Slayers 5 update

Remember how I told you I wouldn’t tackle any big projects until Slayers 5 was done?  I just want to show you the project I’m ignoring.

This is my new desk I’ll put in my office, once that bedroom is  painted so that it no longer looks like a shrine to the Odd1sOut.


So right now I have a huge desk in my bedroom that does a fair job of blocking the bathroom, and it’s been there since oh, December. It’s already gathered it’s share of clutter. But at least I’ve stopped bumping into it in the dark. Just wanted you all to know that I really am trying to get this done.I need to so I can put together my office.

Go ahead and ask how revisions are going

I’m going through Darth Beta’s comments on my manuscript right now. And there are many. Oh so many. (I’m currently on page 70 out of 319) I thought I would give you an example of some of them. The bolded sentences are the ones from the story and the Beta’s comments are below.

Kody brushed snow from the picnic table and leaned against it.

Seems like a lot of work to lean against something. Generally, snow is on top. You lean against the side. So either he needs to lean without brushing, or brush then sit on it. I get that he may get a tiny amount on him by leaning and slightly less if he brushes it first, but overall it’s distracting enough for me to spend three minutes writing this novel of a comment.


The garage door opened and a gold Cadillac emerged onto the street. Ethington wasn’t alone. His bodyguard sat in the passenger seat.

Rich people with nice cars usually have tinted windows so the rabble can’t see them laughing at them. They’d probably have less than a second to identify the two people in the front seats through the windshield.


A reporter with an expression of stoic concern stood in front of a Detroit church where the Red Cross was handing out blankets to a line of people.

Do you have a history with news anchors? Did one of them kill your cat or something? 😝 you love to paint them as fake and melodramatic. If that’s the way Tori sees them give her a good reason. Maybe because of all the bad press her dad has gotten (especially from CNN) – maybe she can paint the Fox News anchors and stylish and sincere and the CNN anchors as calloused frauds. 🙂


Tori paced over to him, hands tapping against her side in nervous agitation. “Was the military anywhere around when the attacks happened?”

Although this kind of disjointed awkward sentence structure is realistic of teenagers, your main characters need to be above that. 🙂 Reword so she doesn’t sound like she’s illiterate.


“But?” she added, because the word was already there, lingering unsaid behind his lips.

I like the idea but not the execution. Reword so it doesn’t sound so much like bad poetry.


How could she not? The images of looters, of the lawlessness of the last two days would probably stay perched in her mind for years. She dropped his hand and turned back to her locker. “Right.”

Emblazoned or seared…birds and effeminate men perch


She reached over and brushed her hand against Jesse’s arm. “You need a shielder more than I do. I’m immune to fire.”

I’m trying to picture this. So it’s like she’s wiping something sticky off her hand onto his arm?

Slayers 5 prologue question

I’m going through comments from beta readers and Darth Beta’s comment on the prologue title was–and I quote, “Ew. This sounds like a Hallmark card. Delete or find something less dorky.”

Yeah, I always love going through his comments. The first time he critiqued one of my manuscripts he used the word lame 26 times. I’ve since restricted him to 10 lames a manuscript but I foolishly said nothing about the word dorky.

The reason I chose this sentence for the title of the prologue (I’ve titled all of the other prologues, so I figure I should title this one too) is that you realize at the end of the prologue that the sentence has a different, darker meaning than what you first supposed. But you don’t know that when you first encounter it, so yeah, it does sound like something off of a motivational poster or Hallmark card. And I don’t want people to see it and roll their eyes.

Any suggestions on how to change it so it basically has the same meaning but doesn’t seem so card-like?  I’ve included the 4 page prologue so you can see what it really means.




Six years ago.

Never underestimate the power of friendship.


Dirk Overdrake stood in front of a glass case in the Bonaparte Residence Museum and wondered how many years in prison people got for stealing priceless historical artifacts. A flawless replica of Napoleon’s laurel leaf coronation crown was nestled securely behind the glass. The exhibit label reported that the original had disappeared after Napoleon’s death and no one knew where it currently was. Well, no one except Dirk, because he was pretty sure he’d seen one just like this in his father’s bedroom vault.

His father wandered over to the case, done looking at the previous display. Even while on vacation, his father was crisp and professional, as though it were some sort of sin to put on jeans and Nikes. He wore beige pants and expensive Italian shoes, his dark hair perfectly in place.

Dirk pointed to the crown. “Hey, don’t you have one like this?”

His father made a curt shushing noise to indicate he shouldn’t speak of it here. Which pretty much answered Dirk’s question. Should he be impressed or ashamed that his father had somehow managed to get a hold of the original? He wasn’t surprised. After all, his father also had a golden breastpin worn by Julius Caesar and a small silver horse statue that had belonged to Alexander the Great. His father liked to collect souvenirs from conquerors.

Dirk’s father motioned for him to follow, and the two walked out of the museum onto the streets of Ajaccio, France. They’d already passed one statue of Napoleon on the way to the museum, and now they headed toward another.

Dirk’s father slipped a pair of sunglasses over his eyes. “Do you know why I brought you here?”

Yeah. Because his father had no idea what normal families did on vacation. Dirk’s friends were all at Disney World and the beach. Places twelve-year-olds actually wanted to go.

Dirk knew better than to say those words. “You like Napoleon because he used to live on St. Helena?”

Napoleon had been exiled on the island where his father grew up. Every time Dirk had visited St. Helena, he’d been forced to visit the Napoleon shrine there too.

“No,” his father said, drawing out the word to indicate he was turning this into one of those annoying teaching moments. “I brought you here to see the people lined up, eager to pay their money just so they can walk around the home where Napoleon was born.”

His father waved a hand in the direction of the museum. “The curators were able to recreate the drapes and wallpaper because so many people cut off pieces and saved them as if they were relics of the saints.”

Dirk and his father had reached the second town statue of Napoleon. He sat atop a horse, wearing his gold leaf crown and gazing triumphantly out on the plaza.

“I brought you here,” his father went, “for the same reason I brought you to Julius Caesar’s tomb. Thousands of years after his death, people still daily leave flowers on his grave. What does that show you?”

Dirk shrugged. “Tourists like to throw away money?”

“No. People admire greatness. It doesn’t even matter that Napoleon lost in the end or that Caesar was murdered by his friends. Both had the wherewithal to take control of their nation’s destiny and meld it to their will.” He gestured at the statue. “War is like love. It’s better to have fought and lost than never to have fought at all.” He lowered his voice. “And of course, it’s better still to win.”

Dirk nodded because he knew his father would continue lecturing if he didn’t think Dirk was listening. Mostly Dirk was wondering if Napoleon would have taken his kids to Disneyland or whether he would have dragged them around to look at statues.

His father wasn’t done. “Do you want to be the sort of person Napoleon and Caesar were?”

Banished from civilization or murdered by his friends? Not really.

His father didn’t give him time to answer. “Do you want to have cities across the world named after you like Alexander the Great? Or do you want to be like one of these pathetic tourists, so devoid of your own greatness that you have to pay money just to see the places where a great man once stood?”

Dirk knew the right answer to this question. Still, he looked skyward as though pondering it. “Dirk the Great has a nice ring to it.”

His father laid his hand on Dirk’s shoulder with approval. “To be a great leader, you need to know who your enemies are. You must know how they think, where you can find them, and how they plan to destroy you.”

Dirk nodded again. It was always better to just agree with his father when he went on about leadership.

His father dropped his hand from Dirk’s shoulder. “That’s why I signed you up for Dragon camp.”

Dirk cocked his head, not understanding. “There’s a camp for dragons?”

His father turned away from the statue. “No, there’s a camp for Slayers and this summer you’re going to attend. It’s time to meet your enemies.”

Dirk’s father had warned him about the Slayers enough times: kids his own age who would try to kill the dragons and him too if he got in their way. How many of them went to this camp? “You want me to fight them?” Before Dirk could decide whether to feel pumped or terrified by the idea, his father laughed.

“Not yet. You’ll learn their secrets first, their weaknesses, so you’ll know how to fight. Never underestimate the power of friendship.”


Someone just asked me what the other prolog titles were, so here they are.

Slayers 1: The Reason Parents Don’t Tell Their Children About Their Nightmares

Slayers 2: It’s Always the Things You Overlook

Slayers 3: The Downside of Being Married to a Dragon Lord

Slayers 4: You Should Never Make Promises You Can’t Keep

Doll Wrecks: Yes, more reborn dolls!

As many of you know, I have a thing for dolls. I finally had to stop buying them because I ran out of room in my house. There are dolls perched on my closet shelf that look down on me reprovingly because I evicted them from the doll case.

But I was on eBay the other day and just out of curiosity, I checked to see if reborn dolls are still a thing. And oh yes, they are. I couldn’t resist sharing some of them with you.

If you don’t know what a reborn doll is, here’s a good example:

Can you believe this is actually a doll and not a real child? That’s what reborn dolls are supposed to look like: real children. And since they’re one of a kind and handmade, they’re expensive. (Also like real children.)

Here’s another good example: Don’t you just want to kiss those little foreheads? They’re sooo sweet!

However, some doll makers have developed their artistic skills more than others. So in the helpful spirit of the Cake Wrecks blog, I’m offering advice to aspiring doll artists. (And there will be no buzzers involved, which is more than I can say for some of my writing critiques.)

This doll has a question. And I think the question is: What were you thinking?

Gray isn’t really a good color for babies.

Then again, neither is red. Why do so many doll artists use so much red? Is it cheaper than the other colors? Are childhood epidemics back in style?

The doll looks quite disgruntled about his color and is clearly contemplating smacking those elephants together like cymbals.

Of course, sometimes the color isn’t the problem. You know that saying about breaking the mold? Someone should have done that for this doll. Sleep deprived is never a look you want in a baby.

And speaking of looks you want to avoid, your doll shouldn’t appear to be fending off attackers.

Since I last wrote about reborn dolls, one startling trend has reared its head on eBay. Lots of less expensive reborn dolls are appearing from China. I’m not making this up. Apparently even poorly-executed-doll-artistry is being outsourced to cheaper labor.  Here is one of the Chinese reborn dolls.

But not to worry, I think Americans will rise to this new challenge. We can make better not-quite-right dolls than you, China.  Take this one for example: See, this doll looks more realistic than the China-made doll. And much more frightening too. Like, he’s not the only one screaming right now.  And then there is this one: 

Granted, on the scary scale, this doll scores pretty high, and some of you may have nightmares now. But that’s not the point. The point is that Americans are creative and innovative. We see things outside of the box–sometimes outside of the solar system. You can’t take that away from us.

At least the doll isn’t red, so there’s that.

You know what… Maybe we should just let China have this career.

If you want to see the other blogs about doll wrecks, you can find them here:

The First Doll Wrecks

More Doll Wrecks

Even More Doll Wrecks

And Even More Doll Wrecks

When you realize that your villain is actually your main character

You know, Dirk was never even supposed to have a relationship with Tori. That just sort of spontaneously happened in the scene where they found out they were counterparts because I realized that a guy like Dirk would actually kiss her during that scene.

And then suddenly he had these strong feelings for her for the rest of the series that were driving his actions.

Sometimes characters do things like that.

But really, I think I was in book 3-4 before I realized that Dirk is actually the main character of the series. Because he’s the one who does the most changing. He’s the one who decides the fate of everyone else. He’s the one who has to decide whether to be loyal to his father or his friends. He’s the one who has to decide whether a better future for the country is worth spilling innocent blood for. (Weigh in: would you start a revolution if you knew the country would be better off afterwards?)

And in case you haven’t guessed, the climax revolves around Dirk.

I hadn’t originally planned that either.

This was a story where the climax came to me first. Originally it was going to be a story about losing your entire support system and having to face your dragons alone. All of the Slayers were going to lose their powers except for Tori. The dragons weren’t going to come until the group had graduated from college and had lost track of each other. (Dr. B was going to die of a heart attack or something in this version, and without camp and the supplies/ practices the kids move on with their lives.)

Tori was going to get a job and be surprised to find that she was working with Jesse–and then be even more surprised that he’d forgotten everything.

I had imagined this very funny scene where she was trying to tell him what he really was and he thought she was crazy.

And then the dragons would start attacking and she would have to make the heartbreaking choice to fight them alone, knowing she’d most likely be killed.

But then Jesse’s powers would be turned on and he would realize that she’d been telling the truth and he would join her, saving the day.

Yeah, that doesn’t happen now.

Part of the reason it changed was because years ago when the idea first occurred to me, social media wasn’t a thing. Now it would be harder to believe teenagers would lose track of each other. A bigger reason the plot changed was because I sold the series as young adult, and I didn’t think teens would be happy if I’d made the characters 25 at the climax.

And the biggest reason it changed was that Dirk took over the series.

And that’s why you should never use Dirk Benedict in any of your books. He will do things you didn’t expect him to do. Thanks, Dirk Benedict. Thanks.

Slayers 5 New Year’s resolutions

First off, my file became corrupted (Who out there is corrupting vulnerable young files?) and I lost a week’s worth. And then I couldn’t work on the manuscript for a day because I felt so sick about losing a week’s worth. Could I have backed it up and saved myself all of this?  Do I usually back it up and never need the backup? Yeah–that’s why I was so upset.

Anyway, first draft should be done soon and then it will go out to beta readers.  But here is my resolutions regarding the book.

I will not paint any rooms, cabinets, or anything else in my house until I finish the first draft of this manuscript. Even though, trust me, it really needs it.

I will not organize any closets, despite the fact that I’ve seen two episodes of the Netflix series Tidying Up and have a sudden desire to go through them.

I will not watch any TV or Movies (unless I’m on the treadmill) until the manuscript is winging it’s way to the beta readers

I will not cook any meals that take more than 45 minutes to prepare until I’ve typed The End.

And I won’t clean my bathroom…or maybe that’s going too far…Any chance I could convince my husband that he needs to do it?

Maybe this whole not doing housework thing could work out for me…

Answering the question: When do you find time to write?

I just got this question from a new writer who noted that errands take up a lot of time that should be devoted to writing. She wrote:

How do you manage your writing process (do you have set hours or a word count to reach each day)? How do you keep yourself accountable to getting the work done (spreadsheets? an accountability partner)? Has any of that changed now that your kids are older? How do you balance novel creating time with your other tasks, like editing, marketing, blogging, attending events, etc?

The short answer is: not well. I write really slowly. While other people are banging out two thousand words in an hour, I’ll get that much done in eight hours. So how do I find time to write? Here’s the long answer:

When my children were little I had specific times that I wrote. Namely when the kids were napping, when the kids had a favorite show on TV that would keep them occupied for an hour, playdates, and preschool.  I wrote during soccer games and ballet lessons. I wrote while nursing babies. I wrote whenever I could. One page a day adds up

You’re right that errands take up a lot of time. And when the kids get home from school you’re busy with them. I try not to schedule any errands on Mondays so that it can be a dedicated block of writing. Then I try and have a day or two in the week that is also dedicated to writing and I run errands on two days a week. Very often errands take more time than two days. (And I have found, alas, that no matter how much I wish for it, the house doesn’t clean itself. Or paint itself.)

Kids have dentist appointments and doctors appointments and orthodontics appointments. Friends need help and church members need help. Am I ever going to tell a friend in need that I’m too busy to help them because I have to write fiction? Some writers do, but it seems wrong to me. Which is why a lot of my writing time gets done after 10 pm. No one calls to ask you to do things then. It’s hard to run errands–although, I have been known to go to the 24 hour Walmart. (Note: working late is only effective when your kids are young. When they’re older, they will indeed call to talk to you at midnight because they know you’re up.)

This nighttime schedule has only worked because my husband has been willing to help get kids off to school in the morning. I’ve told people on occasion that I’ll never leave my husband because he drives the carpool. I’m only half joking. Driving the carpool makes up for a myriad of sins in the romance department.

I’ve found that on some days, my older or married children still need a lot of my time. So the mom job never really ends. (Sometimes I feel like I’m my son’s unpaid personal assistant.)

As I write this blog on finding time to write, I’m planning to take a repositioning cruise that will last 14 days. The reason I’m taking it is that I will have no errands, no cooking, no cleaning, and no one will ask me for anything. I won’t even have internet–just days of uninterrupted writing time.  I’m hoping to get a huge chunk of Slayers 5 done.

So what I’m saying is that if I need to pay a lot of money and hide out on a boat in the middle of the ocean for two weeks in order to get writing done,’m not the best at finding balance.

I’m not sure that answer helps you much. In fact, right now you may be weeping. I am a little on the inside too…

Back to real life-motivation and guilt

I’ve just been to the LDStorymakers Midwest conference. (Or as the hotel called us: LD Storymakers. I say that stands for Lonely Divas, although some suggested it actually meant Loves Dessert. Both work. You choose.)

It’s always so fun to see old friends and meet new ones and basically hang out with people who get you. There is always something new to learn. I come back from conference motivated to do all sorts of marketing and writing with all of its associated guilt because I know I’m only going to get a small fraction of my good intentions accomplished.

Image may contain: 1 person, sitting, screen and indoor

In this conference I found myself in Mary Gray’s romance class up in front of everyone with Lisa Swinton blocking out an ill-fated kiss that takes place in a maintenance shed in Arizona with scorpions and only a weed Wacker for protection.

I also got to talk with other writers over dinner.

Them: Life gets so busy. Sometimes it’s hard to find two hours in which I can knock out 5000 words.

Me: I hate you all.

Because I have never written 5000 words in two hours. 5000 words would take me approximately 14 hours because I write somewhere around 300 to 500 words in hour. I am the slowest writer I know. I can tinker with the paragraph for half an hour.

So one of my goals is to utilize text to speech more and write faster. We’ll see how that goes. Usually when I use text-to-speech I end up sounding drunk and questionable. But hey, maybe that will make for more entertaining reading


Not dead yet…

I just realized it’s been over a month since I posted. Ugh! Since I’ve been busy working on screenplays for the last five months (and life… how does anyone ever get anything accomplished in the middle of doctors’ appointments and dentist check ups and teens who insist they need to go to Target–RIGHT NOW for (fill in the blank) and laundry and shopping and should people really expect me to cook? No. And yet they do.)

Anyway, when I haven’t been writing screenplays, I’ve been reading or listening to courses on writing screenplays. Go ahead and ask me about Greek tragedies influence on cinema. I know things now.

Every once in awhile I get emails asking when the next  Slayers book will come out. And then I weep.

So… that’s been my life. It sort of feels like I’ve dropped off the face of the writing world, but I haven’t.