Media Monday: Covert Affairs

I’m binge-watching the end of Season 4 and am almost ready to start Season 5. CovertAffairsLast season (4) was a bit of a muddle for me and I didn’t watch each episode as it aired. Until episode 10 when I finally figured out who were the good and bad guys and who I should root for. Then when I was engrossed again, our DVR skipped an episode and I couldn’t proceed until I’d seen it. Well, the episode is finally available on Amazon Prime so I watched it and now I’m in the penultimate episode of Season 4.

The hiatus and return gave me some time to reflect on the series and what’s worked and what hasn’t worked for me, both in terms of story and structure.

A quick summary: Annie Walker is a young CIA operative working to keep America safe from threats both at home and abroad.

In the beginning, we followed Annie as she juggled being a spy with having a personal life. She lied to her sister regularly about where she was and what she was doing. Her cover was that she worked for the Smithsonian which allowed for a certain amount of secrecy and traveling.

In Season 4, Annie and her handler/co-worker, Auggie finally acknowledged what everyone else knew: they loved each other as more than friends.

The beginning of the season was too tentative, although that seems like an odd description for a show full of treachery, torture, and turmoil. I rooted for Annie and Auggie but I had hard time connecting with the new characters brought in to up the tension, fellow agent Calder Michaels and possible terrorist/drug kingpin/deep cover agent Teo.

Spoiler alert!!!!

Once Teo died and Calder became “nice,” I had a clearer understanding of where the story was headed and then I became hooked again like I had been at first.

It’s a good lesson for me: Know your characters and be sure the reader knows that you know them.

Every time I get stuck in a story, it comes back to that point: I don’t know the character well enough yet. So I pull out a worksheet or a book and delve deeper and deeper into the character. When I know them as well as I know myself (and quite possible better) then it becomes clear what needs to happen next.

What do you think? Covert Affairs fan? Or just a fan of great characters?

Spotlight Thursday: Amy Patrick

I’m thrilled to share with you the cover of Amy Patrick’s upcoming book and a bit of information about Amy, a fellow 2014 Romance Writers of America® Golden Heart ® finalist.

AmyAmy is a two-time Golden Heart® finalist (2013 and 2014). She lives in Rhode Island with her husband and two sons and actually craves the heat and humidity of Mississippi, where she grew up. She’s been a professional singer and news anchor and currently narrates audio books as well as working as a station host for a Boston TV station.

You can find Amy online at:

About her new release:


Channel 20Something by Amy Patrick
(20Something, #1)
Publication date: August 12th 2014
Genres: Contemporary, New Adult, Romance


22-year-old Heidi Haynes is almost one year into her “real life.” She has her first reporting job and her first apartment, but she’s yet to experience first love. Yes, she’s in a comfortable relationship with her college sweetheart, and according to her friends and family, he’s perfect for her. But for some reason she’s not as eager to talk about walking down the aisle as he is.
And while Heidi’s doing what she wants to do, she’s not where she wants to be. She longs for big cities, big-market breaking news, and real independence from her way-too-close-by helicopter parents. Problem is, the last time she left the security of home for new places and new people, things didn’t go so well. Disastrously, in fact, and she came running back to a local college and a “safe” boyfriend.
Well-traveled Californian Aric Serrano plans to stay in small-market-Southern-Hell just long enough to grab a cup of coffee and put together a kick-ass “escape tape”. He’ll serve his one-year contract, then he’s taking off for a higher rung on the TV sports ladder—alone—the way he likes it. But when he walks into the newsroom and meets Heidi, he may have finally found something and someone worth committing to.
Heidi would be so much more comfortable if she could avoid her new co-worker—he’s just her type—the type she’s so careful to avoid. But that becomes impossible when she and Aric are forced to work together on the weekend news. Now there’s no denying the attraction between them, and she’ll have to decide between settling for the “good enough” life she already has or taking the risk of going for what she dreams of, an exciting career and a real love.


And now … the big reveal … the cover:


Great cover and I love the summary! I can’t wait to get my hands on it, come August.

Thanks, Amy!

Woe! It’s Wednesday: Qualities

I’m purging some old files and found a few things that I’d forgotten about.

graphic_qualities_lgOne page stuck in a manila folder was written for a class in response to a book by Ruth Gendler called The Book of Qualities. Gendler took character traits or qualities and wrote short essays from the point of view of the trait.

The following is from the author’s website:

Excitement wears orange socks.
Despair papered her bathroom walls with newspaper articles about acid rain.
Joy drinks pure water.

The Book of Qualities presents 74 qualities–including Pleasure, Anger, Terror, Beauty, and Change as everyday characters who live among us. Both personal and impersonal, the Qualities convey a variety of human emotions in a simple and entertaining manner; readers are inspired to reflect on their own qualities and communicate their feelings with new clarity.

My assignment was to take a few of the qualities and write my own descriptions. Here are my attempts:


Procrastination is a cautious driver, the kind who turns on his blinker a block and a half before he wants to turn, just to warn everyone behind him that he’s thinking about it. He taps his brakes a few times to get the attention of the following drivers before he actually slows. He rents a room from Indifference. He tried home ownership, but he could never get around to all the upkeep and repairs. He wears faded denim shirts over dingy white tees. He keeps forgetting to buy bleach. No one really likes him; he knows that and is a little embarrassed by it, but it doesn’t keep him away from the family reunion.


Perseverance is a marathon runner. She insists on running even during thunder storms. She sings to herself to keep her mind off her tired legs and aching feet. Perseverance is good friends with Stubbornness and Pigheadedness. People sometimes get them confused, but Perseverance is the pretty one.

I’ve decided I like them both. I feel like I’m in the midst of a marathon and I particularly like the idea that between Stubbornness, Pigheadedness, and Perseverance, Perseverance is the pretty one. I needed to be reminded of that today.

What do you think? How would you describe either Procrastination or Perseverance? Or another of the qualities?

Book Talk Tuesday: Until We Touch

Today, I’m talking about the third in Susan Mallery’s Fool’s Gold 2014 releases, Until We Touch.

book_june2014This is Jack and Larissa’s story and it’s wonderful!

Jack McGarry is one of the newcomers to Fool’s Gold. His PR firm, SCORE, moved to town a few months ago and he’s enjoyed being part of the community and watching his business partners and friends settle in.

Larissa Owen’s is the firm’s massage therapist (three of SCORE’s four partners are retired NFL players) and Jack’s personal assistant.

The previous books have hinted at Larissa’s connection to the emotionally unavailable Jack and I looked forward to seeing how Mallery would work that out.

Larissa loves a rescue and a cause. She’s often called to help find homes for wayward animals and she directs Jack’s charitable causes, especially transplant patients.

Jack suffered a loss years ago and he’s compensated by not allowing anyone to get too close. So how did Larissa get to him and why didn’t he notice until it was too late?

I found Until We Touch particularly satisfying emotionally. I’ve said before that I didn’t care for Mallery’s heroes penchant for running away before they have their epiphany. Jack definitely retreated, but in a way that made sense to me. Then his epiphany and turn around worked. Also, there was less sex in this one, a plus for me, and the first sex scene didn’t happen until at least two/thirds of the way in, and I have to say I liked it. Not just because these books push my steaminess boundary, but I think the increased tension added to the richness of the story.

The town of Fool’s Gold is not quite as much a character as in past books, but we still get a definite taste for the feeling of community. Mayor Marsha is up to her usual tricks. Several new characters are introduced who will likely be the focus of next summer’s books and I can’t wait. I’m especially looking forward to Bailey and Kenny’s story. I can’t wait to see how Kenny will fold and surrender to the inevitability of love in Fool’s Gold, California.

My recommendation: Two thumbs up!


I received a free copy of Until We Met, in return for a honest review.

Media Monday: Tag, you’re it!

Every so often, like a chain letter, blog tour tags come along. When you’re tagged, you follow the instructions, play a while, then tag someone else and pass it along.

header 3Last week I was tagged by the lovely Marnee Bailey. You can read her blog here.

So, I’ve taken the baton. Here’s my post:

What am I working on?

My current Work-in-Progress (WIP) is a contemporary women’s fiction story about a successful radio psychologist who discovers she sacrificed her family for her career on the same day she achieves and loses her dream job.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I write squeaky clean stories about real people in the real world. It’s not that my characters are inherently good, but they do try to make the world a better place. They have sex, they yell at their kids and spouse, they even swear occasionally, but just like I don’t want anyone else spying on me doing those things, I try to let my characters also do those things off the page.


Why do I write what I do?

I write stories that won’t let go of me. I want to know how Ginger, the radio psychologist will put her life back together after it falls apart.

How does your writing process work?

Typically, I write a very rough first draft pretty darn quickly. In a month or six weeks. Then I take several months going over it, rewriting, editing, polishing. I take it to my local critique group a chapter a week, and I send it to several online critique partners, then it finally goes to a friend or my husband for a beta read.

When I’m fast-drafting, I write 3,000 to 5,000 words a day and I do very little else. The dishes, laundry and dust bunnies all attest to that.

Speaking of doing little else, I’ve had a very busy few weeks and I neglected to line up anyone else to tag next. I’m going to go ahead and post this, and then find a friend or two to pass the baton to.

UPDATE: The lovely and talented Victoria Pitts Caine has agreed to step up. Check out her blog next week for a peek inside her writing process.

Woe! It’s Wednesday: Plans, Plots, and Plops

Remember the old visual aid to the lesson about time management where a teacher puts some sand and gravel in a jar and then asks a student to add some larger stones? The stones don’t fit so the teacher empties jar.



(Image from Monica at




This time, she puts the stones in first, then the gravel, then the sand, and finally some water.

The lesson is that if you put in the big things first, there will be room for the smaller things to fill in the gaps.

I’ve been trying to put this in practice in my own life. Get the important things done first because the other stuff will get done anyway. Dishes will get done. Laundry will find its way to the washer then the dryer. I’ll pick up a book and read or catch up on a few rounds of Words With Friends. But if I do those things before tackling my most important task for the day (writing or Bible study), then often I end the day wondering where the time went. I may have played twelve rounds of WWF but not written twelve words on my manuscript.

Lists and goals and prioritizing will only go so far. At some point, you must decide what you’re going to focus on. Actually, I’m talking to “you” but I mean me.

I like my life and I like myself better when I’m working on my goals and feeling productive.

What’s your favorite strategy to increase your effectiveness?

Book Talk Tuesday: A Preview

I’m reading several books right now and have slowed down my pace a bit.

Here’s what I’m reading or about to read, both on my Kindle and from a print book.


Havah by Tosca Lee. A first person, fictional (obviously) narrative about Eve, the original “bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh.” I’m a bit over halfway and enjoying it very much. Tosca Lee is a lovely writer. I’d heard good things about this one and even though it’s not normally something I’d be drawn to, I picked it up on my Kindle. It started a bit slow for me and the prose took some getting used to, but now I’m into the story and looking forward to tonight when I’ll read some more. Even knowing how the story turns out doesn’t dampen my appreciation.

worldWhen Your World Falls Apart by Dr. David Jeremiah. Good and practical for how to journey through the seasons when God shakes up your life and your plans. I’ve loved the chapter on Psalm 121, one of my favorites and one I memorized several years ago.  I lift my eyes to the heavens—where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of Heaven and Earth.


Until We Touch, by Susan Mallery, will round out her summer Fool’s Gold releases. I’m expecting my advance copy of this one any time. It’s probably waiting for me in the mail box right now. I’m looking forward to some more Susan Mallery to read during the hottest summer days.




And finally, I’ve finished an advance copy of Ellen Sussman’s July release, A Wedding in Provence. It’s a lovely story and one I enjoyed. I’ll be sharing my review here very soon.




What are you reading? I’m always looking for new titles to add to my Mount To Be Read stack. 

Media Monday: Today’s the Day

I’m taking today off from blogging. I’ll be on for sure tomorrow and Wednesday.



Next week will be a bit different for Media Monday. I got tagged today by a fellow 2014 Golden Heart® finalist, Marnee Bailey on her blog.

So next week, I’ll blog about my writing process and tag a few other writers.

By the way, if you’re a writer friend and want to be tagged yourself, just let me know!

See you tomorrow.

Woe! It’s Wednesday: The Only Thing to Fear …

Last week I got to enjoy a little vacation away with my daughter and her two daughters. We drove to Carlsbad, California and visited Legoland and the beach and the hotel pool.

At Legoland, I sat on a bench and watched my three-year-old granddaughter run around Duplo Town, AKA Pre-schooler’s Heaven. There were various play “houses,” scattered around the area. A barn. A grocery store. A jail. A fire house. The all had a lower level with some sort of educational game (push buttons to hear animal noises, for example) and an upper level reached via stairs and with a slide to return to ground level.

Grand-daughter loved the whole area, but she refused to use any of the slides. I had to hold her hand while she came downstairs, a little salmon coming downstream against all the other kids eager to get to the top and ride the slide down.

poleThe firehouse playhouse had a pole the kids could grasp and slide down. The drop was only a few feet and parents were always nearby to help if the descent didn’t go as planned. With her refusal to even slide, I knew there was no worry my Precious Girl would attempt the pole.

A young man about seven or eight years old did though. He grabbed the pole in the classic grip, one leg curled around the cylinder, the other leg still safely on the solid floor.

“Come on,” his mother urged. “You came down it twice already.”

“I can’t,” he wailed.

Mom rolled her eyes. “Just come on, we’re going to eat lunch.”

At this point, I was needed to help someone down the stairs, so I moved away. A minute later, I returned in time to see the young man in tears leaving the area with his mother. “I can’t believe you wouldn’t just ride the pole,” she said.

He gripped both his arms. “I hate my fear of heights!”

Mom sighed. “You don’t have a fear of heights, Silas. You’ve done it before. You just didn’t want to do it this time.”

Then they were gone.



Then it occurred to me.

I tend to think of myself as a fearful person.

But for a fraidy cat, I’ve done some pretty brave things.



  • ridden a bike down a mountain
  • ziplined
  • snorkeled in the middle of the ocean
  • scuba dived
  • driven a Segway around a major city’s downtown area
  • ridden a horse
  • seen a two-headed rattlesnake
  • shot and reloaded my own gun
  • written several novels
  • driven alone into really, really bad areas
  • ridden BART at midnight in San Francisco
  • lost a parent

For almost all of those, I was scared spitless.

But I did them.

And I survived.

So I guess it’s not the fear that stops me from doing/attempting scary things.

I do them anyway. In spite of the fear.

I believe one of these days both that young man clutching the pole and my grand-daughter will figure out how to stop letting their fears keep them from enjoying the trip down the slide or the pole.

Book Talk Tuesday: Stitches

I got a copy of Anne Lamott’s newest, Stiches, several months ago and set it aside for a quiet day when I could savor it.

Fast forward to yesterday.

Not a quiet day, but I decided I was tired of waiting to enjoy that I may never get around to and if I was serious about reading it, I needed to make it happen.


Like the previous book in this sort-of-a-series (Help Thanks Wow), Stitches can be read quickly or it can be savored a few pages at a time.

Lamott’s prose is beautiful, the words never get in the way of the point. She writes with humor and honesty.

Stitches was written in the weeks around the Sandy Hook School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. Lamott’s outrage at children being shot comes through and I share it.

But the larger message is how do we get through tough times? Heart-breaking times? How do we help a friend with a dire prognosis? What about when it’s our own problem, our diagnosis?

The short answer is we band together. We ask for help. We fetch water for a thirsty friend. We duck our heads, hold hands, and breathe.