Why 2016 is going to be amazing

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Kathy’s 2015 zine art project. Did this with my friend and helped us reflect on a year with lots of personal and professional growth.

Dear Reader,

I am so fortunate to know, although through social Kathy Murillo aka Crafty Chica.

She’s is just a ray of sunshine and BOY can she craft and blog and run a business. I’ve listened to some of her Periscopes and videos and I’m always in awe of her. Today wasn’t different.

My fellow blogger wrote a post about creating a 2015 zine to commemorate the big events and lessons of the year. It’s awesome and if you’re into coloring, you can be creative that way too.At the same time, my friend Tony wrote

At the same time, my friend Tony wrote blog post on his goals for 2016. Both of my friends are writing books and will be either in the middle or tail end of their journeys next year.

So they’ve inspired me to think about goals for next year.  For me, I feel like my year didn’t start until June so I only have half year of 2015 to think about. This was a fantastic year and I learned so much about myself as a person and a writer so it’s a bit sad that it’s ending. That doesn’t mean I’m not excited for the new year and the adventures it’ll bring.

So without much fanfare, this is my ONE goal for 2016.

Wake up and be freakin awesome

 

Yes, it’s just that simple. I want to continue the great success I had last year. I’m ending the year with a short story being picked up by The Fem Lit Mag (it’s called “Everything in its Place”), an anthology to plan and put together along with my co-editor, a two submissions, a book nearly completed, and a new short story in a new genre for me — science fiction.  That doesn’t include the Afro-Latina retreat, the reading, and VONA.

All this among the scariest time for me personally, and the ending of an abusive work relationship.

Frankly, I freaking won 2015.

But I guess if you want specifics, here goes. In no certain order my goals for 2016:

Write more short stories

I wrote a new one and edited a couple that I’ve written in the past. I forgot how much I love the short story, how compact it is or can be when it comes to revision. Working with “Everything in its Place” was so freeing. It’s a flash fiction piece, less than 800 words. The constraints meant that everything needed to be not only in the sentences but between the sentences. Lesson: stories are just as much as much about what is unsaid as what is.

Everything in its place

I’ll like to work with more short stories and try something new, genre, format, subject matter. My new sci-fi piece (which I haven’t named yet) was such an eye opener. I wouldn’t mind trying my hand at another one or at a couple of ideas for scenes. May they grow into something great.

I feel like I’m developing as a writer and that my writing is moving into a new direction. I’m finding it so much more important, now more than ever, to reflect my world and to lead my voice telling those stories.

More submissions

In 2015, I submitted to things and said to myself, “Wouldn’t it be interesting if I got this”.  Then came VONA, the Owl of Minerva, and now The Fem Lit piece being accepted.

What would happen if I did that more?

In 2016, I’m going to find out. I want to submit to more journals, contests, and opportunities.  You don’t win if you don’t play and I’m tired of not winning.

As a writer, as a woman of color, I have something to say to the world. I have developed and earned back the voice to say what I need to say. I’m telling stories, my stories, the way I want. It’s time the world read them

Continue my Afro-Latina journey

A retreat, a reading, and now an anthology. This was the year I came home to myself. I am Afro-Latina and proud of it. I am two in one. I do not choose, I am.

As a result, I will read more Afro-Latino writers. I’m currently in the middle of Shadowshapper by Daniel Jose Older (VONA alum as well).  I am so in awe of him and his effortless storytelling. I’ll be sure to write an annotation like I did with Graham Greene a while back. Lots to learn.

I want to write more about my experiences about being Afro-Latina in this “post racial” world. Oh, I got stuff to say.

And, of course, there’s the anthology. I can’t wait to work more on it and to finally call for submissions. A theme has been chosen. The wheels are turning and it’s baptism by fire. Thankfully, I enjoy learning this way. (Talk to me in a couple of months.)

Work more in non-fiction

I spent 12 years as a reporter so when I think about non-fiction I think articles.  I don’t think memoir or personal essay.

A good friend of mine keeps telling me, you should write a memoir. I keep telling her I haven’t lived a live worth writing about. How wrong I’ve been!

After this year, I have a story to tell and demons to conquer on the page. I am a writer in transition with a world in flux. That deserves an essay or two, don’t you think?

Jennie Manning, blogging, and translation

Jennie Manning is in an interesting stage — nearly done and ready for a full workshop. I anticipate dusting off my query writing letter skills. Wish me luck.

Blogging = oh my goodness what do I write about. I think that this blog isn’t the how-to-be-a-better-writer-in-5-easy-steps type. It’s the here’s-what-it’s-really-like-because-I’m-doing-it-now type.  I want to be a better blogger and write about EVERYTHING dealing with the writing life. Doubts? Yup. Rejection. Oh hell yes. Books (or lack of) that I’m reading. Sure. How to do awesome writing. When it comes up.

To demystify the writing life, I’ve got to also show you the ugly about it. This isn’t a life for the faint of heart. It takes some cojones to tell the world that you chose to be poor but happy. You should see that reflected here.

I am going to translate a short story of mine into Spanish because why not. It’s not like I have other things to do like teach, write, and publish. I’ll let you know how that goes.

Take care of yourself.

This doesn’t mean workout every day though I intend on going back to the mat and embracing yoga again. This means to speak my mind, to say no when the answer is no, to protect my sense of hope. Listen, my life scare was an eye-opener. I need to do things differently and not put myself in situations where people don’t care whether I live or die. Literally. I need to be strong enough to walk away and give my time and talent to the people and causes that deserve it. Frankly, I’m not dying so that other people a better sense of self or to extend their privilege.

This will be the most difficult goal to keep.


 

Basically, my goal is to make better art, get people to see it, and repeat. It’s a pretty ambitious goal list but 2016 is an ambitious year. It has to be, it’s going to be one for the record books. Are you ready?

Happy New Year!

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What I did different to be a better writer

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Dear Reader,

I can’t tell you how excited I am about this short story I’m writing! So much so that instead of writing an update post about Jennie Manning, I decided to write this instead.

At the moment, I’m in the teacher’s lounge where I usually am hours before my classes start. Usually, I am here prepping my classes but with this being Thanksgiving week and all there’s very little to prep. So I brought my latest short story with me to work on before class.

Essentially, I had #wordsforbreakfast. It was glorious!

This short story is like nothing I have ever written. It is a sci-fi short story. Other than my love for all things Doctor Who, I’m not really a sci-fi girl, not really. I’m more of a geek girl who goes to cons to be among her people.  Seriously, a picture exists with me and the TARDIS.

I wanted to submit a sci-fi/dystopian story to an anthology edited by a really awesome author. I didn’t make the deadline because I had no idea what I was doing and the story was absolutely awful. But I decided to keep working on it anyway. I felt it had some possibilities.

After working on it for a huge chunk of the weekend, I feel like I finally have a handle on it and I’m so into it. SO INTO IT.

Let me clarify, I’m into my story. I’m not officially saying I’m adding sci-fi to my list of genres.

I think what is bringing me to this is that the drama of the story is enhanced by the setting. Issues of humanity, race, and control are easy to explore. Creating the world didn’t enthrall me as much as getting into these issues.

And truth be told, I like not knowing what these characters are going to do next. I just throw a bunch of obstacles just to see what they do. It’s pretty exciting.

I’m going to finish it this week if not in the next couple of days. I’m excited to enter the revision stage with this one and then workshop it.

Ain’t the writer’s life grand?

 

Your friendly neighborhood writer,

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The best night of literature and words

 

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The most brilliant women I know. They make me look good.

 

Dear Reader,

I am exhausted and with good reason.

On Wednesday night, I was part of an amazing livestreamed reading. Culture, Love, and  Identity: An Afro-Latina Reading. 

It was amazing and just knocked my socks off. You know when you work on something for so long and you don’t know how it’s going to turn out but you just can’t stop to think about it. That was that moment.

Wait, it’s all jumbling in my head like a brand new jigsaw puzzle. Let me start where all things start, the beginning.

I had this idea. What if there was a writing retreat for Afro-Latina writers? Like why wasn’t there before? It just seemed to be this was a thing to do.

You have to understand, Dear Reader, that when I thought about this, it was for an award given by a lit journal. It wasn’t really thought out completely. It was half baked on its way to being fully baked, as most ideas are.

But then I won it and all of a sudden I became something more than a writer. I became a person who created space for other writers. I became a person who went from writing in the shadows to asking people to apply to spend a weekend in a Houston in Galveston, Texas. I became a person with a voice and an opportunity to do something different.

Talk about adulting.

And I took it seriously and it was amazing. The five ladies that joined in were just amazing writers and people. It was surprising how close we became in such a short period. So much so that I can’t imagine my writing life without them.

Then we did this reading. This crazy awesome reading of our work and now people are saying they were inspired. I read a section of Jennie Manning, my novel in progress, and now people are asking about my character.

And yet, this feels like my life’s work, something that I should do always and constantly. Something I should explore because there’s an answer there somewhere, I think, though I have no idea what the question is.

And so this reading happens. It happens the same week I grade what feel like a million papers. It happens the same week I get some distressing news from my past. It happens the same week I questions a list of truths I’ve grown up with.

This reading happens just as life happened. As it should.

So here, I give you the reading. I hope you like it. I hope it inspires you. I hope it fuels you.

As always I remain your humble storyteller,

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When writing the truth is a good thing

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My journal, my favorite chipped mug of coffee, and my trusty computer. Lots of work and picking at wounds today.

Dear Reader,

The rain in Houston today was a chance to do something I hadn’t done in a long time, write something different.

I’m in the middle of a revamp for Jennie Manning. Lots of good stuff there and lots coming from workshopping. But today, I wanted to revisit something I began to write a couple of months ago. I’m not quite sure why. I have a feeling about these things and sometimes it’s about taking out of you something that won’t let you breathe.  

For me, that’s literal. Yesterday I had trouble breathing and needed to sit down for long periods of time. I yearned to write but had no idea what to say.

And then this morning, I knew what I wanted to do. Without planning or scheduling, I opened up the words I started months ago and read the first lines. It was the first time I had read them in months.

Wow! There was gunpowder on the page. I had written them with so much pain in my insides and then put them away because I couldn’t bear it.

Today, I must have been ready to make them into art.

I spent the better part of a rainy and flooding Saturday putting together a non-fiction piece with pieces of research interwoven in it. In addition, I’m using excerpts from my journal from the past year. As I read, I noticed something…I could track the pain in those pages. From the hopefulness to the despair, I could track my pain and unhappiness. I also saw the source of it.

For the first time, I wasn’t afraid to hurt. I wasn’t afraid of the truth in those pages or how I would feel about it now.

The past year, it was painful. More than it needed to be. People are cruel. I wear my heart on my sleeve. I know that more now than I ever have. My poor heart, it was taken advantage of by people unworthy of it. So it bled for a long time.

Today reminded me of how humans are made of elastic. We bounce back. We bend. We don’t break, not completely. Something tethers you to yourself, a version of yourself that allows you to come back. One only needs to look for it, hold on, and hope.

So I wrote and wrote and read through my journal and typed it into this non-fiction piece. A new world for me and I like it.

I don’t know what will become of this piece, but I’m glad I’m writing it, glad that I’m in the thick of it.

Until next time,

Feminist Noir: Does it exist?

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Photo Credit: lintmachine via Compfight cc

One of the difficulties with writing the mystery novel you’ve always wanted to write, which happens to be in the noir-ish vain, is being a feminist.

Yes, I said the f-word. And yes, I know about the I’m not a feminist because movement. (Eyeroll. Don’t get me started.)

Here’s a couple of “rules” of noir. There are two types of dames in these kind of stories:

  • The femme fatal
  • The good girl

That’s it. And there’s usually a detective who is doing questionable things or is questionable himself. Note I said himself. For the most part the lead detective, a term used for the person solving the case, is a man. The good girl is too good to take seriously and the femme fatal or damsel in distress is luring the detective away from some moral good or some goal he has for the case. Quite often, this chick is the key to solving the puzzle.

The dames. They’re bad news either way.

Then, as a feminist, why do I love reading this kind of fiction? The answer: how could I not?! Everything is heightened in a noir story. The theme of good vs bad, dark vs light. The dialogue is smart, witty, and sharp. The writing is usually crisp and fun to read.  I love noir, however, as a feminist they’re have been several eyerolls.

Then here’s the big question: does feminist noir exist? And can I write it?

As much as I’d like to say that I have stumbled onto something new in the genre world, I haven’t. A quick Google search gave me several blog posts and websites about female noir, noir where the main character and/or the person solve the case was a woman. Here’s a really good one that had my attention.  Here’s another one with some great examples. 

The thing with tropes, especially with noir, is that they work. After studying Raymond Chandler, the godfather of noir, and the letters and essays he’s written about the hardboiled detective story, I know that there is a formula to it. It works because it allows people to read/consider/imagine the dark underbelly of the human condition, where the good are really good, almost saintly, and the bad are so bad it’s tragic.  This only works if there are extremes with the characterization. There’s no middle of the road here, it’s black or white.

I’m wrong, there is some gray. That’s the lead character, the detective, the crime solver. They are filled with darkness and light, and both are at war within the character. For example, the detective would never knowingly commit murder unless it was by accident or justifiable (to their moral code). The detective is a flawed hero with the emphasis on either flawed or hero. While the character can switch from flawed or hero within a second, those two attributes never occupy the same space at the same time.

Imagine if this flawed hero were a woman?

We’re seeing some of this happening in modern novels and films. The Millennium Trilogy (Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) is a prime example. The Fall (available on Netflix) easily comes to mind as a noir-ish television series with a female detective. But do these characters, can these characters, compete with Sam Spade (Dashiell Hammett) or Phillip Marlowe (Raymond Chandler)? Can mine?

Or should they compete at all?

I think female noir is still defining itself, or, more accurately, deciding whether it wants to define itself at all. I believe that noir as a literary genre is now an open session for discovery and that the what defined it in the past, what became its roots, is also what is changing it.  Because of this feminist noir or female noir can and does exist next to the more traditional offerings.

Meanwhile, I can’t resist writing about femme fatals and gritty detectives with a thirst for justice. Question is, can you guess which one is wearing the heels?

A tale of three book covers. Which to pick?

cover proposalsI’m packing so many boxes that I am so glad to sit down and write this blog post.  Well, sorta.

While I’m packing and getting ready to move to Texas (and working to have this website essentially function with little supervision)  I also know that I am going to return to a lot of work. One on the to do list is finishing the latest Jennie Manning story and getting into the hands of my editor (more about creating a team a la Joanna Penn in a later post).

And I have to pick a book cover!

Okay, these aren’t book covers, they are the leading images for the story, which will be just under novella length upon completion.  (I already have someone lined up to do the book cover and she is going to rock your world. I can’t wait!) So, why have images when it’s only a story? It’s about the experience.

The Jennie Manning stories are only available now to people who sign up to get it for free. These amazing folks are the first ones to read and know this character and world before the first novel of the series is sold. To me, they are royalty. They signed up and took a chance on me when there was only an idea so I always want to put my best foot forward for them and that includes the best cover I could give them.

So, which one would you pick? If you want to get a chance to vote and get the story for free, follow this link.  To learn more about the series, check it out here.

Also, the folks on the list are about to get a bit of a surprise in their inbox on Friday. Trust me. You’ll want to sign up before then!

Interviewing characters. Who is Jennie Manning?

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Editor’s Note: This post is part of a 28 day blogging challenge from Imperfectblogging.com. The goal is to develop your blogging voice. To learn more, click here. 

If you’ve been getting the emails about my mystery series, the Jennie Manning Mysteries, you probably know that I’ve had one character stay with me since age 13.

Please, don’t do the math.

This is the year that I’m bringing Jennie and her gang of misfits (okay, there’s only like one misfit and everyone else is a cop or dead) to the world but starting the mystery series. Her first story, Santa’s Last Flight, was the first story and an exclusive to the folks who are on the list.

But as I went to write this blog post for Imperfectingblogging.com (the assignment was to interview someone) I remembered that Jennie and I had our own moment as reporter and source and that her first story was back in 1999.

What? I interviewed a character. Why…yes! It’s one of the techniques I tell my writing students to do when they are developing their characters. I did this with Jennie Manning and the results still drive her origin (re: backstory) to this day.

As I re-read this interview from 2007, I see there are some things that have changed. Others, like Jennie’s sense of remorse and redemption, haven’t. I love reading this because this tells me that after several years, I know this character is solid. I know what she is capable of and who she is and her story is one that still interests me.

So, enjoy reading some early Jennie Manning character development. If you want to follow her adventures, sign up here. Her next mystery, Dancing with Death, is turning into something I’m really loving.

Detective Jennie Manning has these eyes like toasted chestnuts and this hair the color of cinnamon at the bottom of a cereal bowl.

But those features are like the trance of the mongoose before she attacks the cobra. Many a thug had confessed before knowing they had. As she sat on the wooden stool in the middle of her catastrophic office the size of a peanut, she slouched, as if carrying the weight of a thousand burdens on her back. Her face was defined but smileless. Her look was serious but not angry. Her clothes, an interesting combination of comfortable camo with cargo pants and a man’s white sleeveless t-shirt thin enough to see her plain white bra. Manning is not a woman of girly sophistication but of function – no make up, no heels, like jewelry. Just a gold necklace of the Virgin Mary, which rested on her chest.

I ask the first question and her body stiffens.

“I grew up on the East side of Houston when all there were, were cows and trees. When to high school at North Shore High. Didn’t go to football games. No dances. No clubs. Happy when those four years were over.”

She ran her long fingers through her long her and exhaled as if confessing a secret she had wanted to forget. Jennie licked her lips and shifted her weight on the stool, her right fist on her hip, her left elbow leaning on the left extended thigh. Her posture dared me to ask another question. So I asked it.

“One sister. We are kinda close. I did my own thing growing up. She did hers. Dad died when I was a senior in high school. My mother is a lunatic. Was born one. Will die one. I try to call her once a week. Same time every week just so she doesn’t get the idea of flying out to see me.”

She pursed her lips and looked around the integration room. I was intrigued by her behavior.

“How much longer is this going to take?”

Keeping my composure, I continued asking questions.

“I went into law enforcement because all things are not equal. Some times the good guys lose and the bad guys win. I want to make it right, okay? Why so many questions?”

Her position on the stool didn’t change but her shoulder looked more tense. I dove deeper. I wanted to know what brought her to Phoenix, AZ, a long way from Houston.

“I needed out,” She placed both feet on the stools last bar, rolled her hand into fist and placed them on her hip bone. Her back was straight and stiff. “I love H-town but if I had stayed, no way I would have been a cop. I’ve traveled to a different part of the country after high school. Phoenix just stuck. Graduated the academy at the top of my class. Worked for PPD for five years. Detective three. In record time.”

What brought you back to Houston?

She slumped down again and began playing with the necklace around her neck while looking at one of the corners of the room. Her lips pouted. She sat there in silence for awhile before answering.

“I wanted to be a good sister.”

How so?

Her pair of chestnut eyes looked directly into mine as if beaming a laser from them. Jennie stopped playing with the medallion the gold chain in mind motion.

“To catch my sister’s killer.”

Her answer was direct, almost blunt.

What will happen when you catch him?

“I’ll kill him.”

And then?

“The dreams will stop. My guilt will go away.” She dropped the medallion and ran both hands through her hair before resting her forearms over her knees. “I was helping her get her life back together. After dad died, she belonged to the street. She got mixed up with some wrong people. She ended up trickin’, druggin’. She was 23 when she was killed. Slaughtered like an animal and raped in the back seat of the car I helped her buy. She…”

Jennie trailed off. Sherlock, her tall, drink of water partner walked with a short, clear glass of water in one hand. The other was behind his back. Jennie looked up appreciatively, took the glass and dumped the liquid on the floor. She handed it back and Sherlock rolled his eyes. Taking it from her, he revealed the secret he had hidden behind his back – the final glass full of Jim Beam. He poured it, handed the glass back to Jennie and left the room.

I waited until she took the first gulp before continuing. She emptied half the glass.

How often do you drink?

“Not often. Only when it gets bad. Like now. The memories flooded too quick. This calms me down,” she said holding up the glass and taking another sip. Jennie finished it and placed it on the desk next to her.

That drink is a little strong, don’t you think? Why do you feel so guilty?

Jennie stared down to her lap where the thumb of the right hand stroked the inside of the other.

“I wasn’t here. I wasn’t here to defend her, to protect her. I left and the streets got her.”

But that’s not you’re fault.

“I’m the oldest,” she snapped. “Of course its my fault.”

She looked back down and her hair guarded her face. I listened to see if she was sobbing but I heard nothing but her breathing. After a prolonged silence, she lifted her head with eyes transfixed and large, and said painfully. “Are we done?”

There was more I wanted to know but Jennie looked like she was about to become a cage animal so I left her off the hook. There would be more questions later but for right now, she needed a breather and so did I.

Why you should never write your own mystery series

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I’m going to do you a favor.

I’m going to tell you, right now, to not do the thing you want to do. I know that you’ve always dreamed of doing this but really…just don’t.

Don’t write a mystery series.

Having said that and being so very bad at selling it, I am going to say I am having so much fun writing the Jennie Manning series. The second short-ish story is almost done and is scheduled to be out sometime next week. (Only those on the list will be able to read it. Not on it? Get on it!)

So, why the bad sell? It’s everything off the page that is overwhelming me at the moment.

With work and other obligations, I may have fallen slightly behind in the next Jennie Manning mystery story.  Not that the plot hasn’t been worked out. It’s currently in a secret vault called my brain and it’s itching to come out. However, you know, life….

Photo by Elizabeth M used through Creative Commons
Photo by Elizabeth M

But I will make my deadline for the story. That is a certainty. The stress will probably get me shortly after I finish, though. I don’t know what it’s like for other people  who write series but this is what it’s like for me to write one.

It’s a bit like starting a business, I think. There’s lots of worry. A long list of things to do and not enough time to do it. Lots of pre-selling to do, i.e. marketing and getting the word out that this awesome thing you’re working on exists. Little is really done on the actual story or product, which is really the only thing you really want to work on in this equation.

Yes, starting the mystery series you’ve always wanted is really starting a business and has, surprisingly, only 10 percent to do with writing. Actually, 10 percent is a really good day.

But this isn’t a complaint at all. I’m loving every minute of it. Working toward making your childhood dream a reality was harder work than I anticipated but, as with every thing, it’s about the journey and not the destination. At least, that’s what I tell myself at 3 in the morning while I’m working on all this.

Here’s what I also tell myself: If it was so easy then everyone would do it.  That’s when I work harder.

Now that you know the truth do you still want to start a mystery series? If the answer is still yes, I’ll make some extra coffee for you tonight.  It’s going to be a bumpy road.

What I’ve learned about writing mysteries so far

Jennie Manning stylized

I don’t remember the last time I’ve had so much fun and this amount of overwhelming work at the same time.

Making the decision to follow your childhood dream is one thing, actually doing it on the other hand…well…the devil’s the details.

I am writing a mystery series this year. More accurately, I’m self-publishing a mystery series this year. (That sentence hasn’t sunk in yet.)

I’ve written about the character, Jennie Manning, on this blog before. She’s essentially the type of detective I’ve wanted to read since I started reading the genre — she’s smart, strong, a smart-mouth, and lives in my hometown of Houston. She’s also great and her job but lousy at everything else. (Read more about her here.)

So, what’s the first step in following your childhood dream? Well, I had to learn how to write a mystery.

Is that so surprising that I didn’t know what I was doing at first? I didn’t. At least for a very long time.  I had to learn by reading. A lot. And reading what I wanted to do. That meant lots of mysteries and noir because, let’s face it, I’m a noir person. Lots of Raymond Chandler. Lots of Walter Mosley. A dash of Hammett.

Self-publish or traditional publishing? [DISCUSS]After that, I read what these writers said about writing detective stories. I’m really lucky that I found a book of letters Chandler wrote to various people, including his agent and other writers, about the art of writing detective fiction. In these letters, he specifically lays out exactly what these stories should be, what they should have, how they should read. This has been my blueprint and Bible all through this process. It was also the bases of my research paper in grad school.

You would think that at this point, I’d be ready but you’d be wrong. From there I kept reading and analyzing Chandler’s rules and theories while watching them in action in his stories and in the stories of others. In a way, I’ll always be doing that task making sure that I don’t miss an opportunity to learn how to be better.

In addition to reading detective fiction, I also read novels — fiction and non-fiction. Why? Because that’s what writers do. They read. They write. They read some more. They write some more. End of story.

But even after all this, after thinking and reading and researching and writing, there was still one more thing I had to do. I had to grow up. All the way up. This is what Pulitzer Prize winner Junot Diaz talked about when he said these words:

“In order to write the book you want to write, in the end you have to become the person you need to become to write that book.”

And that was the hardest part about writing a mystery, at least this mystery. I had to become that person. I had to become the person who could write it and it took a long time to get there.  I had the idea for Jennie Manning at 12! I graduated grad school nearly two years ago! I finished two other books and countless short stories before I even thought about attempting to write a mystery series, this mystery series, the one I always wanted and knew I’d write. This lesson, above all the other ones I’ve had to learn in this process, is the one that has been the most valuable. In short, every experience has lead me to this point.

I’ve grown up.

So, here’s where the grown up is at now. I’m currently in the middle of writing the first novel in the Jennie Manning Mystery series. Literally in the middle, I’m in triple digits now in the first draft. Once it comes closer, I’ll let everyone know the release date for the novel.

Meanwhile, want to get to know the story, the characters, the world of Jennie? I’m releasing short stories exclusively to the folks who sign up to get it. The folks on this list will not only get exclusive Jennie Manning short stories that won’t be published anywhere else but they’ll be the first to know when the book comes out and any other Jennie related news.

If I were you, I’d sign up. (The form is below).

Meanwhile, I’m writing like a mad woman and having fun in the process. Who says crime doesn’t pay? <insert grin and cackle here>

Getting back in the character saddle. A tale of growing up

ImageI guess this excited feeling all started in middle school, truth be told.

For a science fair demonstration, I had to think of a cool non-experiment thing to do. Being artsy even then, I created a character that lived on Mars. I had to talk about how this Martian teenager lived using scientific research.  I aced it because it was so darn creative.

But that character continued and I wrote short stories about her life on Mars. Her school, her friends, and her side kick.

As I became an adult, I didn’t think much about that character until more than five years ago. Jennie Manning popped into my head again but this time she wasn’t from Mars and she wasn’t a teenager. She was a detective and was a proper adult with a heartbreaking back story. Her side kick had a comical name but was ruthless when it came to detective work — Sherlock Drew (his parents were huge mystery nuts.)

In addition to no longer being a child, Jennie had a past and a purpose that drove her over the edge and down one side of a deep canyon. If it wasn’t for Sherlock….

But I put that story line and that book (which I began during a NaNoWriMo) aside. I wrote blog posts and articles. I went back to school and wrote other yet-to-be published books. And I read a lot, studying mystery writing from Raymond Chandler and Walter Mosley and Janet Evanovich and Graham Greene.

Now, as I’ve done all my life, I’ve come back to Jennie.

I’m excited that a Jennie Manning mystery will be my contribution to the Holiday Blog Tour this year. (I’m up this Sunday.) It’ll be the first time anyone has read or gotten to know this character I’ve grown up with. It’s her coming out party and like a proud parent I’m a bit nervous.

However, it’s been a blast getting to know Jennie again. After all these years, she’s still in my head and I still know her. It’s like no time has passed and I am picking up with this character exactly were I left off. This typically doesn’t happen when I walk away from a character from some reason and return to it. Heck, this doesn’t happen when I come back to a story the next day.

I’m excited and nervous. I actually smile while I’m writing her so I’m hoping you’ll like reading her.

Meanwhile, don’t expect to just see Jennie and her sidekick Sherlock just at Christmas. She’ll be back with a new adventure soon. There’s also some big plans for her in 2014 (to know more, sign up).

But let’s get back to the story coming out on Sunday. To celebrate her first story, I am giving away a $25 Amazon gift card to the folks who stop by and read the story. I’ll give out the full details then but I wanted to give you a heads up first!

And now back to writing. Back to the dream. If you could see my smile right now.