My journey with Peri and her friends

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The latest scoop…

Posted by Gayle on October 10, 2008

Kat emailed me the other day to tell me that 1) she’s busy working on the Eppie Awards, 2) she still has one project ahead of mine, and 3) she’ll get back to me when the dust has settled.

In the meantime, I keep writing – and building blog spots.


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A new day, a new blog site

Posted by Gayle on October 10, 2008

I decided to try hosting my book news on wordpress. The blog manager supplied with my website just isn’t cutting it.  I can’t get it to do the things I need, like supply people with an RSS feed, post the latest entries on other sites, etc.

I’m going to attempt to import my previous blogs to this site. If I am unsuccessful and you want to read about how I wrote Freezer Burn, got the book deal, etc, visit

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Intuitive structure (slapping my own forehead)

Posted by Gayle on September 29, 2008

I just returned from a weekend at the Southern California Writer’s Conference, a group I highly recommend if you are a serious writer ( One of my favorite workshop leaders this year was Trai Cartwright, whose energy made her classes absolutely joyful.

When I first walked into “Intuitive Structure:Exploiting What You Know” I had absolutely no clue what I was going to learn about. I went because it was an intriguing title. What I got was a lesson on how important it is to have underpinnings to your tale that go beyond the basic plot outline. A good story must obey the rules of its genre, a world that provides conflict for the main character, and a main character with a fatal flaw. And, perhaps most of all, a story needs a theme. It can’t just be a “dime store western” – it has to be a classic struggle between good and evil, set in the western genre.

I confess, at the end of the workshop, I wanted to call Karen Syed and yell, “Wait! My novel’s not ready yet! I don’t have a theme! What’s my character’s fatal flaw? How is she in conflict with her world? It’s Placentia, for Pete’s sake!”

Fortunately, I’m no dummy. After I thought about it, I had the answers all the time, I just didn’t know it. It was intuitive.

Peri’s fatal flaw is that she is both nosy and impatient. She should wait for Skip to come and help her. She should call someone instead of walking through Benny’s dark yard alone. She should stay in the background, under the radar, instead of poking around, asking questions. These traits will always get her into hot water.

The world of Placentia, California, doesn’t seem like much of a conflict in Peri’s life. But if I open that world up beyond the physical and look at Peri’s life, I see, in the story, where everyone’s fine with her being a private eye until she is endangered. And being endangered is the catalyst for Peri to decide that she really wants to be a private eye. There’s my conflict.

But what’s the theme? I thought I had written a breezy little murder mystery, kind of a ‘cozy’ in terms of the level of violence and gore. But when I looked at how I told it, Peri’s unrelenting curiousity transcends her desire for justice, for fairness, for truth. The thing that makes her tick follows my own heart: life is a riddle to be solved.

I am reminded of something I heard Willard Scott say one morning, “When you’re green, you’re growing, and when you think you’re ripe, you’re rotten.”

This is why Peri will continue to solve cases and I will continue to write stories about her – because we both want to keep growing. Even when we’re both brittle and old.

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Say ‘hello’ to Mark

Posted by Gayle on August 30, 2008

Meet Mark Tieslau. He actually looks a lot younger in person. And I look a lot thinner.

Why is Mark here? He’s the bartender at the Firewoods Restaurant in the Gray Eagle Lodge (, a place in the Plumas National Forest where my family and 5-6 other groups of our friends gather yearly for a week of fun in the outdoors.

When I was writing Freezer Burn, I was looking for a high end drink that Peri, my heroine, would drink when she could afford it (when she’s broke, it’s cheap light beer). Mark suggested a Grey Goose dirty martini, and of course, fixed one for me to try. I love green, stuffed olives, and Mark makes some of the best drinks EVAH, so it worked for me.

There was an additional benefit to giving this to Peri for her signature drink; before she was a P.I., Peri had a housecleaning business. Now I can tell people that she likes clean houses and dirty martinis. How cool is that?

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Kat’s in the house!

Posted by Gayle on August 27, 2008

On Monday, I got an email from someone called “Senior Editor”. Turns out it was Kat Thompson, senior editor at Echelon. My book is out of the queue and into her hands, yay! She assured me that she’s not going to try to change my story, just insist that it’s clean.

I’ve never worked with a book editor before, but I’m looking forward to the experience.

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And, in related news…

Posted by Gayle on August 25, 2008

By mid-July, I had a severe case of the “antsies”. I kept working on other stories, writing my columns, but a little voice in the back of my head kept whining that it wanted to get started on edits for the book, wanted a release date, wanted something, dammit.

I sent an email to Karen, hoping to sound casual about “just checking in” and wondering “if there’s anything I can do to help” and a lot of smoke and mirrors that really just meant, “I need dates and action plans.”

Here’s what she sent as a reply:

How fast could you write a short story? 5000 words.

Huh? How was that even relevant to what I’d asked?

It wasn’t. Karen was putting together an anthology of stories about missing persons to profit the John Walsh Center for Missing and Exploited Children. So, no royalties/advance/$$ for this, but a chance to be charitable with my words, and to appear in a book with the likes of J.A. Konrath and Michele Scott. How could I resist?

I wrote a short story with my main character, Peri, back when she had her housecleaning business. It was a good way to introduce her, as well as to establish how she became a P.I.

Missing! will debut at Bouchercon, the mystery writer’s convention, to be held in Baltimore, MD, on October 9-12, 2008.

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It’s looking like a book now

Posted by Gayle on August 22, 2008

After I accepted the book deal from Karen Syed, I wandered around squealing a bit. Then I settled down to wonder what happens next.

“What happens next” was that I started working on other things to keep from asking Karen what happens next. About a month after I signed the contract, I got the next email with my cover art (see above). It wasn’t anything like I had pictured, but I love it. I emailed it to all of my friends, then I printed it out and carried the email message around with me, folded weird to show off the cover. It’s a little dog-eared now, but I still drag it out and show people.

After the cover art came, I waited some more…

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After the contract, the rest is gravy, right?

Posted by Gayle on August 8, 2008

I admit I was disappointed in the contract money, although not at all in the contract terms. I wasn’t expecting to get rich, but… okay, I was hoping to be pleasantly surprised. I knew Echelon was a small, independent publisher, so I knew that the $$ would be more like $.

I thoroughly believe in this book; it would be false modesty to say, aw, shucks, I’m an okay writer. I’m a good writer, and Freezer Burn is a fun read. It’s not a literary masterpiece, but that wasn’t my goal.

So I could have passed on Echelon and gotten an agent and shopped my book around. I’m certain it would have been picked up by a bigger operation, offering me more money. But…

1. With an agent, some of my “more money” would go to their outstretched hand.

2. I had met Karen (the publisher) and I liked her directness and her energy. Everyone I spoke to about Echelon sung her praises.

I debated this for at least a week, maybe two. I had friends saying that I should take the deal. I had friends saying I could do better. Then, my friend, Pam, gave me the best advice of all: “Screw everybody else. Follow your heart.”

My heart wanted to go with Echelon. I took the deal.

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Getting some attention

Posted by Gayle on July 18, 2008

Kraemer Park, one of the locations in the book

Kraemer Park, one of the locations in the book

In February 2008, I did one more round of edits, printed my manuscript, and headed down to San Diego for yet another SoCal Writer’s Conferences. This time, I had sent in the first 20 pages for three different people to read: an editor (Mike Sirota), an agent (quite frankly, I don’t remember her name), and a publisher (Karen Syed, Echelon Press).

I tried to use my time wisely, by going to workshops that had information on getting published, attending a few read & critique sessions to get feedback, and hanging out with Gordon Kirkland. Okay, that last activity was only useful and wise in that I like hanging out with him.

For my advance submissions, Mike Sirota was semi-encouraging. As I sat down, he said, “Ah, at last someone I can give good news to.” Then he proceeded to tear my work apart and tell me to rewrite it all from a completely different perspective and using completely different characters.


The agent was very young and perky and “played devil’s advocate” with me, questioning Peri’s motivation for going to Benny’s place, Benny’s fascination with Dean Martin, etc. She wasn’t a horrid person, but I could tell that, even if I changed it to please her, we would not work well together.

Then there was Karen. She not only liked my work, she “got” it.

“Have you finished this?” she asked. “Send it to me.”

(Insert girlish squeal here.)

But-but-but… I had already asked Jean Jenkins to work with me, as my editor. Although I had re-read and edited, I wasn’t confident that the book was really publisher-ready. What a lovely dilemma!

Jean said to go for it, so I did one more quick clean-up, then sent it to Karen the following week.

I didn’t hear from her for four months, so I figured she just wasn’t that into it, and I sent it to Jean for editting. As timing would have it, that’s when Karen contacted me and said, do you want a contract?

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Why, of course it’s complete

Posted by Gayle on July 14, 2008

In September (2007) I went to the Southern California Writer’s Conference in LA-Irvine with my 45 pages of murder and intrigue. I had submitted the first 20 pages to Jean Jenkins for an advance read. In addition to listening to all of the experts and taking large quantities of notes, I attended many read & critiques, reading the first five pages to the groups and listening to their feedback. They were mostly positive; the one group that didn’t care for my work was a late night session with Matt Pallamary. Part of the problem was that I read it poorly. Part of the problem was that I was too tired to hear what they were actually saying, so it turned out to be a waste of time.
But Jean Jenkins wasn’t. She’s a professional editor and loved my story.
“Have you finished this book?” she asked. “There wasn’t a lot wrong with it, and if it’s done, you need to be shopping this around to the agents and publishers.”
“It’s halfway finished,” I lied.
When the conference was over, I began a whirlwind of writing. After a few distractions, I finished the book before Christmas. Then I did what they had told me to do at the conference – I set it aside for six weeks.

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