Treasure Trove

Our daughter’s visiting us this weekend, so this blog is going to be shorter than usual.  Planning on lots of play time:)  I’ve been working on rewrites for my fourth Jazzi Zanders book, though.  So my mind has been playing with her, the people she hangs with, and renovating old houses.  And as always when I’m putting the finishing touches on one book, my mind starts wandering to the next book in the series.

And that’s where a good friend of mine and my husband’s has proven a treasure trove of ideas.  Ralph used to buy old houses and renovate them to rent.  Now, Ralph isn’t the type to just slap paint on walls and make a space liveable.  He’s a perfectionist.  He makes everything he works on the best it can be for the price he can put into it.  And when I told him that I was writing a series about a woman, her cousin, and her romantic interest who flip houses, he suprised me with one idea after another of how flipping a house could dig up clues to old murders.

I’ve already used a few of the things he’s shared with me.  Like finding an old, loved tool box in a basement with all kinds of antique tools no one can find anymore and a person’s initials burned into the beautifully carved wood.  That’s how Jazzi and Ansel knew Joel had been in Cal’s house in book one.  For book two, Ralph told me about how an older man walked past a house he was renovating every day at the same time, and how he came to watch for him, until one day he didn’t come.  And Ralph wondered about him.  Was he all right?  Had something happened to him?  I used that idea for Leo walking his dog past the roof Jazzi, Jerod, and Ansel were working on, and Leo would stop to talk to Jazzi every chance he got because he was lonely.  And then one day, Leo didn’t come.

For book five, Ralph intrigued me with a story he told about finding a woman’s treasure box in a closet while he was gutting a house.  She had stones she’d collected when she was a little girl, grade school class pictures, a yearbook, letters from friends, pieces of jewelry, and ribbons and awards, among other things.  For book five, I have Jazzi, Jerod, and Ansel fixing up one of the old “grand dame” houses in Auburn, a town north of where I live.  And I keep thinking about what Jazzi will find in a treasure chest of the girl who grew up in that house, but when Jazzi tries to return the box to her, she finds out the girl died soon after her senior prom, and no one ever solved what happened to her.  And that, of course, sets up the mystery she tries to solve.

Ralph’s given me lots more ideas, and I’ve written them all down and keep them in my own small box of treasured story ideas for later use.  Who knew flipping houses, in real life, could stimulate so many plots?  But I’m grateful for all of them.  And if I’m lucky, I’ll have lots more Jazzi Zanders mysteries to write.

And for all of you, happy writing!

 

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What is a supernatural mystery anyway?

When I tell friends that I finished Muddy River Mystery One and put it on Amazon, they ask, “What is it?”

Well, a mystery.  That’s in the title.  Muddy River is the town on the Ohio River that the supernaturals settled.  They found a nice, hilly, secluded area in southwest Indiana, far from mortals, to call home.

“The supernatural?” they ask.

Yup, witches, vampires, shapeshifters, and demons, among others.  Most friends know that I used to write urban fantasy.  And now I’m writing mysteries.  So I decided to combine the two.  Sort of like the Babet and Prosper novellas that I used to write.    Prosper was a bearshifter and his partner on the force, Hatchet, was a Druid.

I like writing about Druids.  Of course, I jazz them up a bit.  My Druids can call on lightning to strike and their tattoos are alive and writhe when they’re angry.  It’s Prosper and Hatchet’s job to solve crimes committed by supernaturals who break the rules.

Prosper teams with Babet, a witch, to solve a murder.  In Muddy River, Raven Black–a fire demon–teams with Hester Wand– a witch–to solve the deaths of thirteen young witches who were just starting their own coven.  Of course–no suprise here–while they work together, they fall for each other.

“Oh, a paranormal romance!” someone says.

“No, wrong emphasis.  A paranormal romance has the romance as the story’s main focus.  Raven and Hester’s relationship is more of a subplot.  The mystery forms the main plotline in my story.”

“Why is it different than an urban fantasy?  You started with those.”

“Urban fantasies are about the bad guys, usually evil, bumping heads with the good guys–the protagonist and his friends.  The battles escalate until it’s life or death at the end of the book.  This book, even though it has a few battles, is about solving the mystery.”

This is when my friends usually scratch their heads.  But fellow writers–they’ll understand.  The main plot line is what distinguishes one kind of story from another.  And this story is …a mystery with a romance subplot in a world peopled by Fae, Druids, witches, vampires, shifters, and one banshee.  And it was really fun to write!  As fun as Babet and Prosper.

A close friend and fellow writer still looks at me, bewildered.  “But why?  Your cozy mysteries are doing so well.”

All writers know that it’s dangerous to switch genres.  People who read cozy mysteries might not want anything to do with a fire demon for an enforcer.

Well, I didn’t know how well The Body in the Attic would sell when I started my second series, did I?  It came as a wonderful, happy surprise.  But I’m not sure it would have made a lot of difference.  I tend to lose interest if I read one author, one genre, over and over again, back to back.  Sorry to say, but that holds true of my writing, too.  I really do love the cozy mysteries I write, but I need to change it up once in a while, or else my writing goes flat.

I have no idea if I can find success with Muddy River, but I’d written three cozies, and I needed a witch or two to break things up.  And it worked.  I’m ready to dig into serious rewrites for Jazzi and Ansel’s fourth book now.

Whatever you’re writing, whatever your writing habits, have a great week of it!

 

Great Advice For Reading To and Writing For Middle Grade!

My fellow Scribe and good friend, Kathy Palm, just finished writing a book for Middle Grade and is sending it out to agents now.  I wish her great luck.  I got a chance to critique it, and there was nothing much to critique.  The book was WONDERFUL.

She shares her view on Middle Grade books here.  And it’s great advice!  If you read to your kids while they were growing up, this will give you the warm and fuzzies, like it did me.

https://www.katejfoster.com/talking-middle-grade/its-about-possibilities

It’s up!

I wrote a supernatural mystery and posted it, chapter by chapter, for free on my webpage.  Once it was finished, I gave everyone a week to read it, and then I took it down to make into a book.  It’s only 56,000+ words, and some people have already read it, so I’m only charging 99 cents for it.  But it was so much fun to write about witches, shifters, and demons again!  I didn’t want to go back to writing urban fantasy, so I decided to do a cross-genre story–a traditional mystery peopled with supernatural citizens who live on the banks of the Ohio River in southwest Indiana.  Michael Prete created a cover for me that I love, and M.L. Rigdon (Julia Donner) donated two afternoons to me, showing me how to download it to Kindle.  So, here it is, MUDDY RIVER MYSTERY ONE (Black Magic Can Backfire).

 

What Was I Thinking?

In my head, it would be a piece of cake to write two different kinds of books as Judi Lynn.  One in first person POV.  The other in third.  I even considered writing on the cozy mysteries Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, and then switching to the supernatural on Thursdays and Fridays.  If I’m good–with not a lot of distractions–I can almost always write a chapter a day.  And then, when I got a little bit ahead, I’d concentrate on the supernatural since it’s only going to be about 56,000 words.  And when I finished that, I’d concentrate on the Jazzi books that have to be a little over 70,000.  And then, I’d take turns.  It sounded simple.  It hasn’t been, but I need to switch things up once in a while.  If I write too many of the same type of thing back to back, I get stale.  So why not write a cozy and then write mysteries peopled by witches and fire demons?

Only it’s turned out to be a bit trickier than I anticipated.  All sorts of things look good on paper.  This was one of them.  But I can’t be so neat and tidy about what I write.  I forgot to add in writing promotion materials–character interviews, Q & As, etc. for blog tours.  I forgot about days when everyone calls and wants to touch base on the same day, so that I spend more time on the phone than on the computer.  Days when I spend more time on marketing or when the desire for a special treat tugs me into the kitchen to whip up something.  And I forgot that every once in a while, my dear loving husband thinks we should have a day during the week when we should actually leave the house and do something fun.

Schedules are flexible.  I have lots of things that matter to me, and writing’s only one of them.  Even when it comes to writing, I forgot that it’s not so easy to jump from writing first person to third person without getting them mixed up.  And boy, does that stand out when I go back to do rewrites.

So, I took my neat, tidy little schedule, scrunched it into a ball, and threw it in the trash.  It made me of think of C.S. Boyack’s blog.  He’s working on two books at the same time, too, but he bounces back and forth between them.  I might give that a try and see what happens.  He’s honest about his writing time, and somehow, that’s comforting.  He has good days and bad days.  Here’s a look at one of his blogs:  https://coldhandboyack.wordpress.com/category/writing-2/  

I have to accept that writing isn’t ever as organized as I’d like it to be.  But then, what is?  I’m still going to write two books.  I’m just not sure how I’m going to do that.  But I’ll figure it out along the way.

And while I’m at it, wishing you happy writing, too!  Have a great March.

 

 

Plot Points make my brain hurt

I finished writing the supernatural mystery that I’ve been putting up, chapter by chapter, on my webpage.  It ended up being 56,000+ words, and I grew really attached to it.  So, I decided to leave it up for this week, and then I’m taking it down over the weekend.  I like it so much, I’m going to format it and buy a cover so that I can load it on Amazon for 99 cents.

I’ve already started Muddy River Two, though, and put up the first chapter today.  And now, because I shiver with fear if I don’t have plot points, I’m plotting the whole book out.  I knew what the first chapter would be and I had a vague idea for chapter 2, and then blank pages stared at me.  I hate blank pages.  But once I know what the book’s about, and where I want it to go, I need a roadmap to get there.  So I’ve been sitting in front of my computer, writing down ideas for one scene or chapter after another.  I didn’t number them this time, because invariably, when I’m actually writing the words to bring the scene to life, more ideas to come to me.  And then all of my carefully planned cause and effect gets littered with small side trips or scenes I never expected.  And that’s fine with me, as long as they fit in the story line.  And with plot points, I do know each mark the story has to hit.

The problem is, that actually writing out all of the plot points–for Muddy River One, I had 34 of them–just makes my brain tired.  I finish one point and then ask myself What Should Happen Next?  But I don’t want the expected.  I want something with a little twist I didn’t see coming or a little layer that shows characterization or relationships.   I want it to be like life.  Nothing ever goes exactly according to plan.

When plotting, I leave my office and walk to the coffee pot in the kitchen a lot more than normal.  I think of three ideas in a row and then my brain stalls out.  I eat more snacks than usual.  I’ve gained two pounds in the last two days.  My husband knows my routine.  He made Rice Krispie Treats this morning so that when I wandered into the kitchen, I’d find something fun.  Not the best thing for my diabetes, so I had to take more insulin today, too, but it was worth it:)  I whined on twitter, and my writer friend Kathy Palm sent me invisible cookies to help out.  They did.  Because after I mentally enjoyed them, I came up with my last three plot points.

Relief.  The book’s planned out, at least as much as it needs to be to make me feel secure enough to write it.  This time, things are going to get a little jiggly, because next week, I need to look through the entire fourth Jazzi and Ansel novel and write the last chapter.  And then, I have to plot points for Jazzi and Ansel book 5.  Groan.  For the cozy, I can take my time and only fiddle with a few plot points a day.  And while I’m plotting book 5 for J&A, I can be writing book 2 for Muddy River.  At least, that’s the idea.  It looks good on paper.  I’ll see if it works:)

No matter where you’re at on your WIP, good luck.  And happy writing!

Have you seen my book?

I’m lucky enough to have some wonderful writers as friends.  I belong to a writing group, and so many of the members have so much talent.  But we all write for different reasons.  And we all differ on how much we want to invest in what.

A few of our members write because they WANT to, and producing a high quality finished product is their only goal.  They write for themselves, for pleasure.  They study books to improve their skills and listen to critiques, but they don’t want to go through the torture of submitting to an agent or even self-publishing.  They join Scribes because they care about the craft of writing and work hard to make their stories better and better.  And that’s enough.

A few of our members share their work with us, listen to every critique we give, and  work hard to create something worth publishing.  And then they choose to self-publish on Amazon to share their works with friends and family, and that’s enough.  They don’t want to market.  They shy away from promotions and feel awkward “bragging” about themselves.

Then there are members who put their work on Amazon and sit back to watch it sell.  I used to tell my writing friends, “No one comes to knock on your door to ask if you have a manuscript to sell.”  If people don’t know  it’s there, they can’t find it.  Now I tell them that you have to invest a decent amount of work to stand out from the millions of other writers hawking their books.  And that’s where the rest of us in our group fall.  We’ve put our books out there, finding agents or publishers or small publishers or self-publishing.  But we know that’s only a step.  And we also know that the road to marketing and promoting is slippery and devious.

What worked five years ago might not work now.  When I first put my urban fantasy online, authors had a chance of getting their books on BookBub.  BookBub advertises discounted books to millions of readers who sign up for specific genres.  These days, though, getting an ad on BookBub is like winning the lottery.  Without my publisher, I wouldn’t have had much  of a chance.  Plus, it’s expensive.  For my niche–cozy mysteries–Bookbub now e-mails news of a discount to 2,780,000 readers.  If I make my book free, I have to pay $707 for it being listed ONE day.  If I only discount it, I pay more.  It’s so hard to get on BookBub that other book advertisers have gone into business, but when I’ve used them, I’ve had mixed results.  I had some success with Facebook ads for a while, but it’s no guarantee more people will find my book.  A friend’s having success with Amazon ads, but I haven’t tried those.

Other than advertising, there are other options for authors to help readers find their work.  I’ve done blog tours, sometimes with success, sometimes not so much.  For some books, doing #1linewed on twitter has helped my rankings go up.  I’ve had some luck using Debbie Macomber’s Book Launch Checklist:  https://insights.bookbub.com/book-launch-checklist-marketing-timeline-traditionally-published-authors/?utm_source=guest-debbie-macomber&utm_medium=email  .  She recommends changing your twitter header once a month to get readers interested in a new book.  She changes her Facebook header, too.  I’ve been doing that, and I do think it helps.

And that brings me to canva.com.  https://www.canva.com.    I don’t have photoshop, but I really like canva.  I can type “twitter header’ in the search line and it gives me templates to choose from–templates that are sized to correctly fit each header.  I had to give myself permission to play with it for a while and mess things up before I actually tried to create a header I like.  Now, when I’m ready to start promoting a book, I try to create five or six twitter headers, so I can change them up when people grow blind to the one that’s been there.   Example:  Here’s one twitter header I created for The Body in the Wetlands:

 

The Body in the Wetlands--twitter header 1.5

Some writers use their blogs or webpages to connect with readers, and many ask readers to sign up to receive an e-mail newsletter.  I’m finally getting more followers on BookBub when I write reviews for the books I’ve read.  Whatever an author chooses, it’s an investment in time to try to connect with his/her readers.  I think it’s sort of fun.  But I always have to remember ads and promotions won’t do any good if I don’t write books, so writing time has to be sacred.

So for all of you, Hit Those Keys and Happy Writing!

Q & A for Julia Donner (M.L. Rigdon) for writing historical Westerns

I’m happy to have Julia Donner (M.L. Rigdon) on my blog today to tell us a little about her newest novel, NO EASY STREET, the second book in her Westward Bound series.  It’s available for pre-order on Amazon now.  NO EASY STREET and AVENUE TO HEAVEN are historical Western romances, and I enjoy them every bit as much as the Regency romances she writes.  Welcome to my blog, Julia!

Thanks for inviting me! I love the Americana 1800’s era as much as the Regency period. Since I’m a horse lover, I can relive the years riding the California canyons and fire trails.  And to start off the second book in this series, there is a Goodreads giveaway for AVENUE TO HEAVEN from February 16th until the 26th!

Here’s the link for the giveaway: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36554481-avenue-to-heaven?from_search=true

  1. So, Julia, would you like to give us a brief idea of what NO EASY STREET is about? And what the time period of the story is?

The story takes place in 1886. It’s about a woman who is determined to make a new life for herself in Wyoming. It isn’t until she arrives at the ranch that she’s inherited that she realizes the magnitude of the task. I chose Wyoming because of its early support of suffrage, and Elsbeth immediately learns that just because a law in enacted, it doesn’t mean it’s respected.

 

  1. What was a typical day in the life of a ranch hand?

It depended on the time of year, the type and size of ranch. From what I’ve read during research, what is seen on film glosses over the incredible hardships. There was nothing romantic about it. Moving stock for grazing, branding, or driving to market was and is tiring. It required changing horses three to four times a day. One or two wranglers were needed to maintain the remuda (horses). There were specific times for castration, dipping for ticks, sometimes removing horns, the constant monitoring for injuries or illnesses of the herd, keeping an eye on newborns. After the era of open range grazing, stringing fence was a major pain. Have you ever had to dig a post hole by hand? They also had to maintain their tack, clothes, and ropes, of which there were different kinds required for each task and weather changes. One of the most blatant errors in movies is the union suit, the one-piece undergarment. It didn’t come into being until after the turn of the century.

Present day ranching is much different. In some places, such as Australia, they use small helicopters to herd. How times have changed!

 

  1. In your book, Elsbeth inherits Mr. Beresford’s ranch, but that wasn’t typical for women, was it? Even though, at the time, Wyoming treated women better than most states?

Depending on individual state law, women could inherit directly, but the estate was often managed by a man. Widows usually received only half or a third of their husband’s estate. Relatives got the rest.

In 1869, Wyoming officially became a territory. The first governor signed the Female Suffrage bill, which gave women the right to vote.

In the following year, a woman temporarily held the position of Justice of the Peace, women were empaneled for jury duty, and for the first time, a woman cast a vote.

 

  1. In your book, most ranchers had no good feelings for the Indians who lived close by. Was that typical?

It was mixed but none of them wanted tribes setting up camp. The buffalo were being eradicated to starve the indigenous people and to protect the rail tracks. It was a constant battle to curb stock loss from natural predators and ranch owners didn’t want the tribes taking stock. The general attitude was that the tribes had signed treaty agreements saying they’d stay on their reservations in exchange for provisions. Ranchers and politicians weren’t interested in the fact that treaties were never honored and still aren’t today. I can think of only one of the plains tribes that did well, for a while, the Comanche under Quanah Parker’s leadership. When he became wealthy and the tribe successful, the government broke up the reservation. I’ve not read much about the coastal tribes/nations. Some of them may have had better luck.

  1. Ezekiel Street, EZ, was taken out of school by his uncle when he was only 9 years old. What were the laws for education at the time?

I’m no expert on this subject but do know that education reform had arrived. The system was regulated by agrarian need, and it still dominates our system today, even though students are not needed as they were in the past.  Farm families were usually large since there was so much work to be done. It’s doubtful anything was ever done about a child being kept home to work. The needs of the farm came first, but students were expected to attend school until they could pass an eighth grade test. One that I wonder if the majority of our high school students today could pass. One day while working in my aunt’s museum, I picked up one of the McGuffy readers. A spelling list for third graders had prestidigitation, prodigious, prevaricator.

 

  1. Elsbeth is a seamstress in your story. Could a woman support herself that way?  What other occupations were open for women back then?

We have forgotten that prior to mid-nineteen hundred, a widow could support an entire family with one job. People were also more frugal. Nothing was wasted. Clothes, tools, equipment, everything that didn’t melt or spoil in the heat lasted longer.

Historically, women, especially widows, could and had to do just about everything. They had to be stubborn and persistent to survive or achieve a dream. If they didn’t want to go through the hassle of maintaining their gender, some pretended to be men. (Calamity Jane Canary) Women sometimes participated in battle by dressing like a man, recorded as far back as the Revolutionary War.

A female took a great risk traveling without an escort, either a man or a maid—

not a female friend. That could be construed as two unsuitable women in company and fair game. A maid put a different connotation it. A mother traveling with a brood of kids could expect to be treated with respect.

Here’s the link to pre-order NO EASY STREET:https://www.amazon.com/Easy-Street-Westward-Bound-Book-ebook/dp/B07NLFHX2G/ref=sr_1_15?crid=5OHORPHY2LYH&keywords=julia+donner&qid=1549977336&s=books&sprefix=julia+donner%2Cstripbooks%2C157&sr=1-15

 

Blurb:

Startling circumstances catapult Elsbeth Soderberg from her sedate life as a seamstress in Illinois to Wyoming, where she must cope with a new life on a cattle ranch and reconcile her fascination for a reclusive neighbor and his precocious daughter. Elsbeth must quickly learn how to adapt to the challenges of an untamed territory on the verge of statehood—one where women will have the right to vote, but where many men still think of women as inferior.

Author links:

Website http://www.MLRigdon.com

https://www.bookbub.com/authors/julia-donner

https://www.facebook.com/Julia-Donner-697165363688218/timeline

Follow on Twitter @RigdonML

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

Excerpt:

Chapter 1

“I’ve inherited what, Mr. Rayburn?”

The lawyer adjusted his spectacles and peered at the documents in his hand. He raised his eyebrows as he used a forefinger to skim down the page. “A ranch, Miss Soderberg, a rather substantial piece of property, outside of…ah, here it is. Near Laramie in Wyoming territory.”

Elsbeth stared at him, a scrupulously neat man behind his fancy desk, so different from the town’s grubby miners, teamsters, and wharf workers. “Begging your pardon, but you’ve not called me here to suspend my employment with your wife?”

He looked at her strangely, a combination of confusion with a hint of unsettling evasiveness. She’d spent a sleepless night waging a battle over whether or not to respond to this appointment. People who had dealings with lawyers and bankers were not her sort of folks. They were her customers. Rarely, if ever, was there fraternization with those who considered her little more than a servant.

“Mr. Rayburn, I’d assumed you asked me here to end my employment as your wife’s seamstress. Or that I’d done something to displease her.”

“No, not at all, Miss Soderberg. It is we at Holstein and Rayburn who hope to continue as your representatives. You understand, of course, that the late Mr. Henry B. Beresford was our initial client and continues as such until all of his estate is settled on you.”

With her mind swept clean by this improbable news, her voice came out in a whisper. “Sir, I have no idea who this Beresford person is.”

“That is not at issue. You have been clearly identified as his heir. Mr. Beresford must have known you or a family member of yours. He mentions nothing in the will itself as to how you are connected or related. It has also been established that he has no other living heirs.”

Her head in a fog, she sat and blinked at the glint of his spectacles and expectant expression. His office smelled of lemon oil and books. A gleaming, brass-encased clock bonged the hour of two. The furnishings were costly. This was no fly-by-night affair. Holstein and Rayburn, attorneys-at-law, represented or associated with the most influential people in Galena. Back in the day, they hobnobbed with the likes of the Washburns and even President Grant when he was in town.

Mr. Rayburn cleared his throat. “Miss Soderberg, I realize that this must come as startling news, but it is all quite legal. The estate includes twenty-three thousand in cash, some railway stock, Chicago utilities, the substantial property holding in Wyoming, and part ownership of a nearby ranch. And more.”

“Two properties?” she murmured on a shaky exhale.

“You are a very wealthy woman, much more so than anyone in Galena. You might consider purchasing the mansion that recently came up for sale on Prospect.”

She knew the one he meant. It had a ballroom, a spectacular view, and a carriage house larger than the Myerson residence where she rented out two rooms.

This was too much. She was a simple woman, an aging spinster. She had no one, scraped out a living sewing for others. She dressed well because she sewed beautifully and had a knack for style. Stylish or not, she’d passed thirty last year and no man had ever showed much interest. A few elderly gentlemen had tried to reel her in but she’d politely avoided their attention. She might be lonely but would rather live independently than spend the last half of her life taking care of someone forty years older.

“Miss Soderberg?”

“Yes, Mr. Rayburn. I beg your pardon, but I’m still reeling.”

“I assure you that there is no cause for concern. All of the firm’s expenses have been taken care of by the estate. If you wish, we could see to the sale of the properties in Wyoming, but I do advise keeping the stocks and other investments.”

Mr. Rayburn jumped to his feet when Elsbeth stood. “I shall need time to consider all of this. It’s rather alarming.”

The attorney walked her to the door and opened it with a flourish. It was as if she had stepped through a portal into another world. Jim Edmonds, who clerked for the firm, immediately got to his feet when she came through. Had he been this attentive when she arrived? So accustomed to being ignored, she hadn’t noticed.

In a matter of hours, her life completely changed.

 

 

Chapter 2

Standing on a high hill above town, Elsbeth looked down at a world that looked the same but had radically altered for her. When she’d stood in the same spot this morning, she’d used the view to calm anxiety before the appointment with the lawyer. Below, the Galena River wove through the verdant valley. Businesses and homes had been built on both sides of its banks, now swollen from winter melt. Spring’s lush vegetation congested the countryside. Trees blossomed and sprouted tender, new leaves. The air smelled brisk and green.

She’d always found comfort from the view at the corner of High and Prospect Streets. It was why she again climbed the long flight of steps up the hillside from Main Street to look down on the place of her birth and reconcile the emotional ghosts of an unhappy past. When she’d been born, Galena had been a boomtown, a thriving city made wealthy by the lead in its veins. Now, she could see its glory waning. The War Between the States ended two decades ago. The abundant minerals that fed the conflagration and Galena’s commerce were becoming scarce, the demand tapered off to a fraction of what it had been. The wide river that had carried a constant stream of riverboats had begun to shrink from silt created by the runoff from surrounding farmlands. Without dredging, it would dwindle and fade, perhaps even disappear to a trickle in the future.

A shiver of anticipation skated down her arms. It was time for something new, perhaps even adventurous. Since the appointment with the lawyer, she entertained that idea with hope.

The clatter of approaching horses shifted her attention. A team of white-socked bays pulled a surrey up Prospect Street’s steep slope, where elegant stone and brick mansions rose up to the sky in stately grandeur. Elsbeth stepped closer to the wall above the flight of steps that flanked the hillside, the ones she’d just climbed to organize her thoughts.

The surrey stopped when it reached the corner. Mrs. Rayburn peered down her nose from the open-sided carriage. “Girl, when will you finish my blue poplin day frock? I need it for a garden party on Monday.”

Years of tolerating condescension and outright rudeness had conditioned her to tolerate this sort of treatment. Not all of her clients were as toplofty as Mrs. Rayburn. Some were kind and generous, understanding of her financial circumstances, paying more than necessary, or giving a gift at Christmas. Mrs. Rayburn treated most people as her inferiors. Whenever Elsbeth went to the Rayburn’s for a fitting, she pitied the household staff. The atmosphere in the house was solemn, the servants rigid with resentment.

Elsbeth winced and stepped back when Mrs. Rayburn leaned out of the carriage to poke her shoulder with the point of an unfurled parasol. “Speak up, girl!”

Umbrage pushed the words from her mouth. “I haven’t been a girl for more than a decade, Mrs. Rayburn. Furthermore, your unfinished dress will be delivered to you this afternoon. I no longer wish to have you as a client.”

As she moved to go down the steps, she heard Mrs. Rayburn give a shrill order to the footman standing on the back of the carriage. A strong arm grasped her upper arm to escort her back to Mrs. Rayburn.

Under his breath, the footman said, “Sorry, miss.”

Elsbeth had been taught from childhood to give way to her so-called betters. Bow and scrape if you wanted to find work, but the news of this morning cracked the seed of bitterness held tightly in check for too many years. She was leaving this town and her life of poverty, mistreatment, and sad memories, leaving it all behind. Today was the start of a new life. With it came a vow to never back down from a tyrant.

“Mrs. Rayburn, you will tell your man to unhand me or I will take this matter to a constable.”

A tiny, satisfied smile thinned Mrs. Rayburn’s mouth. “You are displeased because my husband scolded you for the botched work on my nephew’s christening gown. I told him about it last week, that I refuse to pay for inferior work. My husband’s clerk said you had an appointment for this morning. You may complain to him and to others all you like. You won’t be paid for the gown, and if you don’t deliver my garden party frock by the end of the day, you won’t be paid for that either.”

The horrid woman hadn’t been off the mark. When the request for an appointment at the law office arrived yesterday, Elsbeth had immediately supposed it pertained to Mrs. Rayburn’s anger about the christening gown, which had taken many days of handwork to embellish the white satin and its matching cap. Mr. Rayburn hadn’t yet told his wife that Elsbeth was now his client. But it would be all over town by nightfall.

Elsbeth twisted from the footman’s loose grip. “You had best speak to your husband. And may tell him that if you ever accost or speak to me again, I shall no longer require his services and will take them to another attorney.”

As she descended the flight of steps to Main Street, satisfaction calmed the burn of indignation, soothed the injustice of so many individuals who must bow to the vile manners of the Mrs. Rayburns of the world. Well, thank God above that she no longer had to keep silent and take it on the chin.

She calmed her turbulent emotions with plans. The cramped rooms she rented from the Myerson’s would have to be packed up, most of the items sold. Since she’d purchased the blue material for the garden frock, she would take a scissors to the lovely poplin and send the pieces in a burlap sack to Mrs. Rayburn. It was a petty and spiteful action, but years of suppressed hurts, insults, and offenses were surging to the surface. In a few weeks, she’d be making a journey to Wyoming and a much different life.

As soon as she got home, and with a tight-lipped smile, she lifted Mrs. Rayburn’s finished and carefully folded frock from its tissue paper wrapping. The shears felt heavy and cool against her palm as she hacked into the material and sliced it into shreds.

THANKS SO MUCH FOR VISITING HERE TODAY!  AND GOOD LUCK WITH YOUR BOOKS.

Mary Lou's Avenur to Heaven twitter post

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Historical Fiction

My husband reads lots of nonfiction, especially history and biographies.  I, on the other hand, love a book with a historical background, but I prefer fiction.  I want a plot, a story, with a sense of a time period.

Right now, I’m reading the second book in Anna Lee Huber’s Lady Darby series, MORTAL ARTS.  Set in Scotland in 1830, it’s a mystery–a little on the dark side–with the feeling of English lords and ladies with a bit of Gothic thrown in.  I’m a fan.

I recently read Mae Clair’s END OF DAY, with a present day mystery linked to a heinous event that happened during the founding of Hode’s Hill in 1799.  The chapters from the past added depth and gravity to a curse that’s released when Gabriel Vane’s remains are stolen from the town’s old church yard.  Those scenes from the past were vivid and emotional.

Another author I return to with every new book she writes is my friend Julia Donner/ M.L. Rigdon.  I love her Regency romances.  They take me back to my love of Georgette Heyer and Jane Austen.  But she’s started a new historical Western romance series, and I love those books every bit as much.

That’s why I’m happy to share that the first book in her Westward Bound series, AVENUE TO HEAVEN, is available now on a Goodreads giveaway.  100 lucky winners will receive an e-book copy of her book.  Here’s the link:  https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway?sort=recently_listed&tab=recently_listed.  And here’s a tiny tease about her book:

Mary Lou's Avenur to Heaven twitter post

Hope you have a great week and Happy Writing!

Some Good News

2-7-2019

It all started with a phone call from my agent.  MMB Media had contacted her and wanted to buy all three of my Jazzi Zanders mysteries to make into digital audio books.  That made me pretty excited.  I got even more excited when Lauren told me that I owned all of the audio rights for my mystieries.  It was in my contract, but I never expected to have to consider it.  I’m glad I have Lauren for an agent.

Then my editor, John Scognamiglio, at Kensington, told me that The Body in the Attic had been scheduled at 99 cents for BookBub on Feb. 7.  Always a good thing!   Kensington had already offered 100 copies in a giveaway on Goodreads that garnered the book 100 reviews there, mostly good ones. And I had some more reviews on Amazon.  That was a first for me.  I’d never reached 100 before.

WAY back, when I wrote my first urban fantasy–FALLEN ANGELS–I sent it to BookBub and they accepted it.  I offered it for free, and it got LOTS of downloads.  It zoomed to number one for FREE e-books.  What I was too-new-to-the-business to understand is that MOST authors wait to do that until they have a few books in a series.  Then people order the first book and many order the next ones, too, and the author makes money.  Shrug.  You live and you learn.  At least I got name recognition from it.  And I learned some business savvy.  These days, it’s not easy to get a “yes” from BookBub.  But Kensington has more clout than start-up writers, so I got lucky.

The Body in the Attic went on sale there today, and I hate to admit it, but I couldn’t concentrate on the chapter I was writing because I kept looking at my numbers to see how I was doing.  Making it even harder to concentrate, my husband got more excited than I was.  (He’s pretty cute.  That’s why I keep him).  And every time we looked, my numbers were better.  Now, I can’t tell how many actual sells it had.  Those numbers all go to Kensington.  All I can see are the rankings, but when it went to #12 in Kindle store, #1 in Cozy culinary mysteries, then #1 in amateur sleuth mysteries, and #1 in hobbies and crafts, and again in “animal” mysteries, I printed it out, because I might never see those numbers again:)  To say I was distracted is putting it mildly.

My nerves are starting to settle now.  And I realize what goes up must come down.  But at least it FINALLY went up.  I’ve been working at writing for a long, long time.  A lot of writers have.  Writing isn’t for the faint of heart, or for the easily disheartened.

I try to share the different ups and downs of my writing with you.  This time, it’s nice to share an “up.”  A month from now, who knows?  I might grumble about a “down.”  But I believe in enjoying every little success that comes my way, so I’m enjoying myself now.

The next realization?  I can do a happy dance around the house today, but tomorrow, I need to plant my fanny in my chair and hit the keys again.  I want the next book to be as good or better than the first.  I’m so happy for readers.  I don’t want to let them down.  And I don’t want to let myself down either.

So for you?  I wish you Happy Writing!

 

P.S.  I ask this every once in a while, but does anyone have any questions they’d like to throw out there.  I’d be happy to try to answer them, if I can.