Book Review: Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter

5/5: Finished Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter. Yes, this is a very, very dark read. Reader beware of what you’re getting yourself into. Masterfully crafted and addictively compelling, I read this one straight through over the course of two days. I was shocked and saddened and repulsed but this is what you’re supposed to feel when reading thrillers that fall into the ‘very dark’ category. No spoilers from me, but if you’re the type of reader who isn’t squeamish about the deplorable underworld of humanity, Karin Slaughter really delivers with this one.

From the publisher:

Sisters. Strangers. Survivors.
More than twenty years ago, Claire and Lydia’s teenaged sister Julia vanished without a trace. The two women have not spoken since, and now their lives could not be more different. Claire is the glamorous trophy wife of an Atlanta millionaire. Lydia, a single mother, dates an ex-con and struggles to make ends meet. But neither has recovered from the horror and heartbreak of their shared loss—a devastating wound that’s cruelly ripped open when Claire’s husband is killed.
The disappearance of a teenage girl and the murder of a middle-aged man, almost a quarter-century apart: what could connect them? Forming a wary truce, the surviving sisters look to the past to find the truth, unearthing the secrets that destroyed their family all those years ago . . . and uncovering the possibility of redemption, and revenge, where they least expect it.

Updates: No Alcohol, Conference, Travel, Books

At the hotel in San Antonio

It’s September first, which is a big deal in my house because it happens to be both my husband’s and son’s birthday. It’s also now officially the month when I can sink fully into that fall feeling, especially at home in Colorado (even though I happen to currently be in a state that is still insisting on having temperatures over 100 degrees…come on Texas, this is silly.)

So what is going on with me? Health wise I’ve been on a zero alcohol kick for the last two weeks. I do this at least once or twice a year for a month or more. I love my wine, but honestly when I do these little detoxes it is AMAZING how much better I feel physically, cognitively, and emotionally. It’s gotten to the point where I realize even having a single glass of wine can significantly effect my mood and motivation the next day. I know it’s not like this for many people–maybe it just effects me more? Anyway, as I always wonder when I do this–would life just be so much better without alcohol ever? Probably…but damnit, I do love sipping a big fat cabernet especially when the weather turns cold.

In the fun/career category, I’ll be heading out to Chicago in a little under three weeks for the WFWA (women’s fiction writers) tenth anniversary conference. I’m so excited to mix and mingle with fellow writers in person again. It’s been a while since I’ve gone to a conference (the last was the ITW Thriller Writers conference in June of 22). It’s always a relief to sit down with other people who IMMEDIATELY just know the crazy ins and outs of this life and business. I’m very lucky to have amazing family and friends who will ask questions and are interested in what I do–but there really isn’t a substitute for connecting with people who are also living this weird life. Commiseration loves company, and all that.

As for my traveling life, things are finally starting to slow down a bit with the end of summer. As I mentioned earlier, I’m currently in Texas (San Antonio to be specific). It’s the last day of a three day trip for me. Today I fly SAT-DEN-SAN-DEN and I’ll get home tonight around midnight. I miss Rod and Matthew’s actual birthday, but we’re planning on going out for breakfast tomorrow morning and we also have reservations for a family dinner in downtown Denver next weekend. I don’t eat a lot of red meat, but I will indulge in a perfect filet mignon about twice a year–and almost always on their birthday. Imagine how hard it will be to NOT order that fat cabernet to go along with that beautiful steak–hmmm, we’ll see what happens.

In book news, I will say my furious writing pace for the last couple of weeks has slowed a little just recently. While writing yesterday in my hotel in Newark, I just crossed the 34,000 word mark. I had originally hoped to have a rough draft of this book completed by the end of August. I’ve now set my sights on mid September. I would REALLY love to have it done before I head out to Chicago for the conference–hmmm, we’ll see what happens 😂

And I know I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again in case you missed it–thank you to everyone who has read and reviewed Once Upon a Lie. It’s been so well received and this has really encouraged me to continue with my indie publishing plans. It was a leap to leave my agent and the continual grind of traditional publishing over this past year. I can truthfully report that I’m so much happier, optimistic, and consequently, PRODUCTIVE, since leaving all the angst behind. It’s so liberating to just write the books YOU WANT, publish them, and actually enjoy it all again. Life is so short, and I’m probably at least halfway through mine–happy is my number one priority from here on out.

Until next week.

Where Does it Come From?

Every time I attend a book club as a guest author or answer interview questions or even just have a conversation at a bar that leads to the discussion of writing books, I get asked this question:

Where do you get your ideas?

And you would think that after having been asked this question so many times I would have developed a succinct answer that I could deliver quickly. But no. I typically flounder my way around this question because the answer is really complex. Or so I thought. I would spend too much time trying to explain, with examples from my books for god’s sake. I essentially always end up boring my questioner to tears because the reality is that while readers enjoy fantasizing and romanticizing about the writing process, especially when they’ve just finished something they really enjoyed, actually hearing the author talk about how they make the sausage is far less glamorous.

Anyway, all that is to say it finally occurred to me what the real answer to this question is. I’ve generally failed at this because I’ve tried to focus on answering it based on end results, when in fact the better answer, and what the questioner really wants to know, is what is happening inside the brains of writers. And while I can not, and should not, speak for other creatives, this is what it’s like for me.

So here it is, the where, how, and why I get ideas for books, stories, characters, settings, plots…a goddamn chair that is placed in a particular room–all of it.

In my real waking life, and sometimes dreams too, whenever absolutely anything happens, or I hear about literally anything that captures my attention enough to take notice of it, my immediate follow up thought is ALWAYS about how this potentially works in a book, story, character, setting, plot, or even furniture placed in a fictional room.

I don’t know why, but this is my hardwiring. And while I’m not one of those people that always JUST KNEW she wanted to be a writer, I am absolutely someone who has ALWAYS done this.

As a child, it looked like daydreaming and an overactive imagination. Traits I would still use to describe me today. Traits that both serve me well and cause me grief, to be honest.

So where do I get my ideas? Everywhere, all the time, all at once–and I don’t seem to be able to ever turn this off.

Expanded Audio Distribution for Once Upon a Lie

I published the audiobook for Once Upon a Lie back in May, and it was available on Audible and Apple books right away. So that was great. But I was using a different distributor to publish it and make it available on other platforms. Well…as often happens when you’re running your own show, things in business don’t always just work.

Long story short, I’m happy to share that heard back from the distributor today and the audiobook is now available on many retailers beyond Amazon and Apple. So if you’ve been waiting to grab it on a different platform, now you can (including Barnes and Noble and Spotify).

The list below isn’t everywhere you can find it…but it’s several of the big ones.


Barnes and Noble

Google Play




Libro FM


Current Read: The Broken Girls by Simone St. James

Even though it’s 90 degrees outside and we are in full swing summer mode here in the Northern Hemisphere, I’m in no mood for beach reads at the moment. All I want are dark, atmospheric books and as you can see, The Broken Girls by Simone St. James is what’s on my docket for this week.

From the publisher: A journalist uncovers the dark secrets of an abandoned boarding school in this chilling suspense novel from the New York Times bestselling author of The Sun Down Motel.

Vermont, 1950. There’s a place for the girls whom no one wants—the troublemakers, the illegitimate, the ones too smart for their own good. It’s called Idlewild Hall, and local legend says the boarding school is haunted. Four roommates bond over their whispered fears, their friendship blossoming—until one of them mysteriously disappears….

Vermont, 2014. Twenty years ago, journalist Fiona Sheridan’s elder sister’s body was found in the overgrown fields near the ruins of Idlewild Hall. And although her sister’s boyfriend was tried and convicted of the murder, Fiona can’t stop revisiting the events, unable to shake the feeling that something was never right about the case.

When Fiona discovers that Idlewild Hall is being restored by an anonymous benefactor, she decides to write a story about it. But a shocking discovery during renovations links the loss of her sister to secrets that were meant to stay hidden in the past—and a voice that won’t be silenced….

What is your current reading mood? Are you devouring all those beach reads? Something else? Give me your latest book recommendations below.

Writing Vlog #5: Once Upon a Lie is Published…the Mistakes I Made and Lessons Learned

Writing Vlog #5: Once Upon a Lie is Published…the Mistakes I Made and Lessons Learned. Today I’m sharing about my highs and lows with my return to self-publishing and the release of my new book, Once Upon a Lie. I’m giving you the dirt on my personal mistakes, the lessons I’ve learned, and what I’ll do differently next time. Thank you for watching and please don’t forget to subscribe.

5 Things I Wish I’d Known Before Traveling to Tahiti

  • 1. The main island and its city, Papeete, is not really that great. There is a run down, dilapidated feel. Like most of the buildings were erected around the 1960’s and then left to elemental decay. Most depressingly, everywhere you turn you’re faced with the sight of stray dogs, and their litters of puppies, roaming feral. They’re not a nuisance to you, but it is heartbreaking to see.
  • 2. There aren’t long white sandy beaches with that famous turquoise water…at least not on the main island. I don’t know about you, but prior to our trip, when I thought about what Tahiti would be like, I envisioned crystal clear, vibrant blue waters lapping against sugar sand beaches. Imagine my surprise to learn that nearly all the beaches on the main island are black sand (from the volcanic activity) and the waters were what you might expect to see crashing onto the Pacific Northwest of the United States. That’s not to say that the beaches didn’t posses a beauty to be savored…it just wasn’t even in the parking lot of what I expected. The wet sand looks like mud; however, it is actually amazing to walk on and a spectacle to see. Hands down, it’s the softest sand I’ve ever felt and it’s jet black color was stunning. The waters may be dark, but they are still warm and great for swimming or jumping in the waves.
The black sand is both amazing to feel and see
  • 3. Outside of your fancy resort, there’s not really much to do. While there, we kept searching for excursions, activities, or even great shopping and dining but everything advertised was less than inspiring. Additionally, the few activities we were interested in required a trip to the nearby Moorea (more on this in a second).
Pool time at the Hilton
  • 4. Rent a car right away. Drive around the island, stop into amazing local restaurants like Le Plague De Maui, visit those beautiful black sand beaches like up at Pointe Venus, then drive your car onto one of the ferries and take it to…
My delicious meal at Le Plague De Maui
Pointe Venus Beach
The ferries that can take you, and your rental car, to Moorea
  • 5. The nearby island of Moorea. You’ll probably need to book one night on the main island for when your flight arrives (in the evening) but you’ll want to book the majority of your stay on Moorea. Verdant, lush, and surprisingly undeveloped, Moorea is what you imagine after seeing all the Tahitian marketing materials. Especially if you are heading out there for a special occasion, like a honeymoon, Moorea is the atmosphere and experience you are likely hoping for. Here you’ll find those bright, turquoise waters, white sand beaches (although not fine or soft like the black volcanic sands), and nature based excursions. But know, outside the resorts, there isn’t any shopping or fine dining. Tahiti is not Hawaii. For the most part, it’s sleepy and undeveloped–which may be exactly what you’re looking for.
Finally found those turquoise waters…on Moorea

Excerpt Once Upon a Lie: Chapter Three

Link to chapter two

Link to chapter one

Alexander untethered his MacBook from the projection cables and slid it into the padded sleeve of his computer bag. His class of Columbia University neuropsychology graduate students, were collecting their own things, talking, and filing past him on their way out the door. He kept his gaze focused on his hands, his bag, the work of leaving this room as quickly as possible before he was cornered by one of them and forced, out of politeness and professorial duty, to indulge their questions, comments, or otherwise banal blathering meant to accomplish nothing more than single themselves out from the herd of other students. They were special. They were engaged with their education. They were making sure to follow the brochure’s advice to get to know your professors. They believed the university marketing material that had ensured them that Columbia professors care about you, not only as a student but as a person.

They always thought this especially true of Alexander because he was a doctor of neuropsychology and assumed this made him more approachable than their other professors—therapeutic even. But for Alexander Strauss, nothing could be further from the truth. Sit down. Listen to what I’m teaching you. Do the work. Now leave my class as quickly as you can. He was a doctor of neuropsychology, a practitioner, a scientist, not a therapist. 

And this day, in particular, the additional post-class conversation was neither desired nor encouraged. He was looking forward to having an hour to spend sipping one, probably two, Macallan on the rocks at Marley’s polished mahogany bar before he boarded the train that would carry him home and out of the city. He had rambunctious five-year-old twin girls and a wife who seemed to be spiraling into personal chaos. He was going to need some liquid fortitude before walking in his door.

“Doctor Strauss?” a woman’s high and tenuous voice interrupted his packing. Even before he turned to face her, he knew she was nervous about approaching him from the insecure pitch of her question. 

He cleared his throat to hide his annoyance, but his response was clipped, “Yes.” He closed his bag and slipped the wide crossbody strap over his head. When he turned, he saw that she was young, early twenties, with long brown hair tied in a low ponytail. Her brown eyes held a question for him, but he could also see that he’d been right—she was nervous, maybe even a little afraid. 

Her expression made him feel like an ass, so he dropped his shoulders a few inches and remedied his tone. “How can I help you?” 

For a moment, she only stood there, staring at him with those huge, beautiful eyes. Alexander forced a smile, hoping it would help reset the interaction. Yes, he felt the stress with his teaching workload, research, and everything that seemed to be happening with Mia. But the last thing he needed was for one of his students to feel like he was not supportive. Or, much worse, discriminatory.

She opened her mouth and was about to speak, but then a look of concern stalled her attempt. 

Alexander looked over her head, there were still a few other students left in the room, but they were heading for the door. He didn’t want to be alone in the room with one of his young female students. 

Jesus, even the suspicion of impropriety was the last thing he needed right now. 

“Is there anything…” he tilted his head, trying to be approachable. Caring. Concerned for her wellbeing while not counting the minutes he was losing with his planned scotch.

“Doctor Strauss,” she announced. Suddenly finding her voice, she appeared determined to state her purpose. “I’m Tasha Adams.” She thrust out her small hand. 

Alexander noticed how delicate her fingers were as he took her hand in his own for two shakes before dropping it promptly. Tasha Adams was young and beautiful. And he wished she would hurry and get to her point because the last of the other students were now walking out the door. 

“What can I do for you, Tasha?” he said in his best dad’s voice while inclining his head toward the door. “How about we walk and talk?” Yes, let’s walk right out of this deserted classroom into the open spaces for everyone to witness their conversation. 

Alexander felt he couldn’t ever be too careful when it came to appearances. As he headed toward the door, Tasha fell into step beside him.

“I’m in your class,” she stated. 

“Yes,” he forced a smile. “I gathered.” 

A look of relief softened her expression. “Well, I was wondering—” She stopped short as she turned and reached into her own bag. “If you would consider signing this for me?” 

When she handed him a book, he stopped walking. It was a copy of his book, Somebody She Used to Know: Amnesia and the Journey Forward. He couldn’t help the genuine and delighted smile that spread across his face. “Well, this is a surprise.” 

“Really?” she asked, turning again to her bag. She pulled out a pen and handed it to him. “It was so good. I figured you must get asked all the time.” 

With the hardcover cradled against his forearm, he flipped open to the title page and clicked the pen. “Yes…five years ago during the book tour? Thousands of requests to sign it.” He scribbled his name across the page and closed the book. “But these days? And by a student who’s already loaded up with all my other assigned readings? No.” He handed the book back to her and gave her a genuine smile. The unexpected encounter with a young fan had buoyed his spirits. 

“Thank you,” she said and held the book in her hands for several seconds before returning it to her bag. 

“You are more than welcome,” he said as he pushed open and held the door that led outside. 

Tasha nodded her head in thanks for the courtesy and slipped past him. This close to her, it was impossible to ignore the intoxicating waft of her scent. And whether it was simply her or an elixir of the shampoo, soap, and perfume she used, the result was a lush, fresh aroma. A walk in the woods while holding hands. 

Alexander swallowed the feeling down and followed her out the door. “Well, Ms. Tasha Adams,” he said, sounding excruciating and lame even to himself. “It was a pleasure to meet you. I’ll see you in class.”

She nodded and dropped her eyes to the ground. 

He waited for several seconds. Was she going to say goodbye? Should he walk away now? It seemed weird to leave without her saying anything but equally odd, more so, to stand here staring at her, saying nothing. 

“Okay then,” he said as he adjusted his shoulder strap. “Bye.” He raised his hand and started to leave.

“Doctor Strauss?” She raised her eyes to meet his.


She bit her bottom lip, hesitating, then mustered her courage. “I was wondering. Well, your book. It would be an understatement to say it’s been influential for me. I might go so far as to say it’s actually changed my life.” 

With a wide-eyed surprise, Alexander rocked back on his heels. “That’s quite a compliment.” Her admission took him by surprise. It had happened a few times while touring with this book. Readers would lean in awkwardly while he signed their book and gush about how his work had impacted them profoundly. He never knew quite how to respond. Thank you? I’m so happy you enjoyed it? Reserved platitudes that never matched the reader’s fervent declarations—and then they would take their book and be gone. His words had changed their life, and yet he would never see or hear from them again. 

But Tasha Adams was in his class. She was beautiful and smelled like youth. 

“Thank you,” he said. 

Tasha took a breath. “I was wondering.” She shrugged one shoulder. “I know you are very busy, but…would it be possible for me to buy you a cup of coffee sometime? I…well, I have so many questions about your book and your work. Getting to study with you is one of the biggest reasons I came to Columbia.”

Alexander took a beat to digest her question, and this other adulation directed his way. “I’m flattered,” he blurted. “And yes.” It was his turn to lower his eyes to the ground. “Coffee would be great…good.” He shook his head, looked into her eyes again, and tried to smile casually. “But I insist, my treat.” 

Her expression lit up. “Wonderful. Is tomorrow too soon?”

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As the Dust Settles

It’s been a few weeks since Once Upon a Lie released and I can feel my head clearing and making space for other thoughts beyond the monumental efforts to get the book produced and uploaded to all the places. It takes an insane amount of work to get your book polished, formatted, and connected to all the channels for distribution around the globe. This is the hidden work that most traditionally published authors and readers alike never really know about. Weirdly, I mostly enjoy doing it. It’s only when I have to chase down problems and depend on sometimes less then helpful customer service operations that I feel the frustrations rise.

Why can’t things JUST WORK, I often wonder. But generally I’ve been able to work out the bugs with venders and I’ve learned a lot of lessons for my next book. I’m really happy with how Once Upon a Lie has turned out and I feel proud of the book I’ve created for you. Which brings me to my next thought…

With my new headspace, I’ve been wondering more and more about goals and next steps for this indie author career. If you’re already a part of this world, you know there is nothing but an avalanche of How-To advice from every conceivable corner of the internet. When I head down these rabbit holes, I see that the advice is both helpful and overwhelming but my greatest take away thus far has been the realization that I’ll need to align my path with goals that truly resonate with my values as a writer.

So much of the marketing advice is centered on writing more books faster in order to sell more books and make more money. There is advice on creating ads, tracking data, sell through, market reach, etc, etc. It’s amazing, truly, how much other authors share about exactly how they have found success. And as much as I realize they are correct, selling books is a business after all, I’ve yet to find myself even remotely capable of implementing any of their very sound selling tactics.

Why? I have no idea. Obstinance? Stupidity? Unwillingness to deep dive and learn how to really market a book? All of the above?


It could be that all the climbing and learning I did to produce a book I could feel proud to have my name on has left me a little tired. Perhaps you’ll see a Mad Men level marketing surge from me after I’ve had a month or two to recuperate. I don’t really know how I’ll end up trying to sell this book, but I do know I’ve landed on my number one goal for this career moving forward, and I actually think it’s foundational to any selling I do or don’t attempt in the future.

And that goal is to create great books that I feel proud of and that readers will love.

From the concept and writing to the packaging and design, I want to make books I, as a reader, would want to read and own. If I can that right, I am hoping the rest will more easily fall into place with time.

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To buy my book on the darknet use the archetyp market.