Category Archives: books

Weddings

We’re driving to Indy on Friday…again.  This time, it’s to celebrate.  My grandson and his Emily are getting married on Saturday, Nov. 9.  My daughter’s bought a long, navy blue dress to be mother of the groom.  And my second daughter, Robyn, and her husband are flying in from Florida to attend.  DH’s brother is flying back again from Oakland and staying the weekend.  And even the wonderful neighbor girl who grew up across the street from us, and Holly’s BFF, is coming from Detroit with her husband and three boys.  It’s going to be a wonderful time.  So I’m writing this post early, because I’ll be packing tomorrow night.

I have more weddings in my Jazzi series than I ever meant to write.  But my characters are all at that age when boy meets girl and both are ready to settle down.  Jazzi and Ansel get married in book 3, The Body in the Gravel, even though she doesn’t buy the dress until the last minute.  She’s too busy trying to solve a murder.  There’s a double wedding in book 4, The Body in the Apartment.  And since I threw two more people together in that book, there’s another wedding in book 5, The Body in the Past, but it’s an out of town, hurry up and get it done type event.

My wedding to DH was like that.  He’d just gotten out of the army three days before we drove to the minister’s house with a few family members and friends, and made living together legal, because we’d dated long enough.  Tyler and Emily are doing it right–the rehearsal dinner, wedding, and reception with dancing.  She’s wearing a gorgeous gown.  Jazzi and Ansel catered their own reception, cooking the food and tying the knot in their living room.  My second daughter skipped all of that.  She and Scott took off for Vegas and had everyone watch them get married on video, then they had one heck of a good time.

The next step for Jazzi, I guess, is married life and eventually kids.  That’s part of the cycle, too.  Jerod, her cousin, has already started his family, but Jazzi’s not ready for diapers and cribs yet.  I’m not sure when and how I’ll deal with that.  It’s too soon to go there.  Do you have any favorite mysteries dealing with a young mother and kids?  The only one that comes to my mind is Jenna Bennett’s Savannah Martin series.  But until babies wake Jazzi and Ansel in the middle of the night, I have ideas for lots more mysteries for them to solve.

If you’re pounding your way through NaNo, hang in there!  And for every writer out there, happy writing!

High School

I just turned in the manuscript for my fifth Jazzi Zanders mystery–The Body in the Past.  I beat my deadline–Nov. 4–and it feels good.

In this book, Jazzi is trying to find out what happened to a young girl who died in the house she, Ansel, and Jerod are flipping.  Someone pushed her off her family’s balcony at a party to celebrate her being named class valedictorian.

Jazzi learns that people resented Jessica’s successes.  She had four smart, fun best friends, but school wasn’t a happy place for her.  Neither was her home.  She was the class brain, beautiful and talented, good at everything she did, but that only made Lila, Nadia, and others despise her more.  Part way through the book, I have Jazzi say, “Who knew high school kids could be so cruel?”  But then people told me just how cruel they could be.

I was mostly oblivious during high school.  I loved my teachers.  I loved my classes.  I was one of the class brains with my nose in a book–sheltered and self-conscious, not particularly social.  I lived in my own head more often than not.  I had a few good friends, and that was enough to keep me happy.  I avoided boys.  I walked into the girls’ restroom and found girls crying too often because their boyfriends had dumped them to trust the opposite sex.   Maybe if I had a brother, I would have understood boys better, but I had two sisters.  As it was, I listened to guys have burping contests in Latin class and smack talk with each other in Geometry and decided I could live without them.

A couple of people teased me, calling me Beanpole because I just grew taller every year, but I didn’t really care, so they stopped.  Most people were nice to me.  A few popular girls even invited to me parties, but I had no social skills and little interest, so that dwindled.

High school wasn’t the best years of my life, but it wasn’t my worst years either.  And people have told me some horror stories.  Vicious, back-biting girls who teamed up to make a friend’s life miserable.  Boys spread rumors that another friend being “easy” when they didn’t get lucky.  Boys got bullied.  Between hormones and self-esteem, high school was rough for some people.  They didn’t fit in.  They thought they never would.  They didn’t blossom until they graduated and found their place in the larger world, in a place where there were different types of people with wider interests.

In my story, Jessica couldn’t wait to move away and go to college.  But she never got the chance.  Someone gave her a push and she fell to her death before she could spread her wings to fly.

Was high school good to you?  Did you dream about writing even then?  When did the writing bug bite you?  And if you’re gearing up for NaNoWriMo this November–this Friday–good luck!  And happy writing.

Some Things Don’t Work

A while ago, when I had extra time to write between contracts, I decided to self-publish some supernatural mysteries because I enjoy writing them so much.  I knew it was a bit of a risk since urban fantasy is still pretty glutted, but I’d seen some paranormal witch mysteries that were doing well on Amazon and thought it was worth a try.  I had a lot of fun writing them, but I’ve given them a decent shot, and they’re still dead in the water.  I can’t get them off the ground.  So I came to a crossroads.  Do I keep writing them and hope the fifth or sixth one clicks, or do I admit defeat and try something new?

My agent loved the urban fantasies I wrote forever ago but got one rejection after another because no one was buying UF anymore.  I spent a lot of years trying to sell stories that no matter how well done, no one wanted to buy.  And I don’t want to do that again.  So this time, I’m throwing the towel in early.  Right or wrong, I’ve learned the hard way that some things are easier to sell than others.  So I felt sorry for myself, licked my wounded pride for a day, and then sat down and started to work on something different.  I don’t want to write a second cozy series.  I know a lot of writers juggle two or more of them, but I’d have too much trouble trying to keep track of which is which if they were that much alike.  I mean, cozies have some similarities.  If I’m going to do a second series, it has to be different enough from Jazzi to help me find balance between the two.

I’m sharing this, not to garner sympathy, but because when I like writing something, that’s what I want to write.  I don’t want to change or go in a different direction.  But I’ve found that I need to.  When my agent asked me to try to write a romance, I didn’t want to.  I’d never considered it.  Ever.  The plot points felt weird to me–hurt feelings and misunderstandings instead of attacks and battles.  The thing is, I learned a lot by writing the Mill Pond series.  I had to concentrate on character more than plot, and my tacklebox of writing tools grew richer for it.  I took some of those tools with me when my editor asked if I’d like to try my hand at a mystery.

This might sound crazy to you, but if you’re writing really well but your work won’t sell, maybe you should try something outside your comfort zone.  There’s so much to writing that we can’t control.  If editors decide a market is tight or dead, soon it will be, because they won’t buy anything in that genre.  If the market really is glutted, it’s even hard to find readers if you self-publish.  There are just too many things for them to choose from.  Markets come and go.  Literary fiction, I’m told, is a hard sell right now.  Sometimes, selling comes down to a current preference.  It’s harder to sell writing in present tense  now because there’s a bias against it.  Some editors prefer third person, single POV, over first person.  Some of that depends on what genre you write in, but I’ve read reviews where readers prefer third over first.  That doesn’t mean what you write won’t sell, but it means it will be harder.

For now, I’m going to try something new.  A straight mystery instead of a supernatural.  And I’m writing it in first person.  Then I’ll see what happens.  But it doesn’t hurt to flex your writing muscles and experiment a little.  You can start with something short and go from there.  Maybe try a one-hour read.  Play with a new genre, a different style.  But it’s hard to put your best into something, over and over again, know that it’s good (and I’m not just talking ego or confidence here, but comments from critique partners and editors or agents), and keep getting rejections.  When that happens, it might not have anything to do with how well you write, but a lot to do with what you write.  But let’s face it.  In writing, there’s no one right answer, and what works for one person doesn’t work for someone else.  But I’m ready to try to tilt the odds in my favor instead of against me.  So wish me luck.  And good luck to you and whatever you’re working on and Happy Writing!

 

Little Things That Make me Happy

John’s brother is staying with us this week.  He only flies into Fort Wayne a couple times a year, so it’s always nice to see him and catch up.  This time, we’re doing whatever strikes our fancy, and it’s been really nice.  We went to the new River Promenade and walked the entire park, then ended up at Barnes and Noble.  It’s a personal sin to walk out of that building with no books, so….   what can I say?  We bought a few.  One of them was a new bird book because my old one finally fell apart and died.

My bird feeders make me happy.  We have a crabapple tree that blooms right outside one of our side windows, and we have four birdfeeders and suet hanging there.  I have more sparrows than anyone needs, nuthatches, chickadees, tufted titmice, blue jays, cardinals, finches, three different kinds of woodpeckers, and sometimes wrens.  I throw peanuts under the tree, and we have fox squirrels and black squirrels,and too many chipmunks.  We have more, but they’re not regulars, but I love watching them.  Our new neighbor across the street, who’s a super nice man, put up a birdfeeder station in his front yard.  He owns a construction company and built it himself.  It’s huge.   It makes our feeders look second-rate, but my birds still come.  There are enough to share.  And that makes me happy.

Friends and family make me happy, but I’m really blessed with friends who care about my writing.  And that’s wonderful.  I’ve heard writers who don’t get much support.  I’ve never had that problem.  My friends have always told me it was just a matter of time before I sold books.  They tell me often that they believe in me.  Sometimes, they believe in me more than I do.  How lucky can a girl get?  And I belong to a writers’ group who critique each other AND offer encouragement and support.  And I’ve known some of them for so long, they’re extra special to me.  And their opinions matter.  A lot.  So when ANY of us finds success, it makes me happy.

Reviews make me happy.  Not ALL reviews.  There are always a few that make me wince, want to paint my forehead with ashes, and sulk, but MOST reviews.  The ones who say the series just keeps getting better make my day.  And this time, for the first time, a reader told me that she read the recipe I put at the end of my book and went right out and bought the ingredients she needed to make the steak tips over buttered noodles, and she LOVED them.  BLISS!

When a writer I respect and admire reads one of my books and gives it a great review, it’s AWESOME!  Reading really well done books makes me happy.  Reading favorite authors who deliver lifts my evenings.

When one of my daughters or grandsons call to talk about anything, it makes me happy.  And spending time with my DH, who to this day thinks he got lucky when he met me (silly man) makes me happy.

And yes, if you read this list, you know that I count myself a pretty fortunate person.  So do I have a skip in my step and hum a happy tune when I walk?  Heck no.  I’m still the borderline grumpy person I’ve always been, because it’s in my nature.  And as much as I love writing, some days I curse it and fuss.  Because life’s like that.  I guess the Universe doesn’t want us to get bored by making things too easy.  But for right now, I’m spending time playing and having fun, and I’m feeling pretty happy:)

Hope you are, too.  Happy writing, all!

 

October

My birthday’s actually at the end of September, but according to the zodiac my birthday month is September 23 to Oct. 22.  So October is a special month for me.  Every year, when I reach it, I feel more energized, like I’m starting a new year.

Also, October is the month in Indiana when the leaves change color and the air grows nippier.  And at the end of the month, there’s Halloween.  I’ve always liked fairytales, paranormal, and supernatural.  And All Hallow’s Eve is when the veil between our world and the spirit realm thins.  Witches celebrate Samhain and put out a saucer of milk for Cat Sith.

Cat Sith inspired me to write a short story for Muddy River.  No horror or ghosts or goblins.  It’s how the supernaturals in Muddy River celebrate the holiday.  You can find it on the Muddy River Snippets page here: https://writingmusings.com/snippets-page/.  

And today, for the Thursday Snippet, I put up a Halloween story for Jazzi and Ansel.  The body on their front stoop isn’t a stuffed dummy.  It’s real.  https://writingmusings.com/the-body-in-the-lake-a-jazzi-short-story/.

Another reason for me to celebrate lately is that I finally finished the plot points for Muddy River Four.  I’m often tempted by the desire to just wing it and see what happens, but it never works for me.  It always costs me more time and effort than if I make myself pound out ideas for chapters so I can see the cause and effect that take me to a book’s end.  When I write willy-nilly, letting my characters lead me, I run amok.  My characters must not be trustworthy.  Not sure what that says about me:)

Anyway, I’m going to try to pound out a Muddy River by the end of November, because my next Jazzi mystery is due on May 4th, and I’ve learned the hard way that I don’t get as much writing time in December as I usually do, so I’ll rub my hands together and plot out Jazzi 6 in-between holiday things.  I mean, it’s more important to see friends and family and have fun:)  Once January hits, I can hibernate and hit the keys every week day to make my Jazzi deadline.

At least, that’s the plan.  For now.   But you know how Life goes.  The best laid plans and all that….

So, I’m wishing you an awesome October, and happy writing!

 

Carnival Row (spoilers)

I don’t watch a lot of TV.  We have BritBox, so I can watch British mysteries, and my husband loves the Great British Baking Show even more than I do, but when I saw the clips for Carnival Row on Prime, it had all of the elements I like in a story.  A Victorian feel.  A gloomy setting.  Supernaturals and Fae.  And a scary monster that guts people to take their livers.  Yes, the show is dark.  And the humans aren’t depicted as much nicer than the monster.  The way they treat the supernaturals, for me, was gut-wrenching.  (Oops, there’s that word again.  Sorry).

And it made me love this series, it was so complex.  And in my opinion, and this is JUST my opinion, the plotting was brilliant.  I love mysteries, especially puzzles where each little clue becomes important at the end of the story.  Carnival Row was like that.  We start out following a detective who’s determined to stop a killer from beating Fae women with a hammer, killing most of his victims.  I thought, Aha!  The story’s big question.  Hardly.  The other cops who work the area aren’t much concerned about the women’s deaths.  What’s one less Fae?  Good riddance!

We get a glimpse of Philo’s private life, living in a boarding house.  The woman who runs it has fallen for him, and when we see them in an intimate scene, we learn that Philo has scars on his back from the war he fought in.  (If nudity and sex bother you, be warned).  Being a soldier has shaped him, and he  doggedly follows each clue that comes up until he confronts the killer.  And then there’s a twist.  The killer tells him that the Fae haven’t only brought their strange religions and customs to Carnival Row, they’ve brought a dark monster, and the evil has only begun.  Then the killer throws himself off the top of the building, killing himself.

We wonder why Philo cares so much about the Fae when no one else does.  And then we learn, through a flashback, that while fighting the war, he was stationed in a Fae bastion, and he fell in love with a woman there.  She ends up in Carnival Row, too.  And we know the two will meet and the plot’s going to have another twist.  We also learn that the scars on Philo’s back are because his mother was Fae.  She had his wings cut off when he was a baby so that he could pretend to be human growing up and have a better life, and she placed him in an orphanage so that he wouldn’t be associated with her.

When we return to present day in the story, Philo’s now tracking the dark monster that’s stalking the area.  I’ve shared enough spoilers, so I won’t say more except that there are subplots that add more layers to the story, and the twists keep coming, and the story gets more and more complicated.  It’s as much a maze as a mystery with each person’s story  weaving in and out of each other.  The over arcing storyline builds more and more tension with each episode, and the characters were well developed, even minor ones.  Predictions seem like one thing and then morph into another.  There was even decent social commentary if you chose to notice it.

I write cozy mysteries.  Even my Muddy River stories with supernaturals don’t push the envelope too far.  But I think I could learn a thing or two by studying the plotting of Carnival Row.  Writers can learn a lot from movies that inspire them.  How were they put together?  What made them better, more compelling than other movies you’ve watched?  I was impressed with the writing of this eight episode series.

October is almost upon us with days that get shorter and shorter, (at least, where I live).  All Hallow’s Eve will soon arrive with its thinning of the veil.  Enjoy the changing of the leaves, the brisk temperatures, and let’s hope that happy writing is in your future!

 

Some Writers Have a Little Bit Too Much Fun

I already told you about my good blog friend, C. S. Boyack’s new book, VIRAL BLUES.  But today, Craig has come to tell you about it himself, and I’m so glad to have him!  When Craig lets his imagination go, watch out, world!  Here’s Craig:

Hi, everyone. Craig here to talk about my latest book, Viral Blues. This one is just in time for your Halloween reading, but it isn’t horror. It’s more a light-hearted romp. (Some gore, so think of it like dark humor.)

I always intended this to be a sequel for The Hat, the book I pushed for last Halloween. This series is without an overarching plot, so you ought to be able to pick up any of them and fare just fine. No prerequisite books required.

Then I went a little bit crazy, but crazy is good sometimes. It dawned on me that many of my previous characters could dwell in the same world. Some of them were pretty popular, and readers requested sequels from them, too.

It’s with this thought that Viral Blues earned a storyboard. All the pieces were in place for a great team-up, which seems to be all the rage at the movies lately, too.

Dr. Gina Greybill, and her assistant, Mohan Gupta, used their Host Program to gather a special group of individuals to face a pestilence of massive proportions. You may remember them from The Playground.

They invited Lizzie and The Hat, Lisa Burton, Jason Fogg, and – by accident – Clovis from some of my previous books. Together they work to uncover whoever is tampering with the world’s vaccine supply.

This posed my first quandary, because I have a mix of science fiction, paranormal, and regular people here. Ultimately, it had to be a paranormal story, with Sci-fi sprinkles on top.

I also had to decide who to focus on for the story. Since this was always going to be the sequel for The Hat, Lizzie and The Hat walk us in, and close it out. That part was easy. It also built a much needed fence for me. I would follow the format of The Hat, and keep everything in third person. (The Jason Fogg stories were in first person, so I toyed with the idea of keeping his sections that way, but it didn’t work well.)

Character popularity established that Lisa Burton and Clovis would get about equal time with Lizzie and The Hat.

This isn’t to say that Gina, Gupta, and Jason didn’t have their fans, they did. Readers won’t be disappointed either, but these characters help bind the story together with their special skills. Even Marvel had to do some of this. Iron Man gets more time than, say, Hawkeye.

One benefit is that some of my characters are a little over the top. It might just be me, but I think they’re lovable in small doses. By spreading the spotlight around, readers get a nice mix of their personalities and skills, without it being too much.

Then I went a little more crazy, and included even more characters. Clovis got there, because Gina invited Justine, the voodoo practitioner who is his girlfriend. I have cameos from other stories, but they’re more like Easter Eggs than any main focus. There is no requirement to read these tales first, but if you have, you might recognize a bit here and there.

To keep the crazy train rolling, I even included a secret chapter. It’s after the back-of-book material in a nod to pop-culture and some of the superhero films.

I don’t mind telling you, this story was a challenge. It came out great, and in my opinion, people who try it are going to have a good time.

Mobsters, devils, zombies, the CDC, what’s not to love. Hopefully, your fans will check it out for their Halloween reading, and thanks for having me over.

 

***

 

Someone knows about the hat. The creature from another dimension that helps Lizzie fight against the creatures of darkness.

They are summoned to a cryptic meeting with a secret society, where they meet other people with enhanced skills. It turns out someone, or something, has been tampering with the world’s vaccine supply. The goal doesn’t appear to be political or financial, but biblical pestilence.

Can this group of loners come together in time to make a difference when even the proper authorities are obstacles?

Check out Viral Blues, for your dose of paranormal adventure, with a strong sample of dark humor. And in recent superhero style, don’t miss the secret last chapter after the back material.

THANKS SO MUCH TO CRAIG FOR VISITING MY PAGE TODAY!  I LOVE HIS WRITING.  HOPE YOU CHECK OUT HIS BOOK.

viral-blues by c.s. boyack cover

This is the purchase link: Viral Blues: http://a-fwd.com/asin-com=B07XVTSYYV

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