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Author of the young-adult thriller Shock Point, as well as five other mysteries and thrillers.
Statistics for So many books, so little time

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26. Haven't I see you someplace before? Dueling twinkling lights


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27. Haven't I seen you someplace before? More dueling skulls


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28. Haven't I seen you someplace before - more dueling covers of words in heads


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29. Haven't I seen you someplace before? Dueling covers of ladies on their backs, arms to the sky


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30. A new year

Screen Shot 2014-04-14 at 7.12.52 PMToday I celebrated my birthday at the Missouri Association of School Librarians conference, where I accented the Truman Award for Girl, Stolen.  At the dinner tonight, 800 librarians sang Happy Birthday to me.  It can't get much better than that.  (I'm wearing  my mom's necklace.)

While the last year was good for me, professionally, it was a tough year, personally.  On Memorial Day last year, we were driving to dinner just when two street kids let go of the leashes of their dogs. Their big black lab basically ran into our car and then we ran over it, while their smaller dog was hit by another driver.  We took both dogs to the emergency vet (the black lab was DOA and the other was put down that night) and spent the evening trying to comfort their owners.

In September, my mom chose to go on hospice and i moved back to my home town to take care of her.  Although she didn't need that much taking care of.  I fed her until she decided to stop eating, brought her ice, and watched a lot of documentaries and all of the Forsyte Saga and Season 1 of Homeland with her (it was a Damian Lewis kind of month).   Anyone who reads this blog at all knows how much I miss her.

And then in December I had that weird problem the doctors thought was cellulitis, and then diagnosed as MRSA cellulitis when it didn't respond to antibiotics.  I was in the hospital for three days and then discharged on December 30. I was ready to declare a fresh start January 1, but I kept having problems (including a freakish reaction to the IV antibiotics I was given in the hospital) until the 12th and 13th doctors finally gave me right diagnosis (just an unusual reaction to a shin clash in kung fu that never required antibiotics in the first place).

So I'm ready for a fresh year!  And this was a great way to start it.

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31. Trusting the process

I'm in the middle of writing what must be my 25th book (not all went on to be published).  Actually, I wish I were in the middle.  I'm more like in the first third.  It was due May 11, but after a talk with my editor this week, it got pushed back to June 2. I did not ask for the extension, but she gave it. I actually hope to land closer to May 11, because I know I'll get edits soon on a different book.  Plus I need to think about promoting the book that comes out June 18.

I'm also going to St. Louis for four days in the middle of the month, then to Houston for two for the Teen Book Con, then to Southern Oregon (where I grew up) for three or four days at the end of the month.

The day after I get to my old home town, new buyers will take possession of my mother's house.  I want t1505 Terrace Driveo walk through it one last time to say goodbye to all the memories. Maybe I will leave them the key my father carried on his keyring until he died and that has been on mine for the past 10 years.

My mother's death still pains me. I think of her every day, sometimes every hour. And everything was good between us and she had the best death you could ever have. I don't know how people deal with the dead if things were bad between them.

While I'm down there, I'm going to need to write, of course. I have a decent outline for this book, at least for the first two-thirds. I don't know how the sleuth will connect the dots.  I don't know what the big show down will be, or how things will look lost but won't be.

I have gotten stuck like this once before, with my back against the wall and no time to write.  That time I turned out one of my best books.  Will I be able to do it again?

I sure hope so.

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32. In which April does the math

Every night I lie awake doing the math.  In the next six weeks, I need to:

- Write 70K words. This is what is stressing me out the most.  I can't skip a single day of writing.
- Try to read someone's book to blurb
- Go to Missouri and do several days of school visits
- Go to the Houston Teen Book Con
- Write two articles (one may be emotionally wrenching)
- Celebrate my birthday
- Drive five hours to my home town for two days of school visits and a presentation at B&N
- Walk through the house where I grew up and where my mom died and say goodbye because it just got sold
- Finish paying my taxes and set up an IRA SEP
- Speak at a benefit for low-income housing

And a few other things.

I just tell myself something Laini Taylor did once.  That there is a future me and she has done it.

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33. Homicide on the street I walk nearly every day

Even a justified shooting by a police officer is classified as a homicide. And that's what took place Thursday right outside my kung fu school, on a stretch of sidewalk I walk on six days a week.

Screen Shot 2014-03-13 at 5.15.23 PMThis guy was wanted for several bank robberies. What's more disturbing is that a few months ago he grabbed a teenager working at Palm Beach Tan, pushed her into his minivan and assaulted her. He then took off with her in the van. She escaped by jumping from the moving vehicle. She survived with serious injuries.

Recently, girls who attend the nearby middle and high school had reported a "creepy guy in a van" following them. Three cops, including one who is assigned to the high school, went looking for him. They found his van, but he didn't match the description and said he was going to the library. After he left, they noticed the front and rear plates of the van didn't match.  The high school resource officer found the guy and asked him to put his hands up.  Instead, he reached for a gun. He was shot in the head and the heart and died. The cop was wounded in the hand.

This all happened before the kung fu class I would normally attend.  lass was cancelled last night, but I was actually out with Mutlnomah County Sheriff's Office Search and Rescue as they heard from a death investigator. She was a fill in because another medical examiner was doing an autopsy on the dead guy. Circles within circles.

Creey guy in vanVery strange and unsettling all the way around. Today two reporters tried to interrupt our kung fu class, but were turned away. I could have parked in the spot where I think he died but chose to park on the other side of the street. You can see my car on the right behind the reporter, on the other side of the street.

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34. 5 things on a Saturday

1. I am going to Michigan in a week to speak at two schools and a library.  When I was first approached, I was told the weather might be in the 70s.  When I checked a few days ago, the temperature was -4.  Yes, a negative number.  I have never been in weather that was a negative number.

2. Next week, I am going to talk to the creator of Zombies, Run! about the episode(s) I am writing.

3. I have a book due in about two months. I have to write so much in between now and then that I get sort of sick thinking about it.

4. Yesterday I did a Skype visit with a middle school in Omaha.  Earlier I had been given the choice between doing it at 9 or 11 my time. I chose 11, but I guess they thought I chose 11 their time. Carrying a cup of coffee, I wandered into the spare bedroom around 9:10, planning to see if we still had Skype on an old computer. Only when I opened it up, there the kids were, waiting for me.  Luckily, I was at least dressed.  I actually managed to pull it off.  I think.

5. I spent part of today scanning in sections of a 120-year-old family photo. The little girl was my grandmother. The guy with the crazy mustache was my great-grandfather, and he was very protective of his youngest child. Ten years or so after this photo was taken, he would be charged with murder for gunning down grandma's boyfriend. For kissing her.  He only served two years. Presumably because of this traumatic incident, Grandma didn't get married until she was in her 30s.

Effie Satterwhite 1896ish
James Louis

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35. Haven't I seen you someplace before? Even more dueling whip my hairs


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36. Haven't I see you someplace before? Dueling covers of mysterious girls in the same color palette

Unknown  Thanks to @ShiploadofWilco for the tip!

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37. Happy Birthday, Mom!

Nora Henry earily 1950s
Nora Henry earily 1950sMom red hat

Today would have ben my mom's birthday.  This is what I said at her funeral on October 26th:

My mom was no ordinary mom.  I think sometimes she wanted to be ordinary, she wanted to blend in, but that wasn’t how God made her.  She was tall, she was an extrovert, she followed her heart, she spoke her mind.

She taught me so many things, but three were most important: to laugh, to listen, and to love.

Mom had a crazy sense of humor. I remember one April Fool’s Day I watched her pour cat food into the cat’s dish.  She said, “You know, this actually looks pretty good,” shook some in her hand, and ate it.  It turned out it was a new cereal that she had noticed looked a lot like cat food.  She had put the bag inside an empty box of Friskies.

Back in July, mom was hospitalized for three days.  A few days after she was discharged, a nurse called to follow up. My mom was in the bathroom and so I answered and started talking for her. Figuring the nurse would want to talk with her directly, I handed her the phone when she came out .

The first thing she said - and mind you, she knew this was a stranger - was "Help! Help! They've got me tied up in a closet and they're not feeding me."

A week or so before she died, we were talking about how everyone has something at their core. Mom said she realized hers was to listen. She made friends everywhere she went, and it didn’t matter if they were young or old or homeless or rich. She loved meeting new people. A few months ago we went for a walk in the Eastwood Cemetery.  She was so weak that she only made it a few feet inside the entrance. But then a young woman she had never talked to walked by. And of course Mom perked up and learned all about her.  It completely rejuvenated her.

And finally, Mom was all about God and about love.  And for her the two were the same.  When I go back and look in my emails, there are dozens from her that have the word “love” in the subject line. She said love is the only thing, that love is all there is and that’s plenty.

I’m going to try to be more like mom - to laugh more, listen more, and love more.

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38. Haven't I seen you someplace before? Dueling covers of Italian coasts

I feel like Jess's book cover was seen so many places and is so iconic that even though the author of the second book IS Italian, it's just too similar.

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39. 5 things on a Friday

Samuel Henry1. This is my great-grandfather, Samuel Henry, born in 1840.  The picture on the right I found on Ancestry.com and was taken in 1897.  The picture on the left is from a box of photos my mom left behind when she died.  It says postcard on the back, and when I googled it I found out how to tell it was from 1904-1918.  Samuel died in 1912.  I wondered if it was the same guy, and once someone pointed out to me the eyebrows, I realized one of the photos must be flopped.  What a fun discovery.

2. I just got a a really good haircut from someone who cuts curly hair dry. Now I see what that's recommended.

3. When I got back to my car, I passed a parking meter guy on a bike.  I was 10 minutes overdue and the yellow ticket was on my windshield.  He voluntarily turned his bike around, came back, and said he would not cite me this time - that it was just a warning.

4. I started a new book that's due soon, and I feel anxious and like I don't know what I'm doing.  I should be in the groove - I NEED to be in the grove - but instead I feel like it's not going to be very good and how will it get done.

5. I am loving kung fu. Where else can you learn how to dislocate someone's shoulder, or do knife drills with a real knife?  I'm even learning to be okay with being thrown.  Slowly learning.

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40. Writing no matter what

Tonight I will turn in a book to my editor.  It's the second in the Point Last Seen series, which will start with The Body in the Woods (releasing June 17, 2014).

This book was written under the most extreme circumstances.

It was written in hotel rooms and on airplanes.

Mom red hatIt was written when I moved back home for a month to take care of my mom after she went on hospice. (It was not written   very well at that point, I think.)

It was written in coffee shops. 2013-12-28 11.30.16

It was written in cars (when I was the passenger).

It was written when I was sick of it.

It was written I should have been sleeping.

It was written in the hospital while listening to Half Moon Run's Full Circle (and trying not to listen to other people on the ward with Alzheimer's or detox or psych issues).

It was written.

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41. Haven't I seen you someplace before? Dueling covers of words in women's profiles

Unknown Bride of New France

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42. It's my write-aversary!

file4411334714768Six years ago today was my very last day working for someone else.

I had spent years writing books on the side (my first was published in 1999) while working full-time in public relations for Kaiser Permanente. I had been working for a variety of someone elses since I was 14 and started babysitting. My past jobs included everything from making pizzas to making change, from translating German to a one-time stint jumping out of a giant faux cake at some guy's 40th birthday party.

I had published six books and was wondering when I was ever going to be able to quit my day job, when I hooked up with a television personality and we got offered a four-book deal for an adult mystery series. While my share of the advance was not a huge sum of money, at the same time I knew I would never see that much in one place ever again. It felt like it was then or never. So I gave notice. My agent called it, "Sailing your boat out into the middle of the ocean and setting it on fire."  (She was with a big agency and went out on her own, so she knew what she was talking about).

And on this date six years ago, I packed up my emergency makeup (I occasionally dealt with the media), my snack stash (I was known for having a steady supply of pretzels), my family photos, and the cup where I kept spare change. I said goodbye to a lot of folks and tried not to think too hard about whether I was crazy to quit when the stock market had lost 40 percent of its value and I hadn't actually signed the contract yet.

But you know what?  It has worked out. Of course, it hasn't been all sunshine and lollipops. Thank God I've got health benefits from my husband, but everything else I pay for out of pocket (like retirement) or simply don't have.Two years ago was the first year where I made more than I did at my day job. In 2013, I made substantially more.  At the same time, I've learned that money doesn't always come in when you expect it, counted on it, planned for it.  There have times when I have done the math and wondered exactly how we were going to pay the mortgage. And there have been times when I have gotten money I wasn't expecting at all.

It all tends to work out, although sometimes not before you've curled into a fetal position.

I've had eight books published since I quit, including Girl, Stolen, The Night She Disappeared and The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die.  Two more will publish this year, including The Body in the Woods. I've got contracts for more. There have been movie options, foreign sales, and books chosen for the Scholastic Book Club, the Junior Library Guild, and many state reading lists.

And I am so much happier!! All day long I get to kill people (or at least make them worried they might be killed) and it is so much fun. And if some of those people occasionally bear a passing resemblance to an old boss or annoying co-worker, I’m sure that’s a coincidence...

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43. I get to write an episode for Zombies, Run!

I love all things zombie. 28 Day Later. 28 Weeks Later. I've been a fan of The Walking Dead since the first TV show aired. And I love, love, love Zombies, Run!  It's a phone app that let's run for your life from a horde of zombies. You can use it walking or on a treadmill, but I use it to run. You listen to a story line that's interspersed with your own music.  My favorite part is that you can turn on zombie chases which require you to run 20% faster for a full minute or the zombies close in.

I was listening to a mission on Friday.  The game is set in and taped in England, and in this episode, they had made contact with some survivors in Canada. The person on the radio said that pre-zombie-apoloypse she had been a writer and poet. Then she identified herself as Margaret Atwood, which made me laugh out loud in the middle of my early morning dead quiet neighborhood. I just figured Margaret Atwood was enough in the public eye they felt they could borrow her, but the more the person "playing" Margaret Atwood talked, the more I thought it was actually her. I went home and googled it and it was her!

So I tweeted about it and Naomi Alderman, the co-createor and lead writer for Zombies, Run (and also a novelist, which is how she knows Atwood) replied and asked me if I would like to write an episode.  You could see how long I took to think about it:

Zombies Run Twitter

And yes, the fact that I am running means I am back up to speed, health wise.  I am banned from sparring for two more weeks, but I am running (with some walks, because three weeks off your feet is hard to recover from), grappling, doing weapons works, and doing everything kung fu but sparring.

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44. Some random things on a Saturday

Wrong wayI am so, so, so behind.

I have an event every week or so for the foreseeable future. I also have two novels due by the end of April. One exists as only a four-page outline. There'a third novel I told my editor I would write this spring.

On Wednesday, my leg started acting up again - it felt tight and looked red. (I spent three days in the hospital between Christmas and New Years after having been diagnosed with cellulitis which kept getting worse.)  As you can image, this development frightened me. I got an appointment with my doctor, but was so resigned that I packed a bag for the hospital before I went to her office.

Instead, she said she was rethinking the idea it was cellulitis.  (Because I "failed" so many antibiotics, the hospital had deemed it MRSA cellulitis.)  She must have pulled every string she had, because within the next four hours I had an X-ray, a dermatology consult, a biopsy, an MRI, an orthopedist consult, and blood work.

I'm now up to having had 12 doctors weigh in on this. The new theory is that I had traumatic panniculitis (which resolves on its own with no treatment) and that I never had cellulitis at all.  If that's true, I didn't have to spend three weekPeely handss in bed with my legs elevated, have five antibiotics, have two drugs for the side effects, and even now, two weeks after I had IV vancomycin, be watching the skin on my hands peel off.

But hey, I am alive! All my latest test results look good. I'm slowly building my strength back up in running and kung fu (although I am wearing shin guards to protect whatever it is I have wrong with me). I have kids writing me every day. I have editors out there who want what I write.

And spring is coming.

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45. What age is this book for? Dueling covers for the same book


I saw Lucy Christopher had had a third book published.  Judging by the reading level, it's meant for slightly younger readers than her other books - ages 10 to 14.  I saw both of these covers on Amazon.  It's interesting how nearly the same background - although the swan is closer the the blues are different - can send a much different message depending on the age of the girl depicted.  I would say middle grade for the one on the left and YA for the one on the right. 

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46. Haven't I seen you someplace before? Dueling titles and dueling covers of girls in the woods

Unknown Unknown Unknown-1
Unknown 9780062257390 TheBodyintheWoods high res cvr

Starting to wonder if Australian writer Lucy Christopher and I are somehow related.  Like she had a book come out around the same time as Girl, Stolen, only it was called Stolen. When I first saw mention of it, I freaked out because the title was so similar and I wondered if the plot would be, because it was also about a kidnapped girl. (Not to worry - it's very different and very good.)

Now she has a new book that just came out called The Killing Woods.  And my June release is called The Body in the Woods.  Thank goodness my jacket designer did not play off the whole "woods" motif, since that seems to be over done.

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47. Merry F'ing Christmas

My theory is I am getting all of the crappy stuff out of the way this last quarter of the year so that I can have a great 2014.  All of it's been personal stuff, not writing stuff.

First there was hitting those dogs when the homeless kids let go of their leashes.

Then my mom dying.

Then there was this past week.  Monday I went for a 5-mile run.  Halfway through, this badly bruised shin I got from a shin clash in kung fu three weeks earlier started aching. Then really throbbing.  By the end I was limping.  In the afternoon, it seemed swollen and red.  I thought it might have been a blood clot.

Tuesday I went to Urgent Care and ended up in the ER where they did an ultrasound (negative) and hung IV antibiotics and diagnosed cellulitis.

Wednesday was Christmas and everyone was closed.

Thursday I was at my doctor's.  My leg did not seem to be getting any better.  She switched up antibiotics.

Friday I felt pretty good.  My leg seemed to be getting better and I had more energy. My husband and I decided to go to Pok-Pok, this famous Portland place that usually has huge lines.  He was already in the neighborhood having a beer at this place he likes.  The plan was I would park near there and he would drive us both to Pok Pok, about 20 blocks away.

I get there, see his car parked on this nice empty stretch of street and decide I'll park in front of him.  Only there was a tow truck about 20 feet ahead of him that seemed to be leaving.
I go around in a big square, come back, and the empty stretch is even emptier - Randy's car is gone!  It turns out that even though the sign says 2-hour parking, there's another sign above it (turned at a slightly different angle) that says "No parking 4-6 pm M-F."

Since I have just parked there, I need to move my car before I'm in the same spot. I get in my car, go around the corner, and there's the tow truck, adjusting something on Randy's car.  There's a tow fee plus a parking ticket  I told Randy his beer better have been really good, since it cost $250.
That night, my leg situation goes downhill.  Saturday was another day of UCC and ER, only it ended up with being hospitalized.

The only other time I've been in the hospital was to have a baby.  Now I'm getting IV antibiotics every 12 hours.  It's hard to sleep. I'm pretty much the only person on this ward without dementia/detox/psych issues and a bed alarm, which means it sounds like a truck backing up all night. With the occasional break to trick you into thinking it's finally stopped. Another patient on this floor is making this terrible noise like a tortured sheep - "maa, maa, maa." There's the one with a sort of sleep apnea snore, the one who kept throwing up and groaning, and then the time the nurse down the hall was saying, "Let go of that! Let go! Let go!" and then calling out "Can someone help me?"  You would think they would have better soundproofing at a hospital.

I am getting better, but I won't be able to go home until tomorrow.

I figure 2014 is going to be a great year!
photo 3leg dec 26red leg

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48. A bunch of stuff on a Sunday

Nora Henry earily 1950sapril early 30

1. Grief
Grief over my mom's death has not grabbed me in a few weeks. At it's worst, I found myself vowing I would never love anyone again, because it hurts too much to lose them. And then of course I found myself thinking that would make an interesting premise for a book.  Although I'm sure it's been done many times before.

2. Family ties
After my mom died, I took this little chest that was in her bathroom.  There was a note taped inside that said "Great Grandpa Chapman's chest. The problem was I had no idea who he was and no one I could ask.  I knew it had to be my great grandma Myrl's dad.  But who was he?  Far too many hours on Ancestry.com later, I figured out it was Thomas Chapman, 1838-1913.

Chapman chest front
I had fantasies my great-great grandfather handmade this chest, but I've found one just like it on ebay.  Still curious how old it is.

Myrl Chapman
This is my great grandmother, Myrl, in 1957.  She was 73, and lived until 1971.  She "took to her bed" sometime before this picture was taken.  I was recently given recollections written by her daughter, and it turns out she homesteaded and lived in a  sod house.  It all sounded very Little House on the ...-ish, except it it turns out it happened around 1920.  Didn't realize people were still burning buffalo chips and such that recently.

Thomas Chapman
Her dad, Thomas Chapman, 1938-1913.

3. Life of crime
Nora Kennedy Clowers (Craig) abt 1900
My great-grandmother, Nora Kennedy Clowers, in 1900. She met her husband to be, Barney, when she was a cook at a logging camp where he worked.  He was about 20 years older than her.

They had four children, including my grandmother Dorothy.  Things were tough. Plus Barney kept getting in trouble with the law.
Dorothy ClowersBarney Clowers threatens
The dolls belonged to the photographer.

At one point the kids were split up.  The 1920 census lists my grandmother as a 10-year-old boarder, living with people who did not share her last name.

Finally, great-grandma filed for divorce.
Clowers files divorce

Not sure if they got divorced, but a few years later, Barney was sentenced to prison, named part of an arson gang.
Barney Clowers Insurance adjustor 1920
Barney Clowers colorful

Barney died in 1924 at Ft. Stillacoom.  I had thought it was a prison, even though my mom always said he died of alcoholism in some kind of asylum.  It looks like it was really a place where they kept the insane.

Great-grandma Nora went on to marry twice more.  

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49. Haven't I seen you someplace before? Dueling covers of missing eyes


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50. Five things on a Friday

  1. Just learned that one of my ancestors was charged with "pig bewitchment" in 1656.  He was found not guilty. So I am one of the few people who can definitely say I am NOT descended from a pig bewitcher.

  2. If you are looking for a free way to make your own website, I highly recommend Weebly.com.  I update mine all the time.  So nice not to have to go through someone.

  3. 1480665_552497488169058_1899979008_nIt was so cold on my run this morning! 24 and blowing snow. Found myself wishing for a baclava, then realized I meant balaclava. Thank goodness wishes aren't granted. Like what if I wished for a neck gaiter but got the wrong kind?

  4. I feel like I am behind on everything: email, two book deadlines, sorting out my parent's stuff.

  5. At the same time, I need to make more time for reading. It's one of my greatest pleasures, so why I am trying to live on 20 minutes a day?

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