Habit Rabbit

Have you ever noticed how much easier it is to develop bad habits rather than good ones?

  • Streaming the next episode of the new series you’re watching instead of working out that problematic plot point in your story.
  • Going on Facebook to see what’s happening rather than writing that blog post that’s due.
  • Googling “Icelandic Sheepdogs” instead of going to the grocery store.
  • Researching the history of thread (or anything else) and convincing yourself it’s relative to your manuscript

There are rabbit holes everywhere you look, and it’s easy to fall into them.



At the same time (and you know this) it’s those good habits that make you feel… well, good.

  • Getting some exercise in first thing in the morning before your workday (or that next episode) makes it more difficult.
  • Avoiding carbs.
  • Prioritizing your To Do List and getting things scratched off.
  • Making your word count.

And even though I mentioned rabbit holes a few lines up, that isn’t where I was going with “Habit Rabbit.”

I tend to rabbit between good habits and bad ones. I know which ones make me happy, and which ones end up making me miserable and disappointed in myself. The trick is remembering that good feeling, and making the decision every single day to find it again.

Here’s one of my favorite quotes (and I have no idea who said it—I learned it at Weight Watchers, but it applies to so much more):

The chief cause of unhappiness is giving up what you want the most for what you want at the moment.

Do you rabbit? Have you ever? And if so, what things bring you back to those good habits?

It’s all better with friends.



Pretzel Knots


I’ve learned something interesting about myself by writing this current manuscript.

While I’m not rigid, I’m not as flexible as I thought I was.

In general conversation with some friends, I mentioned that I needed a clever way to track the culprits taking potshots at car tires in Aspen Falls. Not ballistics. That’s too common. Something else. One friend got a devilish gleam in his eye and told me had just the thing.

So I took The Thing, and assuming it viable, researched how to make it happen. I learned about different tools and techniques and access and wrote and wrote and wrote. As you know, you do way more hours of research than actually make it into your story, but I bet there’s a good 7500-10000 words that have been written based on The Thing, or at least surrounding The Thing.

Which, as I recently discovered, isn’t. It isn’t The Thing. It isn’t A Thing.

It isn’t anything.

Some people, finding themselves twisted into a pretzel and knowing they have a significant rewrite ahead of them, would simply untwist the pretzel and delete the words, no matter how much time and effort and story had gone into them. I’ve never had a problem with killing my darlings, but somehow I couldn’t do this.

Some people could say, “Oh, I’ll come back and clean that up later. It’s not the main piece of the story. No problem.” They’d put The Thing in a drawer and, when they were finished with the rest of the draft, pull it out of the drawer and deal with it.

But mentally, rather than focus on pliable dough and “there’s more words where those came from” I found myself focused on the knot. This knot in my pretzel was hard and twisty and mocking.

And I was paralyzed. I knew I needed to slice out the knot and figure out what to do with the pretzel bits before I could move on. My desk doesn’t have drawers for a reason.

I asked for another solution. It’s totally not as sexy as The Thing. But it is a means to an end.

I learned that when Peg the Paralyzed Pretzel turns up, there’s no getting around it until I cut out the knot.

Have you experienced surprising paralysis? A pretzel knot that you can’t work around?


It’s all better with friends.



When FREE Isn’t

Piracy, the unauthorized use of copyrighted works, is a serious issue for publishers. Book piracy, whether in print or digital form, is costing publishers around the world billions of dollars annually. … Sharing illegal copies for free online means publishers lose out on sales and authors lose out on royalties. -–International Publishers Association

Google “book piracy” and you will see a host of optional sites from which to obtain books. Here’s a top contender: Merabheja. 

And speaking of Google, I finally gave up asking them to respect my copyright.

Part of the problem is that these pirate sites don’t use the words “pirated” books, or “stolen” books, but they use the word “free” book.

Another part of the problem is that some people don’t seem to care that they’re actually stealing. Doctors and lawyers and other professionals are “reading before they buy” because they’ve bought some losers, and swear that if they like the book, they’ll buy it. Other people say they’re “putting it to the man”, although it’s unclear who the man might be. If the man is a publishing house, their margins are getting squeezed, and if the man is the author… well, you see my point.

“I’m too poor to buy books.” Say a lot of readers who download from pirate sites.

“How do you read the books you download off that site?” (Sounds like a good question to me.)

“On my iPad.” Oy.

Some author friends of mine have taken to going on attack mode. They’ve hunted down their pirated books, sent threatening emails, and pretty much wasted their time (like I was doing with just one pirate site, Google). Their passion has shifted from loving what they do to just being angry at the world, including readers.

Other friends have simply decided there’s nothing they can do about it, why worry, and elect to consider it publicity, thereby giving their tacit approval of the enterprise.

I’m in between.

I have a passion for justice, but I also know my own limitations and what I’m actually willing to do. For about a year, I’ve contracted with Blasty whose job is to track down my books and remove them from what I consider to be criminal sites. I receive reports from them telling me how many “blasts” they’ve made of my books. Is it perfect? Probably not. But it’s one thing I can do—a statement I can make—without running the risk of becoming angry with readers.

What about you? How do you come down on theft of intellectual property and copyright?


It’s all better with friends.


Top Posts for 2019…So Far and Maybe

The good news is I’ve just turned the corner from a bout of pneumonia. The block I’m looking down is kind of long, but it’s a much nicer block than the one I was just on.

The bad news is my brain is still a little fogged, so I decided I’d go into our stats section here at Mysteristas and pull out the top posts for 2019 from each current Mysterista based on the number of views. My one (and very big) caveat here is that many of the posts show only one view, and I know that can’t be right. But pretending the information is correct and my brain isn’t totally corrupt, here we go:

What Mysteristas Conventions Are You Going To in 2019? from Keenan Powell

A fireside chat with Lissa Redmond from Liz Milliron

High Highs and Low Lows from Becky Clark

The Truth of It from Peg Brantley

My New Year’s Diet from Kathleen Valenti

What Part Does Luck Play in Success by Mia P. Manansala

Writers on the Go from Sue Star

What I learned Writing Middle Grade Mystery from Kelly Oliver

A Hard Day’s Read from Kait Carson

Brain Candy from Pamela A. Oberg

A Germ of an Idea from 3 no 7


This took longer than I thought it would. We’re not even halfway through the year, so pffft, but still… if you missed a post, it’s a great list to check out.

Maybe the next time I do this I’ll have figured out our stats page a little more.


It’s all better with friends.

ENDINGS: How do you take yours?

It’s often said that how your book opens can determine whether or not a reader will continue. With literally millions of stories to choose from, the importance of your First Chapter has gone to First Page has gone to First Paragraph, and has gone to (in some instances) First Sentence.

I think there’s validity in that opinion.

It’s also often said that how your book ends can determine whether or not a reader will want to continue reading your other titles.

I think that’s also true.

The Cliffhanger

I read a book that I enjoyed until I got to the ending where the author clearly left the story in cliffhanger mode so people would buy her next book. I was done and done and felt like I’d been scammed.

Does a cliffhanger ending work for some readers? Apparently.

The On and On

Like the adage of dropping into a scene for pacing (or having your story actually begin at Chapter Six because well, that’s where it begins), I think it’s equally important to know when your story is finished. Just because you love your characters doesn’t mean every reader is going to care about their new job (unless it relates to the story) or what they posted on Facebook, or anything else about their lives.

Some readers must like this though, because I’ve gotten called on my wrap-ups wrapping up before readers are ready.

The What What Huh

This is the ending that simply isn’t there. The reader creates their own.

Honestly, the only time this has worked for me is with PARANOIA by Joseph Finder. The story was so good that had he handed me an ending—whatever it was—I would’ve been disappointed.

The End

This is what I like and how I write. The major denouement has occurred. Tiny threads have been tied off. Holes have been buttoned and we can easily imagine what comes next.

We know all there is to know.

Time to close the cover and move on.

(Having said that, if I’ve done my job, bits of the story will continue to resonate long after the cover is closed.)


Okay, I just realized that my descriptive titles are totally biased. But this is my post and these are my current opinions. If you quote me, date me. I can be swayed.

How do you take your endings? While they are only a part of the whole, are they important enough to determine whether you’ll read more by an author?


It’s all better with friends.


The Truth of It

I’m struggling.

There. I’ve said it.

Somewhere I’ve lost two necessary things to complete a book: focus and discipline. And I don’t know where to find them.

The loss of those things feels like a symptom. So what’s the cause? How can I fix it if I don’t know what it is?

And I really, really want to fix it.

Once in a while I have an incredible day where the focus is strong and I don’t have to even think of the word discipline. Those days engage, encourage and energize me, but they don’t seem to repeat.

Maybe that’s it. I’m looking for something that doesn’t exist without discipline—at least not on a regular basis.



It’s all better with friends.

Pushy Characters

I love it when readers become the wind beneath my wings. When they push me off my very comfortable sofa (that sometimes sits at the top of a cliff) in order to get the next book into their hands.

I’ve discovered there’s nothing wrong with a little death-defying affirmation.

Readers who enjoy my books become my reason to step away from social media and write. To be truthful, some days they’re the only reason to step away from doing laundry and write.

Because sometimes writing is hard.

Currently I’m working on the first draft of a story I like. It’s timely. It intrigues me. It’s the third in a series that readers seem to want more of, the Aspen Falls Thriller series. They want to know what’s going on with those folks they got to know two whole books ago.

All good, right?

Except for when it comes to what Mex Anderson wants. His full name will give you an idea of the possible scope of his ego: Carlos Alberto Basilio Teodoro Duque de Estrada Anderson. Most people call him Mex. Even his sister, Sedona, calls him Teo. The way he explains his last name is this: “A wayward American fell in love with a Mexican beauty and never looked back.”

Mex has depression as a result of the murder of his family in Mexico because he wouldn’t cave to a drug cartel. He generally handles it pretty well except when he doesn’t take his medication like he should. When he’s on his meds, he’s fine. When he’s completely off them, he’s fine too, but only because he withdraws from society and no one has to deal with him.

It’s that middle slide-period where he thinks it should all be about him.

And that’s where he is now.

He’s pushing, but not in a wind-beneath-my-wings kind of way. He wants me to wrap up this foolishness (my current work-in-progress) and get back to another story for him.

Does he not know I have the power to erase him? To remove him from this earth? To push him into a void he can never escape?

But then there’s the stories he’s already lived. The lives he’s already touched.

It’s irritating.

I hope he reads this post and calms down.

Writers, do you have to deal with this from your characters?

And readers, take pity. We can be stalked in ways no law enforcement can help.


It’s all better with friends.