Writing for the present

Hey everyone,

When I set out to write The Found Child, I wanted to make it current. As in 2020, as in the fall of 2020. I wanted Shelby’s story to come full circle, and wanted that moment to be in September and October of 2020.

The first version of this book on my computer is dated October 2018. And that’s just because I bought a new computer and moved everything over. I’m pretty sure I started it long before that, way back in the dark ages when I finished The Stork. That would have been in 2017! So it’s been a long haul.

One of the problems with making a book current is current events. For a story to be truly rooted in the present, the author has to deal with what’s going on in the world around her, whether that be an election cycle, current events, devastating weather, and/or a pandemic!

I thought the first draft of The Found Child was coming to a close back in March. In the beginning of the month, I was editing, rewriting, moving chunks around, rethinking some of the plot. Then, the pandemic hit. I was stumped. Should I rewrite the book, change the year, and place the story in 2019? It wouldn’t have been easy–there’s a lot in the book, subtle, but there, about Sheby’s age, from when she earned her P.I. license to when she moved her office to when she got married. And it’s not just her age, but the age of her spouse, her nieces and nephew, her brother, her mentor, and the adopted twins. It was complicated and had to fit with the previous two books in the series. So, after parsing it out, I decided it would be easier to add Covid in, rather than rework the timeframe.

At first, as I was trying to put into writing what I was seeing around me, I was stumped. Should Shelby and her intern Lucy wear masks in their office? How could I handle the pivotal scene at the beginning of the book, in the boxing gym? How to manage all the interactions that a professional running her own business would have on a daily basis? What about school for her nieces and nephew? Would Shelby go to a restaurant? Or get on a plane to Vegas? And what would it be like to move into a new place back in March, before we had an idea of how Covid would play out in our community?

As Covid wore on, I was able to relax into it and weave in masks and social distancing and hand sanitizer and family bubbles. I submitted the manuscript on August 10. Then, on August 16th, the CZU Lightning Complex Fire tore through our county, requiring another re-think. It was too late now to go back, and take out Covid, in order to change the timeframe. So I wove in the fire.

I created a complete timeline that laid out, down to the day, where Shelby would be. And I realized that because I’d started the book in the second week of September, 2020, I could keep it as it was. Shelby and her roommate, Erica, would have been forced to evacuate based on their location, but with a little creative license, I was able to keep using that location. Whew. Of course, I had to reclaim the book from the publisher and do another editing pass, planting references to the fire. I do hope that Covid and the fires will be distant memories at some point. And I hope it will be fun to read about them five years from now!

As an aside, my paperbacks and hardcover copies arrived today. My reward for all those edits.

Until next time,


Manuscript to Book

Hey everyone,

First of all thank you to my followers and also to the several new followers I’ve just seen this past week. I’m pleased that you’ve found my tiny blog!

I had great plans at the beginning of the summer to blog more actively, post some more book reviews (which I love doing), and be more active on social media. But, life got in the way. I spent much of the summer finishing, polishing, and rewriting my manuscript for the third installment of Shelby’s story. I had to submit it to my publisher, Paper Angel Press, by mid-August. I made it! But then, quite frankly, I was too wiped out to think of blogging.

Add to that the fires in my area of California, and life just took over. The impact of the fires has been staggering and my heart goes out to all those who have lost their homes. Many, many people have been displaced in our area. In addition, people who can go back home return to compromised water, no electricity, and record-high temperatures. And fire season has just started.

But now, the third book in the Shelby McDougall series, The Found Child, is on its way from being a Google Docs manuscript to being a real, live book. I just received some cover designs which I love. Hard to choose! I have also received a production proof copy, so I have my work cut out for me for the next week or two.

Very exciting!

More soon,


A Few Updates

Hi everyone,

Three updates from me today! Before I start, I just want to say that I hope everyone is staying safe these days.

First, I wanted to let you know that The Stork is available as this week’s special deal in the Concellation 202 Dealers Room (https://bit.ly/2B72XLk). Get it for only 99 cents! Thank you to Steven Radecki of Paper Angel Press for setting this up.

And second, I’m in the final chapters of The Found Child. The end is in sight. I’ve received great feedback from my beta readers and am working on including their suggestions, which included a re-write of the ending. So I’m working on that. Once that’s done (today/tomorrow?!), I’ll go back through the manuscript at least a dozen times I’m sure, to catch thorny plot problems and issues. And then read and re-read for continuity and typos.

And finally, I was so thrilled to open the OverDrive app, where I now get most of my library books, and see Due Date and The Stork show up as new additions. After the Santa Cruz Women of Mystery Zoom Forward event a few weeks ago, the Santa Cruz Public Library Acquisitions Librarian contacted those of us who read to make sure she had all our books, in all available formats. So exciting! If you’re local, you can check out my books from the library. Or, you can also get them on OverDrive. Wow, made my day!


Until next time,


Thoughts on a new year

Hey everyone,

Well, we’re six days in to 2020 and I’m happy to greet a new decade and a new year with optimism and good cheer. I’m looking forward to 2020! 2019 was a challenging year for a variety of reasons, one of which was getting stuck on figuring out Shelby’s third and final story.  I knew where I wanted to go with it, and I knew how I wanted to start and end it, but getting from point A to point B was not always clear or straightforward.

I was able to work out some plot problems over the holidays, and feel like I can now see the full story arc and see how Shelby grows and changes in this third book. She’s a strong character, to be sure, but in this book, she matures and starts exploring her spiritual side. Thanks to staying on track with NaNoWriMo, I was able to finish a first draft of the manuscript by mid-December, and am now ready to tackle the next go-round.

I happy that my publisher, Paper Angel Press, will be starting up a virtual writers group to keep me on track. I also attend the local Shut Up & Write meetup, which is a fantastic way to stay accountable and meet some amazing people as well. I attend when I can, once or twice a week, and have made friends and been inspired.

Happy writing and reading in 2020!