Pizza and… the SUPER BOWL!

This weekend’s Pizza Toppings at Corner Pizza:

  • Chicken
  • Bacon
  • Ham


That’s right – no movie this weekend! 😦

We planned to go see The Revenant, and we still do. But since the showtime at our favorite theater was a bit early, we decided to relax and enjoy our “meat-lovers” pizza instead.*  We won’t be eating pizza this evening while watching the Panthers and the Broncos (Carolina vs. Denver, in Super Bowl L – “50”). But since tomorrow is my husband’s birthday, we’ll have sandwiches, chips, and cake.

I can’t wait to watch the game (and the commercials!), and no matter who wins, I hope it’s a good one. In honor of it, here’s an (amusing) short excerpt of an article about it that we discussed in my French conversation class this week. I’ll quote this (simple) explanation of the game in French, and then give you the English translation, even though you can probably figure it out, with so many vrais amis (similar words). Words in parentheses are included for extra clarification:

“Sur un terrain de près de 91 mètres sur 49, deux équipes de 11 joueurs se disputent et galopent derrière un ballon ovale. Celui-ci est flanqué d’un lacet de fermeture, qui permet aux joueurs de lui donner un mouvement rotatif indispensable pour stabiliser sa trajectoire…”

“On a field of about 91 by 49 meters [100 by 53 yards], 2 teams of 11 players battle (contend, argue, dispute) and gallop (dash) behind an oval ball. The ball is locked/held together by a (shoe)lace, which permits the players to give it an indispensable rotating (rotary) movement, to stabilize its flight path (trajectory)…”


*Meat-lover’s, since Lent begins on Wednesday. So, for the next 6 weeks, we’ll be eating vegetarian pizzas on Fridays.



List Post, nouvelle année (2015)

  • Almost finished UN-decorating the house for the holiday season
  • Writing back on schedule, after more than two weeks when I couldn’t remember what day of the week it was
  • Several signed copies of UNDERWATER are available for purchase at Dunwoody Bakery, open Wednesdays through Saturdays
  • Looking forward to my “Member Minute” talk at the Atlanta Writers Club meeting on January 17, 2015 at 1:30 pm, at Georgia Perimeter College
  • On the horizon: My appearance at the Augusta Literary Festival on March 6-7. Looking forward to attending, meeting readers and signing books
  • Planning the release of my work of creative nonfiction, titled ALL THE ABOVE this spring
  • Resolving to step up my exercise routine this year
  • Cheering for the Cowboys and the Seahawks during the NFL playoffs
  • Happy that I’m traveling to Chapel Hill, NC in April and in May
  • Glad to share family news with close friends and family

ee605e7f-224b-44f4-a1a5-f0184e945720Photo courtesy of Alliance Française d’Atlanta

List Post, Numéro Trois (de novembre)

  • Polishing my presentation for my Author Focus panel at Bouchercon 2014 this Saturday, November 15 at 12 noon (Harbor B)
  • Anticipating Release Date of UNDERWATER, just two weeks from now, on November 25, 2014!
  • Downloaded the Bcon app on my phone; je suis prête! (I’m ready! Thanks for suggesting I look, Jim!)
  • One (print) signed book purchased last week: Truth Be Told, the latest from fellow Sister in Crime and Bouchercon 2014 attendee Hank Phillippi Ryan, whom I met here in Atlanta at the MJCCA Book Festival
  • Revision/Plot sharpening: After a decision to trim and sharpen the plot (while paying attention to pacing), WIP now at 24k words…If I write 1,000 words a (work)day between now and the end of December, I’ll meet my goal of 50k by year end (which will be more than halfway done)
  • Caught up with and heard her thoughts on the attributes of good audio books on Saturday evening, over a glass of wine with a good friend
  • Wish I could be in two places at once: This weekend is UNC Homecoming (my husband’s college roommate is rumored to be attending), and this Thursday night is the UNC Relay For Life Gala*
  • Noticed Goodreads Giveaway of UNDERWATER – It began on October 28 and ends on Release Date, November 25! Get on goodreads and register to win one of 20 copies! 
  • Enjoyed a lunch out with mon prof et mes amies du cours : Just after I got a makeover, we met for class in Madame’s atelier and then had a French déjeuner at un restaurant français
  • It was a good football weekend: the Falcons and the Dawgs won! Let’s make that a trend!

* To which I donated print and audio versions of UNDERWATER, pre-release!

Ecoutez! (Listen!)

photo 6 9.09.25 AM

photo 5 9.09.35 AM

Ceci et cela (This and That): List Post

  • Recently received: 2 handwritten thank-you notes in the mail. One from France, one from Dunwoody, GA
  • The one from France written en anglais, avec une photo; the other, from une amie de longue date (old friend)
  • Writing research: Found (long) paragraph in THE BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES describing how Sherman McCoy is “going broke on a million dollars a year!” (Chapter 6, p 137)
  • Missed her: mom’s neighbor, “Z” (with whom I practice français de temps en temps) home from France where she was for the summer, but already on her way back there for a week
  • Stacking up: Books to read, on my nightstand (see my Goodreads “to read” list)
  • Falling: Temperatures…and time to enjoy the patio le soir
  • Tried it: Zumba! Toning. A break from spinning class…Fun! but hard on knees.
  • Writing: between now and Thanksgiving: 50K words in WIP? (that’s just 5K a week)
  • Planning: My (solo) 20 minute Author Focus panel at Bouchercon 2014 in Long Beach, CA, le 15 novembre à midi
  • sprechen Sie Deutsch? Amazon Crossing of Amazon Publishing is translating UNDERWATER into German! Release date sometime next spring.
  • Organisez! My notes for Book 4 (WIP) and my French notes!
  • Traveling: Not me (until November), but those I know, to the Bahamas, Rosemary Beach (FL), Folly Beach (SC), Turks & Caicos, Martinique, Las Vegas, Australia, Fiji, Prague, The Dordogne (France), Paris…Of those, I’ve only been to Vegas and Paris
  • Preparing: Book 3, ALL THE ABOVE, a true story, for publication in early 2015 (probably February). It’s been edited, but needs a cover. Can keep some quotes of song titles in it, but not song lyrics 😦
  • Finally….watching: Football! UGA Bulldogs, UNC Tar Heels and Atlanta Falcons!

photo 7

New publishing contract for UNDERWATER!

A lot has happened since April 7, 2014.

One evening, about a week after my blog post titled Playing to Win – quoting Seahawks QB Russell Wilson, who led his team to win Super Bowl XLVIII (“Why not you, Russ?”) – I received a Facebook message from Anh Schluep, Senior Acquisitions Editor at Amazon Publishing in Seattle. She had read UNDERWATER and enjoyed it: “What a thrill ride!”

She wanted to talk about acquiring it for the Amazon imprint Thomas & Mercer (which publishes Mystery, Thriller and Suspense) and putting their forces to work to give it “the chance to reach more readers.”

This happened right before my husband and I were scheduled to fly to Austin, Texas to attend a nephew’s wedding, then to Napa Valley for the week. I love getting Facebook messages, and this was a very intriguing one. So, I spent half the night awake doing research, responded to Anh (pronounced “On”) the next morning, and we scheduled a conference call for the day before my travels began.

Then, in football terms, it was time for me to revisit the Playbook.

Three weeks later, after a lot of discussion with Amazon, my lawyer’s counsel, and some great California wine, the contract has been signed. Tentative release date for the new edition of UNDERWATER with Thomas & Mercer is November 2014!

Now, I don’t know if Anh (or anyone at Amazon Publishing) is a fan of Russell Wilson, or if they read my April 7 post, but serendipity comes to mind.

“Why not you, Russ Julie?”







Playing to win

“I remember my dad asking me one time, and it’s something that has always stuck with me: ‘Why not you, Russ?’ You know, why not me? Why not me in the Super Bowl? So in speaking to our football team earlier in the year, I said, ‘Why not us? Why can’t we be there?'”
– 2014 Super Bowl Champion QB Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks

Football has been over for weeks, and college basketball – March Madness – ends tonight. The Tar Heels didn’t make it past the Third Round, but after a phenomenal regular season victory against rival Duke in UNC’s Dean Dome, it almost didn’t matter…especially since Duke was eliminated in the Second Round.

photo 2

UNC students in downtown Chapel Hill, celebrating the victory over Duke on February 20, 2014

[Other than wanting UNC to beat them in basketball, I’m fine with Duke; the book I’ve been writing for almost a year now is partially set in Durham.]

Over the last several months (the coldest October through March in over a century, I read), I’ve been busy writing it, and I hope to finish it soon. The hardest part was the middle, which I was working on during the NFL playoffs (and while Atlanta got zapped with at least three bouts of freezing temperatures and/or snow and ice).

Lately though, I’ve been on kind of a writing roll, and I’m nearing the end. But it won’t be done then; working with my editor (and doing revisions) is next. There’s a lot more to do, too, the most fun of which will be to select a cover. Meanwhile, I’ve got the conflicts and characters identified for Book 4 (a suspense novel) and I can’t wait to get started on it.

So – what does any of that have to do with football, or with Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson?

In a word: inspiration.

Autrefois, I didn’t like or even understand football. Now, I miss it a ton, and I can’t wait to watch the Falcons play this fall. I watched this year’s Super Bowl, enjoyed the game – and was inspired by the story (and words) of the Seattle quarterback.

Here’s someone who’s worked hard, who might have been considered an underdog, but who didn’t take No for an answer. I’m taking a cue from his words. Why not me?

Why not write fiction (and creative non-fiction)? Why not work full time on my books? Why not be committed to learn, and keep trying to improve my writing? Why not produce the best stories I can, and tell others about them?

Why not go for it?

“Why not you, Russ?”


Keeping it simple

One of my family’s favorite sayings* is just one word, and it comes from the movie We Are Marshall: 


Unlike the movie It’s Complicated,** simplify is not just a sentence, but a verb (and often, a solution). When we repeat that line, it’s obligatoire to speak slowly and adopt a southern accent. And when I worked on the final edit of my latest novel, UNDERWATER, I tried to simplify: I cut some (unnecessary) backstory, clarified the timeline, and streamlined the plot.


But – très important – I also added some depth.

It wasn’t a simple process. It took a lot of reflection, and some trial and error. It’s part of the work of a work-in-progress that can be difficult, for me. But it’s worth it – ça vaut la peine. 

So, under the surface, there were some currents of struggle. For a few days, I resisted diving into the edit. Just like when I go to the pool, I had to test the water – with my toes. I fixed the easy stuff first, then broke my editor’s feedback down into managable tasks. I stayed in the shallow end of the pool for a few days. Then I started swimming, and soon – happily, and mercifully – I got into a rhythm.

[That rhythm thing must be what football players experience when they drive down the field – when they’re “in the zone.”]

Since publication, I’ve gotten some good reviews (Yay!) and many compliments from readers. I’ve also answered many questions, trying not to reveal too much. Lots of people have told me that the ending took them by surprise, and that the story was not a predictable one. Some have asked how I came to know about some of the specifics and story details, and write about them. Others have been intrigued by the novel’s theme, and how I developed the plot.

Was it a simple process? Mais non. But when I was treading water in the writing, when I was sinking into the mind of the villain, and when I plunged into the final edit, I remembered one thing above all:


* Here are some other family sayings taken from movie lines (guess which):
1. “I’ve made my decision. Pull the plug!”
2. “Who ya gonna call?”
3. “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.”
4. “What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate.”
** We also like the “It’s Not Complicated” commercials, with those adorable first graders answering simple questions…

7 ways Football helps (me) avoid Writer’s Block

The Super Bowl is hours away, and although my beloved Atlanta Falcons aren’t in it (despite coming pretty close, after a FANTASTIC season), I can’t wait to watch le match (and, of course, les publicités – the ads). I haven’t decided whether I want the Ravens or the 49ers to win, and I’m sure both teams have been working very hard – physically and mentally – to prepare. I was also working hard – mentally – last week, adding over 3,000 words (about 12 pages), to my work-in-progress, a Suspense novel.


Writing a novel is nothing like playing football, but there are certain parallels. For example, as a writer, there are times when you might get stuck  not know what to write next  wonder if you should just toss the whole thing out  experience writer’s block. In football, I imagine, there are times when you aren’t sure what to do next  can’t get into the end zone  want to give up  are so far behind, coming back seems impossible.

I started to understand love the game of football about the same time I started writing my Romance novel, MAKE THAT DEUX. Though sometimes I’ve struggled to keep going as a writer, I don’t believe in writer’s block. At least, I try my best to avoid it. I think what I’ve learned about football has helped.

But before I tell you why, a (necessary) backstory. About a week ago, my husband and I were guests at a “hands-on” dinner party: The kind where each couple has gets to help with the cooking. As the evening began, five couples sat at the table drinking wine while Professional Chef Rosemary described the recipes and the process ahead. Each couple would choose a dish to prepare, and with the help of an assistant chef (and pre-measured ingredients), create a contribution to the meal.

Mon mari, being a wonderful cook and très intelligent, listened carefully. When the signal was given, he bolted over to the dessert station, pulling me along with whispered assurances that it would be the easiest dish. He also explained that it had the extra benefit of allowing the two of us time to relax and have another glass of vin while our his creation*  was in the oven.


Initially, I helped hovered stressfully around him, and soon our assistant realized it was him that she would be teaching  guiding standing by to watch. As they were discussing the pros and cons of metal versus plastic lemon juicers (she liked plastic), I slipped away. Relieved of duty, I hung out closeby, talking to the other husbands as their wives stirred and sautéed.

photo copy

The metal lemon juicer we have à la maison

We talked a little about football, and then one of the men told the others I was an author and had published a novel. We chatted about my book and then about the one I’m currently working on. When dinner was ready, we all sat down together to a delicious meal.

Afterward, I was asked to speak to the group for a few minutes about writing and answer some questions. One person said he would like to write a book too, and asked me how I overcome writer’s block. I said that if when I come to a point where I can’t continue a project, I work on something else: research, a blog post, marketing MAKE THAT DEUX, or just rereading (and revising) what I’ve written. Then, after a time (hopefully short), I know exactly what comes next in my novel.

Which brings me to football, and my list of ways that it helps me avoid writer’s block:

1. The objective is to advance the ball (or story). Sometimes you don’t get it very far, but if you can just keep making first downs, you’ll get there – and you don’t have to make a first down on every play. But if you give up, or if you’re three-and-out, you’ll have to punt. Not fun.

2. If you’re confused, take a time-out. Then get your head together and come back with a plan.

3. Be open to changing your strategy. Be flexible. What you thought would work may not. If something you’re doing doesn’t help advance the  ball  story, change it. There’s no reason to hold on to a plan that won’t work.

4. You have to work hard, and you can’t let up. You have to work at it, every day (and every play). Well, almost every day. You need some rest days.

5. Be ready to take advantage of opportunities. The unanticipated can happen. When it does, you have to be ready. If you work hard (see #4), you will be.

6. Be patient. Serendipity will find you. Sometimes you get an unexpected break. If you fumble, pick yourself up and keep trying.

7. Never lose sight of the goal. You want to succeed, no matter what is thrown at you (or away from you). Keep working, and it will happen. “Never, never, never give up!”

Go Falcons!

* “Gingerbread with Lemon Curd Cream” – it tasted much better than it sounds!

Le football américain, and good calls

“Je sais que tu adores ce sport…”

        — mon prof de français

Football. Fundamentally, I don’t think it’s changed all that much. But many of the rules have changed over time, adapting to better technology, increased risks and just smarter ways to play the game. Two other ingredients of what makes up the NFL have also changed, in my girl-opinion: uniforms, and the players’ personal styles. I’m not sure they’re better, but let’s just say I’ve noticed.

But what makes up a good call (and a bad one)  by the referees —  les arbitreshasn’t changed, no matter how much experience they lack have.

The Falcons are my team, and they’re undefeated right now. They’ve got a great quarterback, a talented offense and a strong defense. There are other good teams in the league, including the Green Bay Packers. I’m not really a Packers fan, and I was asleep last Monday night when the controversial touchdown call was made that resulted in a win for the opposing team. But like many other people, I watched the replay and I couldn’t believe the call. So on Thursday, I was ecstatic when the real experienced refs were back.

Yesterday, in an incredible match de foot between Atlanta and the Carolina Panthers, the Falcons won by two points after a final minute of terrific plays. Another close game followed: Green Bay against New Orleans. That game wasn’t without controversial calls, but despite that, the Packers won by a point.


I just don’t think I could have handled them not winning again. I should probably like the Saints, I guess, with their French heritage and fleur de lis, but I just don’t — with their issues.

But hey, that could change.

I’ve changed about football. Mistakenly, I used to think (and I’m embarrassed to admit) that it was just a bunch of guys knocking each other down. But because:

1. a son of mine played it in high school

2. being a reader, I read How Football Explains America by Sal Paolantonio, The Blind Side by Michael Lewis and saw the movie (and because of Michael Oher, I love the Ravens)

3. and, we got a high-definition big-screen TV

my football conversion was born. I learned the rules and started to understand the game: Runners dodge, carry, break tackles and get yards. Passes are thrown and caught, sometimes by the opposing team. Kickers kick — and they have to do it well. Players protect the quarterback, who fakes, hands off or passes to a receiver. I’ve learned (most of) the penalty calls, though I still don’t always get what “holding” is, why “illegal motion” is bad and why we can’t have “forward laterals,” at least, occasionally.

Just kidding. I don’t really like any lateral passes.

Anything can happen in football, as the last sixty seconds of the Falcons-Panthers game demonstrated yesterday. In my view, each play is an un-choreographed dance (though I’m sure the coaches and players would say each one is quite well choreographed). But the truth is, it’s unpredictable.

Unfortunately, there’s no football in my novel (coming soon), but there is a very important hockey game. The French don’t have le foot, and I think they’re missing out.

Since I think they just might adore it. That would be a good call, n’est-ce pas?

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