Monday, July 30, 2012

Good-Bye to The Best Dog Ever

In Virginia, we decided we wanted a dog.  We bought a beagle pup, but she was a nervous dog adn after a year, we gave her away to a retired lady.  After that, I set out with one requirement:  a mellow dog with an easy disposition for a boisterous family.  I called shelters and we checked pounds.  Finally, a friend recommended a mutt rescue.

"I have the perfect dog!  We have a whole ranch of rescues, but she was such a dear we couldn't bear to leave her in a kennel, so we brought her in the house with us," the lady told us.

That weekend, we drove an hour to the house.  I warned the kids, then 4-10 or so, to be calm and not overwhelm the dog.  I also said we'd look her over and then come back the next day if we wanted her.

She ran to the yard to greet us.  Immediately, everyone, including my husband, surrounded her, cooing and petting.  Layla flopped onto her back and wagged her tail like she'd gone to heaven.

We didn't get a mile down the road after out visit before we went back for her.

Since then, Layla was a constant loving presence.  She had the Wag that Never Ends.  She slurped the children--and Rob--at the drop of a hat.  She danced for treats, hogged the beds, and crawled under my desk to lay at my feet when I wrote.  She comforted the children when they were sad, ate out of their trash cans when they neglected chores, but most of all she loved us.

Last week, she started coughing.  We thought it was an upper respiratory infection, and got her on antibiotics.  It just got worse over the weekend, so this morning, I took her in.  She was excited for the ride, pulled on the leash to sniff around, and wagged the whole time. 

Who would have known cancer had taken her throat and part of her lungs?  The x-rays showed a big fraction of her lungs grayed out, and an endoscopy showed it was tumors.  He didn't think she'd have long before she simply stopped breathing.

After the endoscopy, they revived her so we could say goodbye.  As we cried and told her what a good dog she was, she wagged and gave kisses and loved us in the same happy way she always had.

So the Perpetual Wag ended least on this earth.  Our lives will be less with her gone, but they were enriched for the years we had her.

I found this prayer online:

Eternal Father, we bring you our grief in the loss of Layla and ask for courage to bear it. We bring you our thanks for Layla who lived among us and gave us freely of his/her love. We commit our friend and companion Layla into your loving hands. Give us eyes to see how your love embraces all creatures and every living thing speaks to us of your love. Amen.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

My Writer's Journey: Tired of Busting Butt. So what now?

*Whine Alert.  Grab some cheese before you read on.*

"Karina, you do great work...but people don't believe it."

I was a first lieutenant in the Air Force when my supervisor told me this.  Twenty-two years old, working hard and apparently producing great work, but nonetheless, for the most part, I did not have the confidence of my chain of command and my coworkers that I could actually do the job--even when the fruits of my labors were there for them to see.

I still remember my first reaction--to get upset.  My second was to ask my commander, "And what are you doing about that?  Because I am doing good work and busting my butt for this organization."  However, the Major was being sincere and seemed frustrated over it, too. Plus, he was a Marine, and you don't whine or demand entitlements of a Marine.  Besides, I was an officer--give me a problem and I'd handle it.  So I said, "Okay, why, and what do I do about it?"

"I don't know," he replied. 

It's 23 years later, and I find myself having the same conversation.

I am a very good writer.  I write tight prose and fast-moving, complex plots.  People love my characters.  My humor can make people laugh out loud in public and even spit out their drinks.  And this isn't me bragging--this is what I get told by folks who have read my work.  My novels and anthologies have won popular and judge-based awards, and have four or more stars on Amazon.  My publishers tell me I'm one of the hardest working marketers they have--and more than one has hired me to teach the basics to their other authors--which I do well.  Even when I've asked for help, I get the same advice I'm already following.

And yet...  My Amazon rankings are low.  My sales are low.  My blog and website hits are low.  I work hard, do the same kind of things other more successful authors do, and even with high-quality work, my books are not thriving. 

Karina, you do great work...but people don't believe it.

When it comes down to it, that's why I'm tired of writing.  I love writing, but I'm tired of working so hard to create great books and to promote them, yet to achieve so little in terms of readership.

I left the active-duty Air Force in 1993 to stay home to raise our first child.  I have to admit, much as I wanted to be a stay-home mom, some of it was because I was tired of working hard and yet not getting the recognition commensurate to my work.  I didn't enjoy the Air Force that much.

However, I love writing.  I've never had such fun or felt such satisfaction as I do when creating and polishing a story.  But I'm tired, tired, tired of busting butt for such small returns.  And it's not even the money, per se.  We're financially well-off; money is a measure of success and readership--though I do feel I should at least get back what I invest.

 So, now I'm back to the question I had asked my commanding officer nearly two decades ago:  "Okay, why, and what do I do about it?"

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A little about Coyote

Ever have one of those days?  This was meant for the DragonEye blog, but I pushed the wrong button.  No matter; it's still fun, but I think you should know that Vern, my dragon from DragonEye, PI, is writing this.

Since Coyote was responsible for the fires in "Coyote Fires," directly or indirectly, depending on your point of view, Karina wants me to tell you a little about him from my point of view:

Here's what I wrote about him in Magic, Mensa and Mayhem:  Yes, the Native American Trickster is an actual Faerie demigod and he's everything the Mundane legends claim and more. Unfortunately. Coyote changes form, just like in the legend. He can be an old grandmother or he can make Fabio look like a plain Jane. His animal form is usually a coyote, but he can be other animals. Pretty much whatever brings the most enjoyment to him and the most pain to sensible beings (especially PIs who have to bail out the world from his tricks.)  
Of course, he didn't get named "Coyote" for nothing, and even in his human form, he can't escape his animal self.  Call them attributes, instincts, or bad habits--regardless, they include things like scratching for fleas, peeing on things, and sticking his head out the window on car rides.  He does the puppy-dog-eyes schtick very well.  Don't be fooled.  He's inevitably more trouble than he's worth.
Incidentally, he has a thing for females, and isn’t too picky as long as they are of mating age.  Thanks to Sister Grace, however, he stays away from religious sisters.  (I must admit, though, I’m curious about the mange—or better yet, the pattern to his male pattern baldness should he get out of hand.  Leave it to Grace to attack him where it would hurt most—his vanity!)
He got Grace into a lot of trouble in "Coyote Fires."  In fact, he put the whole of Los Lagos County in danger--and guess what drake had to get everyone out of it?  The worst of it is, he's taking credit!  To this day, he's still bragging about how he--
oops!  Vern's heading into spoilers!  If you're interested in learning more about Coyote and finding out what happened to Los Lagos, check out  Remember--the story is free, but I am doing it as a fundraiser to help the victims of the Colorado wildfires.  If you can spare a few dollars, please donate.  We are stuck at Episode Four at the moment; I'm asking for $10 cumulative donations for each episode, so ask your friends and spread the word on FB, Twitter, and other places!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Our Expensive Souvenir

Thursday, I promised the story of our "new" car.

For months, Rob had been pushing me to consider buying a new van.  He thought our 2003 Chrysler Town and Country was getting old.  The doors didn't work reliably.  It had a couple of leaks.  It looked ugly and beat up.

I didn't want a new car.  It's ONLY a 2003.  Who cares if we have to open the doors manually?  Yeah, I put a big dent in one door, but the interior was still in great shape, and it was the most tricked-out vehicle I'd ever had.  I liked not having a car payment.  Plus, we are only a year away from going from four kids at home to two.  I wanted to wait, preferably until the car fell apart of its own accord.  And, in the back of my mind, I knew that if I had to get another van, I wanted another like the one I had, just newer, but preferably used--and maybe around $16K.

Well, in my effort to keep my van running, I took it to the dealer and had them give it a bumper to bumper check to fix any troubles before we went on vacation.  We sunk about $3000 into it, but that's better than a new car, right?  Got the oil changed, too, and in June, we started on our cross-country adventure.

On the second day, the oil light flashed as we pulled out of the hotel parking lot.  Just flashed--once, about 2 seconds, then went off.  So we decided we'd check the oil when we stopped, and if the light came on, we'd pull over.

A couple of hours or so down the road, the car starts a low rattle.  By the time we'd ruled out the cupholders, it was making clunking noises.  (No warning lights--just clunka-clunk). We pulled into the first exit, which fortunately had a truck repair show right off the exit, a gas station, Burger King, and nothing else.

The mechanic only needed a couple of seconds to know that we were about to throw a rod.  The oil had completely burned dry, there were metal flakes in the engine.  He told Rob it was probably the two days of highway driving. In other words, yes, the car fell apart of its own accord.

We're in Oawakville, IL--tiny, midwestern town--and we have to buy a new car.  As they call the Chevy dealer, I have whine, half-laugh at our fate and put in my one request to the Lord, "I just want another Grand Caravan."

The guys from Chevy Streuter came to get us in their Hummer.  Their entire lot was about the size of our yard.  They only had two cars that would meet our needs:  one, a black 2010 Dodge Grand Caravan, prices at $16,000.

Sometimes, I think God likes to give me a surprise.

The salespeople were wonderful.  They detailed the car as I watched, double-checked everything, towed our old car over so we could transfer the stuff, and did everything they could to make us comfortable and get us out quickly on the road to Aunt Sara's house.  The car is terrific, and though it has fewer fun features than my old one, it does have more space, working doors and no dents.

So, aside from the car payment, Rob and I both got our wishes.  And, I'll keep this one until it falls apart of its own accord--though hopefully, not in the middle of another vacation.

Friday, July 20, 2012

My Writer's Journey: Taking time to ask WHY

Thanks to all the folks who commented on my blog and Facebook with encouragement, suggestions and kind words.  It seems many of us face this issue at one time or another, so I am going to blog now and again about my thoughts and experiences as I do some self-examination regarding my writing career.

First, some clarification and reassurance:  I am not going to stop writing.  I do love sharing my stories.  And I am not in a crisis of faith, or even a life crisis, nor am I depressed or overstressed.  I have a wonderful marriage, terrific kids who are smart, compassionate and well-behaved, and a comfortable home.  Rob earns a good income.  We're all healthy.  I have wonderful parents, a great sister, and a terrific mom-in-law and sis-in-law.  Plus, I obviously have caring and supportive friends. And true, Rob is deployed for the year, but he's in a safe job and we've done this before; plus technology means we have plenty of contact.  So my feelings about my writing career are probably 25 percent of my feelings about life--significant enough that I need to address them, but not significant that it's ruining my quality of life.  So, while I appreciate all the prayers, please don't worry about me.

sunsetThat doesn't erase the fact that I do feel discontented, and I need to face those issues head-on.  I wrote Thursday's blog on Tuesday.  Afterward, I found an old journal I never filled, and started using it to record my thoughts.  I start with a page of freewriting, then ask myself a question, many of which I got from reading articles about midlife crisis and career change.  It's actually been an illuminating experience.  Many things, I already knew, but not as clearly; some things I was surprised to learn.  I'm also clarifying my areas of weakness.

In my readings, I came across this:  The young adult asks, "What should I do with my life?"  The midlife adult asks, "Why am I doing this with my life?"  That really speaks to me, because it's not that I don't love what I'm doing.  Writing is what I feel I should be doing with my life (or at least part of it).  But I haven't examined the "why."  Instead, I filled that with goals and expectations, easy answers, and maybe even what others think "success" means. 

"Why" is the Big Question, the end goal.  These past few days, I've been laying the groundwork--thinking about what I love and hate about writing, examining my strengths and weaknesses.  Once I have a better idea of where I stand, I can then determine where I really want to be--not where ego or outside opinion says I should be.

Have you ever stopped to examine "WHY" you do what you do?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

My Novel's Journey: Soul Searching

It's been another week, and I've not written anything.  I've started a new promotions project, which is in the form of 10 tabs open and untouched on my browser.  I've puttered around FB, but not done much of substance.  The only thing I've done with any motivation is promote the fundraiser for the American Red Cross, "Coyote Fires."

I thought I was going to come back from my vacation rejuvenated and ready to write and market with new gusto.  Instead, I find I'm even more apathetic.  Maybe it's my own version of midlife crisis (without the hot sports car, alas--we ended up buying a "new" used minivan on vacation when ours broke down.  Funny story; I'll tell you Monday.)  Maybe I'm just being confronted with the fact that I'm just not as good as I think I am. Maybe I'm fighting God's will for me.

I don't know.  But I do know that looking at my books' Amazon sales and ranks depresses me; that I don't make enough in royalties for a car payment; that even with a good cause and a fun story, I have only a handful of readers interested in my fundraiser; that even when I seem to make an impression on someone with my writing, I'm easily pushed off and forgotten. 

Yet at the same time, I'm so grateful for the blessings I've had.  I do have fans--many of whom are very loyal and have become dear friends as well.  Plus, my writing has brought me into a world of such wonderful people, from the members of the Catholic Writers Guild and Broad Universe to the writers I've met through the Writers Chat Room, Yahoo groups, and Facebook.  And just recently, two--yes--two!--of my books became finalists in the eFestival of Words Best eBook contest--and I didn't even have to nominate myself.  I have publishers who are glad to take my works and love that I'm easy to edit and work hard at marketing, and are quick to tell me so.

And yet...

I sit down before a work in progress and think, "Is it worth it?"  I look at my marketing to-do list and wonder why I'm bothering.  I start a new project and leave it open on the browser until it crashes, taking my half-started effort with it (like happened as I wrote this blog.  Will pull hair later.)

It's not a matter of my "Muse leaving" me; anyone who reads this blog knows how I feel about that excuse.  It's more about needing to figure out why I write: what I want out of my stories, what will bring me satisfaction.  Whether I need to change my direction or just my attitude.

I'm not sure what that's going to mean as far as my writing.  I mean, have I committed literary suicide just sharing this much?  Will some of you think I'm being a whiner and an ingrate?  (Trust me, I feel that way!)  Should I share my soul-searching on this blog, or is that self-indulgent?

I'd be glad to know your thoughts.  In the meantime, I'm not giving up.  I'll still blog and promote my works.  I owe my publishers that for the faith they've had in me.  As for the rest... 

Give me some time.  I'll recapture that joy--and I'll be writing again.

Monday, July 16, 2012

My books are up for an award

I came home from vacation to some exciting news--two of my books are finalists for the eFestival of Words Best of the Independent eBooks Award.  What was especially nice, IMHO, is that I did not need to pay a fee to enter, nor did I nominate myself.

 Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator--Best Young Adult
Mind Over Mind--Best Fantasy

The winners are determined by popular vote between now and Aug17.  I used to ask people to vote for my book, but it always bothered me, and does even more as I get older.  I don't want to win because I'm popular.  I want to win because my book is that good.

What's nice about this award is that they have asked authors to post excerpts, offer copies, etc.  So what I'm asking is that you consider my books against the others.  I also have offers for the books themselves on the voting pages.

You must register at to vote. One vote per account. (The site does track IP addresses. Multiple votes from the same IP address using different accounts will be deleted.)

To vote, log in at and go to the VOTE! Thread for each category. Winners will be announced during festival August 17-19th.

Last note:  If you are a writer, do sign up.  Even if you don't vote, the eFestival of Words is a free online writers conference with panels and workshops.  You'll learn a lot and have some networking.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

My Novel's Journey: Having a hard Time Getting Back on the Horse

 Cowboy Mounting his horse

This week, I officially came back from an awesome vacation.  We saw our son graduate high school.  We traveled about 4000 miles, went to three amusement parks, visited a dozen friends and family, and spent waaaay too much money on food and fun.  I read books, watched movies, even went on a Drop Dead Diva binge. (Four seasons in 3 days).

And I did not write a word.

I had tweets and blog posts going the whole time, thanks to the wonderful technology of pre-scheduling, but I didn't even doodle ideas.  It was a complete break from a years-long marathon of writing and marketing, posting and blogging, and it felt terrific!

Now, however, I find that all my good habits have been wiped away, and I'm going to have to start all over again.  Not what I expected.

I had thought that I'd come home refreshed and aching to get back to my computer, where I'd discover that my subconscious had been working in my absence, and that I'd need only put fingers to keyboard and find the words flowing.  Perhaps it works that way for others, but obviously, it did not for me.

I'm not complaining, and I'm not advocating that writers never take a break.  Rather, I just want writers to learn from my experience that we are not all the same; some of us need the habit of writing, and its from that habit that our inspiration comes.  There's nothing wrong with that, as my writing awards will attest.  (Incidentally, two of my books are up for another one.  Tell you about it Monday.)

So if you've been "taking a break," waiting for a Muse that isn't showing up, stop.  Get at your computer, pick something and write.  Bully yourself if you need to.  Write junk.  Outline, scribble, play with scenes...but WRITE.  You may find that the inspiration will follow the work, and when the two meet, the fun begins.

That's what I'm doing, starting with my blogs and newsletters (because I have deadlines), then with a short story/novella about Vern based on an old noir movie I saw.  "Sins of the Brother" takes place before Vern met Sister Grace, and it's classic noir--dark and moody, and a lot of fun.  I want to submit it to an anthology I was invited to write for. A good way to get back onto the horse.  After that, it's back to Gapman.

BTW, don't forget the serial story I'm writing to raise money for the Colorado Fires victims.  Check it out at

Monday, July 09, 2012

Fundraiser story for the Colorado fire victims

About a year and a half ago, I wrote a little story about a series of wildfires being set near Los Lagos, Colorado, the fictional home of Vern and Sister Grace of my DragonEye, PI world.  The story itself was a mystery involving Sister Grace and Coyote the Trickster God.  It was fun to write about Coyote again and it explains a few mysteries mentioned in Magic, Mensa, and Mayhem.  I’ve sent it out to several places, but no one took it.  However, I know that every story has its time and place.
That time and place is now and online.

We’ve had an upsetting number of forest fires in the West, and Colorado Springs has been especially hard hit, with over 35,000 people evacuating their homes and hundreds of homes destroyed or damaged by the flames.  People have come from all over the nation to assist in fighting the fires, and so many are going to have to rebuild their homes from scratch.

I want my story to help them.

“Coyote Fires” is now up in a serial format.  The first episode is posted at  I have a donation button on the site, and I’m asking that if you enjoy the story, you help me help others by donating a little to the cause.  You can donate as little as $1.  For every $10 I earn (from one to ten donors), I’ll put up another episode.  I’ll take donations until the story is totally up or September 1, whichever comes later.  At that time, I’ll send all the proceeds to the Colorado Springs chapter of the American Red Cross. I also have a deal, where if you donate over $25 dollars, I’ll send you an autographed copy of Magic, Mensa, and Mayhem.  (Your entire donation will go to the ARC.)  

In addition, between now and Aug 31, the publisher, editors, and I are donating all our profits from the Coyote story “Perfect Ten” and the DragonEye novel, Live and Let Fly.  Order them through the links on the story website or from MuseItUp in order for the donations to work.

“Coyote Fires” is only six episodes long, but I’m hoping we can raise for a more than $60.  If you’d like to help, I have a couple of easy ways:
#1. Read the story and donate
#2 Buy “Perfect Ten” or Live and Let Fly for yourself or a friend
#3 Tell others:  You can copy and repost this blog, make up a tweet or use one of mine:
#Coyote #Fires, a #fundraising serial story at Enjoy some fantasy and help victims of the #coloradofires.
Like #DragonEye? Read #Coyote #Fires online & help victims of the #coloradofires.
#4  Donate to another charity of your choice.  (Let me know, and I’ll send you a copy of the story!)
I can’t go out and fight fires, and I can’t travel to the Springs to help rebuild; however, I can offer my talents to help raise some money to help those who can be there for the victims.

Five Promotional Preps to do While Your Write or Edit Your Book

Today, I thought I'd share some lessons I've learned about what other things I should do while I am writing the book.  I have several novels out now, and every book tour, I kick myself because I'm having to go back over memories that are years old to dredge up answers to questions, or I need to reread the book in order to cull it for marketing materials.  This time, with Neeta Lyffe 2: I Left My Brains in San Francisco, I got smart and started on these while the book is fresh in my mind.  I recommend them to anyone who is in the editing stages of their novel.  It takes a few hours during the process, but it will save you many more later and make for better marketing.

1.  Make and keep one copy that has commentary—who helped you with this idea?  Where did you get that fact? How did you come up with this scene?  This will help you immensely when doing your acknowledgements page and for interviews, etc.

2.  If you even suspect that you will write more with these characters make notes on the important characters, dates, and events.  Create an entire story Bible if you can.

3.  When you’re in the final editing stage, copy and paste one-liners that might make good tweets.  Put them in a document with a hashtag on each line, so go less than 140 or cut them down later.  Copy some longer ones for Facebook or other venues that take more characters.

4.  Pick out three short scenes and three long scenes that will make good excerpts.  Pick a couple that will make good read-alouds.

5.  Jot down the answers to these questions because they will be asked during tours:
* What was the best part of writing this?
* What was the worst?
* Did you have any issues you had to research or rewrite?
* Did you learn anything new?
* Did anything/any character surprise you?
* Any funny stories associated with writing this book?
* Any lessons learned?

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Happy Fourth of July! Be Proud of Your Nation

 Show The Flag

by Edgar A. Guest 

Show the flag and let it wave
As a symbol of the brave
Let it float upon the breeze
As a sign for each who sees
That beneath it, where it rides
Loyalty to-day abides

Show the flag and signify
That it wasn't born to die
Let its colors speak for you
That you still are standing true
True in sight of God and man
To the work that flag began

Show the flag that all may see
That you serve humanity
Let it whisper to the breeze
That comes singing through the trees
That whatever storms descend
You'll be faithful to the end

Show the flag and let it fly
Cheering every passer-by
Men that may have stepped aside
May have lost their old-time pride
May behold it there, and then
Consecrate themselves again

Show the flag! The day is gone
When men blindly hurry on
Serving only gods of gold
Now the spirit that was cold
Warms again to courage fine
Show the flag and fall in line!

(Found at:

Monday, July 02, 2012

The Ending

I'm just getting home from a great vacation with Rob and the kids, so today, I present you with a song parody for writers!

Sung to Tomorrow,

I'm thinking about the ending
'cause you know I'm almost to the ending
And it's such fun
All the plot twists and bendings
I'm resolving now to reach the ending
What a great run!
The ending, the ending
I love you, the ending
You're only 10K away

I'm working on the ending
Through  the long path that I've been wending
There's the sun!
I'm dreaming about the ending
Will it be funny or heart-rending
Or both in one?
The ending, the ending
I love you, the ending
You're only 5 K away

I'm almost to the ending
The characters their good-byes now are sending
To everyone
And when I've reached  the ending
A victory I'll feel here with the ending
Oh, yes,  I've won!
The ending, the ending
I love you, the ending
You're only 1 K away

I've written those words, "THE END"ing
Can't believe I've come now to the ending!
At last it's done.
Except for critiques
     And editing
           And rounds of submissions
                   And rejecting
And new books to come!
The ending, the ending
I love you, the ending
You're only 80K away!

(big finish)
The ending, the ending
I love you, the ending
You're always a book away!