Tuesday, January 26, 2016


I reluctantly admit to having burned through two seasons of iZombie in under a month.

I picked up the show more or less by accident, seeing that the lead character is an assistant medical examiner turned zombie.

We know I love medicine.

The premise is clever, proving once again that there are new concepts out there. Zombies can be caring, intelligent brain eaters who take on their victim's personalities and solve murders. Snarky, comical, and with maybe a bit too much "romantic drama," I recommend the series.

It's easy to dismiss anything "zombie" as tired and overdone these days. I blame The Walking Dead, though it both reinvigorated and simultaneously saturated the market with its success. 

A more business-savvy author might worry that it's too late to write the third Strandville novel, but I'm banking on there being readers out there who dig the medical angle that sets my series apart in a sea of undead fiction.

Book three ups the ante in every way. 

Focused on the healthcare crisis stemming from the viral outbreak, my characters aren't only sharp-shooting, melee-weapon-toting killers struggling to survive. They're working for the greater good, treating those who have become victims in a violent, vigilante landscape. The infection isn't the only thing people are dying from.

Enter Dr. Michael Waters, a physician with a shady past and a dark connection to the people he has vowed to protect. Mistrust and shifts in loyalty are common when immunity is a commodity. There's a child of the initial experiment whose life hangs in the balance, her dedicated mother, and reluctant "father." There's the grieving widower who pines for the idea of family. There's the near-suicide victim pushing on to honor the memory of their fallen EMT-P comrade, and the homicidal madman with a history of violence who may or may not have reinvented himself as a side-effect of the cure who lurks on the outskirts.

My Strandville novels feature a diverse and growing cast.

Is zombie saturation a thing? I say no. Like iZombie, there are other angles to explore. If you're so inclined, click either Cure  or Afterbirth's cover in my sidebar for a free preview of the first two books in the series.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Sour Candy: A Horror Novella Review

Sour CandySour Candy by Kealan Patrick Burke
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Phil Pendelton never wanted children, but he ended up with a son anyway. Or did he?

When a run-in with a mother and her screaming child turns into the worst day of Phil’s life, Phil doesn’t know whether he’s going mad or if what the police are telling him is true; that this boy he had only just seen at the market with a woman he’d never met is his son.

There’s something wrong with this kid who is prone to public screaming, dressed in strange clothing, calling him “Daddy,” and it’s not just his diet. Can a child be a curse? You’ll have to read Sour Candy to find out. In the meantime, I wouldn’t take candy from strangers.

View all my reviews

Creepy, well-written, and an excellent concept in-line with It Follows but so much better! Another great short from Kealan.

Friday, January 15, 2016

If I Could Go Back (Regrets After Five Years of Publishing Part I)

Live and learn, isn't that what they say?

Working on Departure has me reminiscing, realizing how little I knew back in 2011 when I first got into self-publishing. I had no idea what stock art was, or how to make covers, or where to find editors, or anything about marketing. I was deluded into thinking "If you write it, they will come." Some did. Many are late to the party.

If I could go back in time and tell my 2011 self that in 2016 I would still be struggling, even after an Amazon Publishing contract and six novels, I'd never have believed me. Would I have kept writing? Sure would have. I'm not a quitter, but if I could do some things differently, here's what I'd do:

First and foremost, I'd have written the entire Strandville series before releasing a single novel. It's hard to convince readers to take a chance on a new author and a new series they might never finish (I assure you, Strandville will eventually conclude). I could've reduced my turnaround time between novel releases, done a much stronger initial launch, and avoided some expensive missteps by letting the novels cool off before publishing them (not to mention the "practice makes perfect" wisdom I had heard beaten to death and for some reason still didn't believe).

My 2011 self thought she'd written a pretty damn compelling outbreak tale. It came in as runner-up in the Halloween Book Festival and was subsequently optioned for film. It had to be good, right? Yes and no. My 2015 self realized that there were some major editorial misses. I hired Red Adept Editing to go through Cure and re-released it with an updated cover from the talented Sarah Hansen of Okay Creations. While I still might have done a couple of minor things differently, I believe the Strandville series is on the solid footing it should have been if I'd have had a clue in 2012 when it released.

I wrote Afterbirth fast and furious to keep up with the breakneck pace of Cure's developing script. I wanted to be ready in the event the film option was exercised. Afterbirth continues to be my most well-reviewed novel to date. My fingers flew across the keyboard and kept going until I hit the perfect ending. That story felt right. I'm having dejavu with Departure that seems to all but be writing itself. The film option expired, the movie went unfunded (as is often the case), and now I have a finished script as a cool piece of office memorabilia.

Which brings me to my next regret: Genre-hopping. I like to read mysteries, thrillers, and horror, and I like to write in multiple genres, which is one of the many reasons I never seriously considered approaching a literary agent. It wasn't fair to them or me if my scatterbrain refused to be branded (though horror feels like my home).

So why the switch?

I write the stories asking to be written in the order they come to me. I typically have three or four solid ideas kicking around and I think about each of them in the quiet moments of my life; driving, walking the dogs, or cooking a meal. My brain is rarely off of writing, which tells me I'm in the right business. One will always force its way to the forefront as was the case with Fatal Reaction, a novel that had been years in progress. I had written the first iteration of it long before self-publishing had been a thing (thankfully, because the first version was not good, maybe even terrible). I look back at writing from the 90s and early 2000s and cringe.

The initial concept wasn't about the mystery surrounding the death of a patient, but about the main character and her lover (a twisted romance more or less). I didn't use a stitch of that story other than the idea of uterine transplantation. That this surgery still hasn't come to fruition as common practice for women unable to bear children speaks volumes about the controversy surrounding the procedure. Therein lies the unique concept for Fatal Reaction. What happens when a surgery women would pay handsomely for can't get past the clinical trial stage? How far would one doctor go to advance his career? What happens when that leads to murder? Fatal Reaction. I'm proud of the story. Smart, sexy, and unique in its subject matter, the medical thriller took off on its own and sold beyond my wildest dreams with relatively little marketing effort. I eventually sold this novel to Amazon's Thomas & Mercer imprint when one of their acquisitions editors contacted me. I was honored, thought this was the beginning of a solid relationship, only to realize that I was entering another lesson learned. Not a bad experience, it just wasn't what I was looking for. Like Afterbirth, I was again in the position to write a sequel, had been told it would likely get picked up, and at my husband's urging more than anything (he liked Fatal Reaction and the fact that it sold), I wrote Fatal Intentions.

Never has writing a novel felt more like pulling teeth.

My mom and I joke that this one was such hard work it had to be a best seller. A month following release, I don't see the momentum Fatal Reaction enjoyed at the same point in its life cycle. I have low expectations for a story that eventually came together to be something I am proud of, but that took over a year (and as I've blogged about before, had more snafus associated with it than anything I've ever written).

I find myself in a split position in 2016, straddling the horror, mystery, thriller line with one contemporary romance and a young adult novel in my backlist. Thankfully the two outliers are standalones, but the time I put in (a year plus for each) is precious time I can't get back.

Let me touch on The Missing Year for a minute. After fifteen years in the field, I can write medicine with some ease and authority. I enjoy all aspects of it, but my interest turned toward the death with dignity movement the day my terminally ill grandfather asked me, "When is this going to stop?" What he meant was the pain and degradation. He had lost everything that made him who he was and he was tired of living as a shell. He died of mesothelioma, a disease he contracted the seeds of in his youth ripping out flooring tile from government housing projects. My pop was never a smoker and it was by some divine grace that the cancer that would end his life lay dormant 85 years. 85 years, you say? That's one hell of a run but when you love someone, eternity with them wouldn't be enough. I wasn't ready to let him go. My grandfather was my rock, and I miss him still. Watching him wither, I thought about the only other person so close to me, my husband.

That's when the idea for The Missing Year  hit me. What do you do when faced with the reality of terminal illness? What if it's going to destroy the memories of who you were before you got sick? What if the most important person to you was dying? How far would you go to honor their dying wish? The story resonated, came to the forefront and asked to be written so I wrote it. I wasn't thinking about sales. The Missing Year wasn't a great branding move, but my mind doesn't work that way. I'm self-indulgent and grateful for the small band of readers who follow me between genres. I promise to develop a static identity one of these days.

Going forward, I plan to quiet the background noise and focus. Departure is my guaranteed next release. Self-published, rock and roll. I have another idea that is also in the horror/thriller camp that will likely succeed it. It's time I stop giving into whims because yes, this is a business and this business requires branding. Five years later, I guess I'm only now recognizing this as a contributing factor to my financial ups and downs. I need to reign in my impulsivity and chase the dream as the horror gal I am.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Year in Review (2015) and What's Next (2016)?

It's that time again. We're knocking on 2016's door and I am hoping something good answers.

2015 was one hell of a year. I landed and fulfilled a Thomas & Mercer contract and published Fatal Intentions, checking two things off the to-do list. Fatal Intentions is currently starting out strong among the Kindle Unlimited folks (though it hasn't yet had its first published review). I'm hopeful when it gets one it won't suck.

I have vacillated on how and what I'll publish, and am getting a jump-start on next year by returning to Strandville with Departure. I'm outlining two mystery/thrillers and hope to self-publish at least two novels in 2016. While some folks can pump out a book a month, I'm coming to terms with not being one of them.

I could look into my crystal ball and make some industry predictions, but that's not my thing and plenty of people more qualified than I am are doing it. KU will continue to be beneficial, but less so. Indie is on-trend. Amazon continues to dominate the world. You know, that stuff. The market changes its mind almost as often as I do. As a non-expert, I won't add to the speculation. My experience is that different strategies work for different people.

I'm sticking with diversified indie.

2015 brought about an entire backlist of audiobooks that surprisingly usually earns me more each month than my e-books. I'm thankful for the time and effort put forth by both Cerny American Creative and audiobook whizz Julia Knippen. My two Julias rock the audiobook scene.

I am going to continue my grass roots effort to reach and connect with like-minded readers who enjoy reading in the same genres I do, delivering the best stories possible while consistently improving my storytelling skills. In the end, I got into this business to write engaging fiction, not be rich and famous (though that would be nice).

I plan to increase my subscriber base and make my newsletter's content worthwhile. I don't want to implement gimmicks and giveaways as a means of attracting readers. I want to write the kind of books that sell themselves. I'm hoping the newsletter will be perceived as the worthwhile effort it is intended to be.

I took a fair amount of time off in 2015 between travelling, training a puppy, visiting my active-duty son, and having him home. I have been trying to strike the balance for years, and recognize my own complacency.

I'm proud of Fatal Intentions but disappointed by how long it took me to get it written, polished, and published. If I'm being honest, my butt-in-chair time was not what it could have been considering I'm a full-time writer. 2016 might be different.

It might not.

I don't like making half-hearted resolutions.

2016 brings yet another puppy named Chip. That's going to take some amount of time and effort on my part. I believe in a natural pack. Some animals aren't meant to be alone and my mini Aussie Poe is one of them. Chip was born less than a week ago and is Poe's biological brother. I have approximately two months until the insanity resumes, but look forward to the chaos of sleepless nights and house training *end sarcasm font*.

If I can get near a completed rough draft of Departure by the time Chip comes home I'll be thrilled.

2015 was a year for adjustment and reflection. I had thought I wanted an agent, that I could find one as dedicated as Charlie Runkle from Californication though he is unfortunately fiction in every sense of the word. I think the true champions (and I mean dedicated agents who are heart and soul into this business for the love of novels) are a dying breed. I'd rather not waste my time panning for agent gold. Maybe I'm an indie at heart. I suspect that to be true.

2016 will have me righting the Frisch ship that had nearly capsized in a sea of crippling self-doubt. Writing Fatal Intentions on the heels of an Apub-published novel had too many people in my head. I worried not just about the story, but about pleasing editors and folks I've never met because I thought that them not accepting the sequel to my novel meant I was some kind of failure. I fell prey (as so many do) to the circumstances of facts and figures.

In 2016, I am going to embrace the horror genre that has been the most supportive of me. Expect my thrillers to tend toward the dark side and know that my lifelong love of all things macabre is where my passion for writing stems from. 2016 is a clean slate in a lot of ways. I plan on taking advantage of that (doesn't everyone?). I'm on a new path complete with a full and healthy pup pack by my side. I'm thinking with Poe, all things are possible.

Happy New Year, readers!

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Sinsister 2: On Horror Sequels

I don't often think a horror movie sequel lives up to the original but Sinister II comes close.

Sinister is among my all time favorite movies; dark, demented, and atmospheric with a dash of Ethan Hawke. The footage of whole families slaughtered is unsettling (at the very least). The crime writer angle lends to the feeling of discovery and of heightened fear as the author's family gets closer to danger. Creatively insane with a plausible plot and a hint of bad guy that's enough to get you to jump out of your seat.

It's funny how sequels work. For some reason, film sequels aren't nearly as good as the original. Book sequels (mine included) are usually better as the series goes. Why is that? Novels are a different medium. Character and large scale plot development takes time. According to my ratings, Afterbirth is my best reviewed novel (the second in my Strandville series). Can that luck hold for book three? I'll keep my fingers crossed.

Sinister II felt more like a book sequel than a franchise film because it picked up the plot at a natural place from where Sinister left off, taking nothing away from the original and building on a story we only get to know the beginning of in the first movie. There was talk of the family we had already gotten to know as "ex-Deputy So and So" works to break the curse.

No longer a cop, the ex-Deputy falls for a woman on the run named Courtney. Courtney is living at a new murder site, working to protect her two boys from an abusive cop husband. There is romantic tension and the characters are written in a way that you root for all of them (except maybe the one(s) who don't make it). The Bughuul lore continues, there are more creepy films (though these aren't all quite as good as Sinister's), and we learn from the inside how the supernatural recruitment works at a location every bit as creepy as the house in the original film. The church killings are straight out of medieval times, up there with the worst (or best depending on your point of view) in the franchise's past.

I have a lot of respect for Blumhouse films and Sinister II is highly recommended by this horror gal as a sequel done right.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Last Shift: Observations on Horror and an Unofficial Review

"A rookie cop's 1st shift in the last night of a closing police station alone turns into a living nightmare. The plot echoes John Carpenter's 'Assault on Precinct 13' but with a supernatural twist." -IMDB (5.7 stars)

It's no secret I love horror and Last Shift came recommended from two reputable sources (Blumhouse and Cassie Carnage). The movie was decent. It had the claustrophobic feeling you'd expect from an abandoned police precinct with an occult past. There were some perfectly timed scares, but as with all horror movies it's what doesn't get shown that scares you.

There's a scene where Officer Loren is locked in holding with a vagrant she's hit with a Taser. The door slams and she's trapped in darkness. Her flashlight starts coming on and off, along with an unfamiliar voice (and there should be no one there). The light turns on the unconscious man and then goes dark again. Great stuff! You can feel the panic.

Where the movie goes off-track is the same place any horror movie (or novel) takes a wrong turn. We have the heroine locked down in a haunted precinct and she can get out, but she doesn't. Her father, a fallen officer, is her motivation for standing her ground when any sane person would've gotten the hell out of Dodge. I cannot believe wanting to inspire parental pride is a reason to get killed. I've made my own mistakes where this is concerned (terrible character decisions for the purpose of plot advancement). If Officer Loren had left the station at that point, the movie would have been over and we'd miss out on the real horror ala Manson Family. 

In Cure (permafree with 154 reviews and over a four-star rating), I made a similar faux pas in allowing a group of rogue locals to liberate a pack of shambling undead on an unsuspecting hospital. What was meant as a distraction is one of those things you'd call people out on. Why on earth let the zombies out? Well, if they didn't get out somehow it wouldn't be much of a zombie novel. Same thing with Miranda, my main character. Yes, she goes back to liberate a group of captive women (some of whom are pregnant with zombie fetuses, unbeknownst to them). Why? I could claim sister solidarity, could defend my decision by saying that Miranda was trapped in a locked-down facility anyway (though she didn't yet know it), but I won't. I saw an opportunity for plot advancement and much like the writer of Last Shift, I took it. No apologies, but as I grow into my horror gal role I won't be making things so convenient going forward. I learn from mine and others' mistakes.

In all, Last Shift would have been a great movie. I'd have forgiven the missteps (as I hope everyone who has read and enjoyed Cure has forgiven mine) for the sake of plot advancement, but the ending... oh, boy...

I've seen the "interpretational final battle" too many times in horror films. Was there a supernatural element? Or did Officer Loren go crazy as a result of being told too many details about a personal trauma related to her first and last shift as a police officer? I'd think I missed something if my husband hadn't also scratched his head at the abrupt shift. 

I recommend the film if you're a horror fan. There are some effective scenes that'll stick with you, and maybe you'll like the open ending. I'd have like things tied up a little neater. 6/10 stars from me because I'm a sucker for cult killers.

If you're a fan of last shifts, I highly recommend Joe Schreiber's Eat the Dark. This novel holds a high place on my all time best list and is about do for a second read.

"Escorted from prison under heavy guard, murderous psychopath Frank Snow is scheduled for an emergency brain scan at Tanglewood Memorial Hospital, an institution that is closing its doors after one final night of operation. But Snow has something far more terrifying planned. And once the lights go out, a fiendish game of hide-and-seek begins.

Alone in the dark with a homicidal madman who knows their fears, their secrets, and their every move, MRI technician Mike Hughes, his wife and child, and the other unlucky souls trapped in the hospital have no choice but to duel with the devil incarnate. If they play by their stalker’s twisted rules, some of them might just survive. But there’s more to Frank Snow than the naked eye can see . . . or the sane mind can bear."

Monday, December 21, 2015

Special Thanks

I'd like to take a minute to thank fellow author and most awesome beta reader Matt Schiariti for reading the early version of FATAL INTENTIONS and for being brutally honest in his critique. You have challenged me to put out a better novel.
Special thanks to V of "Edits by V" for her hard work spotting those embarrassing errors that would have otherwise slipped by me.
Thanks to my mom for prepublication proofreading, and to my husband Brent who is doing a final look through now. Yes, it's after the fact, but I didn't want to rush him.
The hardest part about writing a novel aside from creating a compelling plot with well-rounded characters readers actually care about is editing. I have heard it said that the acceptable error rate for traditionally published novels is 1 per 10,000 words (I'd cite my source but my memory is awful). That means I get nine in my entire novel. That's too many for my taste and with five sets of eyes on this book, I hope not to come anywhere near that. My goal is quality. My readers deserve my absolute best and even though I self-publish, I hold myself to industry standards. I think we all should. I am proud of my work and grateful for those who work with me to guarantee quality.
For those of you who have picked up FATAL INTENTIONS, thank you from the bottom of my heart (special thanks to Lisa Fleener who picks up my books faster than anyone). This one's been a long work-in progress filled with so many problems from day one it's a miracle I was able to get it back on track.
At one point (on April Fool's Day of all days), I had lost my entire manuscript, the FULL rough draft, to a corrupt file that had been backed up on every device I owned. I nearly died. That's 85,000 words gone. I got back about 80,000 of them. I wrote a new ending and moved on. That ending isn't the one I published with.
The second snafu was Matt's critique. I'm thankful for his perspective and think it's his love of books that makes him so perfect as a first reader. His comments hit me hard, pushing me into months of additional revisions and additions (over 10,000 words worth). I can look back now and say those changes were more than justified.
The final hit came when my anticipated publishing path fell through. After all the hard work, there was the feeling that Thomas & Mercer (who published FATAL REACTION, book one) would be taking this one, too. I didn't line up editing or have a cover ready to go. I expected to be sticking with APub. Unfortunately, that didn't happen.
I was left now with a book I believed in and a lot of work ahead of me to get it into publishing shape. I found V and was fortunate to snag her at a time she could work on my novel like pronto. She came recommended and after trying her out with a sample edit I felt confident she would do this book justice (and she did). She's gone through it twice with the same mindset that I have--no errors. Of course no one's perfect, but she's close. She did a thorough and professional job.
After all that, FATAL INTENTIONS made it. I made it with the help of a great team who stands behind me and without whom I'd never be able to do what I do, at least not nearly as well. Thanks everyone. You're valued more than you know. For anyone who is looking to round out their publishing team, both Matt and V are available and come highly recommended. My mom and my husband, however, aren't for hire. wink emotico

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Departure: Sooner or Later the Survivors Have to Leave Strandville

Coming in 2016! Stay tuned for details.

Five years after The Collapse, the survivors of the Nixon Center outbreak take refuge in an abandoned inn where Dr. Michael Waters provides medical care in exchange for supplies that keep them living comfortably in post-apocalyptic Strandville. The problem with comfort is that not everyone has it.

When Michael turns away the sick and injured with nothing to trade, rival physician and biochemist Dr. Joseph Laken  is forced to pick up the slack. With a fraction of Michael's resources and without the cure, the strain of helping those without means furthers a tenuous personal feud.

Scott and Miranda struggle to find their footing as a family with now five-year-old Amelie as each chooses an opposing side in the debate about Amelie's life versus the greater good. 

Widower Zach Keller is determined to keep Amelie safe, creating tension between Miranda and Scott when Miranda realizes Zach is the only other person with her daughter's best interests at heart.

An attack on the inn leaves Miranda questioning not only her utopia but the loyalty and sanity of the group that has kept her and her daughter alive this far. Seeing no other choice, she decides it's time to leave. Unfortunately, walking away with the only immune person won't go unnoticed. Miranda executes a complicated exit plan with the help of an unlikely ally. Will she get away or find herself and her daughter prisoners in an experiment straight out of Nixon's playbook?

Sooner or later the survivors have to leave Strandville, but what awaits them at the other end of that journey might be worse.

Monday, November 23, 2015

A New Day: News from Amazon Publishing

Today, only a week following submission, I received the news that Fatal Intention will not be published by Thomas & Mercer.

I do not believe this has anything to do with quality, rather it appears to be a quantity issue related to sales of Fatal Reaction, Fatal Intentions' predecessor. There are no hard feelings and actually, there might be a bit of relief on my part; a sense of returning control. 

Fatal Intentions is back in the hands of my trusted beta, Matt Schiariti, with whom I've workshopped my past few novels. He has been through one draft and is graciously commenting on any changes. I'd be lost without him, and am indebted to him (even when he delivers bad news). I will be contacting my copy-editor to get on the books for a line edit and proofread, and cover art is forthcoming. 

Unlike the eight month wait between contract signing and the release of the Thomas & Mercer edition of Fatal Reaction, Fatal Intentions will be released hopefully by January. As this is new news, the release date will be dependent on everyone's schedules. I understand holidays are tough. Now for the tentative blurb:

"A year after Sydney Dowling’s murder, the killing begins again. Someone with medical training is working their way through the list of people connected to Sydney’s case, murdering them in such a unique way even medical examiner Dr. Kimberly Taylor is stumped. 

Paramedic Anneliese Ashmore and Dr. Jared Monroe both have means and motive, but only one of them is being framed. With two people dead and another gone missing, police are under pressure to secure a suspect. Fortunately, the killer has left a cleverly crafted trail to Ana and Jared’s doorstep. 

When incriminating evidence lands one of them behind bars, it’s up to the other to disprove the evidence without getting jailed in their place. As they get closer to identifying the killer, they're more likely to become a victim. With their freedom at stake, they face the dangerous fact that someone close to them has fatal intentions."

The perfect mix of procedural, amateur sleuth, and romantic medical thriller, The Paramedic Anneliese Ashmore Mysteries will appeal to fans of Robin Cook, Patricia Cornwell, and Eileen Dreyer, keeping readers glued to the page as FATAL INTENTIONS takes revenge to a sexy, smart new level.

Subject to change, but you get the gist. If you're a fan of medical thrillers with a bit of romance, these books are for you. In the meantime, I am working on Departure, the third Strandville novel, which is fully outlined. The cover art for Departure has been done for months, urging me to finish the novel. I'm getting back to my roots, unfettered by contracts, obligations, and others' constraints. I'm looking forward to seeing how Fatal Intentions does and am pleased to be bringing this one to my readers sooner than later.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Committing Stories to Paper

Without imposing limits on myself, I have ended up with now THREE story lines in multiple genres and at various stages of development. 

First and foremost there's Departure, the third Strandville novel that should be among the easiest to write. The characters (for the most part) exist and have two novels worth of history for me to build on. 

Second, Estranged (working title) is a family saga murder mystery that I have written a prologue for (not because I think starting a book with a prologue is a good idea, but because it sets the scene for how the character dies and I needed to do a little discovery through writing). I'm not sure I'll use it and until I decide, I'll keep thinking on it, making notes, and working out where the story starts so I don't end up mired in rework later. I have to commit a handful of characters to paper, but am excited to be writing a novel featuring an author character.

Third is a yet untitled thriller that will be named after a fictional haunted location. I have a lot of research to do on this one, and while I know the purpose of the story, the setting, and a bit about a few major characters, there are a lot of gaps to fill before I start writing.

Fortunately we're heading into winter and there's football season to add to my writing time, which is more plentiful than I take advantage of. 

A few months ago I was active in my One Hour One Thousand Words writing group where a fellow member, Marissa Farrar, was finishing what feels like her billionth book this year. I started doing what no author should ever do and I compared my backlist to hers. We've been writing roughly the same amount of time but she seems to be far ahead of me and I felt I needed to catch up. In acting on the feeling that I needed to write faster, I found myself writing less and below my potential--forcing my art.

I had a setback in September where Fatal Intention had gone to my beta reader, the talented Matt Schiariti, and he fired a few shots across my bow. I was dicing with disaster: too few words, too little secondary character development, and he basically told me he felt short-changed as a reader. I couldn't believe it. I though I had done a solid job over the course of probably five drafts working out a great mystery. The mystery was never in question. 

I was tired and in the back of my mind I thought about Marissa and how she had probably finished another two novels while I went back to two more months of revisions. MAJOR revisions. In the sidelines I had had a conversation with a bestselling author buddy who I won't call out by name because I'm not sure he'd want anyone to know his troubles, but his editor had put him through his paces on a recent work-in-progress. He ended up doing some serious cuts and writing ten thousand new words or so to make his novel sing. He seemed pleased with the end result.

Faced with a similar problem, I had to make a choice. I went with taking a brief break and returning to the story with one goal: perfection. I had to throw time out the window to reach my quality goal. If it took me another six months to be proud of this story, so be it. Hawthorne said, "Easy reading is damn hard writing." I haven't heard a truer observation. I'm  not kidding myself. I know perfection isn't an option, but I need to get closer. I cut several chapters and am rivaling my buddy for his ten thousand word rewrite. Down to the last seventy pages, I think the juice is worth the squeeze.

I intend to get Fatal Intention to Thomas & Mercer by year's end, working on these other three novel ideas in the meantime and shifting my approach as I have done several times over the past few years. Before the advent of popularized self-publishing, it would take authors years or tens of years to pen their opuses. I think the key ingredient I was missing this time out was down time. I need to let drafts cool off between revisions. I'm hoping that after all this rework, writing three novels at once will give me the space to do just that.