Happy New Year!

And what a year it’s been! I’m still very new to being a published author, and it seems like I find every day there’s something else I didn’t realize I should be thinking about. But I know this – I want to thank those of you who’ve been so incredibly encouraging as I’ve seen my first book published and then the second and so on! I seriously would never have done it without you and your support! It’s truly a dream come true to see Shari Markham and Jesse Morgan come alive for readers who say they enjoy them as much as I do. I can’t wait to see what the new year holds for them both.

I hope to be more active here on the blog and to keep my website updated more frequently. Time management is critical of course, and I am determined to be more effective in that arena. I’m still totally committed to my “day job” with BreakThrough Promotions and love what I do there, but am looking at being an author as “moonlighting” a second job with which I’m equally enthralled.

I hesitate to draft a list of New Year’s Resolutions because I don’t seem to follow through very well, but I do believe in planning and setting goals for the coming year. In looking back, I’m terribly thankful for so many things, most importantly my health and that of my family. Some of you may remember that my oldest son, Dave, has had major health issues over the last few years, and was in a long term care facility last Christmas. The doctors didn’t think he’d ever come home. And yet here he is and we spent a wonderful, quiet Christmas Day together with my other two sons and daughter-in-law. My husband, who suffered a mild stroke last fall, has had no more major incidents and although he can no longer work full time, enjoys his time helping me with BTP and taking care of Dave as he’s able.

Although Lupus seems near impossible to diagnose or fully understand, since my diagnosis in 2011, my health has continued to improve and with the help of some Christmas gifts in the form of fitness equipment, I intend to continue to improve until I’m as fit as I ever was! Hold me to that =). I also plan to give more time and energy to cultivating close friendships. I’ve allowed myself to become a bit of a hermit with all the health issues these last few years and while I have hundreds of acquaintances I hold dear, I miss the closeness of true friends and want to enjoy that again. We started the year off right enjoying lunch and conversation with Mike and Shelly Witzgall, two of our oldest and dearest friends and I trust that was just the first of many times to come.

Here’s a song from another friend of mine, a fairly new one: Larry Whitler of WOCA in Ocala Florida. I met him through work and Robin MacBlane, but like to think of them as friends over the years. I hope you enjoy this rendition:

I also plan to read many good, new books, and to re-read a few old favorites. I plan to write another book or two, as well. How about you? As you look into the New Year to come, what captures your attention these days?

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Baby it’s cold outside!

It’s probably not that cold to a lot of you out there, but for us here in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area, it doesn’t get cold like it’s been this week. I’ve lived in North and Central Texas for almost 40 years now, and I don’t remember ever hearing them predict 12 degrees in my area and yet this week, they did. We haven’t been that cold yet, and may not get that cold, but just the thought is crazy! It’s 33 now and plenty cold enough for me. I was born in southern California and went to high school in Phoenix AZ where it’s nice and warm year round. I’m not prepared for this!

One thing it’s done for me, though, is keep me inside and close to my computer with a little more time to write than I usually have this time of year. That’s a good thing. I’ve got deadlines looming after the new year and some serious revision time ahead. I have to admit, I’ve been slow on the uptake on promoting my own books, much to my chagrin (and my publisher’s dismay I suspect). I’m on the lookout to form a posse who’ll help me get the word out and keep me on task, and a few committed souls who’ll volunteer as beta readers. Let me know if you want to lend a hand!

AngelKillerfrontWhat’s next for me? In Angel Killer, Shari Markham had a bit of a cold, hard winter. The case was solved, but her emotions were wrecked in the process. Did she bite off more than she could chew when she took the position as psychologist and profiler with the Dallas Police? It’s one thing to want a job where you can make a difference, but what if it works better in theory than practice? What if the consequences of your decisions are life or death and you make the wrong choice? The team might’ve solved the question of whodunit on their last case, but what about who you should trust? That answer isn’t as clear and as another horrific case unfolds in the hot, Dallas summer, Shari’s self-confidence has taken a beating. She’s not sure she can trust herself, much less anyone else. Fortunately, Shari’s as stubborn as she is smart, and then there’s that sign on her office wall that her sons gave her that says: Never Give Up; Never Surrender

Till next time!

PJ

Never Give Up Your Dream by PJ Nunn

PJNThere’s nothing I love more than a stack of good books just waiting for me. Ten years ago, I’d given up on the idea of having my work published, and just got busy building my business which is acting as a publicist for authors who are promoting their books.

I love what I do. I work for the best people in the world and get introduced to great new books almost every day. And I get paid for it – can’t beat that! But every once in a while, I’d get a little sad that it seemed no one else would have the opportunity to meet my characters and enjoy them like I enjoy so many others.

I didn’t sit around having pity parties – there’s no time for that. But every once in a while, I’d get hold of a book that really wasn’t that great and I’d think, “My book is this good. Better than this. Maybe I should try again.” Usually I’d shake it off and just go on. I’d already tried the get-an-agent, submit-your-manuscript dance so many times. It almost worked. I actually had an editor at a large publisher who wanted to work with me. She requested one rewrite, then another, then a third. About the time we started to talk about a contract, she resigned her job and went to another publisher who didn’t want a series like mine. I was devastated.

I tried again. I heard Harlequin was looking for romantic suspense so I cranked out another one and submitted it. They liked it! But, they wanted a rewrite. Then another one, then a third (I’m not making this up). This time the response was, “I really like your writing but your book is just too much suspense and not enough romance.” Sigh.

That’s when I gave up and moved on. But here I am, fifteen years later and celebrating the release of Angel Killer: A Shari Markham Mystery, AngelKillerfrontpublished in July by Dark Oak Mysteries. How cool is that? I can’t tell you how great it feels when readers send me notes or reviews and tell me how they like a certain character, or how they can’t wait for the next book in the series. It’s a completely foreign and incredible feeling.

So let me encourage you. Whatever your dream is, even when it seems like it’s just not possible, or maybe not worth the effort, don’t give up. Sometimes we might need to put it down and walk away for a while, but don’t hesitate to go back and pick it up again if the time seems right. It might be your turn next!

When is your book coming out?

Angel Killer

Private Spies

Shadow in the Pines

Dr. Shari Markham on getting in over her head

Here’s a post that’s written in the character of Dr. Shari Markham, protagonist of Angel Killer:AngelKillerfront

I can’t be sure if it’s more like jumping off a high cliff or drowning in the middle of the ocean, but I was definitely in over my head.

It all seemed so simple. I was tired of my job at CPS. Of seeing so many cases never closed and so many kids with so many needs never met. When my husband was diagnosed with cancer out of the blue, everything seemed to happen so fast. Four months later, he was gone. My oldest son was married and my youngest just started medical school. Ken had enough life insurance that I was taken care of. Our house was paid for. But life as I knew it was over.

For years I’d said if I could, I’d go back to school and get my PhD in psychology and go to work for a law enforcement agency where maybe I could actually make a difference. The more I thought about it, and talked to the boys, the better it sounded and soon I was enrolled in Sam Houston State. I thoroughly enjoyed my time there. The study of abnormal and criminal psychology was fascinating. After graduation, one of my professors was kind enough to put in a good word for me when I applied for a newly created position with the Dallas Police Department in their Crimes against Persons division.

Everything seemed like it was going exactly the way I wanted it to. Then came the wakeup call. Sergeant Brian Grant seemed none too pleased to have to clean out the storage room to make an office for me, and the rest of the officers in the division followed his lead. Oh, they were polite, most of the time, but I was definitely the outsider. I pretty much stayed in my office unless I absolutely had to leave, and I did the requisite evaluations and paperwork, but it was hard. There was a sinking feeling in my stomach that followed me home in the evening and I started wondering how it could be so different than I thought it would be.

I guess I seemed pretty down. Gradually, Sgt. Grant started asking me to go with him more often when he went into the field. I found that I really liked being able to visit the crime scenes and be present when they interviewed witnesses. Sometimes I even noticed things in the witness’s body language or facial expressions that the officers didn’t notice and was able to help them interpret information that was important to solving the case. Finally, a reason to be there!

There’s still so much that I don’t know, but over the last year, I’ve become acquainted with most of the guys and we’re friendly. Each new case is eye-opening and I still get that butterfly feeling in my stomach when the tension rises. I know that each decision can be life-threatening or life-saving. That’s a lot of pressure. But I’m up for it. I’ll be the best criminal psychologist I can be.

“Listen up! We’ve got a DB out on I-20. Shari, you coming?”

Would you like to know more about Shari and her new job? Angel Killer is just the beginning…

Experimenting

So, since I’ve heard so much from friends and clients about making good use of KDP Select and free days, I thought I’d step out and try it and see what happened. Wow!

I offered Shadow in the Pines free October 3 – 4 and posted it on about 20 sites that let you advertise free books, then I did the same for Private Spies on October 10 – 11. Shadow in the Pines had a total of 254 free downloads and sold 1 copy the day they went back to the original $2.99 price. Not a huge response and seemed in keeping with so much of what I’ve heard indicating the KDP free ride is pretty much over.

But hold on. I didn’t check the numbers of Private Spies the first day, but checked the morning of October 11 and was stunned to find that more than 2500 people had downloaded a free copy. Shocking! I checked in the afternoon to find that the number was now over 6000! The morning of October 12 after the price had gone back to $2.99, I found a total of over 9500 free books were downloaded and 52 had been purchased at regular price. Of course 52 is a long way from my target of selling 1000 or more copies a month, but hey, it’s nothing to sneeze at!

We’ll see how things go over the next few days. Meanwhile I’m busy writing a few guest blog articles I’ve promised to folks for November, doing first edits for the next Shari Markham mystery (any beta readers out there?) and about half way through with Jesse Morgan’s next adventure. I love what I do and am almost giddy with the idea that there are readers out there who love these characters like I do! Let me hear from you!

What if?

You know what I love about writing? It takes me back to the time I was a child and my days – especially summer days – were limited only by my imagination. I lived in a world of What If and could be and do anything I wanted to.

My best buds were a trio of brothers who lived in the house on the corner. Their names were Bobby and Kevin and Sammy Tally. I haven’t seen them again since I was seven but I hope they’re well and conquering every pirate they run across.

We lived in a little tract of cookie cutter houses. Ours happened to be just across the street from John Ross Elementary School. Those were the days when there were no video games, not even color TV. Kids played outside all day till supper time and we were expected to stay within view of our homes so our mothers could periodically stick their heads out the door and see that we were okay.

Boys Playing Near CreekFortunately for us, there was ready made playground right there on the side of the school, monkey bars and all. But did we play there? Hardly ever. Because there was also a drainage ditch that ran the entire length of the school right by the street. There we got together and every day was a new What If. We became pilgrims who’d had the worst of times on the high seas but finally made it to try (or actually somewhat soggy) ground.

When that grew old, we followed the “river” (which was really about 12 – 15 inches wide and no more than 4 – 5 inches deep) to Africa where we fought and daryl-stickcaptured all sorts of scary beasts. Of course they were really crawdads and occasion slugs and things, but they were kind of scary. As long as the water was murky, we knew there might be crocodiles. Those were the days when it was okay to have toy guns and a stick was as good as a sword.

Or the river might take us to Ireland, home of my Grandpa Jackson’s ancestors, or Scottland, where Grandmother MacCormick was ghostmrchickenfrom. Or to see the Tally’s grandparents in Spain. It was like a ready-made portal to anywhere. As I recall, one day we even followed the river in search of the murderer that was in The Ghost and Mr. Chicken. Remember we were kids and we’d just seen that deliciously scary movie at the drive-in. That was a source of What Ifs for many days to come.

So when I sit down at my computer and pull up a blank page, if I don’t know what to write, all I really have to do is wonder What If?

How about you?

To change or not to change a series character

evil-days-hpI love series characters. They’re like friends you haven’t seen in a while and can’t wait to catch up with. And now that my own books are coming out in print, I’m starting to see them a little differently. Rather than just letting them take their courses as I write them, I’m giving a little more thought to the process of how they evolve. It’s interesting.

I’ve read series characters most of my life and still tend to favor a good series over a standalone novel. But not every series is a good series and that raises a flag for me. I write two series and I want readers to consider both of them good.

One character that I find engaging is fairly new to me – Clare Fergusson, the protagonist in Julia Spencer-Fleming’s series. She was different from the outset and that intrigued me, and I especially like the examination of her conflict in the on-off love relationship with married Russ van Alstyne and her clergy position. Julia does an excellent job of balancing the two without sacrificing realism. I understand that the next book will have Clare taking that step into a milestone moment. We all have them throughout our lives, but they’re not always so clearly defined – those events that we face that irrevocably change us. Whether chosen or not, sometimes we cross lines that can’t be uncrossed. That’s a real challenge for a writer and must be handled carefully.

For instance, one of my favorite characters is Stephanie Plum, Janet Evanovich’s brainchild. I love the Plum novels and they offer great comic relief. We don’t 19coverharddelve too deeply into Stephanie’s psyche, we just go along for the ride. However, after a while (how many books?) the back and forth between Ranger and Morelli gets a little tired and finally, one day, Stephanie crossed that line with Ranger and can never go back. It all happened so fast, if you blink you might’ve missed it and we’re back to the status quo (is she with Morelli this book or not?). Almost. But loyal fans know, somewhere in the back of their minds, that she did the deed. Can we ever really look at her the same way again? Do we really believe if Ranger is, well…Ranger, that she’s still not sure what she wants? She didn’t lose me. I’ll still buy number 20. And 21. And whatever. But I don’t feel quite the same anticipation for the release date I used to feel.

fantasy-in-death-by-j-d-robb1Another character I find fascinating is J.D. Robb’s Eve Dallas. I would love to have been a fly on Robb’s office wall when she was writing those first couple of books. Where did she see them going? Her prolific output aside (and yes, I know all the arguments but I’m not going there), Eve is consistent, and yet there is growth. You don’t realize it with the volume, but go back to one of those first books when Eve and Roarke aren’t married yet. There’s change. And yet, you can read 10 or 11 books in sequence and only cover a year in time with little notable change in Eve, Roarke, or Somerset. But wait, there is change, you just find it in Peabody, and McNab, in Mavis and the birth of little Bella. Only Eve, Roarke and Somerset seem to stay the same.  It’s food for thought.

I also love the character of Alex Cross, although author James Patterson isn’t that popular among the writing crowd. I appreciate the way we seem to start at the beginning and see Alex experience Maria’s death. He moves on of necessity but clambers his way from one relationship to kill alex crossanother, trying to be there for his children and Nana Mama. When he finds Christine, we think maybe he’s found true love, but over the next several books we see him transverse an emotional (and sometimes physical) obstacle course. Even the “after Christine” episodes ring painfully true as he fights for custody of little Ali and the horrors that populate his job. I find it interesting (and perhaps telling about myself) that while I was bedridden several years ago, I went back to the beginning of the series and read through it again. With all the hideous crimes and emotional angst, it was still a vacation for me, of sorts. Again, like visiting old friends (which is considerably easier when you know how it will end) and taking a break from your own life.

takenMy favorite characters of all time, at least for now, would have to be Elvis Cole and Joe Pike as presented by Robert Crais. They’ve definitely influenced my writing and my approach to character construction, for which I’m eternally grateful. Cole has experienced a myriad of changes from beginning to end, but is still in many ways the same.

I hope I take enough from these and others to help me create characters in Shari Markham and Jesse Morgan that will be appealing enough for readers to want to see what happens next. I hope they’ll save my books and re-read them as time goes by.

What characters have most influenced you? What do you like and not like to see as far as character growth goes?