A short-short

I read a post by Stephen Geez on Story Empire about narrative choice and POV. He gave lots of information and examples: https://storyempire.com/2023/01/16/narrative-choice-part-1/. His post made me realize that I’ve been writing in third person, past tense most of the time. Occasionally, I’ve used first person/past tense because it feels more immediate, but I haven’t experimented for a long time. I’ve been busy, trying to finish books.

I don’t have time for this, I told myself. But my brain doesn’t always listen to me, so I woke today, while snow filled our driveway, with an idea that wouldn’t go away. So I wrote it. And it was fun. And not my usual.

A Natural Order

He didn’t bury her.  He damaged her, then killed her, then left her.  Just like the others.  Four bodies now, scattered among the wildflowers, fallen trees, fungi, and trees of the forest.

We whisper to each other on the wind.  It’s wrong to just leave them, clothing ripped, bruised and beaten, to rot.  Animals come to gnaw on them.  The moss tries to spread over them.  Leaves drop to cover them but even a slight breeze makes them slip away. 

Contaminated.  Unnatural.  Young women aren’t part of our world.  I clung to my seeds until a fox trotted past me, then I snagged onto its fur, and dropped them when it went to sniff her.  Next year, I’ll surround her with my flowers, like I have the others.  A beautiful bed to frame her.  But while I wait, he comes again. 

This time, we don’t whisper.  The rich forest floor shakes with rage.  Roots twist in fury.  Brambles reach for him.  Vines clamp around his legs.  He reaches to yank on them, and the girl jerks free, runs.  He growls his anger, determined to catch her.  The old oak quivers and a low, heavy branch falls.  He drops to the ground, pinned under it.  The vines wrap around his neck and squeeze. 

A bird sings.  A breeze flits by.  I lift my flower heads to slants of sun.  We hum a happy tune to one another.  Nature is restored.

A Snow Day

My writers’ club was supposed to meet today–the 2nd or 4th Wednesday of each month. Instead, I had to cancel. The weatherman predicted a winter storm, and his prediction was spot on. Snow started falling at eight in the morning and didn’t slow down or stop until after two. We’d have been driving through the worst of it.

The snow fall was beautiful–big, gorgeous flakes. Bushes and tree branches were layered with blankets of white. Birds crowded our feeders–a variety of sparrows, finches, cardinals, and nuthatches. My blue jay came for peanuts. Juncos scratched for seeds on the ground. I’d find myself staring out the window, enjoying the view, when I went from room to room.

When I was a kid, I loved snow days. It meant a day off school. Things have changed now with internet classes and make-up days, but when I was little, we had a free day. And I loved it. It meant bundling up to play outside making snow angels and snowmen. Hills were too far away, so we pulled each other around the yard on a sled.

These days, now that HH and I are retired, we hibernate. We don’t go anywhere, and no one’s going to pull into our snow-covered drive, so we stay in our pajamas. I hit the computer and the keys. He plays on his tablet. We linger longer over lunch and supper and stop to watch TV or yak whenever we feel like it. It’s like playing Hookey

The snow’s stopped, and the kind neighbor who lives across the street and puts a plow on his pickup, came and plowed out our driveway. He won’t let us pay him, so I made him a pork loin with vegetables to have for supper. The big snowplows came and cleared our street already. Tomorrow will be a normal day. But, for today, HH and I are moving in a leisurely fashion. A little work, a little fun. And we’re enjoying it.

Too Many Ideas

I’d bet that every author I know can sympathize with me. I have more ideas for books to write than I can get to. AND, I know it’s not smart to write willy-nilly anything that interests me.

I’ve learned over the years that when readers like a series, if I stall too long between one book and the next, I’m risking losing readers. I can see that right now when I look at my numbers for books sold. It’s been too long since I wrote a Nick and Laurel book. I wrote a short story with them for the anthology A Word Before Dying, edited by TG Wolff. https://www.amazon.com/Word-Before-Dying-Mysteries-Die-ebook/dp/B0B99BRBNL/ref=sr_1_1?crid=124L680R5NOGT&keywords=A+Word+Before+Dying%2C+TG+Wolff&qid=1673733937&s=digital-text&sprefix=a+word+before+dying%2C+tg+wolff%2Cdigital-text%2C72&sr=1-1 It takes me a while to write a short story, usually longer than writing a few chapters for a book, because the entire story has to be told in a short amount of time, and that actually makes me work harder than usual. So, I got my Nick and Laurel fix when I sent that story in, but most readers don’t buy an anthology just because I have a short story in it, so most of them never saw the story. And they’re losing interest in the pair. I get it. I hate waiting between books in my favorite series, too.

Some of the writers who are my favorites are pounding out books really fast to meet the demand as long as readers like their books. I understand that, too. When I finished a Savannah Martin mystery by Jenna Bennett, I wanted to read the next one. Now. Immediately. And as long as I was behind in the series, I flew through one book after another. But then I reached the last one. And I had to wait. So I turned to other books, other authors. Thank goodness for BookBub sending out new releases by authors I like, because it was so long between books, I gave up. But guess what? There’s a new one coming out soon, and I pre-ordered it. But that doesn’t always happen. Readers move on. They find new authors, new series.

My problem? I have an idea for a new Karnie and Matt mystery. And it excites me. But I also have an idea for a new Nick and Laurel I really like, and then….I have an idea for a brand new series that keeps calling to me. And I really want to write it. BUT, I only have so much time. And I’m a slow writer. So after I finish Jazzi and Ansel 10–which has a ways to go yet–I have to decide which book to write next. And that’s HARD.

I wish my brain and fingers were faster. But that’s not going to happen. So, I guess I’ll make that decision when I get there. And try to write faster than usual.

Maybe? a cover reveal

I’ve been playing with ideas for a cover for Jazzi 10. I’ve created and deleted lots of them, but I kind of like this one. In the story, Franny’s sister, Rachel, married the head chef of a popular Italian restaurant in town. The man is gorgeous, oozes charm, and cheats on her whenever he’s not completely happy to bolster his morale. He has an affair after she has their baby, because he’s jealous of the time she spends on their child and because she’s not as much fun now that she’s dead tired. So, she files for divorce.

The thing is, Damian doesn’t want a divorce. He wants Rachel, but he wants her to spend more time on him. He wants her to take him back, but Rachel’s had it with him. He comes to their house and screams at her when she won’t let him in. And then, he finds her in the grocery store and screams at her there. The manager kicks him out, but a few nights later, Damian’s found dead in another woman’s bed. The woman wasn’t home that night. And neither was Rachel. So, who shot him? Caden and Gaff think Rachel’s at the top of their suspect list. Franny doesn’t think her sister’s capable of murdering anyone. And that means, the investigation begins.

What do you think? Does this cover work?

Pinterest

In Jazzi and Ansel book 10, the team’s decided to convert an old three-story warehouse into condos. They’ve never attempted anything this big before, but they bought the warehouse a few years ago when it was on auction really cheap. Then they weren’t sure what to do with it. Two years ago, River Bluffs decided to try to make the three rivers that run through the town into a selling point. The water’s clean but muddy, some of the cleanest water in the state, even if it doesn’t look it. So, the town built a river walk next to it and added places to rent kayaks and bikes, then added river “bar” cruises and history cruises. The walk’s become a huge success. Big money people have bought property close by and converted them into apartments and condos, and they sold out so fast, it was shocking.

Jerod decides it’s their turn to enter the fray. The problem? Jazzi’s home for six weeks after having Toby. She shouldn’t work. So, Jerod and Ansel hire three freelance construction workers to help them flip the building. Every old window needs replaced. The roof needs replaced. Thee’s an outdoor area that they want to make into a courtyard. While Jazzi stays home with Toby, they dig into converting the old, brick building.

The plan is to create three condos on each floor. One would be big, taking up one entire side of the building. There’d be a wide hallway, and on the other side of the building, there’d be two nice-sized condos with two bedrooms each. Just because I can have fun with Jazzi, Jerod, and Ansel flipping a building, I decided to make them want to make each condo in the building unique. Which means, I needed to find nine different designs for kitchens and matching baths, something different for each one. While Toby naps, Jazzi starts going through house magazines and Pinterest for ideas. She, Ansel, and Jerod have decided to make everything else in the condos neutral, but to make each kitchen and matching bathrooms special.

I’ve never had to find nine different ideas for a flipper before. And I had fun looking for them. I posted them (more than usual) on Pinterest under The Body In Someone Else’s Bed. https://www.pinterest.com/judithpost/the-body-in-someone-elses-bed/ Right now, I think I’m going to use a white kitchen, a blue, gray, and Spanish style. I’d like to use a black and teak Oriental style condo, and a cheerful butter yellow, and then a sleek modern. After I thought through the plot, I want two condos on the first floor to belong to a woman who does childcare and the big condo will be a coffee/pastry, dessert shop. That might change, but I like it for now.

Jazzi won’t be able to stand it and will have to go to check out the progress on their newest project. But her dad makes that easy for her. He’s demanded that he gets Toby on Mondays. Then Jerod’s mom, Eleanore, asks for him on Tuesdays. They both love babies and kids. Her dad missed out on raising Jazzi and Olivia because he was getting his hardware business started and established. He doesn’t want to miss out on his grandson. And Eleanore–just loves babies.

I’m having fun with these plot points. And then there’s a murder, too. What could be more fun?

Snoring Can Be Beneficial

My husband doesn’t snore every night, but when he does, I usually reach over, pat his leg, say “Roll over,” and he quits. For whatever reason, last night, our regular routine didn’t work. He rolled over and started to snore again. I rolled him back and forth, and he never fully woke up, and he never stopped snoring from 4 a.m. to 6:30. He’d stop for a few minutes, I’d start to drift to sleep, and then ZZZZZZ. I finally gave up and made him get up to take a sinus pill and an Advil. I ended up losing three hours of sleep, BUT the more HH snored, the more story ideas I got for my third Karnie and Matt mystery.

By the time we got back in bed after 7, I had enough plot points to write the entire book. And I loved every single scene that came to me. It fits the series, and it’s going to be a great way to wrap it up. Karnie will only be three books long. I’ve really enjoyed writing her and her family at work in their butcher shop and at home with each other. I started work on her because I needed a break from Jazzi and Ansel. I wanted something different so that I didn’t burn out writing one Jazzi after another. The problem is that Karnie’s story feels too much like Jazzie’s, so she didn’t end up being as much of a break as I wanted. That’s why I started Nick and Laurel.

Karnie’s older brother, who came home from Florida to work in the shop with them, will be the focus of book 3, along with the entire community of Glendale. The people who live there stick together and care about each other. It’s going to be a while before I can write the scenes I plotted from my pillow last night. I consider books that play out, scene after scene like that, a gift from a benign universe. But first, I have to finish Jazzi and Ansel’s book 10, and I’m excited about that, too. I have lots of writing to look forward to for a while!

Back At It

My writers’ club hasn’t had a regular meeting since early November. We always cancel the fourth Wednesday;’s November meeting because of Thanksgiving. The only meeting in December is our Christmas carry-in, all fun and food, no work. Christmas eliminates the second meeting. So tomorrow will be the first time we’re back to reading and critiquing for a long time. I’m looking forward to it.

I can remember where each reader left their stories. Les is close to wrapping up the final chapters on his thriller set in a future Chicago. Turns out the dead girl the cops found floating in the water wasn’t murdered. She overdosed. But finding her body sure caused an uproar. Mary Lou left her Regency with the kids’ nanny sick after she caught what they had, and the brother who came home from the navy to raise his dead brother’s kids is pretty interested in her. I love Regency romances. Larry, our group’s ex-cop, read more from his memoir. The man’s lucky he’s still alive. Patrolling the streets of Milwaukee in those days was risky business.

Our group meets for two hours the second and fourth Wednesday of each month, and three readers volunteer to share pages with us. Each one gets fifteen minutes to read, and then we go around the table to offer critiques and give feedback. The author can’t respond until we’ve circled the entire table, and then it’s his or her turn to talk. We learned to do it like this the hard way, because if the reader got to respond to each critique, it took forever. We all believe positive feedback is more productive than trying to rip someone’s work to shreds. We state what we liked, what we thought worked, and what the author might be able to make better. Most of us print out pages to share while we read. A few don’t. We do our best either way. We have as few rules as possible.

After the meeting, most of us go to The Tower Bar and Grill for food and conversation. We like each other. Sometimes, we talk writing. Sometimes we share what’s going on in our lives. Either way, being with fellow writers is wonderful. We’re lucky. People who’ve left our group complain they can’t find another group like ours. But then, we’ve had a lot of practice. The group has existed for well over thirty years. It was going strong when I joined it.

Whether you have a group or not, I hope life has returned to a happy pace for you. And if you’re a writer, hope the words flow and the ideas never stop coming.

No More Passes

If the saying’s true that men don’t make passes at girls who wear glasses, I’m doomed. Okay, I’ll be honest. I haven’t had to worry about passes for a while. But I’m now an official wearer of glasses.

I didn’t realize how bad my eyes were until I couldn’t pass the eye exam at the BMV to renew my driver’s license, not even with the reading glasses my eye doctor prescribed a year ago. I put them on and bombed. Now, I can wear those glasses and read the computer and my Kindle, but small print on labels and in magazines has gotten tinier and blurrier. I can see street signs and directions, so I thought I was okay. But I was wrong. I couldn’t even read the top line of the license branch’s machine.

The girl who tested me did everything she could to try to help me pass. She said, “Close your right eye and read the line.” No good. “Close your left eye.” No good. Which surprised me, because one of my eyes (I’m not sure which one) is 20/20. She asked, “Do you have any stronger reading glasses?” As a matter of fact, I do. I tried those. Everything went impressionistic– suggestions of letters and lines. . She told me that some people have trouble with the way the machine is set up, back lit and built to test your sight for distance.

I ordered glasses that were supposed to fix blue ray and tried again. Failed worse than before. I only saw sticks. I went back to my eye doctor. This time, he said my weak eye had gotten worse and ordered new glasses for me. I’m going to try again next week when my eyes have gotten used to the new strength of lenses. He said it would take a minute. But I’m a little worried. When I put on my new glasses to work on the computer, I can’t see anything clearly. When I switch to my old pair of glasses, everything’s clear. But I’m not ready to give up. So I’ll wear my new glasses all of the time, not just for reading, and hope my eyes adjust to them.

If that fails, I have to send in information from my eye doctor to the state license bureau for people who flunk eye tests. The girl at the BMV told me that most people get okayed when their eye doctor tells them the patient can see, just not with their machine. Wish me luck.

The good news? I can see plenty well enough to read and write. Which makes me scratch my head, but I’m thankful for that.

Back to Routine

The holidays are over, and HH and I took it easy yesterday to get ready to switch gears. It’s January 3rd and time to get back to routine. And I’m ready. I love the holidays, but they’re always a bit hectic.

Our younger grandson came to spend a long weekend with us, and we took him out to eat at his favorite restaurants when he lived with us. We had a wonderful time, but on Sunday, we decided to eat in, and I don’t know how I did it–we were cooking together and scrounging in different cupboards– I bumped into something. I don’t even remember what. I said “Ouch,” and it was over. A moment’s accident, no harm done. When I woke the next morning, though, I had half a black eye. I looked lovely, hugging Nate goodbye. We’re meeting old friends for supper tonight, and I’m sure I’ll hear about how graceful I am:)

But until we leave for the restaurant tonight, I’m hitting the keys. It felt so good this morning to wake to our everyday routine. It’s always nice to BREAK routine for a while, but I’m usually ready to fall back into it eventually. And today’s the day.

No one could make it to our house for Christmas this year because of the weather and bad roads, so our tree and decorations are still up with presents ready to open. We’re trying to reschedule but getting everyone free at the same time isn’t easy. The tree might be up all month, but it’s pretty, so I can live with that. When we finally take everything down, HH and I do a deeper cleaning than usual, and I can stall on that: And then the holidays will TRULY be behind us. And things should be as normal as they get in our house, and that, I think, is going to be good.