‘Tis the Season (for Hallowe’en Movies)

I’m not a gore person. I don’t do movies that involve hacking and lots of blood. But I love a good psychological thriller or dark comedy. Here I’d like to mention a couple lesser-known films that I’ve enjoyed.

mrfrost1. Mister Frost

This gem from 1990 shows Jeff Goldblum just prior to his big Jurassic Park moment. I’ll admit, my best friend and I found it equal parts hilarious and disturbing. Goldblum has some amazing lines, like (to the best of my memory): “Oh, yes, the bodies. I was just finishing burying them as you were walking up.” It’s been years since I’ve seen this movie, but I’d love to watch it again. As I recall, there was something about cake—Goldblum, playing the titular Frost, baked cakes then took pictures of them and dumped them in the trash. But that’s only the start. Once they put him in the psychiatric ward, things gets increasingly sinister. “Soon. Soon you’ll be on my side of the mirror . . .”

2. The Last Supperlastsupper

Perfect for this election season. In this film, a gathering of frustrated liberals decide to turn their dinner parties into murdering sprees so they can rid themselves of rightwing pundits. As with Mister Frost I don’t remember many details, but I do recall the Shonen Knife cover of “Top of the World” being fabulous as it played over the end credits. And I remember liking the movie in general.

You have to take into account that when Mister Frost came out I was 14 and when The Last Supper came out I was 19. It might very well be that, should I go watch these again, I’d find them abysmal. At the very least I’m sure they’re dated. But that’s sort of the fun thing about these kinds of movies, too—special effects aside, being dated only adds to their charm rather than detracting from it.

Do you have any favorite Hallowe’en movies? Oldies but goodies? Have any of you had the joy of watching either of these two movies? If so, I want to hear about it in the comments!


I know, I know, we haven’t even gotten through Hallowe’en yet and I’m already talking about November. But if you’re planning to participate, it’s time to make plans. Sure, you can just jump in and write, but for those who prefer more structure, I recommend at least making a few notes about whatever project you’d like to work on, if not outright outlining anything.

I haven’t done NaNoWriMo in several years. Because I already write full time (ostensibly, though life often chips away at those writing hours), I haven’t felt the need to devote a particular month to it. But this year I’m going to do it! My goal is to finish this draft of The Great Divide (Changers Book 2). If you want to be my writing buddy, I’m on the NaNo site as mpepper; you should recognize the photo. You can also join this blog hop.

Good luck to all who are participating! May the Muse be with you!

Feast or Famine

I’ve found this to be so true in my writing life. Either I’ve got nothing or there are a dozen projects going on at once.

At the moment I’m working on the second Changers book. I’ve had some eager readers asking for it, which makes me so happy because it means they really did like the first one. (BTW, the latest Amazon review stated that the reviewer would recommend Manifesting Destiny for fans of Harry Potter and Percy Jackson. How flattering is that?!) I’m also keen to finish my Regency romance novel Brynnde which feels as if it’s been very close to done for a long time now yet somehow just keeps going.

And now I’ve been fielding questions about whether there will be a sequel to Peter. I love that book and those characters and that world, but it didn’t sell very well. ::sad face:: I do think I want to write at least one more book, maybe two, maybe more, and I’ve even started on that process, but I can’t prioritize it at the moment. Still, very heartwarming to know at least a few people enjoyed it.

Finally, it also seems that screenwriting stuff is heating up again after being on the back burner for a while. I have fresh interest in a couple of my scripts and another content creator asking if I’d consider helping her write her series. And another screenwriting project is inching closer to pre-production with talks about potential casting. Wow! Always nice, if exhausting, to be in demand. Make hay while the sun shines and all that.

As we get ready to hurdle Hallowe’en and slide toward Thanksgiving, I have much to be grateful for. This is certainly a feast for me, at least in terms of creative work. Thank you, readers and fellows, for all the encouragement! You feed my soul!

WIP Wednesday

Just a tiny, tiny bit from The Great Divide (Changers Book 2):

Annice tried to dig in her heels. She felt the wind of the eagle’s strong wings, heard them beating above her. “Stop!” she said again.

Too late. Annice hit the sill of the open window and fell backward into nothing.

Goals Check-In

October is half over. We’re flying toward the end of the year. It seems like a good time to look at my goals.

I’ve accomplished most of them (achieved goals are in green). I’ve struck out #3 because circumstances beyond my control have made it untenable. Sometimes you just have to let go. I don’t think it will never happen, but I don’t know when we’ll manage to get back to it, and I’m not going to stress myself out over it. I’ve got plenty else to keep me busy.

That said, I don’t think I’ll be finishing Brynnde this year either. With so little left of the year, and the holidays besides, I can’t do all the writing. And I really do need to focus on The Great Divide. I’d like to get it to my publisher early next year.

1. Finish the revision of Changers.
2. Find an agent or publisher for Changers.
3. With my co-writer, finish the Hard Reset script. Finish and publish Brynnde.
4. Write and release at least one more Sherlock Holmes story.
5. Attend at least one writing conference and/or do at least one reading or signing.
6. Find a home for “Aptera.”
7. Finish the draft of Changers: The Great Divide.

But look—even though a yearly review is premature—I’ve had a pretty banging year. Two books published, plus one short story. Two writing conferences, at one of which I sat on panels and had an author table. Met fabulous people at both.

And looking ahead to 2017, I will definitely have Brynnde on my goals list, as well as seeing The Great Divide published. As I mentioned in a previous post about success and goals, I want to get to the point where I’m selling two books a day on a steady basis. That probably means writing more Sherlock Holmes, too, since those continue to be my best sellers.

I need to prioritize my projects. Can you help? The Great Divide and Brynnde are #1 and #2 but from there it’s a toss up. Give me your input, please! Which of these would you be most excited to see?

A. Another Sherlock Holmes story
B. The rest of Hamlette
C. A K-Pro sequel
D. A Peter sequel (featuring Simeon as the central character this time)
E. None of these/something else entirely

Thanks for your help! Here’s to a productive end of 2016 and exciting 2017!

Bookshelf 1:3

(If you don’t know what I mean by the above title, check out 1:1 and 1:2).

Things start to get a bit messy at this point. The stacks of books begin piling up here.


A Dictionary of Angels by Gustav Davidson
The Dream Dictionary from A to Z by Theresa Cheung
Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling
The 2014 Dramatists Guild Resource Directory
Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook 2012
Deadly Doses: A Writer’s Guid to Poisons by Serita Deborah Stevens with Anne Klarner
Screenwriter’s & Playwright’s Market 2010
Crafty TV Writing by Alex Epstein
Making Movies by Sidney Lumet
The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell
Write Away by Elizabeth George
On Writing by Stephen King
The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Quotations
The Writer’s Journey (2nd ed.) by Christopher Vogler
Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg
Anatomy of Film by Bernard F. Dick
The Elements of Style (3rd ed.) by Strunk and White
The Elements of Editing by Arthur Plotnik
The Elements of Grammar by Margaret Shertzer
Which Lie Did I Tell? by William Goldman
The Art of Fiction by John Gardner
Common Culture: Reading and Writing About American Popular Culture (4th ed.) by Michael Petracca and Madeleine Sorapure
Signs of Life in the USA: Readings on Popular Culture for Writers (2nd ed.) by Sonia Maasik and Jack Solomon
The Cult TV Book edited by Stacey Abbott
Creative Writing and Storyboarding for Games
The Writer’s Craft
The Man Who Heard Voices by Michael Bamberger
45 Master Characters by Victoria Schmidt
The Chicago Manual of Style (14th ed.)
The Gates of Evangeline by Hester Young
The Lake House by Kate Morton
An Elegant Madness by Venetia Murray
The Distant Hours by Kate Morton
The Magicians and Mrs. Quent by Galen Beckett
Broken Harbor by Tana French
The Secret Place by Tana French

This is clearly my pretentious shelf, the one with all the books on writing and editing and film and cultural media studies. But I think it also says something that all that has been blocked in by more fiction. Also, all those pretentious books are pretty old now. They’re leftovers from my days of film school and grad school. I do still enjoy spirited dialogue on media studies and craft, but I can’t say how relevant some of these books would be now were I to crack them open. Even the editing ones—why, I had a publisher tell me recently that they “don’t allow” semicolons, so . . .

I should surely weed out the old directories. The Creative Writing and Storyboarding for Games is a book I edited for ITT. Guess maybe I thought the info would come in handy at some point in my future. The Writer’s Craft is, similarly, a textbook I was allowed to take home because the publisher was going to otherwise throw it out.

Seeing some of these makes me want to re-read them. The pop culture books, for instance, and now I’m also wondering whether Vogler has a more recent edition. He almost certainly does. Would be worth looking up. I’m probably due to re-read On Writing as well.

And yes, that’s Gromit keeping the shelf warm.

Defining Success

Everybody wants to be successful. But “success” doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone. To some it means making a lot of money. How much? Who knows? Is there such thing as “enough” when it comes to money? Not for some people. For others success is about being well known, recognized, famous. Or it’s about winning awards.

Not very long ago, I realized I was not entirely satisfied with myself as a writer. I didn’t have what I wanted. And then I had to ask myself: “What do I want?” In other words, I needed to define success for myself.

There are a number of ways to go about it. For me, I had to decide whether it was a certain amount of money I wanted to make, or a certain number of reviews I wanted to garner, or a certain star rating I wanted to sustain… Did I want to win a particular award? Or was my goal to get one of my books turned into a movie? Any and all of those things were valid ambitions, and I’d be ecstatic to win an award or have a book picked up for film treatment. I’d surely be happy with a steady income from my writing. But at the end of the day, I chose a quantifiable and what felt like an achievable goal: I wanted to get to the point where I was selling two books a day.

It didn’t matter which two books. And I’d be happy with a two-book-a-day average, meaning that if I sold none on one day but four on another, it was all good. I’m not there yet, and I need to also consider that sales fluctuate, so I must ask myself: “Two books a day for how long? Six months? A full year?” I don’t know the answer to that one yet, but it feels good to be refining goals and working toward something concrete.

Having defined success and set a goal gives me the opportunity to take steps towards that goal. Instead of flailing in a dozen different directions, I know now I need to (a) promote the books I have, and (b) keep putting out new content. A combination of these two things should get me where I want to be.

Selling two books per day will bring a regular flow of income. Not a huge amount, but for me that’s not the point. For other writers it might be. That’s why it’s so important that we each define success for ourselves and not judge one another by our own measures. I know enough about myself to know that my sense of accomplishment and satisfaction does not come from the amount of money so much as knowing that people are buying and reading my work.

Once you have a primary goal, you can set secondary ones. I think of mine as “wish” goals. I wish to be asked to sit on conference panels (and had that opportunity this past weekend at InD’Scribe, but I’d love to branch out and do more), and I wish to win some kind of an award for my work, and somewhere way out in the distance is that wish to see Peter turned into a film. I can and will pursue these goals in time, but my primary goal is those two books a day. Once I’ve reached that one, I’ll turn my attention to some of these others. It’s important to prioritize your goals in some way to keep you from stretching in too many directions at once. If you try to do too much, you’ll do none of it well. So set your goals like rungs on a ladder, making the easiest and nearest the first step and go from there.

How do you define success? What goals have you set? Have you prioritized them? Don’t just leave them hanging in the ether like mists in a dream. You can wish all you like, but to make your wishes come true you must act. And the first step is to decide where your path is—figure out where you want to go and then plot how to get there.

InD’Scribe Wrap-Up

On Saturday—the last full day of InD’Scribe—I went and had breakfast with a bunch of amazing authors. I still can’t believe they let me sit with them, and then they even talked to me! The breakfast was hosted by Kathryn Le Veque, and I sat across from Anna Markland and next to Rebecca Forster, and Susan Tisdale was one over on my right . . . There were a lot of others, too, and it was great fun.

Still not a ton of traffic from readers in the author room, but I was very excited when a school librarian, on the search for YA titles for her library, stopped and bought a copy of Manifesting Destiny. I hope her students love it! I also had a chance to chat a little with the amazing Anne Perry and get a book signed by her.

I did my second panel, too, with Debra Holland and Elizabeth Essex. That one was about building character and how important well-rounded characters are in books. Someone working for the conference came and took pictures of that panel, but I haven’t been able to find them online yet. Wish I could post one!

Saturday evening were the RONE awards. Two of my new friends—D.B. Sieders and Caroline Warfield—won in their categories! I was so happy for them! Made me think I was living in The K-Pro and bringing a little good luck to people. 😉

Afterwards we ate and danced, but I turned in a bit early because the weekend had exhausted me. I had to say goodbye to many of my new friends who were leaving the next morning, but thanks to Facebook, Twitter, and the like we’ll be able to stay in touch. And hopefully all be back at InD’Scribe next year!

Authors, I can’t say enough good things about this conference. If you can make it there next year (October 12-15), go! It’s such a supportive and welcoming group. These ladies gave me a chance and a voice when no one else would. They didn’t look at me and see a nobody. They saw me as somebody with worth, someone to be encouraged and guided. I found my tribe! The InD’Scribe Tribe!

InD’Scribe So Far…

Having a lovely time in Burbank at the InD’Scribe Author and Reader Conference! Of course, it’s mostly been authors, but we’re hoping now it’s the weekend we’ll see some more readers.

I arrived Thursday afternoon, knowing no one, but have found (like with so many other writers’ conferences) the people to be very friendly and welcoming. Still, there are a lot of us, and one sometimes feels lost in the shuffle. But the first night was the Enchanted Dreamweaver’s Ball, and it was like they’d brought Livian to life! He stood near the entrance, and yes, I tried to kiss him.


I was all dolled up thanks to Period Images who did my hair and makeup and from whom I rented my Regency gown.

They also had book cover models on hand so that we could take pictures with them. When he said, “Trust me on this one,” and dipped me, I think my swoon was a little too real:


He has a lot of practice, I guess.

Yesterday I set up my author table, but then they moved me, so I don’t have a picture yet of my “real” setup. Will post later! I also sat on a panel about villains:


From left: Andy Peloquin, Kathryn Le Veque, Beth Carter, Yours Truly, Arial Burnz

I’m on another panel today and then there’s more time in the author room where I’ve been making great friends. Check out Caroline Warfield, with whom I’ve had some great chats, and if you like Manifesting Destiny give D.B. Sieders a try with her mermaid books. (Though, to be clear, her books are not YA.)

And don’t forget! Two of my Sherlock Holmes stories are free this weekend, and The Fall and Rise of Peter Stoller is only 99 cents on Amazon! Click here to go to my Amazon page and grab some goodies!