New Way of Thinking

New Year, New Way of Thinking

I’ve been thinking about New Year’s Resolutions this week. Making them is ingrained in us, isn’t it? New year, new leaf, fresh start and all that. This year will be different! Everything is new and shiny!

Okay, confession: I only made a couple of vague resolutions. You know, “I’ll finish that online course I started, cough, cough, last year” ones.

So many people swear they’re going to change, to start doing the good for you stuff. Go to the gym. Eat healthier. And writers? This is the year you’re finally going to finish that, fill in the blank. Novel screenplay, memoir. You hear echoes of “work hard” and “sacrifice” and, if you really want it…

Why do our expressions for going after what we want to pursue—our goals, for heaven’s sake—come across as something negative? Why do we make them about things we clearly don’t want to do?

And what happens? Here we are, barely three weeks into January and mine are already headed for that big dump station in the sky.  

Then I stumbled across a post by Jennifer Crusie.

Jenny is a fantastic teacher. I met her several years ago when she taught a masterclass at the beach. I think my head exploded, I learned so much that week. So, when she says something, I tend to listen and think about it.

Her proposal is instead of choosing tasks that you know you aren’t going to carry through, focus on what makes you happy. Won’t that be a better way to appreciate the good things in life? 

I’ve been thinking about happiness this week (instead of that class I’m not listening to). What makes me happy?

I love to travel, so I took advantage of Alaska Air’s sale and booked a few flights. And art. I’ve been playing with my kiln and fused glass for a while, but those pencils and watercolors are calling. There’s a shiny new book I want to write and this may be the year to screw up my courage and tackle the book that nearly made me quit writing.

So, what about you? How are your resolutions going? Did you make any?

Or would you rather jump on board my Happiness Train?

Happiness Train

Image courtesy of Gross National Happiness USA organization. Find them here.


Follow Your Bliss

“Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors for you
where there were only walls.” Joseph Campbell

I’ve been trying to finish an amateur sleuth mystery (the next Holly Price story) but another story keeps nagging at me. It’s one I’ve picked up and put down about a dozen times; changed the focus; the motivation; everything except the central characters and the theme.

I’m not sure why that book keeps pulling me back. Maybe it comes from the idea that each one of us has something special to contribute—maybe work we feel compelled to do. By doing it, we feel fulfilled and enrich the world. Joseph Campbell talks about finding your own path (“If you can see your path laid out in front of you step by step, you know it’s not your path. Your own path you make with every step you take. That’s why it’s your path.”).

Woman finding bliss at the oceanHow do you find that path? Some refer to it as following your bliss. Others say, find your heart’s passion.

But is that passion the broader goal or a kernel that embodies it?

For many of us on this blog, our passion is writing. Taking intuitions, snippets, dreams and moments of pure fantasy imagination. Adding overheard conversations, glimpses of a vignette as we pass by. Grabbing that nebulous possibility, and shaping and turning into a polished story. Is writing the passion we want to share with the world? Or is it a particular theme or story that we feel we have to tell to reach that bliss?

I really have no idea, so I keep putting one foot in front of the other and step-by-step find my path.

Right now, that path is strolling along with a forensic accountant who’s trying to find her own path through life… You might hear a bit more about her later. But as much fun as the amateur sleuth story is to write, that other story is still there, a siren song.

Even if we take the steps to become an author, maybe we chose a certain path because we fear the stories we want to write won’t sell. We love chic lit or romantic mysteries or literary stories where the characters rule and the words flow to a different rhythm, but we read online, hear from editors, agents, creative writing texts that D, all the above are passé. We’re tempted to follow trends rather than listen to the story inside us. I think most of us have cleared that hurdle, but the doubt is always there–should I have chosen a different path?

Overall, I’m happy with my path to “here.” Sure, there have been highs and lows, joys and regrets. I’m happy our paths crossed, here on the blog, at various publishers, conferences, or any of the other places we’ve connected. I hope my passion for writing lives on and that I can share my joy and make a small corner of the worlds a better place.

And in the meanwhile, I think my other story is still growing—or growing up—quietly evolving in my subconscious. I have many books still to write.

But I suspect “that story” will one day be the one I have to tell.

What about you?

 “As you go the way of life,

You will see a great chasm. Jump.

It is not as wide as you think.” 

― Joseph Campbell


Cross posted to my group blog – The Stiletto Gang


When Writers Travel

Who else loves to travel?

We just returned from Southeast Asia. I’m not sure if this was a bucket list trip or simply an area of the world we were curious about. Both my husband and I were too young for what we call the Vietnam War, but I remember the protests and the horrors of the war shown on the nightly news. Soldiers being spit on and called “Baby Killers.” The MIA bracelets. Four Dead in Ohio. (My blogmate’s books are set in the era, by the way.) The guys in the deli where I worked during college with their bravissimo: “I was stoned the whole time,” and our church youth advisor, a then, newly-minted lieutenant, who would not talk about his time in Vietnam. My brother-in-law, a medic during the war, who also does not discuss his experiences there.

I could go on, but I think you get the drift. Or maybe you remember.

Then there’s Cambodia. A close friend’s daughter served there with the Peace Corp and kept me intrigued with a running series of Facebook posts. And who isn’t moved by the atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge?

So we went.

And we loved Saigon.

The locals call District 1, which is the old town, “Saigon” while the sprawling city is referred to as Ho Chi Min City. There’s energy and optimism, friendly people, and 6 million scooters (mostly being driven by young, texting locals).

One of the things we did was a street food tour – vendors set up, legally or not so much, wherever there’s an open spot of pavement. Hygiene may be optional for some of those vendors. 😉

Our guide for the tour said Saigon is in to “Capitalistic Communism.” They relate to Cuba, consider Russia a socialist country, and think North Korea is a disgrace. By the way, they still don’t like the Chinese, even as China pours investment money into the country, and the French… well…the south doesn’t hate them as much as the north. But you know, we never ran into anyone who openly disliked Americans. Instead they all wanted to practice their English on us.

Go figure.

Although the War Remnants Museum, chronicling the “American War,” was a sobering reminder of what a horrible war this was for both sides.

North to Hanoi

We worked our way north with stops in Hanoi where we checked out the Hanoi Hilton and learned it was a massive torture prison built by the French (see “they hate the French” above, along with the 95 years of French oppression).

Ironically enough, the Vietnamese have huge respect for John McCain and his decision to stay with his men rather than using name and position to bail himself out. (cough, cough, bone spurs.)

But damn, the coffee and cheese were French and amazing.

We found the north more political and less entrepreneurial than the south. Interesting differences in culture.

Then it was on to Halong Bay, which was awe inspiring. Seriously. I thought it would be water, a small bay, with a few of those rock monoliths. A picture may be worth a few words here.


We traveled on, through Cambodia and down the Mekong, back to Vietnam.

So many glimpses of a different lifestyle. A third world country struggling to move ahead. Pride in the remnants of a kingdom in the past. Something beyond tolerance for the religious practices embodied by hundreds of temples. The quiet serenity of sunrise at Angkor Watt.



Terrifying safety issues in manufacturing. Yes, she’s hand feeding reeds into that machine, which snatches them from her fingers and zips the shuttle back across the machine.

Health and hygiene issues that made us cringe and wonder why we obsess over plastic straws.







The sadness of the long-term impact of the Khmer wiping out every person in the country who could read and write and the current struggle of the Cambodians to find their footing.

The search for foreign investment in the face of those struggles. Quiet disdain for the puppet government put in place by the Vietnamese, who also installed 8 million landmines to keep the Khmer out of Vietnam. (There are roughly 4 million mines still hidden in the ground. They pay children $1 for each turned in mine – people also use the explosives to blast fish in ponds, but that’s a separate story – and many bear the missing feet and hands as a sickening reminder of how dangerous those devices are.)

What can a writer learn?

A sensory overload? That iced Vietnamese coffee is wonderful? An appreciation for friends and a zest for life? A sobering realization three generations of Vietnamese live in an area roughly the size of my living room. An appreciation for air conditioning. (I grew up in the South and yeah, Robin Williams had it right. Vietnamese weather? Hot and damn hot.)

Maybe it’s getting outside our own heads for a while. Trying new things. New experiences. Learning about a new-to-me ancient culture. Meeting new friends and recapturing a curiosity about the rest of the world.

Whatever you want to call it, I’m glad I went. And I’m already eyeing another area of the globe…

What the most interesting place you’ve visited lately?


Ready to Double Down?

“Double Down” used to mean a calculated gamble – and maybe it still does. The technique certainly can increase the odds of winning. These days the term can mean anything from a bold decision to an increased resolve to stick to a position. Of course, it can also be a media euphemism with huge political overtones about certain statements, but that’s a different discussion.

What do the words have to do with books?

Lots!  DOUBLE DOWN, a story set in the Holly Price mystery series world, is a recent release.

While this story was fun to write, I have a couple of confessions to make:

People always ask authors where we get our story ideas. Confession #1 – The premise for this story was a given. A group of us challenged each other to write a story where luck changed the protagonist’s life.  Of course, for a mystery writer this means someone is likely to die. That isn’t the life changing event in Double Down.


Characters are as important as the plot in my stories. My heroine, Maddie Larsson, leapt onto the page. The inspiration for Maddie came from a friend’s daughter—a single parent who works in a casino as a blackjack dealer. Maddie’s determination to forge a stable life for herself and her son draws the admiration of one of the casino’s gamblers, attention that changes her life for the better but also threatens to ruin—or end—it.

I wrestled a bit with the male lead character. So many readers wanted to see JC Dimitrak’s side of events (JC is the hero in So About the Money, book 1 in the Holly Price mystery series) I decided to put him in charge of the investigation. Maybe he was a little too charming since my beta readers …well, telling you would be a spoiler.

Confession #2 – I didn’t know anything about gambling. Honestly, I don’t understand the attraction but clearly it’s a popular pastime. Fortunately I had a willing “resource” (aka my friend’s daughter) to teach me the basics and give me insight into the dealers’ world.

Take all that and place your bets – DOUBLE DOWN!

Murder isn’t supposed to be in the cards for blackjack dealer Maddie Larsson. Busted takes on a new meaning when her favorite customer, a former Poker World Tour champion, is murdered. His family claims—loudly and often—Maddie is the gold-digging murderer. She better prove she’s on the level before the real killer cashes in her chips.

If the victim’s body had been dumped five hundred yards up the road, Franklin County Sheriff’s Detective JC Dimitrak wouldn’t have been assigned to the Tom Tom Casino murder case. Instead, he’s hunting for suspects and evidence while dealing with a nemesis from the past and trying to preserve his own future. He better play his cards correctly and find the killer before an innocent woman takes the ultimate hit.

Available at most online vendors.

Amazon       B&N      Kobo      iBooks



When Justice Isn’t Served

I wrote this for our group blog in 2017, but Brock Turner was the first person I thought about when I saw the unbelievably lenient sentence Paul Manafort received. Disparity in sentencing is not justice and is simply wrong.

Original Post

You saw the Times cover for the Person(s) of the Year, right?

Maybe people are starting to hear the voices of women who have for years (and years) been wrestling with sexual harassment and assault.

Maybe it’s not being heard, if the players aren’t high profile in every day life.

Case in point: Did you see that Brock Turner is appealing his conviction?

You remember Brock, right? The Stanford University swimmer convicted of three (count ‘em, three) felonies (which normally carries a sentence of up to fourteen years) who was sentenced to a whopping six months and released after serving only three months in a county jail (instead of prison).


That guy.

In his appeal, Brock claims he didn’t get a fair trial for the following reasons:

1) The defense team, the one Mommy and Daddy paid for (You remember Dad and his infamous reaction: his son should not go to jail or have his life ruined for “20 minutes of action”) didn’t get to put characters witnesses on the stand to say what a great guy he is.

The great guy who found an unconscious woman outside on the ground and instead of calling for help, sexually assaulted her.

What a guy.

2) The prosecutor repeated used the word “Dumpster.” The defense says this “implied moral depravity, callousness, and culpability on the appellant’s part because of the inherent connotations of filth, garbage, detritus and criminal activity frequently generally associated with Dumpsters.”

I suspect the Dumpster makers didn’t appreciate that characterization.

In Brock case, the victim and “Mr. Turner” were found “in a three-sided structure that customarily houses”…wait for it… “a Dumpster.” They were discovered on the open side, facing a darkened basketball court, which by the way is where the prosecutor said the assault occurred. In the open.

Brock – hint – that big green box, the one usually housed in that structure, is called a Dumpster.

And you assaulted a woman in the open area in front of that structure.

3) Brock claims it was consensual sex.

Two graduate students caught him assaulting the UNCONSCIOUS woman and tackled him when he tried to run away.

Really hard to give consent when you’re UNCONSCIOUS.

And those two grad students made really good witnesses for the prosecutor since they caught him in the act.

4) And incredibly (as if the above isn’t already incredulous) 60 pages (yes SIXTY) of the appeal focus on how much the VICTIM drank that night.

‘Cause in Predator Land, it always the victim’s fault.

And you always blame the victim.

Live with it Brock.

Read more

The impact statement (which is incredibly powerful)

His appeal attempt




Focus on the Good Stuff

What can you say about a year that’s a Dog in the Chinese calendar? Whose Pantone color of the year kinda looked like a smushed plum?

Thank goodness 2018’s over?

The year was the pits in too many ways, with too many people focused on the things that divide us rather than looking for common goals, values or ideas. So today, I want to focus on the good stuff.

2018 held wonderful times for my family – a wedding, a new baby, and I chose to retire early from a career I’ve enjoyed for years. All of these are thresholds to new adventures, new stages of life.

I can’t wait to see what 2019 holds – even if it’s the Year of the Pig, because the color is Living Coral.

What about you? What was the best thing that happened during 2018?



Behind the Bodyguard

By Jacki Delecki

In my new military romantic suspense series, The Impossible Mission, Delta Force operatives fight not just for their country but to win the hearts of the women they love. This team is highly trained, and incredibly loyal—as seen in book one, MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE TO RESIST. Aiden Foster takes on a short assignment as a bodyguard to fulfill a promise to a friend. Jordan Dean is nothing like the high-value assets he’s protected before. The beautiful, intelligent researcher ignores his directives, and challenges him in ways he never expected. And, at six foot six, Aiden doesn’t blend in to the background like bodyguards are trained to do.

In book 2 of the series, MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE TO SURRENDER, out on February 21st, Finn Jenkins will do whatever it takes to keep Sophie Dean safe. For Sophie, trusting her best friend Finn as her bodyguard is easy—it’s trusting him with her heart that she’s not so sure about. Whoever thought guarding bodies could prove so difficult?

When writing these books, I did some research on professional bodyguards. Here are five facts that surprised me.

  1. Not all bodyguards are armed. One expert explained that a bodyguard’s best strategy is to remove the person they’re protecting from dangerous situations, not fight off attackers.
  2. is a great source for news about celebrities. Some protection specialists use for information about which celebrities are uncooperative with their bodyguards or who’s having trouble and might be in need of services.
  3. Social media makes their job harder. Celebrities and entertainers can inadvertently expose themselves to risk by sharing personal information that reveals travel schedules, upcoming appearances and details about their routines and private life. Professional bodyguards often monitor clients’ social media accounts to identify and minimize risk.
  4. No glitz and glamour for bodyguards. Protection specialists are often part of a luxury lifestyle, but they are not living that lifestyle. Their job might include international travel on private jets to exotic locations, but they are there to do a job, not enjoy the amenities.
  5. Bodyguard is not their preferred title. Professionals don’t refer to themselves as bodyguards. The preferred term, according to the president and CEO of a company that provides such services, is “executive protection agents.”

I have huge respect for anyone who puts themselves between danger and others, but I’m sticking with “bodyguard.” Executive Protection Agent just doesn’t have the same allure.



Book 1 in the Impossible Mission Series

Available October 18, 2018


Amazon | Nook | iBooks | Kobo | Google Play





Book 2 in the Impossible Mission Series

Available February 21, 2019



Amazon | Nook | iBooks | Kobo | Google Play



About Jacki Delecki

Jacki Delecki is a bestselling romantic suspense author whose stories are filled with heart-pounding adventure, danger, intrigue, and romance. Her books have consistently received rave reviews, and AN INNER FIRE was chosen as an Editor’s Selection by USA Today. Currently, she has three series: the contemporary romantic suspense Impossible Mission, featuring Delta Force operatives; Grayce Walters, contemporary romantic suspense following a Seattle animal acupuncturist with a nose for crime; and the Code Breakers, Regency suspense set against the backdrop of the Napoleonic Wars. Delecki’s stories reflect her lifelong love affair with the arts and history. When not writing, she volunteers for Seattle’s Ballet and Opera Companies, and leads children’s tours of Pike Street Market.





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Copy. Cut. Paste.

Have you heard about the latest scandal rocking RomanceLandia? A woman has been caught lifting sentences, paragraphs, pages from multiple (up to 20 and counting) authors and stringing them together into a new book.

Copy. Cut. Paste.


I thought about this while I walked the dogs and see the following spectrum from the benign to the terrible.

The Same, But Different

How many times have we seen that phrase as to what an agent/publisher wants? It’s why tropes are so popular in RomanceLandia: friends to lovers; secret baby. The mystery world has its own familiar plots. The protagonist who races to save the world before the villain takes over/destroys it. The serial killer; can the hero stop him before he kills again? The small-town heroine who a body and must investigate to remove herself from the prime suspect position.
Shoot, I’m part of a Common Elements Project where we’re all given the same five required elements, and then told Go! 
What makes all of these “work” is each author will tell the story in a different way, with their unique voice.

So, the same…but different.

The Inadvertent

This may be every author’s secret fear. Or maybe it’s just mine.
I read. A lot.
There’s always the concern a story’s clever phrase has tucked away in a memory cell and will reappear in a similar fashion on my page. I can’t point to a particular phrase—if I recognized it, I’d change it—but I fear it could happen. I remember reading—somewhere—that this is more common than expected. Or maybe the point of the article was it happens a lot more than we realize.

But, again, I stress it’s inadvertent.

And the Ugly

Stealing. Deliberately.
Plagiarism hurts authors at a deeper level than the whack-a-mole, steal-a-book in a “free” download sites. Those sites and the people who use them are stealing from authors financially.

Plagiarism takes an author’s soul. Words we’ve sweated over, melded into scenes to convey action, character and theme are casually stolen with no thought to the crafting that underlies them.
And worse, it’s done with full knowledge of the theft.
One of the authors impacted by Serruya is a friend—Courtney Milan. She’s written a post about her experience and her reaction. Because the hurt is so personal, I won’t presume to tell you about it. Instead, I urge you to read her words.

Authors – Have you worried about the inadvertent? Found your work ripped off?
Readers – Have you read something you felt was a little too close to something else you’ve read?

On a completely different note, I put DOUBLE DOWN on sale this week because it’s my birthday and I like to share (legally).

DOUBLE DOWN is the second book in the Holly Price series, written because readers wanted to see events from Detective JC Dimitrak’s perspective.
Murder isn’t supposed to be in the cards for blackjack dealer Maddie Larsson. Busted takes on a new meaning when her favorite customer, a former Poker World Tour champion, is murdered. His family claims—loudly and often—Maddie is the gold-digging murderer. She better prove she’s on the level before the real killer cashes in her chips. 

If the victim’s body had been dumped five hundred yards up the road, Franklin County Sheriff’s Detective JC Dimitrak wouldn’t have been assigned to the Tom Tom Casino murder case. Instead, he’s hunting for suspects and evidence while dealing with a nemesis from the past and trying to preserve his own future. He better play his hand correctly and find the killer before an innocent woman takes the ultimate hit.

Find it here from your favorite store. 

And because I forgot to put it on my calendar, HONOR CODE is also on sale this weekend, with a group promo.

In a small southern town where everyone normally knows each other’s business, veteran detective Larry Robbins must solve the disappearance of eighty-year-old widower, African-American George Beason.


When evidence arises that Beason may have left town on his own, it would be easy for Robbins to close the case, but his gut instinct tells him more’s at stake. As he uncovers clues about Beason’s deceased wife and his estranged daughter, Robbins must untangle conflicting motives and hidden agendas to bring Beason home alive. 

HONOR CODE hit #1 in its category at release. You can pick up a copy here or here.

Happy Reading!


Hiding Your Identity Just Isn’t as Easy as It Used To Be

By Sally Bayless

Hi Everyone!

I’m Sally Bayless and I write contemporary Christian romance. I’m a huge lover of mysteries as well, and for my latest release, Love, Lies, and Homemade Pie, I wanted my heroine to be hiding her past. The more I researched how to do that, the more the story idea gelled with my desire to write a prequel to the other books in my series, which are set in the present day. Let me tell you, hiding your identity was a lot easier in 1980! Here’s the story I came up with:

Love, Lies, and Homemade Pie

When a woman who’s keeping secrets falls for a journalist who’s digging for the truth, does the attraction between them stand a chance?

Cara Smith has a whole new life planned—a new name, a new look, and a new hometown in Abundance, Missouri. If she can just avoid questions from that intriguing guy at the newspaper, no one will ever find out about her past.

Will Hamlin, editor of the local paper, can’t help but wonder about the mayor’s new secretary. She’s clearly hiding something—something that could be the big story the newspaper desperately needs to stay afloat. But after Will’s initial inquiries fail to turn up anything, he grows less interested in Cara’s past and more interested in winning her heart with slices of pie and stolen kisses.

When a crime is uncovered at city hall just as Will unearths Cara’s dark secret, the repercussions shatter their romance. Has Cara really left her past behind? Can Will finally find a way to save the paper? And can they each place their trust in God and together find freedom in the truth and overcome the obstacles to their love?

“Love, Lies, and Homemade Pie” is a stand-alone contemporary Christian romance novel and is the prequel to the Abundance Series by Sally Bayless. If you like a sweet, small-town romance with a touch of humor and characters with real-world problems, you’ll love this heartwarming story.

This book is available on Amazon for Kindle, Paperback, and in Kindle Unlimited

About the Author 

Sally Bayless is the author of five contemporary Christian romance books—Love, Lies, and Homemade Pie, Love at Sunset Lake, Love and Harmony, Love and Roses, and Christmas in Abundance. She lives in a small town in the beautiful hills of Appalachian Ohio and has two grown children. When not working on her next book, she enjoys watching BBC television with her husband, swimming, baking, and shopping for cute shoes.

To connect with Sally: Join her newsletter (and get a free family tree of the characters in the Abundance Series as well as a free insider’s guide to her books):

Follow her on Facebook, TwitterPinterest (to which she is rapidly developing an addiction), or join her Facebook group (to get even more of an inside scoop).