Monday, January 27, 2014

Happy birthday to IT’S JUST A LITTLE CRUSH

A few months ago, I featured Caroline Fardig’s humorous mystery, “It’s Just a Little Crush.” I was blown away by this self-published book, which reminded me of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series, but with a heroine who wasn’t such a klutz. (Sorry, Stephanie. You just really started getting on my nerves somewhere in the early teens.) Since then, Caroline’s talent has gotten her an agent and I’ve heard rumors that a publishing deal may be in the works. In any case, Caroline’s turning her book into a series, and you don’t want to miss out!

To celebrate the book’s birthday, Caroline has put it on sale for 99 cents this week only. She’s also doing a raffle so some lucky readers can get it for free... or a signed copy... or even win an Amazon gift card!

Here are the links to buy the book:
Barnes & Noble:

And don't forget to use the Rafflecopter to enter the contest!!!
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Here’s a cute, fun excerpt that shows you how terrific the book is!

"Girl! You are a hot mess!" That's the way my cousin Becca greets me at her funeral home. She, like always, looks more like a model ready for the runway than a funeral director. Why didn't I get some of her "look perfect all the time" genes?

"I'm well aware of that," I acknowledge sullenly.

"What happened, Lizzie? You're all sweaty and stuff. Did you walk over here?"

"No, I didn't walk over here. I had a bad day." I start ticking things off on my fingers. "I had no sleep, I got grilled by a cop, I was late to work, people were gossiping about me, my boss reprimanded me (twice), I didn't get to go to lunch, it was hot in the office, and I was stressing about the mountain of copy I have to go through. Now I have to attend a funeral for a friend, who I found dead. Does that answer your question?"

"Yep. Come on into my office, and I'll try to do something with the mess on top of your shoulders," Becca says as she steers me down the hall.

Becca's private bathroom is stocked with all kinds of makeup, hair products, and hair appliances. No wonder she's always fabulously perfect—she keeps a mini beauty salon at work. She opens a door inside the bathroom to reveal a small closet full of beautiful clothing.

"Here, put this on," Becca orders, throwing a red blouse my way. "Your outfit could use some help."

"What's wrong with my outfit? It's cute."

"It's so last season."

"Ha! That's where you're wrong," I retort. "I've had this for three years."

Becca rolls her eyes and goes to work on my sweaty, tangled hair. She quickly dry shampoos, combs, curls, and sprays it. She has made it clear that she won't let me even peek in the mirror until she is totally done with me. After she is satisfied with my hair, she gets to work on my makeup.

"Now, you're not going to put too much on, are you? I like a natural look," I warn.

"I put makeup on people for a living."

"Yeah, dead people."

"And if I can make dead people look good, think of what I can do for you. Now sit still."

Monday, January 13, 2014

Isn't THAT Convenient...

No book is perfect. And most readers have their own specific triggers of problems that really get under their skin. For some, it’s the odd typo or two. Others can’t stand an artificial happy ending. For me, it’s coincidence. It brings out my inner Saturday Night Live Church Lady. I sneer, “Isn’t that convenient,” while doing my superiority dance. (Apologies to those too young to know the Church Lady.)

How do you know when an event is a coincidence? If you can say “just so happens” as you describe the plot point, that’s a good sign it’s contrived. Examples? “Cady starts her new job, where it just so happens her new boss is her old high school rival.” “Marcia goes to Paris, where it just so happens her Eiffel Tour guide is her long-lost sister, Jan.” “Karen accidentally kills her husband, and it just so happens her arresting officer was an abused wife, too.”

The general rule is you can have one coincidence per book, and the inciting incident (the thing that happens that kicks off the whole story) is a good place to put this coincidence. If Cady starts her job right around page 20 or so, and discovers her new boss is Regina George about five pages later, that’s your story, and there’s nothing wrong with that one. But when you get further along, that’s when you get the eye rolls and “isn’t that convenients.”

Coincidence not only comes across as contrived, it keeps your heroine from being as pro-active as she possibly can. Obviously, you want the most active heroine possible. If you have coincidences in your book, look for ways that your heroine could have set up the situation that way. If she just happens to run into her love interest at the bank, maybe she’s been following him on Facebook and rushes over there when he checks in. Or maybe not, because that makes her appear like a stalker and “stalker” generally doesn’t appear in the list of admirable qualities for your protagonist.

Sometimes this might require changing the order of plot points in your story. In a manuscript I recently read, a police detective investigating the murder of a teacher discovers about halfway through that her estranged daughter was in the man’s class. That coincidence was way too much for me, and I suggested rewriting the beginning so that the detective discovers her daughter is in the class very early on, and then commandeers the investigation so she can protect the girl if she has to.

“Just happens” is the enemy of proactive storytelling. But sometimes writers can’t think of any other way for two people to meet, for the secret to come out, for everyone on the Orient Express to want to kill the victim (OK, that one pretty much worked out well.) Is there a coincidental plot point you’re grappling with? Describe it in the comments and I’ll see if I can help.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

New Year, New Ways to Procrastinate

“Write blog post” is a recurring item on my to-do list. I’m a self-published writer, and as such, it is imperative of me to be constantly publishing new work, because apparently while it’s difficult to get strangers to download the cheap book that’s on Amazon, they are following the blogs that we indie writers write in the hopes that it will lead people to buy our book, currently only $3.99 on Kindle or Nook.

In case you’re wondering, no, “be less cynical” did not appear on my list of resolutions this year. Or any year, that is. But “cut out junk food” did, which is why I’m pretty crabby typing this at 4pm, lunch over hours ago, dinner still hours away and the chocolate chip cookies calling to me much louder than the bananas. (Bananas, I believe, are incapable of sending the telepathic messages that all chocolate products know how to send.)

In order to gain inspiration, I took a look at the reader tallies for all my posts over the year. Sadly, my most widely read post was one in which I complained a lot about a certain character on General Hospital. I say “sadly” because I quit watching the show several months ago and will not be writing about it again. Although since the post, the writers made all the changes I had said were keeping the character one-dimensional, so there’s victory in that, I suppose.

I was happy to note that the two excerpts I posted from my work-in-progress, featuring scenes from Christmas and New Year’s, got a lot of eyeballs. In that spirit, and because right now I’m too cold and lazy to try to do any original work, I’m going to post my favorite scene from my other work-in-progress, THE TIES THAT BLEED. It’s a vampire novel. No, there aren’t any vampires in my baseball mom book or my Democrat mom book, but it is about a mom. She just happens to kill vampires. For the FBI.

The scene hasn’t had its final edit – it’s probably still wordy in places – but I hope you enjoy it anyway!


Friday afternoon, I take a cab to Reagan National Airport and the shuttle to LaGuardia. Another cab deposits me right at 178 Central Park West just as the sun starts to set.

I haven’t been here in years, but the sight still sends shivers down my spine. Not because of the building – which is a solid pre-war structure with great views, if you’re into that sort of thing. But because of the man who lives at the top floor.

I take the elevator to the penthouse level. Mrs. Leonard sits outside the door, for all intents and purposes, a prim woman in her 40s. Of course I know she’s well over 100 and not at all prim. But there never was a Mr. Leonard; she’s of the generation that believed unmarried women should hide that fact.

Mrs. Leonard greets me with an ugly sneer. “I always knew we hadn’t seen the last of you. I always knew you’d come crawling back eventually.”

“He’s expecting me.”

“I see that snippy attitude of yours hasn’t faded with time,” she simpers.

“People who sell out the entire human race just bring out the worst in me.”

She stands up slowly and unlocks the door. “I’ll show you in.”

I blow right past her. “I know the way.”

Gerard’s made a few changes since I was last here. His current decorator must have a fetish for white. White shag carpeting, white leather sofas, even a white piano. Perhaps it’s his way of showing off his neat feeding techniques. Not a spot of blood anywhere!

The staircase is the same, though. Hardwood, spiral, seems to go right up to heaven.

As if he could sense me, Gerard suddenly appears at the top of the staircase. He’s wearing some kind of ridiculous black cape, and glides down the stairs as if floating. When he reaches me, he pulls the cape up over his mouth dramatically. His eyes glow yellow, then red.

How ridiculous.

“Grow up,” I snap.

Gerard drops the cape and pouts. Underneath, he’s wearing a European-cut suit and shoes, looking like a GQ model in a banking ad. That whole ageless vampire thing really works for him. Unfortunately.

Valerie was right; he does look exactly the same. His black hair is slicked back as if wet from the shower. His prominent nose and chin jut out like they’d been carved from Roman marble. I don’t know exactly how old he is, but he could fit in in any time or place.

And sadly, he still makes my stomach do cartwheels. Like I’m some 15-year-old crushing on the high school quarterback.

I disgust myself.

“This isn't what you want?” he asks, his voice betraying just the slightest hint of an accent from a bygone era. “The epitome of the big bad vampire, to tell all your little students? I know! Let's take a picture, the two of us together.”

He claps his hands. “Mrs. Leonard! Please, if you would, take a photograph of me with Ms. Rowan.”

“You’re a vampire. You don’t show up in photographs.”

“I’d rather you smear me with blood and left me naked in Central Park,” she calls out from the hallway.

“So hard to find a decent human servant these days, isn't it?”

“Not nearly as difficult as finding a decent vampire hunter,” he counters. “Or so your students’ failure rate makes it seem. Tell me, are the Virginia suburbs as bucolic as the travel brochures suggest?”

“Not when the mosquitoes are biting.”

“Mosquitoes,” he sneers. “So you’ve minimized myself and my kind to annoying little insects. I’m charmed.

“You've come to me for help. Business.”

“There would be no other reason,” I tell him.

“So I feared.”

I am not letting this get personal. “A week ago, a vampire –“

He puts a finger on my mouth to shhh me. “Before we work, a second to drink you in.” He smiles suggestively. “So to speak.”

And because I need his help – for no other reason – I stand there, as stiff as a statue – and let him touch me. He runs his hands all over my face, my hair, my neck. He caresses the scar that Ian left. I try my best not to react at all.

My best is good enough.

“You’ve healed well.”

I take a step back. I can breathe again. “Robert did a wonderful job.”

“Ah. Robert.” He picks up my left hand and gazes at my rings. “The man who saved your life and stole your heart.”

“You imply someone else had it.”

“Not even a stake in your hand, and yet you wound so well.”

Before I can stop him, he pulls me to him so we’re chest-to-chest. I can feel my heart pounding into him. His heart, of course, doesn’t beat.

“Does he make you feel human, Diana? Do you sleep in your big house in the suburbs and pretend the darkness does not call to you?”

Coming here was a huge mistake.

Gerard drops my hand and takes a few steps back. He’s toying with me. Naturally. I’m just a mouse to him, that’s all. That’s all I ever was.

“Tell me about the vampire,” he commands.

I take a deep breath. Like a gentleman, he pretends not to notice. “The analysis shows you created him. About a hundred years ago.”

“I created only one vampire in that time. And nine years ago, you killed him.”

“Then somebody forgot to tell him. Science doesn’t lie.”

“But humans do,” Gerard smiles.

“And those that were once human.”

Gerard paces around me. I can’t tell if he’s thinking or sizing me up as prey. My legs tense.

“If Ian were alive, I would know it,” he tells me. “I would feel it. I created him. When you killed him, I felt his life force flow out of me.”

“Could another vampire bring him back?” I ask.

Gerard cocks his head, thinking. “There is still much we do not know about how the cruor works. Perhaps you can discover the answers for us. In your laboratory.”

Cruor is the word the vampires use to describe the rules for their existence. We use a different word. Fangology.

“The obvious answer is that I didn’t kill him,” I argue. “And your life force odometer needs to be recalibrated.”

“So you will hunt him down again. I suppose I should be relieved you're not bearing wooden stakes for me.”

I have no reason to kill you. Do I?”

“It would be easier than hunting down Ian,” he points out. “You know how to play the game. Kill the one who created him, and Ian will die too.”

For a moment, I picture myself whipping the stake out from my ankle holster and stabbing him in the heart. It’s an image that doesn’t come. He’s too quick, too good for me.

“I've never been one to take the easy way out.”

“There would be nothing easy about it.”

He takes my chin in his hands and turns my head so I’m forced to look directly at him. Which is ridiculous.

“You know that hypnosis bullshit doesn’t work with me,” I remind him.

“Don’t you want to know my price?” His hand slips down to my neck.

I back away. “I know your price, and you know I won't pay it.”

“I don’t want your blood.”

Even though I know the answer, I ask anyway. “Then what do you want?”

“One night. And I'll give you all the help you need.”

“Burn in hell.”

I blow out the door before he can answer. Mrs. Leonard doesn’t even look up from her Us Weekly as I wait for the elevator. After 30 seconds, I decide to take the stairs.