Great Expectations…for 2018

2017 proved to be a busy writing year. Adrift launched in the first month of the year and I polished Beached in preparation for a 2018 launch. On the short story front, I added two anthologies to my publishing credits with a story in both Busted: Arresting Stories from the Beat, and Happy Homicides 6: Cookin’ Up Crime. I was the featured guest on thirteen blogs, recorded a radio show, participated on panels at two writers conferences, taught three writers workshops, and generally had a ball.

All well and good, but the calendar has already flipped 17 pages into 2018 and here is what you can expect from me this year.

  • Beached the second Mer Cavallo Mystery (which launched last week)
  • A revamped website
  • Special, exclusive content for my newsletter subscribers (have you signed up?)
  • Continuing education
  • Several presentations, readings, and workshops (check out my Events page for updates)
  • Finish the draft of my current work in progress (a police procedural)
  • Outline Chum, the third Mer Cavallo Mystery

Ambitious? Maybe, but it keeps me focused. The day after Beached launched, I had a reader ask me when the next Mer Cavallo Mystery would be out. That question put a huge smile on my face.

Best wishes for a happy, healthy, and fulfilling new year. What do you want to accomplish in 2018?

 

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BEACHED Launches Today!

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There is no greater honor for a writer than to have readers who come back for more, and I am thrilled to announce Beached, the second Mer Cavallo Mystery, is available today!

Grab your book and dive into a new adventure with Mer, the crew of the Aquarius Dive Shop, and assorted miscreants of Key Largo.

When you come up for air, you can see what I’ve been up to this week as I hop around the Internet doing my best to spread the good news!

“BEACHED is a non-stop mystery thrill ride…” These words from The Big Thrill — the magazine for the International Thrill Writers started my year off with a bang!

I discuss short story writing (and my most embarrassing typo) at “Cozy in Miami.” I talk villainy at “The Writing Train.” I offer insight into what I hoped to accomplish in the opening of Beached in my essay at “The First Two Pages.”

On Friday, you can find me on Lori Robinett’s blog, and then on Saturday, Mer will be speaking for herself at Dru’s Book Musing “A Day in the Keys with Dr. Mer Cavallo.”

Exciting times!

Thank you for your continued support. I am grateful.

One-Line Wednesday! CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

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I love celebrations. They don’t have to be big events–I’ve found celebrating life’s little joys to be every bit as satisfying as celebrating the milestones. Not every event is champagne-worthy, although in the interest of full disclosure, I’ve popped the cork just because it’s Tuesday. The fact that it was Tuesday and I had champagne was reason enough to add some dark chocolate.

I can be relentlessly optimistic at times.

This will seem like a non sequitur, but bear with me. As a writer, I have to find ways to make my characters uncomfortable.

Mer Cavallo is the kind of woman who would much rather pull on a wetsuit than a business suit. I get it. In the Keys, getting dressed up means donning a new pair of flip flops. Maybe a skort. Formal attire requires a woman to wear a sundress and the guys to forgo their cargo shorts.

So what do I do? I send Mer to a gala.

Let that sink in. Mer, in a gown. And heels! Oh, but I’m not through! To make matters worse, she doesn’t have an invitation to this thousand-dollar-a-plate soirée. What she does have, however, is a driving need to talk to the keynote speaker.

I, on the other hand, have it a lot easier at the moment. I can still wear my flip flops (although the current Polar Express is testing my fortitude with temps dipping into the 30s) and I have a bottle of champagne chilling in the fridge. Next Wednesday I plan on popping that very same bottle. After all, if Tuesday deserves champagne, it follows that Wednesday should too. Plus, it’s launch day for Beached and honestly, this second reason leaves me downright giddy.

So please grab a glass and join me. Celebrations are even better when they are shared with friends!

Chapter 17 ~
The museum exhibit hall sparkled; with jewels, with crystal, with thousands of white lights winding like stars high above the heads of the hundreds glammed up for the festivities.

 

Beached launches January 10, 2018. Reserve your copy today!
Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, and KoboPaperback edition available soon.

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One-Line Wednesday! CHAPTER SIXTEEN

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Fans of Adrift will be familiar with the Bilge. Even paradise needs a dive bar,
and I created the Bilge. It’s the kind of place where a person drinks shots. Lots of them. Don’t order a Chardonnay, it ain’t that kind of joint. But a lot happens at the Bilge. Some of it even makes the newspapers.

But I have to confess, Mer’s return to the Bilge was my favorite scene to write in Beached. It was one of those writing days when the words flowed onto the page. I created a new character who not only walked into the bar, but absolutely owned the place. The characters’ dialogue sparkled. Writing this scene was flat-out fun!

See, here’s the deal. Writers agonize over the words they memorialize on the page. Are they the right ones? Do they convey the proper mood? We get suspicious when the words flow—especially if the tumble forth carefree and wild. If they survive the revision, we begin to wonder what we can do to replicate the experience. After all, if it worked once, surely we can summon the Muse a second time.

The sad thing is, Muses are fickle. They enjoy novelty. They work on their own time. They also tend to choose authors who are already hard at work to drop in on and chat.

The beauty of writing, however, is that the reader can’t tell the difference between the words that just flowed onto the page and the ones the writer fussed and fretted over. It’s enough to drive you to drink.

And I know just where to go!

Chapter 16~
The Bilge occupied waterfront property, but no one would ever mistake it for a romantic rendezvous.

 

There is only one more One-Line Wednesday before Beached launches on January 10th!  The countdown is on!

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One-Line Wednesday! CHAPTER FIFTEEN

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Mer’s relationship with the Church is complicated. She’s a scientist. She deals with facts. Data makes her happy. Adhering to the scientific method makes her downright giddy.

Religion, on the other hand, isn’t made up of data points. It requires faith.
Mer’s difficulty with faith stems from a childhood incident. She drowned. For seventeen minutes she was considered dead. She never saw a light, never heard voices. No one came to greet her. She’d been to the other side and as she explained, “There’s nothing there.”

Mer approaches religion as an academic. She doesn’t begrudge anyone their beliefs, but her experience makes it difficult to embrace the concept of everlasting life.

In Beached, there is a character who draws strength from his religion. The Church is his refuge, and when Mer seeks his counsel, she finds him at the St. Justin Martyr Catholic Church, rosary in hand. The beauty of the nave steals her breath.

As we approach the winter holidays, it is important to remember that the world is full of people with different beliefs, different experiences than our own. A comparative religion course I took while obtaining my Medieval Studies degree illustrated that there are far more commonalities than differences between religions.

Curiosity is a wonderful trait. Open minds often discover amazing things.

As a writer, I (mostly) chose my words carefully. Pensive is a word I return to frequently. It implies a deep and personal reflection or contemplation. It seems appropriate for this time of year.

Whether you celebrate the Festival of Lights, the birth of a Savior, a new year, or simply waking up in the morning, remember to be kind, be grateful and be safe.

Merry Christmas from Mer, the crew, and me. May whatever you celebrate be joyous.

Chapter 15 ~

The conversation with Oscar left her pensive.

 

Beached launches January 10, 2018. Reserve your copy today!
Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, and KoboPaperback edition available soon.

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One-Line Wednesday! CHAPTER FOURTEEN

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I tend to write short sentences. When the action heats up, my sentences get even shorter. Fragmented. It is a device authors use to control pacing.

Even my opening lines skew short. I’ve already shared one chapter that opened with a single word.

Authors strive to anchor new chapters with information that orients readers. How much time has passed since the end of the previous chapter? Where are we? Can we hint at the character’s well-being or mood? Is there a way to foreshadow how the chapter is going to play out? Not all of this is accomplished in the first line, of course. But the first few paragraphs must establish the new setting or the author risks disorienting her readers—which pops them right out of the storyworld you want them to enjoy.

Not good.

Occasionally I write a longer line. I enjoy long lines (when I don’t have to stand in them). They serve a purpose that is often overlooked. Cadence.

Long sentences provide opportunities for authors to meander as they full explore a thought or exploit the lyricism of an emotion. Complex sentences slow the narrative. Punctuation makes us pause, encourages us to take a breath, contemplate a description, and truly enjoy the words on the page.

Each sentence length offers benefits and pitfalls. Too many short sentences and the prose becomes choppy. Too many complex sentences can bog down the narrative. Variety spices more than life. It adds zest to our prose as well.

Plus sometimes it’s fun to cut loose and let the words flow.

Chapter 14 ~
Mer woke up the next morning tired, sore, and hungry—a grumpy trifecta that could only be remedied by an all-you-can-eat buffet, a deep tissue massage by a woman named Helga, and going back to bed—none of which figured into her plans for the day.

 

Beached launches January 10, 2018. Reserve your copy today!
Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, and KoboPaperback edition available soon.

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One-Line Wednesday! CHAPTER THIRTEEN

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Let’s talk gear.

I once heard that the two happiest moments for boat enthusiasts occurred on the day they purchased their boat and the day they sold it. Of course, I’ve heard that about horses, too. Come to think of it, most sports require a fairly hefty outlay of cash when you decide to commit to it. Ever gone skiing? I rest my case.

Scuba diving also requires a fair amount of gear. Makes sense considering a person is immersing themselves in an environment where they are ill-equipped to survive for more than a few minutes. And unless humanity sprouts gills, I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

Air is something we take for granted until it isn’t available. Hat tip to Messieurs Émile Gagnan and Jacques-Yves Cousteau for developing an open-circuit-demand system in 1943. (The term self-contained breathing apparatus—SCUBA—was coined in 1952.) This was a big deal. Not only could divers carry their own air (or other blended gases), but they had a way to convert the compressed air to the ambient pressure through a regulator so the diver could actually access that air underwater. Add a buoyancy compensator vest and a timing device and the basic underwater necessities were covered.

Now lets talk about all the other stuff. Dive accessories make diving enjoyable, and a person can lay down some serious scratch procuring them. Want to see? You need a mask. Want to explore? You guessed it; fins. Modern dive computers make calculating bottom time, no-decompression times, and surface intervals a snap—but convenience is costly.

For the fashion conscious among us, there are a host of color and design options in Micki Browning with her bright red SCUBA tankjust about every category. Camouflage wetsuit? Bright red tank? They’re out there. Then there’s the gear needed for specialized diving; dive lights, knives, slates, reels, lift bags, flags, stage bottle, surface signaling devices, surface marker buoys, tickle sticks for lobstering, catch bags, and cameras (inclusive of waterproof housing, flashes, etc.), diver propulsion vehicles, the list goes on.

Topside, things get easier—unless you’re a scientist. Professionals like Mer have even more gear. As a researcher she would need items related to her field of study (most of the equipment would be owned by the research facility not her as an individual diver). In her role as instructor, she would carry things to ensure her student’s safety.

Mer explores the realm of nautical archeology in Beached. She gets to play with some state-of-the-art underwater equipment specific to her new task. In fact, today’s quote hints at the introduction of a new and significant character who teaches her how to use it.

As for a boat? Maybe if I land on Santa’s nauti list enough times he’ll just give me one.

Chapter 13 ~
At one o’clock, five people in University of Miami t-shirts arrived at the dock, carrying their gear in brightly colored mesh bags.

 

Beached launches January 10, 2018. Reserve your copy today!
Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, and KoboPaperback available soon!

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One-Line Wednesdays! CHAPTER TWELVE

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Expectations. We all have them. I’m a relentless optimist, so on a daily basis, my expectations look something like this:

I awaken to birdsong and bound from bed, energized for the impending day. I eat a healthy breakfast and go for a run. After a shower, I sit down at my computer. Reviewing the prior day’s work, I’m pleased to discover there are no errors or revisions needed. I craft 4,000 new words, glance at the clock, and realize it’s time for lunch.

After a fortifying repast, I turn to the business of writing. I spend a mere thirty minutes reaching out to friends and family on social media—not once getting distracted by cute kitten gifs or scuba memes. I’ll write my next blog post (early!), update my expense sheet (why wait for tax season?), and remember to drink my eight glasses of water (evenly spaced throughout the day).

My housekeeper (when did I get a housekeeper?) has the house shipshape, so business complete, I spend the next few hours enjoying a book from my to-read pile.

Winding down for the evening, I’ll chill some wine, prep a delightful dinner to share with my husband, and binge-watch the last season of Game of Thrones (before it is released to the masses).

Ah, expectations.

Mer is less optimistic but more organized than I am. Making lists helps her clarify her thoughts. I haven’t seen her do it yet, but I bet she can build a mean spreadsheet.  As an academic, Mer craves structure. She’s meticulous with detail and always has a plan.

Life scoffs at us both.

Chapter 12 ~
Ten o’clock in the morning, and already her day wasn’t turning out as planned.

 

 

Beached launches January 10, 2018. Reserve your copy today!
Amazon, Apple, and KoboPaperback available soon!

 

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One-Line Wednesday! THANKSGIVING EDITION

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Happy Thanksgiving!

To all my friends and family ~ may your holiday be warm, your leftovers plentiful, and your travels safe.

 

photo courtesy of Dan Bender

 

As a bit of a thank you, I’d like to share the first two chapters of Beached–because apparently some of you (I’m looking at you, JT) think a sentence at a time is just plain stingy.

Enjoy!

Beached Thanksgiving Preview

 

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One-Line Wednesday! CHAPTER ELEVEN

When I first began writing, I wrote with the carefree abandon of a woman who didn’t know what she was doing. Sure, I knew how to string words together, but I didn’t understand how to structure a story. Instead, I was convinced that my first manuscript was a brilliant opus that should have been snapped up by the very first agent to set her eyes on it. So confident was I that I wrote the next book in the series to have on deck in anticipation of the 12-book deal that was surely awaiting me.

Then a funny thing happened. The second book was light years better than the first—and I had to come to grips with the fact that my first shiny opus lacked brilliance. The second was a bit dull, too.

The truth was a blow—but it was the best thing that could have happened to me. I’ve never been too enthused about being a beginner—at anything. Truth is, if I could wave my magic wand and instantly master the task, I’d be swishing that stick and spouting Latin. (And for the record, yes, I have a replica of Hermione Granger’s vine wood wand) Sadly, it’s never worked. Maybe it’s my accent.

So I did the next best thing. I asked for help.

I joined Sisters In Crime. I read books on how to improve my writing. I attended writers conferences, paid attention, asked questions. I practiced new skills. I learned. But it was the many men and women who held out their hands and helped me navigate the publishing labyrinth that made the largest impression on me. Writers tend to be very generous with both their time and their knowledge and I soaked it in.

Then I wrote Adrift.

The story garnered awards. I signed with an agent. She sold the story to Random House. I wasn’t a rank amateur anymore. Now I find myself answering other writers’ questions. It is humbling — especially since I’ve got more to master.

Now I’m happy to present Beached, the second Mer Cavallo Mystery.

Mer suffers from beginneritis as well. She is driven, intelligent, and very good at her profession.

But, that’s not always enough…

Chapter 11~

“I need your help,” Mer said.

 

Beached launches on January 10, 2018. It is available for preorder at Amazon and Kobo. Other retailers will be available soon!

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