Everything Slows Down

I’m so glad I have plot points, because somewhere in a novel I’m writing, I can’t remember what I’ve said and what I haven’t.  I lose my sense of direction, and ideas don’t bubble and flow like they did in the beginning.  I just reached 30,000 words of the 72,000 I’m hoping to write.  And the words are getting harder to find.  Everything’s slowing down.  Becoming work.  And I know some of you are rolling your eyes because you write volumes of words and then have to cut.  But not me.  I write lean and then have to go back to add descriptions and emotions.  All the extras.

The middle.  Ugh.  It’s a juggling act, keeping all of the story points in the air.  Even the best juggler, though, eventually times the balls wrong or gets tired, and the balls crash down.  That’s what the middle feels like to me.  So far, I’ve accomplished what I wanted to.

  1.  Jazzi’s sister, Olivia, finds the new girl she hired for her beauty shop dead in the chair that’s tipped back at the wash basin.
  2.  Jazzi’s ex-fiancée comes to her for advice, worried that his new wife is going to leave him.  And then she disappears.  And then the cops find her empty car near a field in the country with her purse on the front seat.  If she met someone to run away, why leave her purse?  Unless….
  3.  I’ve started introducing suspects, witnesses, and clues.  There are plenty to choose from for Misty.  Not many people liked her.  It’s slim pickings for Chad’s wife.  Everyone liked her.  And of course, he’s the main suspect.
  4.  At the same time Jazzi’s trying to piece together clues, she, Ansel, and Jerod are working on a Colonial house to flip.  Its rooms are huge, and they’ve decided to make this house a little more modern than what they usually do.
  5.  They’re trying to finish the flipper and help Ansel’s brother, Radley, and his fiancée Elspeth move into the house they bought on Wilt Street before Easter.  Easter’s a big event–a big family celebration.

I like the mix.  I just don’t like middles:)  But the only way out of them is to trudge forward.  So that’s what I’m doing.  Trudging, one word, one chapter at a time.  And I have a lot more to go.  And eventually, clues will add up, the pace will kick into gear again, and the words will flow faster.  Until then, no one said that writing was always fun.  Fulfilling, but that’s a different matter.  Sometimes it’s just a win when you get the words down.

Whatever you’re working on, good luck.  And Happy writing!

Listen and Just Be There

I think the planets must not have aligned right last month.  I got lots more phone calls than usual.  Friends and family members alike were having problems.  Not huge ones, but upsetting, frustrating crap.  Stuff I couldn’t fix or help with.  All they needed was to vent.  And I was there to listen.

Venting is good.  It’s healthy.  It takes something that seems big at the moment and helps release what looms large into something easier to deal with.  I believe in venting.  Holding emotions in gives them more power than they deserve.  And that’s where listening can help ease a burden.  Occasionally, and thankfully it wasn’t true last week, something is so big, it’s too overwhelming, but if you can share it and have more shoulders bear the burden, it becomes tolerable.

That was my function last week.  To listen.  Just to be there.  And it made me think about Jazzi, my amateur sleuth.  One of the things she does best is to listen.  In the book I’m writing now, The Body in the Beauty Shop, she tags along with Detective Gaff to meet the roommates of the girl who was killed.  These girls are a little on the rough side.  They clam up when Gaff tries to interview them, but they’re more than happy to share their grievances with Jazzi after she tells them her sister’s none too happy that Misty’s body was found in her beauty salon.  They have something in common.  Misty cheated all of them.

Amateur sleuths can’t make anyone talk to them, so they just need to be there and trigger a conversation, then listen.  Years ago, when a friend and I attended one of our first conferences, she was so nervous, she wasn’t sure she could even attend all of the panels, so she asked me how she could feel more secure.  The only advice I could think to give her was to be more interested in the people she met than she was about making a good first impression.  I told her to ask them questions about themselves and their work, and then to listen.  And that worked for her.  It helped her to get out of her own head, her own fears.  We had a great conference.  There are many skills we develop to be better writers, but to listen is often underrated.  But I think it helps.

Hope you have a good week.  And happy writing!



Thought I’d share a short excerpt from my latest Muddy River supernatural mystery, TATTOOS & PORTENTS:

Festus took a swig of beer before saying, “You know I travel a few times a year for my job.”

I nodded. “You write ads for small businesses and do online advertising for them, but once in a while, you have to meet with them to keep up to date.” The warlock was a whiz at clever campaigns and images.

“This time, I drove to a town east of here on the river, like we are,” he told us. “I met with the business owner and was ready to start home when I must have blacked out in my car. Thank Hecate I made it that far or I might have crumpled on the street. I don’t know how long I was out, but when I came to, I had the tattoo, and I’ve been having the same nightmare over and over again every night since it appeared.”

Raven scowled and looked my way. “Have you dealt with anything like this before, Hester?”

I shook my head. “Sounds more like Fae magic than ours.” I studied the dark ink, a Celt symbol. “May I touch your tattoo?” I asked Festus.

He rolled up his sleeve again, and I placed my hand on it. “I feel both Fae and witch magic.” Keeping my hand on the tattoo, I cast a spell, and suddenly, an image appeared in the air before us, a scene that played out as a movie.

We were seeing the images through someone else’s eyes. Whose, I couldn’t tell. But we were walking along a river bank, picking leaves and roots to brew for potions. We felt the sun on our backs, but the air was cool. Leaves were changing colors, and some had already fallen to the ground. Autumn. Late October maybe?

We could feel the seer’s thoughts and emotions. Whoever it was, was new to the area, surprised by how many varieties of plants grew there. She almost had her basket full when the sound of movements made her glance up. A swirl of spirits raced toward her and whirled around her like a gray tornado of dead souls. Wisps of faces flashed past her.

I’d seen spirits like these before at the voodoo village across the river. I knew the spirits could do no harm, but this girl was frightened. She screamed, dropped her basket, and threw up her hands to defend herself. Then, she heard more movement behind her, but before she could turn, pain exploded in the back of her head and oblivion overtook her.







A Short History Lesson (for me) for the Regency period

I love Regency romances and mysteries, but I don’t know enough about the history of the period to keep everything straight.  Luckily for me, my good friend M. L. Rigdon (aka Julia Donner) agreed to a Q & A to help promote her latest novel, MORE THAN A MILKMAID.

More than a Milkmaid--Mary Lou

Help me welcome her to my blog.  She’s my critique partner and close friend, and I’m also a huge fan of her writing—and not just because I’m prejudiced. I’m pretty picky about what I consider good writing. Not that anyone would know that. I simply don’t review books I don’t like or admire. And I admire her work. Her latest novel, MORE THAN A MILKMAID, is one of my favorites.

Thanks so much for asking me here today! And yes, you are biased, but for my latest venture into the Regency world, it may have to do with you providing the title. Remember? We were at a Scribes writing group and I whined about not being to come up with one. Thanks again for that!

I’ve been reading more novels than usual set in or close to the Regency period. The mystery I’m reading now makes the Prince Regent and his father, actually most of his family, look really bad. It shows the Prince as a spoiled, narcissistic hypochondriac and womanizer who’s so pampered, he couldn’t possibly rule a country. His “handlers” do it. Is this a realistic view of him? Was his father really mentally incompetent—crazy or Alzheimers—at this period?

George III reigned as one of the best monarchs until his mental condition worsened. He was admired for his devotion to his wife and family, huge contributions to charity, and his great pride in being an Englishman, even though 100% German. He was strict and pious, which unfortunately was not passed down to most of his children. His son, eventually George IV, was the opposite of his father in every way, although he did love one woman for many years. The problem was that she was unsuitable as a royal wife.

When the Regent became George IV in 1820, he burdened the country with massive debt. One estimate stated that he spent over 4 million a year on his stables. (A wealthy man spent around 5 thousand a year.) Add to that lavish parties and extravagant building projects. Since he behaved exactly the opposite of his father, George was widely unpopular and mocked.

Back to Dad, George III, the controversy regarding his illness is ongoing. In my opinion (take it as you will), the porphyria disease as the cause of his mental problems doesn’t fit. That doesn’t mean that he didn’t suffer from it, just that it’s doubtful it made him nuts. The arsenic found in the DNA from his hair also doesn’t sound like a true cause for dementia, which was intermittent. (Arsenic was an ancient remedy for many ailments, especially venereal disease, but George III was monogamous.) Bipolar fits better, especially since there are studies about neurotransmitters and George was born 2 months premature. High sex drive is often connected to bipolar and George fathered 15 kids. Hmmm…

Did the Prince go on to become a good king? Did the Hanover house lose its rule eventually? And when did Queen Victoria become queen? Close to this period?

George IV was a mess and fortunately reigned only a decade. His only legitimate heir died. The next in line of surviving brothers was William. He had no legitimate heirs, so the line moved to previously deceased Edward the Duke of Kent’s daughter, Victoria.

QE II is a descendant of the House of Hanover.

I get confused about what’s really happening in history at this time period. Is England still fighting the Napoleonic wars? When is the French revolution when French aristocracy fled to England for safety? You mention both in your books. Asterly was a spy for England against Napoleon and Cervantes’s mother fled the guillotine. Care to elaborate?

Napoleonic Wars started in 1800 in Europe. England entered the war in 1803 until 1815.

Louis XVI was executed January 1793 and Marie Antoinette 9 months later.

Reign of Terror began in the summer of 1793.

Significantly, Marquise de Lafayette returned to France and was never hassled. He was as admired there as he was, and still is, in the US.

Most of the books I’ve read in this period hint at how badly England treated Ireland and maybe Scotland, too. How bad was it? Which of your books dealt with this?

It’s mentioned in many of them but most detailed in The Dandy and the Flirt.

I’m not as familiar with Irish history, but the enclosures in Scotland were horrific, as bad as what the USA did to Native Americans.

In MORE THAN A MILKMAID, you have a wealthy father marry a greedy young bride who does everything possible to steal all of the inheritance he left to his daughters. How did inheritances for female offspring work at that time? What are entailments? How was the title and money passed on to heirs?

Primogeniture, inheritance in England of titles and properties, or entailment, cannot be sold. It follows the eldest born of the male line. Women only inherited if monies or properties, were specifically willed to them and administered through trustees or an elder male member of the family or a person of confidence.


In Heiress and the Spy, Elizabeth’s fortune was supposed to be administered by trustees. She directed them. In that case, I took liberties and had her late father arrange special conditions.


Dowry pertains to what the bride brings to the marriage. Everything she owns goes to her husband. A settlement had to do with what legal arrangements were set aside for the financial wellbeing of the wife/widow.


On a fashion note, the heroines in these stories wear day dresses and then dress for dinner each evening. Did they dress formally every evening?

It wasn’t unusual to change four or five times a day—clothes for the boudoir, morning dress for breakfast, carriage or walking dress, habits for riding, frocks for receiving callers. One always dressed for dinner and then there were different types of fancy dress, such as ball gowns or court dress. In the country, a woman could probably get away with changing twice a day. Men changed didn’t change quite as often but most certainly had specific attires for every event or social function.

Anything you care to tell us about this particular book?  An excerpt to tempt us?


I’ve gone on a bit long, as I often do when it comes to history, so will just add a blurb.


Lenora Asher’s happy future came to a tragic end when the lad she was contracted to marry lost his life in a fire. Grieving and rebellious, she refused to agree to her family’s plan for an alternate future. When they cast her off, she found work and refuge with an estranged aunt and settled into the struggle to survive—until one day she discovers the love she’d thought long dead was quite vibrantly alive. He returned to show her that the troubled road to happily-ever-after littered with barriers of doubt, distrust and resentment are no obstacle for a man risen from dead, one who will do whatever is needed to restore her love.


M.L Rigdon (aka Julia Donner)

Follow on Twitter @RigdonML

Blog: https://historyfanforever.wordpress.com/

Website http://www.MLRigdon.com








Here’s the thing…

Okay, this is definitely a matter of personal taste, and I know it.  But when I read, I read for ME, and no one else.  So what pulls me in works for me, and maybe wouldn’t even interest anyone else.  And what turns me off, well…that might not even bother someone who was more interested in plot or setting or whatever.  But that said, when I start a book, and I love the building romantic relationship, even when the book isn’t a romance but a mystery or fantasy, it REALLY BOTHERS ME when that romance was there  just to pull me into the story and it dies for whatever reason (actual death/political turmoil/etc.) and something or someone else is introduced to jolly me up one or two books later.

There, I said it.  I don’t jolly up all that fast, and I harbor resentment that I thought I was going to enjoy a wonderful romance and got a terrible disappointment instead.  I didn’t really understand this when my agent first asked me to try my hand at romances.  I wanted to show a protagonist, a smart woman, who’d lost her husband and rebounded with Mr. Wrong before she found Mr. Right.  Readers weren’t thrilled with me, even when I made it perfectly clear that the first guy was a BIG mistake and the guy in the background was HEA.  But how much worse is it when an author makes me believe that the woman/’man in the romantic subplot SEEMS to be Ms./Mr. Right and then…he’s not?

I’ll tell you how bad it is for me.  I finish that book, and it’s the last one I read in that series for a long time, maybe for forever.  Because I feel cheated.  Tricked.  And I’m only thinking of that now because tomorrow’s Valentine Day–a time for romance (in theory).  And because I’m reading a book I L_O_V_E, and I’ve been all happy with the tenderness between the hero and the actress he loves, UNTIL I saw an ad for a later book where he marries someone else.

Right away, that tells me that 1.  The relationship is going to fall apart later on or 2.  The author’s going to kill off the love interest.  Both of those plot contrivances aggravate the heck out of me.  Which means, I’d better enjoy this book while I can because when I reach the end, I probably won’t want to buy another book in this series for a long time unless this author comes up with some miracle where whatever happens kind of feels okay.  But it’s too soon to tell.  And I doubt it, because I know similar plots have been death kneels for two previous series that I’d be reading book after book for centuries to come (if I lived that long), until the romance got shot in the foot.  Bang.  Done.  Kaput.  And I felt like the rug got pulled out from under me.

There are many flaws in books I can grumble about but overlook, so it’s odd that this one bothers me so much.  Especially since I love mysteries more than romances.  But who said that enjoying a book had to make sense?  What about you?  Do you have anything that trips your trigger?  Or makes you a fan forever?  Share it with us!


Instead of my usual Mystery Musings today, I’m visiting a writer friend’s blog.  C. S. Boyack was kind enough to share his site with me today and suggested writing about any research I do for my Muddy River stories.  You’d think writing about witches, demons, and shifters wouldn’t take much, but I still manage to get intrigued by all kinds of articles about witches and Druids, etc., so I hope you visit me at Craig’s.  And while you’re there, check out his blog.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.  He writes pretty entertaining books, too.  I especially enjoy his Lanternfish and Serang novels.


Craig also is one of the talented writers for The Story Empire blog, and I’ve shared links from there often.  It’s worth looking at: https://storyempirecom.wordpress.com/blog/  

And while you’re there, I hope you leave a comment.  I love them.

Lots of Cooking/No Writing

Every year, for a while now, we have friends over on Oscar Sunday for a party.  My daughter drove up from Indy on Saturday afternoon, and we visited and went out to eat to build up our energy for an all-day cooking extravaganza.  We don’t mess around.  When we cook for the Oscars, we try to make Wolfgang Puck proud:)  We might not be in his league, but we take inspiration from his go-for-broke style.

The menu this week year: mushroom/puff pastry turnovers, shawarma chicken with tzatziki sauce, beef satay, ham pinwheels, Greek topping bruschetta, fruit pizzas and key lime pie cupcakes, among other things.  Mary Lou brought spinach/artichoke dip to die for and deviled eggs.  And then Dawn sent her HH with decorations for our living room.  I’m talking two fake palm trees strung with white lights, a shimmering streamer “curtain,” banners, and balloons.  This is me with the palm trees.  At the other end of the room, there were more decorations.  Dawn takes parties seriously:)

Oscar party 2020--me

Dawn and her David, Mary Lou, and John S know their movies.  Holly, HH, and I?  Not so much.  But it’s fun listening to them debate cinematography, best actors and actresses, directors, and costume design.  There are so many things that go into making a great movie.  Just like there are so many things that go into making a great book–characters, pacing, plotting, voice, setting, and dialogue, among others.  Most writers I know study movies to see how they’re put together and what makes them work, then can apply many of the same things to writing.

Every year while watching the Oscars, though, I marvel at how dedicated the people who are nominated are.  So are the writers I hear on panels when I attend conferences.  And when artists of any kind get down to talking about their work, the ones I’ve heard realize how lucky they are if they’re noticed or discovered, and they can list all of the elements of hard work that went into what they created.  It’s a joy when all of that hard work pays off, when everything comes together to let you win a part, sell your first novel, get good reviews, or win an Oscar.  But there are so many wonderful, talented people who never win an award, but keep doing what they do and work hard to do their best at it.  I applaud them, too.