We interrupt this edit

Hi everyone. I would love to tell you that editing and revisions for #4 are proceeding apace, but that would be a bit of an exaggeration. A few things happened.

  1. My software had a bit of a fit and I lost several hours of work that needed to be reconstructed. I reconstructed it, and then lost it again. I started using StoryMill a while back and it’s been fine until now. I’ve come to face that while it is great for the creative process, I might have to dump an export into Word and edit there. Considering my copy of Word is from 2008, I’m thinking of moving towards Open Office or another Mac-compatible option. So, slowness.
  2. The other thing is slightly more annoying and not only occupies a lot of my time and energy, but sometimes completely takes over my life and my brain: I was diagnosed with Stage 0 breast cancer at the end of June. I have since had a lumpectomy and will be receiving radiation treatments this fall (Kill it! Kill it with fire!). I am expected to be quite fatigued during treatment. Right now, I have no symptoms, and the surgical recovery is going well. I am on the hunt for the perfect bra.

While I’ve considered writing about my experience with cancer and treatment, I’ve determined it will not become part of the Bloody Murder world. Marie would be a great candidate, and I would like to give her a good subplot in a future novel. Well, another one. She has a bit of one in #5, that becomes a bit of a surprise to her. I’m not going to do that to Feliz. She had enough crap thrown at her in Post Parcel that she deserves a little happiness, and that’s going to come in a fashion that she doesn’t expect.

The editing client will be addressed this weekend. My needs are pretty simple. Fonts for italics, page and section breaks, which you’d think would make it okay to just use a text editor. Unfortunately, I need the ability to save in .doc for my formatter who puts things into Smashwords for me (thank you!), and .html to upload to Amazon’s publisher. I really do not want to have to import and export into multiple formats. I am all for saving a hassle factor.

I plan to investigate Pages, which isn’t terribly expensive, there’s also a Document Writer app. Much of today will be spent reading reviews before I make a decision.

Thank you for sticking with me.

Also, #4 is titled The Ladies Who Lunch. A little bonus for you that read all the way to this point.

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On revisions and food analogies.

“You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it. That’s why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence.”
—Octavia E. Butler

When I started writing novels, it was because of National Novel Writing Month. One of the wisest pieces of advice shares a theme with the above. “Give yourself permission to write crap.”

I have fortunately never labored under the illusion that my first draft is publishable. Before I presented Bloody Murder to a publisher in 2004, I had been editing and revising it for over two years. The publisher, who shall remain nameless, told me his liked the book, wanted to publish it, but the following year. The thing was, he never gave me a contract. Eventually, he introduced me to another publisher who rejected the book.

To me, revisions are the difference between creating and crafting. I create the rough draft, but that’s like creating a lump of clay that hasn’t been thrown on the wheel yet. It’s not soup yet, it other words.

Soup is a better analogy, really. Zofia makes good soup, a quality of mine that I gave her (I did not give her my screwed-up childhood or my misanthropy).  You start with ingredients and turn them into food. You need broth (setting)  (which is a creation process on its own, remind me to update Knives, Fire & Fun again soon), you need spices (descriptive language), you need protein (plot), you need characters (aromatics), you need dialogue (vegetables).

And then it needs to simmer, and you need the fat skimmed off, and the spices need to be tweaked. Tasted, perhaps, if the beta reader isn’t busy.

That’s what’s going on now. I’m partway through the first revision of #4 and I think it’s coming along pretty well. I also have a new supporting character debuting. I will be thanking someone for allowing me to base the character on them, but I have to put my own touches, of course.

So, we’re in the crafting stage. The ingredients have been put together, now it’s time to make it soup.

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On evil

When it comes to writing evil characters, I want to make them interesting, almost understandable, but not necessary sympathetic. It’s not a simple process.

For some of the process, I turn to my Dungeons & Dragons hobby. When you create a D&D character, you choose an alignment with two qualities. One is either lawful, neutral, or chaotic, the other is good, or evil. So, that gets you some interesting combinations:

Lawful Good–best example in popular media right now, is Captain America. If you were to put Steve Rogers in a D&D game, he would probably play a Paladin who used divine powers to smite evil. Damn, I love the word smite. Jerry Ashe comes pretty close to Lawful Good. Zofia certainly calls him a Boy Scout often enough. The cops are ideally lawful good, but I think Levin, with his world-weary ways, might lean towards neutral because fighting crime sometimes seems like a losing battle and the best he can do is keep evil from taking over.

Neutral good–Neutral may struggle against order just because rules can be restrictive. A neutral good person is likely to do good deeds, but not necessarily follow the law if it gets in the way. I think I’d call Zofia neutral good, but she has her chaotic days.

Chaotic Good–free spirits. Someone who will leave the house saying, “I’m going out to commit a felony. Or get ice cream. I’ll know when I get there.” Marie is more chaotic good than Zofia, but the two of them were definitely chaotic in high school, causing mischief for the sake of mischief. If you don’t mind the Avengers comparison, Agent Coulson is the perfect example.

True neutral–true neutral can come in a couple of flavors. Someone who believes good and evil need to be in balance in order for the world to truly function. Then there’s the people who don’t give a damn about anything.

Lawful Evil–lawful evil ends up in charge too damn much of the time. Hitler, for example. Mussolini. My friend Alex. Anybody who willingly joined Hydra. Politicians who stay bought once they’re bought.

Neutral Evil–Assholes, basically. Not necessary malevolent, but definitely out for themselves. Politicians who don’t stay bought. Your average comic book villain. Captain Cold, from the Flash’s Rogues Gallery is a great example. Sociopaths. Narcissists.

Chaotic Evil–and we’re back to the Avengers. Loki all the way here. Changing over the DC universe again for a moment, we have the Joker. Some chaotic evil characters have the delusion that they’re really Good. Or that Somebody Did Them Wrong, which gives you a martyr complex that can be tough to take. Real martyrs just get on with it and die.

Evil is a challenge to write, especially if you want to give the character depth. Selfish is pretty easy, chaotic can be downright fun, but interesting characters need layers. Those layers, if done well, could make you almost sympathize with the character, even if you can’t quite forgive the atrocities they’re capable of. Insanity is almost a cop-out.

And this almost has to bring up the discussion of “is evil born or made?” I don’t know. I know good people can be driven to do evil deeds.

A long time ago, after a party wound down, I walked someone to their car, talked a while and found my roommate in deep conversation with her then boyfriend. As I walked up the stairs into the living room, my roommate (a lapsed Catholic like myself) asked me, “What is the basic nature of man?”

My reply, “I think I’ll have another beer.”

After I cracked a can of beer open, I joined them in the living room and said, “I think mankind is basically good, but also basically selfish and greedy, which is why it’s so easy to be caught up in evil things.” This is not an exact quote, this was over 20 years ago.

The conversation kind of deteriorated from there.

I put aside Catholicism in 1997, started reading Buddhism in 1999. I still believe humans are born good. I also believe it’s the ego that causes problems. That our desires cause us to make choices to do evil that ultimately make us unhappy. So the desires can get bigger, but they never fill the need.

I doubt sometimes, though. I read about Charles Manson, Jack the Ripper, the Green River Killer, Ronald Dominique, or the Angel Makers of Nagryev, and I have to wonder, “Could anything have truly made someone that way?”

I think of all this when I write.

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I am happy to announce, that Bloody Murder #4 is now in revisions. This means that the (very) rough draft of #5 is complete as of last week. I do not have a publication date as of yet. There is a lot of work on my part, and the parts of my loyal editors Kimberly and Fae before #4 will be ready for your curious eyes. I hope you’ll patient when it isn’t exactly a year from Snow Job’s publication.

Meanwhile, I have developed the Bloody Murder Royal Street Irregulars Facebook page, and I hope you take a moment to pop over there and like the page. While there are not in-depth details and me ruminating on various subjects, there is plenty of randomness, sarcasm, and muffins. I may begin to include mystery/thriller book recommendations. Laura Lippman’s latest Tess Monaghan novel is fantastic, for example. JD Rhoades has a new Jack Keller book out, and there is both a Junior Bender AND a Poke Rafferty out from Tim Hallinan. There’s also a new Prey book due out soon.

I promise not to let all the reading I want to do get in the way of editing. Lucky for all of us I don’t get NESN, the New England Sports Network on my cable provider. Otherwise, Red Sox games would be causing more delays and a severe lack of sleep.

Next post: on creating evil.

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Well that’s pretty nifty

It’s always exciting to that notification from Amazon or Smashwords that I’ve got a royalty deposit coming into my bank account. I need to give a shoutout to a friend and New York media personality Steve Strangio. I first met Steve during my freshman year at Hoftstra where he was majoring in TV and I was majoring in radio. He walked up to me in the quad and drafted me for one of his assignments. I don’t remember the plot of the show, but it had something to do with Jo-Jo the dog-faced boy. I played the wife of someone named Ira.

Anyway, we reconnected on Facebook and I learned he has a YouTube Channel and when he’s offered the chance, I have been happy to buy ad space on his shows. You can see the Bloody Murder Series promo.

I bring this up, because advertising and marketing makes a big difference when you’re an Indie author. When there are 40 hours a week at a Day Job ™, marketing becomes a challenge because it takes resources that could go to things like food, sleep, and well writing.

But it makes a difference, and something I don’t necessarily get from my Facebook, blogs, or G+ posts is a reach to an international audience.

Amazon just let me know I have royalties coming from England AND Germany. My first reaction was to ping a musician friend of mine who lives in Berlin and he said (with apologies) that no, it wasn’t him.

Pretty damn cool.

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Recovering from the Holidaze

It’s been a busy several weeks here at the secret lair of the Bloody Murder headquarters. November is the writing frenzy month–you’ll recall Bloody Murder had its genesis as part of National Novel Writing Month, though it underwent many many revisions before I considered it suitable for publication. A little encouragement from my beta reader didn’t hurt.

Anyway, the first draft of 5 is about 75% complete. Once that is done, the editing of 4 will continue in earnest. I like having at least one completed manuscript ahead. It’s too early to definitively state when it will be published, but if all goes according to my nefarious plan, I will announce the title over the summer and hopefully have the publication date by that time.

November also included the Day of Baking. My sweetie and I drive to my uncle’s in Massachusetts for Thanksgiving dinner and I travel loaded with carbohydrates. I also make my cranberry sauce in the oven. It’s ridiculously easy and involves cinnamon and bit of alcohol–this year it was Applejack.

While I love turkey and stuffing and potatoes, I do not like pumpkin pie. I actually don’t like pie crust at all. So I supply dessert in the form of scones. Scones are fun to make (I have a nifty mini-scone pan), and leave a lot of room for experimentation. Last year’s were lemon ginger. This year, I tried apricot and ginger, including bits of candied ginger. They went well with both double cream and with ginger marmalade. This is totally Celestial Seasonings’ fault–years ago, they made an apricot/ginger black tea that  I was totally gratified by my uncle snagging all the leftovers.

I tend to take December off from writing, though I am spending time on the D&D campaign. The people I play with have put together some fascinating characters and I have some interesting adventures coming up.  Reading fantasy and writing a fantasy world is a great way to stretch the imagination and I like to think it moves over the Bloody Murder books. While court politics (which are much more entertaining than Washington DC) may not apply directly, plots within plots are fun puzzles to solve and howdunit is as intereting as whodunit.

I was in New Orleans this month, though not for very long, just a Friday through Monday. I did have some wonderful meals–John Besh’s Luke, one of Emeril’s restaurants served squid ink buccatini, I had eggs cochon, one of my favorite things, at The Ruby Slipper. I also hit two of Dickie Brennan’s restaurants and the Audubon Aquarium. Besides the rainforest exhibit, the obvious sea creatures, I also visited a parakeet exhibit, which was incredibly entertaining.

IMG_0351You paid a buck and a half for a stick with some seeds stuck to it. My sweetie held them while I snapped a few pictures. One enterprising budgie realized all he had to do was climb on his hand and he could get at the whole goldmine.

Speaking of goldmines, well gem mines, I got a lovely dreamcatcher pendant and earring set with both a tumbled citrine and a raw one attached. The friend I travelled with last year discovered Earth Odyssey on Chartres.

Even though we didn’t have much time to poke around in shops or galleries, we did get a walk around Jackson Square and saw some nifty artists, had a wide variety of cocktails–my favorite involved pear and rosemary–and I generally got a chance to soak up some atmosphere. I’ve also compiled a list of things to do on my next visit, whenever that may be.

Snow Job has 5-star reviews on both Amazon and Goodreads. I hope you’ll take a moment to enjoy it in this pause between Christmas and New Year’s. If you like it, write a review! Tell your friends! Share the Bloody Murder love and mystery.

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If you prefer your Bloody Murder in epub . . .

Snow Job is now available for pre-order on Barnes & Noble.com!

D-Day is November 4! Take the day off. Vote! Then lose yourself in a good book while you wait for election results. Irish coffee optional.

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Snow Job to be released 11/4

Hi everyone, it’s been a busy couple of months, but after a lot of tweaking, Snow Job is at the formatter and it will be on sale everywhere on 11/4.

If you aren’t following me on Facebook, you missed a preview of the cover art

Snow Job Cover

and something new for Indie authors everywhere: Amazon now allows pre-ordering! You can pre-order your Kindle copy here. I’m really excited about this one and I hope you are too.

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I just rendered my last post moot

When I revise and edit. I make a list of items I want to go look at when I review the manuscript next. Things I want to take a little more thought than just changing a word or two. For example, I just realized white wine would go with one of Zo’s dinners instead of red. Anyway, I hadn’t taken a look at the list until yesterday afternoon.


I love Snow Job. I had a great time writing it and I’m having a great (if exhausting) time revising. 

And I’m not ready to publish yet. I was really hoping for Labor Day weekend, but I can’t promise that. One of the nicer things about indie publishing is I get to decide when as well as where (which is everywhere I can. I’m not going to do the laser then shotgun approach that I did with Post Parcel). I think I’ll be ready after this revision. Those final finishing touches, like the dusting of cocoa over a favorite dessert. Not enough to be over the top, but the shine after a good polish.

Thank you for your patience. 


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Amazon sent me a letter

And everyone who publishes via Kindle Direct got the same one, I’m sure. The letter asked me to write to Hatchette and plead Amazon’s case. If ebooks are priced lower, they say, they will sell more of them, and everyone makes more money, right?

Um . . .

It doesn’t work quite that way. There have been several responses to this all over the Web, but John Scalzi said it best in his blog last month:


Amazon’s math of “you will sell 1.74 times as many books at $9.99 than at $14.99″ is also suspect, because it appears to come with the ground assumption that books are interchangable units of entertainment, each equally as salable as the next, and that pricing is the only thing consumers react to. They’re not, and it’s not. Someone who wants the latest John Ringo novel on the day of release will not likely find the latest Jodi Picoult book a satisfactory replacement, or vice versa; likewise, someone who wants a eBook now may be perfectly happy to pay $14.99 to get it now, in which case the publisher and author should be able to charge what the market will bear, and adjust the prices down (or up! But most likely down) [emphasis mine KK] as demand moves about.


So I find myself seriously thinking of delaying publishing to Amazon until this whole Hatchette mess is resolved.  Not that Amazon is going to miss my small contribution to their bottom line, but as a reader. There are fine authors such as Lilith Saintcrow and Gail Carriger with new books I can’t pre-order while this mess continues.

I make more sales via Amazon, but I actually make a higher royalty at Smashwords. You can get .mobi format at Smashwords, so I’m considering publishing there and then publishing to Amazon when they get their shit together.

This is not a decision to be made lightly. Definitely not a decision to make when I’ve had maybe two hours of sleep.

I think I shall make like Zofia and have a cup of coffee

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