Wednesday, November 28, 2007

A Writer's Favorite Words

The End.
Man, does it feel sweet to write those two simple words.
I just finished my second book in the Mace Bauer Mysteries series, Mama Rides Shotgun.
Of course "finishing" and "being finished'' are two different things.
It's about 15 pages too long. I think I forgot to put in a few clues. And I need to retrace the route of the Florida Cracker Trail horse ride so I don't have Mace and her mama trekking past Lorida before they get to Myakka.
But I give myself a pat on the back and permission to raise a glass (though not at the same time, or the wine will spill).
Here's to me, and my two favorite words:
__The End__

Monday, October 22, 2007

Butt in the Seat or Ear to (Someone Else's) Phone?

I'm a disciple of the butt-in-the-seat writing school, though kind of a lapsed disciple at the moment. A long weekend in New York for a family wedding, and I didn't even crack open my outline for MAMA RIDES SHOTGUN.

It's so much easier to pick up the thread of your story when it looks and feels familiar. Too many days out of the seat, and you're like, "Is this my thread? I thought my thread was blue. All I see here are a bunch of red and yellow threads. ''

Granted, the eyesight's not what it was. But I should at least be able to FIND the thread, no?

So, I'm in the seat, yet I'm wasting time here at the public library . . . blogging, checking emails, listening in on people's cell phone conversations. (Note to self: Start a campaign to ban cell phones from public libraries.)

The outline's sitting there at my right elbow. And I'm SO close to the end of the book: Chapter 39 out of 45.

But this woman next to me is fighting with her boyfriend on her cell. I have to keep eavesdropping to find out how it turns out. Who knows? Maybe she'll end up murdering him, and I'll have the first thread of my next mystery!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Cracker Gal Musings

I'm deep into writing my second mystery novel, Mama Rides Shotgun, set on the Florida Cracker Trail.

The best part of being a writer is getting the chance to live through your characters. I'm a city girl (with country overtones), but my tomboyish main character, Mace Bauer, is all country.

In recent months, I've embraced Mace's (and my) redneck side: taking shooting lessons, riding the cross-state Cracker Trail on horseback, going to the rodeo in Okeechobee, Fla.

Here's a photo of a painting by an artist who specializes in Florida Cracker scenes. His pictures were on exhibit at the rodeo on National Cowboy Day. (In Florida, they were always called "cow hunters'' or "cowmen,'' but that's a story for another day).

Friday, September 14, 2007

Thank God I'm out of the Biz

Here's what I would have been doing today if I still worked in the news biz: Chasing a 14-year-old shark bite victim all over south Florida in 90-degree-plus heat, gathering quotes for yet another story on Is it Safe to Go Into the Water!!??

Instead, I can sit back and watch my husband do it for TV news. Thank goodness I'm now a novelist (at least a would-be novelist), and not a reporter.

Fortunately, the kid is fine ... the shark latched on and wouldn't let go, requiring the response of emergency rescue personnel. The EMT brought a giant hatchet, just in case, but the five-foot nurse shark let loose after somebody gave him a punch in the nose.

All's well that ends well, except in cable TV news, it never ends. The interviews just keep getting played over and over and over .... until the next story of nature on the rampage comes down the pike.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

I'm Driving this Baby Again!

OK ... I think.

I successfully erased the big fingerprints of my fictional character from MY blog ... and I feel like I'm back in control again. (We'll see how long that lasts!)

In the meantime, I've found a new spot for Rosalee Deveraux, the "Mama'' in my down-home Mama Mysteries series. She hijacked my profile, inserting her own, when I tried to build an advice blog in her "voice.'' These pesky fictional characters really have a lot of nerve!

Check out Ask Mama's new site:

And we'll see if I can keep Rosalee on the page and out of my life . . . though her long-suffering daughter, Mace, would tell me that's a very difficult thing to do. At least that's what Mace would tell me if she weren't a fictional creation, too.

Monday, July 30, 2007

I' ve been Mama-jacked!

Weirdest thing happened: I'm trying to create a blog in the "voice'' of my mystery novel character, Rosalee Deveraux, AKA "Mama'' of the Mama Mysteries.
Everything is going swimmingly. I've given her a little Web home, Ask Mama.

I've gotten a couple of letters that "Mama'' can answer in her down-home, plain-talkin' style.
I'm feeling quite proud of myself. Until I suddenly realize that the fake profile I created for this fictional character's site has superseded MY profile on my real blog, Mystery Gal.

The profiles for BOTH sites have the fake stuff I created for Mama: We both live in Himmarshee, Fla., we've been married four times, we have three daughters ... none of which, of course, is true in my case.
Uhmmmm . . . talk about my character taking over my life!
I keep remembering that old Twilight Zone episode where a ventriloquist gets into trouble because his dummy keeps telling him to kill people .... hmmmm.
The only saving grace: Mama isn't the least bit murderous. She does, however, have an unnatural attraction to butterscotch-dipped cones at the Dairy Queen.
Today, I stopped at the Dairy Queen ....

Monday, July 23, 2007

It's ALL good. (Oh, yeah?)

Is there a better feeling than having a productive day, knowing the writing is really singing? (As opposed to stuttering, which happens--occasionally).

I'm about to finish Chapter 20 of Mama Rides Shotgun, out of some 40 chapters. Not exactly the home stretch, but at least I can spot The End in the distance.

I'm back into the minds of my characters, which is a good thing. And, no, it doesn't mean I'm a scary schizophrenic, hearing voices. Well, I DO hear voices, but they're the voices I've created.

"No, they aren't!''

Yes, they are!



. . Anyway . . .

The characters had been shutting me out for a while, which wasn't very nice of them. They weren't there when I needed them, weren't behaving like I wanted them to. And they had a lot of nerve, seeing as how I'm the one who breathed life into them in the first place.

"No you didn't!''

Okay, whatever. Today was all good, though. The characters behaved . . .

"No, we didn't!''

. . . mostly, anyway. And since this is my computer and my blog, that will be my ("Our!'') final word.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Independence Day

This is how unmotivated I am: The city of Fort Lauderdale's holiday fireworks are blasting off along the New River downtown, less than a half-mile away.
Pop! Bam! Whiz!
Not only did I not ride the bike down there, I didn't even get up, open the door, and walk outside where I could look up in the sky and watch them.
Of course, a long afternoon of lightning storms and torrential rains have kind of put a damper on the holiday here. I've been moping around the house, reading some old books by Lewis Grizzard and Roy Blount Jr. (I'm in such a pissy mood, not even reading funny books by great humorists is making me feel better).
My TV reporter husband is off on an extended adventure to the North Pole (!) While he's off cavorting in the ice, it's SWELTERING in South Florida, as usual for the summer. I'm feeling lonely and forgotten on the Fourth of July.
Independence Day? More like Quit-Being-So-Dependent Day.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Writing Contests

I've been poking around on the web, trying to find some quickie writing contests. I recently placed second with a short story, Couldn't Be Easier, in a contest off the site,
I was grateful for the recognition (and the $75 prize!). But I also appreciated the deadline. Nothing like a deadline for motivation. For an ex-newspaper reporter like me, having these book biz deadlines such a long, L---O---N---G way away makes it seem like they're not real. Very different than showing up at a plane crash or a workplace shooting and having to collect and dictate your story within a couple of hours.
Another competition, from Writers Digest online, offers this month's prompt: Three people in an empty movie theater. It's cold. Go. Good exercise, and $100 for the best short piece off the prompt. No entry fee, either .... You can't win if you don't try, right?
Pro or con on contests?
I say thumbs up. Even if entering takes me away from Mama Rides Shotgun, my second book in progress, contests are a good way to polish skills and think creatively.
Or, maybe they're just avoidance . . .

Friday, June 15, 2007

Kevin's Party

I just finished printing 14 pages from a website. It's a collection of online condolences sent after the death of my younger brother, Kevin. I'm going to bind them to give to our 92-year-old mom.
Nice scrapbook, huh?
The company that sponsors the site, linked from the newspaper's obit pages, calls it a "Guest Book. ''
Kevin, always up for a party, would have loved the term. But to me, this particular party doesn't seem all that festive. I wish I could be uninvited as a guest.
It's been nine months since he died, gone suddenly at age 48 from an apparent heart attack. Is the loss ever going to get easier?
In the meantime, I read over the thoughts and prayers sent by Kevin's "guests.'' The first girl he asked to go steady; people he knew in the bar biz; page after page of friends and acquaintances, all the way from his days in Little League to his Las Vegas junkets.
I only wish he could be at his party. He'd love to see how many guests showed up.

Friday, June 1, 2007


Which do I choose?
Finishing up a chapter of my book, or going with a stressed-out friend for moral support as she discusses surgical options with her doctor?
Of course, I chose the friend.
But what about picking up my mother-in-law from the airport or finishing the chapter?
Spending scarce time with my usually-on-the-road husband or finishing the chapter?
Solving a mini-crisis for my mother or finishing the chapter?
Dealing with yet another detail following my brother's death or finishing the chapter?
Sometimes I feel like it's all too much, these demands. Other times I feel like I'm using them mainly to help me avoid writing.
Which is it? Good girl who can't say no? Or lazy author looking for an excuse?
I'll let you know when I figure out what mine are.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Days Go By

Has it really been a month--more!--since I've written a word on this blog? So much for the immediacy of the Internet. I keep drifting back to the old-school, pen-and-ink journal. It's just more satisfying to feel my ballpoint sliding across paper, my scrawl barely keeping up with my thoughts. It's better than sitting here, tap-tap-tap, click-click-click, watching the cursor blink when I stop to gather my thoughts.
Better to be out somewhere in the fresh air, maybe sitting with a beer or a cup of tea, staring at the ocean waves or the palm fronds rippling in the breeze. Now, that's inspiration.
Had a couple of weeks' vacation, exploring Holland by bicycle. It was great, even more so to have 15 days in the same time zone with my TV reporter husband. No interruptions. No breaking news. Well, OK, there was some message-checking and e-mailing on the Crackberry (his, not mine. I could go a million years without catching up electronically).
We loved the Netherlands, though. Great food, beautiful countryside, nice people. Everyone spoke English, making us feel, once again, like ignorant Americans. One tiny quibble: What's with the brutal wind? On bikes, it was like riding into that famous picture, "The Scream.'' Of course, we should have known. Their national symbol is the WINDmill, after all.
Ignorant Americans!

Friday, April 27, 2007

A Hand Up

It struck me last weekend at Sleuthfest, how generous many of my fellow mystery writers are. They're willing to share writing and marketing tips, inside info about the biz, gossip about which editors and agents are good--and which are bad. It's really a welcoming community.
Not that the journalists of my prior life aren't nice people, too (well, some of them, anyway). And it's not that there aren't egomaniacs and narcissists in the fiction community. I'm thinking of one moderator in particular, who walked all over her panelists, making THEIR panel all about HER! She must not have read The Moderator's Manifesto, the instructions all of us who agreed to run a panel received.
To wit: "The panel is about the panelists, not about the moderator. That's why it's called a panel.''
But, for the most part, these are genuinely nice and giving folks. Starting with Linda Fairstein, the hotshot NYC prosecutor-turned-mystery writer who was the keynote speaker, all the way down to the local members of Mystery Writers of America/Fla. Chapter, the conference host ... all seem ready to offer a hand to those still finding their way.
It's refreshing, especially in these times of the cut-throat contests on Survivor, and the slash-and-burn competitors on Donald Trump's Apprentice.
I hope I never feel I have to climb over somebody else to achieve success.

Saturday, April 21, 2007


Just back from Miami Beach, where Sleuthfest is being held this year. The annual convention of mystery writers is quite a trip: cat lady cozy authors to dark thriller types. A real mix. I guess I'm closer to the cat ladies ... though I'm not wild about cats. I'm definitely not in the dark thriller camp: serial killers, abducted kids, plots to blow up whatever. I had enough of that stuff as a news reporter. Give me light and fluffy in my mystery fiction, any day.
I wish MAMA AND THE MURDERER was already out ... the convention is a good chance to promote your book, get the buzz going. A year-and-a-half away is a bit too disant to really promote (and, from what everyone says, promotion is what it's all about.)
Still, did a couple of panels, met a few nice folks, had a few cocktails. Can't ask for more than that.
Plus, I got a nifty little badge to wear: HELLO, my name is Deborah! I'm a conventioneer!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Tragedy Biz

Such sadness unfolding in the news today, a day after the shooting at Virginia Tech that took 30-plus lives ....
It's moments like this I'm truly grateful to be out of the news business. This is the type of story that news organizations throw staff at. All hands on deck. I'd probably be there for USA Today. Or, if not there, then somewhere else linked to the story: the living room of a family in Florida, grieving over their lost child; at Columbine or the Amish school or some other site made sacred by a mass slaying; at some other college campus where kids are scared and the media is asking the question ... could it happen here?
It's weird that I don't feel even a twinge of "missing out'' on covering such a big story. I'm just relieved I don't have to do it, absorbing one more time all that grief and loss and pain.
I can turn to my little mystery novels, where I get to decide the endings. Where no one truly suffers. Where good wins out.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Scary Public Speaking

As a writer, I sit alone in a room and think, and then put words on paper. It's not exactly riveting, believe me.
But as a writer who eventually wants to SELL her books, I must overcome my solitary tendencies. I must stand in front of a crowd and talk about writing. I must somehow make the process seem scintillating instead of stultifying.
Isn't writing like comedy: the more you analyze it and pick it apart, the drearier it becomes?
Anyway, I hope I'm not completely dreary later this week when I speak at Sleuthfest, the annual convention of mystery writers held in southern Florida. (It's on South Beach this year. Aren't we chic and happening?)
I'm on one panel; moderating another. Now that I have a couple of these events under my belt, I'm not actually physically sick anymore at the prospect of public speaking. Although, God knows, I'd make an impression if I hurled at the podium. Bet they wouldn't forget me then. "Hey! There's the woman who wrote Mama and the Murderer!'' She splattered me earlier today.''
Hmmmm . . . one of the panels IS on marketing, and writers are always looking for a way to stand out from the crowd. Projectile vomiting just might be the path to publishing success!

Friday, March 30, 2007

death and taxes

Just back from our CPA's office, where we completed our 2006 tax return. Always a pleasant experience.
The twist this year: I have to do one for my brother, too. He died suddenly last September. As a bartender, his income wasn't much (declared income, anyway). But the government still wants to know what he earned and how much he'll pay.
What's the old saying? The only things certain in life are death and taxes.
Today was a two-fer, reminding me once again of the certainty of each. And while death may be final, taxes apparently are forever.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

wishin' and hopin'

I wish my life were more settled. I hope by this time next year I'm a soon-to-be-published author, getting ready for the release of "Mama and the Murderer.''
But, like Mom used to say, wishing doesn't make it so.
Writing does, and I need to get on the stick. Sit my butt in the seat and WRITE.
There are just so many distractions .... I can find a million things I need to do, all taking me away from the one thing that I MUST do.
Arrrrrgh, Motivation. Why have you deserted me?

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Finding My Florida Cracker Roots

I'm just off the 120-mile Florida Cracker Trail ride: 200-plus horses, riders, mule wagons, and a BBQ truck in a week-long, traveling caravan across mid-Florida. You're supposed to have your own horse, but it's been 35 years since I did ... so a very kind Judge Nelson Bailey and his wife, Carol, saw to it that I shared rides along the way.
When the judge wasn't riding his Paso Fino, Domino, I was. When Domino wasn't available, I hitched on various conveyances: mule wagons; a rig pulled by the Halflinger pair of Heckel and Jekyll; and finally, Carl, a plow horse somebody found for me for the parade in Fort Pierce.
You go, Carl! You're not exactly a Thoroughbred, but we looked pretty damn fine in those final day parade pictures!
I did the ride, camping along the way, because my second mystery novel, "MAMA RIDES SHOTGUN,'' is set on the Cracker Trail. Talk about suffering for your art: It rained sideways, soaking me from winter cap to wool socks. A howling wind collapsed my tent the first night. Frost coated my toothbrush the next, when it hit 28 degrees. In Florida! I had an unexpected encounter with a bull. I slept three nights in a horse stall, and I'm still picking hay from my private parts.
And, finally, I learned that you never pee outside when your boots are downhill.
The annual ride--which just finished its 20th year--honors the early days of Florida's cattle indstury. Cross-state drives took place until the 1940s, traveling east to west. On the Gulf Coast, cattle were loaded onto ships and sent to market in Cuba. Our ride, which started near Bradenton and ended on the Atlantic side at Fort Pierce, reflects the return trips the Florida cowmen made, sans cattle.
Riding the Cracker Trail is really more my main character's thing than it is mine. (A few people looked at me funny when I explained this. "Your 'main character.' Is that like an imaginary friend?'' one rider asked me.)
There was a day when I would have embraced this sort of thing. But that was before bad knees, luxury hotels, and memory-foam mattresses. I'm a long way and a lot of years from my Daddy's Florida Cracker upbringing. He died when I was eight; we lost touch with his family and his country ways. I grew up more Surfer Girl in Fort Lauderdale than Cracker Gal in Davie, Fla. It's kind of hard to excavate your roots when they're dug into decades worth of city-dweller concrete.
Even so, I'm glad I did the ride. That's not to say I'll ever do it again.
I'm just hoping Mace Bauer, the main character in my Mama Mysteries, doesn't ever take it into her head to go work on the pipeline in Alaska.

Thursday, February 8, 2007


A neighbor, a close friend, died this morning, just after we'd stood visiting on the street in front of our homes. I'm still reeling.
I was running late for a horseback riding session; Peter and his wife were off for a walk through the neighborhood. They invited me for dinner this weekend.
"Sounds great,'' I said, climbing in my car. "We'll catch up on Sunday, though. I've gotta run.''
As I pulled away, I remember watching the two of them in the rear-view mirror. He said something to make her laugh; she gave him a playful shove.
How cute! I thought. They're grandparents, married forever, and they're still in love.
Halfway through the walk, Peter said he didn't feel well. He returned home; his wife kept walking. She got back fifteen minutes later to find him collapsed on the floor, already dead from an apparent heart attack.
Here one moment; gone the next.
I feel so sorry for Peter's wife. But the incident also has an eerie, deja vu parallel for me. My younger brother died unexpectedly, four months ago. And just like today, the death was sudden. Shocking. The bad news came via phone.
It makes me realize how little control we have over our lives. And it makes me wonder: What twist does the universe have in store next?

Monday, January 29, 2007


Just kidding on the title .... thought maybe I'd draw some readers that way.This isn't about sex; but it is about seduction.
This morning, for the first time, I picked up my last-century, pen-and-paper journal and thought to myself, "Maybe I'll check in on the blog instead.''
Ah, fickle, fickle Deborah. That siren 'net has ensnared me in its web ...
It's all about the blinking cursor, the nice, even type, no scratch-outs or torn sheets of paper. I've been keeping a journal since high school -- books and books and pages and pages of musings, left behind for future American literature students to peruse. (Sure, keep dreaming).
What will they do in the future? Find someone's old hard drive in the attic and go on a blog hunt? Somehow, it doesn't have the same romance as wiping off dust and tracing a finger across an ancient teardrop on the pages of someone's hand-written journal. (Of course if it's my journal, that spot could be fried chicken grease or a splotch of mayonnaise.)
On the other hand, I do have cool graphic dots and soothing earth tone colors on my blog ....
Quick update: found an agent I love (the waiting paid off). The contract from Midnight Ink will be signed soon (the indecision is over). "Mama and the Murderer'' will be out next year (starting a whole new crisis, when I realize I actually have to get out and MEET people to sell the book. Yikes!).
Is it too late to go back into newspapers?

Thursday, January 25, 2007


Is there anything more excruciating than waiting?
In twenty-five minutes, I expect a call from a literary agent who will tell me if she likes my book enough to take me on as a client. This is my first such call. Though I've gotten a few of those polite, impersonal letters:
"Dear Deborah, Unfortunately, I just didn't fall in love with this enough to feel I'd be the best agent for you in a very competitive fiction market.'' Or, the less polite ones: "Dear Author, Thank you for considering our agency. We regret to inform you that your work is unsuitable for representation.''
Oh, yeah? Well, regret THIS, jerkwad.
With a book contract sitting--unsigned--on my desk, some friends wonder why I'm even bothering with an agent. I contacted the publishing house; I got the deal, meager as it is. All an agent will do at this point is take 15 percent off the top.
But I want someone else to take care of the business end of things, even if it costs me 15 percent. If I were a skilled businesswoman, I wouldn't have gone into journalism in the first place, earning pennies for my years of hard labor.
So, tick-tock, tick-tock. Fifteen more minutes to wait.

Friday, January 19, 2007


I'm still getting the hang of this new-fangled blog deal. Tarnation, Sam! It's sure a fascinatin' world on this Worldwide Web!
I've been looking around at other blogs ... boy, are there are lot of boring people out there. Lots of clever ones, too. And those, of course, are the ones I compare myself unfavorably to (see? ended a sentence with a preposition). After all, I'm supposed to be a professional writer. The pressure, the pressure.
I had a horseback ride today, preparing myself and my 53-year-old knees for a week-long, cross-Florida trek called the Cracker Trail Ride.
Is it possible to overdose on Aleve?
Let's see ... arthritic knees; my non-tech tendencies ... too bad I don't have grandkids, too. Then this scintillating post would definitely land me on the blogs of note list.
Just wait: Next time I'll detail my favorite needlework techniques.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

ohmigod! I'm an old person, and I'm blogging!

Mark this day in your calendars, friends and family ... Deb goes hi-tech. A decade after the ability to "blog'' became available, I'm finally surfing the WWW wave. Hang ten, baby!
Does this mean I'll discard my ballpoint pen and ruled-paper journal? Probably not.
But, hey ... I'm getting my feet wet here. Teeny, tiny, babysteps into the new millenium (that started, what? Seven years ago? What can I say? I always look--and look, and look, and look--before I leap.)
Now, if this entry doesn't disappear the moment I leave this page, the first "post'' from Mystery Gal is hereby recorded for posterity.
It's Mystery Gal, in case you're interested, because I've just been offered a contract on my first two mystery novels, after a long career as a journalist. Yay for me! First one's titled "Mama and the Murderer,'' second is "Mama Rides Shotgun.''
Watch this space (if I can ever find it again) for more details!