An entrepreneur at heart, my father owned and operated more than a dozen small businesses in his lifetime, two or three at a time. Since he liked spending money and always needed more, he also sold cars for various dealerships in Heber, Utah, where he lived. He was a terrific saleman. He won national prizes for his record in sales—gold pins, cookware, trips to Las Vegas.

Unfortunately I didn’t inherit my old man’s greatest sales asset, the ability to connect with all kinds of people and a personality that immediately put them at ease. I’m more of an introvert. When I decided to become a writer, I imagined a life cloistered in my office, creating stories and novels, emerging to give the occasional reading. Someone else would persuade readers to buy my books. But life didn’t work out that way. As the independent publisher of my books, I have the entire responsibility for marketing them.

Although not a natural like Dad, I learned a few things from watching him sell cars.

Believe in your product

When Dad sold Fords, they were the best automobiles on the market. Nothing beat a Mustang for speed and handling. Then he went to work at the General Motors dealership. Suddenly their vehicles became superior. I teased him about changing his opinion from one day to the next. But he stuck doggedly to his position: you couldn’t beat a Cadillac for luxury and comfort or a GM truck for power and reliability.

Ultimately authors have to believe in their work; otherwise they wouldn’t create. But even great writers harbor doubts about the value of their writing. Franz Kafka wanted his manuscripts destroyed after his death. I’m not that depressive, but then I’m no genius either. I revise incessantly and agonize over sentences.  Doubt is useful when it drives me to improve my writing, but I have to put it aside when I market my book. If I don’t believe in the book, neither will anyone else.

Never stop selling

Dad talked to everyone he met about cars—good friends, casual acquaintances, and strangers. If they showed the least interest in buying one, he had a deal for them. I’m sure he got rebuffed plenty of times, but he made a lot of sales, too.

That kind of persistence is hard for me. Rejection hurts. I have to remind myself not to take it to heart, to seek out opportunities and jump on each one.

Rise above disaster

I was amazed at Dad’s unflappability when he was selling. Once, a customer took a test drive in a used car—emphasis on used—and as he pulled back on the lot, the radiator hose burst. Dad opened the hood and quickly stepped back to avoid the spout of water. So much for that sale, I thought. But Dad led the customer into his office. They talked awhile, and then the guy came out and left. Dad emerged a few minutes later.

“Too bad about the hose,” I said.

“Oh, he bought the car,” Dad said. “I was just writing up the sale.”

“He didn’t care?”

“Car’s fine except for the hose,” Dad said. “We’re putting in a new one.”

The first edition of Talion was pretty much a bust—ineffective cover, insufficient copy editing, formatting mistakes. When I realized how completely I’d screwed up, I wanted to crawl beneath my bedcovers and hide. But I didn’t (not for long, anyway). As I learned from Dad, mistakes are fixable, and you don’t fail until you stop trying.

(This has all the earmarks of a Father’s Day post, but I don’t feel like waiting until June.)

I’ve been tagged by Lania Knight for The Next Big Thing blog hop. Jump over to Lania’s blog and read about her coming-of-age novella, Three Cubic Feet. Then come on back to read about my work in progress.

What is the working title of your book?

Right now it’s Daemon Seer.

It’s the sequel to my paranormal thriller Talion. Lu Jakes, the protagonist, sees spirits invisible to most other people. The most powerful one calls himself Talion. In the first novel the spirits are sometimes helpful and other times sinister. In the sequel their nature becomes clearer.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

I wanted  to pick up on the lives of Lu and her friend Lisa ten years after their abduction by serial killer Rad Sanders. Both continue to suffer the aftereffects of that traumatic event.

What genre does the book fall under?

It’s another paranormal thriller. It might be categorized as urban fantasy since the supernatural is more prominent and the story has an urban setting and romantic elements missing from TALION.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie version of your book?

Lu: Ellen Page

Lisa: Lindsay Lohan (although she would have to be uglified since Rad destroyed Lisa’s face and plastic surgery failed to restore its beauty).

Ron: Jesse Eisenburg

Galen: Christopher Egan

Grifford Riley a.k.a. Psycho Cop: Ben Foster or Jeffrey Dean Morgan. It has to be somebody scary.

Talion: Orlando Bloom, maybe (transformed by CGI).

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Two friends find love and help each other survive.

Is your book self-published, published by an independent publisher, or represented by an agent?

I don’t know yet since I’m still writing, but I published Talion myself.

How long did it take to write the first draft of your manuscript?

I haven’t finished the first draft yet. At the rate I’m going, it should take a few more months. I’m writing much faster now that I have no teaching job.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I don’t know. Reviewers have compared Talion to the works of Thomas Harris, Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and even Henry James. Although I’ve read and enjoyed books by all of those authors, I didn’t set out to imitate any of them. So I’ll let readers decide about Daemon Seer.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I was encouraged by readers who wanted a sequel to Talion. And after I finished writing that novel, I continued to think about the characters and imagine what turns their lives might take.

What else about your book might pique a reader’s interest?

Like Talion, Daemon Seer takes place mostly in Utah—Salt Lake City, Park City, and the surrounding mountains. The setting and landscape are integral to the story.

I’m supposed to end by posting links to bloggers who will present their Next Best Thing a week from today. Although I know quite a few bloggers and made requests, everyone had either participated already or had no interest. What can I say? No branch keeps growing forever. It seems this particular twig has produced its final leaf.

Still, if you have a blog and you’re working on a book or have recently published one , I would be glad to tag you belatedly. Anyone?

Photos of Page and Egan from Fan Pop. Salt Lake at night from Fotolia.

I’m thrilled and proud to announce that Talion has been listed on  Awesome Indies. Established and administered by Australian author Tahlia Newland, the site accepts only independently published books vetted by a reliable reviewer or industry professional. Newland began Awesome Indies out of frustration with the wildly uneven quality of Indie books. As she frankly puts it, “Some are fantastic, and some are crap.” She notes that reviewers on sites like Amazon often cannot recognize good writing and so their opinions cannot be trusted. She lays out in detail the criteria for inclusion on the site. Her standards are high but not unreasonable: she expects competence and looks for excellence.

I love the democracy of Indie publishing. Anyone with a computer and a few bucks can bring his or her book to market. The downside is that quite a few people publish awful books and critics of self-publishing point to them as examples of the shoddiness of  Indie books in general.

Whatever the faults of traditional publishers, they act as gatekeepers. They publish plenty of mediocre books, but even the worst are edited.  You can count on traditionally published books to be at least coherent (well, most of the time). You might encounter a few typos—but not dozens. You won’t see the frequent clumsy sentences, misspelled and misused words, and grammatical errors too often found in Indie books.  Sites like Awesome Indies give readers a way to discover worthy books that might otherwise be lost in the ocean of dreck.

Please check out the great reads at Awesome Indies and take a moment to click the Like button on their Facebook page.

More news

Talion gets a great review from writer Letitia Moffitt at Paper Darts. Two other noteworthy novels, Lania Knight’s Three Cubic Feet and Jeff Kohmstedt’s The Fifth Kraut are also featured.


The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what Fiction means.” — Oscar Wilde

My husband, the always perceptive Joe Heumann, recently pointed to an alarming pattern in my TV obsessions. The shows that hook me have disturbing elements in common. Crime and violence. Lots and lots of violence. A lead character who is a conflicted sociopath—Dexter, Jax Teller in Sons of Anarchy, or any of a dozen characters in The Wire. And now Walter White , the high-school chemistry teacher who starts cooking meth to pay for his cancer treatments in the AMC series Breaking Bad.

A Midlife Career Change

Family Guys Get No RespectWalter (Brian Cranston) is a talented scientist who—for personal reasons that remain shrouded—turned his back on a lucrative career as a researcher  and became a high-school teacher. In the first episode, he’s so underpaid he works part-time at a car wash, where one of his smartass students takes a picture of him wiping tires, a shot that will no doubt pop up on two or three hundred adolescent cell phones. What unbearable humiliation. Yet Walter bears it.

Then he’s diagnosed with lung cancer. The medical bills will wipe out the family’s meager savings. No college for Junior. A diminished future for the daughter soon to be born. During a ridealong with his DEA brother-in-law, Walter sees the piles of cash confiscated from a busted meth lab and wakes up to the unvarnished truth about life.

Nice Guys Finish Last

Walter is done being a nice guy. He teams up with a former student (Aaron Paul) and begins his transformation into master meth cook Heisenberg. By the end of the first episode he’s already snuffed a guy. True, the guy is going to kill him, so he doesn’t have much choice. With this initial killing Walter takes the first step onto a long and very slippery slope. By the middle of season two, he’s responsible—directly or indirectly—for the deaths of quite a few people. Hundreds if you count the midair plane collision caused by the grieving air-traffic controller father of Jesse’s girlfriend, whose life Walter could have saved. He watches as she chokes to death on her own vomit. The bitch is just too snotty and inconvenient.

Near the end of season three, Walter casually plugs a bullet into the head of a man lying wounded in the street.

Fragments of the old Walter remain. At one point he gives up cooking to keep his wife from divorcing him. But it’s too late to go back. When he sees it won’t work, he signs the divorce papers and accepts a three-million-dollar offer to cook for a drug kingpin, whom he eventually assassinates.

There’s Something about Walter

I love the way he keeps calling Walter "Mr White"I can’t help liking this renegade high-school teacher. He doesn’t have Dexter’s animal magnetism or Jax’s slinky sexiness. He has the face of a guy who should have started using sunscreen decades ago. If he’s going parade around in his underwear, he needs to take up Pilates or weight-lifting. For viewers who want sexy, there’s his partner, Jesse, played by Aaron Paul. But Cranston brings such compelling and charismatic energy to the role that I have to get behind Walter. I hope he resists the urge to destroy himself. I hope he crushes his enemies, ends up with piles and piles of cash, and enjoys a quiet retirement, his cancer in remission. One evening he’ll be eating dinner at a posh restaurant where the jerk who snapped his picture at the carwash now works as a busboy. Walter could give him a hard time, even kill him. But why bother? Stepping on the little jerk would mean getting shit on his shoe.

Yet I know the story won’t end like that. Nice guys might finish last, but bad guys don’t escape retribution. One way or another, Walter has to go down in flames.


Photos from FanPop



Christine Conder is the winner of the drawing for the $30 Amazon gift certificate. Thank you to all who signed up for my newsletter. I promise not to visit your mailbox too often.

Don’t miss Rachelle Ayala’s latest book, Hidden Under her Heart (A Story of Abortion and Courage), available for a short time at the introductory price of $0.99.

About the novel

Maryanne Torres is a compassionate nurse who fails at relationships. After a string of losers, she swears off premarital sex, hoping to land a marrying type of man.

Lucas Knight, a law-school dropout, moves to California to train for the Ironman Triathlon. He’s smart, sweet, and everything Maryanne wants in a man, but their relationship suffers from his dedication to the sport. Seeking consolation in the arms of a handsome preacher’s son, Maryanne attends a church party where she is raped.

Maryanne is pregnant from the rape and plans to abort. But the identity of her rapist is hidden in her baby’s DNA. Lucas asks Maryanne to seek alternatives and pledges to support her through the pregnancy. When Lucas becomes the prime suspect, Maryanne must clear his name and make a life-changing decision.

The rapist has other ideas. In order to destroy the evidence, he offers Maryanne an illegal offshore abortion. With Maryanne’s life in danger, Lucas races to save her and her baby. However, Maryanne hides a secret that threatens to tear them apart forever.

From the author

Hidden Under Her Heart is an emotional and hard-hitting story about a young woman facing a heart-wrenching decision. We’ve heard the rhetoric, maybe even argued over the issue of abortion and rape. But behind the debates are real people—women and men with real problems and feelings. My story is not meant to be preachy, but compassionate, especially for post-abortive parents seeking closure. I think people on both sides of the fence will find meaning in the changes that both Maryanne and Lucas go through. Ultimately, it is an uplifting story, and my hope is that it will be a help to you.

About the author

I am the author of three novels: Michal’s Window, a historical romance between King David and his first wife, the princess Michal, Broken Build, a romantic suspense thriller set in a Silicon Valley startup, and Hidden Under Her Heart, a story about a nurse wrestling with her decision to abort. My stories tend to be dramatic and emotional, crossing genres and cultures. I like to dive deep and live through my characters’ eyes. Each of them are passionate but flawed women paired with conflicted men with good hearts. I hope you enjoy the emotional journey I take you on. I love to hear from readers. Please contact me on Facebook or my blog.

Many writers, when asked why they write, answer that they must. They feel compelled by some inner need. I am one of these writers, yet I wonder if compulsion is a good enough reason. It explains all kinds of behaviors, some of them unsavory. After all, addicts take drugs because they must. Obsessions are irrational and inconvenient. If writers feel compelled to write, okay, but when they seek publication, they’re implicating readers in their obsession. Why? If they write to satisfy some inner need, why should they look for an audience?

The Czech writer Milan Kundera has an unflattering name for compulsive writers: graphomaniacs. Kundera defines graphomania as “the mania not to create a form but to impose one’s self upon others” (The Art of the Novel). He implies that such writers have nothing of value to offer, and within the context of his argument, maybe they don’t. Very few novels contribute anything new to the art of the novel, and his pessimistic observations about literature and mass culture seem scarily accurate:

The spirit of our time is firmly focused on a present that is so expansive and profuse that it shoves the past off our horizon and reduces time to the present moment only. Within this system the novel is no longer a work (a thing made to last, to connect the past with the future) but one current event among many, a gesture with no tomorrow.

Kundera made this observation in the 1980’s, but if anything the Internet has made our present more “expansive and profuse” than ever, and it does seem as though books are published today and gone next month. If writers want fame and a mass readership, it has to be now. But I’m not convinced those are the goals of most writers. Nor can I accept the motive he attributes to those of us who are storytellers rather than ambitious formalists.

It’s not some “grotesque . . . will to power” that motivates me. I practice my art—and yes, create a form, even though it’s not innovative—so I can touch and entertain and connect with readers. Not dominate them. The need for connection is just as strong in human beings as the need for domination. I haven’t got any new stories to tell—there are none—only my individual voice, imagination, and way of seeing the world, whatever they’re worth. And I do want to share them, with one reader or a thousand.

My writing might be “a gesture with no tomorrow,” but it’s here today, for anyone who wants to read.

Note: I wrote this brief essay a few years ago as a guest post for Thoughts in Progress. Since the topic is still relevant, I’m giving it an encore here.


I was half asleep when my husband put on one of my favorite CDs, Nude and Rude: The Best of Iggy Pop. You might figure the aural assault of “Search and Destroy” or the pounding beat of “Lust for Life” would wake me up, but I drowsed through both songs. It was Iggy’s haunting and poetic “The Passenger” that brought me to life.

Here let me explain that I’m one of those annoying people who play the same song over and over and over until you want to grab a baseball bat and pound their music-playing equipment into rubble. (Anyone who roomed near me in college, please accept my belated apology.) This mental disorder has somewhat abated now that I’m old, but “The Passenger” is a song I used to play 28 times in a row. I feel a deep psychic connection to this dark song about riding without end through the city at night.

The first stanza goes:

I am the passenger

And I ride and I ride

I ride through the city’s backside

I see the stars come out of the sky

Yeah, they’re bright in a hollow sky

You know it looks so good tonight

I am the passenger

I stay under glass

I look through my window so bright

I see the stars come out tonight

I see the bright and hollow sky

Over the city’s a rip in the sky

And everything looks good tonight

You don’t know who’s driving the passenger’s car.” A chauffeur? Anyway, the passenger seems unworried about being taken where he doesn’t want to go. Nor is he concerned about danger. “The city’s ripped backside” suggests the bad side of town—vacant buildings, broken windows, vacant and broken people. But he isn’t brushing against any of this damage. He remains “under glass” like something rare and protected, safe behind his window.

“The Passenger” has three stanzas. In the first one the singer is the passenger, but in the second he invites listeners to come along for the ride. “Get in the car,” he says. “We’ll be the passenger.” And in the third stanza the passenger becomes a third-person entity. He has morphed from a person to a way of being in the world.

Under glass, looking through his “window’s eye,” the passenger is the center of the universe. Nothing touches him, and everything he looks upon is his. He says, “All of it was made for you and me. / Come take a ride and see what’s mine.” The purpose of the ride is to see, and in the act of seeing, to possess—not just the city but “the bright and hollow sky” and all the stars in it.

The world belongs to him entirely.

But his ownership comes with a curse. He can see but not touch. If he leaves the car and steps out in the world, it no longer belongs to him. Whatever he touches will touch him right back. No control. No protection from pain or damage. The passenger has to keep moving and stay encapsulated. The song is haunting because nothing belongs to him really. Everything happens in his head, and that’s enough. The music will carry him anywhere he wants to go. He moves through the world like a ghost.

The endlessness of his ride is expressed in the obsessive rhythm of the music and the repetition of the same imagery with slight permutations from stanza to stanza. The passenger “rides and rides and rides” and goes nowhere. These qualities make the song a perfect choice for playing over and over. And my emotional response is simple: Take me for that ride.

It’s easy to look at Iggy Pop’s career and stage persona and conclude “The Passenger” is about heroin, which is both obvious and beside the point. I listen to the song and feel the perilous allure of disengaging from the world. And I don’t have to shoot smack to disengage. I can go crazy or join a bizarre cult or spend every waking hour surfing the Web — or just refuse to wake up in the morning.

When “The Passenger” played, I rolled out of bed and danced until the music ended. Then I sat down to write.

Photo from

I had fun doing the character interview of Talion‘s heroine, Lu, for  Stacy Eaton’s blog at World Literary Cafe, so I came up with another one. Right now I’m in the middle of writing the sequel to Talion, so the characters remain very much alive in my head.

Hank and Debbie Darlington own a small, upscale resort in the mountains of Utah. The hard work of running the business keeps them so busy they can avoid facing the serious problems in their marriage. They also fail to notice as a serial killer closes his net around their niece, Lisa, who is there for a summer visit.

I imagined what might happen if Hank and Debbie went for marriage counseling. This interview with their marriage counselor takes place a few years before the events in Talion.

COUNSELOR:  It says here in your file you were referred by Dr. Messenger at the fertility clinic.

DEBBIE:  Yes. I—we—we’re having some problems talking to one another.

COUNSELOR:  All right. Why don’t we start by having each of you tell the other what you’re feeling? Hank, would you please tell Debbie what you’re feeling right now.

HANK:  I feel like having a beer. Quit giving me that look, Debs. It was a joke.

COUNSELOR:  Sometimes people make jokes to cover up their nervousness. Are you feeling anxious about this session?

HANK:  No. Should I?

COUNSELOR:  Not at all, Hank. We’re here to communicate with each other. Honest communication will help you feel less anxious.

HANK:  I’m not anxious. I just don’t want to be here.

DEBBIE:  Hank, you promised.

HANK:  Why don’t you ask her? This was her idea.

COUNSELOR:  What was her idea? Starting a family?

HANK:  You don’t need kids to be a family.

COUNSELOR: Debbie’s in the middle of treatment for infertility. And you’re saying you don’t want children?

HANK:  I told her that from the start, before we got married. I don’t want kids. I’m not cut out to be a father.

DEBBIE:  That’s not what you told me. You said you weren’t ready for children. We talked about how people change, and you admitted you had no idea what you’d want in twenty years.

HANK:  I knew I didn’t want kids—then, now, or ever. But you kept grinding.

DEBBIE:  That’s not fair. You wouldn’t discuss it at all unless I kept after you. It’s the same with everything. Your tactic is to avoid talking until I just give up.

HANK:  And yours is to keep grinding until I just give in. I don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of winning an argument with you.

DEBBIE:  Why did you marry me if that’s how you feel?

HANK:  Same reason you married me, I guess.

COUNSELOR:  I’m sensing some hostility from you, Hank.

HANK:  Big surprise. The two of you have me cornered.

COUNSELOR:  I’m not on anyone’s side. I’m here to work with you both.

HANK:  Oh, come on. The whole point of this little session is to get me on board for the treatments. Isn’t that right? Dr. Messenger didn’t like my attitude, so he set this thing up. There’s no chance in hell Debs is gonna change her mind. I’m the one that’s supposed to change. And you—no offense, ma’am, but you’re on her side whether you mean to be or not.

COUNSELOR:  That’s not true.

HANK:  Debs doesn’t give a shit what I think. She don’t care if we go bankrupt paying for the treatments.  She’s been brainwashed by her parents and the Mormon Church into believing she can’t be happy without kids. Damn it, Debs. Don’t start that. She always does this. She says she wants the truth, but when I tell her, she starts bawling.

COUNSELOR:  Are you all right, Debbie?

DEBBIE:  I’m fine. I just wish—it seems like just once he could. . . .

COUNSELOR:  Could what?

DEBBIE:  At least act like he loves me.

COUNSELOR:  Hank, do you love Debbie?

HANK:  Yeah, of course I do. But that don’t mean I’m giving in.

COUNSELOR:  You agreed to her coming to the fertility clinic. In a way you’ve “given in” already. Now she’s undergoing these painful procedures and turning to you for support, and you’re not there for her. Can you understand why she might feel hurt and confused?

HANK:  What do you want from me? I’m supposed to be honest about my feelings. But look what happens when I am.

COUNSELOR:  Why don’t you tell Debbie you love her? Let her know that no matter how strongly you disagree on this issue, it doesn’t change your love for her.

HANK:  What the hell—okay. I love you, Debs. That’s why I married you. Okay, I said it. Now what?

What do you think? Can this marriage be saved?


Years ago I quit writing short fiction to concentrate on writing novels. Full-time teaching was draining my energy and leaving only limited time for my own work, so I had to make a hard choice. My stories had done okay for themselves. All of them were published in respectable journals, and a couple won grants from the Illinois Arts Council. But the publication of which I’m proudest is “Yubi,” which appeared in Yellow Silk: Journal of the Erotic Arts.

Conceived and edited by Lily Pond, Yellow Silk is a top-tier journal published quarterly from 1981 to 1996. According to the Phil Stephensen-Payne’s indexing site Gallactic Central, Yellow Silk has showcased the work of a long list of notable writers and artists: Sigmund Abeles, Kim Addonizio, Angela Ball, Robert Bly, Angela Carter, Marilyn Chin, Wanda Coleman, Judy Dater, Margaret Drabble, Lee Durkee, Louise Erdrich, Susan Griffin, Marilyn Hacker, Jane Hirshfield, Ha Jin, Galway Kinnell, William Kotzwinkle, Dorianne Laux, Mary Mackey, Carole Maso, W.S. Merwin, Bharati Mukherjee, D. Nurkse, Mayumi Oda, Sharon Olds, Mary Oliver, Octavio Paz, Marge Piercy, Andrew Schelling, Ntozake Shange, Robert Silverberg, Terry Tempest Williams, Robert Wrigley, and many more….”

The “many more” covers me. “Yubi” appears in the same issue as a story by Angela Carter and an interview with Mary Mackey. Imagine my elation. The theme for that issue is Animal Lust. In “Yubi” a woman falls in love with her parakeet. (Yes! They have sex! You’ll have to read the story to find out how.)

At the heart of Yellow Silk is the wisdom that erotic energy is the wellspring of not only sexual desire but love of any kind. It’s a primal and spiritual force connecting us to one another and to nature. Joining sex and violence is a corruption of that force. The poems, stories and art in Yellow Silk abound with sensuality and frank depictions of sex, but they’re never brutal or pornographic.

Mary Mackey seems to express the journal’s philosophy in her interview with Lily Pond:

There are, after all, only three forces that keep the world together: forces that create, forces that preserve, and forces that destroy. When you cut Eros off from all the other forces that create, you end up with a small, damaged thing. It’s as if you picked the eye from a bird and called it the whole bird or the wing from a butterfly and called it whole.

Illustration by Tony Speirs

After the quarterly journal ended, Yellow Silk issued a couple of anthologies and then ceased publication altogether. I’m guessing its problems were the same as those facing literary journals today: high costs, not enough subscribers. In the case of Yellow Silk, the cost factor would have been magnified by the journal’s production values: quality paper, beautiful art printed in color. That stuff costs big money. And Yellow Silk paid its contributors. I received payment for “Yubi,” not a huge amount but very generous for a literary journal.

Back issues of Yellow Silk can be ordered online, most for amazingly reasonable prices, with intriguing themes like The Mysteries of the Orgasm, Memories, Hair, Stoned, True Heart, The ‘Other’, Passion, and Womb with a View. You might want to email before ordering to ensure an issue is still available.

Thank you to Lily Pond for permission to use these illustrations by Tony Speirs from Issue 46. They are copyrighted.

I’m thrilled to welcome Cherie Reich, the accomplished author of numerous novels and stories, including GravityThe Foxwick Chronicles, and her just released book, The Nightmare Collection. In the post below, Cherie gives some insight into how she conceives and writes her stories.

Writing a First Draft in a Month, or NaNo Style

Thank you for having me today on your blog, Mary!

Since 2009, I’ve been a big supporter of NaNoWriMo. As this year’s NaNo has just finished, lots of writers now have completed or mostly completed first drafts of their novels. But I have to admit I like writing NaNo-style for all my work, whether it is a short story, a novella, or a novel. The fast-paced writing life isn’t easy, but there are ways that will help you get your manuscript done.

As a plotter, I need to know where I’m going before I start a draft. Otherwise, I get frustrated and have to step away from the project until I figure out what’s wrong with the novel. I will often spend several weeks to a few years thinking about a story. I daydream about it and learn about the characters and scenes. This is my discovery time of a story, whereas pantsers do this as they write.

After this thinking time is over, then I sit down to write out a brief outline. This usually includes a chapter by chapter or scene by scene timeline of the characters and what is going to happen to them. It’s generally pretty basic, and I’ll write down anything that comes to mind.

At this point, I’ll do one of two things. I’ll either start writing, if I have the time, or I’ll set the outline aside until I’m ready to write.

When I’m ready to write, I’ll block out how long I think it’ll take to write the work. Do I want to write just a chapter/scene a day or write two? I try not to go over three a day because it can make for some frantic moments as the deadline approaches. Then, I write.

At the end of the day, I will also think about the next chapters. It keeps me on track, and it makes it easier to start the day writing than trying to figure out what comes next.

For The Nightmare Collection, each story was written in a short amount of time. If I remember correctly, the short story Nightmare at the Freak Show took a day or two to write, the novelette Once Upon a December Nightmare took a week or two to write, and the novella Nightmare Ever After took about ten days to write.

Do you like to draft NaNo-style? Or do you take your time?

— Cherie Reich

About The Nightmare Collection:

A legend is hungry tonight.

A child monster will get its first taste of blood in Nightmare at the Freak Show. Four friend will enter the forest on December night, but only one can survive in Once Upon a December Nightmare. Almost ten years after Cassie’s December nightmare, the monster awakens to hunt again in Nightmare Ever After.

Add this book to Goodreads!

Publication Date: November 17, 2012

Cover art by Nicemonkey at

Cover design by Aubrie Dionne.

Bookworm logo for Surrounded by Books Publishing created by Cherie Reich.

The Nightmare Collection is available from Smashwords and Kobo. It’s also available for Kindle in the United States, the United Kingdom, Denmark, France, ItalySpain, and Japan; and for Nook in the United States and the United Kingdom.

Readers who prefer a paperback can buy The Nightmare Collection from CreateSpace and from Amazon in the United States, the United Kingdom, Denmark, France, Spain, and Italy.

About the Author:

A self-proclaimed bookworm, Cherie Reich is a writer, freelance editor, book blogger, and library assistant living in Virginia. Her short stories have appeared in magazines and anthologies. Her e-books include the horror series Nightmare, a short story collection with authors Aubrie Dionne and Lisa Rusczyk titled The Best of Raven and the Writing Desk, the futuristic space fantasy novelette trilogy Gravity, and The Foxwick Chronicles, a series of fantasy stories. She is a member of Valley Writers and the Virginia Writers Club.

For more about Cherie Reich, visit her Web site and blog, find her on Goodreads and Facebook, and follow her on Twitter.

Enter The Nightmare Collection giveaway!

Enter the giveaway for a chance to win a prize package that includes a signed copy of The Nightmare Collection, a signed copy of Gravity: The Complete Trilogy, and a $10 Amazon Gift Card. The contest is open internationally, and two lucky winners will be chosen.

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Pick up Cherie Reich’s latest book, The Nightmare Collection.

Once the idea for a story has taken root, the writer looks for the best way of telling it. She makes decisions about point of view, tone, and structure that determine what the story becomes. These are problems of craft. It’s a delight when the writer finds a solution that is ingenious and simple. Most readers will enjoy the story without thinking about why the writer has told it in that particular way, but other writers and discerning readers do notice.

The Nightmare Collection consists of a short story, a novelette, and a novella linked by an overarching story: a monster roams the forest killing people and arranging their bodies in a ritualistic way. On the surface the monster’s motives are simple: it drinks blood to live. But there are hints of an intelligence behind the brutality. “Nightmare at the Freak Show,” the poignant short story that opens the collection, suggests a ruined humanity in this creature that now lives only to kill.

The novelette, “Once upon a December Nightmare,” belongs to a genre familiar to fans of horror movies. Four teenagers go joyriding in the mountains at night. Mysteriously, their truck breaks down. There is no cell-phone reception so they cannot call for help. They must decide whether to stay with the truck until rescued or hike back to the highway. They know from having watched those horror movies not to split up, but the woods are cold and eerie and they want to get home. Caught up in the tensions and obsessions of adolescence, they fail to realize at first just how much danger they’re in.

“Nightmare Ever After,” the concluding novella, blends romance with suspense as a woman who survived an attack by the monster teams up with an FBI agent to track it down. In a familiar trope of romance novels, the two are attracted to each other but often at odds. Reich creates an intimacy between the characters—an intimacy the reader shares—that is not present in the other two narratives. I cared about what happened to them. “Nightmare Ever After” is a gripping tale that kept me turning the pages to the end.

Reich might have structured her story as a novel with a preface and two parts, but it wouldn’t have been as good. She would have lost the flexibility to play around with tone and genre. Instead she has written three distinct works of fiction. All of them deliver the frisson promised by the title. Each stands on its own and can be read and enjoyed on its own, but reading The Nightmare Collection from beginning to end is an even bigger treat.

The Nightmare Collection is available from Smashwords and Kobo. It’s also available for Kindle in the United States, the United Kingdom, Denmark, France, ItalySpain, and Japan; and for Nook in the United States and the United Kingdom.

Readers who prefer a paperback can buy The Nightmare Collection from CreateSpace and from Amazon in the United States, the United Kingdom, Denmark, France, Spain, and Italy.

About the Author:

A self-proclaimed bookworm, Cherie Reich is a writer, freelance editor, book blogger, and library assistant living in Virginia. Her short stories have appeared in magazines and anthologies. Her e-books include the horror series Nightmare, a short story collection with authors Aubrie Dionne and Lisa Rusczyk titled The Best of Raven and the Writing Desk, the futuristic space fantasy novelette trilogy Gravity, and The Foxwick Chronicles, a series of fantasy stories. She is a member of Valley Writers and the Virginia Writers Club.

For more about Cherie Reich, visit her Web site and blog, find her on Goodreads and Facebook, and follow her on Twitter.


Join the fun on The Nightmare Collection blog tour!

I hope you’ll come back to Ancient Children on December 6 for a guest post by Cherie Reich. Meanwhile, follow the The Nightmare Collection blog tour for more guest posts, interviews with the author and her characters, and excerpts from the stories. Scroll to the bottom to enter The Nightmare Collection giveaway.

Monday, December 3

Tuesday, December 4

Wednesday, December 5

Thursday, December 6

Friday, December 7

Enter the giveaway below for a chance to win a prize package that includes a signed copy of The Nightmare Collection, a signed copy of Gravity: The Complete Trilogy, and a $10 Amazon Gift Card. The contest is open internationally, and two lucky winners will be chosen.

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Lu Jakes, the protagonist of my thriller TALION, is being interviewed today at World Literary Café. I hope you’ll take a few minutes to drop by and meet this extraordinary fifteen-year-old girl who must fight to save herself and her friend from a serial killer.

World Literary Café is a wonderful site for authors and readers to connect with each other. I appreciate their hosting Lu. Special thanks to Stacy Eaton for organizing the interview program, writing such terrific interview questions, and putting together the posts.

The first time a blogger requested a character interview to promote my novel I felt a mixture of annoyance and dread. The concept seemed bogus. I thought turning my villain, Rad Sanders, into a pitchman would make him less menacing. But I wasn’t about to pass up the opportunity. After some false starts, I figured out a couple of ways to make the interview interesting to readers and valuable to me.

Of course  the character has to speak in his or her voice. With a first-person narrator, the voice is already fully developed and ready to go.  But even in third-person narrative, the character’s voice exists in dialogue and thoughts.  I built on those. I found that once I had Rad’s voice, everything else followed. He couldn’t deliver a canned synopsis; he could only tell the story from his perspective.

Then I threw in some conflict. Just as it does in the novel, conflict drives the action and keeps readers interested. Since I could write my own questions, I invented a scenario in which Rad highjacks the interview. He berates me for cutting one of his scenes from the novel and refuses to hear my explanation. He becomes sarcastic and aggressive. It turned out to be a lot of  fun, and I actually got to know my character better.

Lu is far more decent, so she tries her best to explain her world to readers who have never visited such dark places. And Stacy’s questions sound like an adult gently coaxing a shy teenager out of her shell, offering her the acceptance she needs so much. I hope you’ll enjoy reading the interview as much as I enjoyed doing it. You’ll find it here.