Escape to Writing

I’ve always used writing as a way to work through things that are bothering me–hypocrisy, rude people, the current state of the world, etc. With the onset of COVID-19, I’ve found writing has offered me another gift–escapism. No matter how claustrophobic or stir crazy I’ve become inside my house, I can sit down at my laptop and disappear into a COVID-free world for a few hours. Through my characters, I can attend summer camp, go to a concert, or cheer along with a raucous crowd at a sporting event. I’m not sure how my fellow writers of contemporary fiction are dealing with the pandemic in their stories, but my books do not mention it. My stories are set in the current day, but without COVID. I like it that way. For my mental health, I need it that way.

Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

One of my upcoming releases, She Lies Alone, is set in a large high school. I wrote the bulk of the book in 2019. As I’ve been going back and addressing revisions and copy edits, it is strange to read my descriptions of a COVID-free world where teens travel in packs and gather to eat lunch in a crowded cafeteria without a second thought. These revisions come exactly at the time I’m learning my kids will be attending their school 100% virtually in the fall. Reading my manuscript describing a pandemic-free world that is both near and distant is strange, but also refreshing. Oh, how naive I was! But how happy and carefree! It is wonderful to travel to that safe place, if only for a while. (Okay, maybe “safe” isn’t the correct word because I write mysteries and there is bound to be a murder, but you know what I mean.)

I’m finishing up a first draft of another novel involving a girls’ weekend gone murderously wrong. I’ve written the all 70,000+ words during the pandemic, but the pandemic doesn’t exist in my book. I’m not sure I could write about the pandemic while living through it. That would ruin the escape that writing brings to me.

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Do you write contemporary fiction? Do you mention the pandemic in your stories? Tell me why or why not.

Until next time…

Cover Reveal – TWO WIDOWS

It’s Cover Reveal Day!

I’ve had an exciting week in writing. On Tuesday, I released my commercial fiction suspense novel, Top Producer. Today, I get to reveal the fabulous cover of Two Widows, my first suspense novel to be published with Bookouture this August!

So, without further ado…

TWO WIDOWS Cover

Two Widows releases August 27th from Bookouture, but is available for pre-order now on Amazon, iBooks, Google, and Kobo!

From the back cover –

I’d grown desperate for company since the discovery of the dead woman in town…

Gloria lives alone in an old farmhouse surrounded by empty land, miles from the nearest town in northern Michigan. Widowed and grieving her husband, mourning her broken relationship with her estranged son, lonely Gloria searches for answers in self-help books and has only faded photographs and stacks of unpaid bills for company. Her days all look the same.

Then the dead body of an unidentified young woman is found on the beach near Gloria’s house.

When freelance travel writer Beth arrives with her trailer to live on Gloria’s land, Gloria is relieved not to be alone. The police have no suspects in the murder and fearless Beth makes Gloria feel safe. Then Gloria discovers Beth is a widow too: the women become closer and begin to share their secrets.

But soon Gloria starts to wonder… what does she actually know about Beth? About what brought her to this isolated spot? About how her husband really died? Is it a coincidence that she’s arrived just as this small town has seen its first murder in decades?

Gloria thought that Beth had told her all her secrets. She was wrong.

A deeply compelling suspense novel that will have you hooked, this is a gripping thriller that will keep you up all night. Perfect for fans of Lisa Jewell, The Couple Next Door, and The Woman in the Window.

Thanks for checking it out!

I Finally Get to Drink this Bottle of Wine!

The Story of the Bottle

IMG_4946When we moved to our new house almost three years ago, my husband and I made a binge-shopping trip to our local big-box store to stock up on groceries and necessities. In my haste to fill our cart and get out of the crowded store, I accidentally tossed in a $40 bottle of wine. (Normally, I purchase bottles in the more reasonable $10-$15 price range.) I didn’t realize my mistake until we were at the checkout, but things were hectic so we went through with it. When I got home, I felt a little guilty about the extravagant mistake, so I made a deal with myself. I told myself I would save the “good” bottle to open when I got a book deal.

One of my long-time goals has been to have my novels traditionally published by a large publisher. I’ve documented some milestones along this journey, including signing with an agent, completing and revising multiple manuscripts. parting with said agent, looking for a new agent, submitting my manuscripts on my own, all while still writing and being a mom to two kids. Well, you might be able to guess where this story is going. While I was busy writing, revising, submitting, and resubmitting, that bottle of “good” wine sat in our wine fridge for almost three years…

Pass the Corkscrew, Please!

About two months ago, I submitted my manuscript for a psychological suspense novel called, The Space Between, to an editor in the UK. Three weeks later, she asked me to make a few changes and resubmit. I did. A week after that, she asked me what else I had. I sent her summaries of my other manuscripts, one of which she asked to read. A few days after that, I received an offer for a three-book deal from Bookouture (Hachette UK!) I’d been hoping for a two-book deal, so a three-book option was beyond my wildest dreams! This past Friday, we signed the contract.

I now have three novels of psychological suspense coming out with Bookouture, The Space Between (August 2020), Where She Lies (November 2020), and The Cabin on Crooked Lane (spring 2021).  The third one hasn’t been written yet (minor detail!), but I’m now feeling validated and extra motivated to get it done. (There is more information about each book on my website, including a fourth novel, Top Producer, which I’ll be releasing through my own imprint on May 26th, 2020.)

I keep pinching myself. I’m so happy to finally get my books out into the world. Over the last several months, I had lost hope of accomplishing my dreams. I was contemplating throwing in the towel on my writing career. I was depressed at all the wasted time and effort I’d invested in writing and publishing. I’m so glad I didn’t give up. And for all of you writers out there with a dream in your heart and the willingness to hone your craft, I hope you don’t give up either.

Because I can tell you one thing–a glass of wine never tasted so good!

 

 

Top Producer Cover Reveal!

It’s COVER REVEAL DAY!

My upcoming suspense novel, TOP PRODUCER, releases May 26th, 2020! (Just in time for summer reading!) It’s perfect for fans of LOCK EVERY DOOR by Riley Sager, and AN ANONYMOUS GIRL by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen.

Here’s a sneak peek at the cover…

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When Mara’s dream job with one of Chicago’s top realtors turns into her worst nightmare, she realizes it’s not only her livelihood at stake—it’s also her life.


I couldn’t be happier with the cover art. Many thanks to RebecaCovers for the design!

Please stay tuned, as I will be sharing even more good news about my upcoming novels in the days to come. Stay safe and healthy, everyone!

Spring and New Beginnings

yellow tulip flower field during daytime

Spring is one of my favorite times of the year. Today is a perfect example. After months of cloudy skies, slushy snow, and freezing rain in Michigan, the sun is shining, the remnants of old snow are melting, and daffodils are sprouting up. Two Canadian geese have arrived on our pond, as they do every spring (much to the dismay of our dog.) I’m eager for the ducks to arrive and hoping this is the year they have ducklings.

That’s one of the best things about spring; it’s filled with hope. The awakening of animals and plants outside bring forth a rebirth and new beginnings for the rest of us. Doesn’t anything feel possible on a sunny spring day?

I’m feeling spring’s positive energy in my writing life, too. There’s an idea for a new novel percolating in my head (that’s how novels are born.) Hint: It’s about a girls’ weekend gone murderously wrong. I’ve planted the seeds of the story by writing a rough outline. Next week, I’ll come up with character sketches (that’s the water), and maybe April will be the month I try to write 50,000 words in thirty days (the writing version of photosynthesis.)

It’s wonderful to be able to focus on a new project. This past winter, I went through a

book book pages college education
Photo by Victor on Pexels.com

dark period in my writing life. I’d completed major rewrites to two of my suspense manuscripts, Top Producer and All the Tiny Spaces, but my agent dragged her feet on resubmitting the new versions. When I sent her my newest psychological suspense manuscript, Where She Lies, the same thing happened. I didn’t understand her lack of urgency and support. What was I supposed to do with all of these novels I’d spent literally years of my life writing, rewriting, editing, and polishing? The feelings of despair intensified when people would ask me, “Do you have anything new I can read?” I would answer, “Yes, I have three novels, but…” and explain the whole story. It was depressing to know my manuscripts were being held hostage with no viable plan going forward.

With the rebirth of spring, I harnessed the courage to break away from my agent and pursue new representation. It feels like I can breathe again, like I escaped a stagnant relationship. I am now shopping Where She Lies to a dozen or so literary agents who specialize in my genre (my previous agent did not.) Two of them have already requested the full manuscript. Oh, the possibilities of spring! I am submitting my two rewritten manuscripts to smaller publishers and awaiting responses. For some inexplicable reason (maybe because the sun is shining and flowers are sprouting), I am hopeful my stories will soon find their ways into the hands of readers.

What new beginnings are you pursuing this spring? I’d love to hear your stories of hope and renewal!

What is your Character’s Superpower?

boy child clouds kid

Have you ever noticed how truly memorable characters have a larger than life quality that makes them stand out from everyone around them? I’m talking about their superpowers. A superpower doesn’t have to refer to the ability to fly through the air or bend a steel beam in half (although if your MC can do that, that’s pretty cool!) A superpower can be something much less dramatic, yet still pack the same emotional punch. In all my novels, each one of my protagonists has a distinct personality trait that allows her to overcome the odds and enjoy a satisfying resolution to her story. Notably, the superpower is, often times, the exact same trait that makes her life difficult.

Brynlei, the nature-loving, horse riding protagonist of my Dark Horse series provides a perfect example. We learn early on that she is Highly Sensitive Person, meaning she processes stimuli from the world around her more intensely. She shies away from bright lights, cowers at loud noises, and smells every ingredient baked into her mother’s lemon cookies. At times, she doesn’t fit in with other girls her age. Her sensitivity isn’t all bad, though. It also provides her an advantageous connection to the horses she rides, lets her sense dishonest people, and even interact with the spirits of the dead. In the end, it is Brynlei’s sensitivity to the world around her that enables her to solve the mysteries she encounters each summer while attending Foxwoode Riding Academy.

Another example comes from Mara, the MC of my yet-unpublished suspense novel, Top Producer. Her superpower is her street smarts. Her street smarts got her out of her dead end consulting job and into her dream position as the assistant to one of Chicago’s top real estate agents. But it isn’t long before she realizes her mentor is a criminal and a murderer. Not surprisingly, it is Mara’s street smarts that also allow her to escape the invisible prison her rival has built around her.

One more example comes from Jane, the snarky high school chemistry teacher from my recently completed psychological suspense manuscript. Like many of us, Jane is concerned about the future of planet. Teaching is her superpower. She believes the material she teaches her students might one day spark them to clean up the plastic in the ocean, invent a method to combat global warming, or clone the last-surviving rhino.  Meanwhile, it is also her position as a high school teacher that gets her caught up in the murder of the new teacher in the classroom next door.

Characters in my novels have other superpowers–humor, loyalty, determination. This

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My rescue dog, Milo.

exercise got me thinking…Do I have a superpower? I can tell you it’s definitely NOT cooking, making small talk, or volunteering for elementary school field trips. Mine is probably something closer to storytelling and empathy (especially for animals.) And, yes, those “superpowers” get me into trouble quite often, as evidenced by my hours spent on unpaid writing at the expense of most other things and my need to rescue cute puppy dogs.

What about your characters? What about you? Please share your superpowers!

Are Tiny Houses Creepy?

Tiny House Plaid Zebra

With the final book in my YA mystery series published and my latest psychological suspense manuscript sent off to my agent (hooray!), I’ve begun major revisions on another suspense manuscript I wrote last year. The story is partially set in a tiny house in northern Michigan. My latest round of revisions comes after receiving feedback from a few editors who thought the twists and turns at the end of the story weren’t “big” enough. I’m working on fixing that. They had positive feedback, too, and I was struck by one observation made by more than one editor–the tiny house made for a creepy setting.

While I was happy to hear the setting unnerved them (the novel involves an older widow who begins to believe her new best friend in the tiny house might be a murderer.) Still, I’d never thought of tiny houses as being inherently creepy. Admittedly, my knowledge of tiny houses comes mostly from watching episodes of Tiny House Nation on the FYI network. I originally placed the character in the tiny house to emphasize her free spirit, nomadic lifestyle, and belief in minimalist living.

The more I think about it, however, those editors might have been right about the creepiness factor. It’s something I’m going to play up in the next draft of my manuscript. For example, why would the young woman choose to live in a house on wheels? Maybe to make a quick getaway? Is she running from someone or something? And then there are all those secret compartments–drawers hidden in the sides of staircases, tables that fold out from the wall, storage bins built underneath the bed. What’s she hiding? At one point, her friend even observes, “My, you have plenty of hiding places. Don’t you?” And, in case you’re wondering…Yes. She is hiding something.

Aside from the abundance of hiding places, there’s also the sheer claustrophobia that might come with living inside a 200 square-foot space. I’m all for paring down my material possessions, but I’m not sure I could live in a house smaller than my modest-sized living room. There’s literally nowhere to run or hide.

Finally, the location where the tiny house is parked comes into play. In my story, it’s parked on field next door to a lonely widow’s farmhouse. The farmhouse is located on a ten-acre parcel of land “out in the boonies,” as the widow describes it. Maybe the house would have different vibe if it were parked in town next to a park? Or overlooking the ocean? I placed it in a remote location purposefully, to add a sense of foreboding to the story.

While I plan give an even more mysterious vibe to the tiny house in my story, my underlying view of tiny houses probably won’t change. Tiny houses are cool! Okay, maybe once in a while they can be creepy. What do you think?

Get Writing in the New Year!

close up of hand over white background

Happy 2019! My kids are back in school (Yay!), I got a much-needed new laptop for Christmas, my revisions to my suspense novel have been completed and sent to my agent and I have the seeds of a psychological thriller clawing inside my mind, struggling to materialize. Why, then, have I languished at my desk for the last three days, my shiny laptop gleaming in front of me, and not been able to write a single word?

Instead, I’ve been plotting my story, drawing time lines, doing character sketches, tinkering with my website and trying to achieve 10,000 steps per day on my Fitbit. These are all good things, but my “novel” still contains zero words. Despite the excitement of starting a new project, writing the first chapter (or even the first line) of a novel can be difficult, overwhelming and even a little scary. The fear is amplified even further after taking a three-week break over the holidays.

I’ve now had a few days to think about my writing drought, and here are a few explanations I’ve come up with, along with solutions, that I’m hoping will help both myself and fellow writers facing similar struggles.

Making my own NaNoWriMo

My four previous completed novels have one thing in common — they were all written (or at least started) on November 1st as part of the National Novel Writing Month challenge. The clear goal of the challenge, to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days, was a huge motivator for me. I knew exactly how many words I needed to write every day (1,667) to achieve the goal. This past November, I was swamped with rewrites to my existing manuscripts and did not have a chance to participate. To compensate, I’m declaring January 15th-February 15th as my personal NaNoWriMo challenge! I won’t have the fancy NaNoWriMo website to track my word count, but I do have a bare-bones excel spreadsheet that accomplishes the same goal.

 It doesn’t have to be perfect

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This might be the hardest part of writing for me–knowing that the sentence, paragraph or even an entire chapter is dog poop, but writing it anyway. Perfection does not happen in the first draft. A worthy story comes with editing, input from critique partners and many rounds of revising. So, go ahead and write that run-on sentence, ridiculous dialogue and scenes that come out of nowhere.  Everything can be fixed during round two.

Butt in Chair

Getting more exercise is always a noble New Year’s resolution, but enough with the Fitbit already! (I’m talking to myself here.) I may not get my 10,000 steps today, but there’s always February 16th for that. Starting January 15th, I vow to not leave my desk until I achieve my goal of writing 1,667 words per day.

So, that’s my simplified plan for jump-starting my 2019 novel. I’ll check back with you on February 16th to let you know how I did.

Are you writing a new novel for the new year? Tell me about it. We’ll cheer each other on!

What’s on my Summer Reading List?

It’s Memorial Day Weekend, and you know what that means… It’s time for SUMMER READING! The same excitement that comes from my childhood memories of summer reading has carried over into adulthood…maybe because I picture myself devouring books while lounging by a pool, sipping a glass of wine and completely uninterrupted by kids (yeah, right!) Before checking out my list below, please note that it comes with two BIG disclaimers:  #1–I’m constantly (everyday) finding new books to read, so this list is likely to evolve and expand, and #2–My reading lists are usually over-ambitious, meaning it is likely I may not actually read every book this summer, but it’s good to have goals!

The-Girls-Emma-Cline1. The first book on my list is one I’ve been wanting read all year — The Girls by Emma Cline. It tells the story of a 14 year-old girl who gets drawn into a Manson-like cult in 1960’s California. It promises to be a mesmerizing read involving cult psychology, teenage insecurity and murder. The book has received rave reviews and was named an Amazon Best Book of June 2016. Sounds like the perfect beach read to me!

2. I love everything by this next author, Liane Moriarty. Her writing style is Truly-Madly-Guiltyfast-paced, humorous, and suspenseful– all of my favorite things. I was so thrilled when her novel (and one of my all-time favorite books), Big Little Lies, was recently made into an HBO mini-series. I haven’t had a chance to read her latest book, Truly Madly Guilty, and I can’t wait!

These next two books fall into my favorite reading (and writing) category–Psychological Thrillers!

All the missing girls3. All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda has been calling my name for a few months now. The premise of a suspenseful tale told backwards intrigues meThis book has received tremendous reviews and was named as A New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice. I’m excited to read it.

4.  Because I enjoyed Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, I look forward into-the-water-678x1024to reading her new novel, Into the Water. While I see it has received mixed reviews on Amazon…frankly, I don’t care. Just from reading the back cover blurb I want to know why a single mother was found dead at the bottom of the river and what she had to do with the teenage girl who was found dead in the river before her. I’m eager to read this best-selling story of psychological suspense written by a talented author.

And in the Historical Fiction category…

Two Family House5. The Two-Family House by Lynda Cohen Loigman has been sitting on my Kindle for months. I’ve heard great things about it and I’m going to make time to read it this summer. I love historical fiction because it transports me to another time and place. This family saga is set in post WWII Brooklyn and follows the lives of two brothers who share a house with their wives. It promises to be an emotional page-turner featuring vivid characters, life-altering secrets, lies, love and redemption.

Now I’m moving on to one of my favorite categories–  Equestrian Fiction!Ride Every Stride

6. Ride Every Stride by Amy Maltman appears to encompass everything I love in a great book–horses, dark secrets and plot twists! This novel is set against the backdrop of a prestigious stable and one man’s quest to earn a spot on the Canadian Olympic equestrian team, despite the personal demons that threaten to destroy his dream. Bring it!

Showdown7.  Showdown (Red Rock Ranch, Book Two) by Brittney Joy I read the first book in the Red Rock Ranch series, Lucy’s Chance, and very much enjoyed it. I found the first book to be a fun and quick YA read that transported me into the world of Western riding and contained just the right amount of suspense, romance and, of course, horses. I look forward to escaping into Book 2 on one of my beach days.

Continuing on the YA Theme, I’m eager to read…

8. The Art of Holding on and Letting GoArt of Holding on and Letting Go by fellow Michigan author, Kristin Bartley Lenz. This Fall 2016 Junior Library Guild Selection tells the coming of age story of a teenage competitive rock climber who is forced to take a year off after tragedy strikes on an Ecuadorian mountaintop. I love learning about cool sports and enjoy journeys of self-discovery, so I’m beyond excited to read this highly acclaimed book.

Fault in our Stars9. Because I’m the last person on the planet who hasn’t read this book, I’m adding YA bestseller The Fault in our Stars by John Green to my list. I’ve been hesitant to read it because it just sounds so depressing, but millions of people can’t be wrong…right? I’m not going to bother telling you what it’s about because you’ve probably already read it. And, no, I haven’t seen the movie either.

I also love reading Non-Fiction books, and have several on my summer reading list, including…

10. The Dogs Who Found Me: What I’ve Learned from the Pets who were Left Behind by Dogs who found meKen Foster. I’m a sucker for animal rescue stories, and I’ve already got my box of Kleenex ready for this one. Animals can teach us so many things about ourselves if we would just pay attention. This tale of multiple rescues is bookended by the tragedies of 9/11 and hurricane Katrina. I can’t wait to learn how this author was touched by a loveable array of abandoned dogs.

Edible11. Edible: An Adventure into the World of Eating Insects and the Last Great Hope to Save the Planet by Daniella Martin has peaked my interest. As if my mostly-vegan diet wasn’t “crazy” enough, now I’m going to learn about eating bugs? Absolutely! Hey, I didn’t say I was actually going to eat insects, I’d just like learn about the people who do. And because I believe in science and I’m all for saving the planet, I’m reminding myself to never say never…

12.  Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance is Hillbilly Elegyanother non-fiction read that sounds timely and fascinating. This book is described as a passionate and personal analysis of poor, white, working class Americans, and how one man achieved upward mobility while the rest of his family was left behind. I’m hoping this book will delve deep into another way of life–one that I know little about–and might help offer a new perspective.

Because the next novel I’m going to write is an Eco-thriller/Suspense story, I’m trying to read as many similar-type books as I can. Here are a couple that are at the top of my eco-thriller list:

Open SeasonTipping Point

13.  Open Season by C.J. Box

14. Tipping Point by Simon Rosser

 

 

Finally, (although I won’t be reading my own books this summer) I have to give a quick darkhorse[3612]shout out to my Dark Horse Series. These YA mysteries set against the backdrop of a summer camp in northern Michigan make the perfect beach read for anyone who loves fast-paced mysteries, creepy ghost stories, and/or horses.

That’s it! What’s on your summer reading list? Now please excuse me because I need to start reading…