Q & A on JStinsonInk.com

After deciding writing was the only thing “that made sense” for her to do, Caryn Larrinaga just released her first book, which you can find on Amazon.com by following the link, “Donn’s Hill” on March 3. Below, she gives some great advice about not burning out, celebrating victories and how to balance working a day job with writing a novel.

Read the full interview here: http://jstinsonink.com/qa-caryn-larrinaga/

Interview on the StoryHack Podcast

There is so much to love about the local writing community, and one of my favorite things is how small it can feel sometimes. I met a podcaster at LTUE last month, and when I went to his office to record this episode, I found out he's the older brother of an old friend from high school. Tiny, tiny Bountiful.

Anyway, click below to listen to the episode! Had a great time chatting with Bryce; be sure to check out and subscribe to his podcast "StoryHack" - he's also about to launch a pulp-fiction magazine! So many exciting things!

http://www.storyhack.com/2017/03/22/podcast-interview-with-caryn-larrinaga/ 

Interview on Park City TV's "Mountain Views" with Terry Burden

Ages ago (okay, like 3 years), my life was dominated by two things: doing awesome lazy couples stuff with Kelly, and playing music. I spent three nights a week most weeks down at a studio, writing and jamming and laughing with whatever band I'd managed to trick into letting me join them. I do miss playing bass with other musicians, but I felt like I had to give writing my all. And given how well Donn's Hill turned out (if I do say so myself), I think I made the right decision. Writing is my calling. It's my passion, and I'm driven to write in a way I've never felt driven to do anything else.

Anyway, sometimes my new author life crosses streams with my old band life, and it's always awesome when that happens. My interview on Park City TV was no exception, because I got to hang out with the always-amazing Terry Burden for the first time since I appeared on his program with my former bandmates from The Red on Black.

Not only is Terry incredibly nice and wonderfully supportive of new musical acts and new authors, he's got some serious chops. He's interviewed A-list actors and actresses, Olympic athletes, and bestselling authors. And he interviewed little old me, too. :)

Check out my interview, in which I get so nervous reading an excerpt from my own novel that I panic slightly and have to just... stop.

Author of Donn's Hill discusses her latest book

Interview on the Dungeon Crawlers Radio Podcast

Okay, I've basically been riding a super-high all week long with all of this promotional stuff for Donn's Hill. Every single one of my interviews has been so much fun to record! And this latest one was no exception. I laughed so much during this interview with the team from Dungeon Crawlers Radio, probably because nerd humor is my jam. I fell in love with my husband over the D&D table, I spend an inordinate amount of time fantasizing about super powers, and I love arguing with my friends about the outcomes of fantasy fistfights between pairs of fictional characters.

In short, these are my people.

Check out my interview with Daniel, Scott, and McKay (aka the Dungeon Crawlers) where we talk about what superpowers we'd like to have, why Tortoisehell cats are so cool, and the correct pronunciation of my name. :) And of course, if you like their style and want more nerd news and discussions, be sure to subscribe to their podcast and rate them on iTunes!

Interview on the Plain Donuts Podcast

Being a published novelist has, so far, been a whirlwind. So much promotion and marketing! So many interviews! So many new people to meet and talk to!

Earlier this week, all this promotion/interviewing got to be combined with catching up with an old friend (an excellent combination). My pal Steve from high school and his friend Alicia co-host the Plain Donuts podcast, a weekly broadcast of mostly humor, occasional controversy, and conversational interviews in a style similar to The Nerdist. I like to listen to them when I'm doing something unpleasant like the dishes or visiting the dentist, because it feels like sitting around a kitchen table with a pair of interesting and funny people, having a casual conversation about what's happened recently in the world and in their lives.

Anyway, check out my interview below - we covered all kinds of topics from my writing process to landing a publisher, my favorite kinds of baked goods, and so much more. Be sure to subscribe to their podcast and/or rate them on iTunes if you like their style - it would help them out immensely!

LIVE video interview on The White Room podcast!

Today marks an interesting "first" for me - I've had my first-ever live streamed YouTube interview! British author E. Rachael Hardcastle has an excellent podcast called The White Room (and I keep forgetting to ask her if it's a reference to the Cream song) where she interviews indie authors about their writing and publishing experiences. 

I loved getting to chat with Rachael. She's a very driven writer and a fantastic interviewer. Check out the video from our live stream, and be sure to subscribe to her YouTube channel to be notified of future interviews with other authors. I hope to return to her podcast for a follow-up interview some time next year!

The White Room Ep.16 welcomes the author of Donn's Hill (released 3rd March 2017), a paranormal mystery, to the podcast. Check out her website here: http://carynlarrinaga.com/ Visit the host's website for a free book here: www.erachaelhardcastle.com

Saturday Spotlight on the Write.Farm.Live Blog

It's my first post-release-day interview! My friend Martin McConnell, who I was fortunate enough to meet through the Monthly Writing Challenge, asked me about my process, the history of my little old house, and my Basque heritage. 

Read the full interview here:

http://writefarmlive.com/2017/03/saturday-spotlight-caryn-larrinaga/

While you're on his site, be sure to check out his published works! Martin writes some very excellent horror and is also currently refining his non-fiction guide to novel writing, Finish the Damn Book!

Today is the day! DONN'S HILL is officially out in the world!

Today is the day!! Donn's Hill is finally, FINALLY available for purchase, and I am now a published novelist. A novelist, people!! If 10-year-old Caryn only knew that she would someday pull this off... well, she'd have probably been unbearably obnoxious.

If you're in or near Salt Lake City, I'm hoping to see you March 14 at the release party where I'll be reading from the book and signing copies! 

If you're not local, or prefer ebooks, then you don't even have to wait - you can get Donn's Hill right now!

Donn's Hill
$14.99
By Caryn Larrinaga

Important note: if you order the paperback from Amazon or Barnes & Noble or elsewhere, I won't be able to sign it during the launch party. But that doesn't mean I won't sign it anywhere else, any other time! 

Not local and envious of all the folks getting signed copies? I'd love to send you one! Click below to have an autographed paperback shipped directly to you. (Or email me so we can talk about me setting up a book signing in your city!)

If anyone needs me, I'll be getting a chai and grabbing random strangers by the lapels of their jackets to shout at them, "I'M A NOVELIST!!" until either my husband manages to wrestle me back into the car or I tire myself out.

The Terrifying Nature of ARC Reviews

Publishing is crazy. As a reader, all I saw was the finished product. I knew that it had come from somewhere, that some writer had cooked up the idea in their head and then put the words to page, and that somewhere along the way other people had done magical, mysterious stuff to it. But I didn’t fuss about the details.

Now I’ve seen behind the curtain, and as stated above, it is CRAZY. There are so many steps. My book has passed through so many hands. It’s been edited, re-edited, proofread, formatted, proofed again, sent to the printer, combed through, tweaked, and finally sent to print. Right now, a giant box of paperbacks is on its way to me, and the ebook version is patiently waiting on several servers for the calendar to roll over to March 3.

Hopefully, the book is as close to perfect as it possibly can be. But you know what’s scary? Back there, somewhere in the middle of all the proofreading and formatting and tweaking, something called an ARC was sent out to a whole bunch of people.

No, not that kind of ark.

No, not that kind of ark.

ARC stands for “Advance Reader Copy” or sometimes “Advance Review Copy.” They might also be called galleys or uncorrected proofs. And what’s completely terrifying about them is that publishers send them out to reviewers so that they can be… well, reviewed. Graded. JUDGED.

The idea is that these reviewers can get their hands on the book well in advance of the release, usually around 2 months early, so that they have time to read it and write up an honest review to be posted on or shortly after the book’s release date. These reviews help buyers decide, early on, if the book is worth their time and money.

Side note: if you happen to read Donn's Hill -- or any other book, really -- please consider leaving a review on Goodreads and/or the website for the bookstore/online retailer where you bought the book. Whether you loved it or hated it, a review really helps authors get their books in front of more readers.

Anyway, you’d think that after sending my book to dozens upon dozens of agents and editors, that I’d be used to the idea of strangers reading and judging my book. But this… this is different. The agents and editors were just gatekeepers, there to decide if they wanted to be part of getting this book to the end of the road, and the end of the road is where the readers live. 

So this is it. The final gauntlet. On Friday, my book will be available for sale. Some reviews are already up on Goodreads (!!!) but Friday is when most ARC readers will post, and even more than that, when actual regular readers will (hopefully) start reading Donn’s Hill and later leave reviews about it. 

It’s terrifying.

Wish me luck!

Apocalypse Utah: My first published short story, from sub to pub

Last year marked a lot of firsts for me. I sent my first query letter (and within 24 hours received my first rejection). I joined my first writers' organizations, the LUW and the HWA. I attended my first writing conference, landed my first publishing contract, and had a short story accepted into a paid anthology for the first time. 

Big moment - first time getting paid for a short story! #writerslife #amwriting #apocalypseutah #horror #shortstory

A photo posted by Caryn Larrinaga (@carynlarrinaga) on

Tomorrow, that anthology comes out. My story will be published along with 11 other pieces of short horror, and I'm so proud and excited to be a part of Apocalypse: Utah. 

As I look forward to celebrating the anthology's release with my fellow contributing authors, I'm also finding myself looking back on the moment almost five months ago when I was drumming up the courage to submit my short story in the first place.

I'm not sure why I'm so nervous about submitting my work, especially since that paralyzing fear only seems to happen with my works of fiction. In high school, I worked on the school paper and had an internship at the Davis County Clipper, so I've had dozens of articles and opinion pieces go through the editing process and subsequently get published. Hell, I spew my thoughts out onto this blog a couple of times a month without losing any sleep. But for some reason, when it comes to sharing the fictional stuff my brain cooks up, I'm suddenly overcome with shyness.

So when I heard that the HWA was sponsoring an anthology, my first instinct wasn't to submit a story. Instead, I pictured myself on the sidelines, cheering on my fellow HWA members and thinking about possibly submitting to some future, undetermined contest. Things are so much less intimidating when they're in the abstract.

And then I saw the theme/title. Apocalypse: Utah.

I love apocalyptic stories. The idea of civilization crumbling because of war, natural disaster, or some kind of disease is terrifying. And fascinating. Those scenarios seem like pressure cookers, bringing out the strongest qualities of the people involved, whether they're good or bad. I felt compelled to write a story. "The Fishermen" spilled out of me, but I wasn't convinced it was worth submitting until I got it back from my beta readers. Their wonderful, constructive feedback pushed me over the finish line.

Speaking of my beta readers, the anthology doesn't have an acknowledgements page so I'd like to thank them here. You all are amazing - thank you Brandy, Carrie, Kelly, Rachel, Robyn, and Shannon for your willingness to read the story and your honesty when pointing out the things that weren't working. An extra enormous THANK YOU is due to Matt, whose feedback about weaponry and the effects of violence on the human body were critical for keeping my story grounded in reality. You guys & gals are the best, and I wouldn't have dared to submit if you all hadn't encouraged me so much.

So, one day before the Halloween deadline, I submitted my story. Almost exactly one month later, I got the email that made me leap out of my desk chair in joy: "The Fishermen" had been selected for publication. I signed the contract within the hour. It would've been immediate, but I waited until I was with Kelly so he could witness the big moment.

From there, the publication process was extremely similar to the process for Donn's Hill, but on a much faster timeframe. I had the opportunity to work with yet another fantastic editor (Callie Stoker) and the publisher, Griffin Publishers, was super easy to work with and very communicative. Now, just four-and-a-half months after submission, the anthology is about to start shipping from Amazon. You can get your hands on a copy here: 

 
 
Apocalypse Utah: A Collection of Utah Horror
$12.99
Griffin Publishers, LLC

On Thursday, I'll be joining many of my fellow contributing authors at the launch party in Provo. If you're in the area, please join us! 

Currently: January 2017 (aka "Everything Donn's Hill, All the Time")

Yet again, I'm looking back at my blog and I'm seriously shocked at how much time has passed since my last "Currently." So here it is, another one of my favorite styles of blog posts!

LOVING

Well, this is really more of a love/hate thing... but it's about those nervous, nauseating butterflies that have been ping-ponging around in my stomach all month long. I've got them right now, and why? Because I'm thinking about Donn's Hill. I'm thinking about how in just over a month, it'll be out. People will be able to buy it. Reviews from ARC readers will start coming in. And whether they love the book or they hate it, they'll have read it.

And I love that. But I also hate it, because it's completely terrifying. I'm not exaggerating in the slightest when I say I might throw up from how nervous I am.

But mostly, yeah, I love it. Because just over a month from now, I'll be able to walk into at least the one bookstore that I know will be carrying it (more on that later, when I'm allowed to announce it!), stroll over to the "Mystery" section, and see my own creation sitting there on the shelf. 

And then maybe, just maybe... I'll puke all over the floor.

READING

To keep my mind off my own book, I'm reading the ridiculously entertaining horror / urban fantasy Night Terrors by Tim Waggoner. I received a copy in a "bloody elephant" gift exchange during the Utah HWA's December meeting (I gifted a copy of my all-time favorite horror novel, Stephen King's The Shining) and it's the perfect novel to distract me from pre-book-launch stress. 

And I wish I was reading more in general, honestly. As recently as a few years ago, I was devouring multiple books in a single week. But these days, between the day job and writing and all this publishing craziness... I'm a little ashamed to admit that my new reading goal is a book a month. ONE A MONTH, PEOPLE. That's... well... *sigh*. Oh well. Someday soon I'll be back up to my normal % Daily Value of delicious fiction.

WATCHING

The clock. Ha, ha. But seriously... time is flying by and it's freaking me out! It's nearly February. I feel like I need an extra 12 hours a day to fit in all the stuff I'm supposed to be doing. While writing that sentence, I literally remembered two tasks that I was supposed to have done yesterday that aren't done. Cue Benny Hill music while I run around in a frenzy.

LISTENING TO

In outrageously busy times like these, it's important to have music that makes you smile. Like this track here:

THINKING ABOUT

I'll give you two guesses. :)

I feel so bad for my husband. He'll say something, and three seconds later I'll come out of my fog and ask, "What?" At least 30% of my brainpower at any given moment seems to be devoted to the Donn's Hill release. There's not even time to think about the fact that my super secret project came back from my amazing developmental editor a week ago and all I've managed to do so far is skim the editorial letter and AHHHH THERE IS NOT ENOUGH TIME!!!

ANTICIPATING

Mid-March. Donn's Hill will have released, the launch party will have happened, and I'll be taking a teensy little break to play Zelda: Breath of the Wild. If I can get my paws on a Switch, that is.

Drool. Look at all the pretty!

Drool. Look at all the pretty!

WISHING

Aww, you know what? This is pretty perfect. I copied my previous "Currently" post from alllllllllll the way back in August to use as a template, and check out what I wrote back then for my wish:

My wish has remained pretty much constant for the last year: I want to find the right home for publishing my mystery novel, Donn's Hill. I especially hope I can find the right publisher for Donn's Hill before I start that process for my 2nd novel. I'll keep searching, querying, and trying...and of course I'll keep you all updated no matter what!

My wish came true! So instead of wishing for something else, I'll just savor the fact that I found a wonderful home for Donn's Hill with Immortal Works. 

MAKING ME HAPPY

This whole process, as stressful and high-octane as it seems to be, makes me incredibly happy. I'm so proud of what I've accomplished, and so excited to share this book with the world. I shed a lot of happy tears pretty regularly about it. Ask my managing editor; I report on my blubbering to him even though I'm pretty sure he wishes I would just keep those details to myself. :)

That's it for this month's "Currently!" Remember, if you do one of these please tag or message me @carynlarrinaga. I'd love to read what you're Currently up to!

Donn's Hill Release Date and Cover!

I can't tell you the number of times I've literally squealed like a little girl these past few weeks. There have been a lot of moments where I've had to remind myself that this is really happening!

Today is one of those days. A few minutes ago, I got to share my cover for the first time with family and friends on Facebook. Now I get to post it here!! So without further ado, I present the cover of DONN'S HILL, which will be out on March 3!

Status Report: Donn's Hill

So I don't know if I've mentioned this yet, but did you know that my debut novel is getting published? Oh, you did hear that? Maybe because I talk about it constantly and am driving my friends and family insane?

Get ready for more Donn's Hill talky-talk, kids. Because I'm chock full o' updates and you're about to get the blog version of the freak out that's been happening inside my mind lately.

Yeah, this is me. Basically all the time.

Yeah, this is me. Basically all the time.

Editing: Round 1 Complete!

If you didn't see me or hear from me much this month, it's because I sequestered myself in my basement with several cases of diet caffeine-free Pepsi, a stack of Cadbury Fruit & Nut bars (don't even both trying to make me see the futility in that--I won't do it), and a standing order that at least one cat had to be within a five foot radius of me at all times. I had a mission to complete: take the feedback from my wonderful editor at Immortal Works and make Donn's Hill even better than it was before.

If I do say so myself... mission a-freaking-complished. It took three and a half solid weeks of editing and re-writing every single night after work. I finished this past Saturday, after which I embarked on an epic gaming marathon and refused to get out of bed before 9 AM for a couple of days.

exhausted.gif

I made lots of changes to the book, both big and small, but I'm even more proud of this new draft than I was of the last one. And that says a lot. I'm even more excited now to share this story with all of you! Speaking of which....

Release Date: Forthcoming!

So... I know something you don't know! And I'm dying to tell you, but I can't yet!  

For now, all I can tell you is that you won't have to wait too much longer to find out when Donn's Hill will hit the shelves. If you haven't already, be sure to like my Facebook page because I'll be announcing it there first via Facebook Live very soon!

And while we're talking about things that I can't really fully talk about yet....

Book Cover: Done!

And it's amazing. I cried when I saw it. (You're not surprised, nor should you be. After all, I cry at Master Chef Junior and holiday-themed commercials.) I can't wait to show it to you all! We'll be having an official cover reveal soon, so stay tuned for that!

In summary, things are rolling right along, and it's all actually going faster than I expected. I really can't express how incredibly lucky I feel to be working with this publisher and this amazing team of passionate people. 

Thanks for following me on this journey! More news coming soon!

Guest Post: The Healing Dance in "Bound to the Truth" - by Lisa Brunette

Today's post is by author Lisa Brunette. Caryn will be back next week with an update on the publication process for Donn's Hill.


I write about a 77-year-old yogi named Amazing Grace in the Dreamslippers Series. A lifetime devotee, she can get into advanced poses that leave others unable to follow, even if they happen to be many years her junior and in perfectly good shape. Through the first two books, Grace draws on yoga to give her insight into the tough cases she solves as a private investigator. I tried to bring the longevity of yoga practice to the Dreamslippers Series both in Grace's spryness and in its role in her granddaughter's apprenticeship. 

My own twenty-year yoga practice inspired this aspect of their characters. I took up yoga in my twenties with an at-home practice following along to a video tape called Yoga Mind and Body. Actress Ali MacGraw was the guide, with master yoga teacher Erich Shiffmann teaching the sequence. In my thirties, I graduated to studio classes, trying first Bikram-style hot yoga and then Baron Baptiste's vinyasa flow. More recently, I've practiced with a master yoga teacher we're lucky to have as resident in our small town. I'm convinced regular practice helped see me through to my mid-forties still in good shape despite the daily struggles and pain of scoliosis and an occupation that means many hours hunched over a computer.

The third book in the Dreamslippers Series released this week, and in it, Grace tries on a new practice: Nia. This no-impact dance incorporates some aspects of yoga, along with several dance styles, elements of the martial arts, and healing arts. Here's the scene where she first discovers it: 

It was time for a new class she was trying out, something called Nia, a dance class that was low-impact and supposedly choreographed with healing movements. She’d watched a few videos online.
The class was at a small studio that had just opened up at the top of Queen Anne, within walking distance of her old Victorian. Though it was a little pricey at twenty-six dollars for a drop-in, Grace pushed herself to pony up the cash anyway, thinking that it was good to support a local business. But lately she had been questioning whether or not Seattle’s quickly skyrocketing prices were sustainable for her in the long run. To her delight, she discovered that her first class would be free.
The owner, Yvette Malveaux, wore what Grace could only describe as “yoga clothes with flair.” The hems of both her shirt and pants extended past their usual lines into scarves that fluttered as she moved about. A row of cutouts ran down the sides of the legs. She also wore a good deal of makeup, not the usual for yoga teachers in Seattle, more of a theatrical gesture. A magnolia blossom was tucked into Yvette’s cornrowed hair.
After the usual questions about her experience level and physical fitness, plus a brief explanation of a “barefoot dance class,” Grace walked into the studio and found a place to stand. She surveyed herself in the mirror, being careful to turn off the voice in her head that liked to call attention to the less savory aspects of herself at seventy-nine, like the rings of puffy flesh around her ankles. What was it her granddaughter called them? Cankles.
Soon, a bevy of students bedecked in similar scarf-hemmed attire poured in, and Grace suddenly felt as if she were backstage at a dance show. In her simple leotard and leggings, though, she’d be playing the role of straight man. Yvette waltzed in—literally—and talked about proper form, demonstrating how to pay attention to one’s center of gravity and not exaggerate the footwork. 
“Small movements sometimes work better,” she said. She cued the music, and they were off. 
Grace wasn’t the least bit intimidated or reluctant as the music swelled. Her muscle memory took her back across time to other moments in her life when she’d danced in a studio: ballet as a small-town girl, modern dance in college, African dance in the seventies, and that undercover work she did serving as a backup dancer for a drag queen. Plus, the movement incorporated a few poses from other practices she knew—yoga, martial arts, tai chi. Yvette’s bare, toffee-colored shoulders shimmied and shook, and Grace’s followed suit. She mimicked Yvette’s quick steps and followed the instructions Yvette belted out through a headset microphone. Grace was mindful not to give herself any trouble for her own missteps. It was her first time, after all. And what a time it was. They alternated between structured dance led by the instructor and moments of improvised “freedance” that allowed the students to whirl throughout the room, letting their bodies move as desired. Grace enjoyed these moments best, using them to work out a kink in her low back that had sprung up during her fight with Mick.
The class ended on the floor, with crawling, slithering movements that to Grace felt luxurious and self-indulgent. She hadn’t allowed herself to move like that since the last time she’d gotten down on the floor to play with a friend’s kid. By the time the class ended, with everyone taking two steps forward into their day and applause breaking out across the room, Grace wondered where this Nia had been all her life. She vowed to get Cat in that studio as soon as she could.
The lovely Yvette, sweaty and breathless herself, beckoned them to the rear of the studio, where she retrieved towels from what looked like a microwave but turned out to be a newfangled towel warmer. They were hot and scented with eucalyptus. Grace accepted her towel gratefully and, following the others, swabbed her face, neck, and arms.
“How was that?” Yvette asked Grace.
“I feel reborn.”
The comment brought a thousand-watt smile to Yvette’s face.

As with yoga, my own practice informed the writing this time, too. I've been dancing Nia for a year now and have earned a white belt, the first belt in the Nia system. I've found Nia to be especially helpful in fighting carpal tunnel syndrome from computer and device use. There's one move in particular called creepy crawlies that I perform several times a day to keep my fingers, wrists, and forearms loose and mobile.

Nia isn't just about fun and games for Grace, either; in Bound to the Truth, she uses it to heal from a significant injury. It's important to the story in other ways, too, but I don't want to spoil that discovery for readers.

The worldwide ebook launch for Bound to the Truth was Nov. 11, and that day I gave signed print copies away at a Nia Jam to benefit Standing Rock. It was perfect for me to celebrate the close of the trilogy by dancing for two hours to support a worthy cause. It's exactly what Grace would've done.


Lisa Brunette dancing to the Nia routine “Passion.” Credit: Regan House Photo.

Lisa Brunette dancing to the Nia routine “Passion.” Credit: Regan House Photo.

About Lisa

Lisa was born in Santa Rosa, California, but that was only home for a year. A so-called “military brat,” she lived in nine different houses and attended nine different schools by the time she was 14. Through all of the moves, her one constant was books. She read everything, from the entire Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden mystery series to her mother’s books by Daphne du Maurier and Taylor Caldwell.  A widely published author, game writer, and journalist, Lisa has interviewed homeless women, the designer of the Batmobile, and a sex expert, to name just a few colorful characters. This experience, not to mention her own large, quirky family, led her to create some truly memorable characters in her Dreamslippers Series and other works, whether books or games. Always a vivid dreamer, not to mention a wannabe psychic, Lisa feels perfectly at home slipping into suspects’ dreams, at least in her imagination. Her husband isn’t so sure she can’t pick up his dreams in real life, though. With a hefty list of awards and publications to her name, Lisa now lives in a small town in Washington State, but who knows how long that will last… 

Connect with Lisa

Visit her website at lisa-brunette.com or find her on social media:

Facebook // Twitter // Instagram

 

Get Lisa's latest book, BOUND TO THE TRUTH, available now!

What if you could ‘slip’ into the dreams of a killer?

This family of PIs can. They use their psychic dream ability to solve crimes, and that isn’t easy.

Especially when your client thinks she knows who the killer is, but you don’t believe her.

Did Nina Howell really fall under the spell of a domineering, conservative talk show host--as her wife claims?

Praise for the series…

"A little Sue Grafton and a dose of Janet Evanovich… is just the right recipe for a promising new series.” -- Rev. Eric O'del

"Already hooked, this reader intends further sojourns in Cat's dreamslipping world. Highly recommended." --Frances Carden, Readers Lane

For readers who enjoy strong female leads, quirky, well-developed characters, and a dash of dating drama with their mystery. Fans of J.A. Jance, Mary Daheim, and Jayne Ann Krentz will love Cat and “Amazing” Grace!

No NaNoWriMo For Me

Whoops! A couple of days late on this post. But that's sort of the story of my life this week, so it fits.

It's November! NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, in which writers can challenge themselves to churn out 50k words on a single project in just 30 days) has begun. This year, after taking six full months to write my second novel (Oh hey, did I mention I finished my second novel? .... Just slipping that in there. Hi.), I decided it'd be a fun and interesting challenge to push myself and see what I could get done in a month.

Over the summer, I outlined a horror novel and was going to tackle the first draft for NaNo. I even dragged my butt out of the writing cave and attended a NaNoWriMo kickoff party on Saturday afternoon. That's how committed I was to this idea. (Bonus: met tons of fun people and discovered that Kafeneio in South Salt Lake makes a red latte, which is like a chai latte but from red rooibos tea.)

So...delicious....

So...delicious....

What was I talking about? ... Oh right, NaNoWriMo. *clears throat*

As the saying goes, I had the best laid plans. And then something absolutely awesome happened to completely nuke those plans:

The first round of edits on DONN'S HILL came back from my publisher!! It's crazy exciting!!! 

If you're not a writer, you might find it weird that I'm itching with anticipation to dive into a document where an editor has most assuredly ripped my manuscript--the Word doc embodiment of my heart and soul--to shreds. But it is SO AMAZING. A good editor can help take a book from good to great, from great to awesome, from awesome to mind-blowing. A good editor can spot weak points in the narrative, missed opportunities for added tension or improved character development, and basically push an author to new heights. 

PLUS, this is a mega milestone on my book's journey into your hands. We're one step closer to DONN'S HILL being ready for publication and setting a release date! YES!

In summary, I'm crawling back into my writer cave to tackle my revisions. Please send pie and pictures of kittens.

Ghost Hunting!

I went ghost hunting on Friday!!! Yes, it deserves that many exclamation points.  I’ve loved ghost stories ever since I was a little kid (remember these gems?) and have long wanted to take a ghost tour or have an opportunity to participate in a paranormal investigation. The Utah chapter of the Horror Writers Association (which I recently joined) held our October meeting at the Benson Grist Mill in Stansbury Park. This location has been investigated by the Pod Goblins before, and they were kind enough to walk us through the basics of ghost hunting and lend us some equipment.

The Benson Grist Mill, a few minutes before we went inside.

The Benson Grist Mill, a few minutes before we went inside.

The timing of this meeting was especially perfect for me, as my debut novel DONN’S HILL is centered around a young psychic who works with a group of paranormal investigators in a famously haunted (but fictional) small town. This meeting gave me a chance to see how my own reactions to paranormal activity stack up against my main character’s reactions (spoiler alert: she is a hell of a lot braver than I am).

Here's a list of the equipment that we used on our investigation:

  1. EMF meters
  2. Audio recording devices (I used my cell phone)
  3. Camera (again, my cell phone)
  4. Ourselves

That 4th one, as explained by Jessica of the Pod Goblins, is the most important piece of equipment an investigator can have. And I’m going to go ahead and use that to justify why I fled from the mill after a mere 2 minutes inside when Kelly and I tried to venture up to the top floor by ourselves, climbing the three sets of creaking stairs where the mill’s famous “Lady in White” is frequently seen by visitors. You can check out the audio of that exercise in cowardice right here; the bleep is where I got the mega-jibblies and decided to bail. (Apparently, I swears when I’m scareds.)

We ended up going back into the mill just minutes later. This time, we tagged along with a group led by the amazing Terra Luft, who dares to not only converse with the spirits of the departed but even antagonizes them into speaking with her in the first place. We followed Terra into the basement, ducking beneath the giant 150-year-old millstones and between 12x12 wooden posts before setting up our equipment in a cold spot in the southeast corner. We stood just one story below the staircase I’d nearly tumbled down so recently in my haste to escape whatever had made my hair stand on end near the top floor.

Terra, trying to get a response from any spirits in the area

Terra, trying to get a response from any spirits in the area

Terra switched on her EMF meter, which is a special model boasting an additional “dialog mode” that continuously scans for field disturbances. The meter hisses while scanning, then goes silent when a presence is detected. Spirits are supposed to be able to affect the magnetic field, which allows an EMF operator to ask yes/no questions and watch or listen to the meter for a response.

We stood in the dark basement for a few minutes, listening to the meter hiss. Then, it went silent. A heartbeat later, a loud humming (possibly from a generator) kicked on from behind the door next to Terra. I won’t lie; we all jumped.

At first, I thought Terra’s meter was just reacting to the generator—or whatever was behind that door. But as she began to ask it simple yes or no questions (“Do you want to talk to us? One for yes, two for no,” and, “Do you want us to leave? One for yes, two for no”) and the meter hissed once or twice in response, and then when the generator switched off but the meter continued its odd behavior, I came up with a different theory:

Terra was screwing with us.

She was standing a couple of yards away from me, both hands in her hoodie pocket. Her daughter and a few other teenaged girls were in our group, and I could see the lure in wanting to give them all a good scare. My suspicions grew that she had the EMF meter in her pocket, and was pressing a hidden button to make it seem like the ghost was responding to us.

Then a few other investigators made their way into the basement, and Terra invited one of them to set his EMF meter down near hers so they could measure the devices’ responses against each other.

“Where is it?” he asked.

Ha, I thought. Now she’ll pull it out of her pocket and the jig will be up.

Instead, she pulled a bare hand out of her pocket and pointed to a spot a few feet in front of her. I couldn’t see what she was indicating; my line of sight was blocked by one of the giant posts that held up the floor above us. I leaned to the right, and my stomach plummeted into my Skechers.

Her EMF meter had been sitting on a horizontal beam, out of her reach, the entire time.

Yup. Shit got real.

Yup. Shit got real.

We were in that basement for a total of 45 minutes, during which time we communicated with that spirit (and possibly one other) several times. This is the exchange that gives me the biggest chills to go back and listen to:

Photo taken while Terra was communicating with...someone.

Photo taken while Terra was communicating with...someone.

I’ll admit it: I’m a believer. I’ve also added an EMF meter and a few other tools for paranormal investigation to my wish list. But after that mill basement, I’d reached my limit for the day. I was too freaked out and too exhausted (I’d just gotten over a nasty cold) to handle any more excitement, so Kelly and I retreated to a lighted pavilion to sit and chat with some of the other chapter members. Shortly after that, we headed home…but not before taking the Pod Goblins’ advice and sternly informing any spirits that might be tempted to follow us home that they were not invited or allowed to do so, just in case.

Have you ever had an experience with a ghost? Do you know of good places to do a little ghost hunting? Leave me a comment; I’d love to hear about it!

I’m getting published!

This is the blog post I’ve been dying to write since January, when I sent out my very first query letter.

No, that’s not right. It’s been longer than that.

This is the blog post I’ve been dying to write for over a year, since the moment the first draft of Donn’s Hill really started to come together and I realized: I was going to do it. I was going to reach the finish line. After dozens of false starts, a pile of abandoned projects, and occasional debates with myself over the merits of giving up on writing entirely, I was actually going to write a book.

Then I did finish it, and the unthinkable happened: I didn’t hate it. In fact, I was and am extremely proud of it. Despite internet advice to tuck your first novel away in a drawer and never let anyone near it, I decided to share it with the world.

That’s when the madness began. Nine months of querying, which is a pretty brutal rollercoaster ride. Actually, that’s a terrible analogy because I happen to find both the ups and the downs of a rollercoaster to be fun and thrilling. Querying is like ringing the doorbell at a mansion because you hope they might let you join their super rad party, but then a butler answers the door just to tell you that you’re not nearly cool enough to be there.

 © Peanuts, by Charles M. Schulz

 © Peanuts, by Charles M. Schulz

And that’s if you’re lucky enough to get a rejection.

Sometimes you just wait on the porch forever, peering through the windows at the people inside who are living your dream. And then it starts raining because this is a very melodramatic analogy.

But finally, finally, finally…I found the right mansion at the right time, and the person who answered the door loved my book enough to recommend that her press publish it. And, lo and behold, the publisher agreed and now I HAVE A BOOK DEAL! Immortal Works is going to publish Donn’s Hill!

If you feel like the printed word isn’t doing this news justice, feel free to watch me blubber like a goon in a Facebook Live video when I made the announcement on Thursday:

What Now?

I know you’ve already whipped out your tortoiseshell cat calendar (*cough* Christmas Gift idea for Caryn *cough*) and you’re waiting to ink in the date Donn’s Hill will finally be available to purchase, but you’ll have to wait a teensy bit longer. The book is currently with an editor who’s going to help me make it even better, and then it’ll ping-pong back and forth between me and my editor and my managing editor until it’s truly ready to be read by the masses. Then they have to design a cover, put a marketing plan into motion, prepare for distribution… It’s a big process, but somewhere in there my publisher will pick the perfect date to release Donn’s Hill and you can plan on picking it up through your favorite retailer!

In the meantime, make sure you subscribe to my newsletter so you can keep up-to-date on all the announcements around the release.

Also, I’m putting together a street team! If you love books (and especially if you love reading my books and stories), join us! You’ll be the first group to hear big announcements and get to read excerpts, plus you’ll have the chance to win awesome prizes, all while helping me get the word out about my published works! To sign up for the street team, please click here.

That's all I've got for today, but stay tuned for more exciting news as Donn's Hill gets closer to publication!

The Brave Pants Chronicles, Episode #1: Writing Conferences!

If you Google “how to be a better writer,” you’ll get hundreds of thousands of different results. I know; I’ve done it. A lot. And I’ve given a whole lot of those suggestions a try. Some of them are working for me, like making sure I read tons of books both in my genre and outside of it, and setting aside time every single day to work on something. Other things just don’t seem to click with me, like Stephen King’s advice to shut out the world completely during the first draft (I require a lot of staring-out-the-window time while writing).

Yeah, that about sums it up.

Yeah, that about sums it up.

There’s one piece of advice I’ve read over and over, and I’ve wanted take it for a very long time but it felt financially out of reach: attend a writing conference or retreat. This past weekend I was finally able to not only attend but to volunteer at the League of Utah Writers Fall Conference, and it was EPIC.

I got to learn from successful authors, editors, and other publishing industry pros in panels and workshops about things like developing my secondary characters so that they’re more than just window dressing, writing layered stories that do more than just distract the reader for a while, and even managing my social media accounts more easily. By the end of the day, my brain refused to accept any new information unless I agreed to purge stuff like King's combo moves in Capcom vs. SNK2 or the lyrics to Closing Time. Thank goodness for my pages upon pages of scribbled notes and the many presenters who shared their PowerPoints on their websites or via email.

But as cool as that all was, it wasn’t even my favorite thing. Writing can be a pretty solitary activity. For a couple of years now, I’ve been missing the social and cooperative aspects of being an active musician: sharing the stage with other musicians, building a network of bands in similar genres, and celebrating each other’s successes. At the beginning of the summer, I joined the League of Utah Writers and started going to chapter meetings to try to capture a similar sense of community.

And it worked.

The best part of the conference was just getting to meet so many other writers at every stage. Over coffee in the morning, I chatted with another writer about balancing our writing time with working and spending time with our spouses. While volunteering as a timekeeper for pitch sessions, I met a published author of steampunk fantasy. We compared notes about our own marketing strategies and how neither of us feels like we’re doing Instagram right. I was able to meet one of my Twitter #amwriting friends in person (it was crazy to spot her from across a panel and realize I’d been seeing her face in my feed for months), and now we’re going to be working on a committee together. I had dinner with a small group of authors and editors, and by the end of the meal I felt like I’d made ten new friends.

Or: go to a writing conference and actually talk to other humans.

Or: go to a writing conference and actually talk to other humans.

Call me hooked. I’ll be going back next fall, and I’ll be hitting the League of Utah Writers Spring Conference and LTUE (a conference just for sci-fi and fantasy) next year as well. I feel pretty lucky to live in a place where there’s such a large and active writing community, and I’m glad I put on my brave pants and dove into it.