Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Coincidence or fate?

As you're probably aware by now, my book The Remains of the Dead is about a woman who does trauma cleanup. It is a fascinating, although not exactly common, occupation.

Today I pulled up to a store and parked right next to a vehicle with a company logo advertising trauma cleaning. Strange. Then I walked inside the store and I see a man paying for his purchases at the register. Somehow I just know that this tall, good looking man (who looks just like hero, Zack Bowman, does in my imagination)must own that vehicle. Of course I ask and, of course, he does. But his name is not Zack. Nope. It's Brian. In my book, Brian is the heroine's brother. Her dead brother. It gave me chills.

Not only does this guy operate a trauma cleaning company just blocks from my house but he also happens to know Theresa Borst quite well. Theresa is the president of Bio Clean Inc and the person who has answered my millions of questions on trauma cleaning in Seattle. As a matter of fact, Theresa trained Brian.

All of this coincidence on Halloween. Which, by the way, is the anniversary of the date I sold my three-book trauma clean series to Penguin Books.

Do strange coincidences ever happen to you?

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Allhallows Eve

My house is looking particularly ghoulish. We've got a number of skeletons lurking right near the door. Under the crime scene tape. Beside the gauzy mummy. Next to the blood soaked scarecrow.

There is also enough candy in the house to sink a large ship.

How do you celebrate Halloween?

Sunday, October 28, 2007

The winner of an advance reader copy of THE REMAINS OF THE DEAD is:

Christy Hawkes

Congratulations Christy! Hope you enjoy the book

Friday, October 26, 2007

And the winner is ...

I made the draw for the advance reader copy of Remains so check your inboxes. As soon as I hear from the winner, I'll post the name :)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Idea Bag

Everyone should have an idea bag. A place where the good ideas are kept until we can put them into good use.

Today's the last day I'll be answering questions emailed as a result of the Surrey Writers' Conference. I've answered a number via private email but, hey, it's time to move on :)

QUESTION: Where do you get your ideas?

ANSWER: This is definitely the number one question I get asked. I think Stephen King has been known to reply, "I ask the boys in the basement just to send one up." and I believe Jenny Crusie adapted that by calling her idea creators the Girls in the Basement. My ideas erupt all around me. There are days when every situation is the premise for a new book.

For example, I went to Safeway the other day because,well, the kids were hungry and tired of pizza. I parked beside a large older model vehicle. The windows of the car were rolled down and in the passenger seat sat an elderly man. His head was bent, his chin against his chest and a breeze lifted his sparse hair while his chest rose and fell. He was asleep obviously waiting for whoever was inside Safeway to get what they needed and take him home. It was a warm fall day but he had his jacket over him like a blanket.

My writer's mind thought about him the entire time I shopped. I told myself that under his jacket/blanket his ankles and wrists may be bound. He may have been drugged and not sleeping at all. Maybe there was a bomb in his lap. Maybe the cops would discover the bomb when I called 9-1-1 ... I'm not making this up. This was exactly what I was thinking. I got back to the parking lot with my groceries disappointed to find the car next to mine was gone. The scenario is still playing inside my head like a song you can't shake. If it keeps up I'll find a way to write it out, even if it never makes it to a store shelf.

Where do you get your ideas?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

You Can't Handle the Truth

The most interesting part of a workshop for me is often the Q&A at the end. I had one lady ask me how I to physically finish a book with so many distractions. I told her there was only one way; butt in chair and hands on keyboard.

I get asked this all the time. An email last night was a variation of that question.

QUESTION: What do you do to make sure you make a deadline or finish a book even if your life is going crazy? Or what if you get an idea for another book? Do you stop and work on that one?

ANSWER: I feel a little like Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men. I feel like I should shout, YOU CAN'T HANDLE THE TRUTH! The truth is, I couldn't handle the truth in the beginning either :) The ugly truth is that there is no shortcut. There is no quickie solution. Life gets crazy. My kids get sick. I get sick. There are days when the last thing I feel like doing is facing a blank page. Sometimes another book calls to me. I'll write down the details in a separate file but I don't let it distract from the book I'm trying to finish. Or I won't finish it.

The ONLY way to make finishing a book easier is to be tougher on yourself. Butt in chair. Hands on keyboard. That's all I've got.

The Weight of the Dead

Dead people put on weight, it seems to me; both in their flesh and in our minds, they put on weight.
-- From Stephen King's novel Bag of Bones

At the end of my Laughing all the Way to the Morgue workshop at the Surrey conference I encouraged participants to email me with any questions they might have and I've decided to answer them on my blog this week.

TODAY'S QUESTION: If you crack jokes when you're writing about the dead, won't you get letters? Won't some people think it's in bad taste?

ANSWER: Is it in bad taste to crack jokes about the dead? At someone's funeral, yes! In fiction? Not so much. But my point during the workshop was that we should consider writing moments to lift the reader up and offer a glimmer of light after a particularly dark scene. I don't think a pie in the face or other slapstick humour is necessary but, in my opinion, sometimes morbidity mirth is necessary to move the plot forward and bring emotional depth to a story.

I used Stephen King's above quote in the workshop to illustrate how even the master of horror can offer a sad, poignant thought in one moment while discussing the death of his protagonist's wife and then offer relief and/or levity to the reader by contrasting that line further in the scene where he seems to wiggle his ears at the reader by writing, "...elementary, my dear Watson. My wife died getting a sunburn."

So write the dark stuff. Make 'em afraid and make 'em cry. But it's okay to give them a reprieve too.

Keep those questions coming :)

Reminder: At the end of the week I'll be having another draw to win an Advance Copy of Remains. You enter by signing up for my mailing list here. I won't spam you but you will receive occasional news about my book releases :)

Monday, October 22, 2007

Good Times

Where else but at a writers' conference can you get a group of people you've just met to wear nose glasses? I brought the glasses as a tool for my Laughing All The Way To The Morgue workshop. When I saw I was the presenter at the humour table for the genre lunch, I couldn't resist sharing them there as well and these great sports quickly showed me their silly side.

The conference was a whirlwind of activity. There were some serious moments too as I critiqued work during the Blue Pencil appointments. I was on the other side of the table getting my own work critiqued at this very same conference a few years ago.

I was on a Genre Bending panel with Diana Gabaldon who is a delightful lady and an eloquent speaker. She was very patient after the panel when I went on and on about how much I admire her talents.

My workshop on laughter was a giggling hit. Although I did make the attendees do real work in the way of writing exercises, they stepped up to the plate and wowed me with their talents.

Truly one of the best parts of the conference is spending time with old friends and new. This picture shows author Mary J. Forbes (left), Harlequin editor Johanna Raisanen, myself and author Nancy Warren as we left the Saturday night banquet.

Good times.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Off and running but not far

First thing bright and early I'll be off to the Surrey International Writers' Conference for three days. I love this conference and not just because I don't have to hop on a plane to get there. It is one of the best conferences in North America and it caters to all types of writing and all levels.

This year instead of always sitting in the workshop audience I'll be presenting. I'll be on two panels, Genre Bending and Love is in the Air: The state of Romance Writing Today. And I'll be presenting my own workshop, Laughing all the Way to the Morgue.

On Saturday from 5:30 - 7:00 I'll be signing books so if you're in the neighbourhood, pop by and say Hi!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Reminder: In a couple weeks I'll be having another draw to win an Advance Copy of Remains. You enter by signing up for my mailing list here. I won't spam you but you will receive occasional news about my book releases :)

Monday, October 15, 2007

Public Speaking ... Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid.

Your heart begins to race.
Your breathing becomes faster.
You start to wonder if the strongest antiperspirant on the market will be good enough or if you should've lined your blouse with disposable diapers. Yup. It's time to get up in front of a crowd and speak.

Speaking in public is part of the author package. You're expected to not only climb out of your writing cave and put yourself out there to interact with the public, but to come off sounding like a reasonably intelligent person. Ack!

I'm not particularly afraid of the actually speaking part. What concerns me is whether or not I'll make a good impression. After a workshop will the attendees come away thinking they enjoyed the session, felt it was worthwhile, or whether they thought, "She's an idiot! What a complete waste of time!"

Writing is hard work but teaching writing is even more difficult. As I fine tune my session for the Surrey Writer's Conference this weekend, I find myself constantly battling the self-doubt demons.

Do you ever do public speaking? Are you afraid or confident?

Friday, October 12, 2007

And the winner is...

To be announced :)

This morning my kids helped me draw the name of the winner of an Advance Reader Copy of Remains. I've emailed the winner to tell her. If she tells me it's okay, I'll post her name on my blog.

In the meantime if you didn't receive an email from me saying you've won don't give up. You can still add your name to my mailing list by clicking here. I'll be making another draw in two weeks :)

Happy Weekend All!
UPDATE: The winner is Julia L. Rule!
Congratulations Julia!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

A Rose By Any Other Name ...

When I'm at conferences or signings I get asked all the time if I chose the name Roberts so my books would be shelved next to Nora's. Come to think of it, that would've been awfully clever. I could've hoped to suck off some of Nora's millions of readers and steal them for my own! A problem with that theory is that my books aren't shelved in romance. :)

Actually, I chose the last name Roberts because it came with the man I married many moons ago.

Tess Gerritsen's discussion about pseudonyms and secret identities made me curious. If I had to come up with a pen name to write under, what would I choose? Something that was close to my real name ... Wanda Robot? Something in line with what I write ... Eidolon Macabre?

You can see I'm not very good at this LOL!

What pen name would you choose if you could? If you're a pre-published writer, do you already have a pseudonym picked out or do you plan to write under your real name?

Reminder: You can still enter to win an Advance Copy of Remains by signing up for my mailing list here.

Friday, October 05, 2007


Last night before I went to sleep I was debating the death of a character. I wasn't wondering whether or not to kill him off in a bloody manner but whether to eliminate him totally from the book. He's a secondary character, of course, but he had his strengths. Or maybe I was just making excuses because I was a little in love with his actions and simple walk-on lines.

When I went to sleep I dreamt about this character. I don't often remember my dreams but this one was clear. Well, as clear as a dream could be with a secondary character mixed with a jumble of other dreams including one involving a hippo in my garden ... Anyway, I woke up with the clear realization I had to cut this character loose. He might find his way back in another book but in the cut and slash that are revisisions for Book Two, he has to be bid adieu.

Do you ever solve problems in your dreams?

By the way, thanks to all those who signed up in the last couple days! Yes, you can still enter to win an Advance Copy of Remains by signing up for my mailing list here.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007


Only two more months until the release of my next book THE REMAINS OF THE DEAD!

To celebrate the countdown, I'm having a contest to win an Advance Copy of Remains.

To enter the contest join my mailing list by clicking here.

If you're already on my mailing list you're automatically entered :)

I'll be making the draw at the end of next week

Monday, October 01, 2007

Where Did Summer Go?

I lifted my head up from my computer long enough to look around this weekend and I noticed:

- The trees are covered in brilliant yellow and red leaves.
- Pears are starting to fall from my trees and I've picked the last of the zucchini.
- The air is suddenly cooler and our brisk rains have started.
- The black squirrels are frantically gathering what they need and are playing chicken with every passing car.

I don't know when Fall officially hit the Pacific Northwest but I noticed it this weekend.

How about you? What does Autumn look like where you are?