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Monday, December 31, 2012

Monday Musings

So now that we've survived December 21, 2012, experts tell us that we are entering a new age - an Age of Enlightenment. Some say that we will have peace for a thousand years.

What do you think must happen in order to ensure peace around the globe?

Consider the reasons people go to war - or inflict harm on another. Religious beliefs conflicting with others' beliefs is one of the major causes for war. Another is the quest to control land, water, food, or resources - gold, silver or uranium as examples. Some wars are fought simply because one man wants power - and has the backing of powerful people behind him to enable military might.

Then you have people who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Or people who suffer from mental disorders who may or may not have been diagnosed. In the history of the world, some of these people have risen to great heights and seized power not only from their own countrymen but have marched across the globe to conquer others.

If you were part of a task force to form global peace, what would you do to ensure this happens?

Friday, December 28, 2012

Freaky Friday

Scientists' quest for life on other planets centers around the existence of water because it's widely accepted that life cannot exist without it. Consider the fact that the earth's population is growing astronomically. And thanks in large part to breakthroughs in medical technology, humans are living longer. Combined, this means it is only a matter of time before we will outgrow this planet.

Barring a major catastrophy that destroys life on our planet (and if you're reading this, it means we survived December 21, 2012) the quest for another life-sustaining planet will take on even more significance in future generations.

So scientists and astrophysicists are understandably very interested in Europa, one of Jupiter's moons and our best chance at finding another place in our solar system capable of sustaining life. At first glance, it may seem inhospitable to life. But a closer look reveals the possible existence of water - possibly 60 miles deep - just under the surface.

Consider our own oceans and the vast number of creatures and life forms inhabiting them from the surface to their deepest points and you know the discovery of water on Europa could lead to a great deal of excitement.

Unlike the earth, which rotates as it circles the sun, Europa remains locked with only one side facing Jupiter at all times. This could mean that one side is ice under the surface while the other side is liquid. Its atmosphere consists of molecular oxygen and it contains iron in its crust.

The next mission is set to launch in 2022. Called JUICE, or Jupiter Icy Moon Explorer, it will be launched by the European Space Agency. It is expected to reach Europa in 2030.

Perhaps what it finds will be the stuff once associated with science fiction...

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Thursday Thoughts

Have you ever wondered how the copyright of your material is handled in a global market? Consider, for example, an American author who copyrights their work through the United States Government. If the book is for sale in Europe, Asia, or across the globe, is it still protected?

Fortunately, the Berne Convention has addressed this issue. Unfortunately, not all countries are included in it.

The Berne Convention was first accepted in 1886 and has received a number of modifications over the years. The United States, however, only joined in 1988. The intent of this agreement is to honor the copyright of works copyrighted in other countries as if they had been copyrighted in your own. For example, France would honor the United States copyright of a book as if it had been copyrighted in France.

Things can get sticky when a book is simultaneously copyrighted in several countries. The country with the shortest copyright duration has precedence so if one country copyrights the work for seven years and another for five years, the copyright will lapse after five years. The standard, however, is fifty years after the author's death - but if a shorter duration applies, the law can not extend the copyright in one area and allow it to lapse in another, which means the shorter duration will always take precedence.

Books originally uploaded to the Internet (eBooks that are in no other format) are still in a gray zone; there are several court cases being decided now regarding if and how copyrights are protected in these cases.

There are currently 165 countries who honor the Berne Convention. There are roughly 196 countries in the world today - "roughly" because some countries are accepted by some on the international stage and not by others. Though China is one of the countries who have agreed to abide by it, I've found it interesting in recent years to find my books available throughout China - even though they are not legally for sale there.

With the proliferation of small publishers and global accessibility, it makes sense to research your rights wherever your book is sold.


Wednesday, December 26, 2012

WIP Wednesday

As the end of each year approaches, I enjoy looking back over the previous twelve months and comparing my goals and resolutions to what I've actually been able to accomplish.

I began 2012 with two books on my schedule and by spring, a third was added. It was the first time in my career that I had to write three books - around 1,000 pages and roughly 300,000 words - in one twelve month period.

And I made it.

I completed Secrets of a Dangerous Woman, the third book in the Black Swamp Mysteries series, in the spring. It was released in September 2012.

I then wrote The Tempest Murders over the summer. This book is being marketed by my agent and I hope to have some good news concerning its publication in 2013.

I just completed the third book, Dylan's Song, the fourth book in the Black Swamp Mysteries series. It is due for release by Drake Valley Press in the spring of 2013 - the official release date is St Patrick's Day, which is appropriate for a book that takes place in Ireland.

I have two books to write in 2013 (so far):

After the Tempest is the sequel to The Tempest Murders. It is due by the summer of 2013.

And The Pendulum Files, the fifth book in the Black Swamp Mysteries series, is due on the editor's desk by December 2013. It will be released in 2014.


Monday, December 24, 2012

Monday Musings - End of the World?

If you're reading this post on December 24, 2012, then you have obviously lived beyond the End of the World as seen by the I Ching, the Mayan Calendar, and some scientists and astrophysicists.

What is your favorite book about the end of the world?

Or your favorite movie?

I love Edgar Rice Burroughs. Best known for his Tarzan books, he also wrote about the discovery of life on other planets - sometimes because our own planet was facing extinction.

And my favorite movie about the end of the world (which also didn't happen, thanks to some terrific heros) is Independence Day. I especially love the line Will Smith shouts when he flies the alien spacecraft for the first time: "I have GOT to get me one of these!"



Friday, December 21, 2012

The Truth About Zombies

We've all read books or seen movies that featured zombies - those "undead" who still roam the earth, looking like dead relatives or friends but who appear to be merely shells of their former selves. Have you ever wondered how the concept of zombies got started and whether it was rooted in fact?

One theory centers in Haiti, one of the zombie capitals of the world.

The story goes that plantation owners needed servants to work their fields. Slaves, of course, cost them no wages but they were in short supply. The discovery that a mere drop from poisonous fish (such as the puffer) could reduce a heartbeat so it was undetectable was seen as an answer to their problem.

They selected their victims and slipped the poison into their drink or food. Within minutes, they appeared to have had a stroke or a heart attack and shortly after, there were no signs of life. Before the age of embalming, the deceased would have been wrapped in material and buried within a day of their death. So the funeral was held, the bodies buried...

And after dark, the plantation owner would send men to dig up the body and bring it to him.

The person would be drugged (creating a zombie-like appearance and personality) and would be told they were dead and had moved into the netherworld. They were told throughout eternity, they would serve the plantation owner.

A young woman who had been poisoned, buried, dug up and drugged eventually escaped and made her way back to her village. The residents there did not believe she was actually still alive; being a suspicious people, they determined that she was "undead." Other victims suffered similar fates. They could not go home because their people were spooked by their appearance. So they lived out their days in a drug-induced stupor serving at the pleasure of the plantation owner.

Have you heard any similar stories? Can you think of any books or movies that carried this premise into fictional accounts?

It is often a true story that stimulates the imagination of authors, immortalizing something that might have otherwise been lost to history...

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Thursday Thoughts - Dialogue

One of the best pieces of advice I've received as an author is how to write believable dialogue.

When I lived in Virginia, there was a fabulous grocery chain called "Ukrops" that had cafes that were quite popular - either as a coffee shop or for a full meal or anything in between. The advice I received was to get a cup of coffee, sit in the Ukrops cafe and simply listen.

I chose to go there at lunchtime, when many of the government employees who worked at the police department or court house (just a few blocks away) would converge on Ukrops. I'd get my lunch, select a spot near the middle, and listen to snippets of conversation.

From those experiences, I learned how to write what I heard: the inflections, the accents, and the use of informal language. In my earliest books, I read the dialogue out loud and often changed the structure of the sentences to make them more believable. As I continued to write (my 15th book will be released in 2013) developing dialogue became second nature and I rarely need to read it out loud now.

It is also important not to have each character speak exactly the same. It is important that the reader can identify a character by their speech pattern, especially when moving back and forth in a rapid-fire conversation.






Wednesday, December 19, 2012

WIP Wednesday in Ireland

I am wrapping up the next book in the Black Swamp Mysteries series. Dylan's Song is scheduled for release in the spring of 2013. In this book, Dylan Maguire is called to Ireland to find and extract a missing CIA operative. Vicki accompanies him as both a front and to assist in locating the operative through her psychic abilities.

Below is an excerpt:

The wall gave way beneath Vicki's hand and as she jerked it backward in surprise, her knuckle raked across a piece of metal. She gasped and then reached for the metal, this time with intent. Yes, she thought. It was a bar from the cell doors.

She moved closer to it, clutching it while peering beside it into the darkness. Then she grasped at another bar and then another, making her way along the wall while still attempting to see inside.

The bars were rusted and they tore at her hands, embedding pieces inside her palm. She recoiled, shaking off the bits of metal, and then more cautiously reached for them again.

It was useless, she thought. Everything was enveloped in pitch blackness.

She sighed heavily and leaned her head toward the bars when a man’s face appeared inches from hers.

He was imprisoned on the other side. It was so dark that she thought her eyes were deceiving her. But then he moved slightly and she saw his chiseled face streaked with grime. Light brown strands of matted and greasy hair fell unchecked across his forehead and an unkempt beard was knotty with the same grime that smeared his cheekbones.

His eyes were light colored, wide and unblinking as he stared at her.

“Can you see me?” Her voice was barely more than a croak.

“You’re an American.” His voice was deep and dry and the words came slowly, as if he’d grown unaccustomed to speech.

“CIA,” she heard herself saying.

He sucked in his breath and then his eyes raked over her body. She felt very small and very useless; if he could not get out of this cell himself, how could she possibly think she could save him?

“Are there others?” he asked, as if thinking the same thing.

“Two. Maybe more.”

He looked beyond her, his eyes skirting the perimeter. “Where—?”

“I don’t know how I got here,” she said.

The sound of voices reached their ears and he hissed, “Quiet.”

As the voices drew nearer, she realized if this wasn’t one of her dreams—if this was real and she had somehow fallen into this other realm, she could be attacked, raped or imprisoned. And Dylan and Brenda didn’t know where she was. She didn’t know.

“Bolt cutters,” he said.

She looked back at him.

“These bars are iron. But the locks can be broken with bolt cutters. There’s only one way in and one way out.”

“The stairs.”

“The way you got here,” he said.

Men were speaking, their voices drawing closer. Her heart began to pound wildly and her temples hurt. She had to run—but where?

“Over there,” he said. “In the cell. Pull the door closed and go to the back. They’ll pass right by you.”

The hall wound tightly and as she took a quick step backward, she stopped abruptly and lifted her camera. The shot came fast and bright, capturing his astonished, stained face and disheveled appearance.

“What the devil was that?”

She realized too late it had been a mistake. The flash had alerted them to her presence and now their footsteps were coming swiftly toward her. She turned to look at Stephen Anders but he was escaping into the far inky depths of his cell.

As she started to turn toward the opposite cell, the temporary safe haven seemed beyond her reach. And as she started to move toward it, she felt the heavy grip of a man’s hand on her shoulder, pulling her toward him.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Tuesday Teaser

I've been asked numerous times about Vicki Boyd's front as an angelfish breeder.

I have started a new blog called Vicki's Angelfish, in which I've been posting information about the real angelfish I breed.

I currently have four batches of angel fry from the same parents - Lindsay Buckingfish and Stevie Fishnick. Lindsay is a black marble male who is ten inches tall. Stevie is a platinum angel who is about 7 inches tall.

Four of their babies will be sold to the local pet shop within the next week. Three other batches are currently with their parents but I will be transferring them to an infant tank where they can grow to the size in which they can be sold.

So the information that you read about in the Black Swamp Mysteries series is taken from my real hobby as a freshwater angelfish breeder.

I hope you'll visit my angelfish blog! www.vickisangelfish.blogspot.com.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Monday Musing - Judging a Book by Its Cover

We've all done it - we've been drawn to a particular book in the store due to its cover. It might have been the colors used, the artwork or something else that caught our attention. But caught it, it did.

But have you ever stopped to consider that the larger publishers use focus groups to determine which covers work and which ones don't?

And did you know that with each printing, the cover is likely to change?

Our tastes change over time. We wear different styles of clothing, drive different cars, listen to various types of music. We watch different television shows, different movies. We change our hairstyles, our furniture, our decor, even our landscaping.

So it's within reason that a cover that might have grabbed our attention one year ago won't today. The mid-size and smaller publishers might or might not give this any thought; especially with POD and eBooks, they might consider once a cover is done, it's done.

But it never truly should be.

Consider all of the covers below. They are all for one book: Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier. It was reportedly Alfred Hitchcock's favorite book and his favorite movie (that he directed.)


If you saw each of these book covers today, would one grab your attention while you'd quickly pass by another?


Friday, December 14, 2012

Freaky Friday - Do You Believe?

I was asked recently if I believed everything I posted on Freaky Fridays.

The short answer is: of course not.

Those who thought I was losing my grip can rest assured: I still have my grip.

But I do enjoy thinking outside the box. That's what writing is all about, isn't it? Dreaming up the next big plot, the next formidable protagonist, the next hero. It's all about taking an idea and stretching it as far as you can.

For those who write suspense/thrillers like I do, it's about taking it to the limit and making it totally believable.

For those who write fantasy or science fiction, it's about taking us into the future or into the past and showing a world we will never know in our lifetimes on Earth.

This is considered the Golden Age for scientists. So on future Freaky Fridays, I'll continue to push the envelope. Let me know what your opinions are regarding the variety of documented discoveries and possible discoveries - and whether you believe them.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Thursday Thoughts

I am often asked by readers how I can write in more than one genre. In some literary circles, authors have informed audiences that it isn't "possible" for an author to be successful in more than one genre. I write in four: non-fiction (computer), historical adventure/suspense, contemporary suspense (some of which contain more romance and paranormal elements) and how-to books for authors.

But consider this: Isaac Asimov, considered brilliant by nearly everyone who knows of him, wrote in all ten major categories of the Dewey Decimal System:

Computer Science/ Information Science
Philosophy and Psychology
Religion
Social Sciences
Language
Science
Technology
Arts
Literature
History, Geography & Biology

He may be known as the Father of Science Fiction but in more than 500 books, he clearly showed the world that he could write on any subject - and he was fluent in them all.

In the area of fiction, he not only wrote science fiction but he also wrote mysteries and suspense. Much of what he wrote as fiction was based on solid scientific principles, many of them in their infancy at the time of his writings.

If you are a writer, do you write in more than one genre or have you selected one in which to make your mark? As a reader, do you enjoy reading various genres from the same author or do you find it confusing?


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

WIP Wednesday and The Next Big Thing

Special thanks to Sandra Balzo for including me in The Next Big Thing blog hop! The rules for her accepting me in this great event are to answer the interview questions below and pass the torch on to other deserving authors. So here goes:

What is the working title of your Work in Progress?

Dylan's Song. It's the fourth book in the Black Swamp Mysteries series.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

There are two plots in the book which come together at the end. One plot involves finding and extracting a missing CIA operative. I got the idea from combing through declassified information about real operatives who were rescued. The second plot is more personal and involves Dylan's past, which he thought he left behind in Ireland. I love that country and knew I had to write at least one book that takes place there. So this was the perfect opportunity to intertwine two stories into one adventure.

What genre does your book fall under?

It is a suspense/thriller with a touch of the paranormal, thanks to psychic spy Vicki Boyd and her propensity for seeing ghosts.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie?

Do you think Eduardo Verastegui (shown at right) could do an Irish accent?

I can definitely see Amy Adams as Vicki Boyd.

And Lindsay Lohan would be a shoe-in for bad girl Brenda Carnegie!

Sam was modeled after Robert DeNiro so there is no one else who could come close. :)

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Dylan Maguire returns to Ireland with Vicki Boyd to find and rescue a missing CIA operative, and while there he must confront a past he thought he'd left behind forever.

Will your book be self-published or be represented by an agency?

Drake Valley Press, who published the previous books in the Black Swamp Mysteries series, is scheduled to release the book in the spring of 2013.

How long did it take for you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

About three months. I was under contract to write three books in 2012 so there was no time to waste!

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I really can't think of any with a similar plot though there are some great ones that take place in Ireland.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I wanted to write a book set in Ireland and I wanted to show the readers the past that Dylan Maguire thought he'd left behind. Since he made his first appearance in Vicki's Key, there have been bits and pieces of his life before he came to America - but this book will pull it all together. Readers will see a part of him they've never seen before.

What else about your book might pique the readers interest?

If you like ghost stories and stories set in the moors of England, you'll enjoy Dylan's Song. It also has international intrigue, suspense and adventure so it would be of interest to those who enjoy reading about the CIA and their missions. It also sets up the next book in the series, which deals with American politics.

Now to pass on the torch so others can tell of their Work In Progress:

Pamela June Kimmell

Ginger King

Bonnie Watson






Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Tuesday Teaser

It's Tuesday Teaser time again, and I've selected the very first page in the very first suspense thriller that I ever had published. Kickback launched my writing career and within two years of its release, I was able to focus full-time on my writing career, thanks to its success and the success of my second book, The China Conspiracy, which achieved worldwide publicity.

I'll let the prologue speak for itself:

I was hanging upside down in my Toyota Tercel, held in place by my seatbelt and shoulder harness, my neck bent against the roof of the car and the steering wheel jammed against my chest. I must have been at the foot of an embankment; I could see headlights passing along I-95 through the jagged glass that was once my windshield. I vaguely remember the tractor-trailer slamming on his brakes, and the Toyota clipping the edge of the truck, my arm instinctively covering my eyes as glass sprayed me.


When the car came to a stop, I’d been flipped over too many times to count. I wiped the blood out of my eyes and tried to focus on where I was. I could see a tangled mass of metal, twisted and jagged pieces still moving, still being pushed toward me. The back of the seat was caving in on me. My purse was hanging in midair, and then it was gone. I heard the constant sound of something dripping, and the unmistakable smell of gasoline.

Terrified the gasoline would ignite and I’d be burned alive, I gasped unevenly, trying to fill my lungs with air, but they were packed with a gurgling fluid and incredible pain shot through me. There was blood everywhere. My hair was soaked with it, but I couldn’t tell whether my head was bleeding, or my face, or which part of my body. It was all covered in blood.

I don’t know what terrified me the most—thinking I would die alone, just yards from the interstate but out of sight, or thinking that I would live through this and they would return and torture me before I died. I didn’t want Aunt Jo or Margaret or Matt to think I’d died in a traffic accident, when I knew too well it wasn’t an accident at all.

I could hear the tractor-trailers moving away in the distance, and then I heard one coming back and stopping near the car. I knew I had to get out; I had to find the strength. I tried pushing against the steering wheel, trying to move it off my chest, but it wouldn’t budge. I knew I was suffocating in my own blood.

My ears were filled with the constant drone of the tractor-trailer. Then I heard the truck door open and slam shut, and heard the sound of feet running toward me.

I tried pushing with all my strength against anything I could reach; I tried to stay calm, to figure out how to get out of the seat belt, to get out of this ridiculous upside-down posture, but I couldn’t budge. Darkness was creeping in around the edges.

I saw the legs standing beside the car, and then they knelt down beside me. Blue jeans, cowboy boots. And then there was a crack, like thunder.



Monday, December 10, 2012

Monday Musings - 10 Days to Live?

It always interests me when I hear rumors of the earth's imminent demise. It usually conjures up images of cults like Heaven's Gate, whose members thought they could ride the comet's tail into the new dimension. Or Y2K, when reports that the world as we know it would end forever.

But there have been cataclysmic events in the earth's history that wiped out nearly all life on this planet. It seems to be part of a larger process in which the earth begins anew, sometimes with new species and new evolutions.

Consider, for example, that millions of years before the dinosaurs roamed the earth, a giant volcano in Siberia erupted. The end result was it wiped out most life forms on this planet.

How could a simple volcano do this? The eruption was the size of the United States. If you've ever been to The Big Island of Hawaii and stood on the hardened ground formed by lava, imagine if that covered the entire United States.

The Siberian volcano not only wiped out plants and animals in its path but produced methane gas, which, thanks to air currents, helped it travel around the earth until most life forms were wiped out.



The earth regenerated eventually. Dinosaurs evolved and then the Ice Age wiped them out, along with countless other species.

Are you planning anything for December 21st?

Friday, December 7, 2012

Freaky Friday

Today is the 71st anniversary of Pearl Harbor. You'll no doubt see shows about possible conspiracies and our own government's possible knowledge of the attack before it happened.

But here's some food for thought:

In 1999, diplomatic papers located and disclosed for the first time show a very different story.

A draft memorandum had been prepared by Japanese leaders in accordance with the Hague Convention, which stated that countries must notify other countries of war before an initial attack. But debates within Japan's own government prevented it from being sent to United States officials. A wartime diary substantiates the debate; while government officials wanted to send the warning, the country's Navy and Army rejected it, opting for a surprise attack.

The result is what the Japanese referred to as "our deception diplomacy" - and they successfully kept their ambassadors in the dark about their plans to attack Pearl Harbor. The diplomats thought they were continuing talks with Washington, but the powers in control in Japan knew the talks would lead nowhere.

Will you observe Pearl Harbor Day? If so, how? What version of events do you believe?

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Thursday Thoughts

Today I will be appearing on Angels and Warriors Radio! I hope you'll tune in and listen to my interview.

I've been asked at various appearances which authors I enjoy reading. I must admit, I love an escapist read. I want something to take me out of my life and my day-to-day obligations and transport me to another place and another time.

So here are some books I recommend this holiday season. Some are new and some are old, but all are great:

Erin Quinn's Haunting series: Haunting Beauty, Haunting Warrior, Haunting Embrace and Haunting Desire. They are set in Ireland and involve time travel. Fabulously written, you'll fall in love with each of the Irishmen. There's is so much suspense and nonstop action, you won't be able to put them down. Here's a link to the first book in the series.

Anne Rice's The Mummy. This is unlike any other mummy-rises-from-the-dead story you'll ever read. Picture a young Russell Crowe (in his Gladiator days) as Ramses the Great and you'll see what I mean! Here's a link to the book in paperback.

Daphne du Maurier is an author I've been reading and re-reading since childhood. Though Rebecca is one of her most well-known novels (she also wrote The Birds and was Alfred Hitchock's favorite author), my personal favorite is Jamaica Inn. Here's a link to this book in paperback.

I also enjoy true stories in which average people are placed in extraordinary circumstances:

In May of 1996, Jon Krakauer accompanied a team of climbers scaling Mount Everest. The original intent was to show the types of people who climbed to our world's highest peaks. But when a sudden storm strands them in the death zone, his story became one of life and death: Into Thin Air is a riveting read!

You always hear the book is better than the movie, and here's one that proves it: The Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger is filled with so much suspense, you won't want to put it down. It is the true story of a superstorm that caught many ships out at sea - and the fight for survival by the crews that wanted to get home but became a part of history.

What are your favorite books this holiday season?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

WIP Wednesday - New Book Cover!

I'm thrilled to reveal the book cover for my 15th release, Dylan's Song!

The official release date for this fourth book in the Black Swamp Mysteries series is St Patrick's Day 2013. That's very appropriate because the book takes place in Ireland.

The cover is taken from a photograph made by fellow mystery author Pamela June Kimmell, who also writes children's books and is a fabulous painter and photographer. Her photographs, paintings and sketches adorn gorgeous note cards that I have proudly used for several years.

This particular photograph was taken when Pam and her husband Dave traveled to Ireland. Her blogspot features different photographs every Tuesday in which visitors try to guess where they were taken. Pam and Dave are real globetrotters so you never know what she's likely to post.

In Dylan's Song, Dylan Maguire gets word that his grandmother is on her deathbed. At the same time, Vicki is working a psychic mission involving a CIA operative who went missing in Ireland while tailing a known terrorist. Sam decides it's the perfect time for Dylan to go to Ireland and combine his personal business with finding and extracting the CIA operative. Vicki goes along as his cover so when they appear to be sightseeing, they are really performing reconnaissance work. Along the way, Vicki finds out the real reason Dylan left his native Ireland for a new start in America - while harboring a secret of her own.


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Tuesday Teaser in the UK

Today I am visiting the United Kingdom - an appropriate place for me to be since my Tuesday Teaser includes Irishman Dylan Maguire.

I hope you'll drop by and read today's post at the Bookalicious Travel Addict. Leave a comment and you could win a basket of goodies from the real town of Lumberton, North Carolina!

In Secrets of a Dangerous Woman, Dylan is returning home after a CIA mission when the fog moves into Lumberton - and reminds him of his home in Ireland:

It reminded him of Ireland, of the mists that rolled in during the wee hours of the morning, settling into the valleys and obscuring all in its path. He thought of the times when he stood on the small stoop of a porch, drinking his coffee or tea and watching the mists rise above the pond at the edge of the lawn. The mists of Ireland were something alive, something that could soothe a man’s soul or destroy it, something that cloaked a man when he wanted to be hidden or obscured that which he needed to see.


It reminded him of the precipitation that always seemed to hover over the land. One was always looking at the sky commenting on the rains that were coming or the rains that had just left, gauging the difficulty of the day’s activities by which way the wind was blowing the mist. It was the kind of precipitation that could soak into the bones in the coldest hours and sweeten the skin on the warmest of days.

And he missed it. He missed the feel of it on his brow, the ghostly way it surrounded and hugged him. He missed the way it could soften her features. No, he thought, involuntarily shaking his head as he rose. He wouldn’t think of her. Not now. Not ever.

He’d left those memories behind forever when he left Ireland, and he wouldn’t be going back.

Of course, Dylan does go back - in the next book of the series, Dylan's Song. Tune in tomorrow for more on that book!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Monday Musings

This Thanksgiving, we were bombarded with ads from retailers heralding the start of the Christmas season. In fact, many shoppers observed Christmas decorations even before Halloween.

If you are one of those shoppers who camp out in front of your favorite store on Black Friday, more power to you!

I observed Black Friday with my regular tradition.

Years ago, I began making calendars for my family. My father had done quite a bit of detailed research into our family history and I placed as many geneology facts as I could on the appropriate dates.

I also added birthdays, anniversaries, graduations and other special events on the calendar.

Above each month, I placed photographs taken through the generations. (Shown at right: my brother David in front of my mother; me in front of my father who is holding my sister Nancy; my sister Susan; my brother John. This was taken in Columbia, Tennessee.)

The calendar was such a big hit the first year that it has become a tradition for me to do them each year.

It takes hours of my time - hours I suppose I could have spent in a tent outside a store.

It takes very little money.

But the result is something my family and extended family keeps for years. And it's a record of our past and our tiny footsteps on this earth.

Do you have any special Christmas giving traditions?

Friday, November 30, 2012

Freaky Friday and Lori's Reading Corner

Today is Freaky Friday and I'll be appearing at Lori's Reading Corner. I hope you'll stop by and read an excerpt from my latest book, Secrets of a Dangerous Woman, and read a special post I wrote for Lori. One lucky follower will win a basket of goodies from the town of Lumberton, where the series takes place.

When I was in school (oh so many decades ago) I was taught there were 9 planets in our solar system.

But just in the past 20 years (that's since 1992) scientists have discovered our solar system may have as many as 500,000,000,000 planets. (Yep, that is 500 Billion.)

When we look at the night sky with naked eyes, we see stars and our moon. If we're lucky, we might catch a meteor or at certain times of the year, another planet.

When we look through a telescope invented prior to 1990, we see more of our solar system - the additional planets, stars and moons were there all along but it took a special lens to see them.

Today we have high powered telescopes such as those operated by the Southern European Observatory in northern Chili. These telescopes can detect objects that are 400,000,000,000 times fainter than the naked eye can see.

We also have unmanned spacecraft such as Kepler that are capable of detecting and analyzing planets, stars, moons and suns in our galaxy and beyond.

In the coming years, will we discover life on other planets? What do you think? Is our perception of our universe changing right before our eyes?


Thursday, November 29, 2012

Thursday Thoughts

A constant source of fascination to me is in watching various authors' careers unfold. I am always interested in seeing the choices they make and the paths they follow.

Lately, I've had the opportunity to watch two authors at roughly the same place in their careers follow very different paths.

The first author recently self-published a book for young adults. The book is quite good, the writing is tight, the plot intriguing. As time has marched on, however, he has become frustrated in his attempts to get the attention he believes the book deserves. So in an effort to stand out, he has become more and more x-rated in his blogs. His theory is that he will gain the following through his over-the-top posts and once he becomes a bestselling author, he will tone things down because then people will be watching.

The other author is finishing his first book and will soon self-publish it. He has been growing a following based on the genre he has targeted. Because his books deal with romance, he has carefully constructed romantic posts that appeal to the audience he wants as his fan base. He is very careful with each post to make certain it fits within the guidelines he has set for himself and he is already acting the part of a successful author, knowing he will grow his fan base by posting the type of scenes that will play out in his book.

My opinion about the first author is he may not realize it, but people are watching right now. There isn't a light switch that suddenly is flipped; an author's career is all about the journey itself.

My opinion about the second author: with a following on Twitter that already approaches 30,000, he's going about this in exactly the right way. I expect to see this man on the bestseller lists.

What do you think?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

WIP Wednesday and Mass Musings

Please join me today at Mass Musings, where I am being interviewed about my latest book, Secrets of a Dangerous Woman, the third in the Black Swamp Mysteries series.


Next spring, the fourth book in the series will be released. Dylan's Song has been a departure for me because it takes place primarily in Ireland.

Most people don't realize how far north Ireland is. If you look at a world atlas, you might be surprised to see that Ireland is as far north as Canada. And just as Alaska has times of the year in which darkness pervades and other times where it's light most of the day and night, Ireland is similar.

In January, for example, there can be at most eight hours of daylight per day. I say "at most" because if it's raining or the clouds have moved in, you might not see the sun at all. In the middle of June, however, you might have only 4 to 6 hours of darkness.

Because of the jet stream, however, the island avoids temperature extremes. The summers are generally warm but not hot or humid. And the winters are generally mild, considerably warmer than other countries within the same latitude. Because of the North Atlantic Current, it also remains ice-free throughout the winter months.

I have completed the first in a new series featuring Irishman Ryan O'Clery. The story actually begins in January 1839, in which a freakish storm blew in from the Atlantic, sweeping across Ireland from the west coast to the east. It was known as The Night of the Big Wind. It took place on Epiphany and because some of the Irish people thought the world would end on Epiphany, they thought it was the end of the world when the seas washed completely over the island, sweeping away people, homes, livestock and all they had ever known.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Tuesday Teaser

It's time for the Tuesday Teaser, and this week I've selected another scene from Secrets of a Dangerous Woman:

Dylan was deep in thought and hadn’t noticed the thickening fog that had set in until he was just a block from home. As he glanced up to get his bearings he realized the house was barely visible; only the yellow bulbs on the front porch glowed eerily through the mist to beckon him home.


He halted in his tracks and looked down the street as if seeing it for the first time. The giant trees that stretched their branches from each side, meeting in the middle to form a canopy above the road, appeared like shadowy, craggy fingers. As the fog shifted with the rising breeze, the tops of the trees swayed in and out of the mist almost like apparitions.

As the fog rolled in, it cloaked the remaining houses so he felt as if he was standing in the middle of nowhere, as though he’d been transported to a remote region.

He felt an odd lump forming in the pit of his stomach as he forced his legs to continue moving. But as he neared the house, his strides became slower and narrower and his feet heavier, until just the act of moving up the steps onto the front porch were exhausting.

He hesitated at the front door, his hand hovering over the knob, before he backed away and sat in the porch swing.

It reminded him of Ireland, of the mists that rolled in during the wee hours of the morning, settling into the valleys and obscuring all in its path. He thought of the times when he stood on the small stoop of a porch, drinking his coffee or tea and watching the mists rise above the pond at the edge of the lawn. The mists of Ireland were something alive, something that could soothe a man’s soul or destroy it, something that cloaked a man when he wanted to be hidden or obscured that which he needed to see.

It reminded him of the precipitation that always seemed to hover over the land. One was always looking at the sky commenting on the rains that were coming or the rains that had just left, gauging the difficulty of the day’s activities by which way the wind was blowing the mist. It was the kind of precipitation that could soak into the bones in the coldest hours and sweeten the skin on the warmest of days.

And he missed it. He missed the feel of it on his brow, the ghostly way it surrounded and hugged him. He missed the way it could soften her features. No, he thought, involuntarily shaking his head as he rose. He wouldn’t think of her. Not now. Not ever.

He’d left those memories behind forever when he left Ireland, and he wouldn’t be going back.

Of course, Dylan does return to Ireland in the next book in the series, Dylan's Song, due to be released in the spring of 2013. And in that book, Vicki discovers the real reason why he left all he had ever known to come to America - and what secrets he thought he'd left behind.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Monday Musings - Waiting on Sunday to Drown

Today I am visiting with Waiting on Sunday to Drown. I hope you'll pop in and read an excerpt from my latest book as well as an informative blog about my writing and myself. One lucky follower will win an awesome basket of goodies from the town of Lumberton, where my series Black Swamp Mysteries takes place.

There are three books in my series thus far:

Exit 22
Vicki's Key
Secrets of a Dangerous Woman

If you've read all three, which is your favorite? And why?


Friday, November 23, 2012

Freaky Friday and Writing Innovations

It's Freaky Friday and today I am visiting with Writing Innovations. I hope you'll pop in and see some fun facts about me. You might think I am totally freaky!

Science fiction writers have often come up with some far-fetched ideas. But is it possible that some of their ideas have actually spawned a new age of covert intelligence activities?

In Secrets of a Dangerous Woman, Vicki Boyd is a psychic spy. But psychic spies are really used in the United States Government, the Russian government and several others. Is it possible to see into high level meetings, to tour nuclear facilities, to board our warships and draw detailed diagrams of our weapons?

What do you think?

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thursday Thanksgiving Thoughts

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

I am taking the day off so my dogs and angels have written what they are most thankful for today:

Mattie the foxhound is thankful for the cats who live behind us; they give her hours upon hours of exercise and excitement.

Simone the collie is thankful for a home where people don't yell and argue and other than the two Jack Russells, life is pretty laid back.

Eddie the Jack Russell is thankful for the doggie doors because he can run back and forth from the house to the back yard all day long. And all night long.

Lucy the Jack Russell is thankful for the boxes of toys throughout the house, which supply endless hours of joy as she rips each toy apart. She is also thankful for the steps next to Mommy's bed so she can hunker down after exhausting herself.

Lindsay Buckingfish and Stevie Fishnick (shown at right with Lucy) are thankful that I gave them their own honeymoon suite, which they are putting to good use.

The Buckingfish-Fishnick angel babies are thankful for their own infant ward, free from predators.

And all the other little angels are thankful that we eat turkey for Thanksgiving and not angelfish.


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

WIP Wednesday

Please join me today at MK McClintock's Blog, where I will be sharing a special excerpt from my 14th publication, Secrets of a Dangerous Woman. MK also asks me some questions about my writing and background that you won't find anywhere else!

I'll be giving away a free basket of goodies to one blogger who follows my tour and leaves comments, so I hope you'll pop in!

Secrets of a Dangerous Woman will be followed next spring by the fourth in my Black Swamp Mysteries series, Dylan's Song. Dylan is given an assignment in Ireland: to find and extract a missing CIA operative. There's just one problem: he doesn't want to go to Ireland. As Vicki and Sam try to convince him that he must go - and visit his dying grandmother while he's there - he thinks up one excuse after another to avoid the trip.

"It's rained one time in Ireland," he shouted in frustration. He held up a finger. "One time. In me whole entire life!"

"One time?" Vicki repeated. "Really?"

"But it's lasted for thirty years!"

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Tuesday Teaser

It's time for the Tuesday Teaser! This week, I've selected a passage from my latest release, Secrets of a Dangerous Woman.

To set the scene: Dylan Maguire, in his first assignment with the CIA, interrogated recently captured Brenda Carnegie. But when she escaped again, his assignment changed to finding her and bringing her back in. At the same time, Vicki Boyd has been looking for the sister she was separated from after their parents' airplane accident - Brenda Ann Boyd.

Imagine Dylan's surprise when this happens:

“Vicki!” Dylan said as Vicki grabbed him from behind and gave him a bear hug. “Where ‘ave you been all afternoon? I’ve been quite concerned.”


He started to turn around, but she held him in place.

“What are you doin’ to me, Darlin’?”

“I have a surprise,” Vicki said.

“You found your sister?”

“Yes. And she’s here.”

“Well, let me go, Woman,” he laughed, “so’s I can meet ‘er.”

She dropped her arms from around him. As he turned around, she stood between him and her sister but over her head, he caught the crown of a cowboy hat beside the back door.

As she stepped to the side, a wide grin on her face, he studied the figure beside the back door. Her eyes were obscured by the hat’s long, curved bill. But as he peered at her chin and her jawline, a feeling began in the pit of his stomach and worked upwards, freezing the words on his lips that he’d expected to say.

The woman stepped forward and with a jaunty sweep of the cowboy hat, removed it from her head, allowing masses of wavy copper hair to spill across her shoulders. It reached almost to her waist and was so voluminous that he wondered how she’d managed to fit it all beneath the hat.

As she stepped forward, his eyes went to the butterfly bandage on her forehead. A slow, sly smile swept across her face and as she neared him, he found himself staring into the same amber eyes shared by her sister.

She placed her hand around his neck and rose onto her toes to kiss him lightly on the cheek, her lips lingering along his cheekbone. “So you’re Dylan Maguire,” she said in a confident, husky voice, “and she’s ‘Bennie’ and Vicki’s ‘Woman.’ I just can’t wait to hear what sweet little pet name you dream up for me.”

Dylan’s eyes met hers as he slowly reached for her hand and removed it from his neck. “Vicki, Darlin’,” he said, “may I have a word with you, Dear?”

“Sure,” Vicki said. She remained facing him with a wide grin on her face.

“In private?” he added.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Monday Musings and Special Appearances

I have two exciting appearances today and some vey exciting news.

I was notified last Friday that Vicki's Key, my 13th release and part of the Black Swamp Mysteries series, was a finalist in the 2012 USA Best Books Awards. It also was one of five finalists in the 2012 International Book Awards!

My first appearance today is at The Changing Face of Publishing, where I have a guest blog. I hope you'll pop in and read it and leave a comment. A special gift basket is being awarded to a blogger who follows my tour.

Then at 11:30, you can catch me on WPDE TV, where I am being interviewed by Cecil Chandler. We'll be discussing the upcoming Book 'Em North Carolina conference, the writer's conference and book fair that I founded. If you are in the South Carolina or North Carolina viewing area, I hope you'll tune in!

The publishing industry is changing. It's undeniable. Brick and mortar book stores that used to be in virtually every town and across the nation have closed - Borders, Waldenbooks and B. Dalton among them. eBooks are exploding. Where once the big New York publishers ruled the industry, they now share it with small and mid-size publishers - and indies. What do you think will happen to this industry over the next ten years?

Come to Book 'Em North Carolina in February to find out what authors, publishers, literary agents and publicists are saying! For more information on the event, visit www.bookemnc.org.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Freaky Friday: Mermaids

We all grew up with stories of mermaids. But is it possible that mermaids not only existed in ancient times but they are here now, sharing our world with us?

I watched The Discovery Channel with fascination when they aired Mermaids: The Body Found. The source is credible: NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Made up of scientists and experts on oceanic life, they make a compelling argument that a group of humans evolved into creatures that live in the water.

They picked up audio that is not known to belong to any marine creature. It reminded me of the sirens that sailors spoke about as they crossed the vast oceans.

They also have video of one such creature found on the beach. Its body was immediately removed by the Department of the Navy:



They have DNA evidence that creatures found in the ocean have both human DNA and marine DNA.

So, what do you think? Watch the videos at this link and let me know: do you believe in mermaids?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Thursday Thoughts - Beware of Politics

I remember reading that Henry Fonda and Jimmy Stewart, who were the best of friends, got into a fist fight one day because they had begun discussing politics. Once the fight was over, they agreed to remain friends - but vowed never to discuss politics again.

I have friends and family at opposite ends of the political spectrum. And if you look at all of the voting figures from our most recent election, it's obvious that no one political ideology or party has a vast majority of followers. At best, you could easily make the statement that the country is almost evenly divided.

So are our fans.

Some of my books are considered political thrillers. In The China Conspiracy, for example, I delve into how easily our elections could be rigged through voting touch-screen technology. However, I make the dirty politician an Independent.

Why?

The reason is simple: if I had made the bad guy a Republican or a Democrat, I would have instantly lost half my fan base.

There is a reason why I never discuss religion or politics. It's been my experience that those who insist on talking about it are trying to persuade others to think exactly as they do. This works well as long as they're preaching to the proverbial choir. But when they find someone who thinks differently, it very quickly gets evil.

When someone is in the public eye, it becomes even more important to keep religion and politics to oneself. Not only can it lose friends but it can also lose fans. And is there any writer out there who can afford to lose one half of their readership?

Please visit me today at VBT Cafe, where I start my next blog tour - filled with interviews, guest blogs and more. And I won't be discussing politics!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

WIP Wednesday

It's Work In Progress Wednesday. I've been editing Dylan's Song, the fourth book in the Black Swamp Mysteries series. The scene below takes place in castle dungeons in Ireland during one of Vicki Boyd's remote viewing missions.

“Four men,” she reported, “possibly more.” She cocked her head as if the gesture allowed her to hear more clearly. “They’re not Irish,” she added.

“Middle Eastern.” It was said as a statement but Vicki sensed that Sam was expecting confirmation.

After a moment, she said, “No. They’re German.”

“German?” Sam did not attempt to conceal his surprise.

“Yes,” she said, her voice firm. “German.” Instinctively, she moved further into the shadows.

Their voices grew louder as they moved closer. Then a light appeared at an angle from their cell; a light that danced and swayed like the torches had in the stairway. As the men emerged, she realized two of them carried torches; one to lead the way and the other taking up the rear. They illuminated the area around them quite well.

They wore field gray uniforms with wide black belts and tall boots. As she recognized the way the pants billowed before disappearing into the boots, her mouth went dry. Her eyes swept upward, knowing as she stared at them that her own expression must be incredulous. Even before she saw the collar insignia and shoulder boards, there could be no mistake of their identity. The red armband with the distinctive swastika left no doubt.

She could feel Sam’s confusion as she described the uniforms. Yet she knew these were not reenactors of some type. Their fit, chiseled appearance and the strong, almost harsh inflections in their voices were as easily recognizable as the Nazi symbols they wore.

They did not stop at Stephen Anders’ cell but continued past it as if they were unaware of their presence.

As Vicki watched them, she could feel her jaw dropping and the blood draining from her face. She felt a wave of fear and panic as palpable as though she was a political prisoner in a den of German soldiers. But as she watched them wide-eyed, they abruptly disappeared.

She gasped, her hand instinctively moving to her mouth. She continued to stare at the hall, now dark and empty. As she moved closer to the cell bars, she stared in the direction they’d been moving. They had not rounded a corner or ducked into an adjoining cell. They had simply vanished.

Dylan's Song is scheduled for release in the spring of 2013, hopefully in time for Book 'Em North Carolina!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Tuesday Teaser

Tuesday Teaser

It's time for the Tuesday Teaser! This week, the excerpt is from Songbirds are Free, my most popular book. It is based on the true story of my ancestor, Mary Neely, who was captured by Shawnee warriors in 1780. She was held as a slave for three years until she managed to escape and journey thousands of miles home alone. She was truly a great lady.

"It is your choice," White Messenger said. "You may serve Medicine Woman or become one with Msipessi."

Mary drew herself up to her full height. "If it is my choice," she said in a clear voice that carried through the hall, "then I wish to return to my people."

His eyes flashed in conficting emotions as he weighed her words. When he spoke, it was not to her but to Eagle Feathers. His head was high and noble, his words melodious in the quieted room. He waved toward Medicine Woman.

Msipessi's face grew dark. He made his way through the crowd, where he disappeared from view. Medicine Woman nodded approvingly.

Mary turned to White Messenger. "What did you tell them?"

"I told them you chose to serve Medicine Woman. Your name is now Songbird."

A young squaw pulled at Mary's arm. As she was led away, a refrain began in her head: I am a slave. I am a slave.

She stopped as she reached the door of the community building and turned to face White Messenger. She stood tall and felt her square jaw jut forward. "Songbirds," she said in a clear, strong voice, "are free."

Monday, November 12, 2012

Monday Musing Demographics

I've had some fascinating conversations with Hollywood producer Chuck Williams lately. He's caused me to rethink my marketing and promotional efforts regarding my books. Since he talks about ten times faster than I can think, I've spent many an hour digesting everything he said so you'll probably find several more posts here with his advice.

One thing he asked me: who are my demographics?

My books are generally read by the same audience that would read John Grisham. Meaning: equally divided between men and women aged 18 to 92.

Wrong answer, Chuck said.

Hollywood is very specific. A lot of authors have no plans to have their books made into movies or television series. But I do.

And when you're dealing with Hollywood, they want specific demographics.

As we continued our conversation, I realized that while I hadn't sat down and crunched numbers, I did make a very big change in my audience when I began the Black Swamp Mysteries series (Exit 22, Vicki's Key, Secrets of a Dangerous Woman and Dylan's Song.)

My target is a younger audience aged 20 to 35. Though I've had people read these books and love them who are 50 to 92, I added two elements that appeal more to a younger crowd.

First is the paranormal. Vicki Boyd is a psychic spy. The paranormal is a huge market right now and growing-among younger audiences.

Second is romance. There is more romance in the Black Swamp Mysteries series, thanks in large part to Irishman Dylan Maguire. Younger audiences like more romance and they tend toward more detail in lieu of the shadowy scenes of the oldest audiences.

The changes paid off. I am reaching the same audience as I did previously but broadened it substantially with the addition of these two elements.

And it turns out, Hollywood would regard it as a good move, also. Their target market is the younger crowd - 35 or below. I love James Bond movies and Daniel Craig but I am not their target audience. It's probably the reason Sean Connery isn't still playing the famous spy.

Have you thought of your books in terms of demographics?

(And thank you, Chuck Williams. No wonder everyone loves you!!)

Friday, November 9, 2012

Freaky Friday

I love the Discovery channel and Science channel. And it's always true what they say:

Truth is stranger than fiction.

Archeologists have found paintings around the world that depict beings that look like extraterrestrials. In the past, scientists, researchers and archeologists have often claimed that these were the figments of the caveman's imagination.

So I've been wondering:

These cavemen barely knew how to make fire. In some cases, they hadn't even accomplished that. Their days were spent trying to survive. Their nights were probably worse.

So are we to believe that they really had an active imagination?

Or is imagination something cultivated over the centuries as our basic needs were fulfilled?

What do you think? Could these cave drawings have come purely from the imagination of a man just barely able to stand upright? Or could they be drawings of something they actually saw?

Do you read science fiction? If so, have you questioned how close to the truth those stories could be?

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Thursday Thoughts

Over the past few months, I've read a lot of blogs that announce to authors how difficult it is to make it in this industry.

One industry expert said a person is 400 times more likely to move to Hollywood and become the next Angelina Jolie than to make a living as an author.

A literary agent spoke of the monumental task of selling 20,000 copies of one title - the magic number for agents and publishers to begin to take notice of a previously published author.

Survey results showed that the vast majority of authors earn less than $500 a year.

So, what's up?

In my opinion, it's so easy for anyone to publish their own work that everyone thinks they can be a successful author. But not everything that is written deserves to be published.

Too many people think all they have to do is have a book printed and the world is their oyster; people will line up around the block to buy it, they'll be celebrities and their phones will ring off the hook.

There are very few writers who can write a book that requires minimal editing. And those are best-selling authors who have been at this for decades. Yet, many self-published writers think their first work is beyond reproach. Why is that?

Time after time, I hear a writer say their first book, which they intend to self-publish, will be an instant bestseller. Really?

Yes, the statistics I mentioned at the beginning of this post can be depressing. But they are meant to be a wake-up call. I've been in this industry since 1984 and full-time since 2000. And I'm here to tell you: being a successful author is hard work.

You need a team behind you: a fierce line editor, a dedicated publicist, sales and marketing plans and people to implement them. To try and do it all on your own is like going to Hollywood and becoming the producer, director, screenwriter and all the actors in your own film. Say you film it successfully. Now how are you going to distribute it, get it into the public eye, and convince people to buy it?

At Book 'Em North Carolina, we'll have a SuperTeam panel discussion filled with the people who make things happen: literary agents, traditional publishers, promoters and editors. If you want to make it in this industry, you need to be there - Saturday, February 23, 2013. And it's free. For more information, visit Book 'Em North Carolina.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

WIP Wednesday

It's Work-in-Progress Wednesday and I am completing the first draft of Dylan's Song.

It's the fourth book in the Black Swamp Mysteries series. The others take place in the real town of Lumberton, North Carolina. Dylan's Song takes a bit of a departure. It begins in Lumberton but Dylan has received news that his grandmother is dying in Ireland, a country he thought he'd turned his back on forever.

Vicki has been working on a psychic mission in which a CIA operative follows a terrorist to Ireland and disappears.

So the two head to the Emerald Isle. Dylan's purpose is two-fold: when his grandmother dies during their visit, he must arrange her wake and burial. He must also extract the CIA operative from the position Vicki pinpoints in her remote viewing sessions and get him safely out of the country.

And along the way, he must confront the demons that caused him to leave Ireland.

Dylan's Song is due to be released in the spring of 2013.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Teaser Tuesday

Today's Teaser Tuesday comes from Vicki's Key, which placed as one of five finalists in the 2012 International Book Awards (Mysteries):

He grabbed her hand and wrapped it around the knife handle. Then he pressed his own hand on top of hers, guiding the knife against her throat. "There's nothing you can do to stop it," he said. "You're crazy; everybody at the CIA knows it. Now you've gone over the deep end. Taken your own life."

"Let me go!" Vicki managed to croak through clenched teeth.

He pushed against her, pinning her to the wall with his body while one arm held her neck in place. She tried to struggle but with each movement she made, it only served to tighten his grip on her. One hand was on her throat, cutting off her oxygen as the other hand guided the knife against her skin.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Monday Musings

As late as five years ago, it seemed the New York publishers were determined to operate as they had in the 1980's, although the rest of the world was moving past them in leaps and bounds.

It's no secret that eBooks are part of the equation that is forcing the publishing industry into the future.

So the question on a lot of authors' lips these days is:

If I can ePublish my own book, why do I need a publisher?

What do you think? If you have a traditional publisher who epublishes your titles, what advantages do you have with them that a self-published author does not have?

Or if you are a self-published author, why did you choose not to go with a traditional publisher?



Friday, November 2, 2012

Where the Greener Grass Grows

Ever plan for the day your kids leave home and you actually have the house to yourself?

I hope you'll pop into Book 'Em North Carolina today to read about Lin Brooks' newest fiction, Where the Greener Grass Grows, about a woman finding her way when she's left with an empty nest. All the plans she made seemed to fly out the window once the room was empty and clean. The house was still; too still...

What did you do when your kids left home and you became an empty nester?

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Thursday Thoughts

The plot for Secrets of a Dangerous Woman came to me during a year that was particularly loaded with politicians doing bad things.

There was the congressman who thought he was photographing his private parts for one woman when he inadvertantly tweeted it to tens of thousands.

More than one who resigned over illicit affairs.

One who claimed to be on his state's business but it turns out he was in South America... having an affair.

Brenda Carnegie is a computer hacker who loves living on the wrong side of the law. And with so many politicians doing bad things, making a list of all those who haven't been "outed" yet and selling to the highest bidder is just too good of an opportunity to pass up.

Having been in the computer field myself for more than 40 years (my God, I'm old) I do have to wonder how anyone in this day and age can have any expectation of privacy. Even private emails bounce from server to server and when the user thinks they're deleted... They really are not.

Do you have any expectation of privacy?

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

WIP Wednesday

This is Work-in-Progress Wednesday and in honor of Halloween, I'd like to tell you about the ghost stories that have made their way into my books.

Black Swamp Mysteries features a psychic spy who sees ghosts. In Vicki's Key (released early 2012) she sees a ghost in the home she is staying in, as well as a ghost at the Carolina Civic Center's Historic Theatre and at Luther Britt Park.

Vicki's home was inspired by real ghosts sighted in real homes in Lumberton, North Carolina.

Like the ghost that walks in front of the windows in an abandoned home, shining a lantern to light the way... but to where?

Or the real Lady in White, who roams the Historic Theatre. She is often seen walking across the balcony. She looks as real as a live person but when she reaches the opposite side, she disappears.

I am currently working on Dylan's Song, which is set in Ireland. When Vicki ventures to Ireland with Dylan, she meets his grandmother Bonnie O'Sullivan. Bonnie warns her that the "veil is thin in Ireland", something I've heard from many, many who were born and raised there.

What does that mean? It means it is easy to cross into another dimension... Or communicate with those in other dimensions...

And Vicki sees ghosts while she's in Ireland. Several of them.

Unfortunately, Dylan's grandmother passes away while they are in Ireland (which is part of the reason for their trip) ... But if she's gone, why does Vicki continue to see her?

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Teaser Tuesday

I am beginning a new weekly series entitled Teaser Tuesday. Each Tuesday, I'll be providing a short excerpt from one of my books.

This week's teaser is from Secrets of a Dangerous Woman. Irishman Dylan Maguire, a CIA operative, is speaking with Vicki Boyd, his lover and a CIA psychic spy.

"What was that text message really about?" Vicki asked.

"Sam," Dylan said. "I'm on standby tonight."

"For what?"

He shrugged. "I don't know. I never know what he's gonna have me do. Sometimes I'm injurin' a man just to hear him talk. Other times I'm pretendin' to be someone I'm not..."

"We need to talk."

"Ooh."

"Why'd you say that?"

"I didn't hear m'self say anythin'."

"Yes, you did. You breathed strange."

"Are we micromanagin' the way I breathe now?"

"No."

"Okay, then."

"There's something on my mind."

"Ooh," he said.

"There you go again."

"It's just when a woman you're livin' with says there's somethin' on her mind in that tone o' voice, it can mean only three thin's. She wants a ring. She wants a baby. Or she wants somebody to move out. And it's usually not 'er."

Monday, October 29, 2012

Monday Musing Maggots

Like so many people I know, I've owned dogs just about my entire life. I grew up in a time before heartworm medicine, before a monthly flea treatment really got rid of fleas, before tick medicine prevented ticks. It was a time when we bought flea powder at the grocery store...

Yet, we always treated our pets like they were family. My dad used to make an ice cream cone and then held it while his Scottish terrier licked it. I would ride my bicycle across town to pick up five cent cans of dog food for my cockapoo. And they never, ever had bugs in their food.

So in mid-October when I was at PetSmart in Wilmington, NC - 87 miles one-way from my home - I picked up a 34-pound bag of Pro Plan. It cost $43 on sale so it was far more expensive than the Sam's Club five minutes from my house charges for Member's Mark.

And it never occurred to me that it would be filled with maggots.

I have those specially designed dry dog food bins where I pour the food in and it closes with a seal-tight fit. I opened the bag, wrestled with it (since it was 34 pounds and bulky) and poured it in.

When I was finished and ready to put the lid on, I saw the maggots swarming in the food - and some with wings were trying to fly out.

I immediately enlisted my daughter-in-law's aid to hold the bag while I poured the dog food back into it from the food bin. You can see the maggots in the food and crawling over the lid in this video we made.



I called PetSmart who told me if I couldn't drive 87 miles back to their store (and spend $32 in gasoline to return the $43 bag of food) then I should contact the manufacturer.

I contacted Pro Plan and explained what happened. Their response:

Maggots are not harmful to dogs and it won't hurt them it they eat it.

Their factories were sanitized and the maggots didn't come from them.

However, they offered to send me a coupon for the next time I wanted to drive 87 miles to buy another bag of their dog food.

I went to the local pet store who does not carry Pro Plan. They gave me 10 pounds of Eukanuba for FREE so I could try it with my dogs and see if they liked it. I came back two days later and bought their largest bag. Now my dogs are eating Eukanuba.

I still have the 34 pound of Pro Plan in my garage, taped into the original bag and then into a plastic bag. The bin is outside drying after I spent thirty minutes cleaning and disinfecting it.

Lesson learned.