PART 1: Scary Sunday


My husband has pre-existing health conditions, so I’m super cautious to make dinner reservations after confirming that restaurant follows COVID-19 guidelines, re: masks, sanitizer, and social distancing. We’ve just returned home from one such dinner and are exiting the car, when our Bichon starts his shivery welcome home strut around my husband’s feet. Focused on making it to the bathroom, hubby manages to skirt the dog, instead gashing his leg along the sharp end of the car door

All at once, the garage floor is seeped in blood–the same blood flowing from my husband’s leg!

“I’m calling 911!” I say, attempting to modulate my voice (for his sake) as I sludge through the crime scene.

“I’m fine,” he says calmly. “Just get the bandage, hydrogen peroxide, and gauze from the linen closet.

He’s obviously forgotten that he donated a plethora of wound care products to the in-home health care nurse during their final visit. I’d urged him to hoard some of the Medicare stash they’d sent him for free “just in case!”

My husband had pooh-poohed the suggestion, despite his razor-thin skin recovering from one wound after another. De-ni-al!

I barrel through the living room, finally making it to the bathroom. I grab a thin roll of gauze, sanitizer, and three wound pads from the linen closet. Then I beat it back to the utility room and commence wrapping the wound.

Just when I think the bandage is secure, I notice droplets of blood seeping from miniscule holes in the gauze. At this rate, I’m sure hubby is going to bleed out and I won’t have enough bandage and gauze to re-wrap the wound!

Moments later, I’m on the phone with the 911 dispatcher when hubby taps me on the shoulder. “Sorry to interrupt, but I really need to get to the bathroom. Can you bring me my house slippers?”

I glance down to see his toes and feet dripping in blood. Crap! Although I’ve penned five crime novels, I’ve never seen this much blood in one place at one time. I wrack my brain for answers and come up with nada.

Just then, I hear the sirens. Paramedics burst through the front door.

(Stay tuned for Part 2 on Friday!)

Writing Through COVID-19


During Month 1 of the COVID-19 Lockdown, my writing dripped off me like I was Teflon. At first, I had so much to say. My thoughts and article ideas competed for space in my brain, which was already overloaded by the Pandemic. I researched and sent out quarantine-related articles to on-line magazines and newspapers I’d never even heard of. Busy work, my kids called it. Maybe they were right. I’ve been writing books for so long, I’ve lost touch with my inner- freelance writer.

Month 2, I refocused on researching and sending out queries/sample chapters/synopses to literary agents in the psychological suspense genre, regarding Up Close & Personal, my sixth novel.

When you get a zillion form rejection letters, you feel like you’re going nowhere. Up Close & Personal has been developmentally and copy edited, so I knew the story and text was good to go. What, then, was the problemo??

Instead of attempting to balance on this pinnacle any longer, I registered with ITWA International Thriller Writers Association for their July 2020 on-line Thriller Fest. This is the first time the Organization has hosted a virtual fest, and I am thrilled (ha, ha); no airline, hotel, and restaurant costs to attend! Given the Pandemic, that fits my safety and price point just fine. I registered to pitch Up Close & Personal via ZOOM to four literary agents, four minutes per agent.

Now all I need to do is come up with a great elevator pitch! Wish me luck!


How to Get Book Signing/Selling Gigs


Sure, it’s fulfilling to see your book in print, whether it be a perfectly edited self-published copy or a traditionally published “cousin” of the thousands of other books lining the bookstore shelves!

No matter how your book is published, however, you still need to put the requisite time into marketing your book to the public. Many authors hire a professional or college kid versed social media to get the word out. They also task that professional or college kid with creating a website on WordPress, etc.

But the one marketing area authors, whether green or seasoned, shrink from playing in is this one: setting up book signing/reading/selling gigs at bookstores, libraries, senior centers, retirement communities, book clubs, literary fests, temples, churches, schools, and artist holiday boutiques!

You can definitely hire someone to do the dirty work for you — make the phone calls and send the emails necessary to book a gig. It’s more effective to actually build business relationships by contacting the people in charge of these events yourself!

In the long run, contacting these folks directly helps you, too. Think about it. You’re shelling out between $25 to $100 for a booth or table, depending on how popular the location, as well as if it’s a for-profit or non-profit venue. Wouldn’t you like to know who you’re dealing with? Who’s taking your money? Are these folks reputable?

Although the ship has already sailed for 2019 holiday gigs, come January 2020, you can start working on another time people purchase gifts for the holidays: Easter! During the month of January, spend 30-minutes per week contacting the above types of locations (You’ve probably got some not listed here. You can also Google venues near you) and set up 2 to 6 gigs, depending on your pocketbook, to display and sell your books this coming spring!

Any questions? Feel free to give me a holler through

Happy Marketing!



Writing Outside Your Comfort Zone!


After my most recent book Smashing Castles; how a young autistic woman discovered her authentic self came out earlier this year, I’d planned to finish writing a suspense novel I started several years ago. Then there was the women’s utopia book I’d been researching. But a spark of inspiration from a personal encounter urged me to move Up Close and Personal to the front of the list.

My usual genre is psychological suspense — light on physical violence, heavy on mental manipulation — but Up Close is definitely more thriller.  I’d initially envisioned Up Close to be a fun, quirky story about a newly retired journalist who routinely embarrasses her family by asking controversial questions of strangers.

Then I met two New York literary agents at Sleuthfest 2019. After hearing my long, convoluted telling of a feel good story that eventually turns harrowing, they both urged me to write Up Close as a thrillerI protested vehemently that I don’t write James Bond; snipers, bombs, and jumping from roofs or trains to catch a bad guy just aren’t part of my repertoire.

Both agents told me that if I wanted to get traditionally published this time, I’d need to step it up. They introduced me to the domestic thriller; a style of psychological thriller that focuses on interpersonal relationships, familiar settings, and underlying causes that ignite the whole. It was then that I realized all of my novels, and even my recent book on autism, shared these characteristics.

So I took a gamble and let my writing juices fly. Since May, I’ve visited my Up Close pages five days a week, sometimes writing 1 page, sometimes writing 7. When I sit down at the computer, know what scene (chapter) I’m going to write today, and which characters are involved in that scene. But I have no clue what’s going to transpire; I attempt, sometimes more successfully than other times, to lock my super ego in the closet so I can allow the dialogue I’m hearing in my head to just flow.

And, yes, Up Close will be published through a traditional publisher — this I promise. Please help me make that happen!

Using a Personal Event in Your Mystery Novel Can Prove Deadly!


Deadly need not refer solely to a physical body’s demise. To suspense writers like us, a  fiery verbal interaction among friends or family members can provide the impetus for verbal assassination of a book character.

Motive? Revenge for a harsh word or action perpetrated against us in real life!

In fact, we become so incensed, we contemplate using the verbal culprit’s real name in our book!

Let’s get real! Unless you decide to write under an alias, I advise you to take a breath as you consider the 3 consequences of verbally assassinating your book characters:

FEAR! How will character assassination, even with ALL names changed, impact future relationship with this person?

DECEIT! Even if your nemesis never reads your book, are you prepared to keep the truth from this person forever?

LOSS! Are you comfortable with duplicity rupturing your relationship with the offending person?

If these 3 consequences are a bitter pill you prefer not swallow, summon up courage and confess your book intentions.

SELF-REDEMPTION! It well may be the case that although you were all worked up about a perceived verbal humiliation, the other person failed to even lose one night’s sleep. That person has no problem with you doing a character assaination using them as your black angel!

That said, protect yourself by changing names, occupations, and possonly even the authentic setting.

The relief you’ll feel at having “come clean” to the real person involved enables will enable you to live your truth, guilt-free.

Wait! You ARE guilt-free, right??






Setting Up Your Own Book Signing: Part 1


Let’s face it. As self-published authors, setting up our own book signings sucks! Of course we can hire a family member, college student, retired person, or an professional to do the job. But it’s a money thang, right? We don’t want to spend it! Instead, we thrust aside the next book we are itching to work on, and commit tedious hours per week to securing speaking gigs on our most recently published book.

We force ourselves to sound bright and cheerful on the phone as we pitch our book signing events, via phone and email, to dozens of book stores, organizations, associations, fancy restaurants and bars, religious sites, retirement villages, conferences, and arts & crafts fairs. (How’s that for the longest run-on sentence in history? Not!)

Of course we’ve kept an Excel sheet or notebook on who we spoke to (the manager or event coordinator’s contact information), name and address of venue (book store, etc.), and dates we contacted them (including their feedback).

Way to go! We’ve landed four gigs over the next three months, which we’ve dutifully written down and yellow-highlighted in our monthly calendars. Our phone calendars are a nice back-up, but printing our  view our upcoming gigs on a nice big calendar pad!

Now we have to get the word out. Even the most extroverted of us find it scary as hell to market our own wares. Stay tuned for Part 2….


Sleuthfest 2019 Killed It!


Both published and unpublished writers need to sharpen their skills. This writing craft manna falls from heaven. Oops! Wrong manna! Annual writer’s conferences like Sleuthfest last March in Boca Raton, Florida breathe fresh knowledge and inspiration into those of us toiling in solitude at our computers.

There is nothing as affirming for a budding or published author as networking with other authors of varying skill levels at meals, workshops, auctions, or late night bar! The ability to rub shoulders with well known and soon to be well known authors is priceless.

Over a 3 1/2 day span, each writer had an opportunity to choose 8 of 27 writers craft sessions ranging in topic from: cozy mystery, urban crime, conflict development, plotting, character development, setting, editing mistakes, private detectives, forensics, self-publishing v. traditional publishing, marketing and publicity. Agent/Editor panels were an added plus.

Yet another benefit of Sleuthfest was having an opportunity to develop, refine, and deliver an “elevator speech” to pitch to on-site agents and editors. Many authors have been “discovered” through attending writers conferences such as Sleuthfest. Who knows? You might be next!!

Smashing the Autism Castle!


Smashing Castles can be tedious work, especially when autism IS the castle! Pick up a library or book store copy of my first narrative non-fiction Smashing Castles; how a young autistic woman discovers her authentic self! In my first narrative non-fiction book, I share my 18 month experiences of life-coaching 26-year-old Akira Stone and taking her from basic self-grooming to speaking in front of Toastmasters, Intl., all with God’s Help!!

Strangest thing of all? Although I have a Master’s degree in Special Education and taught/tutored for several years, Akira was my first life-coaching student. I felt guilty for not sharing this fact with her and her family, but not quite guilty enough to spill the beans! Thankfully, this story has a happy ending! BTW, let me know if you would like to name a character in one of my upcoming novels!

How to Prioritize Your Writing Tasks


Do you ever feel overwhelmed at the endless “should do” book/blog tasks swirling through your brain? It frequently happens to me! One minute I’m thinking “I need to journal what happened yesterday before I forget, and the next I’m debating whether I should continue sending out query letters to literary agents for Smashing Castles; how a young autistic woman discovers her authentic self. That title’s way too long!

I honestly believe we writers smash our heads against cement with all our internal wrangling over which writing task to perform next! Do we really need these emotional toxins floating through our minds like dust-bunnies with fangs? A scary visual image with Halloween so near!

The saying “Prioritize according to deadline” works great if you’re working for a company, but it’s way more difficult when you’re self-employed in the literary arts because you’re in charge of yourself. Quite a burden, to say the least!

You probably don’t want to hear this — I know I don’t, and I’m writing it! — but ORGANIZATION is the answer to success in prioritizing your writing tasks. Some writers like to dictate their book/blog tasks into their phone. To me, that’s just dumping “stuff” at random into a tiny vessel. Other writers like to list by date their tasks in a single spiral notebook; the trick is to keep that notebook close by at all times.

As a former special education teacher, I’ve found the organizational technique that works best for me: color coding. I write all my writing tasks on one page in my spiral notebook, in no particular order.Then I create a rating scale by color: A red check mark in front of that task means it MUST be done ASAP. Tasks like sending a book synopsis out to a literary agent who requested it receives a red check mark.

Editing twenty pages of Market for Murder, my upcoming — in the next millenium — fifth suspense novel, receives a green check mark because although I luv, luv, luv editing, it’s not imperative to work on the task this second unless an agent or publisher has requested it.

A new book idea I want to explore receives a purple check mark; purple signifies “passion” to me. Or maybe I already started fleshing out a short story and don’t yet know where it’s going. That gets purple and blue checkmarks because I’ve already begun to shape my story.

As I complete each task, and these tasks might take several days, I cross off that particular checkmark and indicate the date it was completed. Really reduces the stress! Maybe you’d prefer to put an additional check mark next to an item for each day you’ve been working on that item.  It’s all up to you, as are the colors you choose! You might prefer highlighting the writing task in a particular color instead of solely putting a colored check mark in front of the item.

When it comes to organizing your writing tasks, as with all tasks, there is no “one size fits all.” If you would like to share a technique that DOES work for you, please let me know! For now, keep exploring!







Guest Blogging As A Character in Window of Guilt, My Second Mystery Novel


*Excerpted and paraphrased from Lois Winston’s 2014 Jennie Spallone Guest Blog:

Hi. I’m Mitzy Maven and I’m slumped on the back seat floor of Laurie’s SUV as I secretly type this email into my IPAD. As a former investigative reporter for the Chicago Tribune, I’ve seen my share of bad guys. But I was truly freaked out, as my mom would say, when my high school friend cajoled me into tailing Ryan, her hubby. Marital infidelity? Shady business dealings?

Most likely, we’re talking communication problem. Laurie’s not the easiest person to communicate with. Granted, she’s a kind, compassionate person who adores her husband, son, and puppy. But that tongue of hers can bite! She looks for hidden meanings in the most inane conversation. And if your actions don’t meet her specifications, she’ll try to change you.

Here’s an example: Laurie’s husband, Ryan, is a health insurance adjuster. This Type A personality guy recently quit his job. Laurie was plenty steamed. Who, in these tough economic times, just walks out on his job, with a family to support?

Laurie attempted to wrestle the facts from her husband, but Ryan wasn’t talking.The harder she pressed, the more he withdrew. I urged Laurie to minimize her anger and frustration by meditating. Heck, she already does yoga, so I figured this was no great stretch – no pun intended!

But Laurie refused to acknowledge her anger issues. Arguments between hubby and wife ensued, to the point that their young son complained of “bad energy” in the house. Even the dog started peeing on the furniture!

Oops! Ryan’s approaching the car now. Before I log off, I gotta say that two hot heads don’t a reasonable decision make! I truly hope Ryan is not leading a double life of criminal activity or adultery. I pray his only problem is learning how to openly communicate with his wife without withdrawing into his cave.