Playing Favorites.

My favorite character in “Free of Malice”

I was recently asked who was my favorite character in my book, “Free of Malice.” Some folks thought it would be Laura, the protagonist, but it’s actually the criminal defense attorney, Thomas Bennett.

Do we love him or hate him? Do we trust him or suspect him? And why is he doing pro-bono work for a journalist – what’s in it for him? At one point, Laura says, “he sounded sincere, but there was this little nagging voice inside of me—aren’t most psychopaths also charmers?”

My editor, Jan Risher, may have said it best, “This book is not a traditional whodunit. The author pulled off a tough balance of having me both suspect yet somehow root for the lead male character.”

My best friend from college, Thomas Barnette (not a psychopath, by the way), was my inspiration for the lawyer character. He and I met our first day at Georgia Tech – we were both lost trying to find the civil engineering building – and we’ve been friends ever since. We make an odd pair, I’ll admit – he’s a black, gay, Christian guy and I’m a white, straight, Jewish gal, but we have that kind of connection where I’ll be thinking about him and the phone will ring.

We were so focused on our studies at school that I didn’t really learn about Thomas’ creative side until after we graduated. One day he popped a CD into the player in his car and asked what I thought. The singer reminded me of a cross between Lionel Richie and Seal and I really liked it. When Thomas said it was him, I didn’t believe him at first. He actually had to start singing in the car to convince me.

From that point on we talked a lot about him cutting a full CD. He already had quite a few of the songs, many of which he wrote, but there were also some covers. So, one day I pulled out my computer and started tallying up the work ahead of him to finish the CD – the mixing, mastering, photos, production, etc. and came to a number. The next day, I kid you not, I received a check in the mail for some deferred salary for nearly the exact number. I took it as a divine sign and we were off to producing his debut album.

An author’s viewpoint

In my book, the Thomas character takes Laura to hear him sing at Eddie’s Attic in Atlanta. At that point, you can pull out your QR reader or go to my website,, and hear the first song from his album, “Let Me Breathe.” I thought it would be an added treat for the reader to get to hear Thomas’ voice, plus he sang at my launch party and we are doing a few joint events around town to promote the book and the CD.

Who knew when our paths crossed that first day of college that we would have such an enduring friendship and that we’d find a way to blend our creativity and support one another. So, my favorite character – was based on one of my favorite people.


Free of Malice: New Cover Reveal

Free of Malice: New Cover Reveal

I’m thrilled to share the new cover for my upcoming novel, Free of Malice. 

I want to say thank you to everyone who participated in the poll on social media. I appreciate your feedback and support.

Without further ado, drum roll please!

Continue reading Free of Malice: New Cover Reveal

10 Little-Known Tips for New Authors

10 Things Every First-Time Self-Publishing Author Should Know

I love late night talk shows. (I’m staying up late to catch Clooney on Jimmy Kimmel.) I adored Leno’s monologues (still miss him, though I marvel at Jimmy Fallon’s talent), but Letterman had the trademark on the Top 10. So as a tribute to late night icons and to the upcoming launch of my first novel, I thought I would share my Top 10 Tips for Writing a Book.

  1. Create and pay for your own ISBN # so you stay in control of distribution.
  2. Have a few honest friends give you early feedback—it’s hard to judge your own work. You know the old saying, “It’s hard to tell if your baby’s ugly.”
  3. Print on demand  so you can make early tweaks.There are always more typos than you think are humanly possible! CreateSpace is a great option.
  4. Don’t go to layout until you are sure you have no more changes. I mean absolutely, positively, 100%, no more changes sure.
  5. Find the right PR firm. The best way to test them is to see who can produce a good media kit and how many current media contacts they have.
  6. Learn the world of social media: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest. Understanding these platforms for growing your brand is critical.
  7. Do spend the money on a proper website. It’s your home base and your identity.
  8. Have other projects or work that balance your focus on your book and allow for a fresh perspective.
  9. For reviews, Foreward/Clarion and Midwest Book Review seem to be the most Indie friendly, in my experience.
  10. And most importantly, remember that some of the most famous authors have a pile of early rejection letters. Don’t let it discourage you!

While writing Free of Malice was a labor of love, as a first time self-published author, I have learned that writing the book is just the beginning. Taking the manuscript to final product, distribution and promotion are just as important. Hopefully my Top 10 tips will make the journey a little easier for others who are just starting out. Fellow authors, what tips would you add to the list?

Writing a book is like getting to the center of a Tootsie Pop.

How many edits, editors and proof cycles does it take to write a book?

Tootie Pops - How Many Licks?!!“How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop? One, two, three, CRUNCH! Uhm, three!”


How many proofreads does it take an author get to the final version of her book? One, two, ten, fifty, ANOTHER TYPO! Fifty-one.’’

Frankly, I’ve lost count and just when I swore that I couldn’t read my book one more time – well, I did.

I think most authors will tell you the writing/editing process  goes something like this:

After I’d write a chapter, I’d reread it right away and then again the next day looking for tweaks. With as much dialogue as I have in the book, I had to be mindful of indicating who was talking (he said, I said, etc.) without overdoing it. I also would go back and switch up the sentence structure as a book in first person has a lot of “I’s”. (Fun fact – I originally wrote the book in 3rd person but after reading Before I Go To Sleep by SJ Watson, I decided to switch to first – it’s just more raw and personal).  

Once I felt the book was “ready enough” I reviewed it with my first editor, Jan Risher. As you see in my acknowledgements, I call her my Goldilocks—not too much, not too little, but just right. Jan continually asked me, “Are we advancing the story?” which led to a lot of cuts, 30,000 words to be exact but it makes for a fast paced read. She also counseled me to show, not tell, which is an essential skill for a writer to master.

I quickly realized that the first writing of my book was totally for myself.

All the editing that followed was for the reader.

My second round of rereading the book came from an unexpected source, Patricia Coe—a close friend who was also my best critic. Patricia helped me add greater depth to the characters. She encouraged me to highlight the Laura characters’ trauma, suspicions and make her a little more neurotic. She also suggested that I make a  few of the other characters a little more sinister. One small but powerful idea was that we had Laura refer to her work with the Thomas character as her “case”, never her “story”—to show that, to her, it was becoming more real and less hypothetical. Interestingly, Patricia has a sales and marketing background. I told her that she missed her calling but actually her expertise makes total sense as she is used to selling, to telling a compelling story.

We’re done now, right? At this point, I was pulling together my PR team when Julie Schoerke from JKS Communications was recommended to me. Julie liked my book, but wanted one of her editors to take a stab at it before we proceeded. I almost declined. I couldn’t imagine that this poor book of mine could get any more beaten up, but boy was I wrong. Chelsea Apple from JKS gave Free of Malice its final polish—everything from eliminating repetition to having me add a few more tidbits of suspense.

Then there were a few more rounds of fixes based on feedback from advance readers. How we could still find typos at this point was vexing but things like “check” and “cheek” don’t get caught by spell check (no pun intended!). There were also some fun edits from my early book clubs. One of my favorites was when the gals from my neighborhood club assured me that no one wore a little black dress to Eddie’s Attic so we put the Laura character in jeans.

We were now almost ready to go to e-book—that’s the point of no return because changes after that step get complicated. Lynn Epstein on my PR team mentioned that she thought that the sliced up wedding album would show up again. That, along with the fact that the Ellijay chapter had always bothered me led to one more chapter rewrite. I pondered about it for a while over Christmas break before I finally figured out how to make the changes without disturbing the whole plot.

Tootsie Pop icon So, the final notes are now with my amazing graphics designer . . . and I swear, I’m really, truly done ever reading this book again. Well, unless you ask me to read part of it at a book signing—for that, I’ll make an exception. ☺

For those of you who want a bit of nostalgia . . . check out the 1970’s Tootsie Pop “How Many Licks” commercial.


Images and video property and courtesy of

My Writing Calendar

Behind the Scenes: Free of Malice

Because my book, Free of Malice, takes place over 6 months, from June to December, I was recently asked if I wrote the book in chronological order. As strange as it may sound, I didn’t.

Like most authors, I outlined the story so I had the sequence of events laid out. Then, because I’m a fairly visual person, I used a huge wall calendar to outline the six months in which the book took place (see a very messy but real example from August). I then listed all the events that occurred on the calendar which helped me arrange the story and also allowed me to circle back to clues I had dropped in earlier chapters.

And though I don’t have a law degree and am not a trained therapist, I had the great fortune to consult with a criminal defense lawyer (Alison Frutoz) and a certified EMDR therapist (Karen McCarty) to be sure those portions of the book were accurate.

Spoiler alert – don’t read the calendar too closely—might give away some clues!

Thanks, Mom.

Feeling Thankful.

In today’s world, having a shot of wheat grass juice or going to yoga class would be considered fairly mainstream. Now picture 40 years ago in small-town, rural Georgia – wheat grass was something you feed the cows.

Yet somehow my mother was ahead of her times—not only did we kids take our daily vitamins, but we grew our own wheat grass which my mom dutifully cut, juiced and served to us. It was bad enough to drink the stuff, but it got worse when I looked outside one day and saw the cat lounging in the wheatgrass tray!

My mother was a natural hygienist which meant she only ate raw fruits and vegetables – no meat, bread or dairy. Furthermore, she only ate the proper food combinations (see chart). Never would we mix a sweet fruit with an acidic one or a starch with a protein. As a child, it felt like torture. It was certainly no prize to be voted “worst lunches” at grade school; my lentil soup looked like mud, while everyone else was eating prepackaged pepperoni pizza.

It was certainly no prize to be voted “worst lunches” at grade school.

But, as an adult, I look back and realize all the knowledge I take for granted about healthy eating. When my friends have an ailment, I always have advice on the natural cure, not because I did any research but because I grew up with an expert. And though I was sure I’d revolt when I was old enough, I find myself a lot like my hippie mom—well, not natural hygiene, but a healthy eater nonetheless.

So, on this Thanksgiving, when we will be feasting on turkey, dressing, sweet potatoes, cranberries and pumpkin pies, I raise a glass of wine (or wheat grass, take your pick) to my wonderful mother who taught me so much.  Here’s to you, mom, and thank you.

What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving?