Chuck wants a peek at the NaNo novel

dog play

Chuck Wendig’s flash fiction challenge this week is to ‘show us a taste’ of that novel you’ve been working on during this month for NaNo. I’m up for the challenge. However, I must warn you it’s an unedited first draft. Descriptions are sketchy, characters aren’t flushed out, and plot lines are still a bit fluid. If you still want to read after all that, be my guest.


A serial killer has come to the small town of Regal Reef, California. With little evidence to go on and no viable suspects, Chief Lottie Stark is beyond frustrated. Especially since the killer’s MO is strangely similar to a serial killer known as The Keeper, who she and profiler Jack Brady caught three years earlier when they were in the FBI.

Dissatisfied with her progress, the City Council and the micro-managing town mayor have gone over Lottie’s head and brought Brady in to consult on the case. Which not only complicates her life but opens old wounds. And her backstabbing lead detective has gotten the California Board of Investigation interested in the case hoping to discredit her by proving she didn’t catch the real Keeper. While Lottie struggles to maintain control of her case and her town, the killer is still out there, free to kill again. And daring her to catch him.

Every Dog Has His Day – Book 2

Chapter One

Delmont followed Barrington into my office and I watched through the open door as they set up their command post. Ben sidled up next to me and quietly said, “So, you just gonna let them take over?”

I turned to my father and sighed. “Doesn’t look like I have much choice, right now.” I kept my eyes on the BI team and Delmont and Barrington were pretty chummy. Then I turned to Ben and said, “I’ve got a little errand, I’ll be back in an hour.”

Jack started to follow me and I turned back and held up my hand. “Nope, this is something I need to do alone.” I frowned at my office. “You and Ben get my desk out of there, with everything in it and set me up in the squad room. Okay?”

Jack furrowed his brow but nodded. “Okay.”

Merrilou gave me a questioning look. I shrugged. “Just show them what you’ve got. We’ll huddle later, okay?”

She nodded then turned toward the new command center and frowned.

As I passed Minnie’s desk, who was speechless and gaping at the circus my office had become, I said, “I’m 10/7 for an hour.”

“Okay Chief.”

As I crossed the lobby, I ran in to Marty who looked puzzled. “Afternoon, Chief.”

I went to the door and pulled it open. “Afternoon.”

He jerked his head toward the station. “Looks like a lot of excitement going on here.”

I grunted and walked through the door. As I walked, I pulled out my cell and called Jack. When he answered I said, “Just listen, okay?”

“I’m listening.”

“You and Ben go over that order from the attorney general with a fine tooth comb, then meet me at the Sunshine in an hour with it.”

“Okay. Anything else?”

“Bring Merrilou with you if you can.”


“All right see you then.”

I ended the call before he could ask for explanations and quickened my pace. As I turned the corner, and the Regal Reef Tribune building came into view, I could see Mendoza at her desk, hunched over her computer. It was as though she hadn’t moved from that spot since the last time I saw her.

I slid my eyes up and down the street, checking for the busybody patrol and then hurried into the building. Mendoza looked up with curiosity in her eyes. “Chief?”

I went to her desk and pulled up a chair. “Look, I don’t have a lot of time, so I need you to listen.” Mendoza nodded and I looked toward the street through the window. As far as Regal Reef was concerned it was just another Monday. I looked back to her. “So first off, our deal is going to change a little.” She started to protest but I held up a hand. “I’m going to give you the story now.”

She smiled and tapped a few keys on her computer, bringing up a blank document to take notes, then also opened the record function on her phone. “Okay, shoot.”

“We have three dead girls. Two are still unidentified, although one has a tentative I.D. The third girl has been identified as Ashley Martindale, the daughter of State Senator Tom Martindale. A few days ago, Agent Blaine Barrington of the California B.I. showed up with a subpeona and took possession of the Ashley’s body and the related evidence. At the senator’s insistence the B.I. was taking over the investigation of her murder.”

Mendoza raised her brows. “Her father has that kind of pull?”

I nodded. “Yes.” I shrugged. “I didn’t like it but since she was the daughter of a prominent politician and he clearly used his clout to get the B.I. involved, I wasn’t going to fight about. Next point. You heard about Delmont’s accident?”

She nodded. “Yeah, so?”

“It’s my belief that he caused it himself.”

Mendoza gasped. “Oh come on. Why would he do that?”

“I found evidence, hidden, not far from the accident site that seems to infer he did.”

Mendoza leaned in with a skeptical look. “But why?”

I explained about Delmont’s association with B.I. and his mission to get fast lab results and then the disappearance of those lab results.

Mendoza frowned. “Maybe the report got thrown from the car and just ended up in the tree.”

I laughed. “And the box of nails flew up there to join it? And they both jumped into a plastic grocery sack?”

Mendoza nodded. “Okay, but again what motivation would he have to do that? To make you look bad?”

I nodded. “Sure, that’s what I thought at first. But a half hour ago, the B.I. led by Agent Barrington, showed up with an order from the state attorney general declaring a joint task force was to be formed on the case.” I smirked. “They even came up with a name for the killer.” Mendoza raised her brows in question. “The dead dog killer.”

Mendoza wrinkled her nose. “Catchy.”

I chuckled. “Ain’t it though?” I jerked my thumb in the direction of the station house. “Barrington is in my office setting up a command post as we speak.”

“And you think Delmont set the wheels in motion?”

I sighed because I was reluctant to give her the whole story but I’d already stepped in it and I couldn’t dance around mud puddles anymore. “Delmont has believed from the beginning that our guy is the Keeper.”

Mendoza’s big eyes widened. “What? Didn’t you and Jack Brady catch…” Then the lights went on in her head and she nodded. “Oh. So that’s why Brady is here?”

“The short answer is yes.”

“What’s the long answer?”

“I don’t have time to explain that right now.” She scowled and I held up a hand. “Later. I’ll tell you later. But the point is this, I believe that Delmont and Barrington have an end game in mind.”

Mendoza nodded so I’d go on.

“I think they want to make enough noise to get the FBI’s attention.”

“Because they believe our guy is the Keeper. Which means that me and Jack got it wrong. And if they can prove that then…”

“You’re both discredited.”

I nodded. “And then they get to swoop in and save the day.”

Mendoza chuckled. “So they get the notoriety then? That’s what they think?”

I nodded. “I do believe it is what they think.”

Mendoza shook her head in disbelief. “They think the FBI will thank them for disproving their case and one upping them?”

….and so it goes, sorry had a 1,000 word limit.

How about you? Are you NaNo-iing this year? Is your first draft as ugly as mine? Care to tell us about it? Feel free to speak all things NaNo in the comments.


I did it! Yay!


I’d like to thank my father, my mother and all the little people who…ah…er…oops, sorry that’s my academy award speech.

I broke 50K on the novel today. NaNo says I’m a winner. I’ll take it. Still have a bit more to do to actually finish the draft but it does feel like an accomplishment nonetheless. And it was fun to challenge myself.

So, all you NaNo-ites out there, keep going. You can do it. I have my pom poms ready to cheer you through the finish line too. :D


NaNo Report – Week Two


So, Chuck Wendig did a quick little post, asking everybody who was participatingin NaNo to give him a status update.

Turns out, I liked his questions, so I thought I’d answer them here:

How are you doing?
I’m doing okay. I had a little chat with one of my writing buddies and it was fun because I was able to help her just by being a sounding board. I love that writerly connection.

How has it (NaNo) been for you?
Honestly, it’s different than what I expected. I had visions of hooking up with a bunch of new writer buds and cheering each other on – and then of course talking shop. But really, aside from my chat as mentioned above. Not very much socializing going on.
I did attempt to participate in a virtual write in. But for some reason I had to open a YouTube account in order to participate in the chat, which I didn’t feel like doing. And the live stream was cute – the two young men who were conducting the write in (which as it turns out is just a series of timed prompts, designed I tink, to get your creative juices going) certainly were having fun. But after about 20 minutes I gave up and went back to the book to write.

How is the book?
The book is actually going much better than I expected. I have somehow managed to overlook the ugly prose, sketchy descriptions and conflicting plot points, in order to surge forward. Knowing that I will tend to all those things on the next run-through.
I did hit a snag for a couple of days where it seemed that every word was an absolute effort. But then I just decided to let the characters go where they wanted and I ended up with a plot twist I totally did not see coming and really like a lot.

Also, character relationships are developing in unexpected ways, which I am pleasantly surprised about as well.

How and what is your process?
My process is essentially to do my best to get at least 2,000 words a day. Not always easy if the plot is sluggish or I have freelance work to do. But I have managed to average that or more every day so far. I’m a pantster who outlines vaguely. Meaning I know the broad strokes of the story and how it will resolve as well as the subplot resolutions. But I don’t plan out how the characters will get there. In fact in Book One, my MC (Lottie Stark) suddenly has her dad visiting. A character I never dreamed of until he just appeared. I try to write first thing in the morning if possible. But also have high energy in the mid-afternoon and try to get in time then as well. If things get sticky. I take a break, do something else, read, work on a freelance gig, fool around on social media, then go back to it. Or I do research germane to the story. I found a cool book on Police Procedure, which I’ve been reading and it’s been quite helpful and oddly has shown me that I knew more about police procedure than I thought I knew – which was zero. But mostly, my process is just to write and to trust myself and my characters. Not sexy but it does the job.

If this is your first time doing NaNoWriMo, how do you find it?
This is not my first time doing NaNo. However, my previous attempt at NaNo lasted perhaps 3 or 4 days. So maybe in essence I am a newbie at this. I am finding it helpful. I do get a little thrill when I update my word count. Even though nobody else notices. It still makes me proud of my accomplishment. And they have this cool little dashboard where you can see your stats and how far you have to go. So, it’s a fun nerdy writerly thing.

Today I hit the 40K mark. According to NaNo I am 80% done. But to complete a full first draft I’m more like 50-60% done. Still, I think I might actually finish the full draft by the end of the month.

Parting thought: It is funny that if you just decide that you’re going to do something. That you just are. That you can. And that is probably the coolest thing about NaNo for me. I just decided I was doing it – no matter what – and I’ll be damned – I am. Yay for discipline.

Hope you’re all having a great week.


Marketing – let me count the ways. Great links to help you market your books


Did I just hear a mass wince? Yup, I’m sure I did, or maybe it was just me. Writing a novel is nothing compared to having to then market it. From the ‘deer in the headlights syndrome’ of just not having a clue – to the ‘it just makes me feel so icky to self promote’ whiners, none of us seem to like marketing very much. But if you’re in it for the long haul and have any hope of making it as an author, marketing is something in which you must become proficient.
Following are links to some kick-ass articles about book marketing. If you have a book you need to market, you need to read these posts.

Can You Promote a Book without Making Yourself Miserable? Jane Friedman gives us some decidedly authentic and down to earth advice about book marketing that may surprise you.

Standing Out on the Crowded Shelf—How to Help Your Fiction Find an Audience
Sage advice on what you can do to find your audience and get your books into the readers who want them.

Marketing Your Book on Social Media? How to Avoid Scams
Anne R. Allen warns about the the pitfalls of those feeding off authors with marketing scams.

A 12-Month Strategic Plan for Marketing Your Book before Release
CS Lakin writes a great nuts and bolts post about marketing your book, 12 months before release.

The 6 Most Common Marketing Mistakes Made by Authors
Another great post from Writer Unboxed about common marketing mistakes made by authors. No more excuses after you’ve read this.

In the meantime, I’ve managed to slog through week 2 of NaNo, clocking in a total of 34,993 words so far. I’m pretty sure I’ll meet the NaNo target of 50K – but that won’t produce a finished first draft. So, I’ll persist and hope I reach my target of 75K. The good news is that I have now developed some awesome callouses on my fingertips which makes the typing go a little faster.

Have a great week.


Focus: Doing what you’re doing while you’re doing it


I don’t know about you, but I can sometimes get overwhelmed with everything I have to do. Currently, I am freelancing to earn a living and working on multiple projects generally, writing a novel, promoting novels I have already published, blogging, trying to get some reading in and if possible a little social media. Not to mention life in the real world.

And I have a tendency to wake up with thoughts of all the things I must get done in the day. My desk is littered with index cards of notes on projects, to do lists, changes in the novel, blogging topics, things I must remember to do. And I can’t remember the last time when I didn’t eat breakfast, lunch and dinner at my desk. Sometimes it seems like so much that I rapidly fall into apathy and opt to play computer Mahjong instead.

The trick is to only do what you’re doing right now

Somewhere along the path of my life, somebody told me the way to get things done was to do what you’re doing while you’re doing it. Meaning, whatever you are working on, give it your full attention. This of course, flies in the face of the multi-tasking mindset, which we all seem to believe is a more productive approach. Actually, it isn’t. Multitasking only enables you to do a bunch of things poorly and nothing well.
In these computer oriented, instant access times we live in, we have things coming at us at the speed of light. So many shiny objects, so little time. Right? So easy to get distracted. So easy to forget what you were doing.

And time management is a struggle for most of us, but I think especially self-employed individuals who must hustle and put in a lot of time to support themselves. And while there is nobody who has figured out how to make time stand still or stretch the length of a day, there are little tricks you can use to keep yourself on track:

Focus. Obvious, right? But that means turning off your email, possibly unplugging from the Internet and turning off your phone. Not quite so easy. Before you start your day, go for a walk, do yoga, meditate – or something that you find calming and takes you away from the noise. Even deep breathing will help. Decide what you’re going to do when you get to your desk. And then do it. Period. Do it until it’s finished. Don’t do anything else.

One thing at a time. Multitasking has created a whole generation of mediocre, dispersed people with the attention span of a gnat. Just say no to multitasking. Select your next project, task, job and do it. When that is done. Move onto the next. You will be amazed how much more you get done by not trying to do everything at once.

Lists. Lists are good. A lot of people swear by them. Some people don’t like then. Perhaps a calendar where you write it each task you will do within a specific time frame, works better for you. Or a series of rainbow colored post-it’s stuck to the wall next to your desk. When the task is finished the post-it is pulled and tossed in the trash. You could probably even get your phone to prompt you when it’s time to do a task. Me, I like index cards. When I think of something, I jot it down. Then I don’t have to carry it around in my already overstuffed head. When I’m done. I tear up the card and trash it. Easy Peasy.

Work by your own clock. Not everybody is a morning person. Some people function much better at night or late afternoon. Build your schedule and task list around your own body clock.

Reasonable expectations. One of the things that trips us up and can send even the calmest person into a tailspin is assuming we can do more than we actually can. You write a list with 50 items on it, then grit your teeth and swear you are not getting up from your desk until they are all done. At midnight, you’re still working on item 5. Try to make your lists/expectations reasonable. If you want to push yourself aim to do just a little bit more than you think you can. This will help motivate you to be more productive. But a list that even Super Man couldn’t do won’t motivate anyone.

Don’t beat yourself up – you’re only human

Everybody has their own process and preferences in how to approach their work. And it might take you a while to find what works for you. So don’t beat yourself up, if you feel you’re falling behind. Just do the turtle routine, right? Slow and steady wins the race. Do what you’re doing while you’re doing it and I promise that you’ll find you are actually getting more done.

How about you? Is time management an issue? Are you overwhelmed by all the things you need to get done in a day, a week, a month? How do you handle the problem. Feel free to give us your tips and tricks in the comments.


NaNo Report – Week One


As many of you know, I’ve committed to doing NaNo this month and so I thought I’d just write a little post about how it’s going, my thoughts and accomplishments (such as they are.)

Jonesing during the lead-in

First, since I had finished the previous book a few days early, I was without a creative writing project for a few days. This was very odd because I have essentially written pretty much non-stop for the last two years. I felt like I did when I quit smoking. Anxious, nervous, worried. But I vowed I was saving this book for NaNo, so I managed to stave off getting my fix for those few days and caught up on some reading. Wrote a few reviews. And got a little sleep.

How many words?

The night before the start of NaNo I couldn’t sleep (also day of the change back from daylight savings time which didn’t help any) and got up at 5:30 a.m. I knocked out about 4,500 words on the first day. I guess because I had a few days of jonesing leading into it.

Naturally, I got so jazzed about that, I figured I’d knock out that kind of production every day. But well, no, didn’t happen. Although, I’m averaging about 2,700 words a day which will definitely keep me on target.

As of today I’ve written 19,343 words. Before you get impressed or anything about it, realize that most of those words will never reach another person’s eyes because… You know? It’s a first draft. And it’s possible this is the butt ugliest first draft I’ve ever written. Still, I am tooling along and hope that the remaining three weeks go as well. Especially since my total word count will be more like 80,000 not 50,000.

The writer connection

One of the reasons I decided to write this book during NaNo was because I thought it would be a good idea to connect up with other writers, get involved in some other writerly activities and so forth. But oddly, I’m finding that not only do I not have time for most of that – it just isn’t my nature to write with the herd. I thought I might try a couple write-ins but I’m thinking I’ll pass.

I have made a couple of writing buddies and we chat a bit, and have agreed to be there for each other for support. Which is nice. And it is nice to meet a couple of other writers who are pursuing the same goal I am.

Best lesson

The most interesting thing to me is that all the motivation that gets talked about during NaNo and that people experience doesn’t seem to be affecting me one way or the other. And I think it’s because I’ve been sort of doing my own self imposed NaNo for quite a while now. So external motivation has little if anything to do with it. The good thing about that, for me, is that I’ve realized that somewhere in the last couple of years I’ve developed real discipline in my writing. And that I write no matter how I’m feeling, whether I’m sick or well, happy or sad, busy or have lots of free time. And that alone was worth joining in with the bagillions of other writers out there in the NaNo mode.

What about you guys? How’s NaNo going for you? Keeping up with the pack? Getting ahead? Falling behind? Given up? Can’t get your internal editor to shut the hell up? Let me know how it’s going in the comments.

In the meantime, write on, brotha’s and sistahs.

The seven best things about first drafts


With the kickoff of NaNo this month, first drafts are on a lot of writer’s minds. Or at least they should be. Much as any writer would like to believe they could write an awesome book on the first run through, most of us know that such a feat is pretty much impossible. Although secretly, I think we all fantasize that we will someday achieve perfection on that first run-through. And maybe someday, it could happen. But in the meantime, there’s lots to love about a first draft, and I give you my list:

1. Freedom. You’ll experience the most freedom in your story during your first draft. You’re in that zone of just getting the darn thing down on paper. There is no time for editing, second guessing, or judging. You have to get it while it’s hot. Rules, internal editor, judgy people be damned.

2. No fashion requirements. While there are many adjectives used to describe first drafts, the most popular are ugly and/or sloppy. The dialogue is awkward, the characters are bi-polar and inconsistent, typos, misspellings, punctuation is cursory, and locations change mid-story. There isn’t time to pretty it up, give it a shower and shave, and pick out an appropriate outfit. Yes, your first draft is dressed in ratty sweats and has its dirty hair pulled up in a ponytail – but since nobody sees it, that’s okay.

3. Judgment free. Except for you, (possibly) no one will judge your first draft. Because it’s so ugly the very thought of showing anyone mortifies you. And during the draft, the only critic of the work is you. Tip: try not to judge, adopt the attitude that you’re free at this point to write any darn thing you want. The judging and editing comes later.

4. The discovery zone. The first draft is where you discover things. If you outline, you may discover that all your carefully crafted ideas don’t translate once you start putting them down on paper. Or that a character name is wrong. Or there is a completely new character that you never thought of, rearing its pretty little head. For me, the first draft is where I discover the story and the characters. I go in with an idea and finish with sometimes surprising and delightful new directions.

5. Rule free. There are lots of rules in the game of writing. Sentence structure, punctuation, correct spelling, plotting – blah, blah, blah, blah. When writing a first draft you can ignore the rules. Love fragments? Go crazy? Want your character to snarl with obscenities throughout? Go ahead, nobody’s watching. Take things over the top and to the edge. Editing will handle any mis-steps. For now, throw open your literary arms and embrace whatever comes into your deviant little head.

6. Nothing is written in stone. A first draft is like an exploratory mission. You go in with goals of what you want to achieve but those goals are predicated on what you’ll find. And subject to change. You’ll write scenes that may not end up in the final draft. You’ll kill characters you didn’t expect to. Or characters will appear out of thin air, like rare alien flowers you didn’t know existed. Even if you’re an outliner as opposed to a pantster, you may find that things you never thought of pop up. It’s fine. Just keep going. You can make all the missteps you want. That’s what erasers and delete buttons were made for, right?

7. Characters make themselves known. No matter how much time you spend on writing character profiles, or how many facts you know about your characters, they will still surprise you. Once they’ve taken their first breath, they start to show you who they are, what they believe and how they feel about things – even the story you’ve put them in. You will try to insist that they walk down a certain path only to find they absolutely refuse. They have minds and motivations of their own. And you may find, you’re simply following them and writing down what they do, rather than leading them and putting words in their mouths.

First drafts are loud, rowdy, have lousy hygiene and possess no social graces. They’re like that crazy friend you met in sophomore gym class who brought out the crazy in you. And you liked it. Embrace the draft, go where it leads you and worry about bail money, explaining things to the authorities and fixing the flat tire later. Have fun.

How about you? Do you love first drafts or hate them? Are they fun or drudgery? What do you think is the best thing about first drafts? Feel free to regale or damn first drafts in the comments below.

Three Sentence Scary Story


Chuck’s at it again – his flash fiction challenge this week is to write a three sentence scary story. Here’s my lame attempt:

Open Window

She awoke from a dead sleep because she had to pee and stumbled into the bathroom. Heavy breathing drew her attention to the open window where his face had replaced the screen. Before she could scream, his hand was around her throat and her last thought was, “How did he find me?”


So, did it scare you? Feel free to write your own three sentence story in the comments.

Have a great weekend and don’t forget – it’s almost NaNo time!


Power posing, body language what it tells us about ourselves

Over the weekend, I stumbled upon this TED talk by Social psychologist Amy Cuddy. She discusses how body language affects how others see us, which I thought was interesting.

But the truly relatable material for me was when she touched on how our body language affects how we see ourselves. In particular, when she relates her own personal story of feeling that she didn’t belong or deserve to be in an academic program I was touched to the point of tears.

I think we can all relate to that feeling of not belonging or deserving an opportunity and I’d urge anyone who has felt so, to watch the talk. You’ll be glad you did.


Meanwhile, I’m gearing up for NaNo!

Have a great week!


All NaNo All the Time


National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is quickly approaching and since I’m participating this year, it’s on my mind. So, I’ve gathered up some good posts that give tips, tricks and methods for surviving NaNo. If you want to join in the insanity, you can sign up here.

And now for the secrets of the NaNo universe:

The Glorious Insanity that is Nanowrimo

Getting Ready for NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo Prep: 30 Tips for Writing a Book in 30 Days

5 Tips for #NaNoWriMo I’ve Learned from My 464-Day Writing Streak

How to Survive NaNoWriMo: Tricks, Tools and Tips

And as a bonus I’ll throw in my tips:

  1. NaNo is not about completing a totally polished, ready for publication novel. It is about (at best) completing a first draft of a hopefully future totally polished, ready for publication novel.
  2. First drafts are butt ugly. They have typos, they have crude dialogue, undeveloped characters and subplots that meander and get lost in Cleveland. This is okay. This is how first drafts are.
  3. Editing, revising, and rewriting comes after NaNo
  4. Your competition is you and you alone, the other participants are not competing with you.
  5. There are no losers in NaNo. You give it your best shot, improve your discipline and resolve. If you  hit that 50,000 word mark. Bravo. If you hit something less, bravo! The win is in the words, not the count.
  6. Have fun. Challenge yourself. And who knows, you might end up with a butt ugly first draft that you can then skillfully mold into a great reading experience for total strangers who may even pay you money for the pleasure.

Have fun!