Deep Writing Workshop w/ @ericmaisel

I just had the best week for my writing. I’ve always wanted to do one of Eric Maisel’s deep writing workshops, and this year, it happened. It took place in Mendocino and was very good for getting my regular writing process going again after a year and a half of moving and selling houses. (Not quite done with the selling part of our primary home, but I’m writing regularly anyway, hooray.)

In MendocinoMendo 2Mendo 3

I deliberately didn’t take my real camera on this trip but captured a few shots with the phone. Yay for smart phones!

Have a great weekend.

Excerpt, Mark Taggart…

and the Circle of Stones.

Here is the promised excerpt, an action scene from fairly deep into the story for you to enjoy and to entice the young ones with whom you might be sharing this book.

By the way there are very strong female characters in this book. Shelley came to the Elemental Realm from a portal in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California. While she is in the Elemental Realm, her ability to communicate with animals becomes very advanced. Here’s an image of Shelley.

I’ll provide some excerpts for other characters over the next few days.

The messages swirled more and more, coming from Skysplitter high in the sky to Shelley and then out through the rest of Mark’s team verbally. From there the messages traveled by hand signal to the other teams led by Jett and Winstan. The grass in the distance on three sides shook. Black dots frothed above the green blades.

The charge of pounding hooves contrasted to the silence of the strange scene unfolding in the distance. By the time they could hear the dogmen, it would be too late. The dots and specks of black turned to a boil and then to a seething mass of snarling heads. Their sound reached like a living thing across the savanna, a dull hum and then a roar.

Mark’s insides roiled. He leaned over the neck of Patches and charged. There was no longer any question of hiding the danger from the beast. Now it was time to steer the deeply instinctive borgahl panic toward the very danger it sought to flee, to ride the frantic beast’s chaotic charge. Mark leaned further and further over the neck, streamlining himself, searching for the leader.

There were about thirty dogmen. One would leap and bark past another. The pack of them looked like a snarling snapping wave from hell. They were doing the half-beast gallop and running-man gait that ate the savanna in gulps.

He was going to die. Mark was one long streak pulling away from the army of men, and he had already accepted his death. In a strange way this knowledge freed him. Freed him to focus fully and totally on his mission. He had nothing to lose, for he had already accepted he would lose it all.

He had been looking to the center of the pack for the leader, but no single dogman emerged from the seething line. Something made Mark swivel his head to the left. The beast ran at the head of a line that formed a large snake hooking around all three groups of leatherheads. The leader.

Mark had miscalculated. By dividing the leatherheads into three groups he had weakened their forces against a cohesive attack.

The whistle of arrows soaring overhead was like the wind screaming the wrongness of two once peacefully coexisting species launching arrows and teeth against each other over nothing more than an evil idea. The men were doomed. Mark signaled to Patches and veered hard toward the lead dogman, the head of the snake. Mark was not the closest to the leader, but Winstan and Jett were leading their teams in the original direction.

Mark broke away from his group and veered back, away from the approaching semicircle of dogmen. To his teams, he must look like he was fleeing. He lowered himself over the surging neck of Patches and squinted against the dirt-filled air. Would the others even be able to see him? His own team had continued their charge toward the dogmen along the original trajectory, failing to follow him. Perhaps the cloak of dust would also conceal him from the lead dogman.

The brown cloud broke. Mark charged into open air. A snarling dogman plunged at him, teeth bared. Mark leaned back and pulled on the reins. “Hey ho, Patches!”

Patches slowed and stopped. The dogmen rushed, the semi-circle closing on him like a noose. This was it, his time to die, but first his time to save all that was dear. Mark raised his crossbow, aimed at the heart of the lead dogman, drew, and fired.

The arrow embedded itself in the hairy chest of the lead dogman. Blood flowered red in the matted black fur. Gleaming black eyes deadened. It lurched forward and tumbled to the ground like a felled tree.

Now to face the closing noose of dogmen against which he had no chance. Accepting death and actually dying were two different things. Mark couldn’t welcome the end. His world was a black hell of howls, barks, and growls, a swelling pit of fangs and claws. The surrounding forces of dogmen drew closer but had failed to form a perfect circle. Perhaps he could still turn Patches and bolt through the circle’s opening behind them. But the dogmen were too close to run.

Amazon Print:

Amazon Kindle:

Smashwords (all e-book formats are available here):

Barnes and Noble Nook:

Apple IBooks:




New Release, Mark Taggart and the Circle of Stones

I’m excited to announce the release of a book that I co-authored with the amazing Australian author John Holland. We met years ago on this blog and over that time wrote this children’s book for middle-grade and older but also for grown-ups who would like a taste of history and Australia wrapped in a grand adventure. Here is what it’s about. Links follow the blurb, and I’ll do an excerpt tomorrow.

Australian twelve-year-old Mark Taggart can’t wait to finish his correspondence classes each day, so he can get out on the family cattle station to help his dad. But his life is changing and the future is threatened by a prolonged drought. His dad owes money to Bull Corcoran who is demanding payment. Not only is Mark’s family about to lose everything, he may never get a chance to visit a forbidden site on the land, a circle of stones that has drawn his imagination and curiosity for years. So Mark and his friend visit the site that marks a long-ago crime.

When they enter the area, the world drops away beneath their feet. They land in another world and learn they’ve been summoned to the Elemental Realm. This powerful place is under attack. Now Mark must lead an army against a darkly magical being and the beasts he controls to make it back home, save his family, and right an ancient crime.



Amazon Print:

Amazon Kindle:

Smashwords (all e-book formats are available here):

Barnes and Noble Nook:

Apple IBooks:

John Holland grew up in the Australian outback and currently lives in Townsville, Queensland Australia. He has been a stockman, miner, road worker, professional hunter, newspaper columnist and media officer for a politician. He is the author of several books of poetry and fiction.

Social Media Links:

Nicci Carrera grew up hiking and skiing near Lake Tahoe, California and currently lives in San Diego. After careers in non-profit and then in the computer industry, she works full time as a writer and is the author of two novels in the romance genre as well as a co-author of a children’s book.

Social Media Links for Nicci:

Writing Women’s Fiction

I’ve been busy the last couple of years and have written a couple books but haven’t published them.  I’ve changed genres a couple times and have landed finally on women’s fiction, which is more general than Romance. The emphasis is more on the woman’s life and there might be a romance in it, but it wouldn’t be the emphasis, and it also might not even have a romantic element. I’m working on a book now that does have a romantic element. I like general fiction about life, and especially women’s lives as they learn, grow, and achieve their dreams, so that’s what I’m writing.

My work in progress features a lot of travel. You know my husband and I travel as much as possible, well I thought I’d figure out a way to work that into my books more. In this book, Easter Island is one of the locations visited. I thought I’d share some of the images from that trip, or re-share, because actually, I shared them a long time ago when I first started this blog. Easter Island is one of the most amazing places I’ve ever seen, and I feel very lucky to have had a chance to visit it.

Here are some photos of what I saw.

Fall colors for NaNo

NaNo — you may have heard it, but what does it mean? Well, it stands for National Novel Writing Month, but it’s actually international, so perhaps it should be called InNo. Well, NaNo is how it started and will remain.

NaNo is a huge excuse to write a crazy number of words in a month, fifty thousand to be exact. It’s an excuse to ignore the housekeeping, survive on leftovers and take-out, drink too much coffee, get out of bed when it’s still dark, and write, write, write.

There are so many writers participating, like Sheri Kennedy, which makes it fun. I was up at 6 today to join friends on Twitter for two 50-minute sprints. That’s early for me, and it’s good for me!

I am working on the sequel to the novella I submitted. Sadly, it wasn’t a fit for the anthology, but that’s okay. It’s an international romantic spy thriller, and getting that novella done and turned in inspired me to do a series. I plan to write the sequel then go back and turn the first one into a novel. Onward!

To inspire us for the week ahead, here are some fresh new Autumn photos from Nevada:


Mount Rose

Friday’s Post

A friend of mine reviewed my blog for me from the standpoint of marketing and suggested I talk a bit about my books. Who knew? LOL!

My new book that I just sent in to a publisher for consideration is a new direction for me. It is a romantic suspense, and what’s so cool about it (besides everything, LOL) is that it is set in an exotic locale I have visited: Monaco. Which in an odd way leads me back to my first book, Love Caters All. Okay, how? After all, Love Caters All is a “straight-up guilty pleasure” romance with a fair bit of sensuality. The new book is an action packed diamond heist set in Monaco with a PG rating (although we’ll see how it ends up by the time it is published). But the thing is I came up with that plot thinking about To Catch a Thief. I love Cary Grant. (Isn’t it great you can speak of late celebrities in the present tense because their movies live on?) I love his movies and he reminds me of my dad in many ways.

Well my first book was inspired by a Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn movie, one of my favorites, Philadelphia Story. Now, when you read it, you’ll say in what way is this possibly like Philadelphia Story? And those of you who have read it, right? Love Caters All is set in Maine,


whereas Philadelphia Story is set in, you got it, Pennsylvania. Different plot, different characters, different setting. But what I was going for was banter. I loved the banter in that movie, and that’s what I wanted. I wanted the book to be as light as a souffle, for the conflict to hinge on nothing more serious than shoes.

Here are some shots of Monaco, also by way of Morgue File, a great resource.


This castle plays a huge role in my new book

Most of the new book takes place at night.
Early dawn by the harbor, the characters have some exciting scenes here

I hope you have a great weekend. I’m happy to report in California, we are getting rain!



I — Inquiry and Chronicles of the #CaliforniaDrought

Real quick, this is how Lake Tahoe looked in March. The water was getting closer but not reaching the Truckee River.

The mouth of the river (1 of 1)

Well big news, it just flowed over its natural rim and has reached the mouth of the Truckee River.

Wow just when I was thinking I was running out of time to do my Monday post and couldn’t think of anything, but when I signed in to start a long overdue visitation round for my blogger friends, I discovered to my amazement a comment from Sheri Kennedy who writes as Kennedy J. Quinn with an invitation to do this interview, tag a few other writers, and read her amazing interview! Her answers really are good; please do yourself a favor and read through them. Sheri does everything a hundred percent, and her interview is no exception. And Sheri, thank you for reading and mentioning The Last Straw. I’ve been meaning to get that book up here on my blog, but for now, here are my answers to your great questions

  1. If you could write full time, would you? Why or why not. If you already do, would you want to change that? Why?
    I write full time now, and I wouldn’t change it, I’m so grateful every day for getting to write fiction and my blog.
  2. Tell me about your favorite character in literature. Why are they your fave?Sherlock Holmes. He is so logical. I love logic and logical characters. I’m also a huge fan of Spock in Star Trek and Seven of Nine.
  3. How long did it take you to write your first book? How long to get it published? Six years (I was working at the time, and had a lot of learning to do!) I didn’t publish it.
  4. What do you think the best books have in common? Great question! I have no idea how to answer it! But for me a book is great when I lose myself in it, when I am more in it than in my life as I bumble through the rituals of the day thinking about the book the whole time until I can return to it. I’m reading one like that now, and it brings me so much enjoyment, especially since several friends are all reading it and we are talking about it.
  5. What do you like to eat or drink while writing?Organic unsweetened almond milk (yes I actually like it), nuts, water. When I’m really on a hot streak, slide it under the door. When I’m struggling I spend most of my time at the refrigerator grazing, with the expected consequences.
  6. Did you ever have one of your characters surprise you? In what way? If no, why not?Oh, I love this question because it just happened to me for the first time in the book that is coming out this month, Third Strike’s the Charm. The hero had a secret I didn’t discover until the end of the third draft. Then I knew why I’d had so much trouble with his character. I didn’t understand Jason Ward until then.
  7. Regarding writing environment: Quiet or Noisy? Alone or With Others? Indoors or Outdoors? Hot or Cool?Okay, both, both, indoors, just right. LOL! I’m picky about temperature and light, otherwise, I’m flexible. I LOVE long plane rides. I get so much done!
  8. Regarding preferred stories: Happy or Complicated? Fantasy or Reality? Character-driven or Plot-driven? Scary or Funny? Classic or Modern?Happy, reality but a dramatic version, mix of character-driven and plot-driven, funny, modern.
  9. Tell me about your favorite character in your work in progress. What’s your favorite thing about them?Devin York is an arrogant emotionally disconnected billionaire CEO who scowls and broods which is interpreted by others as being domineering and tyrannical but is really caused by the tragic death of his wife for which he blames himself. He’s emerged as a Gothic character set in contemporary times, and I adore him. He breaks my heart, makes me angry, and makes me laugh, sometimes on the same page. I am finding I love writing these over-the-top characters and am very grateful Devin arrived in time to save my manuscript from the previous hero… who was a lox.
  10. Why do you write?If I had a choice, I wouldn’t. But I’m incredibly grateful that I can and do. What can I say? It’s a love-hate relationship, like every good romance!

Okay, enough about me! Here are my questions to any writer who happens to read this but specifically for the writers linked at the end, should they choose to participate:

  1. What is your favorite project that you have completed? Why?
  2. If you had to pick one book to read while you were stranded for a long time on a desert island, what would it be?
  3. What do you do when you get stuck with a story or article to get unstuck about the story or article and going all the way to the end?
  4. Do you ever write with pen and paper? If so, why? If not, why not? What do you like more about writing on the computer or about writing longhand?
  5. Who is your favorite character in literature?
  6. Do you believe in “muses” or inspiration? If so, how do you cultivate the inspiration?
  7. What made you want to write?
  8. Do you prefer reading or writing fiction or nonfiction? Why?
  9. What book, author (including blogger and journalist) has most influenced or inspired you?
  10. What would be your favorite place to write if you could write anywhere in the world?
    Here’s some inspiration for that thought!


John Holland

Cynthia Harrison

Robena Grant

Margaret Lynette Sharp

Ann of Anroworld

Susie Lindau

Ann Sandler

Marie Tuhart

Leanne Cole






Exploring creativity, sideways thinking

So I’ve been working all week on the plot for the last of the Cruz sisters’ trilogy. The third one has a mystery plot. It’s a lot of fun, but requires a lot of thinking, and my concentration seems way off. I flit around the project, every time the thinking gets hard, I jump to the internet. I have to keep reminding myself to go back to the work. I don’t know why this is.

Well one of the things about creative writing is that you spend a lot of time with your own mind and discover things about it. I was not happy with this jumping thing. Seems like I need to concentrate and fill in the plot one thing at a time, but I don’t know what to put in all the slots.

This post is sprinkled with unrelated photos, but their very lack of relatedness, relates, because this is the kind of thing I’ve been doing all week, think a little, then do something else.

Lake Tahoe
Oregon, Horsetail Falls

I would read the outline and the guidelines for the classic mystery. Get stuck. Jump to something else. This behavior seemed very unproductive, and I was getting frustrated with myself for not sticking to the plan and concentrating.

Did I share this info graphic with you? This is actually for the book I worked on during NaNo, but which I have set aside to work on the last of the Cruz sisters.

Aesthetics of my novel

Yes, that novel is very outdoorsy, and there are horses.

So here’s what happened when it seemed all I was doing was thinking sideways. Solutions came. I filled these into the outline. It’s sort of like translating vertical motion to circular and therefore useful motion the way a car translates the piston motion to the wheel motion.

What are your plans for the weekend? I hope you will be having fun.

Cover reveal, Third Strike’s the Charm

It’s sort of still Monday…well, it is still Monday in Hawaii, or will be for 7 more minutes as of this writing. I had a very busy day today, and I don’t have any new photos for you, so I didn’t think I’d get my post done. But I wanted to try. I booted my computer just now and scanned my work email. In it was the cover art for Third Strike’s the Charm! Perfect for a blog post.

I was so nervous about opening it. I gave the artist a lot of direction. I wanted it to fit the book into books of similar types. I wanted it to be flirty. I wanted a beach. I wanted a big guy. I sent her a lot of art from the stock source the publisher uses, but I never found the right hair for the woman. The heroine is Latina. The hero is an athlete, a major-league pitcher. Of course he’s handsome; it’s a romance. Well, the artist found the perfect couple. It’s weird because Cara has cool undertones to her skin. I did not specify that to the artist. I’m not crazy or a diva. (I don’t think.) But wow, the cover gal has it.

I’m totally over the moon about this. Enough talk, here it is.


I’m working on the galleys now. I proofread by reading backwards one sentence at a time. That took me 6 days. Now I’m reading it forwards. That goes a lot faster! I can only fix typos now. But I am requesting a few slightly longer changes here and there. For the longer changes, I counted out letters so that the replacement words won’t change the layout. I really wanted to add a thought, and I wrote it out several ways until I could get the number of characters to fit in the space. That’s an interesting way to write! LOL I hope the editor lets me make those few changes even though they are not just typos.

I also read the manuscript backwards during the second edit and that time I made a lot of changes. It’s okay to make changes at that point (as long as your editor approves.) It was so revealing to read it that way that I have written it into my process. I’m always going to read the book backwards now when I’m editing, actually before I submit to an editor in the first place.

I love polishing. It’s my favorite part.

Getting the cover, when it’s just what I want, is also very fun.

Have a great week. Tomorrow I plan to go outside and get some photos for Friday’s post.

Editing and themes

Do you have  goals? Do you resist your goals?

I go through phases when I resist my goals. Right now, though, I am on a roll, checking things off my great project management master list. Right now I’m feeling very energized because I finished the next step in Third Strike’s the Charm, the second edit.

Here’s a writing tip I just recorded for myself in a new document called Process. Process is another topic. I’ll do that soon. But this was just something I learned during second edits that I wanted to share.

I decided to go ahead and read the manuscript backwards. I usually reserve that step for the galleys. However, with my publisher, when you have the galleys, the manuscript is locked down in a PDF and you cannot make changes to it directly. You have to give the line number, the error, and the correction. You have to type that all up. I figured it would behoove me to go ahead and do my very detailed proofreading now while I can make big changes directly in the manuscript.

I expected to find typos, grammatical errors, that kind of thing. I did. However, I also noticed story element things. I had a small thematic element that I had not revisited and two minor plot points that would be nice to revisit as well. I’m excited because I feel that rounding off these elements will provide a more satisfying and richer experience for the reader.

I don’t know why reading it backwards did that, but I think the process keeps your mind alert. Any time I read a sentence but realized I had spaced out, I stopped and read it again and again and again until I was concentrating again. So I was really keeping my mind alert. I did about 12 pages a day.

Reading forward, you miss things because you’re caught up in the story. You’ve read it so many times by now that your mind is filling in what should be there.

Theme has been interesting in this book for me as well and what I learned was that there can be more than one theme. I had a theme that I consciously developed and two smaller themes for one of the characters that I  almost didn’t develop. One of my critique partners noticed that one of them hadn’t been developed enough. And the other very small one I caught on the reverse read.

My takeaway tip for this is to watch for themes when you are doing a careful read-through of the manuscript. You might find some minor or even major themes or seeds of themes lurking in the text. If so, find ways to weave the themes through in more places or to at least complete on them one time.

Theme is really important. If you are a writer, what do you think about theme? If you are a reader but not a writer, do you notice themes in books?

I’m listening to Freedom by Jonathan Franzen now. Okay, the theme is freedom. I’m 7 discs in and I’m starting to feel the hits on Freedom, and oh it’s glorious. One place to look for your theme is in the title.

My process seems to include this kind of amorphous big picture feeling about the book when I start, and oftentimes I have the title, which suggests the theme. But executing the theme? Yeah, it doesn’t happen in the first draft. Some seeds get planted though. And those were the seeds I noticed in second edits and realized I hadn’t grown.

Here are some photos from an outdoor shopping mall near me where I met a friend for coffee. Nighttime is sure to be more spectacular when the swans are lit against a background of darkness, but I do like the elegant shapes, the Italian style background, the bows, poinsettias and wreathes. Enjoy.

Le Boulanger Dec 2 2015-2Le Boulanger Dec 2 2015-1Le Boulanger Dec 2 2015-3