Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Best Action/Adventure Book

Blogger Katherine Owens just announced her favorite books of 2011. She rated my novel, Screwing Up Time, as the best action/adventure book she's read this year. Squee!! If you want to check her blog for her other favorites, here's the link. http://katharineowens.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Giving E-books As Gifts

It’s Christmas time, and I’ve gotten emails asking if it’s possible to give Screwing Up Time as a gift. The answer is YES. “Gifting” e-books is very simple—no trips to the store, no waiting in line at the post office, no hoping it gets there on time. Delivery is immediate.

Here’s what you do. On the right hand side of the screen, is the “Give as a gift” button. (It’s light orange—check out the screen shot below. Click the screen shot and it will enlarge so you can see the gift-wrapped button.) All you have to do is go to Amazon page for SUT and click the button. Then you type in the recipient’s email address. Amazon will send them an email telling them they’ve been gifted a book.  (Which reminds me, if you get an email from Amazon, make sure it’s actually spam before you delete/ignore it because it may well be a gift announcement. We gifted a book to a relative who just thought it was another advertising email, and it wasn’t until we asked how they liked the book that we realized they hadn’t opened the email.

One more announcement. I took the big step forward. Screwing Up Time is now available for lending to Amazon Prime members. And if you'd like to buy the book, it's still on sale for 99 cents at Amazon. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Changes: Just When You Thought You'd Figured It Out

If you're an indie writer, you've probably heard about the latest Amazon offer. If you're a reader, you might not have. But this affects all of us, so keep reading. Amazon now has a  program to allow free "borrowing" of e-books to Amazon prime members. (Amazon prime members also get free 2 day shipping and the ability to stream movies.) It's a win-win for those who pay the yearly fee--two of my adult kids are Amazon prime members.

Of course, Amazon had to sweeten the pot for writers to participate. They have a pile of gold at the end of the rainbow--they've set aside a pot of money to be split by participating writers based on the number of times their book gets "checked out." However, there's a catch. In order to qualify for Amazon's lendability, you have to sell your e-book only through Amazon. So if you're book is available through Smashwords or B&N, you have to take it down.

Honestly, the money isn't that much of an issue. I don't have any illusions that I'd get a big chunk of the cash. But what attracts me is the publicity/promos associated with it. The most difficult thing for me as an indie writer is letting people know my book is out there and that they'd like it. (Maybe it's because I have a tendency to be shy. I don't meet people and say, "Hey, I'm Connie. I wrote a book and you should buy it because you'd love it." But I'm learning.) Amazon used to do more promotions for indie books, but that changed. And with that, writers saw their sales tumble. It's like being in a book store. It used to be that Amazon would put your book out on the display rack at the front of the store or on the endcaps. Now you get a couple of days there, and then you're shelved in the back corner where the lighting's poor--no one find you unless they're looking. (If you're a reader, you can help indie writers by telling your friends about books you love and writing book reviews on Amazon and GoodReads, etc.)

After thinking these things through and reading lots of opinions, every indie writer has a strong opinion, I've decided to take Amazon up on their offer. I'll be taking Screwing Up Time down from Barnes and Noble's site for three months. (If you've been planning on buying the novel for Nook, do it today.) During the three months, you can buy it Amazon (on sale for 99cents) or borrowing it if you're an Amazon Prime members.

So wish me luck and stay tuned, I'll let you know how it goes.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


If you've been reading this blog (or my other blog) for very long, you know that I'm not the most tech savvy person. In fact, I rely on my in-house techies to do just about everything for me. When I don't, bad things happen. The last bad thing happened a couple of weeks ago when I tried to change my GoodReads account. I ended up emailing a LOT of literary agents in NYC and asking them to be my "GoodReads friend." Uh, yeah. I so did not mean for that to happen. Of course, the amazing thing is that some of them friended me.

All that to say, I "did" a tech thing by myself this morning and (fingers crossed) it hasn't backfired yet. I'm now officially registered on Kindlegraph. That means you can get my autograph. Honestly, I'm not hugely clear on how this works. All I know is that I'm registered and my book is listed along with 10,000 others novels that can be Kindlegraphed. If you request a autograph, then I'm notified and I can give you a signature. Here's a link to my author Kindlegraph page: http://www.kindlegraph.com/authors/CMKellerWrites

Kind of cool. The next step in electronic books.

(For authors who are interested, here's a link: http://www.kindlegraph.com/.)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Book Flyer

One of the hardest things about indie publishing is advertising and promotion. I like to write. I don't like marketing. (It's a good thing that I was never a salesgirl; I would've said to a customer, "Are you sure that you can afford to buy the shoes that match the outfit?") But if you're indie published, you are your own marketing department.

The question I keep asking myself is how do I reach readers. I've done interviews, social media, GoodReads, book blogs, etc. But those appear to be reaching other writers (which isn't bad because they're great readers). How do I reach people who don't write?

Amazon used to do more to promote new indie books (three months of promotion), but they've changed their policy to one month. Plus, there are so many indie books now that it's tough to not be relegated to a dark nook in the virtual bookstore.

So I'm trying to think of other ways to market my book. My latest attempt is a flyer. Here's what my Art Department (the amazing graphic artist Tara Rimondi at tararimondi.com) put together.

So now I'm busy trying to find places that will let me put up my flyers. It's harder than I thought. Most community bulletin boards only allow you to put up flyers that advertise things that are free. (I think 99 cents is close, but apparently not close enough.) So far, WalMart said "no." The public library said "maybe." Starbucks said "yes," but I think that's only because the manager wasn't there. My son Luke is putting some up at the university where he's a student. Anyway, I'll let you know if the flyers are successful in reaching non-writing readers. And if you have any suggestions about where I can put up the flyers, I'd love to hear them.

BTW, many thanks to Matthew who transformed the flyer file into something blogger would read.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Revising: A Dark Treasure Hunt

I’m in the middle of the big revision of the sequel. And I’m having a great time when I’m not anxious. In the past, I’ve described writing as riding a rollercoaster. Revisions don’t have the same ups and downs, they’re more like a treasure hunt.

I have to fill in the text with plot baubles. Pretty little bits that fill out the setting, which is especially important in books that take place in the past. Readers want to know the exotic details—what weird foods are there, how would people dress, what are the sights and sounds on the street? Of course, the most important thing is to make these baubles integral to the text; otherwise, they’re not much more than footnotes to the story. In other words, these baubles must become more than pretty trinkets because readers want to be transported to another time and place. And while historical fiction addresses this desire, I think time travel books add a layer—what would it be like for me (a modern person) to be there.

But before you think that the plot treasure hunt is all fun and games, I must tell you that it’s a dark treasure hunt. Dark because I’m not alone. There are stalkers. Black clothed thought figures who hunt me while I’m on the treasure hunt. They exist in my mind, in thoughts that say, “What if you can’t figure out a way to fix this.” They stalk my courage. Always taunting me, until I fix the plot problem. Then I turn and fire on a stalker, nailing it in the chest and watching it explode into dust and blow away.  Afterwards, I blow away the smoke that clings to the nose of my revolver.

Another one bites the dust. Lock and load, baby.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Wonders of the Ancient World

I finished my read through of the rough draft of the Screwing Up Time sequel. Today, I’ll be digging into the text editing and revising. I’ve decided to give you a small hint about the sequel. Part of the novel will take place at one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. I hope that whets your appetite.

I’ve also decided to start a short story involving some of the characters from Screwing Up Time, and I hope to have it finished and available by Christmas. The short story will be set in the period of time between the first book and the sequel.

Here’s photo of the sequel after my first read through. You can see, tons of work to be done.

I also have a brand new Facebook Author page. And if you're interested in reading about "head in a bag plot devices" or why allergies are really the result of viruses created by pharmaceutical companies, visit my other blog, A Merry Heart.

Also, several friends of the blog have recently published e-books. Check them out. (If you have an YA or middle grade e-book you’d like me to mention, email me.)


Clockwise by Elle Strauss

Golden Blood by Melissa Pearl


Beyond the Land of Narnia by Joyce McPherson

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Writer's Bubble

A lot of people work from home, writers especially. And most writers, like me, don’t have a designated office. I’m lucky, I have a small desk.  In the kitchen. Not the most likely place for quiet. I’ve always written in the kitchen—it’s easier to make sure no one burns down the house when you’re nearby.

Non-writers ask how do you do it. How do you write without quiet time? (I homeschooled my kids, so there was never any quiet time when they were “away.”) And though two of my kids are in college now and one is taking dual enrollment classes, they still live at home—noise and chaos still reign. The writers’ secret is the bubble. Though other writers call it other things. It’s an enveloping creativity that isolates you from the rest of the world. My kids made up the term “bubble.” They use it like this, “Mom’s in her bubble. She’s gone.” And that’s what it’s like. I am physically present, but my mind is wholly in my novel. I’m seeing and hearing people that exist only in the confines of my imagination.

So the bubble is great for writing. It’s not so great for being a mom. When my children were little, they took full advantage of it. For example, I’d emerge from the bubble to find myself dripping sweat in January. I’d check the thermostat. It was set at ninety. When I asked my minions who’d changed the thermostat from my favored setting of 67, Jacob said, “I asked you if I could turn up the temperature to 90, and you said yes.” The downside of the bubble. When I’m in the bubble, I apparently (I’m still highly suspicious about this because I have no memory of any of these conversations) give permission for all kinds of ridiculous things. Yes, you may play computer games for the rest of your life. Yes, you may gorge yourself on candy until your face turns green. Yes, you may watch DVDs until your eyeballs melt.

Obviously, this is why I work near the kitchen. My hope is working there was if I ever gave the children permission to start a fire on the stove (don’t laugh, Jacob once told me he was building a bomb—he was little, but still), I’d be there to douse the fire with an extinguisher. But the niggling thought in the back of my mind was “What if I didn’t notice?” I’d love to explain that to the fire chief.
He’d say, “Mrs. Keller, do you know anything about the fire?”

I’d say, “Uh, yes, I was in the kitchen and didn’t notice that the children were playing with matches and torches, re-enacting scenes from National Treasure.”

He’d say, “They told me that you gave them permission.”

I’d say, “Oh. Really?”

I’m so glad that my children made it to adulthood in one piece. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Editing, Part 2

Once I got all my gear together, I started editing SUT the sequel. (Yes, it has a title. But I’m not ready to release it yet because it has a spoiler in it.) I’m about 30 pages into the edit. Which may not sound like a lot, but it is. The first chapter takes lots and lots of work. And the second chapter too. So I’m making good progress, and I really, really hope the book will be ready by summer. Maybe sooner.

I hope you’re not pulling out your hair because I said the word “summer.” This edit won’t be the last one. Usually I do a big edit—the first one—where I fill all the plot holes. For example, I left two characters stranded in the first draft, so I have to rescue them. (I’m sure they’re irritated and will let me know when I get to them.) After the major edit, I’ll do a second edit to polish up the voice—so that it really sounds like Mark who’s telling the story and not me.

Then, I’ll send the book to beta readers. Beta readers are often other writers (not always though) who read the novel and give me feedback on what they think needs work. Then, I’ll make the changes they suggest. And then, I’ll give the book another edit.

After that, assuming it doesn’t need another edit, I’ll proofread it from beginning to end—with the Chicago Manual of Style next to me, so that I can look up any grammar fine points that I’m not 100% sure of. Then, I’ll proofread it one more time—from end to beginning. In other words, I’ll read the last chapter first. Then the second to the last chapter and so on until I reach the first chapter. You see, it’s really easy for the writer to get caught up in the story too. And then we miss things. I don’t want a book with errors that has my name on it. And it’s not just because my name is on it. But whenever there is an error whether it’s grammar or otherwise, it pulls the reader out of the story. More than anything else, I want you to get lost in the story.

I’ll wrap it up here—a chapter is calling my name. Time to edit.

BTW, for those of you who are writers, I did a post on "Writing Style" here

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Internet Book Fair

Do you remember book fairs? Or maybe those fliers you got in school telling you about all the latest children's paperbacks? (Those fliers were my favorite things about elementary school.) Today something just as exciting is going on. It's the Internet Book Fair Blogfest. It's a great opportunity to find out about all the new books that are available. You can visit each author's/book's blog, read blurbs and reviews and, if you're interested, follow the links to buy to the book. So click on the link and enjoy the fun! To find out more about my book, keep reading below.

At the end of the post is a list of hot links to the other books in the book fair. Enjoy!

Here's info on my novel, Screwing Up Time.

Mark Montgomery is a slacker content with his life. He’s a senior at New Haven Prep, has a great friend, and after graduation he’ll get a brand new sports car from his parents, assuming he stays out of trouble. Then, she comes into his life—Miranda with her I-just-escaped-from-a-Renaissance-Fair clothing. Only, she hasn’t. She has come from Bodiam Castle in the Middle Ages and demands a secret ingredient and a book of recipes for traveling through the treacherous colors of time. Although Mark has never even heard of either before, he must find them, or Miranda will die. To save her, Mark must break into a psych hospital to visit his grandfather who once tried to kill him, pass through the colors of time, take on a medieval alchemist, prevent Miranda’s marriage to a two-timing baron, and keep it all hidden from his parents. The sports car is definitely in trouble.

Buy Screwing Up Time for $2.99 at Amazon or BarnesandNoble.com

Here are some Amazon reviews.

"...I enjoy historical fiction and love time travel so...I decided to try this one out. I absolutely loved it! The characters were funny and felt like real people, and I quickly connected with the main characters in the story (which is a major factor for me in books...if I don't like the characters, I'm not going to finish the book). The plot moved along at a good pace, never feeling slow or labored, and I was so drawn in to the story that I could hardly stand to put the book down. I don't dare to do a plot summary for fear of giving something away, so all I can say is I highly, highly recommend this book, and am looking forward to reading more of the series!"

"This YA novel is a fun and witty read! The characters came to life and as I read I found myself eager to find out what happened next. I highly recommend this book and look forward to the next in the series!"

""Screwing Up Time" was fun to read and very hard to put down. The fact that Bodiam Castle has it's own web page [...] makes the book even more intriguing. The characters feel like old friends after only a few chapters. I could see the country side and feel the movement through time. Thanks C. M. Keller for the great escape for a short time anyway. Can not wait for the next installment."

Here's are links to the rest of the books in the blog fest.

1.M.A. Leslie2.Le Vanity Victorienne
3.www.lachesispublishing.com4.Dianne Hartsock
5.Susan Kaye Quinn6.Kai Strand (The Weaver)
7.Kate Avery Ellison8.Nancy Stewart Books Blog
9.AdoraPet Children's Books to Nourish a Happy Mind10.William & Pamela Deen
11.My Sister Is My Best Friend12.REMEMBERING NINE ELEVEN
13.MARIE AND THE SEA TURTLE14.Nancy Lynn Jarvis
15.Donna J. Shepherd16.1 Zany Zoo
17.Shelley Buck Author SIte18.http://tinyurl.com/5rby7oc
19.fiddleeebod20.Urban Mythos
21.The Underwear Dare22.Ashfall
23.A Day in Doha24.The Golden Pathway
25.CLOCKWISE by Elle Strauss26.Jessica Bell @ The Alliterative Allomorph
27.Signs of Trouble28.The Doll by J.C. Martin
29.J.L. Campbell @ The Character Depot30.Once Upon a December Nightmare by Cherie Reich
31.Nicole Zoltack32.Lyon's Legacy by Sandra Ulbrich Almazan
33.The Night Watchman Express by Alison DeLuca34.THE LEGEND OF VICTOR STANDISH
35.Indies are GO!36.The Legacy of Kilkenny
37.Silent No More38.Angela Fristoe @ Turning the Pages
39.The Once and Future Wizard by Tom Averna40.200 SHORTS
41.Screwing Up Time by C.M. Keller42.Connection of the Minds
43.Double the Trouble44.A Second Chance
45.Ghost Dog of Roanoke Island by C.K. Volnek46.Stranger on the Shore
47.May I Have this Dance48.If I Could Be Like Jennifer Taylor
49.Erotic Deception (Romantic Suspense) by Karen Cote'50.Shadows Steal The Light
51.Reluctant Companions by Christine London52.Hog Wild by Christine London
53.Sunshine Boulevard54.The Turn of the Karmic Wheel, Monica Brinkman
55.Spirit Stealer56.Guinevere: On the Eve of Legend
57.Under the Hat58.Screwing Up Time by C.M. Keller (blog)
59.The Chronicles of Caleath60.Larion Wills/Larriane Wills
61.Nathan's Angel by Melissa Bradley62.Culloden Spirit by Anita Davison
63.Trencarrow Secret by Anita Davison64.Killer Valentine Ball Chris Verstraete
65.Stephen Tremp Breakthrough Blogs66.The Powers by S. Durham
67.Madeline Sharples @Choices68.Hostage Heart by Chelle Cordero
69.Rachel's Children: Surviving the Second World War70.Hostage Heart by Chelle Cordero
71.Hyphema by Chelle Cordero72.Impeccable
73.45 Minutes by Kristen Young74.Final Sin by Chelle Cordero
75.To Be Continued by Charmaine Gordon76.Now What? by Charmaine Gordon
77.One Pelican at a Time78.http://goo.gl/EWgYg
79.Love's Long Shadow80.Patricia Lynne's Journey Through the Pages
81.Anne Gallagher - Regency Romance Writer82."I Believe"
83.Johanna Garth, urban fantasy, Losing Beauty84.OnWords Blog
85.Getaway by DD Symms86.Jennifer M. Hartsock

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


Today I start editing. People have asked me what that’s like. So I took a photo of the things I use to get started.

When I edit, I print the entire manuscript for the first time. After I did that this morning, I discovered to my horror that I forgot to insert page numbers. Now I’ll have to go through the entire novel and write in the page numbers. YUCK!

Before you feel too sorry for me, I have to go through each page by hand anyway and highlight (with my pink/yellow/green/blue highlighters) all the notes I’ve left myself in the text. When I’m writing a first draft, I don’t want to get bogged down in the text so I’ll leave myself notes. For example, “This scene is painful, fix it,” or “Add in the backstory for this scene,” or “Character X needs to be in this scene, add in later.” Editing is when I fix those things.

The green notebook and fountain pen are for making notes to myself about the themes, subplots, and character development that need to be added or refined in the text. I use a fountain pen because it slows me down and makes me think more deeply as I write.

The flags (I need a lot more of these) is how I mark the text. For example, in Screwing Up Time all the romantic/relationship scenes got marked with a red flag. The time traveling scenes got marked with a green flag, etc., etc., etc. This makes is easier for me to verify/correct scenes. When you make even a small change in scene, you have to make sure that it doesn’t affect other scenes. If it does, more rewriting.

The post-its are for making notes and sticking them on the page. (Obviously.) Sometimes a section needs a lot of work, and I use the notes to make a list of suggestions to myself. Sometimes I don’t have the time to fix something, but I don’t want to forget what I decided to do so I leave myself notes—occasionally a whole page is covered with yellow post-its. (I need to buy a lot more of these too.)

I think the red pens are self-explanatory. When I’m editing, my purse, my car, my nightstand, and every room in the house has multiple red pens lying around, you never want to waste time looking for a red pen when you have a great editing idea.  The pens in the photo are leftovers from the SUT edit. I’ve got a bagful waiting to be opened for this book.

Then there’s the printout, which looks surprisingly slim. That’s because it’s single-spaced and because I underwrite. When the book is finished, it will be 20 to 30% longer.

Enough writing about writing, my fingers are itching to edit. I’m craving those red pens, which will hopefully turn my first draft into a story worth reading. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Personality Quiz

Last Friday, I finished the first draft of the Screwing Up Time sequel. (Imagine me throwing confetti and dancing around the house.) In honor of that auspicious event, I've made a quiz. If you click on the "Quizzes" tab  just above the blog date, it will take you to a Screwing Up Time personality quiz. Take the quiz and find out which SUT character you are most like.

I hope you enjoy it.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


In a recent author interview, I was asked about my research into Bodiam Castle and its integration into the novel. And it’s been an amazing experience. When I first started writing Screwing Up Time, the castle existed only in my mind. As I added more detail, I decided to look at pictures of real life castles. When I found the picture of Bodiam Castle, I couldn’t believe it. Here was an almost exact replica of what only lived in my mind. As I researched the castle’s history and lore, I discovered the legend of the woman in red (who in my novel was already Miranda). Then, I knew that Bodiam Castle was going to be the site of my novel.

Of course, picking a real place as a setting can be very difficult, especially if it’s not down the street. So I bought and borrowed books. I looked up websites. I did everything I could to accurately ground my novel in Bodiam Castle. And I thought I was done. I turned my attention to other editing issues. When I was doing a final editing pass, I decided to add more detail to a section on the castle, so I went back to my sources. But I couldn’t find the exact information I wanted. So I googled the castle. I was amazed at what came back. In the time since I’d started the novel and finished it, people had posted their personal vacation photos online. I found scads of photos of all the interesting parts of the castle, usually with people next to them so that I could have a sense of scale. It was an amazing bounty of knowledge. And then, I discovered that some of my resources were inaccurate. Things at the castle had changed. A room that had had a grass floor now had a floor of loose pebbles. Oops. I went back and rewrote that. Most of the changes were small, but so important to render the kind of accuracy that allows readers to be transported.

I would strongly encourage people that are using real locations in their novels to view personal photographs that people make available online. It helps to see what things look like under different lighting and from different angles. View Google maps to see what your character would see as he/she walked down the street. And don’t trust your memory of the places—places change and memory becomes distorted. We have so many options now to keep our writing grounded, use them.                                               

Friday, September 30, 2011


AB Keuser interviewed me on her blog. I had a lot of fun doing the interview. Click here to read it.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


I’m almost finished with the first draft of the Screwing Up Time sequel. But I hit the final chapters and ran into a brick wall. Not that I didn’t know what was going to happen, I did. I know the final solution, but it was all the sub-plots that stymied me.  Because I’m a “pantser,” I write as the characters lead, and since the characters all have their own agendas, there are a lot of sub-plot threads that all need to come together at the end. Not an easy solution.

So here’s what I do. I list all the plot issues in a notebook with a fountain pen. (It’s about the only time I write longhand besides editing.) Then I figure out which plot threads fit together. Afterwards, I brainstorm solutions. Several pages later, I arrive at the legitimate possibilities. Then I hone them. This is always a scary part of the novel for me. What if I can’t figure out an answer for all the sub-plot twists? This is my version of writer’s block. But once things start to fit together, it’s also the most exciting part. It’s not until the end that some characters reveal their hidden motives. For example, in the sequel Granddad spends a lot of time studying ancient texts and is very furtive. But I didn’t know why. I knew he was hiding something. But since I write from Mark’s perspective I didn’t know what it was. Now that I’m at the climax, Granddad finally reveals what he’s been hiding. I was shocked—just as shocked as Mark. Of course, now I get to go back into the text and hide bits of information, a bread crumb trail of clues that hopefully will make you wonder what’s going on and still say “Oh, I should have seen that coming” when the reveal happens.

Right now, I’ve got almost all of the sub-plot issues solved. This afternoon I’m going to start writing the climax. I can’t wait!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Why Do You Read?

Okay, raise your hand if you read the back of cereal boxes. Yep, just as I suspected—lots of hands, my own included. Boredom readers. Breakfast is a boring meal at our house. No one’s had their coffee yet, so we sit at the table staring at one another and hoping that caffeine and sugar will jump start our brains.

Sometimes I read the newspaper, other times I don’t. I really don’t care what-actress-dumped-what-actor-for-what-reason. There’s always the front page, but I’m sick to death of politics and economics. The novel that I’m reading is infinitely more interesting (even the cereal box is more interesting if my brain is too befuddled to remember where I left the novel I was reading). Which leads to another reading reason—escapism. I love to take a break and visit another time or place or other people whose faces aren’t glazed with sleep.

But I have another reason for reading, beauty and thought. Sometimes I set aside time to experience words and their stories—poetry and classic literature. (BTW, the Aeneid is a total Iliad knock off. Homer should have sued.)

And sometimes I read to laugh. I like Dave Berry, though I feel sorry for his mother-in-law. And I love PG Woodhouse. Someone has said of him, “It is impossible to be unhappy while reading the adventures of Jeeves and Wooster. And I've tried.” It’s true. Try it.

What about you? Why do you read?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Moaning Monks

A lot of writers listen to music when they write. I never did. In fact, I find music so distracting that I couldn’t figure out why anyone would find it helpful. Not that I don’t like music. I love music. And I’ve got very eclectic tastes. I listen to everything from classical to big band to Southern rock to indie. I’ve even *gasp* begun to like some country. But still I never found writing and music to mix.

Then things changed. My writing schedule for the sequel to Screwing Up Time is pretty intense, at least for me. And some days it was hard for me to focus enough creative energy to get my word count. (I write a 1000 words a day, five days a week. A 1000 words is four pages, double-spaced.) I needed something to help me get “into the zone.”

Enter the Moaning Monks. No, that’s not really the name of the group. That’s want my kids call it. I listen to The Lamentations of Jeremiah by Thomas Tallis (1505-1585), which is polyphony and the words are Latin. Not exactly that kind of music that you think would inspire a modern time travel novel. But I don’t listen to the music to develop the “voice” of the novel. I use it to find my creative center. The sad music quiets me and allows the plot of a novel to flow. If you want to put it in literary parlance, it helps me find my muse.

The problem is that I live in a house with five other people who find that the Lamentations do NOT help them with mathematical proofs, chemistry equations, Calc2, and logic. Apparently, different muses respond to different music. (I have been told that Calc2 responds really well to Julian Smith, especially “Racist Coffee.”)

A compromise has been reached. My daughter has now fitted me with an iPod shuffle and ear buds.  And in the end, listening to 16th century music on 21st century equipment is a time travel journey in itself. So maybe it’s not so strange after all.

I've included the Tallis piece and Julian Smith's song. Enjoy the musical time travel.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Colors of Time

Several people have asked how I got the idea for the colors of time. Here’s how it happened: When Mark was traveling through time, I closed my eyes and imagined what it would be like. I couldn’t believe he’d move through time and just “be there.” Surely he’d have a sensory experience of time passing by. Then I saw time as a stream of colors flowing by. Whites. Blues, Yellows, Orange. Greens. Time was a whole palette of colors. But not just colors. Time had texture and fluidity. Time had temperature that could be felt. And I knew it wouldn’t be quiet. Time would have sound—whispers and screams. When I knew that, the Colors of Time were born.

Of course, in Screwing Up Time, Mark has only begun to understand the Colors of Time and how they work. In the sequel, he discovers a lot more. Most of it not good. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Halfway Celebration

Celebration Time! I’m halfway through the first draft of the Screwing Up Time sequel.
Writing this novel is going quickly—it’s as if the story is writing itself. Because I’m a “pantser,” sometimes the writing is slow because I’m not sure what is going to happen. But so far when I finish a scene, the next scene is waiting to be written.

My family has caught my excitement, and occasionally I catch my kids standing behind me and reading over my shoulder. Then I banish them. When I read it to them for the first time, I want the story to be fresh. Right now I hope to have the first draft finished by mid to late October. I’ll do a first edit right away, and hopefully will send it to beta readers (people—usually writers—who read early drafts and give feedback about what needs to be fixed) by Thanksgiving. If all goes well, maybe the sequel will be out by spring. If not, it should be out by early summer. I’ll keep you posted. 

Here's a photo of me, hard at work. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


(First off, let me say that I'm so sorry I forgot to post yesterday. I try to post every Tuesday, but I just didn't get around to it. Classes, work, and sickness consumed my mind. Here's what I was supposed to post.)

People frequently ask if I base my characters on real people, events, or places. The answer is no. (Even though I have a cool t-shirt that says, "Watch Out Or You Might End Up In My Next Novel.") However, that doesn't mean I don't draw from my personal experiences. For example, in Screwing Up Time, Mark lives in North Haven, Connecticut, which is a real place. For seven years, I lived in the neighboring town of Hamden. I draw from my experiences there when I put in details about the weather, the names of streets, etc. So if you went to North Haven, you could find Ridge Road where Mark used to run to keep in shape. But the characters aren't people I know. Though Mark's personality is an amalgam of two young men I know--but they won't sue. :) I've never based a character's personality on a living person, mostly because the characters I write about are fully formed once they come to me. And, in fact, even with Mark, it was more like I recognized who he was rather than who I planned he would be.

And I like to include real objects like my poison ring and the very cool yellow Solstice that I see driving the streets of Chattanooga. One of my sons is getting a birthday present (sorry he's birthday's tomorrow and I can't spoil his fun and tell you what it is) that I'd love to include in a book, but it probably won't be this sequel.

And this morning I found a beautiful creature that I'm going to include. Sadly, she'll have only a small role. But now you'll have something to look forward to. Here's a picture of her.

 She lives right outside our front door. And though you can't see it in the photo, she has a snack wound in silk underneath her belly.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Sequel Excerpt

The first draft of the sequel to Screwing Up Time is one third done. (Imagine me throwing confetti.) In honor of that milestone, I’ve decided to post a very short excerpt. I can’t promise that this passage will actually make it into the final version of the novel, but I thought you might enjoy it. Don’t worry, there aren’t any spoilers.

            Murgatroid was long gone when the guard woke up. He sat up, rubbed his head, and looked for me. I waved and hoped revenge wasn’t high on his to-do list—having a clay pot shattered on the back of your head probably packed a nasty headache. I wished I could give him some ibuprophen. Instead, I poured him a goblet of wine.
            By the time Peter came back, the guard was sitting in the chair by the door.
            “Yo, Pete,” I said when he walked in. “I’m getting a little tired of hanging out here waiting for whatever it is you want to spring on me.”

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Photos of Bodiam Castle

Screwing Up Time is set in several locations. One of them in North Haven, CT, near where my family and I lived for seven years. The other location is a bit more exotic for Americans. It’s Bodiam Castle. And yes, Bodiam Castle is a real place. If you’d like to look at some photos of what the castle looks like today. Click here. And it will take you to a National Trust photo gallery of Bodiam Castle. These are some of the things Mark and Brian would have seen when they visited the castle. I hope you enjoy the photos.

BTW, for those of you who are regular readers of this blog. My plan is to post every Tuesday.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Plotter or Pantser

People often ask how writers come up with their stories. Most writers fall into one of two categories: Plotters or Pantsers. (Though many writers are combinations of both.)  A plotter is someone who sits down and writes out the plot of a novel before they begin writing. Some writers plot everything—every plot twist, every scene.  Other writers are “pantsers” because they write from the seat of their pants with almost no idea of what’s going to happen.

I’m a pantser. I sit down to write the story and have no idea where it’s going. I rely on my characters to tell the story to me. In that way, my writing the novel isn’t that much different than the way a reader experiences it when he or she reads it.

For me, “the unknown” is the scary-thrilling rush that comes as I write. It’s kind of like being on a rollercoaster while wearing a blindfold.

For example, I’m working on a sequel to Screwing Up Time—I’m about a quarter of the way into the story, and I ran into a conundrum. Kate, Brian, and Granddad are all in different places. Eventually, they need to get to Mark and Miranda who are in trouble and need all the help they can get.

I knew how Granddad would get there. But I had no idea how Kate would get there or what her role would be in the action. Then, the answer came to me. Kate would act according to her personality, and she’s not one to sit back and wait for things to happen.

I’d love to tell you what Kate’s decided to do, but I don’t want to spoil any of the book. So you’ll just have to wait because I want you to experience the rush of discovering the story just like I do (although without all the nastiness of editing and proofreading—the real downside of being an author).

Friday, July 29, 2011

Author Spotlight

Today I'm being featured in an "Author Spotlight" on Lydia Kang's blog, The Word is My Oyster. Here's the link. Be sure to check out her Medical Monday posts. They are always fascinating.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Poison Rings

According to my research, poison rings were originally used for carrying messages, perfume, mementos, or a lock of hair. Eventually, they were put to more nefarious uses. Hence the name “poison ring.”

In Screwing Up Time, a poison ring plays a role in the plot. Here’s a photo of my poison ring, which is very much like the one that Mark has.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Screwing Up Time, Blurb and Excerpt

About the Book

Mark Montgomery is a slacker content with his life. He’s a senior at New Haven Prep, has a great friend, and after graduation he’ll get a brand new sports car from his parents, assuming he stays out of trouble. Then, she comes into his life—Miranda with her I-just-escaped-from-a-Renaissance-Fair clothing. Only, she hasn’t.  She has come from Bodiam Castle in the Middle Ages and demands a secret ingredient and a book of recipes for traveling through the treacherous colors of time. Although Mark has never even heard of either before, he must find them, or Miranda will die. To save her, Mark must break into a psych hospital to visit his grandfather who once tried to kill him, pass through the colors of time, take on a medieval alchemist, prevent Miranda’s marriage to a two-timing baron, and keep it all hidden from his parents. The sports car is definitely in trouble.

Screwing Up Time, Chapter One

“Mark, she’s crazy.” Brian pulled into the driveway and stopped the car. “You know that, right?”
“Ms. Patel is an English teacher—crazy goes without saying. But I agree with her. Hamlet must have seen something. And he claimed it was his father’s ghost. Is that so unbelievable?”
“It’s a play, Mark. Not a treatise on the undead.”
I smiled. “‘There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy,’ uh, physics textbook.” I tapped the calculator in Brian’s blazer pocket. We were both wearing navy blazers since it was Tie Day at New Haven Prep. Boys had to wear ties and coats; girls had to wear plaid skirts. I called it “Noose and Knees Day.”
“You actually did read the Hamlet assignment,” Brian said.
“I watched the movie version.”
He groaned. “Cop out.”
“It’s more real that way.” I unbuckled my seatbelt and grabbed my backpack. “Hamlet was meant to be watched, not read.”
“I guess that’s true.” Brian pushed his glasses up. He had rectangular rims that always slid down his nose.
“Want to come inside and get something to eat?”
“Thanks, Mark. But I’ve got to study.”
“For what?” I asked. “The physics exam isn’t until next week.”
“I need to review the optics equations.”
I opened the car door. “You wouldn’t want to miss any points—they won’t let you into Harvard if you miss a point or two.”
Bri threw a can of Coke at me. I ducked. It sailed into the front yard. He hated Harvard.
“Aren’t you supposed to be studying to retake the SAT?” Brian asked.
I climbed out of the car. “Thanks, Bri. It’s not like one mom’s enough.” I grabbed the Coke from the middle of the lawn and popped the top, holding it away from me while the soda fountained on the grass. I drank a swig and waved as Brian drove away.
Walking into the house, I tossed my hat on the console table. Mom hated my fedora. She thought I wore it because I wanted to look like Indiana Jones. She was wrong.
Nothing else was on the table. Not mom’s purse or Kate’s coat. No one else was home yet. I snagged soy chips from the pantry—what I wouldn’t give for a bag of Dorritos—and wandered to my bedroom.
My SAT prep book lay in the middle of my bed. A post-it was stuck to the front cover. “Study! (I promised Dad that I’d remind you.) Love, Mom.” I crumpled the note and tossed it in the trashcan. Right. I’d already taken the test three times. It wasn’t as if one more time was going to make a difference. But I picked up the book, turned on my iPod, and collapsed on the bed. At least this way, I could tell her I’d studied.
I’d made it through the English section when a flicker of blue appeared in the corner of my eye. I glanced up. A strange girl stood in the middle of my room, her back toward me.
I jumped off the bed. How did she get in my bedroom? I must have fallen asleep. She was gorgeous, even if she looked like an escapee from a Halloween party with her knee-length blond braids and laced-up medieval dress. Except it was already November.
She sifted through the papers scattered across my desk.
I took out my earbuds. “Uh, who are you? And how did you get in my room?”
She turned and gave me a toothpaste commercial smile. “My name is Miranda.”
She had to be a friend of my sister Kate. Who else but a friend of Kate would be in the house?
I’d seen Kate and her friends wear a lot of bizarre clothes, but nothing quite like this medieval get-up. Maybe Miranda was a theater major. She was pretty enough to be an actress, and it would explain the clothes. I waited for her to say something more, but she turned back to the papers.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
“I am only perusing your papers.” She glanced at me. “Do not fret.”
Perusing and fret? I was surprised any of Kate’s friends would even know what either word meant. “Hey, this is my room. I don’t know how you got in here or what you think you’re doing. But—”
“Forgive me. I did not mean to offend you.” She shrugged. “I am unfamiliar with manners here.”
“I’m not offended.” Maybe Miranda was in one of those improv theater groups, and she was practicing on me.
“May I have permission to look around this chamber?”
Okay, this whole episode was weird, very weird. But she was also hot, so I said, “Sure.” Besides Kate would owe me for playing along.
“Thank you.” She wandered across the room to my bookshelf and pulled out a DVD case. “You have many of these.”
“I’m a movie geek.” I sat on my bed. “If you want to know which film Bogart first made with Bacall, I’m your man.”
“Ah.” She drifted over to the wall next to the book case and rubbed the paint with her finger. “It gleams.”
“It’s a semi-gloss. The beige paint, I mean.” That sounded stupid. What was I, a Sherwin-Williams salesman?
“May I ask where this place is?”
“You mean my house?”
“Yes.” She pushed her braids behind her shoulders.
Maybe she was a theater major who was also an exchange student. My explanations were getting unbelievable, even for me. “We live in North Haven.” Her eyebrows drew together, and her forehead wrinkled. So I said, “Connecticut—you know, just a couple of hours from New York City.”
“Ah.” She walked to my dresser, and the hem of her blue gown dragged along the carpet. Shirts and pants hung out of my drawers. She flipped a leg of one of my jeans up and down like a flag. “This chamber belongs to you?”
“It is quite untidy.”
“I gave the maid a year off.” I cringed. That was too flippant. So I smiled and mentally thanked my mom for plugging in a room freshener last week. At least my room smelled like “rainwater” and not “I-haven’t-cleaned-since-Christmas.”
“Who are you?” I asked.
 “I told you, my name is Miranda.”
“I got that the first time. I meant, what do you want?”
She didn’t answer. Instead, she laid a hand on my Mac and watched as j-pegs of Uruk-hai and tortured elves paraded across my screen in a slide show. Last month, I’d tried an Irina Shayk screensaver, courtesy of Sports Illustrated. But my mom had seen it. Now I was back to the same LOTR files I’d had for years.
Miranda touched the screen and pulled her fingers across it, leaving trails in the dust.
“If you want to check your email, use Kate’s laptop.”
“Check email?” She shook her head. “I am sure I do not need to do that—whatever it is.”
“Whatever what is?”
She smiled at me. “Your eyes are almost the same color as my dress. Sky blue.”
Was she flirting with me? I wasn’t in her league.
“May I make a request?” She rubbed her chin with a finger.
I noticed she had a small dimple in her chin.
She looked at me expectantly.
“What? Oh, right, a question. Go ahead and ask.”
“May I sit on your bed, please?”
“My bed?”
She stiffened. “Pardon me.”
“No, hey, come on.” I moved over.
She straightened the folds of her skirt. “You would need to remove yourself from the bed first.”
“Of course.” I moved to the chair at my desk. What was it with her weird way of talking? She sounded like someone trying to fake Shakespeare. Was it all part of whatever scene she was playing?
She sat on the mattress and bounced. Like a three year old. Maybe this was Kate’s idea of a practical joke.
“What is inside of this?” Miranda asked.
“Inside the mattress?”
She nodded.
“Is that like hay?” She stopped bouncing. “I sleep on feathers.”
Feathers, right. If this was a practical joke, the girl was good.
Miranda pulled a red ribbon off the end of her braid and ran her fingers through the long strands. With a frown, she crossed her ankles and re-braided her hair. “My father and his wife want me to marry a wealthy man, but I have never met him. Though they have told me that his Christian name is Bernard.” She tied the end of her braid with the ribbon and met my eyes with her blue Basset hound gaze—please, feel sorry for me.
This wasn’t fun anymore. Why couldn’t Kate leave me alone? Everything was a fight with her. I sighed. Maybe this Miranda thing was an initiation rite for some pledge at Kate’s sorority. Fine. I’d go with it. Kate wasn’t going to win this round.
“Huh. That’s too bad,” I said. “Are you from one of those Eastern countries, where they make you marry a stranger? Or maybe an Arab one, though I don’t suppose he’d have a Christian name in that case.”
Miranda shook her head. “I am from England. I live at Bodiam Castle.”
“A castle?” I rolled my eyes. This was ridiculous. “Listen, go find Kate. I have SATs next week, and my parents say I need to study. Apparently, the scores from my last three SATs aren’t good enough.”
“I have no desire to marry the man. In fact, I find the idea reprehensible.”
Reprehensible? Perused wasn’t enough? No doubt she’d scored high on the verbal section of the SAT—hey, that was it—she was a drama student. But at Yale. Except, how would she know Kate? Kate went to Southern Connecticut State. Whatever. It didn’t matter. I yawned. “Then don’t marry this Bernie guy.”
“It is so simple for you.” Her eyes narrowed. “Men always have a choice. When you want, you will marry a beautiful woman.” Her voice quivered. “But I have to marry some foul, old stranger.”
I was afraid she might start crying. I hated it when girls cried. I reached out to her.
Miranda jerked away. “Do not touch me.”
“Why not?”
“Your touch will force me to leave.”
I shook my head. “I have better things to do than play games with you and Kate.”
She dabbed the corners of her eyes. “Who is this Kate that you keep mentioning?”
“My sister. Your partner in let’s-haze-the-high-schooler.”
“You make no sense. I told you I am from Bodiam Castle in England.”
“And how did you get here?”                                                
“I journeyed through time.”
I waited for her to laugh, but she didn’t. Was I supposed to call her bluff? She sat on my bed, watching me. Her poker face never slipped. Either she was the greatest actress of my generation, or she believed what she was saying. Could one of my dad’s patients have slipped into the house?
“Do you know my dad?” I asked. “He’s a psychiatrist.”
Miranda shook her head. “I do not know what that is. But I can assure you I do not know your father. You are the only person from this time I have ever met.”
Her gaze didn’t waver. “You really believe that you traveled through time?”
She cocked her head. “It is not a matter of believing. I did it. You saw me arrive.”
“I didn’t.” I crossed my arms over my chest. “I think I must have been asleep. When I looked up, you were already here.”
“When I leave, I shall slip into time, and you will see it.” She stood. “I must leave soon.” A blue pen lay on a pile of homework at the foot of my bed. She picked it up. “May I have this?”
“You want a Bic?”
“I apologize, but I must return with something. If this Bic is the only one you own, perhaps I could take a book.” She put the pen down and picked up my physics textbook. “You have so many books. Surely you will not miss this one.”
“Hey, I have a physics exam next week. You need to give it back.” I picked up the pen. “Take this instead.” I tried to put it in her hand, and the tips of my fingers brushed against her palm. She faded. The pen fell through her hand to the floor.
Miranda sucked in her breath. “I told you not to touch me!” 
The colors of her dress, hair, and skin all bleached.
I grabbed her hand. I wouldn’t let her vanish. But she turned lighter and lighter until she went transparent. Then she was gone. Just like she said.
I looked at my hand. My fingers and palm were curled around nothingness. The room started to spin, and I realized I was holding my breath. I inhaled and exhaled again and again.
A moment ago, a beautiful girl stood in my room. At least, I thought so. I waved my hand through the empty space. Nothing. I checked the ceiling for a camera lens. Maybe Miranda had been a projection. But my ceiling was the same as always. White with a few spider webs, which my mom always hassled me about cleaning.
Or maybe Miranda hadn’t really been here. After all, I’d only slept three hours last night.
The pen I’d tried to give her lay on the carpet. I picked it up. Near the pen, the carpet was crushed. It had to be an indent from her shoe. The area around the toe was pointed. Definitely not from one of my shoes. I shivered. Maybe Miranda was real. Or maybe I was losing my mind.
“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio.” Even if she was real, I’d probably never see her again.
But if she’d gotten here once…