Guest Post — Annie Knox

The Chaos of a New Start

New starts are associated with blank slates, a clear, fresh beginning.  But in my experience, new starts follow deeply worn patterns of behavior, new in a way, but also comfortingly familiar.

Like many authors, I have two jobs.  I write, but I also teach American government classes at a local university.  That means the start of every new year also signals the start of a new semester.  And if you think New Year’s Eve is crazy . . .

As the semester launches, the campus crawls with students, many upperclassmen who greedily embrace old friends and lug their well-worn backpacks from class to class.  Plenty, though, are newbies, frantically trying to find classrooms amidst all the campus construction (because heaven forbid they be caught using a map), suffering sticker shock at the price of their textbooks, wondering if they really need to buy those books after all.  All of them are frantically trying to change their schedules around to accommodate and change in major, to satisfy one last forgotten graduation requirement, or to avoid the dreaded 8 AM lecture.

On the surface, it’s chaos, but for vets like me and most of my colleagues, there’s a comforting rhythm to the beginning of the semester, a satisfying to do list that keeps us busy but that can also be ticked off one item at a time:  draft syllabi, order the aforementioned expensive textbooks, set up the online course management system, figure out how to set just the right tone on the first day of the term.  Again, it’s work, but it’s also routine.

I find that writing a new book, is much the same way.  Some of the characters are upperclassmen who slip easily into their roles, while others are new and in need of shaping.  And there are a satisfying list of things to be done before the actual writing begins:  draft an outline, do some research, set a schedule to help meet deadlines, and getting into the right frame of mind to write.

That’s where I am right now.  I just finished a draft of the second book in my Pet Boutique Mysteries, and now I’m facing the blank page that—in about 70,000 words—will become book number three.  As a result, I’m wrapped up in all those “getting ready” details.  My thoughts are tangled up in who’s going to die, how, and why.  I’m constantly running to Google to check some fact or figure.  I’ve got my schedule worked out.  And most importantly, I’m getting into the right frame of mind:  purging all the clutter that built up during Book 2, getting a haircut and taking care of medical appointments, and then a message to kick things off in style.

I have two blank slates before me:  a semester and a page.  Each offer a wealth of possibilities, and chance to do things differently, better.  But each start with a time-tested ritual of preparation that lays the groundwork for all the possibility to come.

What do you do when you’re setting off on a new project or adventure? 


Annie_Knox_ColorWhile Annie Knox does not commit–or solve–murders in real life, her love of animals is 100% real.  She’s also passionately devoted to 80s music, Asian horror films, and reality TV.   Annie, her husband, and their spoiled cats (Todd, Iphy, and Squeak-a-doodle) make their home in a small town in north Texas, just blocks from the town’s courthouse square.


You can find Annie online and in bookstores everywhere. We’re happy she could be here!! Don’t forget to answer the question or just leave a comment to say hello and you’ll be entered to win January’s Heart-shaped Giveaway. 😀



paws for murder_cover

Izzy McHale is on the brink of launching her new business, a pet boutique called Trendy Tails, when she winds up on the wrong side of Sherry Harper, Merryville, Minnesota’s resident trust fund baby and social activist. With Sherry threatening to picket Trendy Tails’s grand opening, Izzy’s worried her business will fail before it officially opens. But the night of the big event, Sherry Harper is found dead in the alley behind Izzy’s store and suspect number one is her best friend, Rena Hamilton. Izzy and her friends and family have to solve the mystery of Sherry’s murder before Rena gets sent up the river for a crime she didn’t commit.

Paws for Murder is the first in the new Pet Boutique Mystery series… READ AN EXCERPT HERE.

“This … series debut delivers a delightful mix of well-written characters and a plot that keeps readers hanging on until the very end. Readers will feel as though they are in Merryville playing a part in the mystery that unfolds.” ~ Romantic Times (four stars)

“Annie Knox has created a warm, funny, flawed, but completely endearing sleuth in Izzy McHale, and I’m already panting for the next book in the series.” ~ N.Y. Times Bestselling Author Miranda James

About Beth Rhodes

Beth jumps into life with both feet...or head first. Impulsive and spontaneous to a T, she joined Passionate Critters and never looked back. She loves writing and reading, which made this wonderful group of woman a perfect match for her.

Eat more chocolate and bedazzle all my jeans

When the clock ticked from Dec. 31, 2013 to Jan. 1, 2014, did you make a list of resolutions or goals? If so, I hope you are well on your way to achieving them.

The talented ladies here at Through Heart-Shaped Glasses have given us lots of information and motivation this month regarding resolutions and goals. Thank you!

I, on the other hand, am not much for observing traditional resolutions or goals. Mine always fell into one of three categories anyway: weight loss, organization and productivity. As my younger sister oh, so sweetly reminded me via a cutesy Facebook e-card, “My New Year’s resolution is to write 2014 instead of 2013.” I’m hovering around 50-50 on that particular goal.

So, in keeping with my No Resolution New Year and just for fun, here is a list of ten (mostly) fake resolutions.

Eat more chocolate.

Sleep in more often.

Don’t clean the house so much.

Avoid doing the laundry.

Buy more shoes.

Cook less.

Eat more pasta.

Spend more time on social media.

Do fewer dishes.

Bedazzle all my jeans.

Did I miss any? 😉 What fake resolution would you make?

Don’t forget to leave a comment and be entered into the January giveaway…a $10 Amazon gift card from Lori Sizemore!




About Beth Rhodes

Beth jumps into life with both feet...or head first. Impulsive and spontaneous to a T, she joined Passionate Critters and never looked back. She loves writing and reading, which made this wonderful group of woman a perfect match for her.

Resolutions or Goals

Well, it’s a New Year and time for resolutions.

I don’t know about you but the older I get I’ve decided that resolutions need to be repackaged and branded differently. I mean, how many of us stick to those things we want to do? Resolutions sounds old and tired. And maybe it’s because of what the word means.

According to Merriam Webster the word resolution means: the act of finding an answer or solution to a conflict or problem; the act of analyzing a complex notion into simpler ones.  Well, I don’t know about you but that’s not really what I had in mind when writing down my resolutions. I’m not looking for the answer, the answer is what I’ve written down such as write a 50K book a month.

Now, if I’m smart I do the second part of the definition anyway. I’ve taken that problem and I’ve broken it down into the parts that will fulfill my commitment to the resolution. Only by doing one step at a time will one actually do what’s required to complete the resolution.

However, I’d rather call them goals as opposed to resolutions. Resolution implies that there’s a problem to fix instead of a task to be completed, a goal to be reached. I commit to complete the items on my list and believe me, my list is long this year and the majority of it involves completing various writing projects.

Still, no matter what I call it, I have to apply one major principle to get them complete: I have to sit my bottom down in my chair and write. Each and every day. And so far, so good…how about you?

Have you written down your goals for to yourself? Are you working on them every day? Are you on the right path to your happiness? I can truthfully say this year, I am. And I will complete each and every one.

See you all next month!

About Lynn Crain

Award winning author Lynn Crain has done it all in her life. From nursing to geology, her life experiences have added to her detail rich stories. She loves writing full time as she weaves contemporary, fantasy, futuristic and paranormal tales, tame to erotic, for various publishers. Her home is in the desert southwest and she’s just returned from her latest adventure of living in Vienna, Austria while her husband worked his dream job. You can find her hanging out online at,, and on Twitter, @oddlynn3. She loves hearing from her readers at

Where the Road takes us…

Hi, Beth Rhodes here. I’m kinda knew to this place [not really, but let’s pretend, and I’ll tell you more about that decision later].

It’s funny, because I thought last year was my year. And it was! I contracted and published a book with Entangled. Contracted a book with Boroughs. My self-published book is still selling…very, very slowly, but still selling. It was a great year. As it ended, I began to think, how could it be greater?

And there were alot of answers. So then I thought, maybe 2014 will be my year! 😀 haha. I feel a pattern coming on. And it occurs to me that every year is my year. Every year will bring more writing, more sales [hopefully], more contracts….more learning, more investing. Constant movement forward.

And that makes 2014 my year. And I’m doubly glad to have this group of writers with me, helping me along the way, pushing me forward, and otherwise wreaking havoc on my occasional desire to drift.

What about you? Will you make 2014 your year? How?

About Beth Rhodes

Beth jumps into life with both feet...or head first. Impulsive and spontaneous to a T, she joined Passionate Critters and never looked back. She loves writing and reading, which made this wonderful group of woman a perfect match for her.

It’s only a number…

PartyToday’s my birthday. It’s a milestone birthday for me, it’s a number that in some ways has intimidated me and seemed a little scary not all that long ago.

Somewhere between the birthday wishes, the cakes and the presents…I’ll probably find a quiet little corner to reflect on the number of years that have gone by. I keep telling myself, “It’s just a number.”

I’ve spent more than half those years happily married. I have three wonderful children. I’ve moved across country from the east coast to the west and then back again. I’m blessed to have friendships that have lasted since elementary school and I’ve also been blessed with the pain of letting of some friendships go – they’ve all made me who I am today, so I’ve made my peace with that.

I’ve had successes and failures. I’ve had money and been broke. I’ve had my share of fights and wonderful memories that could fill dozens of scrapbooks. And every single moment becomes the threads of a rich tapestry that defines ME.

Those moments in time shape my characters, weave through plots and allow me to tell a tale that is uniquely mine.

It’s my voice. So tonight, while I sit at my dining room table surrounded by my family, I’ll attempt to blow out my candles before the fire department needs to be called to douse the blaze. Today I celebrate not only a number, but all the moments I am grateful for that have crafted the life I love.

“I am more and more convinced that our happiness or unhappiness depends far more on the way we meet the events of life, than on the nature of those events themselves.” ~ Baron Alexander von Humboldt

  So what do you think? Do the big number birthday’s scare you or do you embrace them?

About Debora Dennis

A believer in second chances and that time should never be an obstacle to finding love, Debora writes time travels with modern snark and spice! When she's not writing, she's spending time with her family, reading, or trying to figure out a way to get chocolate into every dish she serves.

Words to Keep You Going

BluebirdjpgObstacles are interesting things. They stall or stop our writing when we least expect it.

They show up disguised as sick children, demanding parents, unsupportive spouses, hostile work environments, personal illness, and many other things. This isn’t a joke, these things are real. And they can derail our writing faster than you can say, “I quit.”

To be a writer takes grit. Guts. Perseverance. It also takes personal growth. It takes facing obstacles every time they appear, and dealing with them. Some days it’s easy, and some days not so much.

I like motivational sayings because as cliché as some of them are, they resonate for me. I have them posted throughout my house in little frames here and there. Little reminders to stay positive, because being negative is so easy. And on those really bad days, the sound of breaking glass as one hits the wall provides its own kind of relief. Here are some of my favorites. Maybe they’ll help you get through a writing day that might not be so great.

“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, “I will try again tomorrow.”

~Mary Anne Radmacher~

“Wanting something is not enough. You must hunger for it. Your motivation must be absolutely compelling in order to overcome the obstacles that will invariably come your way.”

~Les Brown~

“Obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.”

~Michael Jordan~

“Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in getting up every time we do.”


“Yesterday I dared to struggle. Today I dare to win.”

~Bernadette Devlin~

“Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out.”

~Art Linkletter~

“Life’s challenges are not supposed to paralyze you; they’re supposed to help you discover who you are.”

~Bernice Johnson Reagon~

“It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.”

~Albert Einstein~

And these two are my personal favorites. I have them posted on my writing desk.

“Winner’s never quit.”

~Dale Earnhardt, Sr.~

“You are the heroine in the story of your life. Act like it!”

~A play on the words of Joseph Campbell.~

Keep writing, my friends!

Do you have a favorite saying that motivates you on a tough day?

About Beth Rhodes

Beth jumps into life with both feet...or head first. Impulsive and spontaneous to a T, she joined Passionate Critters and never looked back. She loves writing and reading, which made this wonderful group of woman a perfect match for her.

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