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Fun, sexy reads

Fun, sexy reads

Looking for fast-paced, sexy romantic suspense with military heroes? All books in the Men of Steele series are connected but can stand alone. Find fun facts and excerpts on each book's page.

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Scrivener Training for Everyone

Scrivener Training for Everyone

Need help with Scrivener? I provide Scrivener training to individuals and groups all over the world through online courses, in-person workshops, and private training sessions.

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Resources for Writers and Scrivener Users

Resources for Writers and Scrivener Users

A great reference for new and experienced Scrivener users, a guide to software and apps that help with productivity, and essays on every facet of writing from the Writer Unboxed contributors.

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Inventions to make Q proud

I always thought Q stole the show in the James Bond movies. Bond might be more like the hero in one of my novels, but Q was the real hero coming up with gadgets to save Bond's ass in any situation. He had a prescient knack for inventing the perfect toy for whatever predicament Bond was going to face.

December's issue of Popular Science had a list of their 100 Best Innovations of the Year, and there are some gadgets that would make Q proud. While I found cool items in every category, especially Health, the products that really caught my eye were in the Security category. Since I'm focusing on military and law enforcement in my writing these days, here are some of the gizmos that would be fun to incorporate into a story.

  • X-flex wallpaper: super-flexible wallpaper keeps walls from collapsing–and contains flying debris–when hit by a bomb blast. This one fed right into my love of plastics and textiles.
  • XM25 Counter Defilade Target Engagement System: Huh? This mouthful allows a soldier to program where a bullet should explode, so if the target is around a corner, the bullet will fly just past the end of the building and then blow up, sending shrapnel everywhere.
  • Ears gunshot detector: the Ears system can pinpoint the origin of a gunshot in less than a tenth of a second, allowing troops on the ground to find snipers more easily.

These may not be as fun for a book, but I also want to give a shout out to the following:

  • In the Automotive category, Ford Active Park Assist enables the car to parallel-park itself. If I ever move back to the big city, I need this!
  • In Health, the Lung Flute makes it easier and cheaper for people with chronic lung congestion to break up the mucus that plagues them. Gross, but so simple it's amazing.
  • Also in Health, the Hygreen system ensures that medical workers have sanitized their hands before handling patients. In a field test, it brought infection rates to zero! I'm all for that.

The Daily Squirrel: complaint

Lucy glanced at the clock and stifled a groan. Two more hours and an endless line of customers with complaints about the new operating system.

The stifling hot air was tinged with sweat and anger, but her temperature shot up several degrees when she spied Kurt Lloyd in her line. She had talked to him briefly at a party thrown by her roommate's ex-boyfriend, but he probably didn't even remember meeting her. Her dreams, however, had been about nothing but him for months now.

As the customer before Kurt turned to leave, Lucy pushed the damp hair off her face and took a deep breath. She'd give anything for a quick shower right then. How embarrassing to be seen in her dumpy polyester knit polo shirt with the big orange logo. She blew out a frustrated breath. At least he wouldn't know who she was.

Putting on her best smile, she asked, “How can I help you, sir?”

“Well,” he glanced at her nametag, “Lucy. I have a complaint.”

Of course. She pulled up a new form on the computer. “Yes, sir. What's the problem?”

He flashed her a movie-star smile complete with dimples and fixed his blazing green eyes on her. “The problem is that you haven't been back to any of Rick's parties, and I've been waiting to ask you out to dinner. Is that something you can help me with?”

Lucy's mind reeled with shock and her stomach dipped, but she managed to stay upright. He remembered her? And he was asking her out? With all the poise she could muster, Lucy said, “Yes, sir. I believe I can.” She wrote down her phone number and slid it across the counter, then turned to the next customer with a grin. “May I help you, ma'am?”

I could care less

I could care less about people misusing this statement, but unfortunately, I don't. Using “could care less” instead of “couldn't care less” has become one of my pet peeves, probably because I'm all about logic, and the first statement isn't logical the way most people use it.

If you could care less, then there's still room to go before you hit bottom. When you couldn't care less, not even a little bit less, then you're really saying something!

Maybe I should care fewer. The misuse of less and fewer is another one of my grammar pet peeves. Advertisers are some of the worst offenders, and are just adding to the confusion over this one.

According to Grammar Girl, less should be used with a mass nouns (those things you can't count individually, like tape, coffee, rice, money), and fewer is for use with count nouns (like dollars, presents, cookies, fingers).

Target had an ad campaign last year based on their slogan of “Expect more. Pay less.”. The campaign was pretty clever, and included the following slogans:

  • more splash, less cash
  • more soft, less cents    
  • more bread, less dough

Cool right? Except that the second one should really be more soft, fewer cents. No wonder everyone's confused. If they hear and read it used incorrectly often enough, after a while it sounds right.

So, by now you probably think I'm a complete nerd, but really, I couldn't care less. 😉

The Daily Squirrel: patched

Bindi sat on the hard bench and swung her feet, the din of children laughing and playing filling her ears. She picked at a loose corner of the stiff fabric covering a hole in her jeans. No one else had iron-on patches on their knees. She frowned and quickly wiped the tears from her cheeks, looking around to make sure none of the kids had noticed her crying.

She hated her new school. The other girls always had new clothes, and they never had holes in their pants. Abby even got a pretty pink T-shirt from Justice over the weekend, and it wasn't even her birthday!

Someday, Bindi would be able to buy whatever she wanted. She was going to do whatever it took to make sure she had enough money, because her children would never go to school in hand-me-down clothes. But first, she had to survive fourth grade.

Digging deep

Did you know that Mexican drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) have built sophisticated tunnels running under the border between Mexico and the US? The tunnels are reinforced or bored into rock, and often have electricity, phone service, and fresh air ventilation systems!

An article about a tunnel discovered in 2006 sparked the idea for the opening scene in my current WIP. DEA agent Steve Reyes and his team are ambushed during a raid on a warehouse where one such tunnel entrance exists. Here's a video of Anderson Cooper touring a tunnel found earlier this month in Tijuana. Amazing!

For my past books, I've done minimal research, usually which could be accomplished on the Internet. Which street connects downtown San Diego to Ocean Beach? Does UCLA have a swim team and a sports medicine degree? Are the cliffs of Malibu rocky like the central coast?

You get the idea. But for my current story, I need more. I just ordered several books about undercover DEA agents and money laundering inside the DTOs. If I want this to be a series, I figure I need to have a better understanding of what it's like for these guys to be undercover, and how the DTOs operate. I want my stories to ring true, and I hope what I read will spark a few scene ideas.

So, I have some heavy, but interesting Christmas reading ahead of me. What about you? How much research do you do for your stories?

Daily Squirrel: officer

The smile on Taryn's face refused to be tamed, even as she stood at attention. The slim gold bars in the Colonel's hand sparkled like glitter in the brilliant sunlight. Thirteen weeks of screaming instructors, room inspections, leadership exercises, push ups, and overdosing on caffeine were over. She'd made it!

In two more minutes she'd be an Air Force 2nd Lieutenant. The first woman in her family to join a longstanding family tradition. Every day, every event of her life, had led to this moment, and she intended to savor every second of it.

Interview without a vampire

I don't have vampires in my books, but I do interview my characters these days. I haven't been consistent about it, and I sometimes go back and change the answers when I get a better idea, bit I'm starting to really like the outcome.

I recently reviewed an old interview with Steve Reyes (from my current WIP) and decided to change his fear to something interesting. That gave me a whole new idea for several scenes, and part of a plot twist. So, not only is he human and vulnerable–in spite of being a kickass DEA agent–I can use his weakness against him later.

Yes, our characters suffer for the enjoyment of our readers.

Unlike a job interview, I can ask my characters the most personal Qs. Biggest fear? Worst day of your life? Age? First time you had sex? All fair game. And even though I'm the one providing the answers, I'm often surprised by what they are.

Do you interview your characters? If so, what kinds of questions do you ask?

Permission granted

When I go running, I usually set out with a goal for that run–say 35 minutes. Sometimes, when I've met that goal, I think, “Great, but it'd be even better if I went around the loop once more and made it 45.” Yes, my hips will thank me, and an extra ten minutes will not normally throw off my whole schedule, but surpassing a goal isn't always the right choice.

There's a delicate balance between shirking your work and going overboard. It takes discipline to keep going when it feels like you won't make it, but it also takes a sort of discipline to stop when you reach your goal.

For example, I have set a daily writing goal of 1000 words. Some days it takes me less than two hours, and other days I sit in front of the computer for 12. And some days, I don't meet it.

Often, I feel like I should keep pressing, even if I meet my 1000 words, to make up for the days when I don't. Shouldn't I just keep typing until bedtime? Write during lunch? Skip reading that book I've been dying to open?


As tempting as it is to work on my MS day and night (and I still do, a lot), I'm granting myself permission to stop at 1000 words. Stop after reading one contest entry. Stop after doing one class exercise.

Otherwise, I'll miss out on the little joys that I so look forward to. Every good effort deserves a reward. I'm not yet getting paid to write, but I can pay myself in other ways. Relax with a good book. Hang out with the kids. Have lunch with a friend.

How do you keep yourself from burning out, but still meet your goals?

The Daily Squirrel: goal

A crimson banner emblazoned with the word “FINISH” flapped in the breeze at least a mile down the road. It appeared closer on the long, straight path, but she had only passed the eleventh mile marker a few minutes ago.

Her legs dragged as if weighed down with lead, but she kept shuffling forward in a pathetic jog-walk. No one thought she could do this. Brad had laughed right in her face when he overheard her telling the boss she signed up for the half-marathon.

She might not finish in ninety minutes like super jock, Brad, but she would finish if it killed her. She couldn't wait to see the look on his face when she crossed the finish line. He wouldn't be laughing then, and he might start to wonder what else she could accomplish if she set her mind to it.

Let him worry, she thought with a smile.

Passive aggressive: the grammar post

Before I launch into a grammar diatribe, I have to announce that I passed the halfway point in my current WIP!

Okay, back to the blog… The confusion over passive voice, the use of “was” and -“ing”, and the definition of showing versus telling has been bothering me for a while now. Yes, I'm a bit of a grammar nerd. (Though far from perfect!)

I believe a poor understanding of English is insidious when incorrect information is perpetuated by course instructors, critique partners, and contest judges. Authors fear every word they put on paper, frantically seeking new ways to strike “was” from their MS, and deathly afraid of telling us their character “feels” an emotion, rather than showing us through action.

So I was ecstatic to read author Amy Corwin's excellent (with references!) explanation of common grammar myths and show versus tell. If you're one of the confused, check it out.

Another excellent resource for all things grammar, is Grammar Girl. She has a website, and free podcasts on iTunes. On the website, you can subscribe to daily tips via email, or just search the site for the answer to your burning grammar question.

If you prefer a book, there are several good ones out there (I only linked to Amazon for your convenience, not because I'll get any money if you buy).

There are, of course, many others. Ask your friends. Most importantly, be in the know. Don't let uninformed writers scare you with incorrect information.

By all means, get aggressive at eradicating passive voice from your MS. But be sure you understand what it is first.

The Daily Squirrel: coffee

The aroma of freshly brewed coffee couldn't lift Jill's spirits as she rode the elevator up, every jarring ding taking her one floor closer to a day of cubicle-contained hell.

A year ago, she couldn't believe her luck when Mark Alder had chosen her to take over the team of programmers. But only months later, Mark quit and Dean Barlow moved in. Dean rode the team hard, giving them impossible deadlines, and never acknowledging the hard work her team put in to meet them. As the team leader, she was stuck in the middle, taking flak from both sides.

Her blood pressure spiked as she stepped off the elevator onto plush, gray carpet, but she vowed not to let Dean get to her. Today was the day she'd push back.

One of the programmers stopped her in the lobby, ready to burst with shocking news. She wouldn't need to push back today or ever, because someone else had pushed Dean…right off the roof.

Meme, myself & I

Christine tagged me on her blog, Digging out of Distraction, so I'm supposed to do this meme for you. What the heck is a meme you ask? I'm not too ashamed to say I had to look it up, so if you don't know, click here and then come back.

I don't have anyone left to tag since the instigator in my group, Martha of Just Me & You, posted hers on Friday. Oh, well. Feel free to add your own responses in the comments!

So this game of 26-question “meme” tag goes like this: answer the 26 questions then tag those who have to do it too…

1. What’s the last thing you wrote? What’s the first thing you wrote that you still have?

Last thing: a scene from my current WIP, Floater

First thing: a recount of a trip to Switzerland (when we lived in Germany) written in 3rd grade, and illustrated by my grandmother

2. Write poetry?

Not too much anymore, but have a whole folder of it. The last one was for that same grandmother several days before she died.

3. Angsty poetry?

Mostly romantic poetry, or random ramblings.

4. Favorite genre of writing?

To write: contemporary and romantic suspense

To read: most romance (limited paranormal, though), mystery, political/spy thrillers

5. Most annoying character you’ve ever created?

Hayden Farmer, the nerdy stalker from my very first MS

6. Best plot you’ve ever created?

Always the one I'm working on. Plot is actually my weak point, so I struggle with this. I'm still pretty proud of how Counting on You turned out, though.

7. Coolest plot twist you’ve ever created?

Since none of my books are published, I don't want to share, just in case. Hey, I can dream. 😀

8. How often do you get writer’s block?

True writer's block? Almost never (even though I blogged about it a few days ago). Usually I struggle if a scene isn't working. When it hits, I go jogging, or start making lists until I figure out where to go with the story.

9. Write fan fiction?

Heck no. I'm trying to emulate, but not recreate.

10. Do you type or write by hand?

Mostly type, but I often think creatively better on paper. I always have a notebook dedicated to the WIP I'm working on where I can put notes, ideas, and write lists, or just think through several scenarios. If I had to write a book longhand it would never happen. Plus, Scrivener just makes organizing so easy…

11. Do you save everything you write?

YES! I even have old one-line ideas that I emailed home from work years ago, transferred to Word.

12. Do you ever go back to an idea after you’ve abandoned it?

Yes, and I have several WIPs that I started before I was ready for them. I definitely plan to repurpose them at some point.

13. What’s your favorite thing you’ve ever written?

There are some scenes from Counting on You that I absolutely love. There's no better feeling than going back over your own work and thinking, “Wow, I wrote that?” It doesn't happen often.

14. What’s everyone else’s favorite story that you’ve written?

The only one anyone else has read is Counting on You, so by default, that's it. 😉

15. Ever written romance or angsty teen drama?

Um, yeah. Romance, obviously.

Teen, but not angsty. I wrote my first novel (the term is loosely applied here) in 7th grade. The parents died and the girl goes in search of her biological father after escaping from an orphanage. (Like in Disney, all good adventures start when the parents die or disappear.) She also meets a friendly gang (I know, right?) of boys along the way, and rides a Greyhound bus. (After the Air Force sent me on the bus–twice!–I realized it wasn't all it was cracked up to be.)

16. What’s your favorite setting for your characters?

San Diego, hands down! It's one of my favorite cities. I started two MSs set in Virginia (near D.C.), but didn't finish either of them. I'll eventually get there, but I think writing about San Diego is a great excuse to go back for a visit, don't you? 😉

17. How many writing projects are you working on right now?

One WIP, the monthly newsletter for a military spouse group, my blog, occasional articles for SM newsletter

18. Have you ever won an award for your writing?

Yes! Counting on You won 1st place in the 2009 Heart-to-Heart Contest.

19. What are your five favorite words?

Oh, Lord. I can never do favorites on the spot, but I may come back and fill them in as they occur to me.

20. What character have you created that is most like yourself?

Probably Kate from my first MS, When You're Not Looking. Similar career, personality, and some life events. That was my “get all your biographical crap out of the way” book. It's not all me, but there are a lot of little bits.

21. Where do you get ideas for your characters?

I really don't know. I'm sure they are combinations of people I've met, but I don't base them consciously on others. They just pop into my head along with the story premise.

22. Do you ever write based on your dreams?

Not so far, but I get great ideas during the alpha state just before sleeping and after waking.

23. Do you favor happy endings?

They are an absolute must! Of course, I write romance, so the HEA is essential.

24. Are you concerned with spelling and grammar as you write?

Yep. I'm an editor by nature. I can't leave something incorrect and just keep writing.

25. Does music help you write?

I usually prefer silence, unless I need to block out the noise around me. Occasionally, music is inspiring, but mostly I like peace and quiet.

26. Quote something you’ve written. Whatever pops into your head.

This counts for my Daily Squirrel, right? 😉 This is the rough draft of the last scene I wrote for my current WIP, Floater. I'm sure my lovely CP will have some comments… (love ya C!)

Libby threw her bag into Diego’s truck and shivered in the ocean breeze. Strands of her dusty hair whipped across her face and she pushed it away to find Steve looking at her. He stood with his head down, hands in pockets. If he dug his toe into the ground, he’d look like a nervous third grader.

Screw this. She wasn’t letting him walk away without a fight. Rather than yell or cry, or leave without saying goodbye, she closed the space between them and wound her arms around his neck.


She stood on tiptoe and cut him off with a firm kiss. His muscles stiffened, and he pressed his lips into a tight line.

So she fought back.

Her tongue darted out and licked his lower lip, teasing as she ran her fingers down his chest. His body trembled and he slammed her hips against him as he opened to her, sweeping his tongue into her mouth. She poured all of her love and longing into him, the world shattering around her as they melted together.

She relished the heat and hardness of his body molded to hers and forced back bitter tears as she released her desperate grip on his waist. Reluctantly—her body screaming in protest—she untangled herself, ignored the shock and naked desire on Steve’s face, and got into Diego’s truck.

If that didn’t brand Steve’s heart, nothing would.