Tag Archives: Sleuths’ Ink Mystery Writers

JANO 2014 Wrap-Up

NaNo (National Novel Writing Month) is great, but if you’re a writer and you’re not doing Sleuths’ Ink Mystery Writers’ JANO writing challenge, you’re missing out. It’s not just for mystery writers, or just for people who live near Springfield, Missouri, or just for people who want to write a novel in a month. It’s for anyone who wants to be challenged to push themselves while enjoying the camaraderie of other authors. And prizes. Did I mention prizes?

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A fabulous prize basket including V. J. Schultz’s book, DEATH OF BIGFOOT.

I had been hoping to have book two fully researched and plotted and be ready to dig into the first draft during JANO. Instead, I was still finishing revisions on book one and just beginning to plot book two. It worked out, though. One of the great things about JANO this year was the ability to include more than one work in progress, so my efforts on both books counted toward the 12,000 words I collected.

That was enough to allow me to join the reindeer games at the wrap-up party last weekend. I love the fun contest categories the organizers of JANO come up with—best title, most unusual setting, most unique character name, etc. I took home prizes for best blurb, author’s favorite line and best cliffhanger sentence. I still need to dig into those prize baskets and see what all is in there. I know I have two bottles of wine, lots of chocolate and, to mitigate the damage, a workout video. Plus some great books to relax with.

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My haul from the JANO 2014 wrap-up party.

Like last year (see post here), I once again “lost” JANO, yet made good progress and had a great time. That’s a win in my book!

Happy 2014!

2014

Happy New Year!

Yeah, I know, I’m late to the party. That’s been happening a lot lately. The last couple of months have certainly been an example of when life gets in the way.

First—five weeks of pneumonia, including a few days in the hospital, while my husband suffered from bronchitis and my youngest had a painful double ear infection with a ruptured eardrum. That was a good time.

I was healthy enough to run the Ozarks Romance Authors meeting in December, but probably pushed myself too hard in the process and suffered a bit of a relapse the next week.

ORA Dirty Santa meeting

As I gradually became functional again, I focused on getting ready for the holidays. My boys are three and six, so Christmas is still a magical time. Lights on the house, a tree dripping with ornaments, cookies, presents—the list goes on and on, and I wasn’t going to let my boys miss out on any of it, no matter how sick Daddy and I were. The toughest part was taking them to see Santa without killing ourselves in the process, but we got it done. Phew.

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The next task was moving out of the photography studio I’d been leasing the last few years. While I was sick, I did some hard thinking about my priorities and made the difficult decision that it was time to cut my overhead and downsize back to a home-based business. My lease was up at the end of December, so no matter how bad the timing was, it had to get done.

Now I just had one last major hurdle. As president of Ozarks Romance Authors, I was largely responsible for organizing and running the annual Mega Critique Group and Write-In Event we co-sponsored with Sleuths’ Ink Mystery Writers on January 4. Several days disappeared in a blur of lists and e-mails and all the little behind-the-scenes tasks that crop up when you’re running an event. Thank goodness I had a great support team! We had a fantastic day, as always.

ORA Write-In

When I got home from the event that evening, I immediately noticed that the house smelled smoky. Apparently, my husband tried to burn down the kitchen while boiling water for tea. For the record, he’s an excellent cook and knows his way around the kitchen. Obviously, watching the boys all day imploded his brain. There’s just no other explanation.

The next day, the polar vortex hit with its snow and arctic temperatures. That was fine. After all that activity, I was perfectly happy to be confined to my nice, warm house. Unfortunately, that meant my boys were confined to the house too, with day after day of school cancellations. My Facebook timeline filled with humorous memes about frustrated parents wanting to devour their young. I could relate.

Even more unfortunately, a frozen pipe burst, causing minor flooding in a few rooms downstairs. At this point, we’d had fire, flood and plague. What was next, locusts? Famine?

So there’s my rather windy explanation for why I haven’t posted anything lately. Things seem to be getting back to normal now (knock on wood). We’re all reasonably healthy, I have every reason to expect my boys will be in school this week and several days have passed without any new disasters. Life is good.

I’d like to say that through all of this, I followed my own advice about what to do when life gets in the way and continued working on my book, The Amulet of Isis, through hell and high (or frozen) water. Not so much. But after almost two months of neglect, I made significant progress on my manuscript this week. I tackled some of the trickier editing issues and added another 2,500 words. By Wednesday, I plan to have it ready to send to the next—and probably final—round of beta readers before I begin querying and submitting. Woohoo!

Maybe after that I’ll finally get around to my New Year’s resolutions.

Woo-Hoot!

One of the writing groups I belong to, the Ozarks Writers League, or OWL, had their awards dinner Friday night. I might have won a thing or two.

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I took home seven awards in all. Woo-hoot! (Get it? Hoot? OWL awards? I know, groan. I hate puns too. Shame on me.)

I’m particularly excited about the accolades for my debut novel, THE AMULET OF ISIS. It was named Best Unpublished Book and received the President’s Award for the best entry in any category. I’m truly honored and humbled that my book was chosen out of hundreds of entries. I’ve worked very hard on this project, and seeing it honored meant a great deal to me.

I also received First Place in the Flash Fiction Mystery category sponsored by Sleuths’ Ink Mystery Writers. What a crazy category! A 500-word mystery that must contain the words stumble, piranha and skeleton. That was a fun challenge. My stab at it is posted below.

My 1,000-word vignette of a girl dealing with sexual abuse, “The Lesson,” won Second Place in the Young Adult Short Story category. I also placed second in the Six-Word Memoir category and received First Honorable Mentions for 99-word Flash Fiction and Romance Short Story Based on a Photo Prompt sponsored by Ozarks Romance Authors.

It was a big night!

In case you’re curious, here’s what I came up with for that crazy 500-word Flash Fiction Mystery challenge.

Patient Privilege

Think piranhas will clean the skeleton?

You’re kidding, right? Just meet me at the swing. 3 a.m.

I stared at the texts, wondering what inside joke I was missing. Not that it was any of my business. This wasn’t my phone, after all.

I’d finished with my last patient and was about to lock up for the night when something purple and sparkly caught my eye in the waiting room. An iPhone. Latest model too.

I wasn’t trying to snoop. As a psychiatrist, I hear more than enough dirty little secrets. I just wanted to find who the phone belonged to.

That’s when I saw the texts.

The other texter was only identified as 262-73, but I found the owner’s name and went in my partner’s office to pull her file. Joe and I have been buddies since med school, so everything’s fair game in our office.

I scanned her record. Ritzy address. Troubled marriage. A long list of molehills turned into mountains—the type of first-world problems that kept our uptown practice open.

Then I noticed a newspaper clipping tucked inside. Today’s date. An article about a missing real estate tycoon.

Her husband.

My mind reeled.

What if those texts weren’t a joke?

I dialed Joe, hoping for a simple explanation. No answer. Could he be in danger too? Because she’d revealed too much during their sessions?

I thought about calling the police, but I didn’t have enough information to risk breaking client confidentiality. My hands were tied.

I was still thinking about those texts hours later as I untangled the blankets on my bed for the fifth time that sleepless night.

Meet me at the swing. 3 a.m.

I kept picturing the rope swing at the lake where Joe and I used to drink beer on Friday nights. That couldn’t really be it, could it?

I squinted at the clock. 2:07 a.m. What the hell. I obviously wasn’t going to sleep.

I turned onto the gravel road and switched off my headlights. Paranoid, I know. Just enough moonlight filtered through the trees to drive by. My tires made a lot of noise on the gravel, though, so finally I got out and walked.

As I neared the lake, I spotted two dark figures silhouetted against the water. A man and a woman.

I crept closer.

Closer still.

I probably could have heard their whispers if the beating of my heart weren’t so loud. Like a scene in a movie, they lifted a blanket-wrapped lump and heaved it into the water.

The body.

This was really happening.

As they turned, moonlight fell on the man’s face.

Joe.

I gasped and stumbled. Two sets of eyes locked on me.

“See, I told you he’d follow the clues,” Joe said to the woman.

She raised a gun and realization hit like an icy blast.

I was the patsy.

“Sorry about this, buddy. Truly, I am.” Joe grimaced. “But at least I made sure your consumed-by-guilt suicide note was a work of art.”