I’m just a California Girl

On pier 39, standing in front of AlcatrazI love California!  It’s not too hot (sorry, Florida), and it’s full of fun things to see — we went to Yosemite on Saturday, but sadly, only got a hazy view of El Capitan (and not because we’d been in the car for 3 hours with small children) because of the smoke from the first in NoCal (I’m talking like a local now).  Went to Pier 39 on Tuesday – tried to get IN to Alcatraz (In -get it?) but the tickets we all sold out.  So, here’s a picture of me from the pier, looking from afar.  I kept imagining…what must life have been like for those prisioners, seeing life so close, yet so far.  Like a piece of chocolate you’ll never get to eat. 


Then, I headed over to RWA.  I’m alittle overwhelmed.  There are A-LOT of people here.  Authors galore.  I went to the literacy signing last night.  Now, I had no big expectations, mind you.  I was thinking…yeah, i might sell one book (I sold 2).  But I figured that with 500 authors there, we’d all be in the same boat.  Ha! MY assigned seat was directly across from Superstar Suzanne Brockmann’s table.  I was sort of one of those displays you look at as you stand in line for the real thing.  She had a MOB of readers, and I watched her all night smile and be gracious…and it helped that standing right next to her were these two cute guys who had been brought in by some vampire author.  They had their own mob – women taking their picture with them. They occassionally looked over at me (like I said, I was directly across from them) and they could see me laughing (nicely) at them as woman after woman wrapped their arms around them. 

After the signing, we talked and well…I got my picture too. I mean, hey… what’s a girl gonna do?

The cute guys across from my table

After seeing that my line wasn’t going to accumlate (okay, I did have 2), I decided to abandon ship — and went and took a shot with MY favorite author — Susan Elizabeth Phillips who loves Minnesota and is SUPER nice. 

The Two Susans (me and Susan Elizabeth Phillips)

And okay, I also took a picture with me and Suzanne Brockmann, not only because she was across from me and next to the cute boys, but also because she’s another of my favorites. 

The other two Suz's (me and Suzanne Brockmann)

So, I’m having a pretty good time here in CA….well, okay, I’m having a BLAST…and here’s why…



I know — Seriously!  What a blast!  I talked my friend Cindy and her family into going, too.  There I was talking about research and telling my friends that in an upcoming book one of my characters goes skydiving…and yeah, then I just had a skydive too! 

Thanks to Lee and April and Renaud for making that day so fun! 

So far so good in San Fran! 

Fruit in California!

Hey!  I’m on CA for the FIRST TIME in my life, and you know what — they have FRUIT here!!  My friend has a peach tree and her brother has a LEMON tree!  Here are a couple fun pix!




Whoo Hoo!  Dance with us Voices! — Rachel Hauck’s Sweet Caroline made the best seller list for August!!!  Way to go, Rach!!!

. . . And your little dog, too!

Today we’re looking at part two of writing a scary, believable villain.

For a villain to be great, his or her threats must be believable and truly scary. The threat has to hit home. In the Wizard of Oz, we’re afraid for Dorothy and her friends, but when the witch threatens Toto, we’re drawn all the way into the danger.

“She’s going to hurt an innocent dog?” We see Dorothy’s response too. Not Toto!

As you develop your villain or antagonist, create a scenario that’s real and hits home. Could it happen? And what if it did? Work on thinking outside the norm, too.

Terrorist blowing up a city while Bruce Willis tries to save mankind is exciting and perhaps interesting, but I’m not really drawn in because the threat is so big and global and by all accounts, “I’m dead” on the first or second attack.

But what if the threat is to a school? In my neighborhood? Move in closer. What if the school is where my son attends? What if it’s his classroom being held hostage? What if his teacher is the terrorist? Ah, now I’m involved. Now I care. The threat hits close to home.

A child or family member being threatened is a good villain move, but also sort of done. Also, once removed from the protagonist.

Dean Koontz brings the threat home in “The Husband” where the protagonist’s wife is kidnapped and he must come up with a million dollar ransom. 

But there’s a great movie from the ’80’s, “Many Happy Returns” which brings a villainish threat straight to the juggle of the protag.

George Segal plays Bud Robinson whose cozy, middle-class life is turned topsy-turvy by a federal tax audit secretly set up by a renegade administrator determined to instill fear of the IRS in his district. Staggered by a bill of $28,396.84 for five years’ worth of penalties and disallowed deductions, Bud loses his sporting goods store and his house. He also loses his senses — and threatens to blow up the IRS Building. Captured and brought to trial, Bud exposes the IRS’ tactics in a riotous courtroom finale. (from IMDb)

As I watched this film, I was terrified. Can the government, the IRS, just walk in and destroy a man’s life? My life? Author and friend James Scott Bell said he had the same terrifying reaction to the film.

While there are comedic elements to the movie, it is based on a real life situation. IT DID happen to someone. Tax laws were actually changed based on this story. Segal’s character had NO access to help or the truth. Every door closed. When he tried for another job, he mysteriously was rejected or escorted out. He had NO idea what was going on.

Ever fear Big Brother? Ever fear something happening beyond your control? What about being buried alive. What about Nazi’s busting down your door in the middle of the night and hauling you out of bed and locking you on a train car for days on end?

Bring the villain’s threat home. Make it personal to the protagonist. Dig deep and find your greatest fears. Then pour it out on the page.

Happy Writing!