Apricots and Wolfsbane

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I am thrilled to announce my debut novel, Apricots and Wolfsbane, will be published by Filles Vertes Publishing October 13, 2017. (Yes, that’s a Friday.)


Lavinia Maud craves the moment the last wisps of life leave her victim’s bodies, to behold the effects of her own poison creations. Her morbid desires are balanced with faith since she believes confession erases the sin, though she could never justify her skill to the magistrate she loves.

At the start of the 16th century in Tudor England, Lavinia’s marks grow from tavern drunks to nobility, but rising prestige brings increased risk. When the magistrate suspects her ruse, he pressures the priest into breaking her confessional seal, pitting Lavinia’s revengeful instincts as an assassin against the tenets of love and faith. The dilemma distracts her struggle to develop a pledged tasteless poison and avoid the wrath of her ruthless patron.

With her ideals in conflict, Lavinia must decide which will satisfy her heart: love, faith, or murder, but the betrays are just beginning.

This novel was inspired by the life of Locusta, Rome’s notorious poison brewer, and a homily from my priest about the ease of getting caught in a cycle sin and penance. I can’t wait to share more with you in the coming months!

Writing Tip

Short Story vs. The Novel

The obvious difference between a short story and a novel is well, a short story is shorter. That profound statement did not require a degree in rocket science.

And with a shorter word count, short stories must be easier, right?

There is no hard rule, but as a general frame of reference: a short story is between 1,000 to 20,000 words, but most short stories are between 3,000 and 5,000 words. A novel is anything greater than ~55,000 words.

Having just completed a draft of a short story myself, I’d argue a short story takes less time, but not less skill or thought. Short stories simply require a different approach.

In fact, I think the challenge with short stories is the word count. This provides limited space to intrigue the reader, introduce characters, provide concept of their world, and overcome a dilemma.

How can so much be accomplished in so little?  The best advice is to keep things simple.

Plot – A short story plot must be tight, without twists or shifts, in a singular setting, over a brief time span. A novel is a journey; a short story is one strong scene. There is simply no time for redirection or side tasks. Every word is precious.

Conflict – For a short story, the central conflict needs to be resolvable quickly – this is not the time for an epic journey to Mount Doom. But “quick” does not equate to “predictable” or “boring.”

Characters –  A short story should focus on a small number of characters, in a singular setting, with one goal. There should be one antagonist. No side distractions.

Depth – A novel provides the opportunity become intimate with a character, to explore their thoughts, their weakness, their desires. The reader can be immersed in a new world. With a short story, there is only time for the important facts. Determine the critical aspects of the story, and cut everything else.

Pacing – Novels generally follow a three-act structure. Most short stories provide an “exposition” to set the stage, some form of “climax” or conflict, and then an abrupt ending.

While there are differences, a short story does not excuse the author from good writing. All those recommended practices still apply: show vs. tell, use of strong verbs, strong descriptions for all five senses, etc. You still have to hook the reader.

. . . And, like all writing, the author will still fret over it, be nervous to share with beta readers, lose sleep over queries and second guess themselves with each word. Even though a story may be short, it’s still a personal view into the author’s soul.


What other differences do you find between short stories and novels. Share your thoughts in the comments below!



The Math Hidden Within ISBN Numbers

isbnApricots and Wolfsbane has an ISBN number! 978-1-946802-02-6 for the softcover edition.

An ISBN (or International Standard book Number) is a 13-digit number uniquely identifying books and “book-like” products. The number is used to differentiate one title, or edition of a title, from a specific publisher.  For example, an e-book and a paperback version of the same book would each have different ISBNs. Changing the cover of a book does not result in a new edition, since the text is the same.

Not all books have an ISBN number. If the book is printed privately and is not intended for bookstore or library distribution, then it does not need an ISBN number.

ISBN numbers were first derived in 1967 in the United Kingdom by David Whitaker, who based the system upon the 9-digit Standard Book Number (SBN) created in 1966. The 10-digit format was then developed the International Organization for Standardization  (ISO) and published in 1970. Ironically, the UK continued to use the 9-digit SBN code until 1974. Old SBNs were converted to ISBNs by adding a zero prefix. ISBNs remained 10-digits long until January 1, 2007, when ISBNs switched to a 13-digit format.

The number is divided into five parts of variable length, each separated by a hyphen:

  1. A Prefix (only applicable to 13-digit ISBNs). To date, only “978” or “979” have been used.
  2. Identifier for national or geographic location of the publisher
  3. The publisher identifier
  4. The title identifier which differentiates a particular title or edition
  5. A check digit which validates the ISBN.

For my fellow math geeks out there, the check digit for an ISBN-13 number is calculated via the following procedure:

  • Multiply each of the preceding 12-digits by a 1 or a 3 (alternating, starting with 1)
  • Sum all the products
  • Divide the result by 10 and calculate the remainder (mod 10)
  • Subtract the remainder from 10

For my ISBN-13 number: 978-1-946802-02-6, the check digit (6), is calculated:


Fun fact: The check digit for ISBN-10 numbers is calculated differently.  The procedure can result in a “10” for a check digit. When this occurs, the last digit is replaced with a roman numeral X to maintain a 10-digit ISBN Number.

For more information visit:


What’s in a name? My title saga . . .

A rose by any other name may smell as sweet, but a name makes a significance difference for a book.

A book’s title must be intriguing, grab a potential reader and stand out from the thousands of competitors. It must provide an essence of the genre and the pages contained within.

I swear, titling my novel was more difficult than writing it.  One person expressed to me that titling a book is as stressful as naming a child.  Frankly, we had an easier time naming our kids.

I fretted over the title before I queried publishers and eventually settled on Apricot Seeds and Wolfsbane. I liked the poetic essence and juxtaposition between a common item (an apricot) and a more commonly known poison (wolfsbane). The two items are also significant to the plot.

However, a few weeks ago, my publisher (Filles Vertes Publishing) suggested I should shorten the title. I love my editors (Myra Fiacco and C.L. Rose) and respect their expertise. Working with professionals is certainly one huge advantage over self-publishing and I felt ignoring their advice would be foolish. I understand a shorter title can be more catchy and I do think they look better on a book spine.

Shorten the title. That can’t be so hard.

Except that I’m an engineer by trade . . .

In this light, their simple suggestion kicked off weeks of brainstorming, research and data collection. And since a perfect title cannot be computed or derived, it was a decision I struggled with.

Google research will suggest the perfect title is three words, one of which should be a verb. But a review of the best sellers’ list shows this is clearly not the case. Those titles do not fall into a nice formula.

In my search for a title, I brainstormed over 60 different options (I wish I was joking). So often I would stumble across a potential title only to discover another book already had it. I summarized my novel with as few words as possible to help provoke thought. I developed a list of nouns and verbs relevant to my manuscript and played with combining them in various ways. As a historical fiction, I became frustrated so many succulent words just didn’t exist in 1510 England . . . (If someone ever invents a time machine, please consider going back and introducing the words “intrigue” and “sadistic” to Tudor England.)

And as an engineer, I am a fan of the moto: In God we trust, all others bring data.

I conducted three polls on social media gathering 195 responses. I analyzed the audience of the polls, comparing them to my best guess of my potential readers. I conversed with respondents to understand why they liked a specific title over the other, and so often, their responses contradicted each other.

Thank you to all who provided their opinion over the last weeks. I am also grateful to my publisher who assisted as well by conducting market research and contributing to brainstorming efforts.

A title is subjective. As much as I wish, I know I cannot appease everyone. In the end, I wanted a title I would be happy with. A title my publisher believed would help sell my book.

And so, I am pleased to say we made a final decision today. The new title of my novel is Apricots and Wolfsbane. It will release October 13, 2017.

My husband says it’s “easily the best fruit and poison title he’s heard.” I’ll take that win 🙂


Progress Report and Publication Date Announcement!

Today marks completion of the second round of edits with my publisher for my debut historical fiction, Apricots and Wolfsbane. This round concentrated on “line edits” which focus on word choice, sentence and paragraph structure, voice and style. I am so proud of how this manuscript has evolved and appreciate the efforts of my fantastic editor, Myra Fiacco. One of Filles Vertes Publishing interns, Cimone Watson, also provided comments as a beta reader.  The novel has matured since the last time I convinced friends and family beta read the thing, way before I ever signed a publishing contract. A fresh perspective is so critical during this process. Thank you to Cimone for your insights!

Next the manuscript goes to a copy editor (God bless them) and then text will be done! The thought both brings relief and dread. While I can read several chapters of the novel before changing words, I still find myself “tinkering.” Slowly I am losing the ability to change the words I have stressed over for months and like Lavinia, I prefer control.

At the same time, I can’t wait to release my labor of love.

So when can you get your hands on my novel?

I’m excited to announce Apricots and Wolfsbane will be released on Friday, October 13. It’s the perfect date to introduce my vicious poison assassin to the world!

But isn’t Friday the 13th unlucky? Nope! Our daughter was born April 13 on Palm Sunday a few years ago, so the 13th is dear to my heart.

I want to express my appreciation to everyone who is cheering me on! I cherish all the tweets and comments from those who have expressed interest in my novel. I cannot wait to put Lavinia’s story into the world and invite you to stay tuned for future updates!


Guest Blog, Writing Tip

Guest Blog: Mastering Multiple Characters Through Point of View

I am deep in editing Apricots and Wolfsbane with a Sunday editorial deadline (eek!) So I’m a most grateful for today’s guest blogger, Caryl MacAdoo. Caryl is a fellow Texas, Christian, historical fiction author who has written an impressive list of books. Best of all, her Texas Romance, Daughters of the Heart, is FREE for Kindle until Thursday (6/8/17).

Thank you so much to Caryl for the fantastic advice below, and the giveaways!

19021456_10213693078109147_1681730785_nDaughters of the Heart, book five in my Texas Romance historical family saga, is a prime example of how Point of View is paramount to “telling” or more appropriately, “showing” a story with an ensemble cast—in this case the three co-heroine sisters. The characters will think differently according to their age and personalities. This must show, and POV is the way to do it!

Now if I tell you Bonnie Claire is a precocious twelve-year-old who thinks she’s almost grown, it isn’t the same as putting you into her head to see her heart, hear her thoughts and spoken words. In Bonnie’s POV, you’ll immediately identify with her because you’ve been there yourself or knowing someone who is or was. She should think and speak like a young lady on the verge of becoming a woman.

This is accomplished through me getting into that character’s head and remembering how I felt as a twelve-year-old. Of all the techniques, tools if you will, of writing creative fiction, this is the one that elevated my work to where my  mentors and peers started saying, “Good read, Caryl” at my weekly read and critique writers’ workshop.

Reporting ONLY what Bonnie, the one with the most emotion at risk in that scene —hence my POVC (Point of View Character) — sees, hears, feels, thinks, wonders, smells, loves and hates will place your reader right there living vicariously with that character. And that’s why readers read. She will not be thinking with the same rationale as her two older sisters, Gwendolyn or Cecelia.

So when I move to a scene where Gwen has the most emotion at risk — that’s how you choose who’s scene it is — I have to ramp up the maturity and remember when I was eighteen and held the world in my hands! So now I’m thinking and writing as a confident young woman ready for a great future. That will show in her thoughts — the narrative — and her dialogue. Characters can’t ALL sound like their author in thought or speech.

18983393_10213693082909267_1497275459_nBut dialogue is a whole different topic 🙂 You know, if POV has eluded you somewhat— I thought it was the hardest tool to grasp as a new writer thirty-something years ago — I have a book which might help: Story & Style, The Craft of Writing Creative Fiction. It’s written in an easy conversational tone with lots of examples. Plus is you have questions, you can contact the author! 🙂

18945176_10213693095749588_1057908741_nOH and don’t forget DAUGHTERS OF THE HEART is FREE right now through Thursday midnight! Though it’s book five, it does stand alone, but be forewarned, you’ll love these Buckmeyers and may have the need to read all ten novels in the series! 🙂

GIVEAWAY: I’ll send a print copy of book one in the saga VOW UNBROKEN as a giveaway for K.M.’s blog chosen from one of her commenters!

Blessings from Texas, and thank you K.M., for inviting me to visit 🙂

19021477_10213693085909342_438154923_nAward winning author Caryl McAdoo currently writes four series: the historical Christian ‘Texas Romance’; a contemporary ‘Red River Romance’; The Generations, her Biblical fiction and a mid-grade The King’s Highway. The prolific, bestselling novelist loves singing new songs the Lord gives her and painting. In 2008, she and her high school sweetheart-husband Ron moved from the DFW area—home for fifty+ years—to the woods of Red River County. Caryl counts four children and sixteen grandsugars life’s biggest blessings believing all good things come from God. Praying her story gives God glory, she hopes each one will also minister His love, mercy, and grace to its readers. Caryl and Ron live in Clarksville, the county seat, in the far northeast corner of the Lone Star State with two grandsons, Christian and Benjamen.