Wednesday, August 31, 2022

August ending; September beginnings.

The end of summer marks the beginning of fall, and the last Wednesday of the month is that time to look at what I've gotten done and what lies ahead. 

AUGUST accomplished:

Scattered Stones, the fourth (and perhaps final) in the McDonnell series has launched in paperback and e-book format! Just wow after 2 years of work! If you are interested in a review copy, please let me know.

  • Did you notice the updated Blog layout? Thanks to BookBrush for the new banner. Emma Kathryn was my delightful "Meet the Author" for August.
  • Posted 6 chapters of Mothers Don't Die to Vella for those who love mysteries delivered in serial form.
  • Reviewed 4 books this month. 
  • Worked on quilting projects.

What's next for SEPTEMBER? 

I wish I could give you a concrete plan. This morning at 6:15 am, I showed up for outpatient surgery on that darn right foot. The hardest part? Having to stay off my feet for about 2 weeks. Thank heavens I do have an angel of a hubby who promises to take care of me AND order pizza when we get bored with rice and veggies!

But I will be working on The Lost Sarcophagus, that art crime mystery set in Egypt. Mostly I'm intrigued just now by finding out more about the villain. What motivates him to take things that don't belong to him? Why art? Is it just money or something darker, something that motivates him to kill if he doesn't get what he wants? More research is needed! Interlibrary loan, here I come.

Best movie I've seen in a long, long time? Tuesdays are 'movie day' so last night, we saw Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen, a Journey, a Song

Really, words fail me, for Cohen not only wrote songs that reach our hearts, but his poetry challenges every hope or aspiration to be creative, to accept challenges and to celebrate this amazing gift of life. I hope you are able to see it. Here's a snippet from youtube.

May the beginning of fall bring inspiration and love!  

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Behind the Scenes: In Egypt . . . With A Lost Sarcophagus

 Now that Scattered Stones is out in the world, I'm turning to my art crime series to start writing the story that tells us what happens next to Sandra and Neil after The Seventh Tapestry!

Imagine my surprise to discover just over 20K already drafted on this new story. The Lost Sarcophagus has a working outline and snippets of scenes. In the past, I've been inspired by the hero's journey to organize my stories in a kind of quest to be more productive (and take less than three years to write a story!).

After reading through what I've got so far, I found my outlining a little hard to follow and somewhat ponderous. So, I did what many do. I jumped sideways and took an online podcast from Savannah Gilbo called "The Five Mistakes Most Fiction Writers Make and What To Do About It." Note: Savannah's website has many other resources for writers.

Here I was introduced to the difference between what bookstores use to sell books (commercial genres) and what readers expect (content genres). 

Wow! New concepts as I discovered my story is truly plot-driven and falls in the crime genre. Readers of mysteries have very strong expectations about 1) a sense of mystery and intrigue, 2) an early scene where a dead body is found, 3) scenes that help our hero uncover clues that lead to the murderer, and finally, 4) did my hero succeed in bringing the murderer to justice? These questions take me right back into my story in a very direct and compelling way.

So, just to let you know how much fun I'm having researching and drafting, here's a snippet from The Last Sarcophagus (forthcoming) to intrigue you! Neil and Sandra from The Seventh Tapestry have just arrived in Cairo -- on their honeymoon:

“April is a perfect time to visit. Cooler now.” The driver chuckled as he angled past the faded pink Egyptian Museum. “Maybe you go out to the pyramids? I know a guide.”

“We’ve already made arrangements through our travel agent, but thank you,” said Neil.

“I give you my card, just in case.” The driver pulled up with a flourish at the circular drive in front of the Royal Egyptian Hotel. An attendant in bright red at the entrance took charge of their luggage.

“This is pretty posh,” whispered Sandra. The elegant reception glittered with ornate crystal chandeliers, red carpets, and mirrors edged with gold filigree.

Neil leaned close to Sandra. “It is our honeymoon. You deserve pampering.” He nodded as he handed a tip to the attendant who helped bring their bags to their room.

“Not bad,” said Sandra. A large floral arrangement competed with a view of Cairo as dusk turned to night, and the Nile below glistened with lights. “These flowers are beautiful,” said Sandra as she leaned close to smell the white lilies cascading down the front of a large glass blue vase.

“Watch it.” Neil pulled Sandra away from the flowers. “What are these doing here? Don’t breathe deeply.”

Sandra stilled, shocked by Neil’s sudden movement. “What’s wrong?”

“Looks like that centerpiece is an Egyptian blue water lily. Could be either poisonous or psychedelic. It shouldn’t be here.”

“You mean it’s poisonous? That’s strange.”

“I’m calling downstairs.” Neil guided Sandra to the sofa near the floor to ceiling windows. “Just sit for a moment.” He grabbed his phone. “Reception? I need someone up to our suite right away. I have a problem with some flowers here. They look poisonous. Yes, thank you.” He turned to Sandra. “Someone will be here shortly, and they can just take them away – even if they are gorgeous.”

“Are you sure about this?”

“Yes.” Neil began pacing around their suite as he waited. “Something’s not right.”

Egyptian Blue Water Lily (Leandro Avelar on Wikipedia)

Thank you for reading my blog and following along this writing journey. Enjoy this end-of-summer blast of warmth, for September will be here before we know it!

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Meet the Author: Emma Kathryn

 I'm not sure when or how I first met Emma Kathryn. Somehow, I signed up for one of her newsletters, and her irrepressible and positive outlook on life snared me! So I wasn't surprised at all when I invited her to appear on my blog, Emma said yes! While we swelter throughout most of the US, know that Emma is happily living a cool life in Melbourne, Australia.

Readers seem to love pictures of pets. Do you have a pet picture? I’m afraid I don’t have a current pet picture, because I don’t have pets now. Not really suitable to have them where I live. But I will give you this one. This is me in 1988, aged 17, with my dear, beloved cat Sunny.

Sunny loved life, and he loved me. He had a beautiful, happy, positive personality. Just being around him, and hearing his cheery meow, always made me feel better! Whenever I came home from school, he’d come rushing to greet me. Such a strong character, so delightful and vivacious. My dear, dear friend, and in those difficult teenage years... my comfort and support. My saving grace.

How did you get started writing? How did you choose the genres you write? 
I’ve been writing ever since I could hold a pen. Just followed my natural urge to write from when I was a little girl. I’ve never stopped. I write romance, both mainstream and erotic, both historical and contemporary, simply because I was naturally drawn to it.

What is your favorite story you’ve written and why? Very hard to pick a favourite story. Just might be Her Virtue. It’s my sequel to Gaston Leroux’s novel The Phantom of the Opera. It’s not based on any stage musical or movie of the story. It’s a sequel to the actual novel.

I wrote it because the whole thing is very close to my heart. It was an emotional and indulgent experience writing it. But the novel has been a surprise success- indeed, my bestselling one to date. You don’t always expect such a personal novel to be a success, but it was.

How do you connect with readers? What would you like to know about your readers? I connect with my readers through my newsletters and one-on-one email exchanges. And I’m going to be appearing on Tiktok soon- watch out for me!

I always want to know if my writing makes my readers happy. That is what I am after.

Does being an Australian writer influence your stories and writing life? Are most of your fans from Australia? Not at all. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Australian people, but I am of English stock, and I’ve always felt, looked, and acted much more English than Australian. That’s just me.

Less than six per cent of my newsletter subscribers are Australian. A hefty slice are British, and a fair few are Canadian, but most are American. I’ve got awesome friends in America, too. Maybe I’m a child of the world.

What is your biggest challenge as a writer? How do you tackle this challenge?
My biggest challenge is anxiety. I just have to pace myself. When I sit down to write, I set a time frame when I’ll do nothing but write. And when I sit down to worry- ahem, work out problems- I set a time frame when I do nothing but that. Then I try and swear off worrying for the rest of the day!

What advice do you have for writers? To those who are just starting, and are not sure if they ought to be, I’ll say: own it. Everyone has a story to tell. You have as much right to do so as anybody.

To writers in general, my advice is always the old quote by Calvin Coolidge: “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”

Your website talks about your love of theater and your experiences as an actress and performer. In what ways does this inspire your writing?

You’d just need to look at my novels The Pathbreaker, Heart of a Thespian, A Song to Sing, and Her Virtue

The Pathbreaker focuses on an actress who works as an extra on a very popular tv show, like I did. In my case it was the legendary Australian soap opera “Neighbours.” Yet she has a much more fulfilling experience in fringe theatre and does a whole Melbourne Fringe Festival show from the ground up. Based very closely on my own, the story follows the adventure I had with the Melbourne Fringe Festival.

And then there’s Heart of a Thespian, where a young woman is first introduced to theatre. All the fun of it, and the first show jitters, and the larks, drama, tension and triumphs of being with a theatrical troupe- again, based closely on my own life.

A Song to Sing is actually Gilbert and Sullivan fan fiction! It’s inspired by the Gilbert and Sullivan show “The Yeomen of the Guard.” I am a big Gilbert and Sullivan buff, and yes, I’ve been in a number of their shows.

In Her Virtue, the heroine is a performer. The fact that I’ve done so many shows stood me in good stead to understand her experiences. I bring the classic characters of The Phantom and Christine to England in this book. So, it was a real pleasure to write about them performing Gilbert and Sullivan songs together at private soirees!

Thank you, Emma. And it was a real pleasure to welcome Emma today. I've read a few of Emma's books, most recently, The Pathbreaker, a moving story about a walk-on actress that goes well past the surface. Plot twists abound as Hannah, who has Asperger's, balances writing, acting, and the struggle to earn her way in a world that doesn't easily accept her.

For more about Emma Kathryn, visit her blog: or check out Emma on TikTok as Dimity Mae Moon.

Have a great week! See you next Wednesday!

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Behind the Scenes: In Edinburgh!

As I begin work on the sequel to The Seventh Tapestry, my first art crimes mystery, I started by rereading The Seventh Tapestry and taking notes. OK, I was disappointed to find a typo (soon to be fixed), and I'm not sure I like the cover, but I was drawn into Sandra and Neil's story -- how they met, how the thefts at the Museum of Medieval Art brought Sandra into danger, and how beautifully the Lion and the Unicorn tapestries were at the heart of this mystery.

Chapter 5 reintroduced me to Lady Stairs Close and that apartment where we stayed for a month a few years back, some five stories above the inner courtyard, just next to The Writers' Museum. Each afternoon, rain or shine (and it does rain in Edinburgh), we could watch people visit this lovely museum, paying homage to Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson. 

Of course, our apartment became Sandra's apartment in The Seventh Tapestry.

The view from our apartment in Edinburgh,
just off Lawnmarket.

The Castle at Edinburgh,
a short walk up the Royal Mile

Just like Sandra and Neil, we wandered through the halls of Edinburgh Castle, saw stone walls covered with tapestries and met with weavers working on a replica of the Hunt for the Unicorn (originals at the Cloisters just outside of New York). Did I tell you that The Seventh Tapestry was inspired by our visit to Cluny in Paris, where we spent hours admiring the six tapestries that make up the Lion and the Unicorn series?

"Sight" from the Lion and the Unicorn set of tapestries, 
Cluny Museum, Paris.

So this morning, when I pulled out my travel journals for Edinburgh, Paris, and Egypt, and a thick, 3-ring binder dubbed 'Art Crimes Bible,' another surprise awaited. I haven't looked at this wip since last June and deep in revisions of Scattered Stones (1840s Scotland), somehow forgot that I have nearly 50 pages of a draft of this new story set in Egypt, single-spaced! Now, my work truly begins!

May the rest of August bring you a few cool days, good times with family and friends, and a bit of a read.

  Scattered Stones, perhaps the last in the Stones series, awaits you! Let me know what you think.

Monday, August 08, 2022

IWSG August 3: I'm late, I'm late!

Alice in Wonderland, down the rabbit hole! I'm late. I'm late!

Sorry guys. On August 3, the date I should have posted, we were recovering from a 400-mile driving day home from Vancouver, Canada.

Every month, the Insecure Writer's Study Group announces a question that members can answer in their IWSG post. These prompts may lead us to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. 

Here's IWSG's August 3 question: When you set out to write a story, do you try to be more original or do you try to give readers what they want?

I'm not sure at all how to answer this month's question because when I begin to write a story, I'm thinking of the characters or the setting, maybe the genre, and wondering where this story will take me. 

I do care about readers, but the big question for me is given where my characters are, what happens next?

Sometimes travel plays a role. I already know my next project is set in Egypt. Not that we can go now, but we did spend a month in Egypt a while back, traveling down the Nile, exploring the pyramids (we even walked underneath one, looking up to see misshapen blocks that weighed tons above us). Have you ever been accosted by a merchant selling silk rugs who invites you into his shop for tea? Or gotten lost wandering through an open air market where English is not spoken at all? Or spent hours and days at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, a treasure house of art and culture?

I like to write series. This gives me a chance to know my characters more deeply with each story. So, my first art crime mystery, The Seventh Tapestry, will now take Sandra and Neil to Egypt! It's time to get my journals out, gather my research together, and start dreaming and drafting. Prepare to hold your breath for a few years, for even with outlining and a sense of direction, writing takes time!

Now to share some good news: Scattered Stones, the latest in my 1840s Scottish series, is live! After nearly three years of writing, I finished the formatting, both e-book and paperback. You can catch up on Moira and Dylan's story HERE and celebrate with me!

Special thanks to co-hosts for IWSG's August posting go to: Tara Tyler, Lisa Buie Collard, Loni Townsend, and Lee Lowery!

What is IWSG? To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting for IWSG: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer - aim for a dozen new people each time - and return comments. 

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!

Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG.

Saturday, August 06, 2022

E-Book Launch: Scattered Stones

Outside, one of the cooler days is predicted for the coming week, and the temps are headed for the upper 90s. Inside, if I were working with pen and paper, scraps and notes would litter my desk and the floor! 

Scattered Stones is out in ebook format, reviews are starting to come in, and now I'm chiseling my way through formatting to complete the paperback. It's been a busy two mornings, thanks to Amazon's document template and three pages of guidelines. 

You might suggest that readers don't care about typos, extra blank lines or pages, or even unexpected shifts in font or font size. They do. Yes, I could pay someone else to do this formatting. After all, I'm already thinking about that next story. But, I'm a frugal indie writer -- and stubborn. Otherwise, I wouldn't get anything done at all! You can expect the paperback version to go live in about another week. That is IF I can master making the cover. Wish me good fortune on that one.

We're still settling back home after being on vacation with friends in Vancouver, B.C. Yesterday afternoon, we ran errands, and I got to go thrifting, on the hunt for shorts and tops to wear at home for the next few weeks of August's brutal hot weather. Trust me, I found this outrageous pair of turquoise baggy shorts I will never wear anywhere but at home. Comfort! 

Smoothies and fresh fruit await for the grandkids who come tomorrow morning for breakfast. What could be sweeter? 

Did you know that leaving a review is the BEST WAY to let others know when you like a book? And that reviews encourage writers? If you read Scattered Stones and leave a review, know that your efforts will be deeply appreciated.

Have a wonderful August!