Light at the End of the Tunnel

In the literal sense rather than figurative. My granddaughter wanted to sit in the first car of the DC Metro Red Line, and we managed to get the front seat. I couldn’t resist a little video.

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Aww, Go Fly a Kite

KiteWell, it seemed like a great idea at the time. Go to the park and fly kites. The breeze was pretty brisk in DC today, and the nearby soccer field wasn’t in use, so a great opportunity to get the kites into the air.

Oh, and did I mention the tall trees lining one side of the soccer field? I’ll get to those in a moment.

My granddaughter was having some trouble getting her smaller kite into the air, so her dad helped her get the larger kite up. She was doing great. She got it up so high she was at the end of the string, and both the kite and my granddaughter were proud and happy. I was meanwhile doing my best to get her little one to fly, but did I mention I suck at flying kites?

This next part wasn’t my fault at all, though. Really, it was the wind’s fault. The wind and physics. The pull of the kite got so strong that it pulled the handle of the string holder right out of my granddaughter’s hand. My son took off after the handle as it scooted along the grass. But he wasn’t fast enough.

One of the trees lining the field was plenty fast though. It snatched up the yellow handle of the kite’s string holder, and zip, pulled it about twenty feet up into the branches (okay, the wind pulled it, not the tree). Next thing you know, the tree is flying the kite, not us. Nor did the tree seem inclined to give the kite back.

So, now the conundrum. How do we unhook the handle from the tree branch without losing the whole thing, kite, string, and all? Luckily, along came a man who’d come to walk his dog and we conscripted him onto the CSI: Kite Rescue Edition team. With his help, we tossed the other kite’s string over the branch where the yellow handle was caught. Unfortunately, although we could jiggle the branch, we couldn’t get the yellow handle to work free.

Then I noticed a few PVC poles with soccer flags on one end and a metal stake on the other. With the assistance of the dog walker, we cobbled together three poles and by pulling the branch lower with the other string, we got the yellow handle free. Unfortunately, the rest of the string was still caught in the tree.

So now we were controlling the kite, more or less, but further unfortunately, we apparently couldn’t fly the kite as well as the tree could. The kite stuttered in the sky, then gave up the ghost, falling into a tree across the street. We were about to go over and ask the homeowner to give us a call when the kite fell when I suggested we cut the string so we could get it out of the tree.

Once the tension in the string was gone, the kite started sliding out of the tree. By the time we ran across the street, the kite had fallen on the roof of a neighboring house. While we watched, it slowly slid down the roof into my son’s hand.

20160508_174051At that point, I think the kite said, “I meant to do that.” It might have even snickered a little about how well the tree had kept it in the air. Although it did admit my granddaughter had done a pretty good job flying it too.

It took a while to reel in all that string. As we headed home we pretty much laughed all the way.

The kite wasn’t the least bit apologetic.

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E-book Meet Book-Book

Kindle BookmarkYes, I’m using my Amazon Kindle as a bookmark in my paper book. I enjoy reading both ways. How about you? Are you strictly an ereader fan? Sticking to paper books only? Or do you cross-read?

What if a parent only read to their child using an ereader or tablet? Do you think their child would ever explore paper books? I think they would. Kids love to manipulate things with their hands, and there’s a whole world of sensation and textures in a book-book.

So I do think babies would still be gumming their board books, and toddlers would still flip through their first picture books with avid anticipation of the next page. Older kids would still want to curl in a corner with a chapter book, lingering over each illustration. Because a story is a story, in whatever form.

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Screenplay to Novel or the Many Lives of CLEAN BURN

Karen_CleanBurn300dpi750x1200I’ve written here and here about how I took a sci-fi movie script I’d written and turned it into the Tankborn YA trilogy. By the time I did that adaptation of the ICER script, I’d made the choice to focus on writing novels rather than screenplays because as difficult as it is to get a book traditionally published, it is even more monumentally, nigh onto impossibly difficult to get a script produced.

Just as I loved the story I’d written for the script ICER, I really loved and believed in the story in the screenplay version of my mystery suspense, CLEAN BURN. So when I decided to try my hand at mystery, continuing my break from writing romance (which is how I’d cut my teeth as a novelist), I decided to use the ready-made story in the CLEAN BURN script.

HangtownThere were changes of course. Stuff cut out, new stuff added. The already twitchy, could-make-coffee-nervous main character, Janelle Watkins, was even twitchier in the novel. The book sold and its sequel, HANGTOWN, were published, then sort of unpublished. Now the books are available again in print (CLEAN BURN, HANGTOWN) and ebook.

I thought it would be fun to show how a scene from the original screenplay for CLEAN BURN translated into novel form. It’s hard to find an exact one-for-one since the forms are so different, but I picked a scene from early in the book that illustrates how the adaptation worked.


Clean Burn Script

And the equivalent scene from the novel:

Clean Burn Novel

A lot more words in the novel to say the same thing. In a book, you’re admonished to “Show, don’t tell.” In a script, you count on the actor, the director of photography, and the set decorator to do a great deal of the showing so that doesn’t need to be on the page. It’s far harder to leave out all that description as you have to do in a script than to put it in as you do in a novel. That’s why, to me, a novel, with all its many words, is far easier to write.


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7 Jewish Authors Get Personal About Anti-Semitism

Anti-Semitism: hostility toward or discrimination against Jews as a religious, ethnic, or racial group. —Merriam-Webster

When I was asked to put together a roundtable discussion on anti-Semitism, I admit I felt like a fraud when I agreed. My Jewish dad “converted” to Catholicism when he married my mom (although the conversion never really stuck), so my three sisters and I were all raised as Catholics. I remember arguing with a Jewish girl in my grade school class about Jesus (not trying to convert her, but in disagreement as to his significance). And I never set foot in a synagogue while I was growing up.

But then there was that time when I was six or seven when the Brownie troop told me that there wasn’t any room for me (although there was for my best friend), and my mom told me it was because my dad was Jewish. There was that day I learned that the care home where my Alzheimer-afflicted dad lived had included him in a church activity despite his records indicating he was Jewish. And then there was the very scary day when Nazi-Twitter attacked me and my friends came to my rescue and got the hateful tweets blocked.

So I may be a stealth Jew, but I’m Jewish. And when I asked seven Jewish authors to write essays on their everyday experiences with anti-Semitism, I was startled by how familiar their stories were to me.

We’re lucky that in the United States anti-Semitism is only rarely expressed violently. But the most recent ADL Global 100 study, a survey commissioned annually by the Anti-Defamation League, found that ten percent, or about 24 million individuals in the US harbor anti-Semitic attitudes. And as you’ll see in the essays below, there are likely many more people who would never consider themselves anti-Semitic, but who confront the Jewish people they meet with micro-aggressions that can be exasperating, heartbreaking, and even frightening.

Here’s the question I asked these seven authors:

How have you seen anti-Semitism expressed, either in the media, on the internet, or in your personal lives?

And this is how they answered. Read more.

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1 Bankrupt Publisher, 2 Orphaned Books & Rising from the Ashes


Pretend it’s a phoenix, risen from the ashes.

You could say I’ve been around the block a few times in the publishing business. Maybe I’ve even run a marathon by now. I’ve experienced a wide assortment of industry glitches–publishers who never get back to you on books they’ve contracted, editors who have the audacity to go out on maternity leave and pass you off to other editors who just don’t understand you, publishers who always seem to have a crisis when royalties are due.

But in my 17 years of being a published author, I’d never had a publisher go bankrupt (okay, insolvent) until 2014. Said Publisher had bought one completed mystery (CLEAN BURN) and contracted a second book in the series. CLEAN BURN was published without a hitch, coming out in trade paperback, ebook, and a lovely audio edition. The reviews were terrific, including great quotes from authors James Rollins (“Blisteringly paced, authentically told”), Brenda Novak (“Chilling, engrossing and addicting”), and Lynn Hightower (“an ex cop P.I. heroine with attitude and a haunted past”).

Karen_CleanBurn300dpi750x1200It was in the midst of writing the second book, HANGTOWN, when I got the sad news that the editor I’d started with at Said Publisher would be leaving the company and I’d be assigned another editor. I’d really liked editor #1, and while it’s always an unhappy day to lose an editor you like, it’s especially unsettling when it happens when you’re in the middle of the project. But I forged ahead with HANGTOWN, eventually passing the completed manuscript on to editor #2.

Editor #2 and I didn’t see eye-to-eye on a number of issues, but that sort of thing happens. I stood my ground where ground-standing was important, but any writer worth her salt knows that editors can save your butt by not letting something stupid slip into the final edition. So it’s always worth it to listen to them.

HangtownI told editor #2 I wanted to read over the Advance Reading Copy so I could vet it for any errors that might have squeaked through. I waited for the ARC. And waited. We were getting very close to publication date and still no ARC.

Then Bad News #1 dropped: HANGTOWN would not be coming out in print. It would be an ebook only.

As someone who has several e-only books published, this was not a massive tragedy. It disappointed a couple of friends who only read paper. But to me, an ebook is a book, and earns royalties just like a paper book does.

In and of itself, the fact that Said Publisher changed their game plan for HANGTOWN wasn’t an issue. It was the WHY that set off giant, screaming red flags in my mind. I didn’t learn nothin’ in all my years of being a published author. My writer’s instinct was tingling, telling me that somethin’ was up and there was more to the story.

Hangtown PurchaseSure enough, Bad News # 2 dropped not long before HANGTOWN’s publication date. Said Publisher was filing for insolvency. They would not be publishing HANGTOWN in any format, print or e (even so, the book was published on Kindle for a very short period).

I was irritated and exasperated but not totally surprised (writer’s instinct and all). My irritation grew quite a bit when a deep-pocketed white knight whisked Said Publisher from insolvency by purchasing them, and shortly thereafter SP offered a six figure advance to a well-known author.

The upside was that I got rights back to both books, and although it took me more than a year, I’ve got CLEAN BURN up for sale and HANGTOWN available for pre-order. You can find all the links to buy here. And don’t worry, I’ve cleaned up all those untidy ashes so they won’t clog up your e-reader.

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When Life Turns on a Dime

SticksSometimes life imitates fiction. For instance, you’re tooling along, everything as usual, expecting to grill a couple burgers for dinner, then kick back and watch the ball game And out of the blue, something happens that throws you a curve, all your mundane expectations scattered like pick-up sticks (click here if you’re too young to remember pick-up sticks)

IV RackI’ve had that life-off-the-tracks experience a number of times, most recently a week or so ago when a family member was unexpectedly hospitalized (he’s fine).


The ill-fated horse I never bought.

There was another shake up a couple years ago. I broke my ankle moments before I’d planned to leave to check out a horse I was thinking of buying. That break not only stopped me from buying that horse, it kept me from riding for several weeks.


Wrecked Car1Thirty-five years ago while driving to work, someone turned left directly in front of me. The collision totaled my car and when I slammed on the brake pedal, I fractured my foot (same one I later broke the ankle of). That particular accident led indirectly to me meeting my husband of three-plus decades, so it wasn’t all bad. 😉 But I ended up in the hospital rather than work that day.

When you’re writing a story, you’ll want send your characters into a similar life-off-the-tracks situations right from the beginning. They can start out in an everyday, humdrum experience, but within pages, everything has to change for them. Whether they’re fired from their job or barely escape being flattened by a piano, an inciting incident had better yank them free of their moorings. And their travails have to continue, building in magnitude to keep your reader reading.

I wouldn’t wish a car accident or a broken ankle on anyone. But when it comes to my fictional characters, sometimes a trip to the hospital is just what the doctor ordered. 🙂


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