Saturday, September 13, 2014

Blog Hop - Writing Process

Aaron Lazar, that silver-tongued devil, talked me into this. He’s a prolific writer who obviously manages his time better than I do mine. I love his books. You can find them at His latest two are

I’m participating because I have a free book promotion coming up September 24 and 25. It’s Time of Death. I hope you’ll take a look.
The blurb:  Artist Alex Jenrette is visiting on a small island off the South Carolina coast when she draws a murder scene—she has the McGuire psychic streak. The police think she was there and want to arrest her; the killer believes she’s a witness and wants to eliminate her. The prosecutor can’t get involved with her or he’ll risk his case.
1) What am I working on?
I’m putting in the final tweaks on Prime Target. It’s available now for pre-order and will be released October 1.
After witnessing her husband’s murder, Madeleine Schier flees her NY life, relying on her wits to  
survive in a dangerous world. Soon crimes once only on the nightly news become her new reality.
2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
My books are suspense with varying degrees of romance, but they don’t fit the current definition of romantic suspense or of suspense. They’re more like the old Helen MacInnes and Mary Stewart, but they do have some adult language and situations.
3) Why do I write what I do?
These are the stories that come into my head. I don’t want to be limited to meeting the expectations of a particular genre. I know some readers are disappointed, but most seem to enjoy the differences. That’s the joy of self-publishing—I’m free to do it my way. I’ve had a foot in both camps—two very good publishers that I enjoyed working with, and now self-publishing. Maybe I’m a control freak, but this works for me.
4) How does my writing process work?
Slowly! I need quiet, so I write early in the mornings, but it often turns into an all-day session. It’s easy to get carried away with research, which I enjoy, but it can easily changes the direction of the story. I’m a pantser, which has its rewards but unfortunately requires deleting sections and reversing to make something work. I keep thinking I’ll outline the next one and work out the kinks ahead of time, but so far that hasn’t panned out.
Next up!
Buy at Amazon
I’m passing the blog to L.A. Sartor, who has a new book coming out this fall. She writes adventure-suspense and romance. Check out her blog and books. She’s at and her blog is An Indie Adventure/
Stop by and see her--she's a lot of fun. 

Friday, August 29, 2014

New release October 1--Prime Target

Pre-order from Amazon
At last my new book is finished. It will be released in eBook October 1, with the print version soon after that. Subjects are PTSD and human trafficking. 
 The Blurb

After witnessing her husband’s murder, Madeleine Schier becomes a killer’s target. She flees her upscale New York life to become a name on a tombstone, relying on her wits and imagination to survive in a world where danger is everywhere. One wrong move could be her last. Should she trust the damaged recluse who’s always near? Before long, her new life turns into her old nightmare when crimes that were once distant horrors on the nightly news turn up on her doorstep.
Excerpt from Chapter One

The door chime rang, followed by a sharp rap.
Madeleine jerked toward the living room. She saw Frank freeze. She didn’t think it possible, but his face turned whiter. What is it?
Knocks sounded again, harder, more insistent.
He seemed to wake up. “Hide! Get under the bed. Call 9-1-1,” he whispered. Frank started for the door, his steps stiff, jerky. “Who’s there?” he said into the intercom.
“Hey, Frankie. It’s me. Open up. We need to talk.”
Madeleine squeezed under the bed, then remembered her purse. She snatched the strap and pulled it close. The long vowels, the New England accent—Gerry Buhler’s voice. Through the open bedroom door she could see her husband, one hand on his chest, starting toward the apartment door. Before he reached it, it burst open.
No. In her fright, she hadn’t locked it.
She inched further back toward the wall, barely breathing. Lint balls from the thick carpet tickled her nose.
A youngish man, his unruly blond hair at odds with his gray suit, entered. Madeleine didn’t recognize him, but in his shadow stood Gerry Buhler. He kicked the door shut.
Awkwardly, she slipped her cell phone from her purse. Her shaking fingers barely hit the numbers, but she punched in 911, then focused on the narrow view from under the bed. Oh, God.
Buhler shook his long forefinger in Frank’s face. “I thought I could trust you, Frankie. You shouldn’t have done it.” He shoved Frank back into the room.
The 911 operator answered.
“Help me,” Madeleine whispered into the phone. “Two men broke into my apartment. Help me.” She gave her address but had to repeat it when the operator couldn’t hear her. “Hurry, hurry. They—oh, God, a gun.”
Buhler poked Frank’s chest with stiff fingers. “Tell me what you’ve done, who you’ve been talking to. Aaron saw you. Who were the guys in the parking garage? IRS? FBI? What have you done to me, Frankie?”
“I didn’t tell them anything. It wasn’t—”
The younger man stepped in and slapped him, snapping Frank’s head back.
“You got a wife, don’t you? Where is she?”

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Blog Hop with Aaron Paul Lazar

At Amazon Kindle

I'm taking part in a blog hop. This one is about the writing process and more. I've been invited by a wonderful author, Aaron Paul Lazar. This post is about Aaron. He is the author of the award-winning LeGarde Mysteries, Moore Mysteries, Tall Pines Mysteries, and his new love story, The Seacrest, available in Kindle, paperback, and audio.
    Here is a link to Aaron’s original blog piece.

   Aaron Paul Lazar writes to soothe his soul. An award-winning, bestselling Kindle author of three addictive mystery series, writing books, and a new love story, Aaron enjoys the Genesee Valley countryside in upstate New York, where his characters embrace life, play with their dogs and grandkids, grow sumptuous gardens, and chase bad guys. Visit his website at and watch for his upcoming releases, SANCTUARY(2014) and MURDER ON THE SACANDAGA(2014).

   "Aaron Lazar is a master storyteller. He sketches the relationship of man and wife in soft strokes, like a lovely pen and ink drawing on fine paper. A grandparent taking delight in the love of his grandchildren, is a pastel portrait framed in gold. Childhood friendships drenched in sepia tones are like old photographs in a long forgotten album taken from the shelf. Flowers in a garden, horses long gone from their stalls in a barn, the feel of leaf mold in the hands of a man who loves the earth—are sense memories so strong, that individuals spontaneously manifest themselves in complete fullness upon the page" - Natalie Neal Whitefield

   Here’s the cover of Devil's Lake - a new romantic thriller by Aaron Lazar, available at Amazon:
About Devil’s Lake:

After two years of brutal captivity, Portia Lamont has escaped and returned to her family’s Vermont horse farm—only to find her parents gone to New York to try an experimental treatment for her mother’s cancer, and her childhood friend Boone Hawke running the farm. Like the rest of her family, Boone has never given up hope that Portia would return. But when she turns up battered, skinny as a twelve-year-old boy, afraid of everything and unable to talk about what happened, he does the only thing he can—try to help her heal. He summons the town doctor and Portia’s parents, and sets out to put this beautiful, broken woman back together again. Through her family's love and Boone's gentle affection, Portia gradually comes back to herself, and starts to fall for her old friend in a whole new way. But one thing threatens her fragile hope for recovery: The man who took her promised that if she ever escaped, he'd kill her. Slowly. And someone is definitely watching her...waiting to make his next deadly move.

Next week I’ll post the questions for this exercise along with my answers. And at the end, you'll see a link to the author who will continue the hop and pass it on!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Images for Inspiration


Do you keep pictures of people, places, or things you use in your book? I do. Sometimes the picture comes first and inspires a part of the story. Sometimes the story comes first, as it did here. This charming cottage belongs to Sandy Foster, who took this photograph. She turned an old fishing cottage into her studio. It’s such an interesting spot that Trevor Tondro did a feature on it for The New York Times. My critique partner, knowing the main character in my WIP rents just such a tiny cottage, spotted the picture and sent it to me. I tracked down Sandy, who graciously gave me permission to use it. Since it’s January and there’s snow in the picture (although it’s supposed to be in the low 70s here today), I decided to post it today.
    Mine didn’t look quite like this, but the cottage is exactly right. Here’s the bit about the cottage, though it may change before the book is finished. and at
    “Thank you.” Madeleine followed her past the truck and down the drive to the tiny storybook house she’d seen from the road, watching Jean’s long gray braid swing in rhythm with her long strides. “I told you it was small. But it’s clean and warm. It was my daughters’ playhouse.” She stopped and waited for Madeleine to catch up. “It is small, but it’s charming. Who painted it?” Madeleine didn’t know if she could fit inside it. “I did. I’m a potter, but I dab a little paint here and there. It was sittin’ here empty, and I decided it might do for short-term rentals. My husband’s a carpenter. We fixed it up again and touched up the paint I did for when my girls was little. I wouldn’t offer it except to a woman, and a small one at that.” She glanced over at Madeleine, curious. NOTE: Prime Target will be available soon.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

My Writing Process

Aaron Paul Lazar, one of my favorite writers, tagged me for a Writing Process Blog Tour. If you haven’t tried his books, you’re missing something special. Aaron writes mysteries and more. One series features Gus LeGarde, a music professor, family man, gardener, and cook—a man you’ll want to know. Don’t Let the Wind Catch You, Tremolo: Cry of the Loon, and Double Forté are among his many books.
Now the blog about Ellis's writing process.
I’ll answer questions about my work and methods (or lack of) and will subsequently tag two wonderful writers to continue the topic.
 Q. What are you working on? 
I’m nearing the finish line with Prime Target, a suspense novel about a woman who becomes the target of a mob boss after witnessing her husband’s murder.
I’m also working on more stories about Will Porter’s Maleantes & More team (from Cold Comfort).  I think Will is up next—I have several chapters done and am in love with the characters, always a good thing. He’s assigned to protect Gwen Gordon (from Haunting Refrain) from a kidnap threat.
The next McGuire Women story is emerging from the psychic fog. Isobel (from Time of Death) will have a prominent role, but the main character is Aurelia’s child, who moves from the West to the Blue Ridge Mountains (home territory for me) looking for peace.
Q. How does your work differ from others of its genre?
I’m something of a cross-genre writer. My stories are primarily suspense but all have some kind of love story. Some readers prefer pure genre material, but I write what feels right for my story and characters. And what I like to read. :-)
My stories are linked: minor characters in one book become protagonists in another book.  In the Maleantes & More books, Will Porter operates a security firm. Ben Riley (Cold Comfort) is one of his employees.
Another book lurking in my mind is about another of Will’s men, Austin Cutter. Cutter is stunned to see a newspaper article announcing his engagement to Allison Gilmore, a woman he hardly knows.
Each book of the McGuire Women series (Haunting Refrain and Time of Death) features a different character from a family with a psychic streak.
All my books have mild adult language and situations, which I include in the descriptions because some people prefer not to read such books. To me it’s realism, but we all live in our own small world.
Q. Why do you write what you do?
These are the stories that pop into my head and also what I like to read. I set them in places I’ve been or live near because I can research the details more easily and because I find them intriguing environments. The characters have to appeal to me, and I usually fall in love with the hero. Some are beautiful, some are not, but all have qualities that draw me—kindness, honor, integrity—and a dash of vengeance. You pay goodness forward, but bad acts you pay back. Works for me and for my main characters.
Q. How does your writing process work?
Mine is an iffy process. I need silence to concentrate, but I’m learning to listen to music to help shut out other things. Early mornings when the house is quiet, no radio or TV, phone, or conversation, suit me best. Then I can think, get in the “zone,” so to speak. The more I write, the easier it comes. Write, write, write.
I’m slow, can’t help editing as I go, and I sometimes write myself into blind canyons. That requires backtracking and taking a different path. I WILL outline my next book before I start. :-)
That's it! Thanks, Aaron Lazar, for asking me to participate in this fun blog hop!
I’m passing the baton to:
Polly Iyer, suspense/thrillers, including Threads, Mind Games, and Goddess of the Moon. Polly's blog is on Goodreads.
Linda Lovely, mystery/suspense, featuring the Marley Clark Mysteries No Wake Zone and Dear Killer.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Amazing Ice Age Artists, revisited

I recently came across this picture of the Lions of the Chauvet Cave in France, one of many spectacular panels of drawings, or paintings, discovered there. The paintings there are the oldest known, carbon-dated to approximately 33,000 years ago, almost twice the age of the Lascaux cave paintings.­­­ The forms and movements, the lines and grace of the animals, show incredible talent. The cave painters smudged charcoal to create shadows and depth, they incised lines into the white stone to emphasize certain features—all with charcoal, bits of pigment, and stone or bone knives on rough cave walls. By firelight.
Jean-Baptiste Oudry
Imagine what they might do with the tools we take for granted: brushes, canvas, a limitless palette of colors. Michaelangelo, move over.
Here's a male leopard by 17th century French wildlife artist, Jean-Baptiste Oudry (1686-1755). An elegant painting, but it doesn't have the graceful spine of the Chauvet lionesses (I think they're female). To me, they're slinking, probably stalking something, maybe wary of the cave bear they're about to tackle. I may have to re-read Jean Auel's Clan of the Cave Bear. If I remember, she visited the Lascaux caves and studied them before she wrote the novel.
This is a "portrait" of a woman found in Dolní Věstonice, south of Brno, Czech Republic. Possibly the oldest known replica of a human head, it was carved from a mammoth tusk. The woman has an "awry," or deformed, face. The skeleton of a woman with just such a face, having traces of a long jaw joint inflammation, was also found at Dolní. The grave and its contents indicated a very prominent or powerful person, so there's much speculation that it's the same person, possibly a shaman or mystic.

Next to her I placed a sculpture of Nefertiti, found in the studio of Thutmose, considered the official court sculptor of Egyptian Pharaoh Akhenaten, who died in 1336 BC or 1334 BC. There are many similarities in the pieces, considering that one was carved with crude tools thousands of years before.
Courtesy of Miroslav Fišmeister

Keith Schengili-Roberts

I wonder if the storytellers used the paintings to enhance their tales, keeping their audience spellbound through long winter evenings. The stories probably had all the elements we look for today, interesting characters, a riveting plot, conflict--breathtaking cliffhangers. I can see it, flickering firelight, children falling asleep on their parent's lap, the artist among them inspired to create another painting.
When you're thinking how far we've come, consider the Lions of Chauvet. The cave wasn't discovered until 1994. Skeletal remains of a mammoth, lions, and a number of cave bears, carbon-dated to the same time period, were also found in the cave.
By the way, the photographs of the Lions and the mammoth carving of the woman's head were taken by my friend Miroslav Fišmeister. One day I'd like to show you more of his gorgeous pictures, taken around Brno, Czech Republic.
A couple of interesting sites:

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Formulaic? Same-old, same-old or a comfort read?

I've often heard the term used in a derogatory tone, and to be certain about its  meaning, I looked it up. The best explanation came from .  Ah, a standard set of plots, characters, and so on. Yes, I've read many. I still dislike the word. It's in the same category as "literary." Literary is often used to imply that other styles of writing are somehow lacking in quality or generally unworthy.  Then again, used by genre writers, "literary" may mean plotless. (I've heard it described as self-absorbed and about as exciting as watching paint dry.) We seem to need something or someone to look down upon--one of our less desirable human traits.
Considering the number of books on the market and how many I read, I'm bound to recognize elements of the story. So does that make the book formulaic?  Perhaps, but that doesn’t necessarily cause me to reject it. What allows me to overlook the commonplace, what sets many of them apart, is the writing. If it flows well and the characters are believable and likeable—or at least interesting—I'm halfway there. Sometimes the plot falls apart for me—too many convenient events that don't tie in to the story, as if hurled from the heavens by a capricious diety solely to cause problems. Still, I've read many a good book that others consider formulaic (always described with a little disdain).
How far down into the story do you have to go to decide whether a story is formulaic? Take this as an example: Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, crisis occurs, boy gets girl. There's a formula that's been used more than once, but is it bad? The treatment of the story, the setting, and the characters can make it all seem new—something to read with pleasure and enthusiasm. You could go down another layer and see if there are still tried and true (or tired and overworked) secondary characters and situations. But it can still be fun to read. It depends on the pacing, the way the story unfolds, and how much we care about the characters.
When does it become a formula?
For me, the biggest challenge to my reading pleasure comes in the second phase—boy loses girl. The conflict is often artificial and contrived, but I think it's that old round hole thing—writers are forced to shove and squeeze their oddly shaped stories into that rigid mold. If it's formulaic, who can blame them? How many ways can you create enough conflict to keep apart otherwise sensible people who are attracted to each other? Personally, I'd like to see a little flexibility in that one. A little more credibility and realism would be a welcome change. Shakespeare handled it well, but I like happy endings. How often can a theme be used before it becomes trite? Is frequency the only measure?
In the good sense of the word, formulaic may be just what you're looking--a certain kind of story. Sometimes I'm in the mood for something in particular, and I that's what I look for. There are days when the windswept moors of Wuthering Heights appeal to me, and I want that kind of story. Or I need to laugh and I want something in the vein of One for the Money. A certain amount of predictability is good.
 I'll admit some books are so familiar that I can't remember whether I've read them before. I don't usually finish them. But I find "formulaic" applied to many that seem quite good to me. I'd have to go several layers down to reject a book because it's been done too often. Maybe I just don't have a discerning eye.
Every genre and just as many mainstream and literary stories follow some basic  theme or idea. Does it bother you? Do you see it? Do you look for something totally different? Do you consider many books formulaic?