Not that I’m complaining…. (oh yeah, free stuff, too)

I like to think of myself as flexible. And in some ways I am, about what to have for dinner, what to watch on TV, what kind of car to drive. But sometimes, more times than I like to admit, I’m not. At all.

For the past four years, my husband’s job required him to work a lot of hours. Because we carpool, that meant I had to leave early and come home late since we live a half hour from the town where we work. At first, I balked. I mean, giving up extra sleep to do…nothing. That wasn’t really my idea of fair.

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But over time, I adjusted and, in fact, used that extra time before and after work to my advantage. I learned that early morning is the best time to go to Walmart. I started working out more. I read a lot of books. And after awhile, I found a spot I could sort of hide out and write for an hour each morning. It worked for me. I no longer whined when the alarm went off, but instead was ready to use that time for myself.

Almost three months ago, he got a new job and now our hours are more in sync. In theory, this sounded great. But in practice, well, it sucks. Now I miss those extra hours and my routine. He isn’t in a hurry to leave for work but darn it, I still want that hour in the morning to write. He’s ready to head home at the end of the day, but I’m still wanting to go to the gym. It’s required some compromise and I’m not happy with myself at times when I resent having to be more flexible. Especially when I should be happy for my husband that he’s not working so many hours.

During the month of December, between the hubby’s new job, two college kids facing final projects and final exams, gift buying and wrapping for the holidays, family during the holidays, cooking during the holidays, I got almost zero time to write. By the end of the month, I was discouraged. November was great. December was not. So I decided, January was time to make up new routines.

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And so far, it’s working. I’m back on track and carving out that writing time, along with getting to the gym. But it hasn’t been easy to start over. Routines are comfortable so when they are upended, it’s frustrating. But that’s life. I can go with it or complain about it, but in the end it’s best just to embrace the change.

On another subject, I’ve made my two most recent books free on Smashwords via the coupon codes below. Just go to http://www.smashwords.com to redeem them. The coupons are good through February 5, 2017. Feel free to share with a friend!

“In the Presence of My Enemies” – UP85X

“Extreme Measures” – CK68F

Happy Reading!

I’m baacckk!!

November and National Novel Writing Month is over and while I didn’t make it to 50,000 words, I was pleasantly surprised at how many words I did rack up: 31,555 to be exact. I’d hoped to make it at least halfway there so this more than qualified for meeting that goal.

I’d written some scenes prior to November, some of which didn’t make it into the novel, but lots of them did. With those added in, Book 7 is more than halfway done from a first draft point of view. A long way to go, yes, but I was happy with the momentum. Particularly when I had a few unplanned events – unexpected house guests over the Thanksgiving weekend, I’m looking at you – that meant I couldn’t really give my writing its due for a few vacation days when I had planned to lock myself in a room and just write. But family comes first so here we are.

What did I learn? The biggest thing would probably be how much time I waste on things like Sporcle, games on my tablet, Facebook, Netflix, and cat videos – also called procrastination. I have precious little time to write and in November I guarded it fiercely. It was amazing to see how much I could get done if I was more concerned with updating my word count than seeing if I could guess the lyrics to a TV theme song. I still had time for reading – vital to a writer. I managed to feed my family and no one had to wear dirty clothes to work or school. I stayed up a little later than usual, but still functioned at work without being a zombie. (Thank you coffee!) I voted in this disastrous election (either victory was a sad option in my opinion) and didn’t miss the political arguments that followed. And I watched the Cubs win the World Series. Just being consistent was the key.

One sad thing I did read while I was plotting along with my book was this 2010 Salon article that pretty much slammed writers attempting a novel during National Novel Writing Month. Apparently, it began making the Internet rounds again this year, which is how I found it on my news feed even if I preferred it stayed buried.

I have been a paid, professional writer myself and I understand the author’s points, that some novels won’t be good. We had startup newspapers in various forms pop up (then close) during my tenure with the “real” paper and I sometimes winced at the output produced and the unprofessional behavior I witnessed.

But inexperience shouldn’t dissuade people from trying. I mean, if I’d taken that approach, I never would have learned how to cook or how to drive a car or that I should never, ever attempt any crafting project. But even if I did decide to try some home décor project from Pinterest, who cares? I mean, my family might because they have to look at it, but no one else will care I slaved for hours for something that just wasn’t that good. People paint and write poetry and garden and knit. Not all of them are as good as others. But if it gives them pleasure, it’s a project worth pursuing. It sure beats the bars.

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http://www.smosh.com This is the relationship between me and Pinterest, by the way.

And who knows where talent is hidden? Think about garage bands – some musicians started there and made it big. It all depends on hard work, luck and perseverance. If we don’t start somewhere and work at it, we never know if we can make it. But even if we don’t, it’s okay to enjoy doing things just for the sake of doing them. While these agents mentioned in the Salon article may roll their eyes at some really bad novels (and yes, I’ve seen them for sale online in ebook form. Some days I wonder if mine is one of them.), there may be some hidden gems. It’s part of an agent’s job. They’re still getting paid either way. Deal with it.

And professionals should beware of being too sanctimonious. I’ve read plenty of books published by the Big 5 that have not just minor typos, but big plot holes, use of wrong names and barely-there effort. I’ve given up reading an author I used to read faithfully because the quality of work has gone so far downhill. And I won’t mention the name of the last book in a very popular series that was so bad, I now seriously dislike the whole series. But I don’t blame the author; that’s an editor’s job. And if professional publishers can’t pull off top quality, then it’s pretty dangerous to look down their noses at a newbie.

So if you want to write — write. If you want to dance — go take a class and perform at a recital. If you want to sing — form a band or join the church choir. If you want to design things — pick something on Pinterest and go for it. Who cares if it’s perfect or not. And more than likely, it will be better than you think. Things born out of enjoyment usually are.

Stay warm and happy reading!

‘Extreme Measures’ is live!

So last night, I uploaded “Extreme Measures,” which is now available at Amazon and at Smashwords. Soon it will be live at Barnes & Noble, Apple and other e-book outlets.

Extreme Measures

Big sigh of relief — and anxiety … I hope you like it!

But here’s the deal. Up until this point, I’ve been publishing drafts of books I’ve worked on over the years. Some books were in better shape than others, which is why “In the Presence of my Enemies” took forever to get together. I have three more books in mind for Emily and I am pretty much starting Book 7 from square one.

So.

Since it’s November and this is my reality, I’m going to try National Novel Writing Month to jump-start the book. This is pretty scary for me because once I have a deadline, I’m committed and the anxiety starts. And in this case, it’s a side project, not work, so there are other things that have to take priority, like making sure my kids aren’t recycling their socks from the hamper and having healthy meals in the fridge so no one is zapping cups of EasyMac for supper. Yes, they know cooking basics and how to do laundry but I have a hard time giving my writing time precedence over their studying for a calculus test. Ultimately, I do want them to graduate, then move out of the house someday.

But I’m going to give it a try. The worst that can happen is I fail epically. But any words I can give to the novel are more than I have right now, right? While normally the goal is 50,000 words, I’ll be happy if I crank out some text every day in November. I will try to post my progress here, as I probably won’t be posting much else. And stay tuned for excerpts from Book 7 once I feel they are of quality to post.

And, on a final note, the Cubs are still alive in a World Series! Emily would be so thrilled. So in her honor, I’m posting this:

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It’s almost here!

I am thhisss close to finishing “Extreme Measures,” Book 6 in the Emily O’Brien series. I had hoped to have it done sooner, but you know, life. It happens. Anyway, I’m hoping to upload it by early November, barring any clown invasion to northeast Missouri, creating mass chaos.

Extreme Measures

So on that note, and as thanks for all your patience, here is an excerpt from the book:

Craig looked surprised when I showed up on his doorstep ten minutes later. “Hey. I thought you had a game tonight.”

“I did. We won.”

“Then why do you look like you’ve been crying?” Then he studied my disheveled clothing. “Or fighting. Did someone hit you?”

“Yeah. It was hardly a tap. But I bit my lip.”

“Someone hit you! What is going on?”

“Holly is missing.”

“Who’s Holly?”

“A girl from the paper. The one I told you about the other day.” I told him what happened.

“Emily, no offense, but that was not the best way to handle it.”

I scowled. I hated when he was right. “We need to find her.”

“Okay, let’s back up. You have not one shred of evidence that he did anything, right?”

My scowl deepened. “No.”

“And until you showed up the mom wasn’t worried?”

“That’s because she doesn’t pay any attention to her own kid.”

“Why don’t we go to the police station in the morning?”

“Not now?”

His expression softened and he offered to drive. When we got there, I asked for the lieutenant on duty. Mitch Duncan came out to meet us in the lobby. “Emily?”

“Hey.”

I knew most of the guys on the force now that I was on the crime beat. Mitch was an okay guy, professional but a little cocky. He was young to be at this level in his career already, and I guessed he had a bit of an ego about it. But he’d always been a pretty reliable source.

He ushered us back to his desk. We took a seat.

“What’s going on?”

“Someone I know is missing.”

I outlined what happened with Holly missing lunch, then my not-so-pleasant visit with her mom, though I omitted the part about grabbing Donny and him smacking me. The fact that he’d hit me confirmed he was a creep, but the fact I’d been asking for it was not my finest moment. I also told him what Holly had said about her mom’s boyfriend.

“So you think this Donny guy might have done something to her?”

“I don’t know but he would have been the last one to see her.”

Duncan sat back in his seat. “Technically, she isn’t considered missing yet. I mean, she’s twenty-one so she can come and go as she pleases. And she doesn’t have to tell Mom where she’s going.”

“But…”

“Hang on,” he said, lifting his hand. “I do think it would be worth stopping by to talk to both of them. Do you know this Donny guy’s last name?”

“No.”

“Then I’ll need to get that, too. Run a background check. But more than likely, Emily, she’s going to turn up.”

“I hope so.”

“I’ll call you if I hear anything. And you do the same, okay?”

I nodded. “Thanks.”

Craig and I walked out of the police station. My nerves were fried and I felt like I’d had too much coffee on an empty stomach.

“You okay?” he asked.

I nodded. “Yeah. Thanks for going with me.”

Please. No more clowns.

A few weeks ago, I posted a short comment on a story in the news regarding clown sightings in South Carolina and how I thought it was kind of creepy. Probably a prank, but still creepy.

Now I’m beyond the creepy. It’s getting ridiculous.

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memeguy.com

Clown sightings are growing nationwide, including in my small town here in Missouri, where they had extra police patrols at the schools because of some vague comment someone made about the clowns harming teachers. Actually, I’m not really worried about clowns here because if you know anything about Missouri, we love hunting and guns enough that a good percentage of the population is armed. Take that, creepy clowns!

So while it was never really funny (“Poltergeist” and “It” pretty much snuffed out the idea of harmless clowns), it’s now annoying. Yes, there have been some reports of clowns committing crimes, likely sickos jumping on the bandwagon to provide some cover for whatever criminal activity they were inclined to do anyway. But I think most of the clowns out there are just looking for attention.

For the people doing it because they think it’s cool, please stop. It’s no longer funny or creepy. It’s just stupid. Sigh. Now the scariest thing in the news is once again the presidential election.

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Looking for some good journalism?

Here’s a shout out to the Los Angeles Times for the series it ran last week called Framed.

I’m often on the fence about narrative journalism, telling the news like a story. Sometimes it works wonderfully. Sometimes not so much. This is an example of it working really well.

I had not heard this story initially when the facts were being reported so I couldn’t wait to read the next chapter each day to see what happened. This is reporting that goes beyond the bait-click mentality; instead it tells the story in segments to add more depth rather than string readers along. I’d love to see newspapers do this more often.

So if you’re a fan of true crime and a really bizarre tale, check it out!

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And if you are a fan of newspapers and the future of journalism, check out this video on YouTube from comedian John Oliver. Be forewarned, the language is a bit colorful, but his message is spot on.

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Not so crazy about clowns

If you’d asked me last week, I would have said our prospects for the next presidential election were the scariest thing in the news.

Not so much anymore. Children in a South Carolina town are reporting to police that clowns are trying to lure them into the woods.

 

Shudder. I’m sure it’s some sick joke or a publicity stunt but still. Creepiest thing I’ve read in awhile.