Last Day in Wyoming

Colter Marina, Jackson Lake, Grand Teton National Park

It's my last day in Wyoming. No, not the going home day, but the last day I actually do something vacation-y.
It's a bittersweet day because although I enjoyed our trip immensely, I'm ready to go home. It feels like I’ve been gone forever, and it feels like I never want to sleep in a motel bed again. But the thing is, I’ll plan another trip for next summer on the way home, and I’ll plan it with enthusiasm. There will probably be mountains wherever I plan to go. That’s my thing.
The last vacation-y thing I did was taking a boat tour of Lake Jackson. It was a beautifully chilly morning cruise across the lake.
Our family gets one week of vacation a year, and the last day is always the day that the thought that it’s almost over for another year will linger in the back of my mind shadowing everything I do.
I’ve counted down to this day. On day one, I say to myself, “This is great. We are having so much fun, and we have six more days of vacation left.” It goes like that for several days, at least, until the mid-point of the vacation. Then, I begin the end of vacation litany. “This is great. We are having so much fun, but we only have two more days of vacation left.”

In seven days, I’ve seen six states: Louisiana, Texas, Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana. (Yes, there was some air travel involved, right between Texas and Utah. Have I mentioned how much I hate DFW Airport? No? Well, that’s another blog post.)
I’ve covered a lot of miles. I’ve taken a buttload of pictures, and I’ve gotten some terrific writing inspiration. Like, the hotel where we stayed the second through fourth nights has its very own ghost story, and the mist over the thermal pools in Yellowstone in the evening has given me some ghostly inspiration.

So now that I’m home, I’m hitting the writing hard again. I have new inspiration.
I'm finishing up a ghost story for a box set with five other authors. Watch for Mystic Passions coming soon.
I'm finishing up the last book of the River Road Haunted Hearts set. I don't have a cover for The Sweet Madness of Honeysuckle yet.
And I'm working on two other paranormal romantic suspense books: Second Sight and Oceans Apart.


Juggling Three Works In Progress

Well, I've never done this before. Right now, I'm working on three books at the same time. My husband asked me how I keep them all straight and if I have a problem with continuity when I'm bouncing back and forth. I shrugged my shoulders and said, "Naw." All three books are paranormal romantic suspense, but they are all different with totally different story lines. This is a challenge, but I'm up for it.

This is what happens when I have multiple ideas coming at me from my sweet muse all at once. I couldn't ignore her. She kept hitting me with inspiration for all three books. So I'm juggling them. One day, I'll write 5,000 words on one book, the next day another 5,000 on another book, and the next day 5,000 on the third book.

You want a teaser from one of them? All right. Here it is:

  Lucy wrapped her arms around herself and turned in a slow circle. The scene came back to her easily; she’d pulled it up from her memory so many times over the last eleven years. Aidan’s arms around her. The music from the playback flowing around them. Him smiling down at her. Her heart thumping wildly in her chest. Spinning and spinning until they were both dizzy and the director had yelled at them because they’d started laughing like a couple of idiots.
  She stopped and closed her eyes tight. “Aidan, are you here?”
  The now familiar tingling began in her fingertips and spread throughout her body. She couldn’t be wrong. Lucy could feel him even though she was sure Aidan was dead. She felt the loss in her soul. Knew the pain by heart.
  The peace she usually gained from calling his name was missing. In its place was a restless uneasiness. Something had changed.
  A whisper brushed across her psyche. I can’t sleep.
  How many times had he said that to her in the middle of the night? She bit her lower lip to keep from crying.
  “Where are you, Aidan?”
   I’m here.
  “You’re here? Are you dead, Aidan? I need to know. I mean it. Don’t play this game with me. I need to know for sure.”
  Find me.
  What did he mean? He’d just told her he was with her in the house.
  “I don’t understand. Where are you if you’re not here? Are you in Thailand?”
  The voice went silent. She’d asked the wrong question before. The voice never answered her if she pushed too hard or asked too much.


Isn't the artwork beautiful? My sister painted this original of the picture. I think it is the perfect compliment to the book's title and its premise.

The inspiration for this book has been bouncing in my head for weeks. I have to give it some attention. I hope to release Oceans Apart sometime in the winter of 2017 or the spring of 2018. I'll keep you posted. If you want updates for new releases, please sign up for my email newsletter. You can find the link at the top left of the main page of this blog right underneath the picture of Mount Rainier.


My Netflix Addiction

Some might call my addiction to Netflix bingeing a problem. I call it... Well, I can't argue with them. I can't watch just one episode of a show. Oh, no. My bingeing got so bad that I had to stay off Netflix for a while or wouldn't get any writing or housework or accounting....or anything done.

I'm ging to list the shows that I've binged to see how bad an addiction I have. So here goes:

Burn Notice
CSI: Miami
CSI: New York
Criminal Minds
Forensic Files
Crossing Lines
The Killing
Midsomer Murders
Blue Bloods
Death In Paradise
The Glades
Hawaii Five-O
Person Of Interest
Jack Taylor
Lie To Me

(I know I'm missing a few.)

There seems to be a pattern here. I'm obviously obsessed with murder and revenge, but that kind of goes along with my writing genre. Let's call it research. That was a good reason to watch all those shows, right? My theory is that even when I'm not adding word count on a manuscript everything I read, hear, and experience contributes to my writing. Yeah, let's go with that.

There's one more show that I've binged, but I don't know how it fits with the others. I've seen every single episode of Gilmore Girls. So how does that fit in with my suspense genre? Wait. Wait. I've got it. I'm researching characterization when I watch dramedies. Yeah, that's it.

So when I'm watching Netflix, I'm really writing. Whew! Now, I feel better.


How My Family Copes With My Writing

This is the family. Left to right: Me, my daughter, my son, my son-in-law, and my husband.

This post is supposed to be about how my family copes with my writing, but I don’t think they cope with it.
Sometimes, I get a distant look in my eyes, and I stare at nothing. For a while, my son thought I was upset with him, and he would ask me if I was all right. I’d say, “Sure. I’m just writing a scene in my head.” Now, he just nudges me and says, “You’re writing again, aren’t you?” I’ll nod and then go back to my inner thoughts. He’ll shrug and leave me alone. We have an understanding.
It’s embarrassing to work out dialogue in my head. Well, it’s supposed to be in my head, but sometimes, it comes out of my mouth. People think I’m talking to myself, but I’m not. I’m putting myself in my characters’ heads. My family knows I’m not talking to people that aren’t real. Not really, because my characters are real to me. My daughter just ignores my odd behavior. She knows what I’m doing. (Thank God, for Bluetooth in my car because I can talk out the dialogue and other drivers think I’m talking on my cellphone. Sweet, huh?)
My husband gets my obsession with my characters. He reads all my books before I publish them, so he gets acquainted with them. We talk about them like they are real. Some of my best ideas happen when we are discussing why one of my characters did that stupid thing that they did. When he says, “Tess would do that, wouldn’t she?” or, “That sounds like something Gray would do,” I know he loves them as much as I do.
When I told my husband I needed to go down to south Louisiana to do research for my book series set along the River Road and in New Orleans, he helped me plan the trip. Once we were there, he made some great suggestions about where to go and what to do. That trip added so much to my knowledge of the setting for the book series.

I think my family isn’t just coping; they are supporting and encouraging my writing. They are right there in it with me.


The Power of Words

Hello, my name is Denise, and I’m addicted to books. My reading addiction began when I was a teenager. My friend Brenda had begun reading Harlequin romances, and she let me borrow one. I was hooked from the first read. The emotional rise and fall of the plotline pulled me in and wouldn’t let me go. So I bought a few of my own, and we traded books for the rest of our high school years.
In the beginning of my writing career, I called myself a romance writer, but I don’t think that’s really what I am. In those old Harlequins, it wasn’t the romance that attracted me. I particularly enjoyed stories where something or someone sinister was lurking in the background of the romance trying to keep the couple apart. It was the conflict that hooked me. Would the hero and heroine overcome the odds to be together? The suspense always pulled me along to that moment when the couple overcame whatever obstacle they faced. Yeah, that was the moment that got me. The romance...that was just lagniappe.
The power of words has always fascinated me. The right words strung together can enlighten, entertain, inspire, frighten, soothe, motivate, or destroy. I’ve always loved the power of words, but lately, that power has begun to scare me. There have been a lot of powerfully negative words spoken or typed in the last couple of years. Not just here in the United States, but all over the world. Angry words. Mean-spirited words. Degrading and condescending words. Hateful words.
Sometimes, in the midst of all the ugliness, someone will say or write words that are encouraging or uplifting, but it is hard to find positive words when the world is inundated with so much negativity. At times, there is so much meanness that it seems that is all there is left. It’s overwhelming. I live with the constant awareness that something bad could happen any moment and change my life forever. The depth and intensity of the hate makes me want to crawl under my covers and hide from the world. But I can’t do that, can I? Isolating myself isn’t good for me or for the world I live in.
During the past presidential election in the United States, I have kept my opinions to myself, at least, publicly. My opinions are going to stay with me. This isn’t a harangue at either the right or the left. I’ve seen ugliness come from both ends of the social and political spectrum. No political ideology is immune from this disease.
Please, for the continued existence of humanity, if you engage in contentious or controversial conversations, I beg of you, don’t call those with whom you disagree ugly names. That’s not going to change their opinion or yours. All it does is make you look like an asshole, and it feeds the frenzy of anger and hatred that seems to be boiling over in the whole freaking world. So stop already. Before you tear someone else down because you really don’t have a good argument to support your shallow opinion, take a deep breath before you speak or write. Back away from the argument. Is losing your decency worth being right? Because words aren’t just words, they can be two-edged swords, not only cutting the one you attack, but stabbing and killing your humanity. Hatred, anger, and bitterness are the poison pills one swallows in the vain attempt to destroy someone else.

If you can’t manage to respect someone or their opposing opinion, at least, have a little self-respect.


Write Every Day, They Said

The seventh book in the Haunted Hearts series just released on June 25th. I was editing it right up until the moment I had to submit the final version to Kindle by the end of the day on the 14th. I uploaded the final copy and sat back to relax.

A week before its official release, my family left for a vacation to Colorado. Since we were flying, I decided to leave my computer at home, to enjoy the trip, and to give my writing a short break.

Heresy, I know. How many times have veteran writers advised someone new to writing to write something every day? Too many times to remember. I was one of those writers. When someone asked for my advice about writing, I spouted the same mantra. Write every day, even if it’s only one sentence. If you don’t use it, you lose it.

So leaving the computer at home seemed a bit…unsettling. Would I lose my writing mojo if I took a couple of weeks off? Would my muse pack her bags and move back to wherever she came from? Would the lapse cause my release schedule to fall months and months behind? Would my readers forget me and find someone else’s books to love?

I learned a solid truth about writing while my computer had a little staycation back home. No. I wasn’t going to stop being a writer because I wasn’t recording the words that form inside my head. Writing is my life. It’s part of me. It’s not leaving me because I take a break.

Writing isn’t just tapping out words on a computer keyboard (or writing them out longhand if the writer is old school). Writing is a process that involves much more than drafting a manuscript. Good writing begins with inspiration, and inspiration can be found anywhere, anytime. The process continues when inspiration morphs into imagination. And finally, the work is halfway there when imagination emerges as creativity. The longest and hardest task is shaping creativity into a product that is publishable and readable.

I should have known better than to suggest that a writer should add word count every day. Sometimes imagination hasn’t quite reached the point of creativity. Sometimes it stays stuck in my head, percolating and simmering and baking into something worth putting into words. Yeah, a lot of the writing process stays in my head until it’s fully cooked.

How many times have I stared into space only to be jolted back to the moment by someone I know? “What are you staring at?”

“I’m not staring. I’m writing.” And I am. In my head. Setting the mood. Concocting the action. Considering potential dialogue. Twisting plot points and imagining character reactions. This is all part of writing. Important steps in the process that cannot be rushed.

Writing begins somewhere else besides the computer keyboard. Truth be told, some of my best work happens in the shower, or in the car, or I must admit, at my accounting job. So is it any wonder that the core of a brand new trilogy came to me in the Denver Airport at the tail end of our trip while we were getting ready to fly back home? (P.S. Have you read about the conspiracy theories surrounding the new airport? If you’re curious, check out the murals that were painted in the main terminal. Creepy. That might be the core of a suspense novel right there.)

Setting is so important to the mood of a book. My trips around the country have often inspired the locale for a book before I even start to consider a plotline. The Haunted Hearts series began when I spotted a creepy, abandoned house on a country road in Arkansas. Now, I’m working on book number eight in the series.

But this trip, I doubted if I would find much inspiration. I’d been to that part of Colorado many times. I even have an already published three-book series set in another part of the state. I thought I had milked all the inspiration out of the state of Colorado that I could manage. I thought my brain could take a little rest from working out plots and character sketches. Just for a couple of weeks.

But no. Inspiration hit me hard. Right there, while I was waiting for my husband and my son to come back to the table with our pizza. I scratched out a description for book one of the trilogy right there on a scrap piece of paper.

After I got home and typed the blurb out on my computer, inspiration settled into what the book will become, and the premise for all three books solidified. The writing began somewhere near Shadow Mountain Lake in Colorado, but readers probably won’t see the final story for months or maybe even years.

I can’t take a break. Writing is what I live and breathe. It’s a part of me, of who I am, every single day. Even when I’m not writing, I’m writing.
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