My New Book Has Arrived!

Lexy4CoverSmallHip hip HOORAY, my new book is now available! It’s the fourth full-length Lexy Cooper mystery. You can pick up the eBook right now at Amazon, or you can wait for the paperback this summer. Any questions?

What if I don’t have a Kindle?

You’re in luck, cowboy. You don’t need the dedicated eReader to enjoy Kindle books. All you need is an electronic device with a screen. You can read Lexy books on your PC, your tablet, or your phone. Just download the free Kindle app for your weapon of choice.

I’m thinking about trying Lexy books, but where should I start?

Start at the beginning, grasshopper. The journey of a thousand miles starts with the first page of Schooled. All books in which Lexy appears are in this order:

  1. Schooled 
  2. Pwned
  3. I Saw Lexy Kissing Santa (short story)
  4. Griefed
  5. Summer Wind (Mike Malick #1)
  6. Glitched

TriplethreatColorFinalsmall copyYou can actually pick up the first four of these in one package: Lexy Cooper Triple Threat. It’s available in eBook and paperback.

Well, crap, I thought I was up-to-date, but I haven’t read Summer Wind. Do I need to read it before starting Glitched?

Heck no! There are a couple of things that happen in Mike’s book that are referenced in Lexy’s book, but not knowing them will not prevent you from following or (hopefully) enjoying Glitched.

I’ve read all the books, but can’t keep track of what’s what and who’s who. Can you help?

Yes indeed, young Skywalker. My dear friend Wendy wrote this Lexy primer to help refresh your memory.

Glitched came out at midnight last night and I’m already finished. What’s next for Lexy?

Yikes. You, sir or madam, are hardcore. And I love that. Lexy will next appear in a short story called Hurricane Lexy that picks up immediately after the end of Glitched. Then she will make an appearance in the second Mike Malick book You Go to My Head this fall. The next full-length Lexy mystery novel a.k.a. “Lexy 5” will follow in the first half of 2016.


Series Fiction: What I wish I’d known at the start

long gameI’m in the final stretch of writing the fourth book in my Lexy Cooper mystery series. Now, I’m certainly nowhere near as prolific as many writers, but by the time you get to Book 4, you’ve built up a pretty substantial cast of characters, a history, and a world. Here are some of the things I’ve learned along the way and wish I’d known when I was writing the first one.

Consistency in World Building

Just because I write books set in modern times in the “real” world doesn’t mean I haven’t done some world building. It’s not Middle Earth, but Lexy Cooper’s fantasy world mapRedmond and Seattle are not exact replicas of the real thing and those subtle differences need to be consistent. Sometimes I run up against a perception I had while writing earlier books that cause me to hesitate and stumble writing later books. Take the Redmond Police Department headquarters, where Detective Malick does his murder-solving thing. When I wrote Schooled I had a very vague idea of what it looked like: a lobby where a desk sergeant sits, desks where cops do their work on battered government-issue desks, a conference room where the cops can gather to brainstorm, and an interrogation room for grilling suspects. That’s all I wrote about, because it was all I needed. Then in Pwned, I added another interrogation room and now there’s “Interview A” and “Interview B.” Each book has added new areas as the story requires them. By the time I wrote Summer Wind, in which Detective Malick gets his own series, the building is three stories high and has a computer lab, briefing room, Chief’s office, gym, and impound lot. The good news is I never said, in Book 1 that the station was small or one-story, or lacked any facilities. So looking back, is it better that I was vague in the beginning, or should I have mapped it out with a little more diligence from the get-go?  Vagueness has allowed me to get what I need from that location, but every time I send Malick up a flight of stairs that wasn’t in my head during the previous books, I feel a little bit guilty.


The Trouble with Character Names

There are two male cops in my series: Mike Malick and Mark Rogers. In the first three books Rogers was always “Rogers” because he’s a young cop still in uniform and Mike is the star. But by Book 4, Rogers has a new job in a neighboring city and is a detective. Now equals–mostly–“Mike and Mark” are so close it sounds lame.

name gameWorse yet are rhyming names. Lexy’s brother is Kent and her cameraman is Trent. I never even noticed it until the two characters have a scene together in Book 4 and I had to write around putting their names next to each other. Meanwhile I cursed myself for my foolishness for not noticing in Book 1. Another example? Kenny Longworth and Kent Cooper don’t share a scene in the first four books, but that too, could be problematic in the future. And then I have to wonder: What’s with the “Ken” thing? Why did I choose those names? I don’t think I even know anyone named Ken.

Now I’m being much more careful in naming new characters. In book 4, Lexy’s friend Harper Cole (who appears in Pwned and Griefed) is a major player. When it came time for me to introduce a new character, I wanted to name her Hopper after Grace Hopper. But Hopper and Harper? That’s a no-go. So right now her name is Borg after Anita Borg, but I don’t think I can get past the Star Trek association on that one and it will most likely change again.

Now here are a couple of things I think I did right. And I did them right because I was slow and careful about what I was doing. I’m going to avoid spoilers as much as I can here, but if you haven’t read Lexy 1-3 and are super sensitive to vague hints about the plot, you may want to skip this bit.

The Long Game

If you’ve got the foresight to plan the major plot points of the books in your series, it’s very effective to lay the groundwork early for the biggest payoff. So there’s a bad guy in Book 3. Now I could have created a new character to do the bad things, but instead I played the long game. Knowing all along what I was going to write in Book 3 (at that time the end of a Lexy trilogy) I introduced the character very casually in Book 1. This character was so minor he or she may have mostly gone unnoticed. But then he or she became more important in Book 2. So by the time Book 3 rolls around and he or she does the bad thing it is a shock and betrayal to both Lexy and the reader.

See also: Foreshadowing. This character offers hints of what he/she is capable of in the first two books. What you’re going for is either a “I felt like there was something weird about that person!” or “Why didn’t I see that coming!?” So hopefully, a person who read Book 3 could go back to Book 2 and smack themselves for not realizing this character was trouble.

Another example: In Summer Wind (which is Malick #1 but also Book 3.5 in the Lexy series), I introduce a character who is not really going to be very important until Book 7. But when she becomes important she won’t have dropped out of a clear blue sky. She’s already been established in the cast and the world.

Incremental Change

It would have been easy to begin the series with Lexy Cooper–community manager by day, kick-ass vigilante detective by night, but let’s face it…that’s not really believable or relatable. Instead, Lexy learns new skills as the series progresses. Not because she has an end-goal of being some sort of Dirty Harriet, but because she has reactions to the things that happen in her life. Possible spoilers For instance: In the first book, something happens to Lexy that makes her interested in finally learning to handle a firearm. So in Book 2 she learns to shoot. In Book 2 and then again in Book 3, she is in a situation where she has to run to safety. And her speed and endurance fail her. In Book 4, running has become a priority for her. She’ll be ready for the next time. And at this point, she carries her Glock everywhere. By Book 4 or 5 readers will not be shocked–or skeptical–if Lexy outruns an assailant or uses her gun because these are skills she’s worked to acquire and not superpowers she’s granted when she suddenly needs them.

The Downside

The downside of the slow build and the long game is that readers can’t see inside your head and may get impatient as they wait for your heroine to “grow up.” I have had feedback about how Lexy often gets rescued in early books, or that she’s immature or didn’t have a big enough reaction to the tragic events at the end of Griefed. All I can say to that is: keep reading.



Our series so far… To recap or not?

Harry-Potter-Books-1024x768How much should you sum up the story and characters in each successive book in a series? This is something that I’ve struggled with and am not sure I’ve decided exactly where I stand. The first question is “Do people read a series out of order?” The answer that I’ve found is “Not usually, but sometimes. Especially if book #2 or #14 was free.” So, on one hand, I would like any reader to be able to pick up any book in the Lexy Cooper series and make sense of it. But over there on the other hand, I don’t want people who read them in order to have to slog through a bunch of repetition. I also want to reward loyal readers with inside jokes, clues, and foreshadowing.

What I’ve tried to do is find a balance. I’ll write a quick refresher on recurring characters for example, and maybe reference where they fit into previous books. In a mystery/crime genre it’s SchooledCovereven dicier because I want to be able to refer to old cases but not spoil the whodunit aspect. I failed in this with my second book, which a reviewer pointed out. “Why are you reading the second book first?!” I yelled at my computer screen. Oh, right, I told myself, you did a five-day free promotion. That’s why he read the second book first. Going forward, if I refer to a prior case, the most I will disclose is the victim and maybe the mode of death, but never the culprit.

PwnedCoverSmallThe part that irks me about the character recaps is that I’ve already described them to my satisfaction. I can’t just cut and paste, but nor do I want to spend a ton of time thinking of some new way to get across the physical attributes and personality of each person. Certainly by the fourth book, this becomes an eye-roller. My solution has been to basically copy the character description, but alter it just a bit so it’s not completely repetitive for readers (or for me.) Here’s an example of how I describe Detective Mike Malick.

At forty-three, his good looks and thick, dark hair still made women of all ages stand up a little straighter and unconsciously pitch their voices a little higher. If she had a nickel for every time one of her girlfriends told her that her uncle looked like “that cop on TV” she’d, well, get that fancy Japanese hair straightening treatment and be done with the mess on her head.

And then in the next book:

Detective Mike Malick was now 43 years old with a full head of dark, thick hair, deep brown eyes, and the kind of up-to-no-good smile that quickened the pulse of females from 12 to 100. Running and weight lifting kept his body in close to the shape he’d been in as a 22-year-old soldier. Never married, and not disposed to long-term entanglements, he gravitated toward women who wouldn’t expect much. The kind who knew he wasn’t ever going to call.

See, very similar, but different enough that it’s not a direct cut and paste, and gets across what I need readers to understand about Mike. He’s good-looking, in shape, and chicks dig him. By the third book, I stopped describing Malick or his griefedcoverSMALLeffect on women and let the action speak to that. The novel opens with him getting a work call in the middle of a blowjob. Instead, I chose to sum up his relationship to Lexy (spoiler if you haven’t read Schooled)

Malick winked at Lexy. “See ya, kid.” He’d known Lexy since her second grade class had written letters to Desert Storm soldiers and her letter had wound up in his hands. They’d stayed pen-pals and when the Army transferred him to Ft. Lewis in Tacoma, Washington, the Coopers had more or less adopted him into the family. He’d watched Lexy and her brother Kent grow up and they’d called him “Uncle Mike” even into adulthood. It was just recently that Lexy had finally dropped the “Uncle,” and to be honest he was a bit relieved. He still called her “kid” now and then, but what had insulted her at nineteen years old had regained some charm at twenty-nine.

The bare minimum I feel like I have to do with each book in the series is explain what Lexy’s job is (community manager/website editor/video host) and where she works and the product they make (Xenon Corporation; the Xenon 24/7 console and Xenonline gaming service). Recurring characters need at least a brief explanation of how they relate to the main characters (Lexy’s brother, Malick’s on-and-off booty call, the Chief of Police, Lexy’s boss…you get the picture). This is the benefit of having a lean cast of characters. As I add cast members, I drop (or kill off) others. I don’t ever want to get to the point where I have to include an exhaustive genealogy in the endpapers.

recap or no

However. According to my recent non-scientific survey of 112 readers, the majority don’t require a recap of who’s who and what happened in previous books. Nor do they care about spoilers. As a friend of mine put it: “I think it’s incumbent upon writer and publisher to make clear in the marketing that it’s Book 2 in the series. Beyond that, it’s on the reader. If they read out of sequence, tough shit.”

Homewrecker, Whore, Slut: My bad reviews

LexyBadGirlMy first Lexy Cooper novel, Schooled, has been out in the world for almost two years. People read it, some like it and some don’t. That’s to be expected. What I’ve been flummoxed by, however, is that when people don’t like my book enough to take the time to write a negative review, they ALWAYS cite Lexy’s sexuality as the reason they didn’t like it. And the fact that these readers seem to be blindsided by the sexual content even though the book description reads “Videogames, Sex, and Murder.” Downloading a book advertising sex as a main component and then complaining about the sex seems to me like reading A Song of Ice and Fire series and being pissed off because you don’t like dragons.

Anyway, check out these quotes from reviews (most are from Schooled, others are from Pwned and Griefed.)

  • “To say the main characters were loose is an understatement. Skip over the sex and stumble over the language it is an excellent read.”
  • “Lexy annoyed me with the way she used her body to get what she wanted. I just cringed a little bit every time she did it.”
  • “Don’t mind casual sex in stories but I dislike adultery the way it is used in this novel. I found it so offensive I stopped reading and skipped to the review.”
  • “A lot more cursing and very casual sex than I enjoy.”
  • “I could of did without the hot double d breasted geek chick. it kind took away from the story.”
  • “the lack of principles was troubling. It didn’t seem to matter who was hurt or how many.”
  • “it’s really hard to root for someone like her because in real life she’d be considered a home wrecking, user and slut.”
  • “The Mystery is really nothing more than a platform for Lexy to hop from bed to bed and sexual situations with mostly attached or married men or use her assets like a whore to get what she wants from weak co-workers. She uses and abuses people without a thought and yet were supposed to like her.”

save your money unless you want some shallow soft core porn

  • “the book also has a ton of graphic sex scenes that are just trashy and none artistic”
  • “All the “hooking up” may be realistic for this age group, but I didn’t think it added a lot to the story.”
  • “loads of gratuitous sex, profanity and just plain drama between Lexy and all the people she was cheating on”
  • “A vast landscape of obscenities, vulgarities, adultery, backstabbing, explicit sex scenes and quid pro quo whoring at work…and that was the “heroine””
  • “a sordid tale of murder, intrigue, and infidelity. A lot of infidelity.”
  • “some of the sex stuff felt like it was a little over the top”
  • “the heroine is pretty busy throughout the book having sex with engaged and married men.”
  • “I was still rooting for him to somehow gut Lexy in one of the rare times her legs were closed.”
  • “the main characters morals are rather lacking”
  • “no matter how well she’s fleshed out or however many details are sprinkled onto her, she’s still an aunty acting like she’s 1.5 times younger than she is. Yikes.”

Let me be very clear here, I appreciate every single person that reads my book and takes the time to review it. Even if they hate it. I’m not angry at these reviewers and don’t harbor ill will.

What I’m interested in here is the slut-shaming dynamic going on. From this evidence, the ONLY reason that people don’t like my books is that Lexy has a lot of sex and she has some of it with a married man. As if that has never happened either in human history or in literature. The guy who said it would have been an excellent read (thanks!) if not for the adultery. Did he also hate Anna Karenina? Had to throw The Great Gatsby across the room? Write a scathing review of Madame Bovary? Burn Ulysses?

SchooledCoverI’ve made it a rule to not explain things to readers. I’ve found over the course of six books that if my editor needs clarification on something, I need to rewrite, not explain. Because I won’t get the chance with readers. But I’m going to break my own rule briefly because this business about Lexy using her body and quid pro quo whoring at work is an issue that keeps cropping up. The scene in question is one with Lexy and her co-worker Josh. She’s under orders to go to the marketing department to scrounge up swag to give away at a midnight game launch. Now, there is quid pro quo, but it happens in Skype. Lexy asks Josh to donate game swag and promises him front page coverage on the web site in exchange. He agrees and she goes to his office to retrieve it. On her way there, I made sure to point out Lexy’s state of mind regarding her friend’s recent murder:

“The sunshine, the beer, and the fact that she was alive while others were not so fortunate had her feeling a bit reckless.”

She goes into Josh’s office (a man that she has some sexual experience with in the past, and is attracted to, and at this point in the book is unaware that he’s recently gotten engaged. In her mind, he is single) Lexy sits on his lap and encourages him to feel her up. They’re playing a game. The “negotiation” for the number of Lock & Load headsets is role playing. Maybe you personally have never engaged in that kind of thing, but many people enjoy it. So, she gets headsets for the fans, but not by doing anything she didn’t want to do with someone she’s not attracted to. If you want to lay down blame in this encounter, put some on Josh, who is engaged to another woman.

Also, people are so offended by Lexy and Nate’s (or Lexy and Josh’s) sexual relationship that they feel they have to stop reading and warn others. Okay, to each his own, I guess. But…you’re not offended by the dead blonde in the creek? The abuse of power? Blackmail? Drugs? Alcoholism? Using an employee’s sexuality to sell product and then punishing her for it? Paying men more than women for the same work? That’s all fine and dandy, but god forbid a woman have sex for pleasure on her own terms?

Anyway, it bothers me, but now I’ve gotten it off my chest. Back to writing Lexy 4. Spoiler: she has ALL THE SEX in this one. If cursing and sex offend you, don’t read my books.


The Lexyverse: What you need to know

griefedcoverSMALLThinking of jumping into the world of Lexy Cooper? Feeling apprehensive? Well, let me help you. I’m going to provide you with some background and general information so you can get to know Lexy and her world a little better.

Getting to Know Lexy

First of all, Lexy Selina Cooper lives in an apartment in Redmond, a suburb of Seattle, Washington. She drives a green 1968 Karmann Ghia because it matches her eyes. She works at the gaming company, Xenon as a community manager and has recently become an online celebrity with the creation of a weekly video series for Xenonline called “Hello Xenon.”

She has penchant for swearing, butterscotch candies, tight retro t-shirts, and trouble. Her boss, Reg, keeps a running tally of how many times she uses the f-word in meetings. She cares about politics if you consider her fantasies about Bill Clinton to be “caring.”

Lexy’s dad, Abe owns Cooper Comics and runs it with her brother Kent. Abe tries tries to get Lexy to eat new and healthy things to her horror. Kent helps Lexy with computer issues and gives her a hard time as only brothers can do. Mike Malick, a former soldier, is a detective with the Redmond Police Department who became friends with the Coopers when Lexy was a child.

Lexy loves greasy carb-loaded foods and tries to stay away from all that healthy tasteless crap. Diet Coke and latte’s are her go-to drinks. She also smokes but usually only in times of stress or after a hook-up. Many times you can find Lexy and Mike at Angelo’s Restaurant having a delicious Italian dinner, one of Lexy’s favorite spots to eat and Mike’s favorite spot to find a willing woman to keep him company for the night.

Lexy is involved with Nate Howard, one sexy bad boy, who also happens to be married. Lexy is a big girl and takes her relationship in stride, no matter how much others try to steer her in the other direction. Nate is compared to the likes of a drug addiction and many times makes Lexy question what she is doing.

Lexy is smart, vocal, beautiful, and strong. She is something to be reckoned with when she is angry or upset. She can take on the best of chauvinistic pigs and lazy coworkers and make them rue the day they messed with her.

That being said, Lexy is not without her antagonists. They can be found in the form of Agent 54 and the Tennessee Tornado. Lexy has several encounters with both through her escapades which she handles in pure Lexy form, aka videos, hair-pulling, and perfectly created insults.

First Three Lexy CoversLexy’s Rap Sheet


Lexy is summoned to the Xenon campus by Detective Malick. One of her coworkers, Callie Caldwell, has been found dead and Lexy has to identify the body. Talk about a “bad morning.”

From there, Lexy becomes very busy trying to solve the mystery of Callie’s murder, kicking off “Hello Xenon”, and trying to manage her relationship with Nate. Although Mike was reluctant to let her help him with the case, he learns soon enough he needs Lexy to help him decipher the techy language and gaming world. Mike realizes Lexy is quite adept at finding evidence and clues despite the trouble that Lexy also manages to find.

Not long after the events in Schooled, Lexy discovers the body of another murdered coworker–this time it’s Declan Brown, a game development manager. Needless to say, Lexy is becoming a bundle of nerves. She is quickly becoming very popular with “Hello Xenon”, still trying to figure out what to do with Nate, dealing with a new sneaky coworker (Agent 54, a middle-aged white guy brought in for “diversity.”) and a hot firearms instructor/snowboarder named Ash who has secrets of his own.

With some help from her hacker friend, Violator, Lexy begins to dig into the murder of Declan Brown while Mike works with his team, Officers Mark Rogers and Cricket Yi, interviewing persons of interest, questioning suspects, and butting heads with the feds.

I Saw Lexy Kissing Santa

Lexy goes to the Xenon holiday party and in between flirting with Santa, singing karaoke, and getting in a catfight, manages to help Malick solve the case of a missing video game console prototype.

Dewars-12YO-lgDetective Mike Malick

Mike Malick is a huge part of Lexy’s life and a portion of each story is told from Malick’s point of view. There are many sides to Mike.

He is smart and has a no-nonsense attitude. Until recently, Lexy referred to Mike as her “Uncle Mike” and Mike thought Lexy as a kid; but with recent events Mike now sees her as the adult she has grown into. He loves to stay at Lexy’s apartment when she is out of town so he can watch cable. He, of course, always leaves a mess. Mike knows Lexy better than anyone else so he is not shy about trying to help Lexy make the right decision and scolding her when needed.

Mike is also known to  have a way with the ladies. His charm and determination also make him an excellent detective. There is definitely more to Mike than meets the eye and will sure to be revealed in future stories.

Who’s Who In the Lexyverse

  • Mike Malick – Homicide Detective, Gulf War vet, long-time friend of the Coopers.
  • Ash Brevik – 6’5” of muscle and hotness. Champion snowboarder. Lexy love.
  • Nate Howard – Bar brawlin’ boot-wearin’ tattooed bad boy of Lexy’s dreams.
  • Kent Cooper – Lexy’s older brother. Uber nerd who works at Cooper Comics.
  • Abe Cooper – Lexy’s father. Former hippie, current vegan and comics slinger.
  • Trent Perry – Lexy’s cameraman. Enjoys hemp products. A lot.
  • TJ Fairfield – Lexy’s smartass assistant. Resembles a dancing bear.
  • Henry Frasier/Agent 54 – Lexy’s arch enemy. Hosts a Xenonline show, avoids work.
  • Josh Barley – Marketing dude. Occasional Lexy hookup. Has crazy wife, Ginger (Tennesse Tornado).
  • Kim Ambrose – Lexy’s work wife and shoulder angel. Managing editor of
  • Jimmie Vath – Xenon CTO and visionary. Rich. Inspiring. A bit kinky.
  • Reg Morley – Lexy’s boss. Looks like a walrus, talks like an Aussie. Yells a lot.
  • Dave Kingsley – Lexy’s boss’s boss. Midwestern with a healthy slice of DERP.
  • Kari Hertzberg – Forensic investigator. Often found in the company of corpses.
  • Cricket Yi – Rookie cop with a Master’s in Criminology. Interned at the FBI.
  • Mark Rogers – Police officer learning the ropes from Detective Malick.
  • Kenny Longworth – Security Officer at Xenon. Keeps eye on Lexy for Mike.

Want More Lexy?

You can also find out more about Lexy, Mike and the rest of the Lexy Cooper Universe at Lexy also has a Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest to respond to your questions, compliments, and marriage proposals. There is also the Team Lexy Newsletter to keep you informed of her shenanigans, contests, favorite stuff, and upcoming stories.

LexyBadGirlGet Your Lexy On

You can get Schooled and Pwned now for Kindle and paperback. In addition, you can also pick up Lexy’s Christmas short story I Saw Lexy Kissing Santa. Next up is Griefed, Lexy’s 3rd book which arrived on February 28th. Remember Lexy is waiting and she is getting low on Diet Coke and cigarettes.

Get two Lexy books for 99 cents

The third Lexy Cooper novel, Griefed,  is just two weeks away. It’s totally okay if you want to jump into Lexyworld with this book, but do you really know anyone who starts reading a series with #3? No, of course not.

So I’m making it easy for you to get caught up on our story so far. I can’t help you read fast (though tons of people read Lexy books in a couple of sittings) but I am providing a little extra incentive.

SchooledCoverSchooled was Lexy’s debut and concerns the murder of a young blonde public relations manager. There are also comic books, video games, tattoos, and quite a bit of sex. Right now you can take advantage of Schooled‘s Kindle Countdown Promotion. Here’s how it works: right now (2/13) you can get the eBook for just 99 cents. On 2/15 the price goes up to 1.99, and then finally on 2/19 it will return to the original price of 3.99.

Pwned is the second book in the Lexyverse, in which she learns to shoot, gets in trouble at work, and investigates the murder of a game developer account guy. There are strippers, HR complaints, meth dealers and the FBI (plus more sex). From 2/24 – 2/28 Pwned will be FREE to download. That’s right, gratis. PwnedCoverSmall

Griefed will be available on 2/28, and by then you could be all caught up on the story!


Schooled = .99 through 2/14, then 1.99 through 2/18

Pwned = Free 2/24 – 2/28

Griefed = comes out 2/28

Just like the headline says, if you grab Schooled today or tomorrow and then download Pwned between 2/24 and 2/28, you will score two books for less than a dollar!

Working with an Editor and Proofreader

Right now my most excellent Empress of Editing Marti McKenna is deep in the weeds of a second pass on my upcoming book Griefed, getting ready to hand off what we believe is final copy to Proofreader Princess Stacie Magelssen. This is our third book together, and we’ve definitely got a system that works for us. Will it work for you or any other writer/editor/proofreader team? I couldn’t say.

The first time Team Lexy convened was for Schooled, Lexy’s debut crime novel. I emailed the Word doc to Marti and she shared it via Google Docs. Marti never rewrites my words. She’ll add or subtract commas, but always points out where she did it. She may suggest a way to rephrase something that has passive voice or awkward rhthym, but she never just goes into the doc and messes around. I love this because she’s respecting my role as the author and when I read the book on release I don’t have any weird guilty pangs like “Oh, Marti wrote that bit.”

Sometimes we would go back and forth in the comments, not really arguing but debating a point. We also joked around quite a bit. When Stacie took her turn with the book, the same sort of thing went on. I wrote a post about the things I learned from Stacie here.

The great thing about this way of working was that I got to know Marti and Stacie. The not-so-great thing was version control. I would make the edits and rewrites Marti and Stacie suggested in the Google Doc and then replicate it in my “Master” Word doc. It was tedious and through no one’s fault but mine, a small date mistake made it into the final version that is now out there in the world.

So, for the next two books we did it another way. Here’s the system broken down into steps:

  1. Hand off of “manuscript” to editor. I email Marti the Word doc.
  2. Editor returns first round edits in chapter chunks (3 or 4 chapters at a time).
  3. I return revised chapter chunks, copying and pasting from the Master doc into a new doc called something like “Griefed 7-10 – back to Marti”
  4. Editor goes through revised chapter chunks for a second editorial pass. Reviewing my changes plus anything missed in the first round. (There are always a few things. Nothing is perfect after one edit pass.)
  5. I revise the second round of chapter chunks, and create separate Word doc for any new additions or major rewrites since the last round.
  6. Editor reviews the “New Additions” content.
  7. Hand off the Editor-approved document to Stacie for proofreading.
  8. Proofreader returns “manuscript” by chapter.
  9. I make corrections to master Word doc

It’s a lot of docs to keep track of, so I use a folder system that looks like this:

Editing folder

An example of something I would return for a third round of editing is seen here:

Marti Addition Screenshot

Team Lexy also uses shared Google docs. Our Style Guide that Marti put together and updates for each new title, and the kind of massive and constantly growing Character List that I wrote about here.

One other thing worth mentioning: the Master doc is a clean copy. I do not track changes in it. When I send off a chapter chunk of rewrites, it is also a clean copy-and -paste into a new Word doc. When Marti receives it, she’s comparing it with the first version to see what’s changed. A pain in the ass for her, but that’s the benefit of paying a professional instead of begging favors from a friend or family member.

Griefed is coming next month. I expect to announce a release date next week!

Multiple POVs: Keeping it real

Woman_with_a_Blue_Hat-largeMy first book The Sleepless Nanny, was written in the first-person from the protagonist’s point of view. It’s basically the easiest, most natural way to write, and a good place to start for beginning writers.

When I began writing my first mystery/crime novel I knew I wasn’t going to write it in the first person as Lexy Cooper. And I knew that Lexy, not being a private eye or police officer would not be able to solve the murder on her own. She wouldn’t have access to the evidence: DNA, autopsy results, fingerprints, and she wouldn’t have authority to question reluctant witnesses. She needed a counterpart with the access and authority to do all of that and that’s where Detective Mike Malick comes in. And the two of them alternate scenes throughout the three Lexy Cooper novels. Of course, I’m writing from the point of view of both characters and sometimes I slip up and give Malick a Lexy-ish thought and vice-versa. My goal is to write each POV so that a reader can determine whose head they’re in even without being told. This is accomplished through dialog and description. Lexy and Mike speak differently and they see the world through their own unique lenses.

Here’s an example of dialog:

“While I was working my ass off in Germany some fucking douchebucket decided to post my cellphone number on the forums. So every horny little gamer fucknugget in the goddamn world has been calling me, texting me, and sending me pictures of their junk.”
“I need you to visit Google and talk to Fletcher’s former boss and coworkers. See if there was any bad blood there. Also, get his personnel files and see if there were any HR incidents. Yi, you’re tracking down the ex-girlfriend, and I want you to talk to his parents, too.”

Hopefully, you know right away which is Lexy and which is Malick. Here’s another example:

Lexy sipped an extra-hot, extra-shot venti cinnamon latte in her office at Xenon Corp. She had turned away from her work to face the window while she drank. The trees blossomed in pink and white. Spring was awesome—full of potential. It was a close second to Summer in her book. Both Fall and Winter could suck a fat one.


Malick spent the morning doing paperwork at the station. When he got the phone call from forensic investigator Kari Hertzberg at the ME’s office that Beth Grey had identified her husband’s body, he closed his file folders, hitched up his pants, and put on the suit jacket that concealed his shoulder holster and Smith & Wesson 5906 semi-automatic 9mm. The department was moving to the lighter, polymer-shelled M&P line, but Malick resisted change. He drove back up the winding two-lane road to Gunshy Ridge.

Now, Lexy and Malick each have a fair amount of sex in my books. Lexy gives details while Malick prefers to be a little more discreet. Lexy has sex once for 375 words.  Malick’s sex scene is just 255 words, but he manages to get busy four times.

It’s easier for me to write Lexy’s point of view, so I find myself having to be extra diligent when writing the Malick scenes. For example: Lexy would say something was emerald green or kelly green, but that’s the way women describe colors. Malick would say “green” or if he wanted to be very specific he’d use “British racing green” a color that he can relate to.

Here’s a scene from the upcoming third book. Malick is interviewing potential witnesses in their home and this is what the living room looks like through his eyes:

The room was completely white. White shag carpet—they still made that stuff?— white walls, white furniture, white sconces for white-shaded white light bulbs. The brick fireplace had been painted white and a large white Chinese fan stood where a fire should be. Over the mantle, a print of Georgia O’Keeffe’s White Trumpet Flower.

My trouble, you probably guessed, is the painting. Does a forty-something homicide detective recognize a Georgia O’Keeffe painting? Well, if he’s in the hard-boiled Sam Spade vein of detective, definitely not. He’d pride himself on NOT knowing such things. But Sam Spade has become a cliche. I want my detective to be unique and surprising, so I left in the painting. Maybe Malick had a girlfriend who was an art history buff or perhaps he just appreciates art. I don’t explain how he knows it, because I like my men with a little mystery, thank you.

Another thing that has almost tripped me up a couple of times. Lexy is in the habit of referring to people as their distinguishing characteristic. Like this, from Pwned:

The taller young man in the UNLV cap smiled shyly and said, “Can we get a picture?”
“Yeah, of course,” she said and held her hand out for his phone.
UNLV and his friend with the chin-strap beard and Demonrage t-shirt exchanged confused looks.
Chinstrap said, “No, dude. We want to get our pictures with you.”
“Ohhhh! Sorry. Yes, I’d love to.” She could feel herself blushing. She put her arm around UNLV as Chinstrap took their picture, then reversed. They thanked her and walked off. She was not yet used to this, and wasn’t sure she ever would be.

She later refers to a paramedic with ‘dirty seventies sideburns’ as “Dirtyhot” and then merely “Dirty”

Now check out this bit of Griefed; when Malick arrives at the crime scene he describes a witness like this:

He wore a video game t-shirt, cargo shorts, and Adidas sport sandals. Though his expression showed concern, his tanned face was lit with excitement and he licked his lips and swept tawny, unkempt hair from his forehead.


Malick beckoned the neighbor over and opened his notebook. “Mr. Barley? I’m De—“
“I know who you are. You’re Lexy Cooper’s uncle. You caught Callie Caldwell’s killer. And Declan Brown’s.”
“You work at Xenon.”
“Yeah, I’m a marketing manager. I, uh…work with Lexy.”
Malick knew what that “uh” usually meant. He got a flash of the guy plowing his niece and pushed it firmly away. Dammit, Lexy. “The deceased—uh, Fletcher didn’t work at Xenon did he?”

Originally, I’d written “He got a flash of Cargo Shorts plowing his niece…” But that’s a Lexy thing. Now in real life of course we pick up the speech patterns and slang of our friends and loved ones. But in fiction, with two distinct characters, that’s the kind of thing that can pull a reader out of the flow. So I changed it.

One more example. As mentioned, Lexy and Malick have very healthy libidos. And they need to hold themselves in check–though for different reasons.

He grinned, and hooked a finger in a belt loop on her jeans. He pulled her toward him and the devil forever perched on Lexy’s right shoulder said “Go ahead. No one will ever know and you deserve a tasty treat after all that hard work.” God, his dimples. She was a complete sucker for those. They were her Kryptonite. She felt herself weakening. Where was that lazy-ass good angel? Fuck it.


“It’s important,” he told her. “But it will hold until after you’ve…” He nodded at the staircase.
“All right,” she said. “I won’t be long.”
When he caught himself watching her thighs as she climbed the stairs he shook his head and went to the study.

If you’re writing multiple points of view, those are the type of things you have to look out for. Would this character know that? Is this how the world appears to that character? Is this a word he or she would use? You really have to try to inhabit the character you’re writing, even if you’re not using the first-person.

The Art of the Cover – Griefed

It’s sort of a funny story–now–but at the time it stressed me out so much I was losing sleep over it. My cover artist was missing.

I found Brett Parson by chance. I searched “book cover” on Deviantart and discovered his amazing work. I asked if he’d take a commission and he said yes. Two novels and a short story later, we’d accomplished this together:

 First Three Lexy Covers

The plan, of course, was to have Brett do the cover for the third Lexy novel, Griefed. I mean, why wouldn’t that be the plan–I’m not crazy! Pretty soon after he did the Christmas cover I sent him a preemptive email: “Hey, pencil me into your schedule sometime around the end of the year…” He didn’t reply, but it was more of a heads-up and didn’t require a response. In late October I fired off a more serious, “Let’s get rockin’ on Lexy 3” email. No response. Now, Brett’s completely professional, but he’s also an artist. And the artists that I know are not typically huge fans of email. So, I tried to be patient. I lobbed over a “moving this to the top of your inbox” missive the first week of December. Still nothing.

That’s when I started to freak out a little. I checked his Facebook (business, not personal) page and his gallery on Deviantart. He appeared to be alive and posting as recently as late November. Phew. I left him a message on Facebook even though I was fairly certain he rarely checked in there. I got nada back.

So I had to conclude that he hated me and didn’t want to work with me any more. By this time I had gone into full Swimfan stalker mode, and I was feeling as neglected and betrayed as I would if Brett had broken up with me. (And, I may have a touch of PTSD from dating an artist who would in fact drop off the face of the earth and turn up later like “What?”).

In the meantime, I’ve got a book coming out and it needs a cover. And if Brett and I have grown apart and he’s doing illustrations for some other girl (slut!), I’m gonna have to find a new boyfr– cover artist. So I put out a call on Facebook, and trolled Deviantart and came up with a couple of possibilities. I made tentative contact…these guys were talented…but they weren’t HIM. I don’t want a new artist, I only want Brett.

At this point, I do what any ninth-grader would do, and appeal to a mutual contact. “Do you have him on Skype? Is he online? Can you tell him I’m looking for him?” I seriously did all of that.

Well, Brett didn’t hate me; it turned out that all Gmail was blocked by his spamblocker so he hadn’t received any of my emails. I nearly cried with relief. Brett was back! He was on the job!

Now that we were ready to begin, I gave him this direction:

  • The title is “Griefed”
  • Lexy is in physical danger in this one. Maybe her expression/body language shows fear or anxiety?
  • Subplot involves a hanging. If you could work in a noose, or the shadow of a noose that would be extra awesome.

Brett came back with this first sketch, saying, “Here’s the layout sketch I came up with for the new cover. The colors are just for blocking, was thinking the cover could have dark red bg. If you’re not diggin it we can try something else, but I thought it channeled that old mystery pulp novel vibe better than all the others… let me know what you think.”


My first thought: Holy shit, she’s naked! The Schooled cover now seems almost tame as Lexy has gotten progressively nuder with each cover. Anyone remember Nipplegate? I reluctantly had to ask Brett to edit out her erect nipple on the Pwned cover. Then, the I Saw Lexy Kissing Santa cover…Lexy’s tits in Santa’s face caused two of my Facebook ads to be rejected (Which made me laugh and is awesome). But this…this was NAKED. And IN BED.

She was freshly fucked on this cover! I loved it.

Loved everything but the gun. Now, I love the gun on the Pwned cover and specifically asked for it. Lexy acquires a Glock 26 and learns to shoot in that book–it’s a pretty major plot point. But Griefed doesn’t feature firearms in quite the same way, and this is Lexy Cooper, not Dirty Harry. So I told Brett:

“Can we try something else besides the gun? How about a cell phone? Like a noise woke her up and she hears someone in her house and is calling for help? That could be a really interesting thing with light from the phone. Also, love the noose, but can we do it as the shadow of a noose, so it doesn’t suggest that Lexy is about to hang herself? REALLY love her tousled freshly-fucked hair, and the wary expression is absolutely perfect!”

Brett came back with two versions of cell phone and noose.

Griefed cover sketches

Brett said: “Here are the layouts with the gun switched to cell phone, and a shadow of a noose version, and the red background noose version. The colors of Lexy I thought would be cold and night time style. Desaturated and a little blue. and the noose and skull would be different shades of red blending into the dripping blood.”

I told him the shadow noose was exactly right. Do you know the Springsteen song “Mary Queen of Arkansas?” It includes these lyrics:

But on your bed, Mary, I can see the shadow of a noose
I don’t understand how you can hold me so tight and love me so damn loose

So, on to the final version he went. Here it is:


I think it’s the best Lexy cover yet. The contrast of warm and cool colors, Lexy’s expression, and the overall sense of “Shit’s about to go down,” perfectly capture the content of my novel. Griefed will be available in February 2014.

Brett is an amazing artist. He does take commissions, but if you steal him from me I will cut you.

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