writing cruise

St. Maarten

Last October I signed my first book contract, a collaboration with two other writers. To kickoff the project, in March, we went on a ten-day writing cruise to the Caribbean, my first time visiting that part of the world. I loved it!

We sailed out of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, March 3, on a lovely Saturday on Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas and arrived at St. Maarten three days later. I usually take river cruises with Viking. This was my first time on an ocean cruise and I was anxious about it–the ocean scares me; all that water and not a stick of land in sight, not to mention I’ve had a lifetime of ocean nightmares, but on a city-size cruise ship, you forget you’re on the ocean. I took a break from the writing and left the ship to snap a few photos. Didn’t take a water taxi to the town though, we were only there for a couple hours.

More to come…

drip, drip


Southern California this week is under the sun gun; the weather has been scorching. Loki, my normally ADD cat, has taken to napping against the porcelain throne. Only a few days ago June gloom grayed the skies and kidnapped the sun. Today is “cooler” than the previous four. It’s 93 degrees F right now in Long Beach, but will go up a couple more to 95 until evening, according to the weather report. But hey, what am I going on about? I love hot, sunny days!

Heat however can be distracting to my writerly focus. Another form of resistance.

In between all the moving to do’s, I’ve managed to fit in some time for A Fall of Diamonds, my historical fantasy romance trilogy, currently at 31,555 words. I’m looking at 100,000 words – 120,000 for the first book. I’m making progress little by little, but not much will get written until after I’m settled in Alabama.

Also edited a scene in The Foreigner.

Some writing is always better than no writing.


veiled in story




There are deeper ideas in The Foreigner than I’ve touched upon so far in the planning. There are things that will rise out of the scenes that are not clear to me now, but I hope will become clear in the writing.

I like the way ideas feed on each other in writing. I wish I could sit down and blissfully write, but it’s hammer and chisel all the way with me.

Something to remember from listening to Kazuo Ishiguro being interviewed at kpfa.org: Don’t worry about the logistics of characters. Focus on relationships and the characters will take care of themselves. And these relationships, whatever they may be between the characters, are shaped by a culture and society warped by the perpetuation of cruel traditions and an oppressive religion.

I’ve completed the structural synopsis and made a corkboard list of all the scenes I’ve thought of so far. I think I’m ready to pick up the writing again.

fret and despair


Fret and despair. What I’ve been up to these days, but not for much longer, I hope. The morning is serenely gray, the silence broken now and then by sparrow call.

The Danube cruise approaches, the days spinning down to June 6. Today I’ll buy Euros when I go out to pick up my prescriptions. Physical therapy yesterday for the first time in my life, seems my spine is mishandling the nerves, giving me a numb hand, sometimes a numb arm. So I must do a median nerve exercise 3 times a day, 10 times each arm, for 30 days.  Guess that’s how I’ll start each morning of the cruise. I’ll have to remember during whatever downtime I have to do it 2 more times during the course of the day.

Plan to work on Chapter 1, Scene 1 of The Foreigner this morning, integrating Marius’s memory of Evkya’s suicide with his walk to the village. It’ll strengthen the chapter, round it out, and then I’ll be done with Chapter 1. I’ll bring the manuscript with me on the cruise, but not sure how much time I’ll find to write. Still I’ll feel better having it with me.

I’m not taking my laptop, taking my mini iPad instead. It can fit into my shoulder bag and I won’t have to worry about hauling out the laptop at airport security. It’s such a zoo going through security. I don’t want to risk forgetting it on the belt. Last time, coming back from the Rhine cruise, I left my large iPad on the plane. Fortunately I was able to get it back right away. The guy sitting next to me thoughtfully gave it to the security rep as he exited the plane and it was handed to me when I ran up in a panic. Honestly, I nearly had a heart attack when I realized it wasn’t poking out of my shoulder bag.

I finished Roz Morris’s My Memories of a Future Life. Good book. I’m halfway through Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. Wish I had it in the Cloud to download, but I may finish it before I go.

Time for my second cup of coffee and getting to work.

ghost rain


A moment ago it was gray outside, but now it’s sunny. That describes my work this week on The Foreigner. I devoted the week to working solely on the novel, pre-writing work–laying a foundation for the plot. I’m not writing from scratch; I’ve got nearly 200 pages of manuscript,  some connecting strands and many holes, a ragged spiderweb of story. I could see the problem is lack of structure. The main plot stands, but novels are organic so if something comes along that fits, I’m taking it.

I’m trying to solidify the story’s engine, the thing that drives the plot. Wrote a lot in my Moleskine about the characters and their motives. I think I’ve got the main plot worked out. I have the structure outlined: inciting incident, plot point 1, mid-novel reversal, plot point 2 and the resolution, but the actual narration is loosey-goosey.

A book I find inspiring and helpful is Novelsmithing: The Structural Foundation of Plot, Character, and Narration by David Sheppard (By the way, it’s free to the Kindle). When I’m wrestling with structure, this is my go-to writing book.

It’s taken me too long to write this post because I kept getting the spinning wheel of death or the blank page of no return when I surfed to Amazon, and oh yeah I had to re-create it because it disappeared into the nether reaches of the ‘net, which sometimes reminds me of a marshy bog where you don’t want to follow the lights.

It’s way past time for me to get to the real work.

Happy writing.



Beautiful outside, sunny and warm, and with a nearly cold wind blustering through the palm trees to keep the heat under control. I’m preparing for a trade show, the World Tea Expo at the Long Beach Convention Center. I’ll be an exhibitor. Took 3-1/2 days of my time last week and I wrapped  up the final details today. This is my first time doing a trade show and I had no idea about all the logistical details that go into it, but I know them now. The Expo opens Wednesday and closes Friday. So little writing done last week and there will be be none this week, except for what I might manage today. Tuesday is move-in day for my booth.

I’ve finished Dust, found a market, but can’t let it go yet. Want to give it one more pass, and then I’ll shoot the engineer. I’ve printed out 90 pages of the Shadow Walk novella; it’s roughly finished, but far from ready to wing away.

Michelle and I had our monthly accountability and writing meeting. I restructured a chapter of The Foreigner. I’d like to work more on it. It’s a good novel.

Since the writing will be down for the week, where am I with things:

  • Crossing, short-short, submitted
  • Edited Dust, 5000 words, ready for submission
  • Shadow Walk, horror novella, rewritten and restructured, about 36,000 words (restructured from 50,000-word novel manuscript)
  • Romancing the Night, stalled novel, 6,565 words
  • A Terrible Thing, short story, submitted
  • Shadow, horror short story, published, The Horror Zine
  • Runaway Heart, novel, in progress
  • Chained, fantasy novel, a little bit of work done on it
  • Attended Literary Orange Conference
  • Attended IndieReCon, online conference


  • The Foreigner, fantasy novel
  • The Red Goddess, sword and sorcery short story
  • A Useless Blind, steampunk mystery
  • The Friendship Killers, novel
  • Vampire article
  • Non-fiction project: writing workshop

There I be.

pretty on paper

steampunk-butterfly2-kelly-berry Steampunk Butterfly, Kelly Berry

Finished Dust yesterday, 8,014 words, 35 pages. I love the story, think it turned out well, and I was so happy to find the end. I’m letting it cool before going over it again. I expect to do a fair amount of editing because I’ve got a fair amount of unnecessary verbiage, some redundancy, and it needs polishing too. I’m looking forward to the job. Word crafting and sentence polishing are two of my favorite writing tasks. This phase is also where I get deeper into the character and also improve setting details.

April 11 is the annual Literary Orange Conference–looking forward to that. Anne Perry was supposed to be a featured speaker, but looks like maybe not. The site says her appearance “cannot be confirmed at this time.” Oh well.

I signed up for Camp Nano. The plan is to write my vampire romance, Romancing the Night. Right now it stands at 6,284 words. The goal is 50,000 by April 30, and it is this  month’s project at RWA’s The End competition, where you have to write at least 2000 words a month during the year.

Also on the agenda is finishing the third rewrite (officially) of my horror novel, Shadow Walk, which has languished for a long time.

And then there’s the coming week’s short story challenge. I’ve set a goal of writing one short story each week for the month of April. One down, four to go. Looks like I’m going to be a writing fool in April! May will be a whole new round. My ultimate goal this year is to greatly improve my production. Let’s see–what else have I got in development …

  • A Lamentation of Swans, fantasy
  • A Useful Blind, steampunk western mystery
  • Chained, fantasy romance
  • The Foreigner, fantasy
  • Tempting Fate, fantasy romance
  • The Friendship Killers, contemporary thriller
  • The Seventh Queen, fantasy historical (brand, brand new)

Today is another golden So Cal day. Such a treasure!