Sunday, November 3, 2013


So much time has passed since my last blog post. It's amazing how all-encompassing it can be to write a novel. As it should be, really. For a novelist, no amount of social media activity or blogging should ever take precedence over the quest to capture written words that are part of something larger and more enduring. My clients deserve nothing less than my best.

When last we spoke, I was one-third into the first draft of the YA fantasy I'm ghostwriting. A summer passed, autumn came and 100,000 words later, the novel is a fully-formed, if imperfect, work. The messy chore has begun: cutting, adding, hating one moment and loving the next. In January, it will be complete, and I will move on to two other waiting projects, neither of them mine. It will be a time of reflection and renewal. I will do well to remember that advancing my stories and my career counts for something, too.

In the new year, I'm looking to barter a revamped, basic website for freelance work, either ghostwriting or editing. If you know anyone who might be interested, let me know.

One cost of ghostwriting is, of course, being a ghost. I would love to share my successes and sales, but they are not mine to share. The stories are no longer my babies. I want to tweet bits of awesome reviews and share emails my client receives from readers. The validation is heady but veiled. I'm so proud to deliver products that encourage my clients to return for more.

For those blogging friends who question the continued viability of blogging, I have a case. A potential client landed upon Writing in a Vortex and spent the better part of an entire evening reading through old posts. It was a huge factor in his decision to hire me for his project. When asked, he said it wasn't necessarily the writing of the posts, but the person he came to know behind them. It seems, despite my objective to keep topics largely to writing and the use of a pseudonym, little bits of me leaked through the words. Blogs give potential readers so much more than a Facebook or Twitter snapshot. They give readers unprecedented access to us. I'm coming to believe that access is half the battle in sales. Readers want lagniappe, that little something more, to push them to action.

Take care of yourselves. And each other. Email me anytime:

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Four Peabodys

I'm thirty-thousand words into my ghostwriting project-which is awesome. And I'm not entirely certain what my next thirty-thousand will be-which is downright terrifying and not-so-awesome for a plotter-girl like me. So I turned to my paperwork: conference worksheets, notes from a thousand Saturdays ago when I had an epiphany at a chapter meeting, online workshop materials, initial brainstorm lists, secondary brainstorm lists, brainstorm lists about the brainstorm lists (I wish I was kidding about this, but I'm not). In  this archaeological dig through my writing archives, I discovered four small slips of paper, each with the letterhead from the Peabody in Memphis, Tennessee. From the first writing conference I attended eleven years ago, each contains something I thought important enough to commit to paper. Promise me you won't laugh. Promise.

Peabody Nugget Number One:
Smoke from the steam engine encircled her as if she were an apparition emerging from a fog. She glanced from at each passerby with a renewed energy that would quickly wane in the disappointment from the lines of her eyes. Until one man emerged who stoked the fire and kept the russet flecks in her eyes ignited.

Wow. I don't even know where to start. This chick is obviously in close proximity to a live train, but the point of view is schizophrenic at best. My metal-filled molars are screaming at the prospect of biting down on this hunk of foil. I'm pretty sure I loaded up at the romance buffet line that morning, with heaping piles of hotcakes and I-can't-believe-Fabio-isn't-here butter and purged it that evening all over this poor, unsuspecting note pad.

Peabody Nugget Number Two:
He'd never have noticed her, so ordinary was she, had the woman not drawn attention to herself by stumbling down the passenger car steps, creating a domino effect of passengers lying in a heap among luggage and stray accessories. She flipped her bonnet away from her forehead and glared back at the steps as if they'd awakened for her the sole purpose of her embarrassment and grabbed her a foot.

So I had trains on the brain for this conference. Sue me. The only redeeming thing here is that the heroine took a major digger off the platform. And that the hero was there to witness it and find amusement. Tripping is funny, people. Any way you slice it.

Peabody Nugget Number Three:
"A dramatic moment calls for an economy of words." -LaVyrle Spencer

Now this is a nugget worth remembering. Well worth the sacrificial pulp and ink. That it is attributed to one of my favorite romance authors is even better.

Peabody Nugget Number Four:
The worst blizzard Betty had seen in 3 decades slammed into the valley, ushering smothering the vally w/ a lacy white blanket of snow.

Betty lit a solitary candle. The flame dancinged in response to her heavy sigh, mirroring the pre-dawn dreariness just beyond the window. She glanced at the lifeless phone, then the light switch before her eyelids dropped with heaviness.

Poor Betty. No really. She's trapped in a cliché-storm where the earth's gravitational pull is conspiring against her and she has a telekinetic gift of which she is, apparently, unaware.

Why do I share these, you ask? Life has a way of sending messages when we most need to hear them. I needed to see these today to remind myself how far I have come as a writer. A gift of perspective not everyone gets.

I wish I could say I remember writing these Peabody nuggets. I don't. I remember the duck parade with more clarity. Yesterday, I reread chapter one from my current project. I don't remember writing much of that, either. Writing is a strange beast. It hijacks the mind and turns the body into a conduit for truth. Somewhere in this hijacked landscape waits a klutz, a house-bound frau, and a siren with red-flecked eyes who is sure to become someone's desire. Maybe one of them will step forward in my next thirty-thousand. Maybe not. For today I am thankful for the reminder.

What message did life send you today?

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Squirm in Suburbia

If some of you follow my Twitter feed, you'll notice I'm walking the Nik Wallenda tightrope of being a curious writer and a window stalker, ala Rear Window. See, I've never been a fan girl of our backdoor neighbor. While I can gag out some respect for his culture's view on women, he doesn't respect mine on gender. Regarding our fence replacement, he spoke through me, around me and over me instead of to me, despite me being the most informed person in our impromptu lawn meeting last fall. Armed with three estimates and all the necessary paperwork from our HOA, I might as well have been in a beaded bra occupying a harem. His dismissive demeanor in favor of the other men present who didn't know a post hole from their own hole was off-putting to say the least.

So when I moved writing operations upstairs (minty new A/C-yeah!), to a window overlooking said neighbor's house-both front and back because of his placement on a court-I had no idea the challenge that awaited my focus. Having lived in this court for over a decade, I'm sure he is used to having certain...freedoms. I'm sure long about five years into our geographical proximity, he figured those blinds in my upper window have been and always will be closed, because in the two weeks I've camped up there, dawn to noon, he hasn't once looked up. But I've looked down. Sometimes to the immediate eye burn of discomfort and the
frantic lowering of blinds. I ask you the following:

What man weed-whacks his lawn in his underwear? In his FRONT YARD, no less.
What man has such a case of OCD that he picks up every wayward leaf, SEPARATELY, and slam-dunks them into the trashcan like a middle-aged LeBron in loafers?
What man prunes his trees at six am in his underwear?
What man fires up his lawnmower for two zips across his lawn and quits?
What man has a permanent Joker-like smile in the sun's early morning glare that could send children running to hide their faces in their mother's skirts.
And all those bags he removes from his truck? And the toilet he moves around his garage like his favorite chair? Don't get me started on those.

I saw his wife at our community pool yesterday. She was reading one of those Greek tycoon Harlequins. I get you, sister. You get all up into that fantasy. I would, too, in your shoes.

The man is like watching an ant try to take on every job in his colony. In his underwear. He's a distraction of epic proportions, so I plan to do what any self-respecting writer would.

He's going in the book.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Hire. An. Editor.

May I just take this opportunity to say, if you are planning to self-publish:

Hire. An. Editor.

It doesn't have to be me, though if you check out the client testimonial tab at the top of this blog, you'll see my mounting collection of stellar reviews. All make me feel like I've just sipped hot cider on a snowy day.

I beg of you, hire someone.

Remember my side gig as a paid ebook reviewer? As of this post, I've reviewed twenty-seven books, all self-published. Guess how many of them had errors. Ga-head. Guess.

Yep. All twenty-seven. And that's forgiving the formatting errors.

I'm reading these novels for free and the errors tick me off. Imagine the consumers who parted with their favorite Starbucks frap for a day or sacrificed their weekly washing quarters to make the purchase.

Some of the editing needs were Herculean. I barely coughed out two stars on my reviews. Shame on them. Just because Nana's bridge club thinks your book is delightful doesn't mean it's ready. Have some respect for your readers' time and money. Put the manuscript down and step away from the self-publishing manuals.

Some of the editing needs were a transposed word or a tiny continuity issue. Little errors are speedbumps to the reader's full immersion in the story. It doesn't happen in traditional publishing, and if you want to make money in this industry, it shouldn't happen with your self-published book.

Chuck Sambuchino has great advice for finding the perfect editor and some FAQs on the topic over at the Writer Unboxed blog. I always offer test edit pages, free of charge, to potential clients. Two of my clients purchased first chapter edits from multiple editors (one of them ten!) before ultimately selecting me as their editor. This gives me a chance to showcase my skills and gives the client the confidence that I'm the best fit for his/her project.


I'm starting a YA fantasy ghostwriting project next week that will carry me well into autumn. I would love to hear from you if you are interested in editing or ghostwriting. Drop me a line anytime at I'm booked until November, so be sure to plan ahead. Even if you're not looking to hire, I'm happy to answer questions and point you in the right direction. Meanwhile, I have two paranormal romance ghost projects set for release in the next few weeks. Be sure you're signed up for my newsletter to get the latest scoop.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Necessity Is the Mother of Re-Invention

So many things about my writing life are different today than six years ago when I started this blog. I was one of the first in my peer group to launch a blog dedicated to new content multiple times each week (and stick with it). I had the luxury of focusing on my own writing on my road to that first publication credit. And, let's face it, people read blogs back then. Now? Not so much.

I am so blessed to have a crazy-thriving freelance business that has gone from that first should I or shouldn't I? to a rapidly-growing clientele that books me two months in advance. When they select me as their ghostwriter or editor, I make a promise to them that they'll receive 110% of my mental agility, my creativity and my focus. It's an immersive endeavor each and every time-as it should be.

Many of my writer friends have cut back on blogging, using it only as a way to disseminate information when they have something significant to pass along. This works when there is a dedicated go-to, catch-all for RSS feeds. But the upcoming demise of Google Reader in July is just one more death blow to the blogosphere. Sure, there are others set to take its place, but Feedly (the most touted of the replacements) isn't supported by Internet Explorer. Last I checked, IE accounted for 60-70% of my traffic. Most people will refuse to let an online reader bully them into swapping a browser they cuddle like Linus's blanket. Without a mainstay that has a convenient interface and doesn't require blog followers to jump through hoops, I fear the blogger-reader relationship will grow even more distant.

I suspect this theory is more related to a professional identity crisis for me. Do I want my identity as a writer to evolve into a freelance business exclusively, thus necessitating a reboot of my online presence? Do I want to hoard my blog and online momentum (such that it is) for my writing and my career? Can I juggle two separate baskets when all I really, really want to do is stay off the internet and write?

This year is my crossroads year. The software I used to create my website will soon no longer be supported by my host. Necessity will become the mother of my online reboot. I just need to figure out what that reboot is.

I have two fiction projects in the final stages of pre-release. I'm so proud of both. They are the best writing I have done to date. Remember, if you want to be able to find my ghost projects, subscribe to my newsletter. With client permission, I'll be sure to post all the blurbs and buy links in there once they're released.

And loyal Vortexers? Have no fear. You are parked safe at Feedly for me. I value the connection we have made over all these blogging years most of all. Be well.

Friday, February 8, 2013

My Pocketbook Will Go Ooooonnnn and Oooonnnn

This is how cowpokes in Texas get your money.

You feature an exhibit in some high-falutin' museum near the Stock Show and Rodeo and offer up some real cheap tickets, like. Then make those fancy-pants educated-types pay extra to get through a roped-off area to park their glossy cars and pay again to have the privilege to walk twenty yards to get into the lobby of that high-falutin' museum that's normally free to approach. By the time they accomplished what they came down to the wrong-side of town to accomplish, they're out more cash than a rustler at a cat house.

Enjoy your exhibit, suckers.

All that to say: Oh. My. God. I would have sunk all my nanna's fake jewels in that Atlantic to have the opportunity to see the Titanic Artifact exhibit. It's that good.

Vortex faithful know how much of a buff I am about the Titanic, but even if I wasn't, it would have been educational and emotional. As my luck typically goes, I was given the identity of a woman in third class: Mrs. Claus Peter Hanson listed as Jennie L. Howard from Racine, Wisconsin. This is akin to being given a window seat on the Hindenburg. The entire one-hundred year journey though the exhibit--and I do mean journey, from conception and design of the ship to recovery efforts led by non-profit organizations to the crass consumerism of the gift shop afterward (Who wouldn't want a coffee-mug reminder that you just vicariously died aboard the Titanic?) is mesmerizing. I went alone. It was an artist's date of the highest caliber.

Even if the cowboy outside the museum was stroking his moustache in the ticket booth as I left.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Chicken Fried Romance with UNsweet Tea

Nathan Bransford remarked last week on how his Google Reader slims with each passing week. We've all known for awhile that blogging has peaked. Times change. I'm mourning the Barnes and Noble announcement that they are closing stores and going the way of Borders. I'm sad that the downsized Books-a-Million I used to visit sells more pop-culture gift-y items than books. I'm positively apoplectic when I think about my children not passing the day in a bookstore as I used to. I am to blame. My last visit to the downsized Books-a-Million, I bought a Big Bang Theory pen that says, "Bazinga," when pushed. I spent only enough time in there to squeeze between errands. The last fifteen books I read were on my Nook. And, yes, your Google Reader is slim because of me. Times change.

But I'm still here, and you are, too, if you're reading this. So let us be pleasant travelers. It's so short a ride.

Those two lines are from a poem someone gave me a month ago. The author unknown at the bottom makes me pine for a name. Someone to thank.

My new ghostwriting project is a departure in many ways. My character has a southern identity, which one might not think a challenge, having lived more than half of my life in a southern latitude. For me, it is. I tend to walk the streets of the South with a grammar pen in one hand and a glass of unsweetened tea in the other because, apparently, unsweet tea exists only in government conspiracy theories south of the Mason-Dixon line. The new project is dark and light, mysterious and universal, sweet and unsweet. It involves a train, which I know seems antiquated, but I am in the South and cross over railroad tracks nearly every day that I'm not holed up in my cocoon, writing. Maybe if I write through the romanticism of a train, I'll stop thinking about how I should use one in a story. Which brings me back to the poem as inspiration for my small-town, romantic Southern tale.

Life is like a journey,
taken on a train
with a pair of travelers
at each windowpane.
I may sit beside you
all the journey through,
or I may sit elsewhere,
never knowing you.
But, if fate should mark me
to sit by your side,
let's be pleasant travelers.
It's so short a ride.

I have one more post in my system before I spin that safe, story world cocoon again. Considering it fattening up your Google Reader. It's what good Southern girls do.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Ten Thousand Shades of Romance

I'm baking chocolate-peanut butter chip cookies right now and contemplating my next freelance career move. Do I pursue an invitation to write a "sure-to-be-Hollywood-blockbuster," including an all-expenses paid trip to the Caribbean to meet with the client? Do I trust in those repeat clients who have proven themselves awesome beyond belief and thoroughly non-delusional? Or do I say "Pshaw! Who writes those Benjamin Moore paint color names? I want a gig like that!"

Don't laugh. I've always wanted to be the one who gets paid to come up with names for paint colors or nail polish shades. Someone does it, right? Why can't it be me?

They're not marketing to the right audience. When was the last time you witnessed a man standing at the paint sample cards for an hour? For longer than it took to belch up his last chili cheese dog? The same people picking out these shades are the same ones buying romance and beyond, which is my polite term for Fifty Shades. What woman wouldn't want to paint her office Cabana Boy Six Pack or Warrior's Kiss or Latte with McDreamy or Chest Hair at Dawn or A Sexy Brit's "Hello"? Seriously, I could go on all day.

On a not-entirely unrelated topic, these paint samples are great writing tools. I keep a stack of them in my drawer just in case my brain is selecting stale descriptors of color--but only when writing in a woman's point of view. My heroes can't differentiate sea-foam green from their own moldy bread, and I like them that way.

If you weren't busy being fabulous at your day job, what dream-job would you have?

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Because It's What Miss Manners Would Do

I'm putting off the task of writing holiday thank you notes. While I am an extremely grateful and humble gift receiver, it is a necessary evil. There is the time involved in the handwritten task, which you'd think would appeal to a writer but doesn't. How to express that a gift is spectacular when I know it was the same re-gifted basket of women's bath lotions that has circulated the greater Fort Worth metro-plex for the past few years? I'd rather scroll through the latest crop of Walmartians in my email inbox. Then there's the expense of supporting the Postal Service for gift-givers over the age of sixty who can no more find their internet browser than their bifocals.

I thought I'd try something different this year: a public note of thanks.

To the microfiber hair towel gift-giver:
Thank you for helping me to get in touch with my inner turban-girl. Never mind that it fails to fulfill the promise of lightning-speed wet-hair wicking. I am a suburban goddess in my pink hair wrappie and bathrobe.

To the Betty Crocker Liquid Dispensing Scrubber gift-giver:
Wow. Just wow. Combining the laborious task of dish soap dispensing and scrubbing into one swift action has freed me to complete that great American novel with all the extra time. How much fun can one girl have? Hair turban and dish washing.

To the seventeen million notepad gift-givers:
Would that I could have so many story ideas that these scribbler pads burst at the thinly-glued seams, mostly they will just end up with things like toilet paper and coffee creamer scrolled across them.

To the Nora Roberts gift-pack gift-giver:
Thank you. Sincerely. I'll put them in my stack behind my next twenty under deadline for a book review. Though to be fair, Nora will still, most likely, be the reigning queen of them all.

To the dark chocolate cordial cherries gift-giver:
Although a sweet of last, desperate resort when the Reese's and Special Darks have vanished, there is no better sensory input for a writer than to feel one of these burst on the tongue.

To the family mine adopted:
Thank you. At a time of extreme sadness, there was no greater gift than to focus on making someone else's holiday special.

And to my Vortex readers:
Thank you for hanging around for six years. I can't imagine what this journey would be without you all. I only wish I could send you my final Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer lollipop-mostly to get it out of my kitchen-but because I adore you, too.

I'm starting a short, but intensive YA fantasy ghostwriting/edit project tomorrow, so I'll see you on the backside.