Does God send us plagues?

I wonder if I could go off my blood pressure meds if I stop reading Facebook. This morning I read about recent devastation from Hurricane Maria. Some of the comments denying global warming and claiming God is just angry with us—this is our punishment, so to speak—well that got my blood pressure spiking.

In the last 600+ years we really have not changed.

When the most devastating pandemic swept through Europe killing up to 200 million people, it also spiked religious persecution—because they had to have someone to blame. God must have been angry. Considering their lack of knowledge on hygiene and infectious diseases, it’s no wonder they turned elsewhere to put the blame.

That blame was placed on foreigners, Jews, and others. Which of course meant these people must be put to death to appease God. And they were.

Just like over 600+ years ago, so many people don’t even consider looking to science for an answer. Like our ancestors, they are suspicious of science and prefer to cling to the belief that is the wrath of God. I suspect one reason for this, it is comforting to them to feel validated for whatever prejudices they may have against those groups they believe responsible.

While I believe in God—or a higher power—I have a different take, which I discussed in a recent blog post.

 

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Halloween is around the corner—be prepared!

Ghosts aren’t just for Halloween. They can show up any time of the year—especially in the cozy mystery series, Haunting Danielle.

But if you would like to read a Halloween themed ghost cozy mystery, that would be The Ghost of Halloween Past, the fifth book in the Haunting Danielle series.

So, if you haven’t started the series, you should probably start now with the first book, The Ghost of Marlow House. I suggest you read the books in order, and when Halloween rolls around, you will be ready to read The Ghost of Halloween Past, which is probably one of the darker—spookier books in the series—fitting for a Halloween read.

And when you are finished with book five, you can move on to book six, in time for Christmas, with The Ghost Who Came for Christmas.

Well…what are you waiting for??

Maybe our prayers have been answered.

Just two years before I was born over 3,000 people died in the U.S. from polio. One of my mother’s close friends contracted polio when going through labor. She spent the next year in an iron lung.

My sister, who is four years older than me, came down with symptoms of polio not long after I was born. My terrified parents prayed she didn’t have the devastating disease. She didn’t.

I suspect my parents were not the only ones praying about polio. And in 1955, a year after I was born, prayers were answered when the first polio vaccine came into use.

For those who believe in God, I’d say God answered the prayers with science. He gave us the gifted scientists who were able to solve the problem. And if you think about it, if God is our parent, as many people of religion believe, does a good parent do everything for a child? Or does the parent give the child the tools and let him or her work out the problem?

Now we come to the last few weeks—record breaking hurricanes hitting our shores—changes in our weather that many believe are the result of drastic climate change.

Some may claim God is punishing us for an imagined crime. Yet, I wonder—perhaps God has already answered our prayers. Like with polio, he has given our scientists knowledge, and they are ready to help us alleviate some of the man-made stress we’ve put on our planet, before it’s too late.

I think it’s about time we start taking care of the magnificent gifts our creator has given us, and stop acting like spoiled children and abusing those gifts. As a parent, if my children trashed something I gave them, I certainly wouldn’t buy them another one. But, I would encourage them to fix it themselves.

Trying to figure out the Havasu Burglar.


These days I write about crime—mostly murder. Due to a recent rash of local breaking and entering, I got to thinking about another sort of crime—burglary. If I was to create a character who was a burglar, what would be in his or her head? What makes the burglar tick?

Apparently, the modus operandi for our local burglars, they knock on the front door first to see if anyone is home.

This is the part I don’t get. Surely, I am not the only one out there who often does NOT answer the door when someone rings the bell. Let’s be honest, when someone stops by—especially a stranger—not everyone bothers answering the door. And even if it is someone you know, how many of you will confess to ducking behind some piece of furniture so the visitor won’t see you and know you are home. I know I have.

There are many reasons for not answering the door.

I might be in the bathroom, taking a shower, or having wild sex.

It’s possible I haven’t gotten dressed yet, despite the fact it is way past noon. After all, I am a writer and work from home.

Maybe the house is a mess and I don’t want people to know what a slob I am.

Perhaps I have just murdered someone and am busy dismembering the body. No one answers the door when they are doing that. (Did I mention I write about murders?)

Or maybe I am a recluse—not too far from the truth since I am a writer—and I rarely answer the door.

Maybe I am hosting a wild orgy and the house is already filled to occupancy. (Did I mention I once wrote erotica?)

Anyway, you get my point. Just because no one answers the door, does not mean no one is home.

Apparently, some local burglars found this out first hand when they broke into a house and were welcomed by a the gun wielding homeowner. Oops…

Did I mention I live in Arizona? Everyone in Arizona has a freaking handgun. It doesn’t matter if you are a liberal or conservative; if you live in Arizona chances are someone in the household will be packing. And if it isn’t a gun, there is probably a camera or two hidden away recording every move—while the video is whisked away to some cloud to be retrieved should the need arise.

So, basically, this burglar character doesn’t seem to have the capacity to think ahead. Or maybe he or she just likes surprises and living on the edge.

How we leave our readers…


Before our family moved to Havasu in 1968, we spent summer vacations at the beach. It was either Newport or San Clemente. Each day there, I rode the waves on my canvas surf rider. The thought of sharks never entered my mind as I swam out to meet the waves. But then, when I was in college, I did something foolish. I read Jaws.

Jaws forever altered my relationship with the sea. Ocean waves became a scary, unsafe place. I suspect I’m not the only person changed by Jaws.

But, it isn’t just about sharks. Writers have been instilling fears—sometimes irrational, sometimes rational—into its readers—or movie goers. I imagine the fear of clowns came from creepy clown cinema. There are probably some people out there who cower behind a shower curtain, and no doubt the need for a child (or even adult) to check under the bed before going to sleep was probably inspired by some horror movie.

I’ve an active imagination, and I am fairly confident that if I wanted to—I could write terrifying books of horror. But, when I consider doing that, I ask myself, do I really want to inspire the type of fear that could possibly linger and prevent the reader from doing something he or she once loved? Like I once loved riding the surf.

A while back I received a fan letter from a reader, who told me she once had a fear of ghosts. The thought of ghosts—the possibility of ghosts—terrified her. But then she started reading my Haunting Danielle series, and she began seeing ghosts—even the possibility of ghosts—in an entirely new light. She was no longer afraid of them.

While it’s a writer’s job to stir a wide range of emotions in the reader—including fear—when the story is over, I rather like the idea of leaving the reader in a better, happier place.

Is Danielle too nice?

After reading The Ghost Who Lied, one reader suggested that Danielle might be “too good to be true.” She based this on Danielle’s seemingly blasé attitude regarding a potential lawsuit. However, I would have to respectfully disagree. I believe Danielle’s attitude was not borne from martyrdom selflessness—but practical reality.

My husband and I have owned businesses—and we have managed businesses. One thing we have learned over the years, a business is always open to a potential lawsuit. Like Danielle, we didn’t fret over the possibility, instead, we tried to take preventive measures, and we had insurance.

Danielle informing the insurance company of a potential lawsuit is something I have done myself—and in one notable case, we were as inculpable as Danielle.  An airplane had crashed when attempting to land on the dirt airstrip at Havasu Palms. Fortunately, no one was killed. One of the first things I did—after dealing with the crash—was to contact the insurance company. I didn’t believe we were liable, but I was not going to agonize over it—that is why we had insurance. The same was true for Danielle.

As it turned out, Havasu Palms was sued, yet the case was eventually dropped when it was determined that the crash didn’t actually take place on our lease land. However, the insurance company bore the cost of the lawsuit.

Over the years, we have seen other lawsuits where the insurance company opted to simply settle a nuisance case, believing it would save them money in the long run. It always bothered me that they are willing to pay scammers to get rid of them—but it’s not that unusual.

Therefore, I don’t believe Danielle’s behavior was indicative of some goodie-good Pollyanna, but instead of a practical realist.

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Is successful self-publishing just a matter of luck?

The other day I looked in on a writer’s forum that I used to frequent. One of the new authors was expressing her disappointment over her lack of sales. Apparently, she had published a book three months ago and had only sold three eBooks. She asked if any of the other writers had ever felt like calling it quits but stuck it out and ended up successful. She was looking for success stories to boost her morale.

What she got in return were a number of comments citing the depressing odds against any self-published author. Only a small fraction of self-published authors are actually making money. The dismal doomsday comments were coming from fellow self-published authors.

Basically, I felt they were saying—it’s not your fault—it’s not our fault—that we can only make a couple dollars as an author. The odds are just against us.

Not necessarily. Sometimes it is the author’s fault. I’m not suggesting making a living as a self-published author is a sure thing if you follow specific steps; it isn’t. Like any entrepreneurial endeavor, there are risks and challenges. Yet, sometimes the reason for a lack of financial success has nothing to do with the odds being stacked against you—sometimes it’s simply because the author failed to recognize what it takes to be a successful self-published author.

After reading that author’s post, I started asking myself—what does it take to make a living doing this? After all, I have been doing it for six years now.

I came up with the following list:

  1. Ability to Write Something Others Want to Read
  2. Business plan
  3. Hard Work
  4. Stacking the Deck in Your Favor

Ability to Write Something Others Want to Read

The old cliché “putting the cart before the horse” comes to mind when I think of some aspiring self-publishered authors. They have failed to hone their craft yet are anxious to push the publish button.  Mastering your craft might involve: writing classes, involvement in critique groups—yet most of all, writing. And more writing. Once you’ve learned how to properly string words together, the next challenge is finding the story readers want.

I remember when Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series was all the rage. At the time, I recall reading some posts from aspiring authors, harshly critiquing Meyer’s writing ability. Instead of accusing those authors of suffering from a severe case of sour grapes—I would suggest it isn’t sour grapes they should be ashamed of, but the fact they completely missed a valuable writing lesson.

Perhaps Meyer’s prose needed some work. But the fact was, she had the story readers wanted to hear. And I don’t care how polished and perfect your prose may be, if you don’t have the story, you have nothing. Those authors would have better served paying less attention to the technical imperfections of Meyer’s writing, and more to her storytelling ability.

Business Plan

When you are a self-published author you have two jobs. It isn’t just about the writing. If you hope to make money as a self-published author, this requires you to treat the endeavor as a business.  That author who was complaining about her lack of sales, she obviously had no business plan. She had published a 61-page book of erotica, overpriced it, and then sat back waiting for the money to roll in. That is not a great business plan.

Hard Work

Like anything worthwhile, it takes hard work. One of the more successful self-published authors I know is Russell Blake. Russell spent so many hours in front of the computer, hammering out one book after another, that he decided to invest in a treadmill desk. It was either that or fall over at the desk from lack of exercise.

Russell didn’t start making money on his first book. He didn’t publish one book and then sit back and wait for the money to come flowing in. No, he kept writing. I know of only one self-published author who hit it big on her first book, yet even she invested hours of hard work in the project.

One author friend told me he didn’t start making money until he had published the tenth book in his series. While I’ve had an amazing year, I also have more than twenty-five full-length books published.

Early on, I was taught by successful self-published authors that one essential ingredient for success in this business is to regularly publish. One book isn’t going to do it, and writing and publishing four or more books a year takes a lot of work.

Stacking the Deck in Your Favor

When I say stacking the deck in your favor, I am thinking of four things.

  1. Get the book professionally edited.

Even if the author is a professional editor, I believe he/she needs another set of eyes. Since I published my first novel in 2011, I’ve worked with six different professional editors. I’ve had some of my books edited three or four times. Even then, there have been mistakes and reviewers who have pointed out my errors. I shudder at those writers who hit publish without sending their manuscript through an editing process.

  1. Get a professional book cover appropriate for your genre.

I checked out the book cover of that author I mentioned—the one who was discouraged over her lack of sales. To be blunt, her cover was horrid and obviously homemade. And it went horizontal instead of the standard vertical format. Perhaps if it had been a stunning cover, the horizontal look might have signaled to the reader that this author had something special and different for them. Instead, it simply shouted, I have no clue what I am doing.

  1. Polish your blurb. This is the summary potential readers read to determine if they want to read your book. It’s what they normally read after the book cover catches their attention. You need a hook to reel them in.

To be honest, I hate writing blurbs. I kind of suck at it. Fortunately, there are other writers out there who are very good at writing blurbs and are willing to help.

  1. The final item in stacking the deck: re-edit the preview.

After the cover catches a reader’s attention, and the blurb reels them it, it is the preview that has to clinch the deal.

Double and triple edit the first part of your book—the section that will show up in preview. Because if your book has typos or other errors, you don’t want them to show up when the potential reader is previewing the book. That author I mentioned—well I didn’t just look at her cover, I read her preview. There were glaring typos in the first paragraph.

Of course, she is not alone. The first word, in the first novel I published—Lessons—was supposed to be Alexandra, the main character. Yet, it was typed Alexander. That book went through at least three editors before that error was discovered. And guess what? None of the editors found it—I did.  But for a long time, that glaring error remained in the preview—and the book.

I suspect I would not be doing as well as I am now, if I had ignored my mistakes, never re-edited, wrote less, refused to do those publishing tasks I disliked, and had ignored  the advice of some of my earlier mentors.

There are no guarantees an author will make anything by self-publishing. But I do believe, for a serious author who is willing to make the commitment and put in the hard work, it is within the realm of possibility.

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Beyond those eyes…

Those Eyes

Are those my husband’s eyes,
looking up at me?
Could it be my nose
that I now see?
A touch of him
a hint of me
blended by God
… expertly.

I wrote that poem a number of years ago. It’s included in my book, Motherhood. However, it’s not just our features we can pass down to our children—it’s other things, like stubbornness, creativity, or an entrepreneurial spirit.

I’m blessed to be sharing this publishing adventure with our daughter, Elizabeth. She has her degree in Graphic Design and is a freelance graphic artist, specializing in book covers.  When I was in high school, I—like my daughter—took a special interest in art. However, unlike Elizabeth, I veered off to photography and writing in college, leaving my art aspirations behind. Elizabeth persevered. Plus, she is far more talented than I ever was.

Our son Scott is in restaurant management. It’s not surprising he got into the business, since both his grandparents and parents once owned restaurants. It was something he grew up around. However, he also has a keen interest in photography—as I once did.

Lately he’s been filming using his drone and posting his videos on YouTube. I take special interest in what he’s captured along the Oregon coast—since my Haunting Danielle series takes place in the fictional town of Frederickport, Oregon, along the Oregon coast, south of Astoria.

Our son and his wife live in Portland. Their love of the Oregon coast—and our visits to that area when we would visit them—is what inspired me to select that location for my Haunting Danielle series.

If you’d like to get a view of the Haunting Danielle real life territory—or would like to check out some of Scott’s other scenic videos, click on about video.

(If the video is not showing at the top of this page, refresh the page and it should appear.)

Confessions of an Ex-Erotica Writer

When people learn I am an author—especially when they realize I am actually making my living off my books—one of the most frequent questions they ask me, “Have you always wanted to be a writer?”

Yes. Even before I became an avid reader, I was making up stories in my head, or trying to figure out how to phrase a description of something I was observing. In sixth grade I wrote our class play, and at fourteen I wrote my first book—more a novella considering it was just under a hundred typed pages.

I never struggled with reading as a child, yet I preferred to be read to. I used to nag my older sister to read me Nancy Drew or the Box Car Children. It wasn’t until we moved to Lake Havasu when I was in eight grade—and without television—that I discovered my love for reading.

What was the book that got me started? The Valley of the Dolls. Considering that is the book that hooked me into reading for pleasure at the tender age of thirteen, I suppose it’s not that surprising that when I started publishing eBooks I wrote erotica.

To be clear, I wrote more than just erotica. But erotica paid the bills back then.

It happened like this…

Until we moved back to Havasu to take over my parent’s business, Havasu Palms, I used to publish a monthly community magazine. What I wrote back then were non-fiction articles—my favorite being articles of local history which involved extensive research. I sold the publication when we moved to Havasu in 1991.

When I was still working for Havasu Palms I wrote two books. One, was Where the Road Ends, Havasu Palms Recipes and Remembrances. It was a book of local history which we self-published in paperback. We sold the book at Havasu Palms, a book store in Lake Havasu City, and eventually in the Lake Havasu Museum.

The second book was a romance, Lessons. It was not the first book of fiction I had ever written. In college, I wrote a screenplay which I turned into a book. Before Lessons, I wrote one other romance, and started several others. But, I never had the patience to send manuscripts off to publishers or editors—plus it was costly back then. In those days, you had to print out the entire book and send it off to the various publishers. I could not afford the postage or printing costs.

The years went by, and we were no longer managing Havasu Palms. Now Don and I were Realtors. But then the crash of 2008 came along, and we realized it was not financially feasible for both of us to continue in a business where we both relied on commission to pay our bills. Don remained in real estate, and I decided to go back to my first love, writing.

For over three years I wrote for the infamous content supply company, Demand Studios. Each week I hammered out one nonfiction article after another. Over time, it became tedious—and work became harder to find. About this same time a new writing opportunity was emerging—self-publishing eBooks.

I self-published my first book of fiction at the end of 2011. It was Lessons, which I released under the pen name, Anna J. McIntyre. Before publishing, I sent the manuscript off to an editor I had met at Demand Studios, and I had my daughter, who was a professional graphic designer, design the book cover.

I soon learned it took more than one published book to make a living—and writing a book took a considerable amount of time. Plus, I was still spending many hours writing for Demand Studios.

One day I stumbled across an author blog by another romance author. She was experimenting with erotica, and found there was some good money being made. Fifty Shades had been published—yet it hadn’t yet been acquired by its current publisher, nor had it yet become well known.

I decided to give erotica a try. Frankly, it sounded fun. I was weary of writing boring how-to articles or dry non-fiction for Demand Studios, and I needed a change. I’ve always had a wild imagination. For me, erotica was not about graphic sex. It was about telling imaginative stories where the characters just happen to have sex. And in case you are wondering—back in the day, the stories I wrote did not violate any publishing policies of the venues where I published.

The erotica I wrote was geared toward women readers, and they focused heavily on the story and the characters. Some, I will confess, pushed the envelope in what might be considered acceptable. But as a writer, sometimes it’s about pushing the envelope.

I wrote short stories, about 10,000 words or less and sold them for $2.99 each. This enabled me to crank out a new story every week or two.  If I was to charge 99 cents, I would only make 35 cents per eBook sold, which meant I would have to sell a LOT of books to make a living.

I didn’t get rich, but I did make a livable salary for a couple years. Plus, I believe the experience improved my writing.

But then two things happened. I grew bored with writing erotica—and Fifty Shades became a phenomenal bestseller. The latter meant every struggling (and some non-struggling) writer was jumping into the erotica market. But, they were not cranking out short stories, they were giving readers full length books—some even charging just 99 cents per book.

As I mentioned, I was already bored with writing erotica. I certainly had no desire to commit my energy to full length books, nor to price the books so low that it would be harder to make a living. One problem with erotica, authors are limited in their advertising options.

I abandoned the erotica and turned my attention to what I consider my more serious work. Eventually, I unpublished my erotica—from all venues. It no longer fit in with my publishing objectives.

For the last four years I’ve devoted my writing energy to my Haunting Danielle series, which I write under my own name—no pen name.  While one of my Haunting Danielle characters may occasionally exchange a kiss, that’s about as far as it goes.

One might wonder if because of last week’s kerfuffle with Barnes & Noble, when our Nook Press account was about to be terminated, that I might regret ever having published erotica. Had I not done that, then I probably would never have been targeted by Nook Press.

But no, I can’t regret it. Because frankly, without my experiences writing and publishing erotica, I seriously doubt I would be where I am today in my writing career. And frankly, I am exceedingly happy at where I find myself today.

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Consider this a public service announcement on refrigerator shopping.

Grandma’s refrigerator had just one door. When you opened the door, inside was the refrigerator, with a freezer compartment on top. Then came the refrigerator with two doors—one for the freezer on top, and a separate door for the refrigerator compartment below.

Then came the side by side—a freezer on the left, the refrigerator on the right, each with its own door. A few years back, a different design became the rage—a double door refrigerator with a freezer drawer on the bottom of the unit.

I was enamored with the design—especially with the wide deli drawer inside. Unfortunately, they were pretty pricy, yet I still drooled whenever we strolled through the appliance department.  But then, a few years back, one of our friends who is in the appliance business, offered us a great deal on one, and who was I to resist?

I loved the fridge at first. When the deli drawer continually jammed, I considered the price we had paid, so I didn’t complain. And then the ice maker went out, something our friend warned might happen—those models back then had ice maker issues—again I didn’t complain. Instead we purchased a nifty countertop ice maker.

But what really did not work out for our lifestyle was the freezer drawer. Oh, it held a lot, but for households like us, who purchase a lot of frozen meat and fish, it made the drawer very heavy. I worried about my 89-year-old mother being home alone, opening the drawer to get ice, and then having it jam on her—something it occasionally did with us. Would she be able to fix it on her own?

Recently, we decided it was time to get a new refrigerator and retire our old one to the garage. Since we got such a terrific deal on the other one, it wasn’t as financially painful as it might have been—plus there were some great appliance sales going on.

So here comes the rest of my public service announcement.

My husband, Don, researched refrigerators before we went shopping, so we knew what brand we wanted. Unfortunately, the research failed to mention the following two things.

The first is the water dispenser. When looking at refrigerators at the store, they typically are not hooked up. Therefore, a customer does not have the opportunity to try it out.

I remember asking the salesman if the water dispenser had one of those features where you set the glass on the little shelf to fill up and it automatically turns off when full. He didn’t know. What he also did not know, in the brand we had asked him about, you did not set the glass on the little shelf in the door when getting water—only when getting ice.

When Don first used the water dispenser he got quite a surprise. He set the empty glass on the little shelf in the door—like we had done for all our previous refrigerators in the past with water dispensers—and he pushed the lever with the water icon.

Water squirted all over him—and the floor. You see, in this model, the water comes out of the door, as you can see in the photograph. In our previous refrigerators, if the glass overflowed, or you pulled the glass away too soon, the water was captured in the little tray on the shelf. Not so with this one. There is nothing to catch the water except the glass you are holding.

When our daughter came to visit with her family, that was one of the first things I showed them how to use. I didn’t want their family soaking our kitchen floor—or their shirts—the first time they went to get a glass of water. And at our house, unfortunately all the drinking water comes out of the refrigerator. She found the design strangely bizarre.  The moral of all this, take a closer look at the water and ice dispenser. See where the water and ice are actually dispensed.


The next unexpected thing I discovered about our new refrigerator—its door fronts will not hold a magnet. I learned that this morning when I tried to attach a list to the front of the refrigerator, and the list—along with the magnet—fell to the ground. You can use a magnet on the side of the refrigerator, just not on the front.

Don says he doesn’t like things hanging all over the refrigerator, so he doesn’t have a problem with this unexpected quirk. But, if you are someone who does like to use magnets to hang things on the front of the refrigerator, I suggest you take a kitchen magnet with you the next time you are appliance shopping.

I like our new refrigerator, in spite of the fact I have to hold the glass when it fills with water, and I can no longer hang my grandkid’s artwork on its front. I’m still happy with the purchase.

However, I wonder…had I been aware of those two things, would I have selected another model?