Summer Writing Update

Wow! It’s the last day of August already. Summer is slipping through my fingers, and it’s time for my quarterly writing update. These posts help keep me focused, and for anyone who’s curious, they offer a sneak peek at what I’m working on and what’s coming next.

What Iโ€™m Writing

I’m currently hard at work on three writing projects, and I expect them to keep me busy well into fall.

  • Hostile Takeover (Emerald City Spies Part III)

  • A View to Die For (Butterfly Island Mysteries #1)

  • The Queen of Crows (A Bonus Story)

Keeping things Fresh and Interesting

I’m trying out a few new things! As always, experiments come with a bit of risk, but I really enjoy mixing things up.

Writing a Mystery Series with stories from more than one Sleuth : My upcoming cozy mystery series is set in a bustling island town in the Caribbean Sea. Butterfly Island is populated by all manner of interesting people: police officers and city council people, retirees and families and small business owners, organic farmers and tour boat operators, along with an endless stream of tourists. The first novel will be told from Paul Gumbs’s viewpoint, but instead of writing every book with Paul as the main character, I want to mix things up. I’ll write a mystery with Paul as the central figure, and then a second mystery featuring another character (with Paul still involved), and so on.

I’ll be curious to see what you all think!

Writing about a Character’s Past: Over the course of six Ellie Tappet mysteries we’ve heard rumors about Roberta Crowley’s past. Unanswered questions remain! How did Roberta come to own a cruise line? Did she really operate an underground casino in Las Vegas? Who was her first husband, and what happened to him?

Just for fun, I’m writing a short story (novella?) that answers these questions. It’s set in the nineteen sixties, and I’m calling it The Queen of Crows. Newsletter subscribers: you’ll get this one for free when it’s done. โ˜บ๏ธ

What Iโ€™m Learning

On the word-nerd side, I’ve been spending quality time with Virginia Tufte’s book Artful Sentences: Syntax as Style as well as Brooks Landon’s Building Great Sentences. I’m learning about sentence structure, linguistic rhythm, and the beauty of concrete nouns.

Non-Writing Stuff

It’s been a mellow summer so far! Patrick and I take long walks almost every day, exploring the city on foot and enjoying all the beauty Seattle has to offer. Post-vaccine it’s been great to reconnect with people in the face-to-face sense, including visiting with family and friends, drinking coffee at our favorite cafes, and visiting bookstores.

Hobby wise, I’ve been tinkering with technology. I caught the electronics bug last fall when I bought myself an electronics kit for my birthday. Over the summer I assembled an e-Ink watch from a kit and used the Arduino programming language to customize watch faces for it. The watch screen is the same type of material as a Kindle!

An e-ink watch showing the time and a field of stars. The watch is a blocky plastic square, too big!

Speaking of technology, I was disappointed to learn that Apple will soon be mass-scanning photos on our iPhones in an attempt to catch criminals . Yikes! This kind of overreach really burns my cheese, so I shook my fist at the sky and resolved not to use my iPhone as a camera or store my data on Apple’s servers any longer.

But… life is full of silver linings and while I’m still irked with Apple I’ve found an upside to this mess. I dug my old DLSR out of storage, and it’s been a pleasure to use a real camera again.

Apple schmapple!

Just after sunrise, the Seattle waterfront is a dusky blue. A tall white ferris wheel is shown from the front edge. It rises up from the pier like a tall white stripe. Glass gondolas hang down, empty at the early hour.
The Great Wheel just after Sunrise. Seattle, WA

Fall is Coming

I can’t wait for fall to arrive and for our seasonal rains to return. Summer has been lovely, but I miss the way the rain feels tingly on my skin. I’m ready to feel the sudden rush of wind barreling through the city streets like an invisible wyrm. I miss the blue-tinted gloom that invites me to curl up beneath a blanket and read story after story until my heart and imagination overflow.

Our local Starbucks busted out the Pumpkin Spice lattes yesterday, and I found a single perfect autumn leaf on the ground. Signs of what’s to come? I suppose I should be enjoying the final weeks of summer instead of pining wistfully for fall.

I do enjoy a good pine though… ๐Ÿ˜‚

Be well, friends and readers!

Until next time,


Authors, Please Don't Do This

I need to talk about author newsletters for a second. Why? Because I love getting email from authors but lately I’ve been unsubscribing from newsletters left and right, all due to an easily avoidable mistake.

Lately, I’ve been getting a lot of duplicate email from authors. I’ll receive the same email message twice. Sometimes it happens weeks apart, and once it happened twice in the same day! I dug into this little mystery, and what’s happening is that newsletter services like Mailchimp are rolling out a feature called “resending an unopened campaign.” And it seems authors are using this feature. Frequently.

Here’s how it works: When you open an author newsletter or click a link something called a tracking pixel notifies the author that you’ve done so. I’m not a big fan of tracking pixels, but pixels aren’t the problem. Here’s the problem: when an author doesn’t see as many clicks or opens as they want, they can now hit a button and “resend the campaign” to those who weren’t deemed attentive enough the first time.

Urg! This really burns my cheese! Why? Well, my email software turns pixel tracking off by default, so chances are I’ve already read that email. The duplicate messages are a hassle. I have to stop and think: Wait, didn’t I read this one? Then I re-read it to be sure, and now I’m annoyed because the duplicate message has wasted my time. That’s bad enough, but here’s my primary complaint: if I hadn’t opened the email yet, maybe I had a reason? Maybe I saw the subject line and noted that the email was for a series I’m not interested in. Or maybe I’m busy this week! But the author went and mashed the RESEND button because I didn’t buy a book fast enough for them. It’s selfish, frankly, and it shows little respect for me or my time.

Please excuse me while I take a deep and cleansing breath…

Okay, okay! I won’t be too salty here. I’m sure most authors are following advice they get from marketers, so I’m not going to assume bad intentions. But I’m seriously bummed about all the author newsletters I’ve had to unsubscribe from lately. So here I am, putting my request out into the universe:

Authors, Don’t Do This. Please!

Anyway, thanks for reading my little rant. Now that I’ve gotten this off my chest, it’s time to get back to work. โ˜บ๏ธ

My New Release: The Case of the Fond Farewell

Good morning, blog buddies.

I have a new book out today! The Case of the Fond Farewell is sixth Ellie Tappet mystery.

When I started writing Ellie’s story I had a notion of where it started and where would end. Fond Farewell was intended to be the final installment. But as I wrote, I felt hesitant. Was I ready to say goodbye?

Admittedly, I have a chip on my shoulder about long series. As a reader, I get cranky when a character arcs are dragged out for no good reason. Good stories deserve good endings! Or else the story isn’t a story at all. At least that’s my opinion.

The sixth book is an ending of sorts, in the same way a season of television can be a complete story. But as I was “wrapping up” the Ellie Tappet series, I came up with a great idea for a seventh book and I knew I had to write it! Holy cow. Is this a season two, or is it a one-off mystery? It’s too early to tell, but I had to laugh!

So much for my carefully laid plans. ๐Ÿ˜‚

I’m looking forward to writing that book! In the meantime, please enjoy Ellie’s newest adventure.

The Case of the Fond Farewell Cover

Ellie Tappet Cruise Ship Mysteries

Book 6

The Case of the Fond Farewell

When a retirement party turns deadly, Ellie’s investigation hits too close to home.

When crew from the Adventurous Soul come aboard the Spirit for their captain’s retirement party Ellie and her friends are determined to show them a good time. But after a senior officer dies in the night, Ellie’s hunt for the truth will put her at odds with the man she loves.

Get Your Copy:

Available now for Kindle and Kindle Unlimited

Kindle UK Store

Kindle AU Store

Kindle CA Store

Kindle DE Store

Paperbacks are available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble .

Happy Reading!

Roadtripping to the Stanley Hotel

Sometimes a setting can grip our imagination so strongly a story grows out of it like a plant from the soil. Perhaps that’s what happened when Stephen King visited the historic Stanley Hotel back in the seventies. He stayed there one night, had nightmares (rumor has it), and wrote The Shining based on a single night within those walls.

I love travel because I love setting. I collect details like I used to collect rocks as a child; my pockets bulge at the end of the day. Edinburgh’s slick black paving stones take up real estate in my mind, and so does the sensory explosion of the Athenian flea markets, those blue and white evil-eye charms staring, the tall too-perfect pyramids of strawberries at the corner stall.

Is setting story? Not directly. But just as illustrators work from reference art writers draw from real-life places. It happens to me all the time. Just last week, P and I were walking through the city and I pointed at a bus stop. “That’s where Hostile Takeover starts,” I said. And I saw both realities, the one in front of my eyes and the rain-drenched night Jessica hurried through that same corner on her way to a meeting. Nor can I step onto a cruise imagining that Ellie Tappet is behind me, bustling forward with her shopping tote.

Place and story intertwine. That’s what I’m thinking about after visiting the Stanley Hotel. P and I were on our road trip when I remembered that the hotel that had inspired The Shining was hidden in the mountains of Colorado. We looked it up and it wasn’t far. Why not go? I wanted to see how the Overlook Hotel of my imagination compared with the place that story was born.

I wasn’t disappointed.

A stately white hotel with a brown roof. An old-fashioned black cab sits out front with the words The Stanley painted on the side in gold. Dozens of golden keys are arrayed on a black velvet backing behind the sign-in desk. An opulent wooden wall is topped with crumbling old wallpaper. A sweeping view of a hedge maze and forested mountains beyond. Clouds are roiling and dark. There's a hint of a masculine statue at the front of the maze.

The hotel has been updated over the years. They added a hedge maze and some props from the made-for-TV movie. But even stripping those things away I could see the connection between that place and The Shining. We saw the tall, eerie staircases flooded with light from old windows. Those long carpeted hallways. Brass elevators from a bygone age. A lonely ballroom with the piano. And beautiful bar with a long wooden counter. I didn’t mind that the owners of the hotel had added a hedge maze and some old props. Those things might be cheesy, but they were fun too.

Cheri smiles like a dork inside a maze of hedges.

We saw other tourists walking around, delighted, enjoying comparisons with the haunted hotel of their imaginations. I loved it! The magic of fiction is that it has the power to bring us all to the same location in our minds, to sync up our emotions and memories in a powerful way. In that sense, setting becomes a real place, durable and permanent. I’m thinking about the books I love most. How many of us have walked through the Gothic splendor of Mr. Rochester’s house in Jane Eyre? Millions, I expect. Those images and feelings are accessible, a shared experience that transcends time and all other differences.

If you’re a fan of The Shining and you find yourself in Colorado I recommend a quick stop at The Stanley Hotel. They give tours, but the slots were all booked up by the time we arrived. So we walked around the hotel, admired the grounds, and picked up some amusingly Stephen King themed lattes before heading out for our next destination.

Two lattes sit on a bronze colored tabletop. They are labeled 217 and RedRum.

PS: I did not look for the ghost of room 217. ๐Ÿ˜‚

On Being an Author Without Social Media

Good afternoon, internet travelers.

Today’s post is a quick note to acknowledge that I’ve left Twitter and I don’t plan to return. If you’ve been following me on Twitter, thanks! It’s been a pleasure to be connected to so many great people. As an alternative way of staying in touch, I encourage you to sign up for my newsletter or add my blog to your RSS reader of choice.

I hope I can disengage from social media without giving the wrong impression. You’re important to me, and I want to brighten your day by giving you something great to read. But I’d rather serve you by writing the next book than by spending time on social media. Being online like that distracts me and stresses me out, so I’m going to focus on other things moving forward.

That’s my news of the day. Don’t @ me! But you can email me if you have questions. I’ll be around. ๐Ÿ˜Ž

With that out of the way, it’s time for me to get back to work!

Until next time,


Back to Life

Greetings from wild and windy Seattle! We’re back from our road trip and in our familiar digs. When we left town I was so dang sick of staring at the same walls, and out the same window, waiting for the pandemic to end. But my time away has given me fresh eyes and a new perspective. My tiny condo no longer feels like a prison cell. Our couch fits to my back like a comfy catcher’s mitt, worn in all the right places. I’m appreciating all that I have at home, from my ergonomic desk chair and clicky clacky keyboard to the electric tea kettle resting on the counter nearby.

When the sun goes down, the city sparkles. When the sun comes up, my neighborhood stretches and yawns. Shopkeepers flick on their lights, unlock their doors, and carry chairs outside to the shaded sidewalk. Buses roll down the street. Late last night โ€“ or was it early this morning? โ€“ in the darkness, I half awoke to the sound of a delivery truck idling on the street below, familiar urban music that lulled me right back to sleep.

The city is coming back to life.

Our weather is moody and beautiful today. Clouds roll over us like a thick, dark comforter; it rains and rains. Gaps open in the sky and spread wide, revealing blue sky. Sunlight bursts out and illuminates the steel and glass towers. The wet streets shine. We rushed out to pick up a sandwich during one sun break (do other cities have sun breaks?) and when we left the shop we were hit by a gust of wind so strong it nearly toppled me over. Someone had lost their flowers; a fresh bouquet of pink peonies rolled down the wet sidewalk. Rain blew sideways, like darts, and there wasn’t an umbrella in sight.

Seattle felt like Seattle today. And I feelโ€ฆ normal? Yes. I think this is what normal feels like! I’m not fearful. Not anxious. Not grieving. Not angry. Not impatient. Not stuck!

Seattle is coming back to life.

And (what a relief!) so am I. โค๏ธ