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The Next Big Thing: A Blog Hop


Ah, a blog hop! I still haven’t quite figured out what it is, but I’m participating anyway. Read here, then hop away!

Below are my thought-provoking and informative answers to some questions a bunch of authors are asking and answering right now. And, I really do hope to have Secret Agent Manny out by late spring. Yes, of THIS year. Why do you ask?


What is the working title of your next book?

I’m most excited about Secret Agent Manny, a comic pseudo-spy novel (more comic than spy, although the pseudo part would probably be the best adjective of the three if I’m being perfectly honest).

I have a hard time getting into a project (especially a large project) until I have a good title, and although I’m usually open to suggestions for titles, I also know it when I hear it. And, at the end of the day, I’ve usually come up with it myself. And then I can move forward.

I’ve been told I’ve got a knack for coming up with great titles. When a previous project, Do-It-Yourself Widow, placed as a runner-up in a national novel contest a few years ago, I was told that my title was the best of them all.

Now, if only I could get similar praise for the other 75,000 words in that project.


Where did the idea come from for the book?

Secret Agent Manny is my 2012 National Novel Writing Month project. The idea has to be credited to two writer pals of mine, James Watkins and Fara Howell Pienkosky. While at a writing conference last June, I got a disturbing phone call from my husband still at home, about a burglary there. As the writing conference progressed, Jim and Fara poked and prodded me into believing that my husband was actually living a double life as a spy.

Since Jim and I are both humor writers, and since Fara, though much more spiritual than I, has one of the best senses of humor in these parts, we escalated my poor husband’s imagined double-life to outrageous proportions the rest of the week.

By week’s end I knew I had to adapt their crazy (or not-so-crazy) ideas into a novel—a novel that starts out with a phone call strangely similar to the one I had with my husband that day: “There’s been an incident at the house…”


What genre does your book fall under?

I’d be more worried if you asked me what table my book fell under. But, to answer your actual question: It’s a comic pseudo-spy novel. Weren’t you paying attention earlier?

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

See, I don’t think there’s enough real spy action for this to be a James Bond movie, and I’m not sure the comedy translates all that well outside of book form … but since you ask, I’ll have to go with Oliver Platt for Manny and Mary Louise Parker for Amanda—but only if she’ll eat a sandwich or something first. That woman is too thin.


What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

A bored wife with too much time on her hands begins to suspect that her quiet, mild-mannered husband is really a spy … and she inadvertently turns their lives upside down in her quest to discover the truth.


Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

After years of telling myself that it was all right to self-publish the humor-essay books but not the novels, I’ve decided that God gave me a direct path to self-publishing even the novels: I’ve worked in the prepress publishing world for decades, and I have professional skills as a typesetter and proofreader. Why would I wait to see my book in print for years while going the traditional publishing route when I can wear all the prepress hats myself?

Life is too short to be traditional about this. Besides, within the next few nanoseconds, the term “traditional publishing” won’t mean anything anymore.


How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

I’m still working on Secret Agent Manny, but the first 50,000 words are done—and now edited—and were originally written in November 2012, as part of NaNoWriMo. But, once I’m on fire about a project, I can churn it out quickly. I hope to have this ready by late spring 2013. Just don’t quote me on that.


What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Ha ha ha. Genre. Compare. You’re so funny.


Who or what inspired you to write this book?

More kudos to those pesky friends of mine, Jim and Fara, for the inspiration. And once I went from just having fun coming up with reasons my husband is a spy during a writing conference to actively taking notes for a novel, the ideas just wouldn’t stop coming.


What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

You’d be amazed at how differently you’ll look at your own spouse when you see just how many common household items and common daily routines you can call into question. All you need is a paranoid, suspicious nature and a little creativity, and all hell breaks loose.

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NaNoWriMo is calling my name … again

In about thirteen hours, I’ll be officially going insane. Again.

I know, I know. If you already know me, you’re thinking, “Wait, didn’t that happen sometime around 1981?”

Sure, the first time. But I’m talking about that temporary insanity, that yearly foray into crazyhood known as National Novel Writing Month (known to the rest of the normal world as “November”).  (See for more information or to join in the insanity.) November starts in thirteen hours, and although other folks are trick-or-treating and dressing up as clowns or princesses or Barack Obama or other equally frightening things, I’ll spend part of the day polishing my minimal planning for this year’s novel, waiting for the imaginary starting gun at the stroke of midnight. It’ll mean typing 50,000 words on a new fiction project sometime between Nov. 1 and Nov. 30. That’s about 1,667 words per day, every day, if you write the same amount every day. Which I don’t. I tend to skip a few days out of distraction and then scurry to catch up by hooking up an I.V. of essential fluids and a catheter to release those fluids and writing for hours on end while family members whisper behind my back and plot to have me committed.

I’ve participated in this yearly ritual every November since 2004 … and I’ve “won” every year too. If you think that makes me over-confident, though, you’re wrong. If anything, it feels like a whole lotta pressure. Will this be the year that beats me to a pulp? Will this be the one time I can’t keep up? Will I sprain a pinky folding laundry on Day Two and not be able to type properly for three weeks? You know: the obvious questions at a time like this.

Does it help that I have a ton of freelance projects staring me in the face right now (and I usually don’t)? No.

Does it help that I have a bunch of engagements outside the house this first two weeks that will interrupt my alone-time? No.

Does it help that hubby has a routine screening procedure tomorrow morning (known to me as Day One, the Day of Momentum) that will mean both of us being out of the house for hours? No.

Does it help that we are in the throes of perhaps the biggest house move either of us has ever made, with paperwork and phone calls and inspections coming out our ears this month? No.

Does any of this deter me from attempting the impossible for an eighth year in a row?


The word processor is ready. The AlphaSmart Neo is ready. The Acer netbook is ready. The two desktop computers are ready. Even the IBM Selectric typewriter is ready. Year Eight will not beat me.