Monday, August 31, 2009


We all decided our instructors names would make a great law firm:
Mitchard & Slaughter

Where Holly and I had dinner:

For homework yesterday I wrote an even creepier short SHORT story about a woman who gets offed by her husband by getting dumped in the ocean (no ideas eh Gordon?).
Studying the structure of thrillers is really getting rid of all my pent up emotion let me tell you!
Today Karin Slaughter talked about knowing one secret your character has that the reader may never know.
Like they stole out of the collection plate when they were 10 and embarrassed in front of the congregation and that's why they are guilty every time they go to church...or they got a DUI, or they never actually graduated from college or...
you get the idea.
It was hugely helpful and I came up with a GREAT secret...and I'm never telling.
No sir.
Tooloose did the exercise as well.



What are YOUR characters' secrets?

Sunday, August 30, 2009


No picture. Not yet. Our classroom is facing the Ocean and has a view of Diamond Head.
The first day we heard a talk by William Martin on first lines and first pages. About setting up the voice and the characters. About compelling the reader to turn that page.
Then we had a break and IMMEDIATELY WENT TO STARBUCKS...which made HOLLY and I late for bad...
so....WE WERE SEPARATED!!!! We couldn't even pass notes back and forth.
In the beginning we worked on the events in our stories. Listing the 10 major events that lead to the next thing.
It was HARD!!!!!
Even with a second draft of this current book finished I had a REALLY difficult time and mine was horrible. I sweated blood to create my list and when I read it over it actually bore little resemblance to the book I wrote...*crumples paper up and starts over*

The next task seemed easier. Homework: write a one page ghost story with NO HOUSE THAT IS OFFERED FOR SALE THAT A NEW FAMILY MOVES no Amityville horror...Rats...
Do you want to read my home work? Do you? well...
Here it is:
Ghost Story
I’m being chased. Don’t come closer. I tell them, but the one doggedly tromps through the forest with the video camera rolling, slowing only to take a slurp of his beer. I flee. I soar. Trees whisk by. Stones rattle and tumble. Bushes rear out of the ground, but the flannel-shirted idiot keeps it up. The other moron wears a hooded sweatshirt that flops over his face, and carries a metal flashlight. Hard to balance that and the can of brew he holds in his hand as he jogs, but he manages without spilling a drop. Takes talent, that.
“He’s getting away, Lenny. Head him off.”
“Got him, Carl. You just keep filming.”
Stay away. I tell them, but they don’t listen. They never listen. Why do they not listen? I allow the idiot with the camera a fleeting glimpse of me. I am a startle. A movement out of the corner of his eye. A shimmer of glowing light. His lumbering body swings around and he stumbles forward. Rasping breath. Excitement and expectation causes him to be heedless. I count on this and use it to my advantage.
When his foot crashes through the rotted plywood covered with soft pine needles and leaves, his body tumbles down the darkened shaft. He doesn’t have time to do more than grunt in surprise. If I were him I might have tossed the beer and camera aside and grabbed a hold of the frame or protruding root on the way down. He doesn’t of course. They never think of it at the time. I know I never did. Hindsight is always twenty-twenty as they often say.
I know these woods like the back of my hand. Or did when I had a hand. Every path. Each trail. How close the quarry is to the edge of the road. The location of every pit. Each abandoned well. What it takes to entice and beguile.
I know how it will be for the next one.
His heart will thud in his ears as he holds his breath until he nearly explodes. “Carl? CARL? Where are you? Carl?” he will say. His fingers will become sweaty and both hands will tremble. Maybe he will shine his light in a wide circle. Around and around until he is dizzy. A twig snaps. I hear him coming. Maybe I will show myself. Maybe he will die of fright. Time stopping dead like a crushed watch. If he doesn’t, it will be as easy to lead him to the shaft as it was for the others. Easier, even. I know this.
Each time it gets easier.
Comments? Of course you all knew it would be my style to write one from the POV of a ghost...
What would you have done?

Friday, August 28, 2009


So it's registration day for the Hawaii Writers Retreat and I immediately started trying to be teacher's pet by buying a few rounds...Jackie Mitchard is great fun to work with.

And after 2 pina coladas I was feeling no pain...Ann Hood has a full class as well. It's so hard to decide who to work with...

how do you choose anyway?
Some times it depends on your story. Sometimes it depends on a writing tic you want to get rid of.
Other times? Well THIS from TOOLOOSE:


So how about you?
What do you want from a Hawaii writers retreat besides finding that perfect Mai Tai?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


This is a photo of me carrying two of my characters around on my back... I can't get rid of them. They are with me every moment of every day whispering in my ear.
I'm responsible for them and everything they do is my fault.
For example...
Gram's potty mouth has gotten her into trouble. I have been told on good authority (the born-again-community-somewhere-in-the-wilds-of-someplace) that no matter how good Gram was to Perry she's going straight-to-HELL-capital-H-do-not-pass-go-do-not-collect-your-$200-spiritual-Monopoly-kind-of-thing.
There's nothing I can do about it. I can't pull in any do-gooder markers. Can't go back (remember I already killed her off).
She's burning away now.
I thought she was entirely imaginary.
My bad.

Friday, August 14, 2009


It may all seem the same but trust me...each part of the ocean is different.

Each year I take stock. Where have I been? Where am I going? Am I on the right path?
As a result each year I attend the Hawaii Writers Retreat and Conference.
In 13 days the amazing and talented HOLLY KENNEDY arrives and in 14 days we will be seated across from each other (we aren't allowed to sit next to each other because we can't shut up) and will be working on the craft of fiction writing with Jackie Mitchard and Karin Slaughter.
The focus will be on suspense and although we don't write thrillers the components of a thriller can create a compulsive read and I want my readers to not be able to set down my book...I want them to carry it with them to the bathroom...I want them to bug their life partner by reading my novel until 3 am because they want to find out what happens.
I enjoy working with other writers. There are times they ask me why I'm there...if I'm published already why do I work on my writing and I give them this answer:
I will ALWAYS work on my writing. Publishing is happy circumstance but is not the end of my path...I still strive to be able to write stories that will be in print two years...five years...ten years or more down the road.
So I will be sitting in a room with other writers, my ego left at the door (although I will hear it hammering and yelling on the other side)...
Today's question?
Your 15 pages have been sent in...Why are we provoked to fiddle with them? Why can't we leave them alone. Why must we switch sentences around? And why do we only NOW find those stupid grammar and spelling mistakes?
Inquiring minds want to know...

Thursday, August 06, 2009


It doesn't take much to change a cold one-dimensional character into a living breathing entity...give him or her a hat and suddenly they're real...your very own "Wilson" from Castaway.

What shall I talk about? I know. This could also be titled "be careful what you wish for you just may get it..."
I have many people email me asking for writing, agenting, and publishing help. Generally they want me to read their manuscript and offer it to my agent or editor. Sometimes they want writing help or advice. Sometimes they want me to share the secret of getting published...hey if I told them it wouldn't be a secret anymore. I took an oath yanno.
The thing is...there are rules.
1. Authors don't have very much time. They have to stare at their blank computer screen, pet their cats, organize their desk, oh and write. If they read your manuscript then they don't have as much time to do all that.

2. If you want a favor from me AT LEAST READ MY FRIGGING BOOK...Okay? And I mean BUY A COPY!! Don't tell me you intend to read it or you are going to check it out of the library. And if you are going to lie at least get your facts straight. "I loved LOTTERY because I thought it was scary - especially when they stoned her to death."
If you say that I know that you have me and Shirley Jackson mixed up. HINT: My book LOTTERY does not have cliff notes yet.

3. So you want advice. And if something in your letter resonates with me and I happen to have a couple minutes I might give you some. Like...write everyday... find good beta readers WHO ARE NOT YOUR FRIENDS. If you choose to use an editor then find a good one with PUBLISHING experience if you need help with your manuscript. Attend writers conferences and retreats. Find a writers group.

4. If you ask me what I did then I will tell you. I will be honest. I attended the Hawaii Writers Retreat and Conference. I kept writing. I found readers and editor who were NOT MY FRIENDS and I took criticism happily, readily,with good humor, and not defensively...(Thank you sir may I have another?)

5. FEEDBACK: All feedback is useful. I repeat. ALL FEEDBACK IS USEFUL.
Why? Writing is subjective. What resonates with one person will not resonate with another but listen to it. Know when to implement feedback and when to set it aside.
DON'T say it wasn't what I had in mind. Or is was a bag of twat. Sometimes twat is what is needed to make a story pop (okay that was deco-speak but you know what I mean).

6. If you really want me to help you then get to know me, comment on my blog, post on my facebook page. Let me know that you enjoy what I have to offer and aren't just interested in using me then moving on...If you wonder why authors sometimes are a bit gun shy then that's why. They meet another interesting writer and then BAM!!!! (think Emeril)the writer moves on when we say we can't read their manuscript.

I hope this doesn't sound harsh. It's not meant to be. I can't help but draw parallels between being an author and my father's lottery win. It changes people's attitudes, changes their opinion of you and suddenly you're a cynic.

What to do?
I get grounded with TOOLOOSE.
I know exactly how he feels about me. Merely a vehicle for "Cat Fud" and an itch reliever.He doesn't read my book - he uses it as a combo scratching post and bed.
He doesn't suck up.
He doesn't need to. He knows once his alien space monkey trilogy is published he'll blow me out of the water.
So what's an author to do? Continue to help? How do you draw the line.
And what IS the capital of North Dakota anyway?

Sunday, August 02, 2009


I didn't mean to stray. At first it was innocent. BJ the Captain asked if I would crew and help take a Transpac race boat back to California... I had no idea you were doing surveillance. I can explain...really...

I didn't mean to let it get this far. First it was being alone together in the middle of the Pacific. I mean things happen...I never intended to hurt you. Orient Express and I were thrown together. The wind...The Sea...The sunsets...
It was inevitable.
It began with an occasional turn at the winch.
And then I couldn't resist her speed...her clean lines...That HUGE wheel and there were TWO OF THEM. How could I help but steer her?

Anyway I knew it couldn't last. When we got to Long Beach she ignored me. Acted like what we had didn't mean a thing.
So I will return. Groveling. Begging your forgiveness and hoping someday you can see it in your heart to trust me again.
(PS if it comes to a divorce YOU have to take both cats. No way am I going to have custodial visits with TOOLOOSE. He's so spiteful. And Girl Kitty keeps hurling...)