Monday, December 24, 2012


Screwing Up Time and Screwing Up Babylon are now available at Smashwords!! So now they're available for any format e-reader!

Here's Screwing Up Time.

Here's Screwing Up Babylon.

Merry Christmas!!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Books for Teenage Guys

A few weeks ago, I came across a posting on Google plus about my Screwing Up Time books. The teenager guy who wrote the post commented that my books were “written for them.”

That made my day. When I first started thinking about Screwing Up Time, I focused on who Mark was. I wanted him to be like all the teen guys that I knew. When I started writing, my three sons were teens. So I knew a lot of teenage guys. And they were great people. I could say, “Okay, guys, old Capt. Kirk vs. new Capt. Kirk. Who wins?” And we’d discuss it. (New Capt. Kirk takes the old one, in case you’re wondering.)

I wanted Mark (Henry) to be like one of these guys. So Mark couldn’t be perfect. He had to be a real person with real problems. In fact, Mark’s far from perfect—he’s a slacker who has been getting by in life based on the gifts he’s been born with. I wanted him to face huge obstacles and decide who he was. And what kind of man he wanted to be. And I still wanted it to be like real life. A series of small decisions (sometimes bad ones) leading to bigger ones—should Mark believe the unbelievable story Miranda told him? Because if he does, then he’s got to break into the locked ward of a psych hospital to meet his crazy grandfather who tried to kill him. And if he believes Miranda and his grandfather, then he has to travel through time. And if he travels through time, then he has to deal with a murderer, who’s out for his blood too.

And maybe it’s not just Mark who’s there. We’re all trying to make decisions—trying to choose what’s right over what’s easy. And I think that’s what appeals to us about books—we see ourselves, for better and for worse, in someone else.

Quick note: I’m more than halfway through the first draft of book 3! And Screwing Up Time and Screwing Up Babylon should be available at Barnes & for Nook by the end of the week. 

Friday, December 14, 2012

And the winner is...

Congrats to Jo who won the Screwing Up Babylon giveaway!  Thanks to everyone who entered!!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Holiday Blog Hop

This week I'm participating in the 2012 Holiday Blog Hop sponsored by Indie Writers Unite. There are lots of great prizes! Just below, you can use the Rafflecopter widget for a chance to win an e-copy of Screwing Up Babylon. But there are scads more prizes, including two Kindle Fires!! So after signing up to win a copy of Screwing Up Babylon, visit the main Holiday Blog Hop site. Click HERE.

One more bit of excitement. If you're an early bird and you're hopping on Monday, you can get a
FREE copy of my young adult time travel, Screwing Up Time. Click HERE.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Here's more information about the Grand Prizes.

Welcome to the 2012 Holiday Blog Hop, brought to you by the writers of Indie Writers Unite. There's all kinds of swag to be won as well as some amazing grand prizes!

Each writer will be hosting their own giveaway on their blogs and offering their own prizes in addition to the grand prizes. Click HERE to start hopping the author pages.

As the for the grand prizes, there are five. What are they?


$199 VALUE







Thursday, December 6, 2012

Screwing Up Time for FREE!

Thursday is not a normal posting day for me, but I have some exciting news. In celebration of the release of Screwing Up Babylon and the release of "Screwing Up Mongolia" in the anthology Winter Wonders, I decided to give away Screwing Up Time for free from Dec. 6 through Dec. 10. Click here. Enjoy!!

Screwing Up Time is a 2012 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Quarterfinalist.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Screwing Up Mongolia

"Screwing Up Mongolia" is out! *Throws confetti!* "Screwing Up Mongolia" is a Screwing Up Time series short story. And it's included in Winter Wonders, a winter themed anthology of short stories published by Compass Press, recommended for those aged teen and above.

The story is set in the time between Screwing Up Babylon and book three of the Screwing Up Time series. And, of course, the story has Mark (Henry) and Miranda in it.

Here's a link to the e-book version, which is selling for $4.99 at Amazon.
Here's a link to e-book at Barnes & Noble, also selling for $4.99.
And one final link to the paperback version, which is selling for $9.99.

One more bit of information, all the proceeds from the anthology go to Literacy Inc., an organization that teaches teens the importance of reading and offers them a chance to win  a free college education.

(NOTE: Make sure to come back and visit the blog on Friday! I'll have some exciting news to share.)

Here I am with my author copies.

All Proceeds Go To Charity!   Here's the cover with the list of all the authors.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

How the Colors of Time Were Born

Recently, someone asked me how I came up with the idea for the Colors of Time. I thought if one person asked, other people might be interested as well, so here’s the story.

When I first began writing Screwing Up Time, I thought Miranda was a ghost. But it didn’t take long before she told me that she was a traveler through time. Immediately, I began to wonder how she traveled and what her experience would be. Since alchemy, which seems strange and mystical to us, was the science of Miranda’s day, it seemed only natural that an elixir would transport her.

And then, I wondered what the physical experience of traveling through time would be like. So I closed my eyes and became Miranda. I felt time passing me, its touch against my skin. And I saw the seasons pass in white winter, green spring, red summer, and orange brown autumn. But the colors weren’t just visual experiences of light, they had tremendous intensity. And I began to question what they were like. Did they have being? Volition? What if they were violated? How would they express their anger? What would restrain them?

And the colors of time were born.

I love the colors. I love the dimensionality they bring to the setting. Anything is possible. But writing the colors of time is difficult. Creatively, it’s very demanding because of the intensity of the experience, which needs to be different every time.
In writing first drafts, I give the scenes with the colors only a cursory sketch. When I go back to edit, I find all the colors of time scenes in each book I’ve written and make sure the new sketches are fresh. Then, I close my eyes and go through the colors with Mark and Miranda. And then, I share their experiences with you.

Book 3 Update. I’m almost 20,000 words into book 3 of the Screwing Up Time series. Most first drafts that I write are usually 50,000 (with final drafts ending at 75,000 to 80,000 words). So I’m almost halfway. Though the Christmas holidays will probably cut into my writing quite a bit. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Characterization and the Gift of Face Blindness

Today you can find me guest blogging at Laurel's Leaves. Laurel asked me to write on characterization, and I discuss how I use my face blindness as a strength in building characterization.

If you're not familiar with face blindness (prosopagnosia), it means that I don't recognize faces. Sometimes even my kids' faces. Yeah, really.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

#6 Ranking!

Did you hear a gleeful shout this morning? That was me. When I woke up this morning, I discovered that Screwing Up Time was now #6 on Amazon Kindle's teen fiction bestseller list.

I know it can't last for long. But the moment is wonderful. A big thank you to everyone who's bought the book and told their friends about it!!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A New Character

In last week’s blog post, I mentioned that I’d begun writing book 3. I’m over 10,000 words into the novel (an average first draft for me is about 50,000 words and a finished novel is about 80,000 words). So, I’ve got a good start.

One of the most interesting things to me as a writer is getting to meet new characters. Don’t get me wrong, I love Mark and Miranda. But new characters always spice things up, both for me and the main characters.

The newest character is Nin. She is first mentioned in my new short story, “Screwing Up Mongolia,” which is part of the Winter Wonders anthology, and comes out next month. (Though she doesn’t show up in the story.) Her first appearance is in book 3, and I couldn’t wait to meet her. (I don’t plan out my novels in detail before I write them. I sort of put the characters together and let them tell their story.)

And now that I’ve met Nin…wow. She’s a woman with secrets. And attitude. She’s fascinating, but not someone you want to take on vacation with you. Not if you want to relax. I wish I could tell you more, but I’m only just getting to know her. Besides she craves her anonymity, and if I tell you too much, she might hurt me. Or worse, refuse to talk. Characters sometimes do that.

BTW, the other day, Melissa Pearl of YAlicious asked me to do a blog post on why I chose Babylon as my setting for book 2. Clickhere to find out the answer.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Screwing Up Babylon Thanks

In case you missed Friday’s blog post (not my normal blogging day), the big news is that Screwing Up Babylon is available at Amazon!! Click here.

I’m very excited! We had a book release party at home with all the trimmings. And let me just say that the Wensleydale cheese with cranberries was amazing, smoked salmon with cream cheese and lemon-pepper on crackers will make you drool, and blackberry-Cabernet dark chocolate is the ultimate dessert.

I want to thank to my beta readers Sharmon Gazaway, Ariel Keller, and Melissa Pearl (who just released a new book too—Betwixt—it’s great). And another big thanks to Kirsten Walker for proofreading. And a how-did-you-read-my-mind thank you to Tara Rimondi, graphic artist extraordinaire.

To all my readers, thank you for making writing worthwhile and I hope you enjoy Screwing Up Babylon.

One more thing, I’m already well into writing book three. Squee!!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Screwing Up Babylon, release date

Assuming my proofreader makes it through the confluence of storms without being flooded out, Screwing Up Babylon should be available by next Tuesday! (Probably sooner.)

As soon as the book is live on Amazon, I'll post it here.

It's getting exciting. I've bought a bottle of champagne, smoked salmon, gourmet crackers, and Wensleydale cheese with cranberries. (And, of course, chocolate--dark chocolate with blackberries and Cabernet.) So we'll be celebrating soon. I'll post photos.

In the meantime, here's a photo of my office wall.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Monkey Madness Blog Hop and Excerpt

With the release of Screwing Up Babylon coming quickly, I’ve been trying think of ways to promote the book that support other writers too.

One idea that caught my attention is doing a themed blog hop. (I’ve seen this done once before, and fellow blogger Katie from Creepy Query Girl mentioned it in one of her posts.) In Screwing Up Babylon, Mark meets a monkey who becomes his friend and nemesis. (And in a hint to future things, Mark has a bizarre experience with a peacock in the Screwing Up Time short story, "Screwing Up Mongolia," which will be coming out in December.) So I thought it might be fun to share strange animal experiences--funny, scary, or odd. In the hop, everyone who participates would write a post about an unusual animal experience. 

If you’re interested in participating, contact me at connie (dot)m(dot) keller (at) (or just leave me a comment). If there’s enough interest, I’ll set everything up and get the details to you.

Here's an excerpt from Mark's experience with Charlie the Chimp:

The monkey grabbed a lime off a platter and threw it. It grazed my temple. If I hadn’t ducked, it would’ve hit me smack in the face. If the Yankees needed a new starting pitcher, Charlie the Crazed Chimp would fit the bill.
He grabbed another lime.
I’d had enough of this. The Crazed Chimp was going down. I would—
Hailey put an arm in front of me.
She pulled a strip of candied orange peel from a pocket in her tunic. Charlie lowered his arm. Slowly, Hailey waggled the candy back and forth. The lime rolled from Charlie’s hand. He stepped toward us. 
“Come on, Charlie,” I encouraged. “You know you want the candy.”
He scurried toward us. His nostrils twitched, and his hand reached for the orange peel. The note fell to the floor.
I snatched it, trying not to gloat. After all, he was only a monkey, and Hailey was the one who outsmarted him, not me. Still, I couldn’t resist saying, “Man over monkey any day.”

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Screwing Up Babylon, Chapter One

For everyone who's been waiting, here's Screwing Up Babylon, Chapter One. Click here: Read Chapter One.

My amazing web guru has placed the excerpt on a separate page under "My Books" so that the excerpt is easy to find for anyone who visits the page whether it's today or next year. The link above will take you directly there. If you ever want to read it again, just look under "My Books" (it's one of the tabs in the blog header).

I have three chapters to proofread and then it will be time to format the book. I don't have a final publishing date, but it will be out this month baring any last minutes disasters like computer malfunctions. Next Tuesday, I hope to be able to give you a release date.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Cover Art Reveal for Screwing Up Babylon

My wonderful graphic designer Tara Rimondi finished the cover art for Screwing Up Babylon. It always amazes me that she can take my book blurb/description and come up with a design that completely captures the tone and feel of the novel.

Here's the blurb: Babylon, one of the most powerful and notorious empires ever, is the last place Mark wants to go. But when he discovers his girlfriend Miranda has been kidnapped and given to the king as a concubine, he travels through the colors of time to rescue her. It won’t be easy, not when the Hanging Gardens are a trap, his life is the prize in a game, and time is a prison. It will take all Mark’s cunning, the help of his friends, and a crazed chimp to free Miranda. When he does, time itself begins to unravel, and a life must be sacrificed or no one will survive.

And here's the cover.

The art on the bottom of the cover is an illustration of the Hanging Gardens done by Maerten van Heemskerck (1498-1574).

Next week Tuesday, I'll be posting the first chapter of the novel. 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Screwing Up Babylon blurb

For all of my wonderful readers, here's the blurb you've been waiting for!

Babylon, one of the most powerful and notorious empires ever, is the last place Mark wants to go. But when he discovers his girlfriend Miranda has been kidnapped and given to the king as a concubine, he travels through the colors of time to rescue her. It won’t be easy, not when the Hanging Gardens are a trap, his life is the prize in a game, and time is a prison. It will take all Mark’s cunning, the help of his friends, and a crazed chimp to free Miranda. When he does, time itself begins to unravel, and a life must be sacrificed or no one will survive.

One more bit of exciting news, my graphic artist Tara Rimondi is working on the cover art. She did such an amazing job on Screwing Up Time, I can't wait to see how she envisions Screwing Up Babylon.

If all goes well, Screwing Up Babylon should be published sometime near the end of the month. (Though I'm not making any promises because the past 14 months have been crazy--8 surgeries between me, my kids, and my parents.)

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Next Big Thing--Week 15

The Next Big Thing is a chance for authors around the world to tell you what they're working on--their next novel. The author answers several questions about their next novel and tagged other authors. So I was very excited when Melissa Pearl, author of The Time Spirit Trilogy and Betwixt (released Nov. 5), tagged me. 

What is the working title of your book?

Screwing Up Babylon.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

When I begin a novel, the inciting incident is usually a mental image with tremendous energy. With this novel, I saw a young woman in a red dress standing on a castle turret. Then, she faded away. At first I thought she was a ghost. But when I started writing the novel, I realized she was a time traveler.

What genre does your book fall under?

Screwing Up Babylon is the second in a series of time travel YA novels. It’s a combination of action/adventure, comedy, and a little romance.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

I’m actually faceblind, so I don’t think of my characters as particular actors. And I don’t cut out photos from magazines like many authors do. So to answer this question, I viewed lots of web photos of actors and actresses, and I realized that my characters weren’t as gorgeous as actors and actresses usually are. But if I had to pick actors, I’d say that Henry/Mark looks most like Tyler Posey while Miranda looks like AnnaSophia Robb. Kate looks like Jennifer Connelly. And Granddad looks like an older Alan Rickman. Finally, Peter is a taller, white-haired version of John Malkovich.


 Jennifer Connelly as Kate                            Tyler Posey as Mark                      AnnaSophia Robb
                                                                                                                            as Miranda

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? 
When Mark discovers that his girlfriend Miranda has been kidnapped and given as a concubine to the king of Babylon, Mark does whatever it takes to rescue her.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
It will be self-published and released in October.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
The first book took a year. The second book took about 8 months.

Who or What inspired you to write this book? 
The mental image of Miranda wearing a red gown and standing on castle turret at night.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
The first book in the series, Screwing Up Time, was a quarterfinalist in the 2012 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award.

Here are some wonderful writers whose work I want to share with you. They are contributors to the Winter Wonders anthology that will be published in early December 2012. (I'll have a Screwing Up Time short story in that anthology.)

Here are links to other authors who will be participating next week. These writers also will have short stories in the upcoming anthology Winter Wonders. Check out their blogs and their books!

Heather McCorkle, author of To Ride a Puca, The Secret of Spruce Knoll, Channeler's Choice, and more.

Christine Fonseca, author of Lacrimosa, Dies Irae, Transend, and more.

Tina Moss, author of A Touch of Blackness and Code Black.

And if you want to know more about Winter Wonders, click here.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Writing Historical Fiction, Setting

A while back I wrote a post about historical fiction and using details from your research to craft your plot. But what do you do when you need historical information and you can’t find it?

I faced this question many times for Screwing Up Babylon. For example, I needed information about the palace in Babylon. But I haven’t been able to find much information on the palace except that it was enormous (600 rooms) and extremely impressive. There are some photos on the web of the palace, except those are photos of Saddam Hussein’s rebuilding of the palace. And his attention to historical accuracy is doubtful. After all, he built his own palace in the shape of a ziggurat over Babylonian ruins. And, honestly, though Saddam’s rebuild is big, it’s kind of ugly and plain—just clay bricks that are already crumbling due to poor manufacture. My readers won’t be impressed. And the real Babylonian kings…well, let’s just say you don’t give the rulers of the known world shoddy workmanship.

So I had a few options. I could go with ugly. But I didn’t think that was fair. Particularly since the Ishtar Gate is amazing (no, the gate didn’t make it into the book), and I’ve no doubt that the Babylonian kings would have made their palace more impressive than a city gate.

Another option was to consider real possibilities and let my imagination run within those parameters. For example, Babylonians often used panels for decoration. So the palace I created has those panels. And I decorated them with aurochs and other creatures from Babylonian mythology.

The Babylonians traded all over the known world. So if an item existed within the Babylonians trading sphere at the time the story is set, then I assumed the item was fair game. For example, Tyre, Sidon, and the Egyptians all made beautiful colored glass, which means the Babylonians would have had access to it. So colored glass makes an appearance in the decoration of the palace.

Armed with historical information and imagination, I created a palace that I think my readers will like. And a palace that the king of Babylon would recognize—or at least one, that might make the king say, “We need to hire her to redecorate the palace.”

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


Writing is not an easy calling. Though in some ways, I think it’s easier now than it used to be. Word processors are better than typewriters. And infinitely better than pen and ink. (Though I know there are some diehards out there.) Google makes research so much easier. I used to troll the library, looking for the right book, which the library didn’t have. Then, I’d have to ask the librarian to order the maybe-important book from across the state, and I’d have to pay a transfer fee. (I’d always ask the happy red-haired librarian instead of the scowling one with a white streak down the front of her black hair a la Lily Munster. Or Pepe le Pew.)

So writing is easier. Except… Along with all those blessings, come all those temptations. It’s oh-so-easy for me to take a quick peek at my email inbox when I’m racking my brain for the perfect word. After all, you never know when I might hear from an agent.

And then there’s the siren call of Facebook and my friends who posted the newest pictures of their babies. (Because we all know I can’t see those photos when my writing time is over.)

And then there’s the ever present desire to check my novel’s current ranking on Amazon.

(And there’s always laundry, dishes, dinner, etc. So maybe distractions aren’t a new phenomenon.)

But those electronic distractions are so easy to justify because they only take a second or two. But it’s not those seconds that are the issue. It’s getting back into “the zone.” And according to the most recent statistics that takes 15 minutes! While I’m sure it varies from person to person, that’s the average. So maybe it’s less for me. Or maybe it’s more.

I’ve considered my options to combat the colossal waste of precious writing time. One suggestion is to turn off my computer’s Wi-Fi when I’m writing. Another is to join a program that actually turns off your Wi-Fi connection and won’t turn it back on until the allotted time has transpired. Neither is my cup of tea. I decided to try good, old-fashioned self-control.

My plan (okay, it’s not my plan—it’s courtesy of my friend Joyce. Thanks, Joyce!) is to sit next at the table next to child number four (while he does his homework) and write. It’s a win-win situation. I write; he works. And I’m there if he needs help. Plus, I will feel incredible shame for being a bad example if he looks over and sees me on Facebook/Twitter/etc.

The results? I’m getting more done. And so is child number four. Of course, child number four isn’t entirely happy about the new arrangement. I believe the words “looking over my shoulder” were used in a vehement way. 

But hey, it’s working!! 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Sequel Title and Setting

Congratulations to everyone who figured out the title of the new book. The answers to the questions are at the end of the blog post for anyone who missed anything. But if you didn’t get a chance to figure out the puzzle, the title of the sequel to Screwing Up Time is Screwing Up Babylon.

Picking the setting for the new book wasn’t hard. I wanted a culture that was ancient but still accessible. A culture with tremendous power in its time. And a culture with exotic and fascinating attributes. I needed a place where there’d been enough archaeological information that I’d be able to craft a detailed story. And I wanted it to be familiar enough that it wasn’t too obscure.

Babylon was an obvious choice. It was one of the most powerful kingdoms ever. It had one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World—the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. And though there hasn’t been a lot of archaeological research lately, archaeologists have done quite a bit of research at Babylon in the past. And while in many ways Babylon is obscure to modern readers (have you ever read a book set in Babylon?), modern day Iraq encompasses Babylon. So we’ve seen pictures and maps of the area on television for years.

I’d love to know what you think about the setting.

Here are the answers to the acrostic:

1. Where Mark hid from Peter when he was at Bodiam Castle. Stables.

2. The room where the recipe book was hidden. Chapel.

3. An herbal ingredient in the elixir of time. Rosemary.

4. The name of Mark's grandmother. Elfrieda.

5. The real last name of Jeremiah. Wilberforce-Jones.

6.  An epic poem Mark said he read over Christmas break. Illiad.

7. "On the ____ wall, there's a stone." North.

8. A precious metal used in the time elixir. Gold.

9. The name of the animal whose horn is used in the time elixir. Unicorn.

10. The American university that the grad student Mark met at Bodiam Castle attended. Princeton.

11. The color of Miranda's hair. Blond.

12. Peter is known as Peter the _______. Alchemist.

12. The name of the lord who wants to marry Miranda. Bernard.

13. The university where Mark's dad teaches. Yale.

14. The computer wallpaper that Mark uses is from what movie. Lord of the Rings.

15. The name of another epic poem that Mark tries to read over Christmas break. Odyssey.

16. The name of Mark's cousin. Nathaniel.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Sequel Title Revealed

The completion of sequel to Screwing Up Time is getting closer. So I thought I'd release the title. If you solve this acrostic based on book one, you can use your answers to figure out the title. All you have to do is take the first letter of each answer and put it in the appropriate blank next to the question.
(You can use the print screen function to print up the puzzle.)

1. ____ Where Mark hid from Peter when he was at Bodiam Castle.

2. ____ The room where the recipe book was hidden.

3. ____  An herbal ingredient in the elixir of time

4. ____ The name of Mark's grandmother.

5. ____ The real last name of Jeremiah.

6. ____ An epic poem Mark said he read over Christmas break.

7. ____ "On the ____ wall, there's a stone."

8. ____ A precious metal used in the time elixir.

9. ____ The name of the animal whose horn is used in the time elixir.

10. ____ The American university that the grad student Mark met at Bodiam Castle attended.

11. ____ The color of Miranda's hair.

12. ____ Peter is known as Peter the _______.

12. ____ The name of the lord who wants to marry Miranda.

13. ____ The university where Mark's dad teaches.

14. ____ The computer wallpaper that Mark uses is from what movie.

15. ____ The name of another epic poem that Mark tries to read over Christmas break.

16. ____ The name of Mark's cousin.

Next Tuesday, I'll post the title. And talk about the setting of the novel, which you'll know if you solve the puzzle. Good luck!!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Writing and the Little Black Dress

A couple of days ago, a writing friend of mine watched a fashion design contest show. In the show, a contestant had come up with beautiful designs only to have them shot down by fashion experts who said the designs were too similar to past designs of other famous designers.

My friend made a connection to writing. She was anxious about her new novel—that it would be too similar to what’s gone before. I agreed that it was a legitimate concern. But I reminded her that there are no new stories, only new ways to tell old ones. And in fact, the same is true in design—I remember platforms and bell-bottoms from when I was a little kid.

As I thought about the similarities between fashion design and writing, the “Little Black Dress” came to mind. Coco Chanel’s designs back in the 20s were the beginnings of the LBD. And yet, for almost 100 years, it’s endured and endured. It’s never gone out of style. In fact, I think I may have five or six versions of LBD.

What’s so special about it? Why do I have more than one? And what does this have to do with writing?

First off, I lived in southern New England where the LBD was de rigueur. So that may account for several of the dresses. But even aside from those social constraints, most women have at least one LBD. The reasons are myriad. Solid black is slimming. It’s elegant. Dressed up with pearls, sheer stockings, and heels, it can take you to any restaurant anywhere. It can be dressed down with flats and a belt to go to work. It can take you on a sexy date. Or even to a funeral.

Given its versatility, why have more than one? And this is how I think it applies to writing. I have a summer LBD—okay, I have a summer casual LBD made of the most breathable cotton that I can wear to the library or wear over a swimsuit—and look elegant, slimmed, refined. I have a dressy silk summer LBD—ditto the elegant, slimmed, etc. It’s got flirty ruffles and a plunging neckline. Then, there’s the LBD sheath made of linen with straight lines—it works so well with a wool hound’s tooth jacket and pumps. And the turtleneck knit LBD. And the other silk LBD with the structured lines….

Got the picture? Even though they all do the same thing (flatter the female figure, create an atmosphere of sophistication, etc.), they all do it in different ways. I think it’s the same with writing. There aren’t that many plot lines in literature. In fact, the Greeks divided it into two types. Comedy and tragedy. (Comedy ends in a marriage, tragedy ends in a funeral.) But it’s the telling that makes all the difference.

Take the traditional boy-meets-girl-problems-ensue-true-love-wins story (i.e., a comedy to the Greeks). What if the story occurs in a dystopian society (Hunger Games, Divergent, etc.)? Or what if it happens in 19th century and the girl comes from a poor family and the gentleman is a wealthy, prejudiced young man (Pride and Prejudice)? Or how about a thwarted couple who get a second chance at love after they blew it the first time (Persuasion)? Or what if the novel is set after a war and the man takes years to get home and they both have to suffer and wait—Odyssey?(Yes, I know they were married before the war, but that’s just a variation on the story.) These novels are all variations of the literary LBD—boy meets girl and they fall in love/get married. The difference is in the telling.

So my advice to my friend, to myself, and to you, is write me a new LBD novel—use some gorgeous fabric, throw on some frills, show it to me with some three inch heels, and I’ll buy it. And so will all my friends. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


No regular post today because we're on vacation. But I do have an update on the sequel to Screwing Up Time sequel--my "line editor" finished her read through the novel and I've begun working through her edits. (Yay!)

Here's a writing quote that I thought I'd share.

“When your story is ready for rewrite, cut it to the bone. Get rid of every ounce of excess fat. This is going to hurt; revising a story down to the bare essentials is always a little like murdering children, but it must be done.”
—Stephen King

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Sequel Challenge

I'm on vacation this week and next, but I thought that I'd post a hint about the sequel to Screwing Up Time. If you can figure out what language this is written in, you'll have a big hint where the sequel is set. If you have a guess and want to know if you're right, email me at connie (dot) m (dot) keller (at) gmail (dot) com. Have fun!!


Tuesday, July 31, 2012

What You Need to Be a Writer

In James Scott Bell’s book The Art of War for Writers, he discusses nine characteristics that he believes all writers must have. I think it’s good to be reminded.

1. Desire. The only thing that’s going to get you through the years of work, hurts, and disappointments is the burning need to write. Otherwise, find something else to do.

2. Discipline. The butt in the chair approach to writing. For years I had a Jack London quote that greeted me every morning. “You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” No matter what you write from YA to poetry to litfic, the only way you’re going to get through the rough patches is to grind it out. So, plant your butt in the chair. Ignore Facebook, Twitter, et al. Write.

3. Commitment to Craft. That means a first draft is a first draft. It’s not a book. You edit and edit and edit until all traces of you the writer are gone. As Allen Ginsberg said, “To gain your own voice, you have to forget about having it heard.”

4. Patience. Some writers strike gold early in their careers. Most don’t. Lately, I’ve been reading about writers who finally struck gold in their 60s and 70s. If needs be, can you wait that long? Is it worth it to you?

5. Honesty. You aren’t Fitzgerald or Hemingway. Deal with it.

6. Willingness to Learn. Not only do we need to be willing to admit our shortcomings, we have to want to learn. As Hemingway once said, “We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.”

7. Business-like Attitude. Yeah, writing is a very personal, emotional art—sometimes you’re putting your soul on the page. But there’s needs to be a part of you that realizes publishing is a business. You have to balance those aspects.

8. Rhino Skin. You have to learn that everyone gets rejected. Remember what one publisher said about The Diary of Anne Frank. “The girl doesn’t, it seems to me, have a special perception or feeling which would lift that book above the ‘curiosity’ level.” To see other rejections of famous books, see here.

9. Long-term View. “I decided that I would continue to write as long as I lived, even if I never sold one thing, because that was what I wanted out of life.” George Bernau.

So now, start writing! You can do it!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Shadows of the Hidden

My friend Anne Riley will be coming out with the novel Shadows of the Hidden published by Compass Press in December. And she's sharing her cover art and the novel's blurb. I'm very excited that she wanted to share it on my blog. I can't wait for the book. 


A teenage girl discovers the true reason behind her parents' disappearances and finds herself and the center of a centuries-old quest for immortality. 


Natalie Watson doesn't believe her parents are dead, even though they disappeared five years ago. Discovering the truth about their fate is one of the only things that gets her out of bed in the morning. But after moving from her home in Georgia to her aunt's boarding school in Maine, solving the mystery of her parents' whereabouts is just one of several challenges she must face. When she's not fending off attacks from the popular kids, she puzzles over the rumors about a strange boy in her math class--one with fiery red hair who rarely speaks.

Despite suspicions that he murdered his sister a year earlier, Natalie finds it impossible to stay away from Liam Abernathy--especially when he confesses to knowing something about her parents. Soon she's following him into the forest, where things happen she doesn't understand...things that shouldn't be possible. 

Natalie soon realizes her connection to Liam is deeper than she ever imagined, and not everyone she counts as a friend can be trusted. When she finds herself at the center of a centuries-old quest for immortality, she must work with Liam to stay alive--even if it means facing a truth about herself and her family that will not only shake her perception of herself, but of the entire world around her.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Update on the Screwing Up Time Sequel

Last week I posted about waiting. Yesterday one of my waits ended. I heard back from the last beta reader. And I had good news. My beta readers loved the sequel to Screwing Up Time. They said it was even better than the first book.

Even better news. They didn’t find any significant problems with the novel. The changes they suggested were minor things. For example, explaining time travel a bit more—especially for readers who hadn’t read book one or for readers who’d forgotten the intricacies of time travel for Mark and Miranda.

So what happens next? A lot. I have to make the changes. I need to start writing a blurb, i.e. the book description. I have to contact my graphic designer about a cover design. Then, I’ll need to read the book aloud. After that, I’ll read the entire novel one more time, beginning with the last chapter, to proofread it.

Finally, I’ll prep it for uploading to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords. When will the sequel be available? I’m not sure. I hope to release it at the end of September. (Though depending on how quickly everything goes, it could be sooner. Or later.)

Keep checking this blog, and I’ll keep you updated here. Plus, I’ll release the title soon (it’ll give you a big clue about where the sequel is headed). When the cover art is ready, you’ll get a sneak peak here. And when the blurb is done, this is the place where you’ll read it first.

The sequel to Screwing Up Time is definitely in the homestretch. I’m getting really excited. I hope you are too.

**Check back tomorrow. My friend Anne Riley, a talented YA writer, will be giving us a sneak peek of the blurb and cover art for her latest YA novel, Shadows of the Hidden.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


The one thing you need most as a writer is patience. Yes, you need to be patient with a story—you can’t force it. I suppose you can, but then you need to be ready to delete a lot. And you need not to rush to finish. What seems done to you at one point, may seem horribly unfinished a month later. But there’s another kind of patience that writers need. In between patience.

“In between patience” is when you’re waiting to hear from a beta reader/agent/editor. It’s when you’ve send out your novel to someone for some kind of judgment or decision. And it takes sooo long. And nervous energy that builds makes the wait interminable.

Normally, beta readers don’t take too long. Most will read and respond to your book within a month. If they aren’t backed up, maybe a week or two. But agents. That’s another story. I recently heard from an agent who had my novel for nine months. Nine months is a long time, especially since a query can sit around for six months before the agent requests a full. (Of course, some genres are faster. Young adult, new adult and middle grade fiction tend to be faster because they’re hot genres.)

So what do you do to make the time pass, aside from hitting refresh on your email hundred times a day? What you don’t do is wait one month and then nudge the agent to “make a decision already.” It just makes you seem needy, and the truth is they have real clients who earn them money—those people are their first priority, which is what you’d want if you were their client. Instead, remember what it is you do. You’re a writer, so you write.

While you’re waiting to hear back from your beta readers, write a short story or make notes for a new novel. When you’re sending out queries or submissions, begin writing that new novel. Besides keeping you busy, the new book will keep the rejections from hurting quite so much because you won’t have all your eggs in one basket. And if after all your work and waiting, your book doesn’t find a home, you’ll be that much closer to pitching a new book. A better book. And then, you can start the process over again. I know, it seems impossible. But, you can do this. You’re a writer.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

First or Third Person Point of View

Recently, I received the Enchanting Entertainer Award from Deirdra Eden of A Storybook World. Thanks so much, Deirdra!!

Lately, life has been utter chaos. We had a sewer pipe explode in the basement. And, yes, it was every bit as heinous as you can imagine. The plumbers fixed the pipe, but they don't clean up the mess.

And I'm in the midst of sewing Shakespeare costumes for Claudio (my son Matthew) and Benedick (my son Jacob) for Much Ado About Nothing. I'm also trying to finish editing a new novel and short story. So, you know, I'm kinda busy. But in the midst of all that, I started a new novel.

I couldn't help myself. The story had been teasing me for over a year. But I'd never been able to pin it down. I couldn't figure out which of the characters would tell the story, etc. Then one day, the final scene came to me and then everything fell into place. So I started writing.

But it didn't feel right. I've spent the last couple of days, mulling what's wrong. I think I've nailed it. Thus far, the story is in first person. But I think it should be written in third.

I'd planned on writing it in third. But then, I thought that the immediacy of first person would be better. And I suspected that maybe I wanted to write it in third person only because I wanted a bit of distance between the main character and myself. I thought I was choosing third only because I wanted to separate a tiny bit of myself from the main character's pain.

So I decided that writing in first person would be the "brave thing to do." I felt noble. And I wrote. Then, I read what I wrote. It wasn't right. Now I'm trying to decide if it's simply because it's a first draft, and, well, first drafts suck. Or, maybe it's because it needs to be written in close third. In my head, the story feels like third person. When I touch the story with my mind, it has the feel of third--it feels like a smooth like marble. When I feel it in first person, it feels rough. (Have I just lost everyone with my talk of "touching the story with my mind?" Please tell me that I'm not the only one who experiences stories this way.)

My goal this afternoon (while I'm sitting during Matt's piano lesson) is to rewrite the opening scene in third person. To see if the smoothness is there. To see if the story feels right. I'll let you know what happens.

And I'd love to hear how other writers chose whether to write in first person or third. And I'd really love to know if other writers "touch" their stories with their minds.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Indie-pendence Day

July 2 - July 5 is a celebration of indie writing. It's a chance to share with others the great books that have been written by indie writers. To discover more books, visit the INDIEpendece site at the Indelibles blog. Or click on links at the end of this blog post.

Today I'm celebrating, Forbidden Territory by Melissa Pearl and Brenda Howson.

Book Blurb:

Mica and Lexy have been best friends and next door neighbours since they were eight years old. They share everything and have no secrets from each other until... Tom arrives on Mica's doorstep - a gorgeous exchange student from England. And Lexy is smitten. 

Suddenly both girls are keeping secrets. Mica is hiding news about Tom's English girlfriend and Lexy hasn't got the heart to tell her best friend that her brother Eli, the guy Mica is mad on, thinks of her as only a friend.  

After a massive fight, the girls decide the best way to mend their friendship is to spend some quality time together. And what better way than to go camping away from their parents and why not invite along the guys they are crushing on. 

So the four teenagers embark on a geo-caching expedition into New Zealand's native bush expecting a long weekend filled with flirtatious fun; instead secrets are exposed as they stumble across a hidden marijuana crop and its gun-wielding watchmen. Forced apart they spend the next forty-eight hours racing blindly in opposite directions as they fight to find each other before the hunters do. 

Here's my review of Forbidden Territory.

I first discovered Melissa Pearl through her wonderful series, The Time Spirit Trilogy. So it was with eager anticipation that I read her newest novel, Forbidden Territory, co-written by Brenda Howson.

Forbidden Territory starts out as a geocaching trip, a GPS-based treasure hunt. But for the four teens that go, it quickly turns into something far more dangerous, and they’ll have to conquer their fears and weaknesses to survive.

The characters are complex with real strengths and flaws, and the authors do a super job of using the plot to develop the characters’ strengths and overcome their flaws. So when the plot forces life and death decisions on the characters, it actually grounds and develops their simmering attractions. Instead of what could have been forgettable summer flings, the teens grow into a love based on selflessness and sacrifice.

One more thing. I loved the New Zealand setting—the forests, the cultural milieu, and especially the Kiwi slang. It’s part of what makes the book so fun, experiencing another way of life without leaving your home.

If you’re looking for some teen action/adventure with a side of romance in an exotic locale, this is your book!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Biltmore, Edith Wharton, Henry James and I

Early this week I was out of town with my husband. To celebrate our anniversary, we went to the Biltmore Estate. (I have some photos at the end of the post.) It was amazing—the history, the architecture and the forestry. But even more fascinating to me was how many famous people visited, including authors. Henry James stayed there. Edith Wharton visited. What a fabulous time they must have had visiting each other and talking about writing.

I could just imagine them discussing (disagreeing over?) the latest novels, poetry, and philosophies. Perhaps they were a kind of Inklings group but for literary writers. I admit I became a little jealous of the camaraderie and the opportunity to share and learn. But then I realized how spoiled I am. The numbers of books about the life and craft of writing is unparalleled. They didn’t have On Writing or any of the host of books that we have. They learned by trial and error—others and their own.

And as for the camaraderie, if I’m honest with myself, I probably would have had nothing in common with Henry James. And all we would have done is argued about adverbs. I abhor adverbs. And he said, “I adore adverbs; they are the only qualifications I really respect.”

Instead of the opportunity to bicker over adverbs, I have something better. Thanks to writers’ groups and conferences and the internet, I have a whole host of writing friends. Think of how easy it is for us to send a quick email (or even a phone call) for an opinion, a shoulder to cry on, or a kind “stop whining and write.” Back in the day, you’d have to write and letter and wait. And wait. And then wait some more.

So I think I’ll keep my word processor, my internet author friends, and my books on writing. After all, changing clothes four to eight times a day would be frustrating—I like yoga pants and t-shirts. And the hours of polite party talk would drive me crazy. Though I wouldn’t mind the eight course meals at the Biltmore or the servants who take care of everything.

Here’s a photo of me at the Biltmore.

Here I am on the loggia, pretending I'm Edith Wharton. No doubt she wrote while overlooking the Smoky Mountains. (You can get a sense of the view from the reflection on the French doors.)

Be sure to check back on Tuesday when I'll be participating in "Indie-pendence Day," a celebration of indie authors.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Check Back on Thursday

I'm out of town, so there's no blog post today. But check back on Thursday, and I'll have a post for you then.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Setting As Character

If you’re a writer (or a thoughtful reader), you’ve probably heard the phrase “setting as character.” It’s kind of an odd cliche. How can setting be a character? When people use this phrase, they mean that the setting should be so distinct that it’s almost a character in the novel.

I suspect that we’ve all experienced this in reading, a sense of being transported to another place. The Harry Potter series is an excellent example. I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure that I know what it feels like to ride a broomstick or play a game of Quidditch. A lot of sci-fi writers are also good at this. If you’ve read Dune, you felt and saw the planet. You knew what it was like to wear a stillsuit. You could taste the recycled water. Ugh.

If you’re writing a novel where the setting is familiar to you like your hometown, it’s not as hard to come up with details that ground your story in the setting. For example, I live in Chattanooga. If I were writing a story set here, I’d include details about the many bridges that cross the Tennessee River and give the city a European feel. I could include details about the humidity that hangs heavy in the air like moss in the trees. I could even compare the Southern cultural niceties that overlay all social interactions to the kudzu that covers the landscape. But what if you’re not writing about your hometown? What if you're writing about a time and place you never lived in? What then?

Obviously, the answer is research. But giving the reader some paragraphs of setting description doesn’t work either. Your setting needs to be integral to the story. It needs to be a supporting character that doesn’t draw attention to itself. Instead, it needs to appear to make the story possible only at this place and in this time. I believe the best way to do this is through details.

If you provide your reader with concrete details—unique sights, smells, tastes, and sounds, their minds will fill in the rest of the exotic place. But what if you can’t find the specific facts you want?

Instead of approaching research as “finding facts to fill in your story,” try to allow the facts to craft your story. For example, in the sequel to Screwing Up Time, one of the settings is a civilization that we don’t have a lot of information about. But I wanted to give the reader a sense of what daily life would be like. So I researched “daily life in civilization X.” I didn't discover what people's daily activities were, but I discovered what a visitor to the civilization might see in the streets. So I set one of the plot sequences in the city streets.

I used the same technique in another novel I wrote called Dark Mercy, which is a lit-fic set in the 1930s and 1940s in the Netherlands. I did a lot of research into the time period and tried to include important socio-cultural issues in the novel. For example, during this time, coffee drinking was a very important social ritual to the Dutch, and there were strict, unspoken rules about how it was to be done. So I made one of the plot turns take place while two women shared coffee. The woman serving the coffee was very concerned to make sure that the handles of the coffee cups pointed to the right side when the coffee was served—this was one of the unspoken rules. And I used her anxiety to influence the progression of the novel, to make this cultural issue affect the way the plot and character developed so that it wasn’t just a setting detail tacked onto the story.

When the novel was finished, I asked my mother to read it (my mom grew up in the Netherlands of the 1940s). Afterwards, she said, “When I read it, I felt like I’d been transported to my childhood. It was as if you took me there again, and I was nine years old. How could you do that?”

The answer, of course, was that I didn’t. I just gave her enough detail that her mind created the reality and grounded the plot. So when the character worried about serving the coffee, my mom experienced the character’s anxiety. My mom remembered serving coffee (hoping and praying that the coffee wouldn’t spill over the rim of the cup) and reminding herself, “Make sure the handle points to the right.” Thus, the character and plot development that happened in this scene felt like they could only happen in the 1940s in the Netherlands.

It’s those kinds of details woven into the plot that ground the story into time and place. Find what is unique in the time and culture you’re writing about and make those details part of your story. They will create the illusion of experiencing another’s life and times.

What about you, readers? Any ideas, suggestions, or examples of how to craft setting? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A Single Scene

A month ago, I signed a contract to write a short story for an anthology. At the time, I thought, “No problem. I can whip out a short.” After all, I’ve written lots of short stories. Then, I sat down to write it. And it wasn’t as easy as I thought.

When you’ve been writing novels for a long time, the short story skills get rusty. A writing friend who also is in the anthology was having a similar problem. She’d started two short stories only to have them crash and burn.

The problem is the scope and complexity. With a novel, the author introduces layers of complexity—tensions, minor characters, hints of character development, subplots, etc. Short stories only have hints of these elements. Some not at all. Or they focus on one aspect of these elements. Mentally, I knew this. But I couldn’t get it to work on paper. Every idea I came up with was too convoluted for a short story with a maximum of 5000 words. The plots couldn’t be resolved in the space, and the settings and characters couldn’t be developed. I knew that if I wrote what I had in mind, I’d end up with a glorified plot sketch. And I (and my readers) didn’t want that.

So I talked with a friend. She’s been a published writer for years and years. And she’s done it all—novels (sequels and stand alones), novellas, short stories, etc. I said, “Help.” She told me, “Remember a short story (particularly of that length) is a single scene.” I wish I could say that it was a lightning bolt that struck my mind. It wasn’t. But I began to ruminate on what she said.

I realized I was doing too much. Everything in the short needs to revolve around a single writing goal. In my mind, my short story had three settings, several plot points, and too many characters. I realized that my first setting was only a starting place. A place where my characters would start from on their journey—it would have to be cut. I’m in the midst of trying to cut the second setting. A single scene, I keep telling myself.

After taking apart the settings, I cut all but one plot point. My characters needed a single goal. Everything needs to flow from that goal. If it doesn’t, it needs to be cut. (Remember the writer’s mantra, “Kill your darlings.")

But setting and plot trimming weren’t enough. Once I trimmed those, I realized that I needed to dump three of the six characters that inhabited my story. I’m sure some of my readers will miss seeing their favorite characters in the short story (my short uses the characters from my Screwing Up Time novel), but that’s the way it is with a short story.

Now the story is beginning to feel manageable. Of course, I haven’t put pen to paper yet. But in theory, the story feels doable.

What about you? What helps you focus your writing goals for a short story? I’d love to hear your suggestions.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

To See Or Not To See

I finished my third edit of the sequel to Screwing Up Time. (Throws confetti.) And I’ve given the book to one of my first betas. This beta isn’t a writer and doesn’t even do a lot of fiction reading. But this beta has one “gift.” He doesn’t see scenes in his head.

A lot of readers are people like me—as they read, they see the scenes of the novel in their mind. It’s like watching a movie. (In fact, that’s why I often think I’ve seen a movie version of a particular book even when I haven’t. It’s led to some unfortunately recommendations.) But not everyone “sees” in their minds. So a scene that’s clear to me and others who see in their heads may not be clear to readers who don’t.

I’m sure there are many readers out there like this beta, and I want my novel to “work” for them. So this beta marks the scenes that he can’t follow. And then, I go back to the unclear scenes and work on them until they’re completely understandable and the beta says, “Oh, right. I get it now.”

I’ve wondered over the years how many different types of reading experiences there are. For example, I have one beta who “hears” everything in her head. The characters actually speak aloud with appropriate accents, etc. (She’s an amazing beta reader for voice.) What about you all? What are your reading experiences like? Do you “see” movies or “hear” dialogue? Or do you do something completely different? I’d love to know.

BTW, I was recently featured on Samantha Sotto's blog along with two other authors. Samantha is the author of Before Ever After--a page-turning romance through history and time. If you'd like to visit here blog,click here.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


Lately, articles have been written discussing the animosity between writers who publish traditionally and those who self-publish (often called “indie” publishing) through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, etc.

I have to admit my first thought was “Really?” In my experience, I’ve received a lot of love and support both from indie writers and traditionally published writers. Maybe I just have really nice friends (which is true). But why should we have animosity? We’re all in the same boat. We’re writers who are selling books. And that’s a hard thing. The ideal of the “lonely” (happy/undistracted) writer who sits in his/her garret writing doesn’t exist anymore. We all have to market.

I’m sure there are many writers who have the natural gift for marketing, but I suspect most don’t. Most writers I know are introverts—it’s part of the nature of being an observer. We’re people watchers. Some of us have it really bad. My grandfather used to go to the airport an hour or more before a relative’s flight was due. When I asked him why, he smiled and with a twinkle in his eye said, “To watch the people.” BTW, if you’ve never people-watched at an airport, it’s amazing. I mean where else do you get honeymooners, white knuckled travelers, harried businessmen, giddy children, etc.? There are enough stories there to fill an anthology.

Oops. Sorry for that digression—I loved my grandfather. But marketing is hard, especially for someone who’d rather watch from the sidelines. When I have to speak in front of strangers, I hope and pray for a podium so people won’t see my quivering legs. Seriously, the whole “knocking knees” thing is not a cliché. It’s my reality.

Publishing of any kind is hard. That’s why you need a cheering section. Whether you’re indie or traditional, you need high fives when you reach a sales goal. You need someone to say “Great cover.” Or “go back to the drawing board.” Sometimes, you need someone to say, “That agent/editor/reviewer is an idiot.” And you need someone to say, “You should read my friend’s novel—it’s great!”

On that note, I want to thank all my writing friends, people that prove all the articles wrong. You all are amazing. Thanks!!! Maybe those journalists should talk to me and my friends. Of course, that wouldn’t be much of a story—Writer thinks her writing friends are supportive, dear people. Yeah, that won’t sell too many newpapers. But it’s a wonderful reality.

N.B. We have a winner in last week's contest!! The winner of Susan Kaye Quinn's novel Closed Minds is Ariel! Yay!!