Archive for October, 2012

Happy Halloween everyone!

Halloween is the time for all things scary and creepy. The usual scary suspects include monsters, ghosts, and undead creatures. And while these beings do haunt our nightmares, we have yet to encounter them in real life.

The really scary folks are the ones who lurk around in the daylight, people who look human, but are really monsters inside. Murderers, rapists, serial killers—and blackmailers. They’re scary because they’re real.

That’s why I decided that Halloween would be the perfect time to review ONE-EYED JACK by Christopher J. Lynch. It doesn’t deal with murderers, but it does deal with some particularly nasty and even vile people.


230 pages, Paperback

Genre: Adult, Suspense/Thriller

Published on June 13, 2012 by CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

ISBN-10: 1475174438

ISBN-13: 978-1475174434



Professional blackmailer John Sharp, aka One Eyed Jack, is a man who knows how to keep a secret – for a price. But when a routine case of infidelity takes an unexpected detour, he soon finds himself caught in a tangled web of double-blackmail, commodities manipulation, and trying to rescue the woman that had once been his target.


My Review

I was a bit hesitant when Chris approached me to ask for a book review. First off, my To Be Read pile was just threatening to topple over. Second, I don’t normally review adult books that aren’t in the Sci-Fi/Fantasy genre.

Chris is a member of my group, CBW-LA, and I’ve also seen how hard he works at self-promotion, plus his trailer was just so cool, I thought I’d give the book a try.

And I’m glad I did.

ONE-EYED JACK is a fascinating story about a professional blackmailer. Blackmailers are usually minor characters, and often vilified or painted in a bad light. And though One-Eyed Jack does blackmail people for a living, I found him a likeable and sympathetic character. He’s a blackmailer with a heart—a three-dimensional character who chooses his victims according to his own moral code.

The story is set in the often ignored South Bay section of Los Angeles. I live in this area, so I love that I could recognize all the locations Chris uses in his book. I had a fun time following Jack through his various missions, and could easily imagine his environment at any given point in the story. And it’s not just because I’m familiar with the South Bay. Chris does a good job of describing the setting enough so that the reader can picture it very clearly in his head.

Plotwise, the story was intriguing and fast-paced. At no point in my reading did I feel the need to take a break or put down the book. The plot just hooked me from beginning to end. I felt that the book was well-researched and I was fascinated by the protagonist’s methods and abilities, and by the technology he uses to spy on people. Technology that is real and currently out there.

I loved getting into the main character’s head, and being able to see the inner workings of a professional blackmailers mind. One-Eyed Jack is an intelligent, streetsmart and savvy protagonist, and his methods are so realistic they’re creepy. I can just imagine a regular person being able to do what he does, with the proper motivation.

I rarely venture outside the realm of Sci-Fi and Fantasy, but I’m always glad when I do find a fun story that takes hold of my imagination in more realistic settings.

ONE-EYED JACK by Christopher J. Lynch is an action-packed, exciting and thrilling read. I’m already looking forward to the next book in the series!

You can get ONE-EYED JACK in both a kindle, and paperback versions.



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Doce Pares Martial Art Belt Test & Training Seminar

October 19th-20th was my designated martial arts weekend.

Friday, October 19th marked my second belt test of the year. This time, I tested for a purple belt. If I pass, it means I’m halfway through the basic program already. It also means I’m five levels away from getting a black belt.

This belt test was very special for all of us, as we had Grandmaster Arnulfo “Dong” Cuesta, fly all the way from New Jersey to facilitate our testing. On top of that, we had 8 masters grading our every move!

 Our Torrance Class with Grandmaster Dong Cuesta & the Doce Pares Masters

 I won’t bore you any more grueling details of my almost four hour belt test, but I will give you a little preview of what  I had to do to earn that purple belt.

That’s a video of me coming up with some random stick twirling moves based on what I’ve learned so far.

Doce Pares Group Photo


The next day, October 20th, we had our first ever Doce Pares Training Seminar with Grandmaster Arnulfo “Dong” Cuesta.

Grandmaster Arnulfo “Dong” Cuesta is a 9th degree Black Belt, who was featured in the 2000 TLC Documentary “Martial Arts: The Real Story.”

Myself and Grandmaster Arnulfo Dong Cuesta


His martial arts story is an intriguing one. He learned Eskrima at the age of 13 as a way of escaping life as a gang member. He ended up as a runaway in Pasil, the most dangerous part of Cebu (A southern city in the Philippines). With members of his gang arrested for murder, Dong Cuesta took an offer by Grand Master Cacoy Canete to train in his gym.

He trained in the Doce Pares system with Cacoy’s son Edgar. Though his initial goal was to learn how to defend himself against his old gang,  Dong Cuesta’s dedication to the martial art impressed Grandmaster Momoy. The Grandmaster trained him personally and later on healed him with a healing skill known as oracion when he became very ill.

In 1981, the NARAPHIL (National Arnis Association of the Philippines) hand-picked Grandmaster Dong Cuesta to promote the Doce Pares Multi-Style system in the United States.  Grandmaster Dong Cuesta recalls venturing to the U.S. with a one-way plane ticket and $40 in his pocket.


Grandmaster Dong Cuesta, along with the other eight masters, taught us basic self defense maneuvers, as well as extra material which we don’t usually get to do in class.

Grandmaster Cuesta teaching me some knife fighting techniques

 I had fun with the empty hand techniques and knife drills which Grandmaster Cuesta and the other masters taught us.

Master Erwin Mosqueda teaching me some arm locks

The best thing I learned from the seminar was how to escape a headlock. Now I know what to do if someone grabs me from behind and tries to choke me.

I asked Grandmaster Cuesta how to get out of a headlock. He says the first thing to do is to NOT get in a headlock!

But if I’m already there, I need to make sure my breathing doesn’t get cut off. I need to move my head, so that my chin is resting on the attacker’s arm. Here’s Grandmaster Cuesta explaining how to get out of a headlock.

I also learned another cool way to escape a headlock from Guro Tim Wolchek:

Being able to learn directly from Grandmaster Cuesta and all the other masters was an awesome experience. I’d definitely do it again.

The Doce Pares Family

Being part of a Filipino martial art family means that the day won’t end without some kind of celebration. So to cap off an amazing training seminar, we also had a party to celebrate the 8th year anniversary of the Los Angeles  region group.


As with any Filipino celebration, there was tons of food, pictures and lots of singing.


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Book Giveaway Winners & Visiting Veronica’s Blog

The magic box has spoken!

Here are the winners of this month’s Spotlight Week Giveaway.

Congratulations, Akoss!

You win a copy of Jenn Reese‘s Middle Grade Fantasy Adventure ABOVE WORLD.


And Congratulations to the following beauties for winning a copy of Jenn Reese’s JADE TIGER:


Lydia Kang

Margo Berendsen



Congratulations, ladies! I’ll be emailing you all some instructions on claiming your prize.

In other news…

Do you remember Veronica? I featured her on my Wednesday Writers Workspace last April. To return the favor, she invited me over to do a guest posting on her own blog.

Hop on over to Thursday’s Child! I’ll wait for you there.

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Wednesday Writer’s Workspace Welcomes Donna Martin

Every Wednesday, I feature a writer and his/her workspace.  My aim is to get to know fellow writers better through their workspace and writing habits, and have them  share some of their writing wisdom here.

Today, I am most eager to welcome Donna Martin, author of that fun blog On the Write Track.

Welcome, Donna!


Tell us a little bit about yourself. What do you do for a living? What genre do you love to write? What are some of your hobbies or interests? Do you have a hidden talent?


Donna Martin

Thank you so much for allowing me to be a part of your Writers Wednesday series.  I have worked in many different industries over the years but for the past ten years I have been the Center Manager/Program Director of a TaeKwonDo International school in Tennessee where I currently hold the rank of Fourth Degree Black Belt.

My second “job” (one I’ve been doing on and off for over 40 years now) is writing.  I work in many different genres including children’s picture books, middle grade novels, young adult novels, essays, poetry, and hopefully soon I will expand into the non-fiction arena.

My hobbies include reading (a lot), amusement parks, visiting new places, arts & crafts when I have the time, going to the mountains near my home, listening to all types of music…just about anything that tickles my interest!

As far as a hidden talent, does being able to talk like Yoda count? ;~)


On Workspace

1.  Where do you do most of your writing?

Right now the majority of my writing happens in my recliner in the living room during the week because I get home so late each night so I’m trying to grab some supper while catching up on emails, blogging, and writing.  But I do actually have a lovely place I call my sanctuary that I can go to be inspired on the weekends.

Donna’s recliner


2.  Where did you get your desk?  How did you go about arranging your work area?

 When I bought my house years ago I knew I was going to need some new furniture.  All my adult like I have wanted a roll top desk…I think they are so elegant but I needed a small one because I live in a small house.  A friend of mine gave me this huge computer desk that still take up space in my bedroom but about a year after I moved into my house I discovered a pretty roll top desk at a local furniture store and it was just the perfect size for my study so I bought it! 


Donna’s desk

My study is actually my son’s old bedroom but when he moved out on his own I decided to change things.  My desk faces the wall by the door, my bookcase with some reference material is to my right, a glider rocker is in one corner, and a sofa table is under one of the windows.  That leaves my fireplace on the other wall.  I wanted my study to serve two purposes…when I am in the middle of writing, I wanted no distractions from my work so I set up an “office” look to one side of the room.  But when I simply want to relax and read, I wanted the other side of the room to feel copy and inviting.  My spirit is drawn to the beach so decorating the entire room like I am in a beach cottage brings me a sense of serenity…truly my own personal sanctuary!


3.  What are some important things on your desk?  Are there specific things you need to have around you as you work?

My life gets very hectic so I try to keep my study as organized as possible.  All my files are on the lift side of my desk and I have a small rolling desk to the right of my roll top desk so I can move everything to the glider if I feel like it.  I have  compact set of reference books like a dictionary, grammar guide, and thesaurus on the top of my desk and a dry erase board above it for keeping track of submissions, along with inspiring pictures I hang on the corkboard part of the dry erase board as prompts for my writing.

Donna’s bookcase


4.  What do you love most about your workspace? Do you have any favorite objects on your desk, or things you use often?

The smell.  I keep the door closed unless I’m in my study and when I first open the door I’m always greeted with the wonderful smell of books.  I also look around the room and just looking at all the “beachy” things just relaxes me so much that it frees my mind to concentrate on my writing.  .

5. What’s your writing beverage?  What do you love to drink while you’re writing?

It really depends on my mood and the weather.  During the summer I will probably drink Coke Zero over ice.  During the winter I will usually drink either hot chocolate or hot tea.

On Writing

1. Who is your favorite author?  Who inspired you to write?

It is so hard to pick a “favorite” author because I’m a visual and sensual reader.  So for me it’s both the writing AND the illustrations that draw me into a book…the front cover of adult books and everything for children’s books.   And in that case, the world would be my favorite author…all the lovely people who create such lasting magic for generations of children to enjoy!

When it comes to my own writing, I look to authors from my childhood like Mercer Mayer or even later Jan Brett to inspire me to try my hand at writing children’s books.  Not that I think I have the level of talent they possess, but reading their stories fueled a love and passion for children’s books that remain with me today.  Now that I write in the children’s book arena myself, I look to current children’s books authors like Susanna Leonard Hill, and Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen, for a standard of excellence in writing and even upcoming authors like Tara Lazar who have taken the time out of their busy schedules to mentor to me.


2. What’s your typical day as a writer like?  Do you have any writing related rituals or quirks?

A typical day for me would be to wake up to the 6 a.m. alarm, grab a quick breakfast and try to go through about 150 emails before I have to leave for work.  If I have time in the morning I will write my daily blog post.  I leave for work around 9 a.m. and usually don’t return until 9 p.m.   I grab some supper, glance at my mail, do my daily blog post if I didn’t get a chance in the morning, read any urgent email and write until about midnight before going to bed.  That’s my weekday schedule.  Saturdays I run errands with my sister but will make time to write on Saturday evenings and most of Sundays when I can.

The only writing related ritual that I can think of is when I go looking for pictures on the internet to inspire my writing.  I am an extremely visual writer and if I am looking for new story ideas, I will think of a subject and then do Google image searches for inspiration.


3.  Do you write everyday?  How many hours a day do you spend writing?  What are some of your worst writing distractions?

Yes, I write every day but no, it’s not on my stories every day.  When I started my blog  on December 6, 2011, I told myself I would concentrate on my “author platform” so I post daily.  Any extra time is used for new stories, revisions, guest blog posts, critiques, etc.  I spend about six hours each day doing something that is tied to my writing…even if it is reading books on the craft of writing or doing internet research or networking within the writing community…everything to help me grow as a writer.


4. Why do you write?

Because it is as vital to me as breathing and I can’t believe I set it aside for over twenty years.  WHAT WAS I THINKING??  Lol…


5. Any writing tips or techniques or words of wisdom you want to share with us?  How about a favorite writing quote?

Oh, I have not been writing long enough to think I have any words of wisdom.  I leave that to all the great authors I admire.  But I will say this…just BELIEVE!  Believe in yourself.  Believe in the possibility that there is magic within you just waiting to be given to the world.  Believe there will be others out there who will believe in YOU…even when there are times you find it hard to believe in yourself.  Just believe…



Thanks, Donna, for giving us a glimpse into your writing life.

Wednesday Writer’s Workspace is an ongoing series, and if you’re interested in being featured here, simply leave me a message in the comment box, and I’ll be sure to email you.





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Speaker Chris Lynch, Author of One-Eyed Jack

Speaker Bio:

Author Christopher J. Lynch is a Southern California native living in Los Angeles. A member of our group, CBW-LA, Chris has written articles for various newspapers and magazines, as well has various short stories.

His hobbies include cycling and mountain climbing. He recently trained and led a group of blind individuals to the summit of Mount Baldy, the highest point in Los Angeles County. A documentary film is being made of the adventure.

In May of 2012, Christopher J. Lynch finished the first draft of his debut crime novel “One Eyed Jack.” By June 13th, he had it revised, edited, formatted, and published as both an e-book, and a “Print on Demand” on both Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Since then, he has enjoyed brisk sales, received rave reviews, done four author signings, and had it placed in Pages Bookstore, Small World Books, Apostrophe Books, and Frog Books. He also produced a video trailer and has done numerous guest blogs, author interviews, and promo pieces. How did he do it all in such a short time? He self-published.

Christopher J. Lynch will share his experience and talk candidly about the self-publishing route and what it means to the writer of the 21st. Century.

Workshop Summary:

Chris was a wonderful speaker. He offered us a no-holds barred presentation on the ups and downs of self-publishing and gave us a lot of helpful tips and tricks, which he had to learn the hard way.

 Some of the questions Chris answered included:

·What is traditional publishing versus self-publishing?

·Is self-publishing right for me, or for my book?
·What are the benefits of self-publishing?
·What are the downsides to self-publishing?
·What is POD (print on demand)?
·What are the steps necessary for self-publishing?
·What are the costs involved?


Workshop Highlights:

Is Self Publishing For You?


– Major bookstores (B&N) – and even some “indie” bookstores – will not carry self-published titles.

– If you are selling on consignment to bookstores, you will have to get a sellers permit and resale certificate from the franchise tax board.

– You may not be eligible for some book awards.

– The “New York Times” and many other mainstream publications, are reticent to review any self-published book.

– Some blogs may not review self-published books.

– You will have to pay for your own editing, formatting, cover design, etc.

– All promotion, bookkeeping, sales, etc.  is on you – You are a business!



– Time: Your completed book can be available as an e-book in under 8 hours, and a print version in about one day.

– Creative Control – This can be both good and bad.

– You can set the list price (minimums for e-book and POD).

– Higher royalties.

– If successful, you can always get an agent and a publisher and go the conventional route.


Where do you begin? An e-book from manuscript to product.

– Step one: Finish the damn thing!!

– Step two: Revise…Revise…Revise.

– Step three: Have your manuscript professionally edited…by a reputable editing service.

– Step four: Your cover is the first thing a customer sees – and it will only be a thumbnail on-line. Again, pay the pros. Only a front cover will be needed for an E-book (more on converting it to a full cover with spine and back for a POD).

– Step five: Formatting from mobi, to epub to pdf can be hell, so it’s worth it to get a professional to do this for you.


Why do a POD, if e-books are all the rage?

– It doesn’t cost you much more.

– It broadens your sales.

– Many people still like holding a physical book.

– You are going to have to do lots of in-face promotion (book fairs, signings, libraries, etc.)  and you can’t sign an e-book.


How the steps to do a POD differ from an e-book

– You will need to have your original, revised and edited manuscript, formatted into a different size (typically, trade size paperback).

– Companies like Ironhorse formatting can do this: Pricing: 20 to 45K words – $40

– You will have to have your e-book front cover made into a full cover with spine and back (app. $50.00)



Sales, the “driver” of all business

Three ways you will sell your book:

– On-line

– Consignment through bookstores

– Private sales


The truth about self-published book sales:

 – The average self-published book sells about 100-150 copies across all formats and venues.

– Some don’t sell at all.

– Don’t count on all of your family and friends – especially your F/B “friends” – to buy your book

– Sales require endless promotion: reviews, blogging, social media, author events, book fairs, swag…and some luck. It takes a lot of time…and some money.

– It’s a crowded marketplace

“The good news is, anyone can self-publish a book.”

“The bad news is, anyone can self-publish a book.”


Author Chris Lynch with CBW-LA Officers

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Muir Woods & San Francisco in a Day

I will take any opportunity to travel. It’s a great way to experience new things, and an even better way to gain new story ideas.

When my friend Joy invited me for her wedding up in San Francisco, I thought I’d take advantage of the weekend to do some sightseeing/story brainstorming.

 Saturday, September 15, 2012

The wedding took place in beautiful St. Patrick’s Church on Mission Street in San Francisco. Joy and Thom were a beautiful couple as they made their vows. Joy and I have been close friends since High School so it was a wonderful treat for me to be a witness to one of her greatest milestones in life.


Afterwards, the reception was held at the HS Lordships Restaurant in Berkeley.

(I was too busy enjoying the food and company to take pictures, unfortunately.)


Sunday, September 16, 2012

Muir Woods

Kay, (another High School friend) and her husband Jorge were such generous hosts. I had told them about a scene in my novel, which was set in a forest of Redwood trees.  So they took us to Muir Woods, a national park in the bay area which featured a redwood forest.

I’ve had to rely on pictures and my imagination to describe the setting. It was an amazing to be able to finally see a redwood tree in person.

Redwood Tree, Muir Woods 

The forest had many trails, and we chose a midsized one which we could walk in an hour.  I had fun walking through the woods and marveling at how tall they were. I could picture my “redwood scene” more clearly and could vividly imagine my characters having their adventures there.

Muir Woods Trail

I had fun catching up with friends. We talked about everything–and even exchanged a few book recommendations.

Myself, Maiko, Beth, Ed and Orion posing beneath a Redwood tree, photo by Jorge

Even three year old Ethan had tons of fun, running through the trail and enjoying the cool forest breeze.

Jorge, Kay and Ethan, distracted by something on the ground

Done with our short hike, we returned to the restaurant/gift shop by the entrance to refuel, and to buy souvenirs.

Jorge and Kay were awesome tour guides. After our morning in Muir Woods, they showed us around San Francisco, managing to show us all its best sites in half a day!

The Golden Gate Bridge seen from a lookout point


A busy San Francisco street

Jorge showed us around the Presidio, and all over San Francisco City, taking particular time to drive up and down Lombard Street  and Haight Street.

A Quick Stopover at the Palace of Fine Arts

The famous postcard row

The tour also gave me ample opportunity to play around with my camera’s settings and practice a little bit of photography.


Postcard Row, in Green

We ended the day with a delicious Mexican Seafood dinner at Playa Azul.

Seafood Mexican Appetizer Platter

My San Francisco trip was a wonderful break after the Working Writers Retreat.  I had a lot of memories– and story ideas whirling around in my head after our adventure that day.


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Guest Post at Sophia’s Blog

Hey y’all!

I’m doing a rare Thursday post to let you all know I’m visiting Sophia’s blog today for her Day in the Life of Series.

Drop by to  see how I live my Tuesdays–and to see some cute pictures of my two kitties. (Yes, fellow cat lovers, you’ll like this one.)

Oh, and I’m still giving away some FREE books, and all you have to do is a leave a comment here.


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Every Wednesday, I feature a writer and his/her workspace.  My aim is to get to know fellow writers better through their workspace and writing habits, and have them share some of their writing wisdom here.

Today, I am most eager to welcome Annalisa Crawford, short story writer, and author of Cat and the Dreamer.

You can find Annalisa blogging at Annalisa Crawford – Wake up, eat, write, sleep.

Welcome, Annalisa!


Tell us a little bit about yourself. What do you do for a living? What genre do you love to write? What are some of your hobbies or interests? Do you have a hidden talent?

Annalisa Crawford

I’ve been writing forever – I know that’s a standard response, but it’s completely true. When my friends were playing outside during school holidays, I was writing. My first short stories were fairytale fanfic (because I was about seven), and then at thirteen I wrote a YA novel about a girl who discovered a distant cousin was in a famous boy-band. My adult writing is best described as tragi-romance (I’ve just come up with that but it works well).

In my day-job I’m a gym instructor – working out is also my hobby, so I think I’ve been pretty lucky fitting writing and working out into my life so fully.

On Workspace

1.  Where do you do most of your writing?

Sadly I gave up my study a year ago so my kids could have their own rooms. I now switch my time between my settee for first drafts, and my dining table for those serious redrafts and edits. On sunny days, I even manage to work outside, but living in England, that doesn’t happen as much as I’d like.

Annalisa’s long lost desk

2.  Where did you get your desk?  How did you go about arranging your work area?

When I’m working on a WIP, all the relevant stuff is in a file, which I carry around to wherever I’m going to work that day. I have no desk to organize or arrange… but my pile of notebooks is incredibly neat! I love the idea of writing in cafes, but I don’t often go to cafés alone so I never have the chance. Libraries are a great place for leaping over those first-draft blocks.

3.  What are some important things on your desk?  Are there specific things you need to have around you as you work?

I write with a beautiful fountain pen, and I adore new notebooks – so both of them are essential. And my thesaurus – I can spend ages searching for the right words. I’m really keen on having the right flow and rhythm when I write, so Roget is a great writing partner!

Annalisa, writing

4.  What do you love most about your workspace? Do you have any favorite objects on your desk, or things you use often?

I’m going to reminisce about the things that used to be on my desk, which are now packed up in a box in the attic. I had Captain Jack Sparrow, Angel and Spike bobbly heads; a purple fairy wand that a work colleague gave me years ago; two artificial red roses; and a miniature Arc du Triomphe. There was a lot more – it was a big, messy desk – but those are the wonderful things that came to mind first.

5. What’s your writing beverage?  What do you love to drink while you’re writing?

Tea, and lots of it! And it has to be served in my Manchester City mug. If I’m writing in the evening, I find a glass of dry white wine really helps the words to flow.


Annalisa’s ebook

On Writing

1. Who is your favorite author?  Who inspired you to write?

Margaret Atwood and Suzannah Dunn’s contemporary novels really inspired me – Atwood for being so versatile, and Dunn for proving to me that novellas and short stories could be sold. The first book of Dunn’s I read was Darker Days Than Usual, which was about 20,000 words. Since then I’ve loved also reading Ali Smith, and Daphne du Maurier’s short stories, but not so much her novels.


2. What’s your typical day as a writer like?  Do you have any writing related rituals or quirks?

I really don’t have a typical writing day. A couple of days a week, I’ll workout in the morning, before sitting down at my computer. I’m really bad at procrastinating (or really good, I suppose…) so I check email, check Facebook and Twitter, re-check my email just in case there’s anything new. I can always find something that sparks my interest!

If I’m writing something new, I have to wait for my muse. Once she strikes, I’ll be scribbling away longhand and ignoring everything else. As long as there’s music playing, I’ll be happy. If I’m on a second or third draft, I’m a bit more disciplined – I will sit at the table and I’ll focus.


3.  Do you write everyday?  How many hours a day do you spend writing?  What are some of your worst writing distractions?

If I’m in the middle of something, nothing will stop me writing – I’ll forget to eat, forget to pick my son up from school…

If I’m at the first draft/making stuff up stage, then I’m easily distracted. Hubby gave up full time work a year ago, so sometimes we’ll go out for lunch, usually at a pub because he’s a musician and always searching for new venues – so it’s ‘work’! I’ll take a notebook with me though, so I can write while Hubby chats to the landlord. He’s much more disciplined than me, though, so if his head is in his laptop, I’ll make sure mine is.

At the moment, I have an idea and a possible character. I know where I want the story to go, but something’s not quite right, so I can’t start writing until my thoughts are in order. This is the most frustrating part of my process – I’d love to be a writer who can sit down every day and write something worthwhile. I’m editing a couple of collections at the moment, so I’m not just watching TV and having lunch!


4. Why do you write?

Because I can’t imagine my life if I didn’t. It really is the only thing I ever wanted to do, and the fact I’m doing it makes my head spin. I write because I hope that someone, somewhere reads my words, gets to the end, and says ‘Wow’ – and then the next day, they think about it again, and still say ‘Wow’.

5. Any writing tips or techniques or words of wisdom you want to share with us?  How about a favorite writing quote?

I’m a huge fan of writing longhand. I think the actual mechanics of writing with a pen helps to release the creative part of your brain – it brings you closer to the words and the story.

I’m very bad at remembering quotes, and even worse at attributing them to the correct person, so yes there are hundreds of quotes I love, but I can’t remember a single one!


6. Care to share a favorite picture?

Here’s one of me, my dad and my sister.



Thanks, Annalisa, for giving us a glimpse into your writing life.

Wednesday Writer’s Workspace is an ongoing series, and if you’re interested in being featured here, simply leave me a message in the comment box, and I’ll be sure to email you.





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Writing Updates–and I’ve Been Tagged

Weekends are never long enough. I feel a little like Garfield today.

Photo from and

Probably because I haven’t had a cup of coffee yet.

Oh, wait. I can’t drink coffee. Well, that might explain it. Thank God for tea.

Anyhow, I thought I’d give you all a writing update. Yes, you read right. A WRITING update.

I bet your wondering how in the world I even have time for writing. I wonder that myself, sometimes.

Between a 9-6 job, various writing group activities, martial arts classes, conferences, and family responsibilities, there never seems to be enough time left over for actual writing.

But I do make time for writing. (Though my blog posts on book signings, writing events and outings indicate otherwise.) After all, without it, my dreams of publication will go up in smoke.

So here’s the update on my WIP. After last month’s Working Writers Retreat, I ran my entire manuscript through the shredder.

JUST KIDDING! I would never, ever do that. The very thought makes me shudder.

Actually, I simply set aside my manuscript. I let the feedback I got marinate in my head, and tried to gain some emotional distance from my work. I thought I’d do that for two weeks at the most, but as you all know, life has a way of piling on more work when we least expect it.

Anyway, two weeks became a month, and this week, I FINALLY started on the next round of revisions. And it’s going great. I’ve gained so much distance from my story, I’m able to slash off entire paragraphs like a cold blooded assassin.

Plus, I missed working on my story so much that every day, I feel excited when I take out my manuscript and my blue editing pen. (In case you’re wondering, I use the .5mm Needletip Pentel Energel pen. It’s amazing.)

The whole month I wasn’t working on my draft, I felt anxious. I kept thinking, “I’ll never get published at this rate.” I was going crazy because I knew writing should be my priority, but I was so busy with a lot of things, that I kept on pushing off my editing dates.

I’m so glad I’m working on my novel again. I feel right again.

So, the moral of the story is: Set aside your work to gain emotional distance, but don’t set it aside for so long that you begin to forget your writing goals.

This October is definitely revision/editing month, so I’m apologizing to all of you in advance for my sporadic visits to your blogs.  I’ll be able to visit you more often once I’m done with this manuscript. I’d like you all to know that your messages do encourage me and you are all awesome, patient friends.

I’m sure you’re curious about my WIP. (I know I’m super curious about all my bloggy friends’  stories :)  )

Great! I can give you a little taste of what I’m working on, thanks to M Pax, who tagged me last Friday for the Look Challenge.

The Rules? Count up the LOOKs in your current WIPs and choose your favorite three. Then post the paragraphs around the word.

So here’s a sampling from my Work In Progress:

It looked more defined now–a perfect, inverted triangle at the very center of her palm. The scar pulsed with heat beneath her touch, and the memory that had been haunting her since she’d turned sixteen, flashed in her mind. Her four year-old fingers traced an inverted triangle on her father’s palm, and his soft voice whispered in her ear, “One day, you will have one, too.”


He was about the same age as her. His dark hair, in need of a trim, half-covered his black-rimmed eyeglasses. Beneath his long coat he wore dark pants, a white shirt, and a blue sweater. All he needed was to slick back his hair and add a bow tie to complete the preppy look.


Nalia sprang for the door, but Mr. Clean caught her easily. He locked an arm around her neck, his hand reaching for her necklace. “I’ve been looking for this key for years, and now it seems the Goddess herself has sent it to me.”


Well, there it is, my three “look” paragraphs. Now I’m supposed to tag five other writers.

I’m tagging these five beautiful ladies because I’m super curious to read a sample of what they’re writing nowadays!

Theresa Milstein

Lynn Kelley

Karen Strong




How about the rest of you? How’s your writing going?


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Gretchen McNeil’s Book Launch: TEN

On September 22, 2012, YA Author Gretchen McNeil launched her newest book, TEN.

Not one to miss out on local book signings and a chance to support awesome authors, I made time to attend.

After being introduced by Mysterious Galaxy’s bookstore manager, Gretchen kickstarted her launch by telling us a little bit about herself.

Gretchen has had training in Opera, and currently sings with the L.A. based Cirque Berserk circus troupe. We got to hear a sample of her powerful soprano when she played her book trailer for us.

Gretchen and the Audience watching the Book Trailer for TEN

Gretchen described the story in three amazing lines, before reading an excerpt from it.

Ten teens.

Three days.

One Killer.

Gretchen reading an excerpt from TEN

 Gretchen absolutely killed that reading. This comes as no surprise, since she actually does voice overs (She’s the voice of Mary on G4’s  Code Monkeys).

Gretchen explained that TEN was a homage to her favorite Author Agatha Christie, and inspired by the latter’s book  AND THEN THERE WERE NONE.  Although the basic setup of the books are similar, the stories in themselves are very different.

The audience listening in rapt attention

Gretchen talked about the challenges of having to constantly ratchet up the tension. She grew up reading gothic works by authors like Poe,  Mary Shelley and Bram Stoker, and her love for scary stories has certainly helped her maintain the creepy vibe and the suspense in each scene.

She admitted to being a huge fan of Christopher Pike’s novels. REMEMBER ME, being one of her all time favorites. Gretchen said that she was reeling for days, when she received an email from The Man himself. She thought it was some kind of trick at first, since the email addy was an old one–way back from when AOL was first starting out. When she opened the email however, she got the surprise of her life: Christopher Pike had read her novel and had agreed to write a blurb for her book.

YA Author Gretchen McNeil

Gretchen opened the floor to questions. One of the audience members asked if she was working on a new story. Gretchen said she was working on 3:59, a sci fi horror novel about parallel dimension. She pitched it as Sliding Doors meets Event Horizon.

I’ll definitely be on the look out for that book!

After the Q & A, Gretchen gave away some goody bags, and signed copies of her books.We were also treated to some yummy rolls and delicious TEN inspired – Red Velvet Cupcakes.

Gretchen’s TEN inspired giveaways

While waiting in line I got to chat with a fellow blogger, whose name I instantly recognized from her Twitter account. (Yes, I’m talking about you Senator!) We had fun talking about our blogs, exchanging book recommendations and authors we adored.

When my turn came, I congratulated Gretchen on her latest book and posed for a picture. (Thanks, Lena for taking my picture!)

Myself with YA Author Gretchen McNeil, photo by Lena Chen

 It was another successful book launch. I enjoyed celebrating Gretchen and her newest book, and also loved that I got to randomly meet a fellow book lover and blogger in person.

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