Sexy Vegetables

I’ve had several friends ask me why I’m wearing a carrot costume in my Twitter and blog photo. Believe it or not, carrots and other vegetables do in fact tie into the plot of With Good Behavior!

My mother is very skilled at sewing. I remember that she would make a dress for my Barbie, and then whip up a matching dress for me. (Thanks, Mom!) She also sewed a few Halloween costumes for my sisters and me, and our favorite had to be the carrot costume. As the story goes, during bath-time my mom and sisters were discussing silly Halloween costume ideas, and at that moment the carrot seed was planted. Always up for a challenge, Mom took some orange and green felt, a yardstick, a wire hanger, and voila!

So how is the carrot connected to With Good Behavior? Roger Eaton, the captain of the architectural cruise ship that employs Grant and Sophie, has a penchant for eating Chicago deep-dish pizza and other artery-hardening foods. In one part of the story Roger tries to start eating heart-healthy vegetables, but he abhors the “tasteless pieces of crap”. Grant teases Rog about not getting along with veggies — telling him that Rog and the veggies should go out on a date to get to know each other better — and pretty soon the conversation degrades to the point where they’re laughing about “sexy vegetables”. (I guess you’ll have to read it!) So, carrots are indeed relevant to the story.

The Main Characters

The romantic leads in With Good Behavior, Sophie Taylor and Grant Madsen, are two law-abiding citizens who unwittingly got mixed up with a Mafia capo, Logan Barberi. Their involvement with Logan led them both to prison sentences. The story begins as Sophie and Grant are starting parole and attempting to rebuild their lives and their dignity. Sophie is a former psychologist who’s an intelligent, spunky, strawberry-blond beauty. She has a tendency to open her heart to wounded people, including the “bad-boy” boyfriends littering her past. Grant is a former Navy lieutenant who’s hard-working and kind, with dark Italian features and stunning crystal-blue eyes. He has a penchant for brooding and self-sacrifice. Their paths collide outside their parole officer’s door, and both have no idea about the explosive hidden connection waiting for them like a ticking bomb down the road.

For more of my author interview, check out
The interview will be posted around July 13th, 2010–the release date for With Good Behavior!

Legal Eagle

I continue to learn so much throughout this publishing process. Once Omnific Publishing developmental editor Jessica Royer Ocken and managing editor Cindy Campbell finished meticulously editing each chapter, attorney/copy editor CJ Creel went over the manuscript with a fine-toothed gavel, highlighting several implausible aspects of my character’s crimes and sentences. Ruh-roh! Seems that I missed out on the pesky little issue of “criminal intent” for Sophie’s felony. I panicked at first but my Aunt Nancy’s calming words, “Set-backs can often represent good news” indeed came true. And my trusty legal advisor Nix came through with some great ideas for making changes. After reworking several scenes, I think the novel is better for it!

It looks like the release date will be sometime late June/early July. We’re inching ever closer!

Working it Out

There is accumulating research evidence that exercise is good not only for physical health but also for mental health. Exercise is a great intervention for depression and anxiety, and can also boost brainpower! It seems that cardiovascular exercise can create increased cerebral blood flow and brain connections, resulting in improvements in executive functioning tasks like planning, memory, and multitasking (

What does this evidence have to do with writing a novel? I’ve found that WALKING is the best remedy for any difficulties I’m having with the plot or characters. If I’m not sure about the next direction to take in my story, I’ll strap on the iPod and hit the neighborhood for about sixty minutes of brisk walking and voila! I’ve usually come up with a creative idea in the process.

There’s something about repetitive cardiovascular activity that helps us work out problems while working out. (

I’ve been a competitive swimmer all my life, but swimming in a pool usually involves too much thought (including switching strokes, hitting the walls right on my flip turns, keeping pace, and trying to avoid careening into my fellow lane-mates) for the writing problem-solving I’m seeking. Open-water swimming would probably work better. But I know that walking really does the trick. And, once I heal my bum hip/lower back, slow jogging can also work it out.

If you are a writer, what helps you solve problems? Or, in other performances like job, school, and relationships, what helps you “work it out”?

Release Date

The latest news is that the release date for With Good Behavior will likely be late July 13th, 2010. Yeah! Jeffery Hoyle, the Omnific marketing associate who has been guiding me through this winding road of publication, is hard at work creating the website The manuscript is now in the hands of my Omnific managing editor, Cindy Campbell. (We’re working on streamlining the flashbacks so that only one point of view is represented, as well as fact-checking to increase accuracy). Omnific is also looking over the sequel, currently titled Couples Counseling, for possible publication. And I’m charged with getting my photo taken professionally (insert fake cheer) for the book jacket. It’s quickly coming together!

Psychologists, Bartenders, and Drunk Cruise Captains

I recently returned from Chicago, the setting for With Good Behavior and the scene of my sister Susan’s wedding shower. The shower was a lot of fun but it was rather eerie to find life imitating art (if I may so boldly attempt to call my novel “art”). My oldest sister Laurie found a fun cocktail to serve, called “Fly by Night”. (First dip the champagne flute rim in simple syrup then in sugared orange zest, then add half an ounce of Crème de Violet, one ounce of St. Germaine, and finally champagne.) Since one of Susan’s wedding colors is a dark rose/rhubarb color, I decided to add a splash of pomegranate juice to the mix, making the cocktail a beautiful burgundy color. Somehow I got assigned the job of making these intricate cocktails for our sixteen guests, managing to spill the sticky liquid all over the counter and myself, and it became clear to me that I had suddenly turned into my lead character Sophie Taylor! Psychologist turned bartender.

Susan’s wedding reception will take place on a cruise of the Chicago River. It turns out that the ship they’ve rented is an architectural cruise ship by day and a party ship by night. I found this eerie since my other lead character, Grant Madsen, secures a job on an architectural cruise ship early in the novel. At the shower, we were looking out the window at the Chicago River and happened to see the ship she’s renting running an architectural cruise right outside. Party guests were asking each other if they’ve taken an architectural cruise before (most hadn’t) and one joked that she should make sure the captain hadn’t been drinking before the cruise starts, again reminding me of a scene from the novel. I’d had no idea that both Sophie and Grant would be attending the shower with me!

Visceral Dread

My Aunt Nancy read through With Good Behavior in the summer of 2009, and was very encouraging about the story’s potential. She advised me to choose unique, poetic words as a writer. Instead of “he stuck by her side like white on rice”, I’m now trying to write phrases like “he stuck by her side like sauce on spaghetti”. I hadn’t noticed that I chose tired, overused descriptions at times, and I’m striving to be more careful in my word choice since receiving that feedback. It’s wonderful to receive constructive criticism.

Nancy told me “In the way you wrote it, the connection among the brothers and Sophie is revealed early on but with that revelation comes the dread that the vulnerable couple is going to get further tangled with the members of his toxic family. And the dread is visceral.” Yeah! Just what I wanted my readers to feel…visceral dread! I want some serious fingernail-chewing happening. (And perhaps some hopeful anticipation about the budding romance between Grant and Sophie as well).