Friday, September 17, 2021

Shop Like a Pirate

 Smashwords is hosting a Talk Like a Pirate Day sale this weekend and the first four books in the Secrets and Scrabble series are currently listed at $2.99 each thru September 21st (the books are normally priced at $5.99).

It's a great time to catch up on the series before the fifth book comes out.

Saturday, September 4, 2021

Five Things You Might Not Know About Me ;-)


Just keeping things light this Labor Day weekend. Once upon a time--as in for the last thirty years--every Labor Day weekend was spent performing at the Santa Rosa-then-Pleasanton Highland Games. But last year the Games were canceled and this year one of our bandmates was injured in a non-musical accident (I honestly didn't know you could rip a pectoral muscle GULP).  

The bright side is, I have Labor Day off! 

There really is no dark side to swimming, BBQ, and sleeping in that I can see.

A lot of you might not have known that I've been performing/recording Celtic music for most of my adult life (which, makes it all the odder that I've never written a musician main character--I have no idea why) and that's from whence the idea for this post arose.

Some other things you might not know about me.

1 - I talk to myself. A LOT. To the amusement of friends and family--and possibly my dogs. I don't even know I'm doing it anymore. It's mostly the musing aloud variety. Let's see. If I add this... You know the kind of thing. I'm also prone to false alarms. Oh, don't tell me I... lostmykeys/lockedmyselfout/forgotto To the extent that no one takes these flutters seriously anymore (except me and even I know I probably did NOT forget/lose/drop whatever it is).

Apparently I have even occasionally talked in my sleep, although I don't know if I really believe this.

2 -  I believe in ghosts. Not like Hollywood ghosts or Gothic literature ghosts--although those are certainly fun--more like echoes of the past, reverberations of traumatic events, shades and shadows that linger through time. I think I've had a couple of ghostly encounters, but I'm not entirely sure. I have an active imagination and that could certainly throw me off.

3 - My first novel--a Harlequin romance--was published in 1984.  So, yes, I have been doing this a very long time.

 4 - I didn't marry until I was in my forties. From a writing perspective, that gave me a lot of useful experience as far as having different kinds of relationships with different kinds of romantic partners. From an ideal spouse perspective... er, I was a little on the backward side. I think it took me two years before I conceded I did need to call home if I was going to be late or that I should probably consult--or at least inform--the SO before I made vacation arrangements. HOWEVER, I DID REMEMBER TO DOUBLE CHECK WITH HIM IF IT WAS OKAY TO ADOPT BOTH DOGS. ;-)

5 - I close my eyes at the gory/scary parts of films. I HATE suspense.

Friday, August 27, 2021

The Endless Summer

Without a doubt this has got to be the weirdest summer.

At least it's my weirdest summer. 

I mean, what DIDN'T go wrong? Appliances breaking left and right (currently the dishwasher and pool heater are on the blink). Pandemic. Family feuds. Health crises for the parental units. Pandemic. Sick dogs. Social and political unrest. DID I MENTION THERE'S A @#$%^^&&!*ING PANDEMIC? Neighbor drama-trauma (which I realize bothers me more than I want to admit). 

In short, I'm burnt out. 

It's not about the writing. When I can sit down long enough to write, the writing is fine. I'M burnt out. I'm tired. I have zero emotional energy. And my mental energy is expended on things I truly don't want to think about. I don't want to think about climate change although an entire summer of triple digit days makes it hard to ignore. I don't want to think about having to rely on natural selection to get us out of this pandemic, but that's inevitable. I don't want to face the fact that my parents are well into their 80s and not in great health. I don't want to think about voter suppression, the humanitarian crisis in EVERYWHERE, a country on the verge of civil war--but for months I haven't been able to read or watch TV or movies, so what else is there to think about? 


No wonder I find it difficult to sit down and write fun, entertaining fiction. I am not a fun, entertaining person right now.

Every time I think I'm coming out of it (like now?) something else breaks or someone else gets sick or there's something new and terrifying happening on the news. And, proof of my red zone stress levels, everything feels like the last straw. The. Last. Straw. 

This is not me. But yet it's been me for the last two years. 

I do think part of the trouble is--this is tied to the pandemic, for sure--there hasn't been a lot of "refilling the creative well" over the past two, well, three years. So that's kind of my focus right now. I'm consciously making a belated effort to refill the well.  

Part of the... I wouldn't call it a difficulty, exactly, but I achieved all of my initial life goals a long time ago. I write for a living--and I love what I write. I found my life's partner. I can typically help the people I love when they need help. 

So what's next? I think that's what I'm struggling with. What do I want from the rest of my life? Or at least the next ten years? What would make me happy? I honestly have no idea--and I think that question mark has to be addressed. 

I mean, there are things I want that are not possible. I want the people I love--even the dogs I love--to live forever. That's not going to happen. But within the reachable realm, what do I want? Do I want to move to another country? Do I want to write in another genre? (Those two are kind of the same thing, aren't they?) In fact, do I want to give up writing and do something else with my life? What would that be? 

(Okay, giving up writing seems pretty unlikely. I can't imagine a non-writing life. Writing isn't just what I do, it's what I am.)

I do have several short term practical goals:

Body at Buccaneer Bay - October 19th**

The Monuments Men Murders - November 30*

Hide and Seek (Patreon exclusive) - December 31

Fatal Shadows: The Collector's Edition - December 31

(*Updated yet again as of 9/7 because I just realized my BFF is coming to spend two weeks, and while she is also a writer, it is HIGHLY unlikely much writing will happen.)

(**Updated yet yet again on 9/23 because see above)

I think that's all doable. Beyond that...I do know I want room for the extra stuff. Creative exploration and expansion. The projects that don't necessarily make money, but that allow me to stretch my brain and flex my writing muscles. 

What will those be? I have no idea. Which is maybe both the good news AND the bad news. ;-) 

Friday, August 6, 2021

NEW IN AUDIO: Scandal at the Salty Dog

 I've been a bit distracted lately (as I'm sure you've noticed) so I forgot to mention that THIS HAPPENED.

SCANDAL AT THE SALTY DOG is now available in audio. The wickedly talented Matthew Haynes returns to narrate the latest adventures of Ellery, Jack, Watson, and the Silver Sleuths. ;-) 

Murder Stalks the Cobbled Streets of Pirate’s Cove


After elderly recluse Juliet Blackwell suffers a mysterious fall in her spooky old mansion, she insists the ghost of long-dead pirate Rufus Blackwell has come to avenge himself on the last member of his treacherous clan.

Bookshop owner and occasional amateur sleuth Ellery Page doesn’t believe in ghosts, but he knows fear when he sees it, and it’s clear to him his eccentric customer is genuinely terrified.

Who or what is haunting Miss Blackwell, what, if anything, does it have to do with mysterious goings-on at the Salty Dog pub—and why is any of it Ellery’s problem?

According to Police Chief Jack Carson, it’s not Ellery’s problem, and just maybe Ellery should stop asking awkward questions before it’s too late.

The book is also in print! 


Friday, July 16, 2021



Back at work again, although I can't pretend it didn't take a few days to regain my focus. In the middle of trying to shake off my... I think the best way to describe it is an extreme mental and emotional fatigue. But anyway, in the middle of that came Fourth of July, which was the first time my entire family has been together for any real celebration since our very careful and cautious Thanksgiving.

So huge preparation was necessary in both home and garden--which was actually great because I had my two nephews over to help, and so there were three days of strenuous yard work and listening to those loonies talk about the stuff they talk about (a LOT of gaming, Star Wars--we watched The Mandalorian each evening when we finished work--and politics). It was good. It was what I needed. 

And then the actual Fourth was very good too, despite the best efforts of the dumbasses in the neighborhood to set the world on fire (we live in a extreme fire danger zone so amateur fireworks are forbidden--not that you'd know from the four-hour nonstop display lighting up the sky.). We literally had paper and wood debris raining down from all the fireworks overhead. Happily nothing caught on fire. 

It's weird though. I'm really out of the habit of socializing. In fact, we were all saying how tiring even that kind of social situation is now. I'm sure that will pass as life--fingers crossed--returns to normal.

Anyway, I'm back at work on Body at Buccaneer's Bay. The book will probably be out late August--which means everything else will have to be juggled as well, but one thing at a time.

But one good sign is I actually put together the playlist for the book. The process of putting together the playlist allows me to think through the emotional highs and lows of the story versus plot. It's usually a revelation--although sometimes that mood changes (and then so do the songs).

Be that as it may, for your listening enjoyment...

Body at Buccaneer Bay Playlist

Good Time - Owl City & Carly Rae Jepsen

Sea Shanty - Wellerman

Let's Fall in Love for the Night - Finneas

All is Found - Ashley Serena

Fireflies - Owl City

Jack Was Every Inch a Sailor - Burl Ives

No Body No Crime - Taylor Swift

Next to You - Little Big Town

Oro Se Do Bheatha 'Bhaile - Seo Linn

Let Me - Matthew Mole

When Can I See You Again? - Owl City

Friday, June 25, 2021

The Dreadful Day


I haven't been online for a few days, and I need to explain why--partly because I'm still trying to process what happened. This is not an excuse for being behind--I was already behind on a number of things.

Thursday morning I was working in my downstairs office and I heard screaming from the house behind ours. For those of you who follow me on Facebook, yes, this is the house where several years ago the lady got locked out by her then two-year-old, and where two years ago, they set the palm tree behind our house on fire with their barbecue and then proceeded to scream and accuse each other (husband and wife, that is) instead of trying to put the fire out. (The fire was put out by me and other neighbors.)

The husband has a horrendous temper--at least by the sound of it. He's always screaming and cursing at the kids and at the wife. That's a kind of abuse, but it doesn't mean he's dangerous per se. Just...unpleasant. Certainly, an unpleasant neighbor. Maybe he's a great guy otherwise. I wouldn't know.

But when I heard her screaming, I thought they were fighting again, so I stopped and listened for a minute, and I thought she sounded more terrified than usual. I thought I heard her scream, "No, no, no." And I could hear the kids screaming (they have three little boys and a little girl).

I got up and went to the glass door which opens onto the backyard and listened--I heard one of the little boys cry, "Oh God, help us."

I ran to the back wall, which is chest high, and called, "What's wrong? What's happening?" 

But he was gone. I could hear them further inside the house, and they were still screaming--I couldn't understand what they were saying (the parents are Armenian, I believe). So I called out again, "What's happening? What's wrong?" 

I was trying to decide whether to call 911 as a domestic, and as I looked around their yard, a flash of pink caught my eye. I thought it was a pool toy. I looked again and it was the baby daughter at the bottom of the pool. 

That image is burned into my brain. I don't think I will ever be able to forget that. 

She was on the bottom in her little pink pajamas. No movement, no bubbles, the wrong color--I could see it all.

I ran inside and called 911 and then I ran back, still talking to 911 and began to scream, "Get her out of the pool, get her out of the pool!" Screaming over and over. To nobody.

One of the little boys ran out and I yelled, "Can you swim? Get her out of there!"

He jumped in and dragged her out, and I told him to get her on her side--and at that point the mother and the other kids poured out of the house. She was on the phone--to her husband, I believe--and she began to beg me to climb the wall and help her. I waved the phone and said, "I'm on the phone with 911. I'm going to talk you through." She kept begging me to come and help her.

It was pandemonium. The young German shepherd next door was trying to scale the wall next to me, barking his head off, the mother was screaming and hysterical, the kids were screaming and hysterical, I could barely hear the operator--who by then was an EMT. 

I finally got the mom to listen, we went through the whole thing of CPR--she kept stopping to wail and sob--which I don't blame her for because I was also crying. When I saw the little girl, I believed it was already too late--but we kept at it. Thirty chest compressions, nothing. Then I tried to instruct her on mouth-to-mouth. I could go on and on. It seemed to take months before the sheriffs arrived, but I think it was only about five minutes.

They took the little girl away and I broke down and started sobbing. The operator/EMT guy said, "Listen, you did a great job. Really. You did everything you could."

Which I would like to believe. But of course I feel guilty. 

A while later a neighbor down the street came to our house to say she wanted to make sure I was all right. She had seen the whole thing from her bedroom window. How many other people were watching? People who were closer and could have been of more help? I mean, it was early and most people would be at work, but was I really the only person able to respond? 

It's a little bit of comfort that she said, "You should know that you were great. You were so in control and so calm (I was not, for the record, either of those things). I could hear everything you said to her. I could see you petting and calming the dog (which I'd totally forgot) and counting for her and talking to the kids."

The sheriffs came to interview me and I told them what I knew. They took photos of my yard and their yard. They said the little girl had not been pronounced but it did not look good. 

Anyway, that's it. That's where I've been. I'm doing my best not to think about it, and today is much easier, but it's woven into my dreams. It pops into my head at unexpected times.  It's not my tragedy and it is not about me, but I still have to work through my inadvertent part in it. I do believe I did everything I could.  But it's still...dreadful. 

Friday, June 18, 2021

The Dog Days of Summer


Currently it's 99° and headed for another day in the triple digits. It's been like this for an entire week, and I think I speak for everyone is this household when I say UGH

We woke to the sound of patio lights falling and the backyard umbrella crashing down when a sudden windstorm ripped through the yard...and then disappeared. Next, our neighbors' German shepherd puppy escaped and was on the lam, so we helped chase him down. (The SO used Marlowe as bait to lure the runaway back). Now all is quiet. Dead still, in fact. Hot and humid and still. I'm settling down to work, my faithful doggie companions curled up in the giant comfy chair with me (it is a bit warm for curling up together, but they don't seem to mind).

I don't know how people can say dogs don't dream. Spenser's tail is wagging as he sleeps. Marlowe's little muzzle is twitching and wrinkling like he's telling Cowboy what he thinks of him for running away. They are most definitely dreaming--and not about the same things.

Body at Buccaneer Bay is off to a slow start. There's just a lot going on right now (not that that's anything new) and I'm trying not to fall too far behind on all the other stuff that has to happen in addition to writing. I can't wait for next year when I've got eight weeks between projects and can actually have something close to a normal working life. Anyway, I've made most of the adjustments to this year's schedule now (The 12.2-Per-Cent Solution still has to be pushed back to the end of July at Amazon, but other than that, I think everything is now looking pretty solid--barring the next disaster.)

IT IS A WEIRD SUMMER. Am I right? Even as we climb out of the pandemic--not that we're out yet, but I do feel we're getting there--everything still feels...unfamiliar and precarious. Maybe it was always unfamiliar and precarious, and I'm only now noticing? 


Things I'm working on this month:

Exclusive audio for Patreon. Which I'll talk about on Patreon. ;-) 

But speaking of audio, I set up my own audio storefront at Findaway Voices. To celebrate, I've knocked everything down about 50% for the month of June. Now, not all my audio books are in my storefront, but some thing are in my storefront that are not--and will never--be at Audible. AND now I'm thinking maybe I'll create more collections that are unique to my storefront and maybe a couple of other channels not including Audible. It's an idea. It might not be a good one. We'll see.

I joined the Alliance of Independent Authors as an Authorpreneur (you have to be able to prove you earn a living at your writing by showing that you sell a minimum of 50,000 units over 24 months--or whatever the page read equivalent of that is) Basically, I was looking for a discount coupon at IngramSpark, but as I read about the benefits and goals of ALLI, I realized this was an organization worth supporting. If you're an indie author, I think you might want to check it out!

I'm going through contracts and setting up accounts at various mobile publishing platforms. I'm really fascinated by mobile publishing--which is kind of a cross between Candy Crush and Netflix. On the one hand, it seems like the least efficient way to buy books. On the other hand, I play Candy Crush, so...I get it.  Right now, I'm just uploading backlist stories. And of course, that's not really the most effective way to write for these platforms, but the thing is, I'm just looking for another passive income stream. I ALREADY make a living at my writing, and as we all know, I'm not great at having to produce under super-stressful deadlines. 

There's surprisingly little insight or info about the Asian market--even though it dominates this industry--but I did find an interesting article here. What is really fascinating is that the fiction app readership is NOT your "normal" book buying audience. It is sure as hell not a KU audience given that readers could ultimately pay three times what a book would fetch on one of the mainstream book-selling platforms. Which is why I wonder how successful Amazon will be with Vella. Readers go to Amazon to buy books at the lowest possible prices. I understand why Amazon wants a slice of this particular pie though.

Always things to consider and explore in this brave new world of publishing. 

Are you doing anything special for Father's Day? I bought my dad something called Storyworth. And then I thought it was such a cool idea, that I also bought it for the SO on behalf of my step-kids. Essentially, it's a book made up of photos and reminiscences. I can't think of a better gift for my dad or the SO given that they are both writers AND big time reminiscencers. ;-D 

Anyway, that's my weekly update. 

Just a reminder that Body at Buccaneer Bay will be out toward the end of July. If you've already preordered, thank you so much.