Monday, December 31, 2007

THE STALKER 2B (Dickens Challenge)

2B.

Lourdes frowned. “Is that good or bad? I can’t tell.”

“Bad. At least we know where Buchanan is and what he’s capable of, but I have no idea what ever happened to this guy.” Mason jerked his chin at the mall entrance. A muscle jumped in his jaw. “He ruined my career once. He’s not going to do it twice.”

“Well, then.” Lourdes sighed wearily. “Let’s go back to the office so I can clock out, thank you very much, while you boys figure out a game plan.”

They turned back towards their vehicles, each black, each marked with the Security Solutions logo and reflective striping. The golf cart Mason and Ben had driven from their office suite across the street looked every bit as sporty and sleek as the four-wheel drive SUV Lourdes had to patrol their commercials sites during the night.

Lourdes waved as she drove off, leaving Mason and Ben to take one last look at the graffiti spray painted across mall’s entrance. Already the parking lot was filling with shoppers and their curious glances.

“So, we’re talking Gryzbowski? Krusinski? Whatever his name was?”

“Krukowski. Yes.” Captain Thomas Krukowski, last assigned to 3rd Battalion of the Army’s 75th Infantry, the Ranger Regiment out of Fort Benning, Georgia. Mason hadn’t seen or heard of the man in five years. He was surprised Ben remembered. They hadn’t exactly discussed the end of Mason’s military career in great detail. Slugging an officer, even in self-defense, wasn’t something Mason was proud of. And although his command had offered him an honorable discharge, in the end he’d only accepted to save his friends from the witch hunt that followed his altercation with Krukowski.

“You think he could be here?”

“Not with the Rangers, no.” The vast majority of the many active-duty military personnel stationed on Guam belonged to the Navy, the Air Force and the Coast Guard, but that didn’t mean Krukowski wasn’t visiting—in personal or professional capacity—or hadn’t retired here.

“But you’re thinking it’s him, not The Smile.”

Mason nodded. Paying a couple of kids to spray paint slurs on buildings was just the underhanded kind of thing Krukowski would do. James “The Smile” Buchanan acted on a larger scale entirely, which didn’t mean he wouldn’t take advantage of the fallout that was sure to rain down on Security Solutions after eight cases of criminal property damage in one morning.

Mason steered their golf cart into the parking lot in the front of the office building that housed their office suite and groaned when he saw the KUAM-TV news van next to the black-and-white police cruiser that was still there from earlier. He looked over at his partner. Just forty, Ben’s dark hair and goatee were already shot through with silver. Glasses perched on his nose. He wore the pinched expression of someone suffering from acute acid reflux.

“It could be worse.”

“How so?”

“They could be looking for skeletons in your closet.”

Ben rolled his eyes. “Fat chance.” A grin tugged on the corners of his mouth. “Unlike you, I have an excellent housekeeper, and according to her nothing in mine, hers or our closet.”

Ben stepped out of the cart. “So, let’s go in and do what that bossy woman of yours suggested, find this Krusinski character and kick his ass.”

“Krukowski. What’s the time difference to Georgia?”

“Fourteen hours. Fifteen hours.” Ben shrugged. “They’re still yesterday, that I’m sure of.” He yanked the office building’s front door open and pointed. “Lead the way.”



***


I wanted to have 2b and 3 ready for today, but time got away from me. Darn holidays :-) Chapter 3 almost made it. I’m not sure yet if I’ll save it for next Monday and post it first thing in the new year.


May 2008 be the most amazing year yet!

Monday, December 24, 2007

THE STALKER 2 (Dickens Challenge)

2.

“My father would turn in his grave.” Benicio Marques, Security Solutions’ general manager, stood under a cluster of palm trees strung with Christmas lights and frowned up at the space above the Tumon Bay Mall’s main entrance. There, wedged between Welcome to Micronesia’s Largest Mall and a row of illuminated wreaths, the red-and-green Pickle Kisser almost managed to blend into the festive color scheme.

“Your father turned in his grave a long time ago.” Mason stared at the red penis towering over the glass doors. He was pretty sure Ben’s father would have reconsidered leaving his security company to his oldest son if he’d known Ben would ask Mason to join him as a business partner.

After his separation from the Army, Mason had taken his specialized skills to Malaysia, becoming a casino and hotel security manager. When Ben, his boyhood friend, had gotten in touch with him he’d been ready to return home to Guam. It hadn’t taken much effort on Ben’s part to convince Mason to help him with his father’s small security company, a business on the verge of bankruptcy.

Months later, they’d founded Security Solutions. Whereas Ben’s father had provided monitoring systems, Mason and Ben offered uniformed guard services. Today, their employees protected small businesses, industrial buildings, and a few of the many hotels. They patrolled the grounds of the University, kept library visitors quiet, and roamed the mall during business hours. Occasionally they dealt with graffiti.

“If you squint just right, it almost looks like a candy cane.” Lourdes, dressed like Mason in black cargo pants and a black Security Solutions polo, narrowed her eyes at the defaced façade and snorted. “Pickle kisser, can’t say I’ve heard that before.”

“I have.”

“Well, that’s good then.”

Mason hiked a brow at his nightshift supervisor. Ben gaped at the woman.

Lourdes shrugged. “I’m assuming you have the number of the asshole who called you that. So let’s give him a call and see what he did at 5 o’clock this morning.”

“Please tell me it wasn’t The Smile who called you that,” Ben said before his friend had a chance to answer. “I’ve just started going to bed without thoughts of that man ruining us.”

Lourdes’s dark head swiveled in Mason’s direction. “The evil father-in-law? It’s that time of year, you know. In-laws and holidays are never a good combination.”

“He’s bad news any day of the year,” Ben grumbled.

“It wasn’t Buchanan.” Like Ben, Mason still expected reprisal where James “The Smile” Buchanan was concerned. The four months since the events that had made them public enemies had done nothing to assuage Mason’s dislike of the man.

Lourdes frowned. “Is that good or bad? I can’t tell.”

“Bad. At least we know where Buchanan is and what he’s capable of, but I have no idea what ever happened to this guy.” Mason jerked his chin at the mall entrance. A muscle jumped in his jaw. “He ruined my career once. He’s not going to do it twice.”


[I am so very, very glad that I know this is only a first draft and word count will exponentially increase with each subsequent draft.]

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Guam in the palm of my hand

So I went to the post office yesterday. My dear husband had not mailed his Christmas packages yet and it fell on me to see them off. I don’t consider standing in line at the post office my wifely duty, so there was some mild begging involved. (I will add the time spent there to the time spent in line waiting for his Pro Bowl tickets and then hope that my Christmas and/or birthday present shows his appreciation.)

I had to get stamps to mail Christmas cards overseas and what did I get? These pretty little stamps with palm trees, a sunset and a sliver of beach and the tiniest words on the bottom, “Hagatna Bay, Guam.” How cool is that?!

It’s not like I come across references to Guam on a daily basis, so whenever I do see something I take it as a sign of my impending success. (Which is also why I was excited about Survivor visiting Micronesia again.)


Life is so exciting right now … I love it.

Monday, December 17, 2007

THE STALKER 1 (Dickens Challenge)

1.

Mason Ward’s cell phone buzzed to life on the built-in shelf next to his bed. Instantly awake, Mason grabbed it before it could wake the young man sleeping next to him. “Ward,” he grumbled. He didn’t have to be polite; according to his phone’s display it was 4:30 in the morning.

Silence greeted him.

Mason disconnected and dropped back onto his pillow. The air drifting in through the open ports over the bed was thick with the scent of Pacific and the relative chill of December. He inhaled deeply, resigned to the fact that he was now awake. Damn crank calls. He knew if he scrolled through his incoming calls, he’d find a local number that would eventually turn out to be a payphone. He hadn’t kept track of the first few calls, had barely even registered the hang-ups, but the last half dozen had come from different locations. Someone sure went to a lot of trouble to annoy him.

He eased out from under the sheet and swung his long legs over the edge of the bed. His lover didn’t stir; the redhead had only just joined Mason in bed an hour ago.

In the near dark of pre-dawn—the sun wouldn’t rise for another two hours—Mason pulled on his workout shorts and left the stateroom. He headed to the galley, dropped his cursed cell phone on the counter, got himself some a glass of milk, and went about his usual morning routine.

He hadn’t been an Army Ranger in five years, but he still exercised like one. Pushups. Situps. Chinups. Then the run. He walked down the long pier that separated his 58-foot Alaskan-style trawler from dry land, hung a right out of the marina’s gate and headed south on Route 2, past Nimitz Beach Park. It was too early and too dark still for anyone else to be on the road, even the roving bands of wild pig that usually foraged in the underbrush to either side of the road were still sleeping.

But the exercise didn’t have its usual calming effect on Mason. He couldn’t shake the feeling that there was more to these crank calls than the wish to annoy him. Since he was on call 24/7, he didn’t even have the luxury to ignore his phone. He returned to the marina no closer to figuring out his problem and drenched in sweat.

His trawler had a bathroom, of course, but Mason preferred to shower in the marina’s men’s locker room. It had taken him, his friend Ben and the cabinetmaker two years to gut, restore and reconfigure The Sea Sprite to Mason’s needs, but there was only so much room on a boat and he hadn’t allocated much to his bathroom. As much as he loved living on his boat—a lifestyle he’d chosen with some purpose—it was far more practical for him to use the facilities the marina offered. And so he kept toiletries and a set of work clothes in his assigned locker.

By the time he stepped out of the shower, he had a short mental list of people who hated his guts enough to get up at 4:30 in the morning and call him. He slung a towel around his hips and dragged another through his hair. He pulled on a black pair of briefs and dragged black cargo pants up over his hips, then opened the locker room door to let the steam and hot air escape into the early morning. He turned back and went to grab his black polo shirt from his locker, when a feminine voice intruded on his privacy.

“I bet even your sheets are black.”

Mason turned to find a young woman standing in the door. She was a foot shorter than his six-four, with square, bony shoulders and sharp-edged clavicles that were in stark contrast to the full roundness of her ample breasts. Her sun-bleached hair hung in a loose ponytail down her back. Her yellow tank top and jean shorts left more exposed than they covered. She leaned back against the open door that clearly said Men’s on it and smiled.

“Is there something I can help you with?”

Mason’s brusque manner didn’t faze her, if anything her smile widened. She pulled her ponytail over her shoulder. “Hi. I’m kinda new here and I have no idea where anything is. Where do I go for a good cup of coffee around here?”

Mason thought of the man sleeping in his bed. Soren would know down to the yard where the nearest coffee shop was. Soren would also get a kick out of this girl coming on to Mason.

“There’s a gas station with a convenience store up the road.”

“Not what I had in mind, but it’ll do.” She gave him a pretty pout. “I’m Halley. Like the comet. I’m on The Pacific Sun.” She jerked her chin in the directions of the piers.

Mason knew the boat. The 32-foot Pearson Vanguard was a classic little sailboat, but sadly unused these days. He wasn’t sure but he thought he’d heard that she was for sale.

“Mrs. Maria said I could stay on it, her, for a few days. You know, until after the holidays, and I can get into the dorms.”

Mason arched his dark brows. He didn’t think the barely-dressed Halley and the retired Catholic School teacher Maria San Nicholas moved in the same circles. This girl wouldn’t be the first squatter the marina had seen.

His skepticism must have been apparent, because Halley quickly added, “Mrs. Maria is sponsoring me, you could say. We met through the National Student Exchange. I’m studying to become a Spanish teacher. Did you know she taught High School Spanish for twenty-five years?”

He’d had an idea. “You’re at the U of G?”

“Sophomore.” Halley beamed and reached for her ponytail again. “I guess I better get going. I really need that coffee. Nice meeting you, Mason.” She gave him a little wave and trotted off.

Mason caught her use of his first name and shook his head. He’d give her a couple of days or so to figure out he wasn’t in the market for a girlfriend. In the meantime, he’d give Mrs. San Nicholas a call to check out Halley’s story.

He returned to The Sea Sprite to find a cup of steaming brown rice tea and a note scrawled on the back of an envelope on the galley counter next to his phone. Call work ASAP. The tea made him smile. The note made him cringe.

He snatched up his phone and hit speed dial. He took the steps that led down from the galley to the narrow companionway that he followed to the bow of the Sprite. He gently pushed the door to the master stateroom open to see if his lover was still awake, but Soren was sleeping again, sprawled across green, pinstriped sheets.

When Lourdes Nakamura, Mason’s nightshift supervisor, answered her phone, Mason stepped back into the dark companionway. “You called?”

“Boss. We’ve got trouble.”

Mason groaned and dragged a hand through his short hair. It was barely even Monday and already his day didn’t look so good “What’s up?”

“Graffiti. Damnedest thing I’ve ever seen.”

Graffiti didn’t sound like something Lourdes couldn’t handle. The ex-Marine had been a bouncer in some of Guam’s rowdiest nightclubs before Mason had offered her a job on his staff. She was as capable as they came. Mason frowned.

“It’s all over the mall. And when I say all over, I mean all over. Check your phone, I’ve sent pictures.”

Mason thumbed through his phone’s menu and called up incoming files. “Christ.”

“So not the first word that came to my mind,” Lourdes admitted, a wry tone to her voice.

Mason felt like the Sea Sprite was suddenly pitching and rolling under his feet. He reached out a hand to steady himself as he scrolled through the files in his phone with the other. His stomach sank with each consecutive picture. Lourdes hadn’t exaggerated when she’d said “all over.” What little undecorated surface of the Tumon Bay Mall there had been was now covered with the rainbow-colored words “Pickle Kisser” next to the very grotesque rendering of a penis.

“I got the call around 4:30. I sent the mobile guys to check it out. It’s not just the mall. It’s all over the library on O’Brian Drive, the Tamuning post office, John F. Kennedy High School, and up and down Skinner Plaza. It’s not a random prank, is it?”

“No.” Mason wished it was, but he didn’t believe in coincidences of that magnitude. He stared at his phone, absently noting that each act of vandalism must have been committed by a different person. The slur was the same in every picture, but the handwriting was different, some words printed, some cursive, letters slanted left or right, some capitalized, some not. The penis spray-painted next to the words looked similar in each picture, though, as if the artists had worked from a template.

Mason went over the last few weeks of his life, trying to remember anything he might have done to provoke the wrath/contempt of a man he hadn’t seen in five years. He’d heard his fair share of whispered “fag” or “faggot,” but he’d never heard anyone else call him “pickle kisser” before or after Captain Tom Krukowski, the man who’d ended his military career.

But what reason would Krukowski have to come after him all these years later? The way he saw it, Mason had all the right in the world to carry a grudge. Krukowski’s witch hunt had almost cost him an honorable discharge from the military. Only timing had saved what very little had remained of his good name.

“Boss? You’re awfully quiet over there.”

“Just thinking.” Mason’s short list of enemies hadn’t even included Krukowski. Thirty minutes ago the man hadn’t been more than a distant, bad memory. Now he was what he had never wanted to be: the focus of Mason’s attention.

“Can you think while you drive?”

“I’m on my way.”

“Bring air freshener. Your life just got flushed down the toilet. The cops are here.”

The Dickens Challenge Begins

I'm "stealing" this post from Tim Hallinan's blog The Blog Cabin:

The Dickens Challenge has officially begun. For those of you who haven’t been following this thread, several brave writers (including me) have committed to emulate Charles Dickens, publishing a chapter at a time when they haven’t the faintest idea where they’re going next. (Well, they probably have an idea, but they/we all wish it were a more specific idea.)

Here are the writers, with links to their stories. I hope you’ll read them and drop a line in appreciation of their bravery and talent, if not their judgment.

John Dishon, newly married and newly out of college, is a beginning novelist with special interests in Asian culture and literature, who sees the Challenge as a way of getting one of his ideas for a novel out of his head and into written form. His book will begin Monday, December 17. It’s called Country Snow and it can be found at
www.johndishon.com

Nadja (NL Gassert) is working on the second book in her gay romantic suspense series set on lush, tropical Guam: When a vengeful STALKER seeks to punish Mason Ward for the sins of his past—and present—the security specialist needs to fight to save himself and those closest to him. Nadja will begin to post on Monday, December 17 and you can read her at
http://write-experience.blogspot.com/

Timothy Hallinan is a novelist who lives in Los Angeles and Bangkok, Thailand. The Fourth Watcher, which is the next novel in his Bangkok series, will be published in June 2008 by William Morrow. (The first, A Nail Through the Heart, is out now.) His Challenge book, Counterclockwise, will start Monday, December 17 at
http://www.timothyhallinan.com/blog/

Steve Wylder is an Amtrak ticket agent and freelance writer living in Elkhart, Indiana and Bloomington, Illinois. His most recent published work is “Time Passages: Reflections on the Last Train Home,” in Remember the Rock Magazine. His contribution to the Dickens Challenge is tentatively titled “Things Done and Left Undone” and will begin Monday, December 17 at :
http://ontheslowtrain.blogspot.com/

Lisa Kenney is a telecommunications industry account executive and beginning novelist who lives in Denver. She’s tackling the Challenge with a Dickensian themed story with the working title Foundling Wheel and will begin posting excerpts Monday at
Eudaemonia. Lisa, bless her brave soul, will begin to post on Monday, December 17.

Wendy Ledger has an M.A. in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University, and has taught there as a lecturer of introductory writing. Her work has been published in the San Francisco Chronicle, The East Bay Express, and Music for the Love of It. She has two blogs,
http://crookedtune.blogspot.com and http://weledger.typepad.com/pomegranate. Her contribution to the Dickens Challenge, “The Untitled Leap,” will be posted at http://weledger.typepad.com/pomegranate, starting Monday, December 17th.

Usman is a businessman and writer who lives in Pakistan and has recently completed a book, which is now in revision. His work for the Challenge will be a mystery/thriller for which he’s still gathering ideas. (Welcome to the club.) It’s not titled yet but when he publishes, beginning around January 1, 2008, it’ll be at
http://reality967.livejournal.com

And John Dishon has created a site that brings all of the stories together, to make it easier for you (although I’m sure most of the writers hope you’ll also drop by their own sites.) The URL is www.johndishon.com/test

Thursday, December 13, 2007

THE PROTECTOR rankings

I love amazon.com and all the good people who are interested in THE PROTECTOR. Thank you so much for making this an extra special holiday season for me. You guys rock!

No. 2 in Books > Gay Mystery & Thrillers

No. 9 in Books > Gay Romance
No. 39 in Books > Gay Fiction

Oh, just so you know, you don't have to buy the book on amazon for me to love you. If there is an independent bookstore in your area, support it by ordering THE PROTECTOR through them. I will autograph it no matter where you bought it. Just drop me a line and we'll figure that out.


Mahalo.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Pisces 2008

Too funny. I just saw this prediction for 2008:

Travel:
The position of Rahu planet may result in your undergoing a long and distant journey this year.

Rahu must know that I am moving. Or wait, maybe I'm just going on a vacation? Seeing how I live on an island, any vacation away from here involves a long and distant journey. Ideally, I'd love to go back home to Germany to attend my brother's wedding. Oh, and my 20th High School reunion.


This also works for me:

Wealth, Career and Business:
As far as the matters of wealth, career and business are concerned, 2008 will be very lucky for Pisces. This time will be just perfect for happiness, success and prosperity. The favorable position of Rahu planet will result in an increase in your social standing and respect in the society. In case of businessmen, there are chances of receiving sudden gains. Your enemies will be scared of you and your sources of income will increase.

Sweet. I’m looking forward to 2008 already.

The Dickens Challenge

Timothy Hallinan had a great idea: write a novel by the seat of your pants and post chapters weekly. The Dickens Challenge is just what I needed. Sign me up.

Look for the first chapter of THE STALKER right here on this blog next week. Since I scrapped almost the entire stuff I'd done before, I'm basically starting from scratch. So, no, I'm not cheating.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

THE PROTECTOR on amazon

How super exciting is this: on amazon.com, THE PROTECTOR was #13 on the gay mysteries & thrillers list and #51 in the gay romance category. People are buying my book.

I probably shouldn’t sound so surprised :-)

I know that a number of you have asked for an autographed copy. Let me just throw this out there: if you’ve preorder a book (and waited and waited and waited), I’ll be glad to sign it for you. In fact, I’d be honored to sign it for you.

If you’re interested, leave me a comment or send me an e-mail.

About leaving and getting there …


I understand there are people who’ve never had to organize a move across state lines :-) Sweet. This is my second Pacific crossing. I’ve also moved across the Atlantic once and from the Northeast to the South once.

If you think that moving with the military is easy, because they organize everything for you, you are mistaken. Yes, they will come and pack up our stuff. And yes, they will unpack at the destination. Sure, they will book tickets, but it’s never in your best interest to just let them do that (they have fundamental issues with the whole “straight line is the shortest route” phenomenon).

It looks like we’ll be leaving Hawaii in June, immediately after the kids are done with school. We’ll visit the in-laws on the East Coast for a short time and get to Kansas in time for school to start in August.

[This is a total bummer. My brother’s wedding and my 20th High School reunion are in the same week we need to be in Kansas.]

We’ll have to do all this flying and moving with two cats who need shots and health certificates and the right kind of weather to be permitted to take-off and land. I haven’t checked yet, but I’m sure the major airlines still have those stupid heat restrictions, which are a major pain in the butt if you have to move in the summer. We’ll also have to find lodging in Kansas that allows us to bring our animals (fat chance). Then we’ll be living in a hotel until we can find a house to rent AND until our household goods arrive from Hawaii.

[Before we leave Hawaii, we’ll have to set up meetings with Kansas realtors and landlords to start house hunting as soon as we get there. This is always a challenge: “can you not come into the office to sign this paperwork?”]

We’ll have to time the first shipment of household goods so that it arrives when we do. Mostly those are things we need immediately (which makes it difficult to live without them when you send them ahead eight to ten weeks in advance). The second shipment won’t leave Hawaii before we do, which means it will arrive in Kansas way, way after we do (mostly that’s all the furniture and the rest of the junk we own).

We’ll have to send the car ahead to make sure it will be there when we get there. As of right now I have no idea if the car is shipped all the way to Kansas or if the military will only ship it to the nearest port (LA or San Diego). While the car is en route, we’re either going to have to live with one car (the husband’s) or rent one. I hate to spend money on a rental car, but it will be difficult to do all the last minute stuff with just one car.

We’ll have to register the kids in school (hoping to get them in the right school district near our future residence). Of all the things that need to be done, this is the least complicated. I can have the Kansas Department of Education send me all the necessary forms, have everything filled out and done here and send it back to Kansas in time for official registration. This way I don’t have to worry about it when we first get there. Piece of cake.

We’ll have to reserve all lodging and air travel right after Christmas, because pet space is very limited and everyone’s moving in the summer. This can get surprisingly complicated. Why do they care how much my cat weighs?

[To make things easier on the kids we usually mail their favorite toys and things (whatever doesn’t fit in the suitcase they’re going to live out of) to the hotel. I think we mailed every single Barbie we owned the last time. This time we’re probably mailing fifty My Little Petshop pets and every single firetruck we own.]

Moving with the military is a challenging undertaking. It’s very frustrating, because the military hasn’t figured out yet that *I* am the one who makes all the phone calls and arrangements—they insists on talking to my husband, thinking he’s in charge! I have to be officially sanctioned to do stuff or in other words, we’re going to have to make sure I have half a dozen powers of attorney.

Boy, but I do love to move …

Friday, November 30, 2007

Orders!

We seem to have come down on orders. This time next year we could be in Fort Riley, Kansas. I say “seem to have come down,” because it’s very early still for orders, and in my experience that means they can and will change.

We’re trading dolphins, whales and lizards for bald eagles, wolves and elk.

I love my book cover

I admit it: I was worried. What if I didn’t like my book cover? I was afraid of oversized nipples on pecs the size of watermelons and bulging prison-gym muscles. So when the cover came in, I was nervous. To appreciate my nervousness you need to know that authors don’t have a lot of say where their covers are concerned; that’s not in our realm of responsibility and thus we’re at the mercy of our publishers and cover artists.

I am happy to report I love my cover, and I totally didn’t notice the nipple :-)

I love the minimalism. Two men and a gun. Bam. I’d like to think that’s a visual expression of my writing style, but that’s reading too much into it. The blurred background is awesome, and I’m almost certain that’s a fan palm in the mid-to-upper left corner. You need to squint or look at a high res image to see it.

I love the guys. Are they fit, or what? I like how the eye just zeroes in on them (great use of highlights). I saw the cover before there was hair on the arms and chest; I like it so much better with this finishing touch (genius). I love the gun. And the bracelet and wristband (so much so I might add the accessory to the next novel). There’s no knife in the story, but I really like it strapped to Mason’s waist.

I think the touch of red in the windblown hair is great. I really only had one (unofficial) stipulation when it came to the cover: I wanted red hair. On the perfect cover, the hair would have been longer, but I’m certainly not losing any sleep over that; I’m too happy with the rest of it.

I wasn’t a fan of the yellow at first, but I think it does make the title and name pop right off the cover and after a week of staring at it (wearing a very goofy grin, I might add), I really like it. It works very well with the blue-green tint, and I think it will work well on a bookstore shelf.

I know I’m beginning to repeat myself, but I really, really like my cover. Publisher Ken Harrison and cover artist Aman Chaudhary did a great job.

What do you think?

Thursday, November 22, 2007

What I am thankful for

Family. I love my family, but there is a reason we live on different continents. If you did not know, I am an Adult Child of an Alcoholic or ACOA, which means I grew up in a dysfunctional home and I have a sometimes dysfunctional world view. By the way, if you research this, you will also come across clues as to why I am so much more interested in the male psyche (and thus, why I became a writer of gay fiction).

This year, my parents came to stay with us on Hawaii for a few weeks. We had a good time. We spoke about my book, of course. My parents never encouraged or supported my writing, but they are immensely proud of what I have accomplished. The fact that I wrote a gay book added a certain oddity factor, but it was generally a non-issue. When my brother and his fiancée came to visit, it was the same story. My brother wasn't nearly as impressed by my literary accomplishments as I thought he should have been, but again the gay nature of the book was a non-issue.

I am most thankful for my husband, though. He works for a very homophobic outfit (the Army, anyone?), but he has no problem telling his friends and whoever else wants to know that his wife writes gay fiction. Like most heterosexual men without gay influences in their life, he's not entirely comfortable with all the gayness in my life, but he is very proud of me nonetheless. And that makes his support and love even sweeter.

My kids. They are great. They think I'm a bit confused about the gay issue ("boys don't kiss boys"), but I'm wearing them down.

My family-in-law. They knew I was a bit odd from the beginning, but they still welcomed me in their family. And today, I count them among my supporters.

Friends. I have great friends. I'm an easy friend to make, but not an easy friend to keep. My nomadic lifestyle means I don't have a lot of face-to-face time with my friends, but most of them stick around anyway.

I am most thankful for my friend Sheri. We met in 1986. I was looking for an American pen pal and Sheri replied to my request. Boy, we were still in High School back then. Our lives mirrored each other for a while. We went to college, got married, had kids—today Sheri is a homeschooling mom to five wonderful kids. She's also a very strict Catholic and no fan of all the gayness in my life. Yet she remains a loyal friend and I love her for it.

Health. This last year was tough. I battled depression, dealt with an increase in fibromyalgia flare-ups and noticed a worsening of my insomnia. None of those issues did anything to alleviate my chronic fatigue and on some days just getting out of bed was an issue.

Fibromyalgia is a condition of chronic pain in the muscles, joints and bones. It is also the source of my insomnia or what experts call alpha-delta sleep (in which "deep sleep is frequently interrupted by burst of brain activity similar to wakefulness" and "deeper stages of sleep are often dramatically reduced"). To make matters worse, fibromyalgia is also associated with fibrofog or brain fog, a cognitive dysfunction, "characterized by impaired concentration and short-term memory consolidation, impaired speed of performance, inability to multi-task, and cognitive overload."

So my health isn't great, and I don't feel great. I struggle, because what I most love to do in life—write—has been made difficult by all this. Still, I am thankful, because, boy, it could be so much worse (and I'm not dying from it).

To sum this up, I am very thankful for all the people in my life who love and support me. The majority of the people in my life are tolerant and supportive of the GLBT community, but I am also very aware of the friends and acquaintances I have without any connection to or knowledge of the GLBT community. I am thankful for those, because even though they might be uncomfortable with my choices, they stick around. And in the end, I will wear them all down …

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

NaNoWriMo

It's that time of year: NaNoWriMo. November is National Novel Writing Month. The idea is to produce 50,000 words in 30 days. If you write 1,667 words a day, every day, you'll reach the goal. If you take weekends off, you'll have to write 2273 words on every remaining day.

Let's put that into context: I would have to write a chapter a day to reach the finish line. When I worked on THE PROTECTOR, I wrote a chapter a week. Ouch.

I'm not a fast writer. I'm not a "write now, revise later" writer. I'm a "agonize over the right words in one sentence until it's perfect and I can move on to the next sentence" writer. I draft and revise paragraph by paragraph. That takes its time.

BUT I expected to have a finished novel by the end of the year, and the end of the year is only 61 days away. Crap! If I produce just around 1000 words a day—no taking weekends or holidays off—I can still make my deadline, with plenty of stuff to edit and revise (i.e. delete). Hmm …

I won't sign up for NaNoWriMo officially, I think, but I'll do my darndest to work toward those 50,000 words in November.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Names

I’ve finally baptized my villain. Her name is Halley. Like the comet. Her official classification is vengeful stalker. She’s off her rocker.

I went through a number of names, but didn’t find one I really liked. I perused the Social Security’s Most Popular lists (for the 1980s) and consulted my Baby Names For The New Millenium book, but nothing I picked had that special feel to it. Names starting with S were out of the question (too many of those already) and nothing Spanish would work (too common on Guam). Eventually, out of desperation, and because I felt the strong urge to procrastinate, I browsed those It Happened The Year You Were Born sites. And voila, Halley, the comet (early 1986).

Halley is perfect. It’s not run of the mill (I think) and somewhat memorable, especially when paired with “you know, like the comet.” It fits the person I see in my mind.

I like naming characters. And of course, I completely over-research. Some characters are “born” with their names, some go through a few of them before I find the right one. In most cases, I have a name before I have a character. On one occasion I named a character after a person I actually know (Stoney), once I went with the suggestion of a friend (Ben, which is short for Benicio) and Halley’s last name came from a street sign (Krukowski).

I’ve had a number of discussions and e-mail exchanges about the correct spelling of Soren’s name. He has an umlaut in his name (you know, the pair of dots above a vowel). I compromised; his American passport has the Americanized spelling, while his Swedish passport shows the umlaut (not entirely realistic, but, hey, it’s fiction).

In other words: names are fun. And Halley is going to be a great villain.

more advance praise for THE PROTECTOR

The Protector delivers engaging characters, a fast-moving plot, and some very steamy love scenes. NL Gassert has crafted an exciting and entertaining romance that builds suspense and erotic tension with every turn of the page. Take it to bed … and plan on staying up. –Charles Casillo, author of The Fame Game

Friday, September 21, 2007

THE PROTECTOR reviews are in

Two of my advance reviews have arrived, and I am so thrilled:

Sexy, sizzling—and sweet! NL Gassert manages to combine the tenderness of first love with thrilling action in The Protector. The tropical setting on Guam is fresh and beautifully evoked, and the engaging characters of Mason and Soren will keep readers turning the pages, rooting for these lovers against tropical storms and terrorist agents.—Neil Plakcy, author of Mahu and Mahu Surfer

Literary chef Gassert serves up a delectable nine-course meal of murder, mayhem, money-laundering, terrorism, temptation, brutality, bisexuality, scandal, and sadistical father-son abuse.—William Maltese, author of the Stud Draqual mystery series

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Fall TV schedule

I just looked through the Fall TV schedule to see what shows start when and realized there are way too many shows I am interested in this season:

K-ville
Survivor: China
Heroes
Journeyman
Bones
House
Criminal Minds
Dirty Sexy Money
Life
Moonlight
Numbers
Cavemen
Pushing Daisies
Supernatural
Friday Night Lights
Blood Ties

Good lord! Who has that much time? Of course, half those shows probably won’t make it past the first few weeks and the other half I won’t actually like once I’ve seen them, which leaves just a few trusted staples like Heroes, for example.

What was she thinking?

What are they thinking?

As you may or may not know, some property of mine was stolen in April. The rental car my brother and his fiancé had rented was broken into and most of our things disappeared.

I’m still dealing with the insurance fall out.

First, we had to realize that the vast majority of our stuff wasn’t insured. The secret engagement ring my brother had stowed in the car … gone. All their I.D.s. passports etc … gone. All my I.D.s credit cards etc … gone. Our prescription glasses … gone. We had some thirty items on our list. Most of those showed up on the excluded list when we got in touch with the insurance. Figures!

About the only things that were insured were our car keys.

After a lot of back and forth with the insurance company and the police department, the insurance company finally has the police report and list of stolen items. Now the insurance lady had the nerve to send me an e-mail to ask why there are so many items on the police report, but only 3 car keys on our claim!? Well, hello, because none of the other crap is insured! What the hell was/is she thinking?

>pulls out hair by roots<

On a side note, I think it is not right to exclude prescription glasses from the claim. I am legally required to wear glasses to drive, as are my brother and his fiancé. It says so on our driver’s licenses. This makes glasses an essential item to have in the car and as such it should be insured. The insurance company sees it as a frivolous item and excludes it. Not fair.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Writing tips 3-10

I am totally and utterly behind on my writing tips. I only posted two? Really? Hmm. I was sure I’d done more than that. To catch up, here a few tips rolled into one nice post:

#3 Jobs
Most of us have fairly mundane day jobs. But just how much do you know about the professional life of a postal clerk? Or a dental hygienist?

Research jobs here:
www.oalj.dol.gov/libdot.htm

#4 Character Bios
There are plenty of character sheets available on the net. I think they are a great way to get to know your character in the beginning stages and an excellent way to keep track of your characters as they grow. If you are writing a series, there are a lot of details to keep track of. Make sure your character sheets are up-to-date.

#5 Professional organizations
If you can afford it, join a professional organization. I’m a member of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime, for example. In fact, I was crazy enough to volunteer for a position on the board of SinC HI and became Secretary. I’ve met some great people with SinC. Most recently, Jerrilyn Farmer whose Flaming Luau of Death is on my to-read list.

If you’d like to join an organization that doesn’t have a chapter in your city or state, see if an online chapter is available. There’s nothing like the support and friendship of people who know what you are going through.

#6 Workshops and classes
I just love the Romance Writers of America’s Kiss of Death chapter (
www.rwamysterysuspense.org). They have great online workshops for writers. If you can afford it, take some workshops or writing classes. Feedback and support are always appreciated, right? And there’s always something new to learn.

#7 Writing/critique group
Definitely join a writing group, whether online or in person. This is as much about feedback and support as the classes or workshops you might take. Show up regularly. But choose your group with care: A romance writers group, for example, might only be of limited use to a mystery writer. Feedback needs to be honest, fair and constructive (which is why friends and relatives often make lousy [i.e. biased] reviewers).

#8 Agents
Chances are you’ll need a literary agent some time in your writing future. Finding an agent is time consuming. Start your research now. Read trade publications and keep an eye out for agents who sell books like yours. Jot their name and information down in your agent file. If you read a book in your genre that you enjoy, see if the agent is mentioned in the Thank You notes. Sometimes they are. Jot down the agent’s name and the book’s information in your file.

When the time comes to find that one perfect agent for you, don’t despair. Also, keep in mind that rejections are business letters, not personal put-downs.

#9 Read
Trust me. Read. Read a lot.

#10 Write
Regularly. Often. Some writers I know wait for inspiration. And then they wait some more. Other writers I know show up daily in front of their computer, sit down and write. With or without their muse. If you’re not particularly inspired to write something new, there’s probably something old you can edit. It’s important to show up and write.

I’ve read somewhere once that it was easier to get back into the flow of things, if you finish in the middle of a chapter rather than ending the chapter and then trying to start a new chapter the next writing day.

Find your own best way to work. Establish a routine. Show up for work. With or without your muse.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Call for submissions

Please inform your SinC members and other writers in your area of the following market:

Red Coyote Press (
www.redcoyotepress.com), P.O. Box 60582, Phoenix, AZ 85082, publisher of MEDLEY OF MURDER (2005) and MAP OF MURDER (2007), is seeking submissions of original, unpublished short stories of 5,000 words or less in the mystery/suspense genre for a trade paperback anthology, tentatively titled MEDIUM OF MURDER.

The theme of the collection will be a play on the various meanings of the word "medium" and the connection with murder. The central theme or a key element of each story must utilize a valid meaning of the word "medium." Examples include, but are not limited to: 1) a means for storing or communicating information; 2) transmissions that are disseminated widely to the public; 3) someone who serves as an intermediary between the living and the dead; 4) (bacteriology) a nutrient substance used to cultivate micro-organisms; 5) (biology) a substance in which specimens are preserved or displayed; 6) (art) a liquid with which pigment is mixed by a painter.

Any sub-genre will be considered, including amateur sleuth, cozy, hard-boiled, police procedural, suspense, romantic intrigue, and psychological thriller.

SUBMISSION DEADLINE IS AUGUST 31, 2007.

Please submit complete manuscript with cover letter including the definition of "medium" used, a brief bio and publishing credits. Standard manuscript formatting required (double-spaced, 12-point font, header with last name/title, pages numbered consecutively.)

Send by mail to Red Coyote Press, submissions @ redcoyotepress.com, P.O. Box 60582, Phoenix, AZ 85082. Include contact information (phone number, snail mail and email address) and SASE. Payment consists of a flat fee, one free book and scaled discounts on additional books. For further information, call 602-454-7815 or email submissions @ redcoyotepress.com

Thank you.

Suzanne Flaig
Red Coyote Press

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

We’re a foster family

The kids have been hounding us with their wish for a puppy or a kitten. I tried talking them into a bunny or a guinea pig or a rat, to no avail. So we’ve signed up to become a foster family for cats and kitten that aren’t quite ready to be adopted out and/or need socialization.

This weekend we’ve received our first charges: a sibling pair of kittens, a white and orange boy and a grey and brown girl. They are very cute, very skittish, and very energetic (unless you ask our cat who thinks they are imposters and interlopers).

Their names vary. First it was Sam and Sammy, then Sally and Melvin, then Star, Magic, Spot and Angel. I’ve since given up on keeping them straight. I just call them “the white one” and “the girl.”

They are great.

The kids, rather than having this fuzzy, cuddly, uber-cute picture of a kitten or puppy in their minds, have realized that these little creatures have their own minds, don’t want to be toted around all day, and that they come with itty-bitty sharp claws (and know how to use them). They require care and patience. They are not toys.

Unfortunately, they are also not ours, and we’ll have to give them back soon (probably in about two weeks), but I think the (learning) experience will be worth the sadness when we have to let them go.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

I’m in court today

HPD officers arrested someone in possession of my cancelled driver’s license. Unfortunately, none of my other stolen belongings were among the things the police recovered (I had to go to HPD headquarters to look through the stuff they found). Bummer.

Then yesterday, I received my subpoena, and today I’m going to testify at a preliminary hearing.

In a way, this is very exciting. Just a few weeks ago, at the SinC HI meeting, I met Assistant U.S. Attorney Ron Johnson. He was a great guest speaker (very approachable and very informative). At the time I thought I might go to a court hearing one day just to see how it’s done.

Well, today, I’m going to court. Not only do I get to see how it’s done, but I am part of it (a very small part, I assure you).

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Army Wives


You might have heard of this new show on Lifetime called “Army Wives.” It premiered last weekend. I haven’t seen it. I was mildly tempted to have the DVR record it, but in the end decided against it.

If I’ve read the commentaries correctly, the TV show opened with the teary good-bye of an officer’s wife whose husband left on a three-month tour of duty. Oh, please. Here’s the thing: by the time you are a high-ranking officer’s wife a three-month absence from your husband is like an extended weekend alone.

I have friends whose husbands are on their second deployment to the Middle East. They were gone for 12 months the first time around, and they are gone for 15 months this time around. Many of these men will come back home for less than a year before deploying again. And during that time they will be gone for weeks on end to train.

It is quite possible that your husband returns from Iraq in April. You all move to your new duty station in June (because you’ve just finished three years at your most recent post), and he’s in Afghanistan by July. You guys won’t have a year between deployments, because everything starts from scratch at the new assignment.

Many of us cannot rely on our husbands. This isn’t a criticism, but a fact of life. It’s not that my husband doesn’t want to be there for me or his children, it’s just that the Army and the mission come first [it’s the same for firefighters, police officers or E.R. doctors]. He works nights, and he works weekends. He works on birthdays, anniversaries and holidays. His schedule changes from week to week. Making plans is difficult, because I have no clue what’s going on two weeks from now.

I don’t mind. It’s a royal pain sometimes, but I enjoy my life. I like moving. I like making new friends. I don’t particularly care about loosing those newly made friends again months down the road, but hey, more friends are arriving at the airport as we speak.

So when I read about teary wives at send-off ceremonies [a major unwritten no-no, btw] or wives who know more about weapons than their Special Forces husbands … I shake my head and program the DVR to record something else, something I know little about so I can’t tell how unrealistic it is (CSI anyone?!)

Saturday, June 02, 2007

week in review

I haven’t done a thing this week and I feel so guilty I don’t even want to set foot in my office. I even mopped my floors this week to avoid writing.

I am convinced life would be easier if I had a laptop.

I am totally convinced life would be easier if I didn’t have insomnia and thus had some energy during the day.

BUT in the back of my head I know that laptop and insomnia have nothing to do with me showing up for work (after all, I show up for regular employment).

I think I need to get back on a regular every day/every night schedule (rather than only writing on my days off from sub teaching). That seemed to work for me and book 1. So my goal for this coming week:

  1. to be in the office and in front of my (husband’s) computer between 7 and 10 p.m.
  2. to not read e-mail or blogs or websites or do any research during this time
  3. to work on book 2, the new chapter 1

Just in case you are wondering why I am still on chapter 1 … I figured out what gave me such a big problem with book 2. I started too late. I had a good beginning, solid stuff, but I spent too much time setting up and explaining. It was a lot of telling rather than showing. A major no-no.

In hindsight, starting earlier should have been obvious … but I really liked what I had done and was looking for the problem in the wrong place. I should have remembered the quote on top of this page:

To be a writer is to throw away a great deal, not to be satisfied, to type again, and then again and once more, and over and over... John Hersey

Friday, June 01, 2007

It’s official

It’s official. We’ve been extended an additional year in Hawaii. Aloha!

Before you rejoice on our behalf, let me tell you that the promotion lists come out in September. If Patrick is selected to become a Sergeant Major, he will have to attend the Sergeant Majors Academy in Texas. Since this course/class takes about 9 to 10 months (not sure exactly, sorry), the Army considers it necessary to move the entire family. So we’d all be moving to the Lone Star state (and then a few months later to our new permanent duty station).

In other words: despite our extension until August 2008, we could be out of here much earlier than that.

Things I want to do before we leave:

  1. buy kayak and/or surfboard and learn how to properly use it
  2. take diving classes with the husband (there’s nothing like the fear of drowning to bond over)
  3. see Manoa Falls and swim under it
  4. visit Maui (for only $9!; I love this airline price war)
  5. visit Kaui again
  6. go horseback riding on the beach
  7. finish book 2
  8. make new friends, since all of the old ones moved on this week (the downside of being an Army-family with Army-family friends)
  9. take chance of the beautiful weather and join an al fresco yoga class or a swim club
  10. save money to buy an original, made-in Hawaii Hawaiian quilt

Bonus: celebrate 14 years of marriage with a date at Sam Choy's restaurant

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

$9 !

In early 2006 we flew to the Big Island (a.k.a. Hawaii) and paid nearly $140 a person for our tickets. That's quite a chunk of change for a family of four.

Then the price war started. Go!airline underbid everyone else, and we flew to Kauai for only $39 a person. Recently, we flew to the Big Island again for even less, $29 a ticket. (These are one way tickets, btw. And it doesn't matter what island you fly to, the price is the same.)

Just now I heard on the radio that our price war has reached a new low: Go!, Aloha and Hawaiian now offer tickets for a measly $9. That's awesome. $9 means we could fly to Maui just to hang out on a beach for a weekend afternoon. We could fly in early in the morning, do some swimming and snorkeling, and fly back in the early evening. Heck, $9 means we could afford a (pricey, this is Maui after all) hotelroom and stay the entire weekend.

Sweet.

Oh, I also found a few more things I'd miss if we moved:

1. plumeria, tuberose, hibiscus and all the other flowering trees and shrubs
2. malasadas (yummy!)
3. Pizza Bob's
4. geckos


(It's semi-official, btw, that we are staying for now. Yay.)

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Ouch

This from iTunes:

“After researching your request, I found that on April 2nd, 2006 you were allowed to redownload the purchases you had made with the account "[ ]." This was an exception to the iTunes Store Terms of Sale. I'm sorry, but the iTunes Store can't make another exception for you.”

Well, that sucks.


I’m bummed.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

@$% !!

My computer died two nights ago. I was in the middle of something and got up to get a glass of water and when I came back the computer was dead. Some fatal error or another.

This is the second time now that darn thing died on me. The first time was messy, because it took all my files with it. This time I was prepared. I had back-ups. The truth is, I spotted erratic behavior last week and immediately backed everything up. Or so I thought. It turns out I forgot about iTunes.

Then the battery on my iPod needed recharging today. Of course, I didn’t think much of it and plugged the shuffle into my husband’s computer. As soon as I connected the two, iTunes popped up and “updated” my shuffle. UGH. It erased everything I had on it and replaced it with songs from early 2006 (the last time I was forced to use the husband’s computer). I am so mad right now. It didn’t help that I couldn’t figure out how to contact iTunes support. After a bunch of self-help dead-ends and reading my way through various FAQ, I finally found the contact-us form. Yay. Now I hope they come through and restore what I lost.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Hawaii: what I will and will not miss

What I will miss:

  • the beach and
  • being able to go snorkeling or swimming at the drop of a dime
  • not having to worry about what the weather will be like; it’s the same every day (more or less) or
  • the warm weather, period
  • being able to send the kids outside to play any time of the year; it’s never too cold, but occasionally it’s too wet
  • not having to wear shoes or socks or, god forbid, pantyhose
  • watching the sun set over the ocean right from our back porch
    open-air movies
  • waking up to the sound of birds in the tree outside our bedroom and
  • going to sleep to the scent of plumeria from the tree outside our bedroom

What I will not miss:

  • beach sand in the bed or anywhere else in the house
  • no one being on time and everything starting late
  • ants, centipedes and cockroaches the size of minivans
  • sunburn
  • traffic and Hawaiian drivers; I had to take the HI road test to get my driver’s license (don’t ask! long story) and I’m not surprised the people here don’t know how to drive
  • kids and adults riding in truck beds, sometimes sitting in lawn furniture while doing so, barreling down the highway at 65 mph!
  • Hawaiian pidgin English; Fo real you know. I no keed you.
  • having to pay extra shipping on anything coming from the mainland
  • no Target, no Applebee’s, no Olive Garden, no good Chinese or Italian restaurants, period
  • having to fly an airplane to leave O’ahu county

Religion in school


I’m a proponent of religion as a class subject in school. I think in a day and age when we fight and die for religion (and freedom), we cannot afford to be ignorant.

I have no idea how many people are religion/church-affiliated in this country. I wouldn’t even want to hazard a guess. I’m not Christian myself. I am, in fact, very uncomfortable when it comes to church-run educational institutions, but that doesn’t mean we can’t teach our kids.

I grew up in a country that separates church and state, but I still had to go to religion class. In middle-school, it was a subject much like geography or biology. We learned about the five major religions and a few lesser known ones. We had guest speakers from whatever religion we discussed at the time, and at the end of the year, we knew what made each religion tick. No one was converted. No one was brainwashed. No religion was badmouthed. No religion was hailed above all others.

I honestly think we’re doing our kids a disservice by not teaching them what the rest of the world believes in and fights for. Or in the words of Martin Luther King, Jr.:

"Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity."

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Life after ...

It’s been two weeks since my purse was stolen out of my brother’s rental car. What a pain. I still haven’t replaced everything that was stolen. My glasses, my car and house keys, my phone, my wallet with all the stuff that’s unusually in a wallet (i.e. driver’s license, credit cards, annual passes to the water park, zoo, Polynesian Cultural Center etc.), my military I.D. (yes, complete with birth date and social security number), my writer’s notebock with all my notes and a spa gift certificate I won at Christmas.

Most of these things are/were fairly easy to replace. I had to argue with the management at the Polynesian Cultural Center, because they refused to give me new annual passes (and we’re talking passes for the entire family here!), but they eventually came around and caved in.

I just had my replacement phone activated today. I wasn’t eligible for any upgrades, of course, so I’m stuck using my old, old phone for the time being. Truth be told, I like/liked the old one better anyway.

I just found a new messenger bag I liked yesterday, but I still don’t have a wallet (not that I have any money to put in to it anyway).

Unfortunately, I also lost my new glasses. Not only were they expensive, but they were bought with my PROTECTOR advance. I loved those glasses. Luckily, I hadn’t donated my old pair. I argued with the insurance about them, too. I don’t see why I cannot claim them (pun not intended). They were not a frivolous item left in the car (like the snorkel gear that’s gone); I am legally required to wear them to drive the car, so they should be insured.

Oh, well.

Did I mention my brother and his girlfriend lost everything? Cash, passports, state I.D.s, driver’s licenses, credit cards and the engagement ring my brother had hidden away in his backpack. Carmen, his girlfriend, had had no idea!

Dealing with the German consulate in San Francisco was a pain. My brother and his now-fiancée must have been the first German tourists ever to lose their passports in a foreign country. Luckily, their replacement papers arrived just in time. And unlike predicted by the unfriendly clerk on the phone, they had no problem at the airport. Well, they did leave on the first leg of their journey back to Germany. I found out later that they got stranded in L.A. when their plane broke down and couldn’t be fixed. So with only $20 in cash and an emergency credit card that didn’t work (another long story), they spent an extra day in California. Some vacation!

And what have you been up to?

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Finally ready

According to the MySpace horoscope for: Saturday, April 7, 2007, Pisces (Feb 19 - Mar 20)

"Although this may be a day off for you, you are likely thinking about your position at work or about long-term career goals. Be bold in your thinking now, for your current ideas will likely blend your desire for success with your willingness to work hard. If nothing else, map out a strategy for your days and weeks ahead."


That’s pretty much what my desk calendar said, too. I take this to mean that it’s a good time to begin work on that second novel, that the ideas I’ve been entertaining this week are the right ones, and that my time of putzing around has come to an end.

Now it’s not like I haven’t work on book 2. I have. I have a solid beginning to an aimless story that simply won’t come together in my head and some great scenes that don’t fit in anywhere. I have a title I don’t like (THE GHOST CRAB) and a vanilla villain who is no match for Mason.

Now here’s the thing you might or might not know about Pisces: we can be tenacious if we want to be. I should have shelved this book a long time ago (right after its conception in late 2005, to be exact). I should have stopped backing up THE GHOST CRAB file last year. But I didn’t, because I knew there was a good story in the jumbled mess of scenes somewhere. I kept coming back to it, again and again, taking notes, jotting down ideas, trying to figure out how to do in the villain.

I tried working on THE PROTECTOR revisions in the morning hours and writing on THE GHOST CRAB in the evenings, but that didn’t work. I had trouble keeping the guys apart. Mason and Soren in book 1 are different from Mason and Soren in book 2, but they’re still Mason and Soren ... confusing, ne?

So I didn’t work on it, and I didn’t think about it, and I began fearing I had only one book in me (ridiculous idea, trust me). I totally bought into the “sophomore curse.”

Then I took a long vacation and relaxed.

I didn’t start writing THE PROTECTOR with a finished plot. In fact, I didn’t start THE PROTECTOR with an entire book in mind. I had an idea and a premise. I sat down and started writing, and it grew from there. So that’s what I’ll do with THE GHOST CRAB.

I woke up one morning this week with an idea that pulled together the disconnected stuff I already wrote. I went over my notes and had that great “wow, this is a neat stuff, I can’t believe I forgot I came up with this” experience.

Now I have no idea if my tenacity is going to pay off. I could be making a huge mistake and THE GHOST CRAB is destined to suck, no matter how much work and effort I put into it. But I have a feeling book 2 will end up just fine :-) I’m a good writer, I have a solid idea/premise (oh, and a new villain who is fully capable of kicking Mason’s ass) and the sophomore curse isn’t deadly or there wouldn’t be any second books around. There are plenty and I fully intend to have one, too.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Moving on

In other news … I might be writing parts of THE PROTECTOR sequel in a bathroom again. It looks like we won't be staying in Hawaii past this summer. In fact, it looks like we could be making a trans-Pacific + trans-Atlantic move (that is, move to Europe).

As I always say, I'll know when and where we're going once I move into my new house. Nothing is guaranteed, nothing is certain. Well, change is certain in this case :-)

My parents, grandparents and the rest of my relatives would be ecstatic if we moved to Germany (where I was born and raised).

I wouldn't mind moving to Colorado.

My husband doesn't want to go to NC. Or NY or TX.

The kids don't care as long as they get a dog/cat/horse/bunny rabbit or guinea pig when they get there.

I wonder if the Army knows we're supposed to leave this summer …

Writing tip 2: Adverbs

Adverbs are not your friends. They water down your writing. When- or where-adverbs (e.g. “yesterday” or “here”) are okay. How-adverbs (e.g. “slowly” or “fast”) are the troublemakers. Do you really need them? Isn’t there a better verb you could use instead?

Consider this:

… he mumbled hoarsely … try … he croaked …
… she drove slowly … try … she inched through traffic …
… he said aggressively … try … he ordered …

I used to like adverbs. They were everywhere. I put effort into finding the right ones. My first drafts were peppered with them. I can’t remember what made me suddenly see them or why I grew wise to their existence, but now I agonize over stronger verbs instead. Think of them as the fat or sugar in your writing diet; use them in moderation and you’ll be fine.

Bonus tip: If you have trouble paring down your writing, take a good look at your adverbs. Chances are, you can delete most of them.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Yay, I'm done!

It only took a few months, but I’m done with the rewrite of THE PROTECTOR. Whew. I started writing it way back when in late 2003/early 2004. I took me a little more than a year to finish the first draft. Parts of it were written on a toilet seat. I kid you not.

We had just returned from Okinawa, Japan, to the US. The four of us were crammed into two small adjoining Army lodging rooms (think motel), living out of our suitcases. I wrote at night. There wasn’t really a lot of room and I didn’t want to disturb anyone, so I would go into the bathroom, sit on the floor, put my pad on the toilet seat and write.

I didn’t do much with the story in 2005. After realizing it was too short (59,000 words) in early 2006, I went about adding to it. I ended up with 62,000 words and 52 chapters.

As of yesterday, THE PROTECTOR is down to 36 chapters and 55,000 words. I don’t like the low word count, but I do love how the story has changed and grown and worked itself out. I am very proud of it.

If you know how this writing business works, you know I might be done, but I’m not finished with it yet. There’s the line edit still, the checking for typos, grammar, syntax, punctuation, awkward phrasing, lazy writing and the such.

So I’m not finished, but I’m done :-) and it feels great.


PS. I think I have found a title for the sequel. I liked THE GHOST CRAB for its meaning, but it’s a horribly boring title, and how many people know what a ghost crab is? I might go with THE STALKER instead.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Tess's take on "write what you know"

I procrastinated. I had a few ideas for writing tip 2, but nothing concrete. So I decided to look around and see what others were posting. I checked out Tess Gerritsen’s blog.

You can find it here.


And what did I read? In her post titled But I don’t know anything interesting she touches on “write what you know” and had this to say:

“Are you … forced to write about what you know? Absolutely not …you should write about what you want to know.”


That’s why I love her blog. Head on over there and read the entire post. Heck, read the entire blog. She has some very interesting things to say.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Writing tip #1: Write what you know.

Sensible advice. Controversial advice. I’ve heard it pronounced worst writing advice ever, but I disagree. Notice it doesn’t say “write what you have first-hand experience with.”

I’m all for first-hand experience, which is why I am dying to take a gun safety glass and shoot a few rounds. Until I have the opportunity to do that, though, I’m just going to spend more time at the library, reading up on handguns, thumbing through magazines for police officers or other security personnel. I photocopy articles and ads. I jot down website addresses and read those “it happened to me last week” anecdotes (almost as good as interviewing someone).

“Write what you know” doesn’t mean I have to own an M9 and shoot it regularly; it means “do your research until you know the subject you are writing about.”

While some writers might think so, “write what you know” does not limit you to write about characters with professions you’ve worked in, living in cities you’ve seen, doing things you’ve done.

The truth is, I rarely write about stuff I “know.” But I make damn sure I know what I write about.

Monday, January 01, 2007

new this year: 50 writing tips and tidbits

2006 was a good year for the whole family: the husband won a Federal Supervisor/Manager of the Year Award in April; the daughter started first grade in July, I signed my first book deal in August, the little guy began preschool in September, and the cat has survived her 13th birthday. Even most of our fish are still with us. A good year all around.

Time to look ahead.

One of my resolutions: to post to this blog more regularly. To this end, I’ve decided to come up with 50 writing tips and tidbits.

I won’t pretend to be an expert by any stretch of the imagination, no worries. I won’t tell you how to get published and/or noticed by an agent/publisher, because I’m not an agent, editor or publisher. I wouldn’t know what goes on in their heads, and I won’t presume to speak for them. I might mention how best to present yourself and your writing, but I think you know that doesn’t guarantee anything.

If you’d like to know what makes agents, editors and publishers tick, what they look for or don’t want to see cross their desks (very important piece of information!), check out their blogs. There are plenty of them. This is not one of them.

This is the blog of a writer knee-deep in revisions, on the verge of seeing her first book in print, struggling to meet the daily needs of her family, her burgeoning writing career, and her body for sleep and food (and exercise).

What are your writing resolutions for 2007?