiled back. He had a nice smile. “I wanted to see if I could buy you dinner on your way home. Figured you’d be done for the day by now.”

I was suddenly suspicious. “Did Kevin send you here?”

“No, I’ve been here doing research all afternoon. But it did occur to me that you might need some encouragement to leave work on time, and maybe I could entice you away.”

“Doing research? I thought the point of taking a teaching job at a community college was so you didn’t have to do research.”

Pete laughed. He had a nice laugh too. “I don’t have to, but it does help with tenure. And the professor who was my dissertation advisor here has asked me to write a chapter for a textbook that she’s editing. So I need to do some research for that.”

“A textbook on what?”

“Abnormal psychology. My chapter’s on criminal psychology. And right now I’m criminally hungry. So whaddya say? How does Thai sound?”

I sighed. “Actually, it sounds great. I just want to go through this last stack of mail before I leave. Come on in, sit down.”

Pete moved a stack off the chair and sat. “This place is a mess.”

“No kidding. They’ve just been throwing my mail in here as it came.”

“Nice. I hope there wasn’t anything important in it.”

“Probably not.” I was tossing catalogs into my chair and important-looking mail in the direction of my inbox on my desk. None of it looked interesting, until I came to an envelope with a name I recognized. It stopped me in my tracks.

Holy shit. I must have had an odd look on my face. Pete noticed. “What’s wrong?”

“This morning I found out that this guy I used to know died. And now here’s a letter from him. It’s postmarked the day before he died.”

“Who is it?”

“Dan Christensen. We started library school together. He’s a medical librarian at Cedars now. Was a medical librarian. He died on Friday.”

“Christensen. Why does that name sound familiar?”

“I was kind of – um – involved with him for a while. You might have heard me mention him.” I looked narrowly at Pete. “That was almost six years ago, though. If you remember that, you’ve got an awfully good memory.”

“Hey, I’ve always paid attention to your love life.” He nodded at the letter. “What does he want?”

I looked at the letter again. It was postmarked Malibu. Malibu? Dan lived in Glendale and worked in LA. Why would he mail something from Malibu? I opened it and pulled out a sheet of paper.

It was just a plain sheet, not hospital stationery. I read out loud. “Jamie – if anything happens to me, check this out.” I stopped at what was below that sentence. “What the…”

“What is it?”

I handed the letter to Pete. “‘If anything happens to me..’ What’s he talking about?”

Pete examined the note. “What’s this at the bottom? It looks like journal citations.”

It was. Below Dan’s handwritten note, he had typed two citations.

The first seemed to be in a foreign language:

Hughes, D., & Llewellyn, M. (2003). Nid yw symbylu’r celloedd bonyn embryonig dynol diwylliedig â hormonau ffoligl ysgogol yn arwain at ffurfio ofwm tebyg i gelloedd. Meddygol Cymru Journal, 17(9), 23-28.

The second was in English, but was nearly as incomprehensible as the first:

Oliver, T., Wray, A., & Goldstein, B. (2007). Stimulation of cultured human embryonic stem cells with follicle stimulating hormone leads to formation of ovum-like cells. Journal of Stem Cell Biology, 2(4), 15-22.

“This looks like medical stuff. How am I supposed to read this?”

“What language is that?”

“The names could be Welsh. And Cymru means Wales. I think it’s Welsh language.”

“Can you read it?”

I shook my head. “Nope.”

“You could run it through Google Translate to get an idea of what it says. Why would he send this to you? You’re not a medical librarian.”

“I don’t know. I might be the only librarian he knows in the UC system. Or maybe he thought…oh hell, I don’t know.”

“And those are just citations. Why wouldn’t he have sent you the articles themselves?”

“I have no idea. Maybe he couldn’t find the full text.” I grimaced. “This is creepy. Dan’s dead. Do you think someone might have done something to him?”

“Like what? Was there anything to indicate foul play?”

“No. The obituary just said he died suddenly. And what could be dangerous about a couple of medical articles?” I frowned at the paper in my hand.

“You could ask Kevin about it. He can get the police report and the autopsy results. See if there was anything off about it.”

I frowned again. “I guess. But that’ll take a while, won’t it?”

“Yeah, it won’t be a priority.” Pete picked up my computer bag from the floor. “Come on, I’m hungry. You can fill me in on this guy and those listings while we eat.”

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