Friday, December 29, 2017

A sneak peek for the new year

Miss Inkypaws is helping

As a treat for the new year, I thought I'd share a little from my current work in progress. A murder mystery, inspired by a twitter conversation.


Chapter 1
“I warned you,” a loud man’s voice said into the dark room, “I will not be ignored any longer.”
            “For God’s sake man, don’t be so melodramatic,” a second male voice said dismissively.
            The sound of a match striking and a small flame flickered into life. A man, in his early sixties, seated behind a large and ornate desk looked up in the dim light. His eyes grew wide and in an annoyed, low voice he said, “Oh, for heaven's sake.”
 *          *          *
            Ernestine trudged up the steps from the subway counting under her breath. “twenty-eight.” She wasn’t sure what was hotter, the subway car, the outside air or her tiny studio apartment last night during the power outage. How she longed for the pacific northwest and her mother’s house. New York was taking some getting used to.
            Her clothes hung like damp rags on her sweating frame and it was only eight am. The Monday morning crowd jostled her and urged her to keep walking. The offices of Capricorn Publishing were just two blocks away, but in this heat it felt like it might as well be two states away.
            With a sigh of relief she entered the cool, air-conditioned lobby with its slick marble floor and dark wood paneling. She hurried to the lady’s room to try and rescue what she could of her hair and make-up.
            “Look at you, not used to hot weather?” a friendly voice said as Ernestine entered the elegantly appointed bathroom.
            “No, we don’t get this kind of heat and humidity back home, Ms. Wickstrom,” she said.
            “Please, Ernie, call me Claudia. I’m the office manager, not the schoolmistress,” the older woman said, laughing. “Ms. Wickstrom … it always sounds like the name of the head mistress of some creepy girls’ school, don’t you think?” She laughed again.
            “Now that you mention it …” Ernestine, Ernie to most, was not really reassured by that comment. She’d thought the office manager at her uncle’s publishing house looked forbidding and just a little too well put together. From her perfectly coiffed hair held in place with an obscene amount of hairspray, to her perfectly applied make-up and crisp white blouses. The slightly too tight pencil skirts and high heels completed an altogether unsettled picture for Ernie who’d only just left the land of fleece, sandals and Gore-Tex.
            Not really by choice. She’d wanted to join the FBI and her college credentials were of interest to them, but joining the family publishing house was kind of a tradition. Her uncle’s only child, a son, had run off to Australia to be a school librarian - of all things - and a surfer. He’d gone as far away as he could from his father and the business which had been established in the late 1800's by a distant relation. It was stipulated in the bylaws that the company had to be run by a blood relation. With Joshua out of the picture that responsibility now rested squarely on Ernie’s shoulders.
            Sure, she loved books, and she could spot an out-of-place comma as well as the next college educated person with a minor in English, but it wasn’t her passion. She would much rather analyze data and track down criminals.
            “I’ll go set up the coffee maker,” Claudia said, smoothing her skirt while obviously sucking in her stomach, and giving herself one more appreciative look in the mirror. “You just take your time putting yourself together. And you might want to consider some waterproof mascara, it holds up better when you sweat.” Her voice held just a touch of saccharine in it which made Ernie feel judged. Looking at herself in the mirror she judged herself pretty harshly too. The heat was very unkind to her.
            She splashed cold water on her face and realized that only made the make-up situation worse. “Fine, whatever,” she muttered at her reflection and using the coarse paper towels she proceeded to scrub off all her make-up. “Shit,” she said, when she stopped scrubbing. Now she was glowing red, which somehow made her freckles more prominent.

            She rummaged around in her backpack for some powder and lip balm. Adding a touch of eyeliner and shook her head which did nothing to move her frizzy red curls. “Whatever, if I don’t want to be here anyway, why should I make an effort to look like I belong. I’ll never be able to trowel on as much goop as Ms. Wickstrom anyway,” she said, giving herself a critical look. 

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Author interview with Jewel Leonard

Today I welcome Jewel Leonard to my blog to talk about her writing and to celebrate the release of her latest book!

1.     1.What inspires you as a fiction writer? Looking at your website you have a few different passions that you blend into your stories and romances. Can you lift the curtain a little? 

I think it might be easier to say what doesn’t inspire me. 😉 
My other interests don’t appear all that much in my writing—although that’s changing with the second Witches’ Rede series book—and when they do, it’s mostly in passing reference.
I’m heavily influenced by my pop-culture loves and (I’m hesitant to admit) that I derive great pleasure from weaving references from recent shows and music into my 1880s world. Don’t be fooled into thinking Ed Mercer (of The Orville TV show) is going to go traipsing by in the background of 1883 Redington.
Thus far, I don’t think anybody has caught any of the references … and one, I thought, was pretty blatant. I’m sorely tempted someday to release an “editor’s edition” version of these books with all these things highlighted. I guess it’s a less twisted version of when serial killers want to be caught so that the world can see their “genius.” LOL!
Some of my characters are influenced by my favorite actors or TV show/movie characters. I feel like having flesh-and-blood inspiration helps me craft a much more well-rounded, realistic character that readers are going to love … or love to hate.

2. Your latest book is about to come out. What do you really want readers to know about it?

I suppose I’d address my answer specifically to those who’ve been following my journey on social media for a while and saw all the times I complained about Alight:
The harder I am on myself, the better the final product. Complacency leads to laziness, errors, and subpar end-products. Don’t mistake me being hard on myself for me not liking my work, and don’t mistake any of that for my work not being any good. I’m no Stephen King, but I’m happy being me. 😉
I love my characters dearly, and I’m wickedly passionate about what I do.
I’m very proud of Alight and I think it’s easily one of the most beautiful books I’ve had the pleasure of holding. I hope others feel the same way. 

3. What has your journey to publication been like and why did you choose self-publishing, as so many are doing these days?  

The journey to publication has not been an easy one. I initially sought traditional publication for The Witches’ Rede series/Alight but when I got to a point where agents who promised responses weren’t even bothering to send form rejections, I started wondering what I was really doing beyond wasting everybody’s time.
I did receive a couple very kind (mostly) form rejections. One agent in particular (someone I still can’t believe I had the guts to query—she’s the agent of an international bestselling author in my genre) was kind enough to read my submission … she told me that although my writing was excellent, the story was not what she was looking for. In dating lingo, I’m pretty sure this would be the “it’s not you, it’s me” gambit.
But it was me, and I’m not foolish enough to believe otherwise—my beloved genre is dead, so they claim. I received the same kind of response from agents whose MSWLs were a perfect match to Alight (that is, if I received responses at all).
Knowing how books in my genre are being received (regardless of the undying devotion of genre fans), I stopped and did some soul-searching.
I was looking for validation by being chosen by an agent or publisher … and I’m fairly certain that’s the wrong reason to choose that path.
I asked myself some questions and didn’t answer them immediately. It made me really stop and think.
What would traditional publishing require of me, and what would I get out of it?
Was I willing to change this book to be a closer match to what agents were looking for in the hope that one might request a partial or full MS?
No. My creative vision is so clear in my mind’s eye that I can’t see changing it to fit the constraints of mainstream marketability.
What if someone took a shine to it and it got picked up? Would I be willing to change it (possibly making huge changes) according to editors’ suggestions—knowing that if I pushed back, I’d be known as difficult to work with?
No. Second verse, same as the first.

The more thought I gave what being traditionally published would mean to me, the more I realized it’s not the path I’m meant for. This actually fits well with other things in my life (my daughter’s microcephaly, for instance, is caused by a genetic abnormality previously undocumented in any other person—living or dead; we are forging our own path with her). I walk to my own beat, and have for as long as I can remember.

I know some people consider indie publishing a consolation prize … (“Oh, you couldn’t hack it traditionally, huh? Your writing must suck. So you’re just gonna take that loser MS  nobody wanted and slop it up on Amazon with a cover you did in ten minutes using MS Paint, right?”)

In my case, indie-publishing wasn’t second place. It was a better fit for my passion and my personality (I’m a teensy bit of a control freak and the thought of a character on my front cover who doesn’t match my description could make my fine hair curl!), and this is something I wish had occurred to me much sooner. 

I’m actually currently drafting a blog post to go into more detail about this decision. I hope to have it done sometime around Alight’s release date ... inspiration willing. 😉

4. eBook vs Traditional?

As someone who has moved a half-dozen times in the last 6 years, I think eBooks are far superior. All you have to do to pack them is slip your eReader into your purse and go. I’ve had to donate or sell so many books over the last 6 years to cut down on moving costs, and I hate that so much.

Having said that, nothing replaces the feel of paper, the smell of older books, or the satisfaction of looking over a full bookshelf full of tomes that are mine, all mine!

When it comes to my own work? Nothing beats holding my words in paperback. It makes them feel more real, you know? It makes me feel legitimate, even if I’m still “just” self-publishing. Plus, my paperbacks are far sexier than their e-versions.

5. Pen & Paper or a computer?

What’s this pen and paper/computer business? I’m so old-school, I write on stone tablet. 😉
All kidding aside, I am pretty old-school—I prefer pen and paper for writing my first drafts. I consider typing the words into the Word doc to be my first round of editing. Often, I’m perfecting some crazy phrasing, augmenting some off-dialogue, or expanding sections I left skimpy just to get the general idea written. I also leave all sorts of snarky comments for myself in the margins … about my characters and my own writing, equally. “Eloquent writing is eloquent,” with a frowny-face and an arrow pointing to the passage.
The method works well for me. Plus, I find the physical act of writing by hand to be incredibly therapeutic.

6. What do you think is the most important thing a writer can do, aside from write well, to increase their odds of a successful career?

I hate myself for saying this on account of my considerable lack of patience, but I think success as an indie author requires keeping at it. From what I understand (I’m going off hearsay as I’m still new to the publishing business), the successful indie authors all have a long backlist and crank out multiple books each year. They have a lot of content, their older writing acts as advertisement for their new works, and they have credibility (particularly those putting out a series) that more books are to come in a timely manner.
I may just be starting out but I’m going to keep at it. This is my dream. This is my future.

7. What secret talent do you have, which everyone reading this blog will keep secret? Or, what’s the craziest thing you’ve done in the name of research?

Secret talent … I can curl my tongue? Does that count as a talent? LOL! Probably not. That being the case, I’ll answer the other question: I regularly check etymology online to be sure the words I’m using (especially the ones my 1883 characters use in speech) were in use when they were alive. With very few exceptions (and there are a few because there was just no way around them), I’m a stickler for not using anachronistic words in conversation. I try to avoid them in narration, too, though I give myself a little more leeway there.

One night for research, I deliberately fell asleep in my husband’s lap while I wore my Victorian corset. I won’t go into details, but I needed to know just how much a woman’s body could go limp in such rigid shapewear. As the scene I was researching is written from my male protagonist’s POV, having my husband’s input as the conscious party was invaluable.
My ridiculously talented husband, who made my corset, also made me what we call a “stunt bustle.”
I’ll leave why I needed that for research up to your imagination ... but yes, it’s probably exactly what you’re thinking.

8. And as a fellow knitter … I’m curious what’s on your needles right now?
    Nothing. Not a bloody thing. :sobsobsob: I'm aiming to change that, though, and soon. I have a Log Cabin Blanket I’m thinking of picking up again just to get back into the rhythm of knitting. I also want to start a pair of elbow-length gloves; I picked out a few patterns on Ravelry, so now I need to go through my still-packed boxes of yarn (sigh, moving is so hard) to see if any of my stash will be a good match. If I can make the gloves that I envision, I will be a very happy camper when I’m done and there will be an onslaught of photos on my social media accounts. 😊

Thank you so much for having me! It was so much fun to answer your questions—and I apologize for rambling.

Thanks, Jewel, that was awesome. Here's hoping for lots and lots of sales of your latest book!

You can find Jewel on …
Goodreads (I always forget this one!):
and for you Yarnistas, Ravelry:
Jewel calls herself a writer of romantic biographies for fictional people. She lives with her husband, 9-year-old son, 3-year-old daughter, and minion of darkness in Arizona.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Enter to win a signed paperback

In further adventures of writers helping writers, here's another interview with the chance to win a signed copy of Out in the Dark. For a chance to win, leave a comment below.

Stay tuned next week when I reciprocate the favor and interview Jewel Leonard as a celebration of the launch of her latest book.

A winner will be randomly drawn on December 24th. and notified via email.
Thank you!

Monday, November 20, 2017

My Guest Post for Australian Writers Website

The writing community has shown itself to be quite supportive of other writers. We help each other learn, grow and build an audience for our books and stories.

This week I have the pleasure of guest blogging on an Australian writers site.

It also features a holiday give away! Sign up for a chance to win!

Sunday, November 5, 2017

The Beautiful People

Over the past few months I’ve been following discussions on Twitter about the need for diversity in books. Not just in kids’ books but across the board stories should reflect society around us. These conversations struck a chord. Done right, these stories will be richer and more appealing. (I touched on diversity before on this blog)

Looking around at my family, friends and coworkers, I see diversity. Not just in appearance, but also in – hidden – disabilities. But in the books on my shelves I find far less diversity, and what I find are often stereotypes or idealized versions; I’m missing the natural, and to me comfortable, blend of peoples.

Digging a little deeper, I find that most of the ‘good’ guys & girls in novels are often described as beautiful, gorgeous, attractive or pretty. Whereas the ‘bad’ guys & girls tend to have their physical flaws described in terms that make it sound like those flaws are part of why they’re the baddies in the story.

Yet, again, looking around me and at the people I hold dear, their physical beauty might not match that of an airbrushed model, but I find them infinitely more beautiful in their lack of perfection. Their life stories, depth of character and individual suffering, have made them truly beautiful in my eyes.

Looking at the books and stories I’ve written so far, I realize I’m guilty of putting beautiful people in them too, though I rarely describe them as such, there is a lack of diversity. Because calling out beauty is such a part of the mainstream entertainment narrative, it crept in unconsciously. Though, admittedly, it’s harder to put diversity into historical fiction – except for Sophia’s clubfoot which was not uncommon to the time and location in book 1 of The Coming Storm - because there was so much less travel and immigration in the times before the jet engine. I hope to add more diversity into the sequel to my – as yet – unpublished WWII trilogy which starts in France and moves to Morocco in book 2 (I'm happy to send the first chapter to you, just ask in the comment section).

This led me to look more carefully at the characters I’m creating to populate my whodunit. My protagonist will now be far more quirky, counting the steps on stairs every time she takes them for example, she will have hair that misbehaves and she won’t have that perfect shape (and let’s face it, the definition of physical perfection changes every decade anyway). Her friends won’t be the token diverse but will reflect the mix of friends I have and will be well developed secondary characters with depth and personality.

Once our books and stories (and TV and film) start truly and naturally mirroring our society, will the cultural narrative around acceptance and inclusion change. Though this year has been very tumultuous politically and socially, it has brought many toxic narratives into the light, forcing us to look at our preconceived notions and prejudices. And, with effort, forcing us to look deeper than the pretty pictures so that we can grow and learn and accept.

Let’s hope publishing is truly ready for the diverse characters the audience wants. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Book signing fun

It was a dark and stormy day, the rain came down in buckets. People ducked under umbrellas, wrestling the wind and trying to avoid the puddles as they entered the bookstore. I had a front row seat and enjoyed talking with readers, struggling writers and friendly people looking to chat.

Building that writing career, one book, one signing, one reader at a time.

If you missed it, you can always order it from your favorite bookseller or directly from the publisher, Untreed Reads, and while you're there you might want to let them know you will be wanting a sequel. (trust me, you will, it's the publisher who needs a nudge)

PS: Looks like the paperback is on sale right now at Untreed Reads:

Saturday, September 2, 2017

How to craft a ‘Whodunnit’

I came up with an idea for a murder mystery, in the classic Agatha Christie style, but had no idea how to go about crafting one of those. Rereading many of Christie’s books is a lot of fun, but I get so into the story that I forget to look for the patterns that make up the puzzle. 

Next, I tried Christie’s notebooks. That yielded some good clues as to how it was done, but still something was missing.
I felt I needed something more to put it all together and write one of my own. 

Sitting in a meeting at work one day it came to me. We were talking about how best to seed a sales funnel with marketing content and how there are distinct point along that funnel where say an email recipient will click on a link and look at a product. Just as there is then another point where looking at the product data turns into a request for a presentation which - hopefully - turns into a sale. 

So too with the whodunnit puzzle. You start off with many suspects and through a series of turning points along the funnel the number gets whittled down until you have the culprit. 

Now before you think it’s simple and straightforward, let me assure you it’s not. Just like the customer journey is no longer linear, there are many double backs, red herrings and blind alleys in creating a satisfying murder mystery. 
But the funnel idea with pivotal points where suspects are cleared and clues are added or lost, is a sound one. It gives the writer a place to start putting information for the puzzle, because the writer needs to know who did it and why, but also who the other players are and what part they play. 

If anything it’s a fun exercise in writing and it may just yield a story or a book. We’ll see. 

In the meantime, a short and fun murder mystery - Tulip Craze - can be found on my website under the ‘shop’ tab. As always, sales are secure through a vetted 3rd party and use PayPal. I won’t get to see any of your information. 

Saturday, August 19, 2017

The surprise that is Twitter

I never thought I would join Twitter, certainly not with how busy I already am. Always said it wasn’t for me, but then in January I changed my mind. I thought it might be a good place to do a little marketing for one of my books. I thought I could tweet a line or two out of Out in the Dark from time to time and it might generate some interest and new sales. 

But little did I know all that was possible on Twitter. I’ve connected with agents, participated in hashtag pitch events where I’ve received interest in currently un-agented and unpublished work. 

I’ve met people looking for information, or sharing their unique art and lives. I’ve had conversations - short 140 character ones - with people all over the world. 

I’ve found story ideas and research leads and a place to share stories that have relevance, such as Tales from the Fountain Pen, which has stories in it that resonate with what is happening in the US today.

Twitter also gives me breaking news and reactions outside of mainstream media, which in the world we live in today, is necessary.  

Sure you find unpleasantness too, but these days you find that even in the grocery store checkout line. By far I’ve found the good outweighing the bad. But maybe I’ve been a tad more selective in who I follow as I learn to navigate this brave new world?

Take a leap of faith and join me: Twitter
And you can also engage with me through my website:

Sunday, June 25, 2017

More research off the beaten path

When I started working on my current book in progress I realized I wanted my main character to have certain abilities which help her solve an art theft with international implications and work as part of a shadow team for the FBI’s art squad. (Also see this blog post)

I had some knowledge and minor experiences with what for lack of a better explanation you could call psychic abilities/phenomenon. But what I really wanted to know more about was the nature of energy, the many ways energy works, not just for or on an individual but also how energy interconnects all living things.

When I first arrived in Boulder, CO, at the beginning of my new adventure, I met a woman who is a Reiki master. We talked for some time because I was curious and knew nothing about Reiki. After those first few hours of talking it sounded like Reiki offered a good starting point. Something practical and not just book knowledge. There’s only so much a lay person can read about quantum physics.

I got ‘attuned’ to level 1 and though I started it as purely research, I now find myself actually offering healing energy treatments to others. I’m strongest from a distance even a very great distance – probably because of my deep interest in the nature of energy, I push myself to reach further - and I’ve gotten reports back of remarkable benefits after I ‘send Reiki’. It’s only adding to my understanding of energy and allowing me to create a far more human, yet complex, character for my novel.

From the International Center for Reiki Training website:
“Reiki is a simple, natural and safe method of spiritual healing and self-improvement that everyone can use. It has been effective in helping virtually every known illness and malady and always creates a beneficial effect. It also works in conjunction with all other medical or therapeutic techniques to relieve side effects and promote recovery.
An amazingly simple technique to learn, the ability to use Reiki is not taught in the usual sense, but is transferred to the student during a Reiki class. This ability is passed on during an "attunement" given by a Reiki master and allows the student to tap into an unlimited supply of "life force energy" to improve one's health and enhance the quality of life.”

We write to learn and explore who we are and the world around us. I don’t recall who said that first, but it’s true.

PS: Animals love it too and will ‘ask’ for it from me when they need it by pushing against my hands and positioning themselves just so under my hands.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Putting your characters on the couch

In the beginning there were the simple forms to fill out per story character: favorite color, height, eye color, best subject in school, best friend, worst friend, favorite music, etc. But I now see that’s no different than the simple introductions at teambuilding events or summer camp. 

Instead of sharing around the campfire, let’s dig a little deeper for truly rich characters. 

I put one of my main characters in a novel I’m working on - SuperSense - on the couch and applied some psycho-analytic tools to find out who she really is. The results surprised me. 

I assembled skills learned from many books and diverse workbooks. 

The process takes you beyond the basics and beyond archetypes, into the heart and soul of your character. Much of the information I learned probably won’t make it directly into the novel, but it will inform Natasha's behavior, her responses, her choices and her actions. 

Next up I grabbed at the villain in the story and discovered the similarities in background, but differences in how they each opted to use that background. How past trauma and upbringing affected the choices they each made. 

We all have things in our past - good or bad - that changed us, made us question our path and choices. If we’re willing to look at those events and find a way to understand how they shaped us, then we can use that information to grow and also to develop richer characters for stories. 

For example: using these psycho analytical processes I was able to discover the reason for Natasha’s reluctance to use her special skills even though she’s sought out by others to use them. I now see the internal conflict she wrestles with almost daily, which is only exacerbated by the initial response she gets from her highly science-driven and logical teammates when she’s tossed into the team.

Natasha was raised by her grandmother (this was news to me until I put her on the couch) and her grandmother was a celebrated psychiatrist who kindly dismissed the girl’s abilities as a form of ‘hysterical’ coping mechanism after the traumas in her early life. 
You can see how that might set up feelings of shame and a reluctance to open up to others about the skills she has. 

I am still refining this character building tool for writers, but I am open to sharing the information and potentially setting up a series of online workshops if there is enough interest. 

Leave a comment, email, tweet or even an old fashioned snail-mail letter to my PO box (address on and I will respond. 

Friday, April 14, 2017


Clearly April is turning out to be a busy month for me. Click the link below to read an interview with me by British author and co-founder of Author's Reach, Richard Hardie.

Feel free to leave a comment to let me know what you think.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Book Review: Mars One

Mars One by Jonathan Maberry

It’s been quite a while since I indulged in reading a book in one sitting. This past weekend, however, I let everything be and got comfortable with a really good book; reading till very late into the night. (Yes, Monday morning was a little rough)

Mars One is NY Times suspense author, anthology editor, comic book writer, magazine feature writer, playwright, content creator and writing teacher/lecturer, Jonathan Maberry’s foray into YA science fiction. I’d say he’s exceeded expectations and in the process has set the bar quite high for his fellow writers. 

Imagine being a 16-yr. old boy and having trained and prepared for the first manned mission to Mars since you were 12. Your mother is an insanely good mechanical engineer and your father is a top notch botanist who will be growing food on Mars for the colonists.  Tristan Hart is no slouch as a mechanic either. Now mix in the normal stuff a 16-yr old boy in love with a girl has to deal with and you start to see how this might be a different adventure. 

The story is very well crafted. And is so much more than boy meets girl and has to leave girl to go to Mars. It asks and manages to thoughtfully answer some very big questions that face humanity. Maberry has created deeply relatable, diverse and intelligent characters who, in a not too distant future, leave behind everything familiar and set out to become the first colonists headed for Mars. 

The science has been meticulously researched and is offered in a very natural way without going over the reader’s head. A treat for a secret space nerd, like me. 

What rounds out this well-written story that follows young Tristan Hart and his parents along with their fellow colonists on their journey, is the depth and breadth of information the author appears to have at his fingertips and is able to blend seamlessly into the narrative: history, philosophy and mythology all fitting neatly in and adding extra layers to the story.

This is an author I would enjoy talking to and learning from over a good meal. The ultimate would be to co-author a novel, but for now I’ll put that in the wish column.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Researching Off The Beaten Path

One of the best parts about writing is that sometimes researching a character for a book takes me off the beaten path and down a different road into territory I’m only barely familiar with. Research gives me the opportunity to learn a little about many different things. Without giving away too much about book I’m working on, let’s just say the main character has a few unusual skills that are needed to solve a mystery that spans the continents.

Today, I thought I’d share with you a short interview with someone who’s helped me in developing my protagonist. Her name is Marie Black and she provides strategic intelligence. You can find a link to her website and more details about her services at the bottom of this interview.

Marie, welcome to my blog. I’m eager to hear your answers as I’m sure my readers are curious about what you do as well.

1. You have an interesting and usual skill set. Can you tell me a little about how you came to develop it or did it appear naturally?
M: When I was little, telepathy was very interesting. Unfortunately, there weren't many minds to practice it with, but I could always read people's thoughts. Since youth I've also developed clairvoyance, clairsentience, clairaudience, and communication with spirits using ancient techniques. I've also mastered Remote Viewing.

2. What kind of work do your skills lend themselves to? And how do you use them?
M: My psi skills have been used to locate missing people, criminals, and terrorists actively engaged in plots to attack large groups of people. I've also helped thousands of people with all sorts of problems. It's like psychic investigation.
I use my skills by tuning into the keywords, people, or a location, and gathering necessary data to answer the questions.

3. Do you think skills such as telepathy and remote viewing are unique or can anyone learn them?
M: I think everyone is born with the gland to develop psi skills, the Pineal Gland is the window. Anyone can learn telepathy and remote viewing, but it takes DAILY practice to get good with psi skills.

4. What is the one thing you wish people would understand about your abilities?
M: Everyone has the potential to develop these abilities, but it takes a lot of focus and practice. Don't give up!

5. If a protagonist in a novel had your skills how would that be a benefit to tracking say an international art thief?
If the protagonist looked at a photo of the stolen art, the location of the thief could be pinpointed no matter where on Earth they were hiding.

Thank you for taking the time to stop by. This should give people a hint of what you do, as well as some clues to the book I'm working on. 

For more information about Marie and her work, please take a look at:

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Bittersweet and Inspiring


For four years I was a part of the FIRST Robotics community in Seattle and the greater Pacific Northwest, so it was only logical that I seek out the FIRST family in Colorado. In the fall I volunteered as a judge at the FIRST Lego League competition and this past weekend I was a judge at the Colorado Regional competition, which brings together high school teams from Colorado, Wyoming, and some from Texas, New Mexico and Nevada.

It was a bittersweet experience for me because I found myself wistfully glancing up at the stands looking for the many friends I’d made in the Pacific Northwest. It seemed so natural that I should find them there, but they weren’t there. The same thing happened in the pits as I tried to find familiar teams. Memory and the brain will always try to reach for what’s familiar when in a situation that has the look and feel of past experiences, yet is different.

The other bittersweet part of this weekend was realizing that there are fewer resources available to the teams here, from training to funds/sponsors to opportunities. The difference between more affluent school districts and small rural ones was greater than I’d encountered in Washington. These difference also drive future opportunities for the kids on these teams. In Washington around 90% of kids on FIRST robotics teams will go to college, here I’ve found that number to be lower.

The cultural and socio-economic differences between the coastal states and the heartland states was made real for me this weekend. On an intellectual level, I understood, but on an emotional level it’s a different experience which added new depth to my understanding. As well as reaffirming my desire to help where I can. To provide encouragement and support to kids who have a tougher climb than others.

Before you think it was a depressing weekend for me, let me assure you it was not.  I was truly, deeply inspired by what the kids on these teams accomplished. It’s no small feat for teenagers to build and program a robot from scratch to meet specific requirements in only six weeks. Just as it never ceases to inspire me to hear them speaking eloquently and passionately about their team, overcoming challenges, helping others (one of the tenets of FIRST is Gracious Professionalism), finding ways to raise the money to do this, and most of all hearing them talk about their goals for the future.

If these kids can carry the lessons they learn on their robotics teams forward throughout life, they will do well at whatever they choose to do with the opportunities they have. They have the skills to break down a problem, to figure out solutions, to reach out to others for help, and to pay it forward.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Coming Back to Science Fiction

As you know, under my own name I write and explore historical fiction, but to avoid shelf and reader confusion under a different name – lately shortened to Nicky Adams – I write slightly paranormal but also science fiction.
In some ways the two go hand in hand. Paranormal or physic phenomenon such as Remote Viewing, which I explore in the YA novel Out in the Dark, used to fit nicely in the realm of science fiction, but has since moved to paranormal.
Remote Viewing, and things like energy healing, Reiki healing, etc., have a place in science fiction as much as space travel set in the future does. Who is to say that as we learn more about the very nature of energy and the outer limits of what our brains can do, that what we now consider paranormal becomes normal – as in backed by science?
But I digress. I wanted this post to be about why I keep coming back to science fiction in the choice of books I read.  (Though, I do read a wide variety of genres). There is something about science fiction that allows a different kind of exploration.
This is why I responded to an open call from a publisher recently and spent many long nights working to complete a YA science fiction novella. I tried to stay within the confines of the guidelines, but I soon found myself exploring some of the bigger issues facing our world today.
My protagonist is a 17-yr old girl, on the cusp of adulthood and grappling with her place in a crumbling, yet rigidly structured society. Her questions echo many of the questions I’ve heard from the teens I mentored.
This is where science fiction lets us explore these questions and hopefully find some different answers or can simply spark discussion. Though I doubt my books and stories will solve any major crisis facing our world, at the very least they’ll entertain and offer a welcome, brief, escape. 
Below, enjoy a few pages of Once Around Europa.

Once Around Europa
By: Nicky Adams
 Trying to free the small craft from the gravity well was taking too much fuel and Dina wasn’t sure if she would still be able to make it home once she did. Her attempt to slingshot around one of Jupiter’s moons hadn’t worked as she’d planned, she’d been going too fast and the gravity eddy had appeared out of nowhere. It hadn’t even registered on the instruments; it had just sucked her into the well and made her an almost stationary satellite.
            A quick one-two burst of her port thruster should free her, if she gave it enough power, but that would mean tapping into reserves. Well, it was that or die right there once the fuel ran out. At least if she got free she might have a chance of getting home, or at least be able to signal for help, which was the last thing she wanted to do as the tribe had already made it clear that they didn’t think she could finish the task anyway.
            The lack of confidence from the tribal elders stung. Especially after her grandfather had taught her everything she needed to know to participate in the Age of Ascension ritual. She was seventeen, old enough to be her own person and be accepted as a full – adult – member of the tribe, but the rules were such that she would only receive full status if she went through the ritual. The very survival of the tribe depended on it.
            Three centuries ago when it became clear the home planet was going to have to undergo renewal or be lost forever, the tribes opted to colonize the Moon rather than disappear into outer space like the rest of humanity. The tribes were given sovereignty and formed the Council of Tribes to peacefully rule the moon. Each maintained their own heritage and traditions and grew their own foods in the massive lunar greenhouses.
            Contact with the rest of humanity was sporadic, and the tribes did not expect ever to see the rest of them again; the tribes would remain as guardians of the planet that had given them life and now struggled to live herself.
             Everything was focused on ensuring that Mother Earth could recover from the ravages of humans. In order for that to happen the tribes insisted on children learning both botany and technology in equal measure with the idea that either the tribes would return home and live according to the old traditions or, if the planet did not recover, they would eventually leave the moon in search of greener pastures.
            This was why the Rite of Ascension was so important. Any seventeen-year old who could build and pilot a small craft – with minimal help – and who was the first in his, or her, group to fly it around Europa, would be given a position on the joint tribal science council. They were the one united group, outside of the ruling council, responsible for making sure there would be suitable, long range, escape craft should it become necessary to abandon the Moon.
            For those teens less capable in the technical arts there was a botany trial. They would have six months to grow a very diverse crop in a greenhouse of their own construction. In every challenge there remained a component of constructing something that would hold up and provide shelter or transport. Though Dina was adequate at growing vegetables, she had no interest in being a farmer for the rest of her life. In fact, she wanted to explore the stars, and secretly hoped they would leave the Moon in her lifetime.
            “Come on!” Dina cried, trying to coax more power from the engines. The little ship groaned and shuddered but delivered. She was still in the lead.
            “Still alive, I see,” the smug voice of Cole sounded over the communications system. “But you know I’m going to win this. No place for losers on the council!” He laughed his annoying laugh that other girls found so charming. Not Dina.
            With a slap of her hand she disconnected the com. She was in no mood to listen to Cole’s superior and arrogant prattle. Sure, he was one of the smartest, most handsome youths of her tribe, that still didn’t give him the right to taunt her, again. He’d been on her case ever since she’d signed on for this rite when she’d turned fifteen. He’d tease her that she wasn’t smart enough, or that she was too short, or that her blue eyes should disqualify her.
            Once, way back in her heritage, an ancestor had taken a wife from the white settlers and every so often the DNA from that long-ago match would reassert itself and a baby would be born with blue eyes, standing out from the others. It was so rare but whoever had blue eyes carried it almost as a mark of shame. For Dina it was just a reminder of how badly she wanted to get off the barren rock and explore the solar system. And perhaps find where the rest of humanity had ended up, even if it meant leaving her people behind.
            If she didn’t win this challenge she could look forward to a life of simply maintaining spacecraft and maybe working on other people’s designs. None of that was good enough. She had to win.
            A sufficient time had elapsed since Cole’s last taunt, so she reactivated the com system. It was important that she listen in on other communications to know how the others were doing or if there were any dangers up ahead. Although, she might not warn anyone of that eddy. She needed all the advantage she could get.
            Europa loomed in her view screen, big, icy and blue; oddly inviting in its cold beauty. For a moment Dina stared, transfixed, and contemplated landing.
            “What? Oh, are you kidding me!” Dina was startled back to the task at hand by a blinking warning light which was accompanied by a matching alarm sound. Why she’d thought using the sound of the now extinct burro had been good, she couldn’t fathom as she frantically adjusted settings to pacify the warning. This was no time for life-support to fail.
            “Yes, I know,” she said to the empty cabin. “I was so sure I wouldn’t ever have to hear the alarm because I thought everything would go perfectly. I was wrong, okay?” She lifted her head and seemed to be addressing some being up in space.
            “Yes, you were wrong, Wildflower, too cocky again,” the disembodied voice of her grandfather spoke in the cabin. “I warned you against that.”
            Dina gave a start. “Grandfather?” she whispered, her throat dry and constricted. The one person she never wanted to let down, who had taught her everything she knew.
            “Yes, Wildflower, it is I …The wise one,” the voice chuckled. He had been a bit of outlier in the tribe because he felt they had limited themselves by going to the Moon. It was just like staying on the reservation, he’d said.
            “Grandfather? I don’t understand,” Dina said, looking around to see if perhaps he was in the craft with her, which would be tricky under any circumstances because the inside was quite cramped.
            “Before you try to find me, shouldn’t you get your life-support working again?” the voice said.
            “Oh, right.” Dina turned her attention back to the console which still had the alarm and light going. She could already feel the oxygen fading from the air as it became harder to breathe. How had this happened? There had to be a leak somewhere for it to disappear so rapidly, but that didn’t make sense either. There were sensors that monitored for leaks and they weren’t giving any indication that something was wrong.
            Dina could feel panic slowly spreading up from her stomach. Her heart rate was going up and her breathing was getting shallow. She tried to brush her hair from her face but that wasn’t right. Her hair was in a long braid down her back. What was brushing her face? And where had those swirling colors outside come from? That wasn’t right either.
            Panic now held a tight grip on her throat. Every breath was a struggle as the young woman fought the ship for control of life support and navigational sensors.
            “It’s not you, Wildflower,” Grandfather said.
            “Of course it is, who else could it be?” Dina snapped at the disembodied voice. “I built this ship and I’m piloting it. I did all the preflight checks and double checks. Everything was working perfectly, everything was within spec. Do you hear me? Everything!” Her voice was a hoarse croak as she fought for air.
            “So, it’s not you,” Grandfather said again. “Remember this is a rite of passage, a test.”
            Dina slapped her forehead. “Of course, how could I be so stupid!”
            “On top of cocky.”
            “Yes, thank you for that, O wise one,” Dina replied sarcastically.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Why I Write

Over the past few weeks, as I see the world changing, becoming a more uncertain and unsafe place, I’ve thought long and hard about why I write, if it matters that I write. 
I’ve thought about that first novella of mine that came out in 2013, Tales from the Fountain Pen, and why I wrote it. Why I wrote down the few stories my mother was able to tell me from her experiences during the German occupation of her country, my country, during her teen years. 

For a long time I just thought they would make a good addition to the stories about WWII that are already out there, slice-of-life stories, but now I realize their true importance: These stories get played out again and again and again. History keeps repeating itself, at a faster and faster clip. Humans don’t learn it seems. 

Over the years a number of strangers have entrusted me with their stories. Stories of childhoods spent in war, stories of survival and of extraordinary kindness by strangers during difficult times. These people tell me their stories because I’m an outsider here too and often the only one who will listen to their history. They’ve often been told to not dwell on the past, they’re in America now … but their stories matter.

I will never forget, when growing up in the Netherlands in 70s and 80s, going to the open air market in the city square on Tuesdays after school, and the feeling of shock and horror in the pit of my stomach at seeing the Nazi concentration camp number tattoos on the wrists of some of the stall holders. The haunted look in their eyes. It made the generic history lessons from school seem far more real, and far more recent. 
My mother was not comfortable talking about those years. The few stories I got her to tell me - of which 4 or 5 made it into Tales from the Fountain Pen, fictionalized - were painful for her to relive. But they are true and they continue to matter. 

Those of you who’ve read “Sophie’s Choice” by William Styron, might not know that the choices Sophie has to make were not unique to her. Those choices were made by other women, women put in impossible positions and who’d experienced unspeakable abuse. Some of these were women my mother knew as friends, in-laws, neighbors, during and after those war years. 

But these impossible choices women are forced to make continue today and with travel bans and fear mongering they will only happen more frequently; emotionally and spiritually shredding people.

So why do I write? Why do I keep writing? Because I’ve been entrusted with people’s stories, because no matter where I set my books and short stories, these are the people who inform the characters in those stories. Looking back, I see now how I weave them into what I write, even if it’s a minor character in a subplot, or a chance encounter for the main character. The stories are there; resisting, questioning, informing. 

I have experienced the darkness of human fear and cruelty, I’ve listened to and held the hands of others who’ve suffered far more than I can ever imagine even with my fertile writer’s mind, and I feel compelled to weave all that into my writing. Sure, I write fiction, but that is a valid way to teach, to slip information in, to make a reader think about the world around them.

I understand now that writing is my way of protesting, of standing up and speaking up. I will write the other Fountain Pen stories my mother told me, I will continue to work on the sequel to “Out in the Dark” under pen name Nicola (Nicky) Adams, and I will continue to pitch my WWII trilogy for teens and the SciFi novella I just completed. All of them have stories that matter and in some way reflect the world we now find ourselves in. My books and stories are my voice speaking for others. 

Monday, January 2, 2017

The Lost Customer

Or the Missing Readers

I recently had the opportunity to talk to some of the kids who used to be on the high school robotics team I mentored. They’re now in college and I thought they might be interested in my YA novel Out in the Dark.

They were interested, but just don’t have the time to read. Which got me thinking about the marketing of Young Adult (protagonist between age 15 - 17) and New Adult (protagonist between age 17 -21) novels. In high school this audience still has time to read for pleasure, but in college that time drops to next to zero.

That’s a very sizable chunk of an author’s audience that drops away, and I suspect book publishers as much as authors are trying to figure out how to get them back, or not lose them to begin with.  

Marketing via Twitter is an option as that was very successful in building an audience for the Hunger Games series quite a few years back, but you can’t just tweet ‘hey, get at this awesome book’ anymore. There needs to be a value-add to lure the savvy young consumer.

For a while short promo films, called book-trailers, highlighting a book’s story, or a single scene, were popular - similar to movie promos - but I don’t hear much about those anymore. Probably because they’re expensive and time consuming to make, even if you use friends as actors and can borrow some of the equipment.

What about audio books? A busy student might just have time to unwind after a stressful day of learning and navigating campus with an audio book.

Audio books are a great way to reach that audience, but that really only works for the big publishers who can afford the upfront cost of creating an audio recording of a book. Small, independent publishers just don’t have the means to pursue that avenue, which means many good books have trouble reaching their audience.

But perhaps authors can pool their talents. The publishing industry isn’t done changing and growing yet and there is plenty of room left for innovation and new ways of doing things. As an example: An author friend in England ditched his publisher and formed a cooperative with a group of authors to publish and market their books collectively under their own banner.

In fact, let me try something different too, on Twitter; serializing a novel in 140-character bite-sized nibbles.