About Lori Robinett

Lori is a creative soul trapped in a paralegal’s body. As a child, she wrote pages and pages in longhand. As a teenager, she pounded away on a typewriter. As a college student, she learned about criticism (death to English Comp!). As an adult, she found her hours filled with work and parenting. Then, she rediscovered the joy of escaping into a world of her own creation. After all, it’s not illegal to write all those twisted things that pop into your head!

Setting Goals

Like a lot of people, I’ve joined the Fitbit bandwagon. It was an easy choice for me, because through my employer’s wellness plan, I get points for participating and that means money in my pocket. And money always motivates me! ;o)

Anyway, my Fitbit came loaded with a goal of 10,000 steps a day. That seemed doable at first, but I quickly learned it was a HUGE challenge for me. I commute (a little over an hour a day), sit at a desk all day, then come home and write. Yeah, steps don’t come easy for me. As I evaluated my goals at the end of 2017, I realized that, yet again, I rarely reached my step goal. And that frustrates the heck out of me. What I also had to admit was that I didn’t even try anymore.

So I reevaluated my goal and reset my Fitbit for a goal of 5,000 steps a day. By the way – I usually get 2500 – 3000 steps in an average day, so this goal was still a stretch for me. What happened was that I would check my Fitbit, see how close I was to my goal, and I’d walk, workout, dance, to get those extra steps. And here’s what happened:

I increased my steps by 13%. In the previous two weeks, I only reached 5,000 steps one time, when my goal was 10,000 steps. But now that my goal is 5,000 steps, I’ve reached that goal 6 times. That’s pretty darned impressive.

The same thing happens with writing. I’ve competed in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) a dozen times. When doing that, my goal is to write 1,776 words a day. By the end of the month, my fingers hurt, my eyes hurt, my brain hurts – and I nearly always end up in a Lupus flare. So, this year I’m trying a different plan – a goal of 1,000 words a day. I’ve kept it up far longer than NaNo, and I feel like my writing is better. Plus, I’m not killing myself doing it! Bonus!

This is exactly the method I teach in Blank to 50K. I coach writers through the writing process, 1,000 words at a time. If you’re ready to reach your goal of writing a novel, join Blank to 50K. Make yourself a priority, make your goals reality. And if you’re in the Fitbit community, let me know if you want to be “friends.”

Blank to 50K: Hooking your Reader (aka is your idea BIG?)

One of the hardest things about writing a novel is to come up with an idea that is big enough to carry the novel. In order to that, you have to make everything – every single component of your story – bigger.

The central conflict is the first place to tackle this. Think about the engine of conflict that is going to drive your story. In a mystery, it will be a crime. In a romance, it’ll be the relationship between your hero and heroine. Your conflict has to be big enough to power your entire story, big enough to power the engine of your plot, big enough to keep your characters engaged and engaging.

Let’s think about the first thing I mentioned – the crime in a mystery. Your crime has to be as big as your writing space. A small crime, such as the stealing of a candy bar, would be enough for a short story, but it’s not enough to power an entire novel. A much better crime would be a murder or a grand heist (think Ocean’s Eleven or the Italian Job). This holds true with romance also. Whatever the conflict is that keeps your characters apart has to be more than simply she just got out of a bad relationship. Consider the way the conflict is heightened when you give your heroine a child with a deadbeat dad – suddenly every potential boyfriend has to live up to the perfect father image that she has in mind for her son.

Now, a word of warning – writing about a big idea is scary and intimidating as all get out. You may worry that it’s more than you can handle. But don’t. It’s not. You can do this – by dealing with the story one step at a time, by taking the time to craft detailed character sketches, by immersing yourself in the setting, by outlining / plotting your story.

Here’s the good news about a big idea – it is the engine that will power you through until you write THE END. Your job is to get out of the way and let your characters tell you what is happening, so that you can write their story.

If you’re ready to get out of your own way and tackle that blank page, join my introductory class, Blank to 50K, and go from a blank page to a complete first draft of a novel. You can do it, and I’m here to help.

Criminal Intent Giveaway!!

Today, I have a fun surprise that I’d like to share with you.

I’ve teamed up with 35+ fantastic authors to give away a huge collection of crime thrillers to 2 lucky winners, PLUS a brand new eReader to the Grand Prize winner!

Oh, and did I mention you’ll receive a collection of FREE ebooks just for entering? ;D

You can win my novel Fatal Impulse, plus books from authors like James Scott Bell and Rachel Van Dyken (both authors I recommend!)

Enter the giveaway by clicking here: http://bit.ly/criminalintent-feb2018

Good luck and enjoy!

Happy reading,

Lori

New Release by Micki Browning: Beached

Through Sisters in Crime, I met Micki Browning and decided to read her book, Adrift. It was fantastic! The perfect beach read! So, I was really excited when I found out her second book was coming out this month . . . goodness knows, I need something that reminds me of warmer weather and beaches when I’m stuck in Missouri with ice and arctic cold temps! Because I loved her first book so much, I sat down with Micki to find out more about her and her new book. Help me welcome Micki!

In what genre did you begin writing?

Poetry. I was five or six-years-old and I wrote (and illustrated!) a poem called the Crocodile’s Tea. I came across it several months ago. The gist of the story was being invited to a crocodile’s tea and discovering that the crocodile intended to have me for tea. I escaped, but so began my women in peril stories.

How has your writing/genre evolved from that time?
My first sale was a non-fiction article on underwater sound that I had sent to a dive magazine. From there it was mystery short stories—and more really bad poetry. As an officer, I penned a local newspaper column about public safety. It took a long time before I screwed up my courage to tackle a novel. I’ve always been drawn to crime fiction—either police procedural or mysteries.

How long did it take from beginning to write seriously to seeing your book published?

I’d have to say six years. Like many writers I had a couple of practice novels. I learned structure by writing a story that didn’t hold together. I joined Sisters In Crime and took classes through their Guppy chapter. I honed my dialogue, learned how to flesh out characters. Then I wrote Adrift. It won the Daphne du Maurier Award of Excellence for unpublished mainstream mystery, and the Royal Palm Literary Award. I met my agent through the Daphne contest and signed with her shortly after winning.

What prompted you to write for publication?
Writing is its own reward in many respects, but I’ve always wanted to share my stories. I want to entertain readers.

Tell me about the moment when you realized you were a “real writer.”
Ha! If you’d asked that five-year-old poet, she’d have proclaimed herself a writer. It is only as we get older that doubt starts to edge out confidence. If you count police reports, I’ve written professionally my entire adult life. But despite having published some short stories, I think it was my first royalty check that had me sitting back in my desk chair amazed that thousands of people would read my novel. It is an awesome responsibility.

What did you do with your first royalty check?
I sunk it right back into my writing business. Writing can be a surprisingly expensive profession by the time you factor classes, equipment (in my case an ergonomic desk chair), office supplies, conferences, and myriad other things. My budget keeps expanding. Unfortunately, I have yet to figure out how to claim a massage as a business expense.

What book (that you wrote or read) had the biggest impact on you?
Gosh, this is a really hard question. I take something from every book I read. That said, Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien is a story I’ve returned to every five years or so since I first read it in my teens. It is responsible for instilling my belief that one person can change the world and that good and evil are in constant opposition—and someone has to fight the good fight.

What book are you the most proud of, and why?
The next one…. Adrift will always hold a special place in my heart because it was my debut. I believe Beached is a better book—at least structurally. I’m working on a police procedural now that is grittier than my Mer Cavallo books. I want to keep stretching. Each next book holds untold possibility—a challenge for me to improve my craft and give more to my readers.

If you could take a vacation with any of your characters, who would you choose and where would you go?
Hands down, I’d vacation in the Florida Keys with Mer Cavallo. We’d go diving, of course.

You suddenly find out that you have an entire day free – what are you going to do?
Wow. I just had about twenty things run through my head—everything from diving or kayaking to catching up on laundry. You know when you are presented with too many choices you become paralyzed with indecision? Yeah. Let me grab a cup of tea and I’ll get back to you….

Anything else you’d like to tell me about your writing?

Beached, the second Mer Cavallo Mystery, launches January 10, 2018, and I’m really excited about the story. Here’s a quick blurb:

Marine biologist Meredith Cavallo’s life unravels after she finds a plastic-wrapped bundle floating on the waves off Key Largo. Curious, she pulls it aboard her dive boat and lands in the middle of a storm of intrigue involving an obscure legend, an 18th century shipwreck and a modern pirate who’ll resort to murder to claim the booty first.

But even more important, I’m so grateful that there are people who enjoy my words. It is truly humbling. Thank you.

Visit me at https://MickiBrowning.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/MickiBrowning
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MickiBrowningAuthor/
Amazon: amazon.com/author/mickibrowning

Thanks for taking the time to chat, Micki! Friends, I thought you might like a little background on Micki:

An FBI National Academy graduate, Micki Browning worked in municipal law enforcement for more than two decades, retiring as a division commander. Now a full-time writer, she won the 2015 Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence and the Royal Palm Literary Award for her debut mystery, ADRIFT.

Micki also writes short stories and non-fiction. Her work has appeared in dive magazines, anthologies, mystery magazines and textbooks. She resides in Southern Florida with her partner in crime and a vast array of scuba equipment she uses for “research.”

Make sure you check out Micki’s books – I’ve read Adrift and can vouch for how good it is, and I can hardly wait to start on Beached!

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

Year in Review: Time Well Spent

I’ve followed Lisa Jacobs for years, and I’m a member of her exclusive Luminaries Club. On her blog each December, she does a 7-day review. It’s sort of a sneak peek into things that she includes in her annual planner, Your Best Year 2018. That workbook and her methods have made such an impact on my business (and life) that I thought I’d share some of my annual review with you. I encourage you to check out Lisa’s blog on Marketing Creativity and follow along with her prompts.

What was time very well spent in 2017?

That answer is simple. Travel. On the personal side, the hubs and I spent a long weekend in Chicago at the Star Trek convention. It was so much fun – great friends, great food, great memories.

On the business side, I stepped WAY out of my comfort zone and went to the InD’Scribe conference in Burbank, California. Frankly, I wouldn’t have gone, but my book Diamond in the Rough was a RONE finalist, so I stuffed my worry into a box and bought a plane ticket. That conference was literally life-changing for me. I’m an introvert. Definitely not a joiner. In public, I want to disappear into the background. Or simply disappear. But when I arrived at the hotel, I stood in my room looking at the room service menu, then glanced out the window and saw several people sitting around at the outdoor bar and grill. I thought about all the money I’d spent getting there, took a deep breath and left the hotel room. When I walked into the bar, I spotted Suzan Tisdale, a USA Today bestselling author that I respect. I didn’t know her. She definitely didn’t know me. But, I gathered my courage and introduced myself. She instantly welcomed me and introduced me to her friends, then asked me to join them. That set the tone for the weekend. I joined in. I talked to people. I danced. I learned. I networked. And I met one of my literary heroes, Rebecca Forster (the author of the Witness series). Even though I didn’t win a RONE, it was an AMAZING experience.

The very next weekend, I went to Magna Cum Murder in Indianapolis, Indiana, with one of my critique partners. I moderated a panel and served on another. I was so nervous I made myself physically sick that first morning, but once again, I gathered my courage and put myself out there. The highlight of the weekend happened on the last day, though. The local chapter of Sisters in Crime hosted a flash fiction writing contest. Even though the level of professionalism and talent at that convention was sky high, I decided to try my hand at writing a short story. I’m so glad I did, because it was my name they called during that final luncheon. I went up on stage to accept the award and read my little story out loud. It was truly amazing.

Those two weekends, back to back, were life-changing. Literally. I felt like I had reached the next level.

There were other instances of time well-spent, like the week of vacation I took off of the day job to finish Fatal Obsession, and any time at all I spent with my family.

So, tell me . . . what was time well spent for you in 2017?

Guest Spotlight: Lois Winston

As a member of Sisters in Crime, I get to rub shoulders with some amazing writers. One that I’ve really enjoyed getting to know is Lois Winston, and I can hardly wait to read her new book. It has Scrapbook in the title – I know, right?! Mystery + Scrapbook = AWESOME! So, I asked Lois if she’d be willing to answer a few questions for me. Welcome, Lois!

In what genre did you begin writing?
LW: I started out writing romantic suspense. Love, Lies and a Double Shot of Deception, was the first book I ever wrote. It became the second book I sold. Before I sold that book, though, chick lit became popular, and since I wasn’t getting offers on any of my romantic suspense books, I decided to try my hand at chick lit. Talk Gertie To Me, a fish-out-of-water story about a mother and daughter, became my debut novel.

How has your writing/genre evolved from that time?
I’m not a funny person in person. I’ve been known to flub the punch line of every joke I’ve ever tried to tell. However, in writing Talk Gertie To Me, I discovered I had a talent for writing funny. Who knew? So when my agent told me of an editor looking for crafting mysteries and suggested I try writing one, I decided on a humorous amateur sleuth series. I created Anastasia Pollack, a crafts magazine editor and widow who, along with her two teenage sons, lives with her communist mother-in-law, her self-proclaimed descendant of Russian nobility mother, and a zany menagerie of pets, including a Shakespeare-quoting parrot.

How long did it take from beginning to write seriously to seeing your book published?
Ten years, almost to the day.

What prompted you to write for publication?
I didn’t grow up yearning to be an author. I’ve worked most of my adult life as a designer in the consumer crafts industry, creating craft projects and needlework for craft kit manufacturers and craft magazine and book publishers. One day a story popped into my head and took up residence. Eventually I decided to write it down. Before I knew it, I had written a book. The next logical step was to see if anyone thought it was worthy of publication.

Tell me about the moment when you realized you were a “real writer.”
That would have to be the day I received the phone call from my agent, telling me she had an offer of publication for Talk Gertie To Me.

What book (that you wrote or read) had the biggest impact on you?
I’d have to say Talk Gertie To Me, the first book I sold, because it proved to me that I could write a book people would want to read, showed me I had a hidden talent for writing humor, and paved the way for all the other books I’ve written.

What book are you the most proud of, and why?
That would have to be Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun because it received starred reviews from both Publishers Weekly and Booklist and was dubbed, “North Jersey’s more mature answer to Stephanie Plum” by Kirkus Reviews. Being compared so favorably to Janet Evanovich is an incredible honor!

If you could take a vacation with any of your characters, who would you choose and where would you go?
I hope my husband doesn’t read this because I’d definitely choose Zack Barnes, Anastasia’s love interest in the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries. The guy’s genes cavorted in the same primordial pool as Pierce Bronson, George Clooney, and Antonio Banderas. Aside from that, Zack would make a great tour guide. He’s been just about everywhere. So I’d suggest a yearlong world tour. Nothing wrong with dreaming big, is there?

You suddenly find out that you have an entire day free – what are you going to do?
If I won the lottery or the day came with tickets to see Hamilton, I’d go to the theater. I’m a huge Broadway fan. I just wish I could afford to feed my addiction more often. I’d have to mortgage my home to afford tickets to Hamilton!

Anything else you’d like to tell me about your writing?
Scrapbook of Murder is the sixth novel in the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series. Other books in the series include: Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun, Death By Killer Mop Doll, Revenge of the Crafty Corpse, Decoupage Can Be Deadly, and A Stitch To Die For. In addition, there are three mini-mysteries: Crewel Intentions, Mosaic Mayhem, and Patchwork Peril.

Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me, Lois. Readers, read on for a bit about the newest book on my TBR list!

Scrapbook of Murder
An Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery, Book 6

Crafts and murder don’t normally go hand-in-hand, but normal deserted craft editor Anastasia Pollack’s world nearly a year ago. Now, tripping over dead bodies seems to be the “new normal” for this reluctant amateur sleuth.

When the daughter of a murdered neighbor asks Anastasia to create a family scrapbook from old photographs and memorabilia discovered in a battered suitcase, she agrees—not only out of friendship but also from a sense of guilt over the older woman’s death. However, as Anastasia begins sorting through the contents of the suitcase, she discovers a letter revealing a fifty-year-old secret, one that unearths a long-buried scandal and unleashes a killer. Suddenly Anastasia is back in sleuthing mode as she races to prevent a suitcase full of trouble from leading to more deaths.

Buy Links:
Kindle http://amzn.to/2ffIMgy
Kobo https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/scrapbook-of-murder
iTunes https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/scrapbook-of-murder/id1286758416?mt=11
Nook https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/scrapbook-of-murder-lois-winston/1127145157?ean=2940158851896
Paperback http://amzn.to/2y2Omhl

Bio:
USA Today bestselling and award-winning author Lois Winston writes mystery, romance, romantic suspense, chick lit, women’s fiction, children’s chapter books, and nonfiction under her own name and her Emma Carlyle pen name. Kirkus Reviews dubbed her critically acclaimed Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series, “North Jersey’s more mature answer to Stephanie Plum.” In addition, Lois is an award-winning craft and needlework designer who often draws much of her source material for both her characters and plots from her experiences in the crafts industry.

Website: www.loiswinston.com
Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers blog: www.anastasiapollack.blogspot.com
Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/anasleuth
Twitter at https://twitter.com/Anasleuth
Newsletter sign-up: https://app.mailerlite.com/webforms/landing/z1z1u5

RONE Awards Finalist: Karla Brandenburg

I was over-the-moon excited when my book Diamond in the Rough was announced as a finalist for the RONE award. One of the cool things about the award is that it has introduced me to new authors, so I invited some of them to share some info with my readers about their own books. Join me in welcoming Karla Brandenburg today!

In what genre did you begin writing? I was aiming for action/suspense with my first novel, but it turned into romantic suspense. I’ve always been a sucker for a good romance and I couldn’t seem to keep it out of the story.

How has your writing/genre evolved from that time? Now that I’ve embraced my genre, I take aim solidly. I write in two genres, romantic suspense and romance with paranormal subplots. My current series has ghostly supporting characters.

How long did it take from beginning to write seriously to seeing your book published? For the first book? I started writing it in 1998. I didn’t actually publish until 2002, but I also went through a divorce and then met and married my present husband during that period.

What prompted you to write for publication? It was one of those moments when you read someone else’s book and say “I can write better than that.” And then the “million dollar idea” (ok, so it wasn’t worth a million dollars, but you get the gist) struck.

Tell me about the moment when you realized you were a “real writer.” I’d say it was when I finished that first book. I’d been writing stories all my life, but I’d never put in the time and energy to organize them or do more than put pen to paper. With that first book, I dedicated the time to learning the craft, following a theme, writing and editing to make it right instead of just letting my imagination out for a walk.

What did you do with your first royalty check? Well, this goes to who I am. I’m a penny pincher, tight-fisted tightwad. I banked it.

What book (that you wrote or read) had the biggest impact on you? The one I read was Dragonfly in Amber, and then Outlander after that. Those books moved me to travel to Scotland, in spite of the cold and the icky food and all the rest of the negatives. It was a very dark period in my personal life and those books reached out to me as a means of escape from my everyday life (which I needed at that time.) Later, when I wrote Heart for Rent, with an Option, it was a way of letting go of some pent up emotions of my own. It probably isn’t my best work, but that was a book that helped me work through some personal demons.

Tell me about the inspiration for your RONE finalist book. I had so much fun writing Cookie Therapy! It is one in a series of a family of friends (the Northwest Suburbs series). In the second book in the series, I introduced two somewhat unlikeable characters. People had such a visceral response to one of them, that I knew I had to redeem in her in the third book, and because I had so much fun with her, Cookie Therapy was my attempt to redeem the other unlikeable character from that book, a cheating boyfriend. I paired him off with a klutzy victim, someone with secrets of her own.

Tell me about the moment you found out your book was chosen as a finalist for the RONE award. There must be some mistake! This is a popularity contest! Except it isn’t. I actually had to double check how I’d made the finals, and it was because of the fabulous review I’d gotten (5 stars!) that qualified me. Cookie Therapy was also nominated for the Booklife Prize for Fiction and I made the finals there, as well. Glowing with pride that I was able to create something other people enjoy reading!

What book are you the most proud of, and why? Cookie Therapy is one of my favorites, to be sure. I was able to create multilayered personalities for my main characters, and give them a worthy supporting cast. The fact that it has received critical acclaim helps, and I have another book that won an award, but yeah, Cookie Therapy is probably the one I’m most proud of.

If you could take a vacation with any of your characters, who would you choose and where would you go? A lot of my stories stem from vacations, so technically, I’ve already traveled to places with my characters, or I created them from those places. One of my favorites was Heart for Rent, strolling through a French market in Aix-en-Provence (I’d go back there in a heartbeat), and another is New Orleans. Although Jared (The Twins) isn’t from the city, he did give me a deeper appreciation for Southern Louisiana by appearing in my book.

You suddenly find out that you have an entire day free – what are you going to do? Write. Or Read. I’ve scheduled vacations just for these purposes. I also like to walk to ruminate on ideas. Then, of course, there is the “visiting” thing. I feel guilty if I don’t use free time to catch up with those people I care most about, so if I have the entire day? I’ll run out to visit people who can’t get out to see me.

Anything else you’d like to tell me about your writing? My latest book came out in July – THE MIRROR is the third in the EPITAPH series and I’m busily working on the fourth one, which will probably have a January/February release date.

Thanks so much for stopping by, Karla! I enjoyed our chat.

Readers, if you want to know more about Karla, pop over to her website: https://www.karlabrandenburg.com

And if you want to check out Cookie Therapy, you can find it at any of these retailers:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Cookie-Therapy-Northwest-Suburbs-Brandenburg-ebook/dp/B01CBW4J56

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/cookie-therapy-karla-brandenburg/1123476014

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/cookie-therapy

iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/cookie-therapy/id1088691848?mt=11

 

Vacation, a/k/a Fodder for Writing

Courtesy of Photo Morgue

Some mystery/thriller writer friends and I have challenged ourselves to blog once a month about a topic related to mysteries and/or thrillers. Join us each month on the 13th for the #Lucky13MysteryBlogHop!

When you’re a writer, you never take vacation. Everywhere I go, especially in new places, I enjoy watching people, and (yes, I know this is a bit twisted) thinking about how to kill people and dispose of bodies. That urge to create and solve a mystery follows me everywhere.

Fatal Impulse was inspired by a story I heard when I was 10 years old. My family vacationed in Colorado, near Salida. At some point, Mom talked to a cashier (or a waitress maybe?) about the mountain roads, the steep drop-offs, the dangers of driving. I remember that woman telling a story about a car that went off Highway 50, somewhere near Monarch Pass. The woman said the woman’s body wasn’t recovered until the next summer because the ravine was so steep and rugged that it was too dangerous for rescue crews to go down. The car was left there, a mangled mass of steel. The idea of someplace being so rugged that a body couldn’t be recovered stuck with me. I thought, what a great way to get rid of a body! (yes, even at 10, I thought that way – is it any wonder that I devoured Stephen King novels in my early teens?)

Tell me about a vacation you’ve been on – where would you suggest as a good setting for a mystery?

 

RONE Award Finalists: Debra Erfert (part 2)

I hope you enjoyed my interview with author Debra Erfert yesterday, who is also a finalist for the RONE awards. I asked her to share a little info about her book, Changes of the Heart. Read on for a blurb and excerpt:

Changes of the Heart: Buying the 1920s farmhouse south of Phoenix, where the rumors of John Dillinger’s gang hid out in the 30s, is supposed to be accident-prone Grace Evanheart’s way of escaping an old romance. When she finds an ancient diary with a map under the bedroom’s floorboard, the rumors solidify into fact. She doesn’t know who to trust with the news; Micah Stevens, the handsome deputy and the great grandson of the original landowners with whom she’s attracted, or Jerry, the young historian who seems too intent on learning about her new home?

Micah seems convinced their paths cross exactly at the right time and in the right place for them to fall in love. Now he just has to convince Grace of the same thing before suspicions of his real motive have her running again.

EXCERPT:

Strawberries slid down the stark white wall, juices dripping in thin bloody ribbons toward the broken bowl near the baseboard. If I’d aimed six inches to the left, I’d have hit my boyfriend’s head as he left.

Correction—my ex-boyfriend.
Three soft, confident taps on the door preceded my neighbor’s entrance. I knew who it was before I saw Chelsea Vanderbilt’s short, rainbow sherbet tips and blonde roots. She made my brown hair seem dreary and bland.
“Hey, Grace. I take it David’s gone.”
“He’s gone.” I followed her gaze to the newly redecorated wall. “I missed.”
Chelsea knelt down and picked up the largest chunk of ceramic bowl. “Well, lady, it’s probably a good thing you missed. He is the litigious type.”
I fell onto my hide-a-bed sofa, sighing loudly. “He told me he’s not ready to commit. That we should just be friends.”
Chelsea picked up a smaller bit of broken bowl and dropped it into the piece in her hand as she snorted. “I thought you were already friends.”
“I thought he was going to ask me to marry him. Instead, he dumped me.” I turned on my side and bumped my head on the worn-out arm of the couch. The brief pain only solidified my anger. “I’m going to be thirty next month. Alone forever! What am I doing wrong?”
“You’re not doing anything wrong,” Chelsea said, dropping the broken bowl into the trash, “except for maybe putting your trust in a man who never earned it.”
“I probably shouldn’t have dated someone younger.”
Chelsea turned and rested her skinny hip against the cabinet. “Five years isn’t that much of a difference. David’s a grown man.”
“Apparently he thought I was too old for him.”
“I don’t think your advanced age has anything to do with it.” I threw a tiny accent pillow at Chelsea’s head—and missed. Either I needed to stop throwing things or take better aim.
I stared at the many rings on Chelsea’s fingers, including the ones on her thumbs, and said, “Or I just wasn’t exciting enough.”
“Maybe now you’ll learn not to fall instantly in love with the next guy to look into your baby blues.”
“They’re green.”
“You know what I mean.”
“I wish I didn’t.”
David Sullivan had asked me out about five minutes after running into me—literally. I was out for a rare morning jog, went around a bend, and ended up in a tangle of arms and legs with a bloodied lip. That was two short years ago.
“What are you going to do now?”
I gazed around my apartment. None of the beat-up furniture was mine. I barely had room in one corner for my six-foot easel, and most of my cabinet space was taken up with my art supplies instead of dishes. I needed room. And I needed to get away and forget about David.
I sat up and put both feet on the worn-out carpet. “Start over. I know how. I’ve done it before.”

Want to read more? Grab your copy of Changes of the Heart today!

RONE Award Finalists: Debra Erfert

I was over-the-moon excited when my book Diamond in the Rough was announced as a finalist for the RONE award. One of the cool things about the award is that it has introduced me to new authors, so I invited some of them to share some info with my readers about their own books. Join me in welcoming Debra Erfert today!

When and why did you begin writing? In 2003 I watched Pirates of the Caribbean Curse of the Black Pearl about 2 dozen times—in the theater. I wanted a sequel, so I wrote one just to see if I could. I was so impressed with that novella, that I continued to write, except I wrote a full-length novel, and then another, and another.

When did you first consider yourself a writer? I actually considered myself a writer after I had my first contract with a real publisher. I was inexperienced then, and I don’t use that marker anymore. I think anyone who has the desire to write a story is a writer—period.

What inspired you to write your first book? After finishing that first novella, I think I caught the writing bug. My first book was inspired by a dream I had. The only part I can remember is one scene of a woman jumping off an outdoor staircase in Paris, trying to get away from someone chasing her. I used that feeling—that scene—and wrote an 800-page manuscript around it. I published that story in 3 parts entitled Window of Time Trilogy.

What books have most influenced your life the most? Several years ago I met a woman named Kerry Blair, who is a mystery writer. She encouraged me even though my writing was less than professional. I’ve read everything she’s written—multiple times. “This Just In”, is one of my favorites. “Ghost of a Chance”, Mummy’s the Word”, I’ve also read every Sarah M. Eden’s historical romance novels: “Seeking Persephone” plus the others in that series. A more mainstream novel that influence me into creating more complicated novels is a book called “Lucifer’s Hammer” by Larry Niven, and Jerry Pournelle. It’s a comet, end-of-civilization book.

What authors do you like to read? I read Joyce DiPastena, Donna Hatch, Sarah M. Eden, Marsha Ward, Sariah Wilson, Teya Peck, Heather (HB) Moore, Liz Adair, Donna K. Weaver, HB Moore, Dean Koontz, (some of) Steven King, and Ray Bradbury for when I want to be creeped out.

What book are you reading now? I’m reading Solstice by Jane Redd (Heather B. Moore’s pen name while writing for Kindle Press). This was a Kindle Scout winner!

Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest? I just finished See Me For Me, by Teya Peck, and Don Carey’s Into The Wind.

What are your current projects? I’m currently working on my first historical romance set first in England 1888 and then in the wild west of 1888 Nevada, US. It’s Pride and Prejudice meets Bonanza.

What was the hardest part of writing your book? The hardest part of writing Changes of the Heart was letting the characters be themselves. In it, Grace isn’t so… um, graceful. I’d have to say that she really is a lot like me. Or, I wrote myself, my life, onto the pages of this book. I’m a natural klutz. I’ve sprained my ankle, several times, and all my toes one time or another tripping over stuff, and I drop things all the time. While I may have exaggerated things just a little with Grace, it wasn’t by very much—sadly.

Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it? One of the biggest things I learned with writing this story came while I wrote the scene about Grace having the epiphany about her mother dying. My mother died when I was only 24 years old, not much older than Grace when her mother passed. My mother had been sick with cancer since I was 6 years old. I essentially wrote about my mother’s illness and death in this story, but while I did it, I realized that all the innocent prayers of a child that I’d sent up to Heaven to heal her, they didn’t go unanswered. She’d lived—she’d lived long enough to raise her four children and see them all married before she finally died. That was my epiphany.

Do you have any advice for other writers? Write what you love! Write what you can’t get out of your head.

What book or books have had a strong influence on you or your writing? Kerry Blair’s mystery books have had a big influence on my writing. She’s kept them very clean yet so intriguing that I can’t put them down. While I like reading other books, I can’t say that they’ve influenced me, necessarily.

How many hours a day to you devote to writing? Sometimes I write for only a few minutes a day, but when I’m “on a roll” I can spend up to 12 hours at a time—if I can get away with it. My kitchen suffers for it, though. So does our diet. And the laundry…

Do you write a draft on paper or at a keyboard? I mostly write on my laptop. But there have been times when I’ve used spiral bound notebooks, like when I don’t have access to my computer and I have ideas for my story. I know better than to delay writing them down. With my memory, I sometimes forget what I walk into another room for.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing? I draw. In fact, one of my portraits I entered at our local county fair just won two ribbons: “Best of Class”, and “Outstanding”. Can’t get much better than those. Well, maybe a little better. Last time I entered a portrait, it won “Best of Show” and I received a nice check. Money is always nice. Here’s a link to my blog’s painting page: http://debraerfert.blogspot.com/p/my-paintings.html

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books? I was surprised that I could actually write a book. You know, that had a beginning, a middle, and an end, and they all fit together with a nice cohesive story arch. I surprise myself each and every time I write “The End” on a story.

How many books have you written? My first book, the one that was over 800 pages long, I overhauled and rewrote 4 times. They had the same characters in them, but they were essentially different books. In all, I’ve written 13 books. Maybe 14, not including several short stories and novellas.

Which is your favorite? My favorite book is the Window of Time Trilogy. It’s that 800-page monster that morphed into a 3-part series. Main character CIA Agent Lucy James is my alter-ego—my super-ego. I’m her in my dreams.

Do you have any suggestions to help me become a better writer? If so, what are they? We’re all still trying to become better writers—always! I’m going to writers’ workshops, and writers’ conferences, taking copious notes, and absorbing anything and everything that is involved with writing a better story. If it sounds good to me, then I take it to heart and use it. I encourage every writer to attend these conferences and workshops when they can. Even being around other writers can be good for the soul.

What was the hardest part of writing your book? The hardest part of writing my books comes after typing “The End”. That’s when the real work begins. Finding unbiased beta readers to take on the challenge of reading your manuscript, and give you good feedback. And then, and painful as it is—paying a professional editor to edit your book. AND… then, once, twice, and even three times, having good proofreaders go over the edited book to find those typos that inevitably slip by. Even after it is published, don’t take offense when a reader finds even more typos or missing words. Thank them, and, if it’s in your power, correct those mistakes.

Debra, thanks so much for stopping by!

Readers, I hope you enjoyed this chat with Debra. Stay tuned tomorrow for an excerpt and information about her newest release, Changes of the Heart.