Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Merry Christmas

I'll be giving away a free Christmas short story to all my newsletter subscribers. Be sure to subscribe here if you'd like to read it.

Meanwhile, I have finished writing the draft for my next novel Unforgettable and have sent it out to beta readers. I hope to have it available in early 2018. This is the back cover copy:

As young teenagers, Celia and Manny sit together in the branches of a mango tree and plan their futures together. Soon afterward, Manny leaves for college, expecting to marry Celia and take her to America once he graduates. However, a year into Manny’s schooling, the volcano near Celia’s village erupts, burying her home.

They lose contact with each other, and Celia comes to believe that Manny has fallen in love with someone else. When their lives intersect again, years later, it seems that too much has changed for their plans to ever become a reality. Yet neither of them can forget.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

What I'm Writing Now

I've been hard at work on my next novel, Unforgettable, and I hope to finish it in the next few months.

It's a love story that takes place on both the Cape Verde islands and the Eastern part of the United States.

Here's a peek at the first chapter:

Her home, her entire world, would soon be entombed in molten rock. Smoke billowed out from the volcano’s cone, and red lava exploded upward in jets, crashing back down to earth in flaming balls. Peering past the old mango tree, she saw lava flowing down the hill toward the houses and shops that dotted her island village. Flames already engulfed the sports stadium, and hot, black ooze had already swallowed some of their neighbors’ homes.

 Celia pulled on her mother’s arm. “We have to leave the house.” The authorities had ordered them to evacuate a few days earlier. After dragging their two foam mattresses, the card table, and their two folding chairs to a nearby village, she had dragged her mother there as well. But this morning, when she awoke, her mother’s mattress lay empty.

Panicking, Celia ran for an hour, taking paths known only to the villagers, to where she suspected she would be, back at their house. Watching her mother water the mango tree with an empty bucket, Celia gulped air filled with the stench of rotten eggs. Could this be a nightmare? No, it was too real.

She had to convince her to leave, which wouldn’t be easy. Though Celia was full grown at eighteen, her mother was still taller and stronger, and now out-of-her-mind crazy.

“Mama,” she cried, choking from the taste of sulfur in her throat. “Do you want us to burn alive?” Powerless to stop the surge of living rock, she listened to the lava crackle and hiss as it rolled toward them. Though it only advanced a few feet per hour, it had already reached the edge of their property. Within minutes,  it would set fire to the beautiful trees they had nurtured since her childhood.

Their village lay within the ancient crater far below the volcano's newer cone. She had seen villagers and news crews observing from the rim of the crater a few days before, so she scanned the hills above her for someone to help, but from where she stood among the trees, she couldn’t see anyone. They were all alone.

Her mother stared at her with empty eyes, as if she spoke and walked in her sleep. “We can’t leave the crops," she said, sounding so calm, "It’s good, black soil here.”

Just two weeks before, when the earth first started trembling, her mother had been perfectly normal, preparing a new batch of crocheted doilies to sell to the tourists who came to hike the volcano. She’d always handled tragedy well. Even when Celia’s baby sister died eight years earlier, she had stayed strong. Now she reminded Celia of the woman down at the market who claimed to have given birth to a chicken.

Celia grabbed her mother’s arm again, pulling as hard as she could in her exhausted state. “Mama, this is worse than the other eruptions. Half the village is already lost. We won’t be able to save the mango trees.”

Her mother twisted free from her grasp again. “These trees need water. They haven’t had water in over a week!” She picked up a broken branch from the ground and held it threateningly over her head.

Celia backed away. She wished Manny were here to help. He would throw her mother over his shoulder and haul her over the hill to safety. “You may want to die for these trees, Mama,” she yelled, “but I promised Manny I’d be here when he gets back. I’m not going to stay here and wait for the lava to swallow me whole.”

Celia turned and marched twenty steps in the other direction, hoping Mama would follow, but her trick hadn’t worked. Mama still clung to the mango tree, and Celia couldn’t leave her. This was the woman who had sung her lullabies and taught her to sew. This was the woman who worked on the road crew to provide her with food and clothing. This was the woman who never, ever sent her to school with a wrinkly dress or a dirty face. Now this woman hugged her favorite tree, her face smashed against the trunk, sobbing. Whether this mental illness was temporary or permanent, Celia would not abandon her own mother. Barely five meters up the hill from her, lava crept forward.

Celia groaned. “Mama!” she yelled, anger welling up inside her as hot as the lava plowing toward them. “Come with me! Now!” She ran back and grabbed hold of her mother’s arm again, but the woman had such a tight grip on the tree that Celia couldn’t budge her.

“You can’t trust a man to come back for you,” her mother howled through her sobs. “Not after he leaves Fogo Island. That’s when you’ve lost your spell over him. He forgets how beautiful you are.”

Was she talking about Manny or Celia’s father? Yes, her father had forgotten them, but Manny wouldn’t be that way.

She pulled on her mother’s waist, then on her legs. But the woman slumped down, becoming a dead weight anchored to the tree. Celia tried tickling under her arms, and then on her feet.

Nothing worked.

Finally, she knelt down and took her face in her hands. “Please, mama, let go of the tree. I love you. Don’t make me watch you die!”

Time was running out. As the lava gained on them, a grape vine on the other side of the tree caught fire, and Celia did the only thing she could think of. She picked up the tree branch in both hands. Sucking in a breath, she closed her eyes and lifted the branch over her head, but she couldn’t do it. She couldn’t hit her mama.

The lava rolled ever closer—just a few steps away now. So close that the heat burned Celia’s skin. How could Mama not feel that?

“I’m sorry, Mama,” she said in her softest voice. “I’m sorry about the volcano.” Then seeing the far-off look in Mama’s eye, she had one more idea. Her hands shook as she pointed in the direction of the closest hill. “I think you’ve watered this tree enough. We have more trees to water on the other side of the hill. They’re all gonna die if we don’t water them. We’ve got to hurry!”

Her mother stared at her for a moment. Then, like a bird answering a distant cry from her flock, Mama raced out of their burning orchard, carrying her bucket with her. Celia followed. She didn’t look back to watch the lava roll through the front door of the only home she had ever known.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017


I've been wanting to write a Day in the Life (DITL) post about my life as an author, where I walk you through a typical day in my life. The problem with that is that there is no typical day. Every day is so different. I do write most every day, but every other part of the day is different. I only write during the school hours because after school I want to be available for my kids.

I usually write for a few hours at home every day, but depending on what's going on during the rest of the day, I sometimes write at a library or cafe. I also love to write at ski resorts while my kids ski.

During the morning and early afternoon hours, I sometimes go on field trips with my kids or meet online with my critique group. I also have days when I help a friend or take my sons to the orthodontist.

This January, I found myself with fewer commitments than usual, so I decided to tackle my list of projects to complete. It started out with decluttering and organizing. Then I finally jumped into one of the projects I'd dreaded. I refinished and painted my kitchen table! Here's a picture of what it looked like in the process:

It had a golden oak finish, and the top of the table was pretty thrashed. We bought it used to begin with, so it came with plenty of wear and tear, but we had added even more. As you can see, my husband and son helped me sand down the top. (They did most of that, actually.) I got stuck with the washing, staining, and painting, which was plenty. Here's how it turned out:

I painted all eight of our chairs white to go with it. It took a long time, let me tell you. If you'd like to know how I did it all, check out the instructions from this video

YouTube is so helpful when it comes to Do It Yourself (DIY) projects. I also watched videos to help me organize around the house. My favorite organizing YouTuber is ClutterBug. Not only do I think she's hilarious, I love budget-friendly style. You can find her channel here

Here are some pictures of a few of the things I've organized around the house lately:

This used to be a jumbled mess on top of the refrigerator.
I used Dollar Tree bins and chalkboard labels to contain the clutter.

This is my new gift wrap station that I keep on the door of our Harry Potter room downstairs.
I used a cheap over-the-door shoe organizer from WalMart
and took a seam ripper to it to make some of the pockets bigger.
 I also used some packing tape to join pockets together.

Oh, and for those of you who are wondering what I'm writing--I am hard at work on a book called Unforgettable. It's a love story about immigrants from the Cape Verde Islands, and it's so fun. It has everything I love to write about, including beaches, a volcano, and love. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Manuscript Makeover Part 4: Final Edits

Last summer, a writer's group invited me to teach a class on editing from start to finish. I designed my manuscript makeover class for them, and I've decided to share it on my blog as a series of posts. This is my fourth and final post in the series.
Today I'll discuss the final edits I go through before I submit my manuscript to an editor for publication. Usually, by the time I've gotten to this point, I've worked out all the kinks in my plot and characters, and I'm ready to focus on my prose.

Here's my writer's to-do list:

Make sure each character has a unique voice.

Add literary devices to build emotion.

Eliminate the passive voice (search for there and was. Give the action a subject.)

Check for sentence variety.

Eliminate wordiness.

Eliminate adverbs.

Search and replace for overused words (Google search: “words writers should delete.”)

Watch for overused prepositions.

Finalize character names.

Read your manuscript aloud one more time.

Spell check.

Search for and replace double spaces.

Thanks for reading! Please let me know if you have anything to add to any of my manuscript makeover posts.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Manuscript Makeover Part 3: Goals, Hooks, and Setting

Last summer, a writer's group invited me to teach a class on editing from start to finish. I designed my manuscript makeover class for them, and I've decided to share it on my blog as a series of posts. I've already covered editing for character and plot in my last two blog posts.
Today I'll discuss editing for goals, hooks, and setting. After character and plot, these three elements can do so much to make sure your readers are turning the pages.

It's important to remember the overall goal of your character throughout the book.

A single overarching goal or desire should drive the plot. Think of any movie and you'll see what I mean. In Hamlet, it's revenging the king's death. In Jurassic World, it's capturing the dinosaur. In Finding Nemo, it's . . . finding Nemo.

Each character needs specific goals, and these should be obvious to the reader within the first two chapters. To build tension, you need to make sure that the main characters' goals conflict, and they should especially conflict with the villain's goals.

Each character participating in a scene will also have a specific goal or goals. Make sure that in every scene, the reader knows who wants what and what happens if they don’t get it.

Characters’ goals can change as they change (arc.)

While you're evaluating your characters' goals. Ask yourself:
Are you being too easy on your characters?
What can you do to torture them even more?
How can you frustrate them in reaching their goals?


A hook is something interesting that draws a reader in and makes them want to read more. (You hook the reader's attention.)

Check to make sure:
·         The first paragraph and last paragraph of the first chapter hooks the reader.
·         each chapter has a hook at the beginning and end.
·         your lowest point (belly of the whale or all-is-lost moment) is low enough.
·         your resolution has lots of emotion.

Avoid predictability with brainstorming. (If the reader sees it coming, they won’t want to keep reading.)

For some good examples of hooks, I recommend reading the first and last paragraphs of each chapter in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.

Your setting can do so much to add interest and help you avoid predictability. Ask yourself these questions as you consider your settings;Does the setting in each chapter add interest and tension?
Can you vary the setting more often?

Can readers visualize each setting? (Have you used the five senses to describe your settings?)

Friday, February 10, 2017

Valentine's Day Sale

I'm taking a brief break from my manuscript makeover series to tell you about a great offer for Valentine's week.

I've teamed up with some great authors to offer you a selection of clean romance novels at only 99¢ each. You'll find books from Heather B. Moore, Rachelle J. Christensen, and Lindzee Armstrong, as well as many others. Check it out here at Lindzee's Blog. The sale runs from February 10 through February 16. Happy Valentine's Day!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Manuscript Makeover Part 2: Plot

Most beginning writers plot by the seat of their pants. In other words, they don't use an outline. There are advantages to avoiding an outline--your story can feel less predictable and more creative, but you're most likely going to have trouble delivering a satisfying ending. 

I recommend that even if you write by the seat of your pants, you organize or outline your plot after the first draft. There are two ways to do this.

First, you can borrow a plot from another story. (People often do this by following the plot of a fairytale or classic novel.)

Second, you can make an outline. I struggled a lot with outlining when I first began writing, and I eventually came up with a handful of resources that help me. Here are a few:

Watch Dan Wells' YouTube class on story structure here. It's a five-part series, and I recommend that you watch all five videos while taking notes.

Read about Blake Snyders’ Three Act structure in Save the Cat.

Experiment with the Snowflake Method before you write.

Learn about the Hero’s Journey

If none of these work for you, you might look over Freytag’s Pyramid. (This is the five part structure you most likely learned about in elementary school: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution.)

As you strengthen your plot, you'll find ways to add tension to your story and pull off a better ending.