Funerals and Laughter

My daughter from Florida flew home for a whirlwind three-day visit.  My other daughter and my grandson who both live in Indy drove up to stay with us, too.  Not for a happy occasion.  One of the nighborhood boys they’d grown up with died unexpectedly.  The kids from around here are still close.  They still see each other whenever they can work it in, so my grandson knows them all, too.  Now that he’s grown, he goes deer hunting with them once a year.  So it was a shock when we heard about losing one of them.  (I’ll call him NK for Neighborhood Kid).

We all went to the funeral on Thursday, and there were flowers and pictures everywhere.  People visited and caught up with each other during the showing.  One of the perks of a funeral.  Everyone came together in one place and really enjoyed seeing each other.  And then the service started.  The minister didn’t know NK, and that saved me.  He couldn’t give warm memories or anecdotes, so he gave a good, old-fashioned Bible thumping homily.  Probably safer for me, since if I heard stories about NK, I’d have a soggy Kleenex.  But when the service ended, NK’s mother stood and faced the audience. “I want to hear happy memories about my boy.”

That’s when the celebration of a life we all loved began.  Funny stories from camping trips, their cabin in the UP, and deer hunting camp   They made people laugh and nod, saying, “Yup, that sounds like NK.”  And yes, we’re all going to miss him.  There’ll be grief and tears, but there will also be laughter and wonderful memories.

It made me think about how writers create characters.  Every life has moments that stand out.  It has ups and downs.  If I had to stand up at a funeral for one of my characters, what would I say about him or her?  Do I show that on the pages he walks on?

Many happy moments to all of you, and happy writing!

 

 

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Book Cover Reveal

I’m so lucky, because I get to share in the joy of Mae Clair’s book cover reveal.  END OF DAY is the second book in her Hode’s Hill series.  I read the first book, CUSP OF NIGHT, and loved it.  The blurb for this one sounds even eerier.  Here’s the cover:

EndofDay_Mae Clair's cover reveal Sept. 10

Awesome, isn’t it?  And here’s the blurb:

Release Date: January 15, 2019
Genre: Mystery/Suspense/Supernatural Thriller
Publisher:  Kensington Publishing • Lyrical Underground Imprint

BLURB:
The past is never truly buried…

Generations of Jillian Cley’s family have been tasked with a strange duty—tending the burial plot of Gabriel Vane, whose body was the first to be interred in the Hode’s Hill cemetery. Jillian faithfully continues the long-standing tradition—until one October night, Vane’s body is stolen from its resting place. Is it a Halloween prank? Or something more sinister?

As the descendants of those buried in the church yard begin to experience bizarre “accidents,” Jillian tries to uncover the cause. Deeply empathic, she does not make friends easily, or lightly. But to fend off the terror taking over her town, she must join forces with artist Dante DeLuca, whose sensitivity to the spirit world has been both a blessing and a curse. The two soon realize Jillian’s murky family history is entwined in a tragic legacy tracing back to the founding of Hode’s Hill. In order to set matters right, an ancient wrong must be avenged…or Jillian, Dante, and everyone in town will forever be at the mercy of a vengeful spirit.

End of Day can be read as a stand alone novel or as a follow-up to book one of the Hode’s Hill series, Cusp of Night.

End of Day is available for pre-order through this link
and available to add to your Goodreads to-be-read list here.

Connect with Mae Clair at BOOKBUB and the following haunts:

Amazon | BookBub | Newsletter Sign-Up  
Website & Blog | Twitter | Goodreads | All Social Media

Bio Box for Mae Clair--Sept. 10

 

 

 

For Better or For Worse

My HH (handsome husband) and I celebrated our anniversary in August.  47 years together, and we still like each other.  A few of the couples we get together with have already hit the big 5-0.  When our friends got married, they signed up for the long haul.  It didn’t work out for a couple of them, but it’s not because they didn’t try.

I always say that I’m not an especially romantic person.  HH is.  He loves to buy me flowers, loves it when he finds jewelry he thinks I’ll like.  (I can only wear rings anymore.  Metal makes my skin itch and swell.)  He buys cards that drip with sentimentality.  Me?  I love to cook for him, to see him happy.  But mushy?  It’s not in me.  When I wrote romances, though, it was fun watching two people who were drawn to each other work to get it right.  There were missteps, of course, and false starts, but by the end of the book, they’d worked things out.  And they only had one book to do it in.  Each novel had to end with a happy ever after.

Now that I’m writing a mystery series, I can take more time.  In Body in the Attic, Jazzi and Ansel work with each other.  He has a live-in girlfriend, but when she says Jump, she expects him to ask How high?  Ansel’s an easy-going guy, but he has his limits.  And Emily pushes them.  When she finally pushes him too far, Ansel’s a free man.  And a drop dead gorgeous one, too.  At six-five with white-blond hair and blue eyes, he’s one of Norway’s best exports.  By the end of the book, (and this won’t ruin any great surprise), he and Jazzi move in together.  He wants to get married.  She wants to wait.  She thinks she’s just the rebound girl, and after he licks his wounds for a while, he’ll move on.  But, hey, in the meantime, why not have a little fun?

If you’ve read Ilona Andrews’s Kate Daniels series or Patricia Briggs’s Mercy Thompson novels, you know that it takes a few books for the hero and heroine to finally get it together.  For a lot of readers, once the protagonist and her love interest make it official–one way or another–the stories get even better.  It’s fun to see them working as a couple.  But not for everyone.  For some readers, making the two a couple takes the edge off both of their personalities.  To each, his own.  But for me, endless flirting and misunderstandings get on my nerves.  I get tired of the mating ritual and want them to get it right or move on.  But then, as I said, I’m not a romantic.  And I guess I’m not all that patient either:)  But throwing Jazzi and Ansel together was fun.  And I don’t have to resolve everything in one book.  I have more in the series to go . . .

Happy writing, everyone!

 

Why????

I couldn’t stand it–even though I’m in the middle of reading TROUBLE IN MUDBUG, by Jana DeLeon and really enjoying it–AND I downloaded Staci Troilo’s novel TORTURED SOUL to read next–I still HAD to buy the last Kate Daniel’s urban fantasy that just came out by Ilona Andrews.  If you’ve read my blog very long, you know how much I love that series.  Her new Legacy series, too.  I’ve bought EVERY book.  And I couldn’t wait, but I also couldn’t find it on the usual bookshelf at my local Barnes & Noble.  Why?  Because one of their helpful clerks explained that it was on the hardcover display and wouldn’t be out in paperback until a LONG time.  Now, I know I bought the previous one in paperback.  The memory is sketchy, though.  Kids were in and out of the house, staying, moving, staying a little more, and the joy of reading got a little chaotic.  But I’ve bought all of the other books in paperback.  And that’s where my sorry personal lament starts–  WHY??? Why a hardcover now?

It’s time to confess that I can be a little anal about my books.  And I should have seen this coming.  WAY back before the dawn of man, I bought every Martha Grimes’ novel and Elizabeth George novel when they came out.  And they both started in paperback and then, when they became bestselling authors, their books went to hardcover.  So did Patricia Briggs with her Mercy Thompson series.  And now, so is Ilona Andrews.  I don’t mind paying $22. for their books instead of $8.  I’m happy for all of them.  They’ve EARNED more money and recognition.

BUT–I keep all of my favorite authors’ books together on my bookshelves.  And call me a little controlling, but my rows of books look crooked when half or three-fourths of a shelf is paperback and the rest is hardcover.  It hurts my aesthetic balance.  At least, until I get used to it.  And to have an ENTIRE series in paperback with just the one, last book in hardcover?  It just looks whopper-jawed.  I’m so into this, that I’ve already decided that when the paperback version of MAGIC TRIUMPHS comes out, I’m buying it.  And putting it with my other paperbacks in the series.  And I’ll give my hardcover copy to my library and hopefully some other readers will enjoy it.  But until then, I have to be patient and wait.  Not my strong suit, but hey!  I don’t have any choice.

Do any of you have bookshelf issues?  In the large scheme of things, it’s a minor irritation, but what can I say?  I hope every book you read is a winner, and happy writing!

A First for me!

If you belong to Goodreads, my publisher–Kensington–is offering The Body in the Attic in a giveaway from Aug. 30-Sept. 13 and will give away 100 FREE e-copies to winners.  You can sign up here: https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/283871-the-body-in-the-attic

I’ve belonged to Goodreads for a long time.  I’ve even worked with the wonderful Tana from Making Connections and given away 10 free copies of my self-published urban fantasies before.  But I’ve never given away 100 copies.  And Kensington has never promoted my books this way before.  It’s a first for me, and I love it!  So, if you’re a member, and you like mysteries, I hope you give it a shot.  And good luck!

The Body in the Attic ebook

Check this out!

Staci Troilo Color Photo RT smaller

I met Staci Troilo on the Story Empire blog (https://storyempire.com/2017/07/12/8-steps-author-brand/) and through Mae Clair’s blog (https://maeclair.net/).  If you haven’t looked at their sites, I highly recommend each of them.  Staci edits as well as writes, and she gives good, solid advice and writers’ links–besides writing fabulous stories.  She has two that came out in August.

Tortured Soul is the last installment in her Medici Protectorate series and became available on Aug. 28.  She wrote a beautiful blog about it:

https://stacitroilo.wordpress.com/2018/08/21/ending-a-series-is-torture-tortured-soul-the-medici-protectorate-finale/#more-5881

Here’s a little teaser to whet your whistle:

Tortured Soul banner

I love the purple on the cover!

 

Staci is doubly blessed (and doubly busy in August)  because using her pen name, Keira Beck, she wrote her Nightforce Security 1 novel that came out Aug. 1.  If you like romance, suspense, and plenty of twists and turns, you’ll want to check this out:

 

If you’d like a taste of the Nightforce Security guys before committing to the series, there’s a great promo going on at BookFunnel, where you can get an introductory story called One Ugly Mug. It’s free, and it’s not available anywhere else. You can find it by clicking this link.

One Ugly Mug by Keira Beck

You can find Staci on these sites:

Staci Troilo
Bestselling Author

Connect online:

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger…and all that

Struggles, they say, make you stronger.  It’s true, I know.  When I was young, I didn’t have the experience to write some of the things I do today.  I could empathize with other peoples’ problems, but I’d been raised pretty sheltered with boringly typical growing up angsts.  Life took care of that in one way or another.  Bumps and bruises leave lasting internal marks.  They made me grow, so that the characters I write now have more depth.

I’ve known a few people–only a VERY few–who sailed through life mostly unscathed.  They don’t carry the baggage most of us do.  Now, I’m not glorifyng misery.  If I’d have had a choice, I’d have passed on some of life’s more demanding moments.  I’d have gone to a beach and played in the sand instead.  But that’s not the way Life works.  You get what you get, and some people live through burdens that would flatten me, nightmare childhoods and traumas that scar.  More surprisingly, some people get multi doses of awful and still stay positive and generous.  I don’t think I got that gene.

I know there are times when you’re just emotionally wrung-out, too.  When you don’t have the energy to put words on paper.  All you can do is cope, the most you can manage is to endure.  I’ve watched friends go through grief or illnesses and their stories stop speaking to them.

Struggles with writing make us stronger writers, too.  Not that I’m a fan of rejection, but it comes with the territory, doesn’t it?  When I look back at some of my earlier efforts, I cringe.  What if someone had accepted them, published them?  Would I have tried as hard to improve?  Actually, some of those stories were published, and I shake my head when I read them.  What were the other manuscripts like in that slush pile if mine stood out?  I don’t want to think about it.

Having to change genres has improved my writing, too.  I didn’t think so at the time.  After my kazillionth rejection that said, “Love your writing, but NO ONE’s buying cozies now,” I told myself it was time to give up my dream of becoming my generation’s Agatha Christie and move on.  (I’ve always believed in aiming high and seeing where I ended up.  Sometimes, it’s a long fall:)  After cozies, I tried my hand at writing serial killers, but that market was glutted, too, at the time.  And then an editor asked if I’d try writing urban fantasies.  It took me a minute, but I learned to love writing those.  And they made me think about battles and building tension until the ultimate battle at the end of each book.  Then my agent asked me to try romances, and I reeled.  They seemed impossible to me, but I learned to love them too.  They made me think about smaller missteps that build tension and have an emotional impact.  And finally, my editor at Lyrical Underground asked if I’d like to try a cozy mystery for their line.  And I was back to writing mysteries again.  But I really believe that all the twists and turns have made me think about ALL of the elements that make a strong story, not just plotting.

I doubt that many of you who read this are whistling happy tunes and skipping through the park every day of your lives.  And I hope that when you look back, after the fact, that your trials and disappointments were worth it.  So just in case, hang in there, and happy writing!

The Body in the Attic–available on NetGalley

I just wanted to let everyone know that, if you’re a reviewer, my first mystery is available on NetGalley now.  Every writer begs for reviews of their book, so if you’re a cozy mystery lover, I’d appreciate it if you took the time to review mine.

Here’s the link:  https://www.netgalley.com/widget/155319/redeem/c4ae4938aa6673211891dc0bdf3f83473e97feb396deb51493d5b7981ffaeeef

 

https://s3.amazonaws.com/netgalley-covers/cover147486-small.png

Family and Friends

My sister Patty called today and said she was running to KFC to grab a bucket of chicken and sides, and what if she brought them to our house for a late lunch?  The hub and I love fried chicken, but I never make it.  I make more chicken recipes than any woman should, but frying a whole, cut-up one always seems like a lot of work to me, so I avoid it.  Having a bucket of it delivered to my door, though?  That was sort of like having the heavens smile on me.  So, of course, I said yes.

My cousin, Jenny, lives with Patty and came, too.  Once we finally all got settled and dug into the food, the usual flow of conversation began.  There’s nothing like family to sort out recent happenings, old stories, and new gossip.  Family remembers the time Patty thought her hair was too greasy, so I washed it for her with Comet cleanser.  It took my mom a month to get all of the green powder gunk out of her hair.  That led to the time Patty wanted her hair teased for the biggest updo she’d ever had and went to the prom looking like the Bride of Frankenstein.  And then Patty remembered my false eyelash phase and the time I took them off and left them on the sink top and Mom thought they were a spider and flushed them down the toilet.

The hub and I have friends that go back years and years, too.   John and Scott buddied up in second grade and are still BFFs.  He’s known a lot of his friends since high school, and every time one of them marries, the wife becomes part of the “group.”  When all of us get together, the talk often goes back to the old days when the guys worked together at a little hamburger drive-in near Packard Park and the girls’ softball games.

When I start a new book (like I am now), once I have the hook and the big question the plot hangs on, I usually write a chapter to see and hear my characters, and then I make character wheels to flesh them out.  And one of the first things on each character wheel is the character’s family.  What was the mom’s name?  What does she look like?  Did she work?  What job?  What kind of personality did she have?  Any habits?  Did she and the character get along?  Any special memories?

My mom was a wonderful cook, but she always shooed us out of the kitchen, so when I married my hub, I had no idea how to boil a potato, let alone brown a pork chop.  I’m always jealous of my friends who learned special family recipes by cooking with their mom or grandma while they were growing up.

I repeat the same questions for my character’s dad, any brothers and sisters, and any relatives that influenced him/her.  Did the son tinker with cars in his dad’s garage?  My dad raised chickens, and it was my job to gather the eggs and feed them every morning.  My mom hated the sound of the recorder when I had to learn to play it in school and made me practice it in the chicken coop.  Luckily, the chickens weren’t music critiques and seemed to enjoy it.  Often, once I see my character through his family’s eyes and how he sees them, it helps me understand what motivates him and why.

After I scribble out his family background, then I work on his education.  Did he graduate high school?  College?  Trade school?  Did he like school or loathe it?  My grandson had serious ADD/ADHD and school was an every day torment for him.  Was my character popular or a loner?  And what did he do once he grew up?  Escape as fast as he could or stick close to home?  Then I scribble out where he lives and what kind of vehicle he drives.  And finally, I list two friends and how he gets along with them.  Are they old friends or new?  Did he lose any old friends and how?  Any romantic interests presently or in the past?  And then I list someone he doesn’t like and it’s mutual–an antagonist (in his life) or a villain.  By the time I finish all of those, I have a pretty good feel for my character and what shaped him.

If it’s true that no one goes unscathed by family (for better or worse) and friends are the family we choose, there’s a lot of rich history and drama, along with memories, before a character steps onto our pages.

Wherever you are on whatever project you’re working on now, happy writing!