November 6, 2022

A Walk on the Dark Side: Our Fascination with True Crime

Every time I turn on streaming television, I’m floored by the multitude of true-crime series. There are networks entirely devoted to the genre. But looking more closely, we find that the most fascinating shows, the ones that are viewed the most, are the ones about murder. People commit all kinds of crimes, but who wants to watch a show about burglary? No, it’s murder that rivets us to the screen. On the darkest side, though, the most fascinating murderers of all are serial killers. We, the viewing public, cannot get enough of Ted Bundy, David Berkowitz, Dennis Rader, John Wayne Gacy, Jeffrey Dahmer, and others.

What is so fascinating about the most heinous of all murderers? In a word, danger. We slow down on the highway to ogle accidents, we get on roller-coaster rides that give us the experience of impending death, and we watch shows about serial killers. When we expose ourselves to dangerous incidents and topics, we activate the parts of our brain that ping us with excitement. Never mind the excitement is scary. We like excitement, period.

But I think the real fascination with serial killers is that they are an extreme aberration of nature, representing the complete abandonment of humanity – love, compassion, care, goodwill to others, and empathy – the most fundamental characteristics of human beings. Lacking empathy, and infused with violent tendencies, serial killers are dangerous predators. We are hard-wired to be mindful of dangerous predators. Historically, going back thousands of years, dangerous predators were mostly from the animal kingdom. But we could see those creatures approaching and defend ourselves.

What could be more dangerous than a predator successfully blending into society? Serial killers form the appearance of real relationships. They hold down jobs, place themselves into our workforce, sit near us at the office. They pass us on the street, intersecting our lives, daily. They live in our neighborhoods – next door or down the street. They even attend our churches and synagogues.

We can’t see them, and therefore can’t defend ourselves. That is scary! Perhaps by watching these shows, we delude ourselves into thinking we know what they are, who they are, and that we can see them coming. But, nope.

Okay, now that I’ve freaked myself out writing this, I’ll sign off for today. I aim to have enough scare in my books to excite you, but I’ll try to not totally freak you out.

June 21, 2022

Don’t diagnose me on Google

It’s so easy to type in a phrase for a personality disorder (PD), such as narcissistic personality disorder [one of the more popular ones] and hit ‘enter.’ Then sit back and read whatever pops up at the top of the search engine. After 5 minutes of scanning online, look around for likely candidates for the diagnosis. Mom: nope. Dad: nope. BFF: absolutely not! Boss: probably. New boyfriend: hmmm. Here’s the rub: there is far more that determines a PD diagnosis than the bullet points you find online. Same goes for other psychological maladies. Best leave it to the professionals. Meanwhile, here are a handful of fun facts to know and tell about personality disorders:

– They are not psychiatric illnesses

– They are genetic in origin, having nothing to do with childhood or any other trauma

– They are pervasive and enduring and can’t be ‘cured’ by traditional psychotherapy

– 15% to 19% of the general population has a personality disorder

– If you live with someone with a personality disorder, your life will be significantly disrupted

Wow, that’s a bit heavy, right? That’s only the tip of the iceberg on PD. Rather than try to figure out who in your life has a PD, I’d suggest you read a good book. About Roxanne is my latest. Snag your copy here.

January 9, 2022

Good vs. Evil: Illuminating the Good

Two people found fatally shot… The unfriendliest states in America, ranked… Man live-streams vicious beating of girlfriend

I went online today and immediately got hit with these three headlines. If you’re as tired as I am of the ongoing, 24/7, bad news, then you, like me, desperately need to see the good in people. Guess what? It’s all around us! Correction, THEY are all around us.

WE are all around.

Good people abound. I’m lucky enough in my coaching practice to see them and talk with them daily. But if you only read the headlines and you don’t look further, you might believe that evil, psychopathic people are the majority.

Bad people get in the headlines. They get around a lot, doing bad stuff, and we pay attention to them. We notice them because we are hard-wired to notice danger and give it our full attention. I won’t use this space to rant about the massive manipulation of all of us by media because they have figured out that bad news gets hits, and that means revenue.

I write stories that feature—yes—one or two bad people. But also an abundance of good people, flawed though they may be, who are trying their best to do the right thing. Because I believe that good people are the vast majority of us, and that deserves illumination through fiction and otherwise.

March 21, 2021

Love and Fear

An interviewer asked, “why do you put romance in your thrillers?” to which I said instantly, what’s a good thriller without a touch of romance? Let’s face it, life can be difficult and even scary at times. What keeps us grounded is relationships: family, friends, and yes, a little romance.

The other night, I had a scary dream, and according to my husband, I was making these little noises, not exactly screams, but definitely sounds of distress. He gently shook me so I could escape dreamland and re-enter the safety of our bedroom. What a great feeling, right? It was only a dream. My husband is here. Ahhhh, yes.

My characters need a little grounding, too. Unfortunately, their experience is not a dream. They’re going through truly tough stuff, difficult passages, and frightening moments. I believe as a writer, let them have love to balance the pain and fear.

In Free Fall, Hannah Lee Winn’s life begins to unravel, revealing terrible mistakes and misplaced trust. She isn’t sure if her loving, new husband is truly a source of grounding and safety, or if he is a threat to her very life. What could be more unbalancing than that?

You’ll have to read it to discover if she finds love as she fights for her life on a thrill ride she never anticipated, and if so, with whom. Enjoy! And make sure you have a hand to hold if you get a little nervous. Or a fur baby to pet. Or a friend to FaceTime.

December 19, 2020

Who Is Watching You?

What if you carefully curated what you thought was the perfect life? And then discovered that someone was watching you all along, someone envious, someone with twisted, evil intentions?

With a chill traveling down my spine, I began writing Free Fall with this question in mind, realizing it’s the thing no one thinks about until it happens. Aren’t most of us pretty much oblivious to our surroundings? Who pauses in daily life to wonder, is someone watching me?

I believe most people have good intentions. Most people are busy with work, family life, and friends. They have good hearts, mean well, and make mistakes with other people out of carelessness and no more.

But I watch enough crime reporting to know that there are those who operate differently, who intentionally set out to harm others.

Some of those people, uh characters, are going to appear soon in my books, starting with Free Fall. If you like suspense, with a few shivers, a couple of bad actors, and good people who overcome evil, stay tuned!

Meanwhile, you might want to pay attention. You never know who is watching you…

Make sure you’re on my VIP reader list to be the first to know when new books are published.

October 18, 2020

Dating, Pandemic Style

Writing my new novella, Unlikely Beginning, was super fun and definitely inspired by – let’s face it – the unlikely event of a global pandemic! No one saw it coming, except for Bill Gates, who warned us five years ago. In March, the only thing on my mind was publishing my first novel.

In July, I thought about dating. In a pandemic. Two characters popped into my mind – Mason and Jasmine. Right away, I saw Mason as a sardonic guy with a good heart – a heart for people and for animals. And pizza. I immediately saw Jasmine as super smart and trying to recover from a broken heart.

Then, I saw the two of them meeting on Zoom. With no way to meet in person, for reasons that went beyond the pandemic. But an instant connection.

It felt juicy enough for a short book, so I dove in.

I was sorry to see them go at the end, but maybe they’ll show back up in a longer book. This time, without the face masks.

I hope you enjoy it!

Get it here.

August 9, 2020

The Crazy Things People do

I recently joined a book club discussion for Unlikely Return. It was a ton of fun. The members of the group tossed questions my way and one of them really caught my attention.

Q: Why do characters do things that seem illogical?

Since I write relationship-driven stories, my characters make decisions and act in ways that create issues in their own lives, often defying ordinary logic. Why?

It would be easy to say, “well, that’s just drama created by the author to gain and keep people’s attention, like movies and television.”

True. So true. We do aim to gain and keep your attention!

But the deeper truth is that people are driven by two powerful forces that are fundamentally at odds in our lives.

Love is the reason we’re here. It is our purpose and the driving force for life. Without love, we literally cannot survive. Without love, our lives lack meaning. Without love, adults lose vitality, health, quality of life, and longevity.

We’re hard-wired for fear. Fear is the force that sometimes inhibits us from the experience of love, often at critical times in our lives. Fear is the driving force behind most of life’s dramas, small and large.

Fear is the reason we sometimes make illogical decisions and act in ways that create issues in our lives.

Fear is the force that we authors tap to show the messiness of our characters’ lives. Without the messiness and the drama, we wouldn’t have conflict in our stories. Without those elements, we wouldn’t have stories that anyone would want to read.

June 28, 2020

The Idea That Won’t Let Go

I once read an interview with prolific, bestselling author Daniel Pink. He said people often ask him how he decides what to write next. His answer, in a nutshell: when an idea for a book comes to me, I try to forget it. If I can’t forget it, I know that’s the thing I must write about next.

I have files and files, docs and docs (electronic, of course), filled with ideas for books. Most of them I’ve forgotten. Some of them I remember. Many of them are, frankly, kind of embarrassing. As in: Did I really think that would be a good book idea? Ick.

None of them occupy my writing time until they move into the realm of ideas I can’t forget. Characters who wake me up at night “speaking” to me about the narratives of their lives. Story lines that randomly enter my mind and which I must quickly capture because I know I’m going to do something with them.

June 9, 2020

If You’re Alive, You Have Stories to Tell

Writing a novel is no more or less than putting on paper—let’s make that electronic format instead of paper—strings of stories. There’s the overarching story of the beginning, middle, and end of the entire book. Inside of that, there are multiple small stories that contribute to the big one.

I love stories. I love hearing other people’s stories. Sometimes, when it’s not too painful, I enjoy telling mine. Often it is painful because life is that way. The more we’re willing to live life in the open, connected to others whom we love, taking emotional risks, the more we will experience the pain of loss. And the joys of love and long-term friendships.

When I’m writing, the stories from my life and others’ lives bubble up. They show up as strings, as snippets of stories, not as fully formed novels. Then, I get the fun of weaving it all together into a story arc and with characters that I hope are compelling.

Each and every one of us has stories to tell. What is your story? What story would you tell to describe one of your best life moments? What story would you tell to share one of your worst, most tragic life moments?

I’m listening. Go to “contact” and tell me your story. Maybe it will be woven into one of my novels, with your permission, confidentially. No revealing items.

Maybe you’ll be inspired by your own stories to write a novel, or a memoir. I hope so! Tell me if that happens so I can celebrate with you.

Back to telling stories.

May 22, 2020

The Power of “What If…”

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

– Lao-Tzu

My journey to write and publish Unlikely Return started in January 2018 with a long run-on “what if” question. I truly cannot believe it’s been two and a half years! A baby only takes nine months, for goodness sakes.

Moment of vulnerability: as I write this blog post, 75 people are reading the book as my Advance Reader Street Team! I’ve never felt so much at risk, yet at the same time so supported. The “writer head trash” is heavy today, the Friday of Memorial Day weekend, as I watch the clock and the calendar, counting down the days, hours, and minutes until I get the first feedback. I don’t bite my nails, but if I did, I’d have none left.

What if? The “what if” question that inspired this book sent me on a creative journey that I thoroughly enjoyed, absolutely loved. Why a “what if” question? Because when you strip down a compelling story, you always find a “what if” question.

“What if an orphaned boy living in a home where he wasn’t loved discovered that he was, in fact, a wizard, with an amazing destiny that would pit him against the powers of evil in a battle for the entire human race?” Harry Potter, of course.

“What if a teenage girl living in an apocalyptic world where children are forced to fight to the death found the courage to fight the evil people behind all of it?” The Hunger Games, of course.

Not that I’m comparing myself to two of the biggest bestselling authors of all time. Oh no, I wouldn’t do that.

But here’s the thing: you’ve got to have a dream!

Step one in my journey of a thousand miles happened in January 2018. Many steps later, another big one happened this week. Now, the journey continues. Stay tuned!