Sorry

I feel like I’m becoming a whiner, and I HATE whining. But boy, this month has been tough. HH’s and my anniversary was Aug. 21, but we couldn’t celebrate, because he’d just had a heart attack. It’s going to be my birthday soon, and we had a big celebration planned. Lots of people were coming to stay at our house. I’ve cooked TONS of food to freeze to get ready for it. Then John’s brother’s significant other caught Covid and they can’t come. Then my daughter and son-in-law in Florida are in the path of the latest hurricane, so their flights were canceled, and they’re stuck in Florida. But thankfully (hopefully), it looks like they won’t be in the direct path of Ian, so they’ll be miserable and probably without electricity but should be safe. Safe is good. My grandson and his wife were doing a rush trip just to see Robyn and Scott, since they have a wedding to attend this weekend, so now, they don’t have to come. So….at the end of the month, my daughter from Indy and my sister ten minutes away will probably show up to celebrate with us.

And that’s not the part that’s depressing. The depressing part is that my cousin with cerebral palsy had to go to the hospital to get a spot of cancer cut out of her lung twelve days ago, and she’s still in the hospital because NOTHING has gone right. The doctors and nurses have been wonderful. It’s just BAD luck. The last time she had cancer removed from her lung, it was in the bottom quadrant. It was a quick, easy procedure. This time, the spot was in the top part of the lung…..and that changes EVERYTHING. Only we didn’t know that. They had to crack a rib to reach the spot. She was in a decent amount of pain when everything was done. Then, when they removed the tubes to expand her lung after the operation, it didn’t expand. There were fluid bubbles and air leaks. She’s had THREE more procedures to fix the problems. And they’re still not fixed. She goes from uncomfortable to in pain after each procedure. It’s been the PITS. My sister is there for her every day. I try to get there most afternoons so that my sister can have a break. But everyone’s getting tired, stressed, and a little moody. They’ve put valves in some of the branches of Jenny’s lung, and yesterday, they tried the “glue” the top leak. Fingers crossed. We hope it works. So far, it doesn’t look good, but the doctor says that sometimes, it takes a day or two to be sure.

All I know is that hospital stays and visits are tiring, and I’m not whipping out pages, like I’d hoped to. But life happens. And Jenny and my sister need support. And once Jenny is better and can get to Saint Anne’s, everyone is going to feel better. And we’re all hoping when the calm comes, it stays calm for a long time. This has been one heck of a year.

A Short Story

It’s close to October, so I thought about witches and Halloween. I like to put up a short story or two this time of year and hope you enjoy this one:

Photo by Michele Riva on Pexels.com

Purr-fect

Zephyra bit her bottom lip.  Jane came to her eatery every day for lunch.  The old lady had come for years, always complimenting the soup/salad/sandwiches to choose from.  Her favorite day was Thursday when Zephyra offered sliced turkey breast with cranberry sauce on homemade white bread, a choice of lentil soup with peas and ham or minestrone, and a chopped or Greek salad.  She always ordered the sandwich, the lentil soup, and the chopped salad for lunch but also bought the minestrone and Greek salad to go for supper.

On Fridays, Zephyra offered two sandwiches—chicken burrito wraps and Italian beef hoagies—along with French onion soup or chili, and Cobb salad.  She knew that many of her customers lived in the retirement community a block away—a sprawl of single-story apartments with attached garages.  They ordered one of everything to eat over the weekend when her shop was closed.  There was a wonderful restaurant across the street from where they lived, and most of them went there to have supper on Sunday night.  Sometimes, they sat at one table to socialize, and sometimes, they staggered their times and sat alone.

Between her older regulars and the business people who came for lunch, the eatery was always busy.  Still, Zephyra did her best to keep an eye on Jane. Lately, the old woman’s eyes sparkled a little less and her smile, though always at the ready, wobbled a bit.  As customers made their way down the food line, making their choices, Zephyra kept glancing at Jane’s table.

“You’re worried about her, aren’t you?”  Kaylee, one of Zephyra’s assistants, sidled beside her to refill a soup pot.  Only twenty, the girl was attending culinary school.  She had big dreams of becoming a celebrity chef and didn’t understand why Zephyra wasn’t more ambitious.

“You’re so talented.  You could run one of the top restaurants in the city.”

“I’ve run big restaurants.  It was fun, but now, I just want to enjoy my time in the kitchen.”  She loved to cook.  It was something she could do one lifetime after another and in any location.  When she didn’t age and had to move somewhere new, maybe she’d work as a pastry chef to change things up. 

Another reason she enjoyed cooking was that she liked people.  Well, most of them.  She really liked the old lady.  So, she worried when Jane’s aura faded to muddy brown with flashes of neon colors off and on.  A health problem was brewing, and soon, it would be serious. 

“Have you seen your doctor recently?” she asked Jane.  “You look more tired than usual.”

With a tsk, Jane patted her arm.  “I’m old, dear.  “If I don’t take an afternoon nap, I drag myself around like a toy whose battery is wearing down.”

Zephyra couldn’t make her get a check-up, but day after day, the neon colors flashed more often until there was hardly any pause between them.  For that reason, when the last customer left the shop on a Friday, Zephyra asked Kaylee and Trent, her other assistant, if they’d clean and close the restaurant without her.

Trent looked surprised.  “Sure, but what are you up to?  I thought you lived and breathed this place.  It would be nice to think you’ve met someone, and you’re going on a date.”

She rolled her eyes.  “I’m not that lucky.  I’m meeting a friend tonight, though, and I’d like a little time to relax first.”

“It’s about time you did something fun.  You’re always working.  Go.”  Kaylee shooed her toward the door.  “We’ll have this place shining when you walk in Monday morning.”

Smiling, Zephyra hurried away.  She drove home and looked up Jane’s apartment number, then drove there.  The apartments were arranged so that the garages separated them from each other.  Great for privacy, but no one would hear if Jane fell and cried out for help.  So, she had a plan. 

Everything was too open here.  If she shifted, someone could see.  She drove to a church down the street and left her car parked in its back lot.  Then she walked to the apartment complex, and when she entered an area with a lot of trees, she let her body shrink and change, sprouting white fur, then sat before Jane’s door, meowing pitifully.   

The door opened, and Jane stared down at her.  “Where did you come from?”

With another pitiful meow, Zephyra slipped past Jane into the apartment.  The kitchen was small and looked unused, but the living room was cozy with lots of chintz and fresh flowers.  Zephyra planted herself in the middle of the carpet and stretched out, licking her paws.

Jane smiled, amused.  “You don’t mind making yourself at home, do you?”

Zephyra rose to weave around Jane’s ankles, purring loudly.

“You picked a good night to visit,” Jane told her.  “I have a Cobb salad for supper with bits of ham and chicken on top.  I’ll share with you.”

Jane went to the refrigerator and carried the salad to the living room to eat in front of the TV.  She put a paper plate on the floor and dropped pieces of meat and cheese on it for Zephyra.  Then they settled in for the night.  Zephyra jumped on the couch and pressed herself against Jane’s thighs.  The old lady chuckled and stroked her fur while they watched The Great British Baking Show together. 

They didn’t reach the end to see who’d make star baker and who’d be sent home when Jane gasped and pressed a hand to her chest.  Zephyra immediately jumped down and raced to Jane’s cell phone.  She used her paws to press 911 and scooted the phone to Jane. 

“Heart attack,” Jane breathed, then bit out her address.  When she collapsed, Zephyra shifted back to her human form to press her hands against Jane’s chest.  Her healing magic flowed into her, keeping her alive until the paramedics arrived.  Staying out of sight, she opened the door for them, then quickly disappeared into the bedroom to change back into her cat form. 

She watched them load Jane onto a stretcher and carry her to the ambulance.  When everyone was gone, she shifted back to human, locked the door to the apartment, and pulled it shut.  She’d done everything she could, so she walked back to her car to leave.    

A large black dog was sitting by the door on the driver’s side.  It cocked its head to study her.  She crossed her arms and sniffed the air.  “Where did you come from?  I thought I was the only witch in the city.”

The dog’s body stretched, and soon a man with pitch black hair and sky-blue eyes stood before her.  “I doubt we’re the only ones, but you just saved my ancestor’s life.  She doesn’t have any magic, so I’ve been trying to keep an eye on her, but she never lets me in her apartment.  She’s afraid of dogs.”

“Why didn’t you just stay with her in your human form?”

“Because she never came to my pizza parlor.  I meant to schmooze with her if she stopped in, but she loves your restaurant more.  When I tried to cozy up to her at her Sunday night supper spot, she didn’t want anything to do with me.  Told me young men were only nice to old women when they were trying to bamboozle them.”

Zephyra laughed.  “She’s sharp for her age.”

“Yeah, so was her tongue when she thought I was up to something.”  He extended a hand.  “I’m Conan.  Thanks for being there for her.”

“I hope it helped.  I hope she’ll be all right.”

“You did all you could.  I saw you press your magic into her.”  He gave a nod and started toward a car parked on the other side of the church.  She started to her car, too, when he called to her.  “Maybe we’ll bump into each other again.  My pizza place is on Calhoun.  If you stop in, I’ll make you a free pie.”

A tempting offer.  She thought about Conan on her drive home.  He was good-looking and seemed nice.  But she was happy living a nice, quiet life, baking bread for sandwiches, simmering soups, and enjoying her customers.  That was enough for this lifetime.  Spending time with another witch would only complicate things.  And she didn’t need any complications this time around.  Things were purr-fect, as is.

No Writing Today, BUT I finished reading the book!

I never sit down to read when I’m supposed to be writing. Never. Except today.

HH had his first cardio rehab appointment, so I took my Kindle with me. We met his therapist together and answered LOTS of questions before HH started his exercises. He gets impatient, so as usual, he pushed his pages about his eating habits over to me to fill out for him. Probably better. I know what he eats for every meal because I cook most of them, and we eat out together. We eat pretty healthy, so he looked good on those parts of the questionnaire, but he might not have been honest about the ice cream and snacks he enjoys. When we finished with that, I sat in the lobby and read while he did his workout. And I was enjoying myself but didn’t get to finish the book before he was finished.

We ran a few chores before coming home, and we were both starving, so we had lunch. And then, did I go back and write like a good author? NO! I plopped on the couch to finish the book. And I’m so glad I did. Wow! Mae Clair and Staci Troilo didn’t slack off on the endings for their dual timeline plots. And what I enjoyed even more, is that they tied them together with some serious twists and turns, and even better, a nice dab of irony.

I’ve enjoyed a lot of books this year, but this has to be one of my favorites. I have a few auto-buy authors, and both of these ladies are on my list. And together? Even better!

I’m not one of the hosts on their book tour, and I’m glad. Because I get to gush over them instead of letting them post humble blurbs about their book. I Loved THE HAUNTING OF CHATHAM HOLLOW. Such a fun dual timeline mystery! And now I can get more sleep and sit at my computer and write, like I’m supposed to:)

https://www.amazon.com/Haunting-Chatham-Hollow-Mae-Clair-ebook/dp/B0BBPTK9NB/ref=sr_1_1?crid=AV7T9KQFI0GL&keywords=the+haunting+of+chatham+hollow&qid=1663277319&sprefix=%2Caps%2C151&sr=8-1

It’s Mae Clair and Staci Troilo’s Fault

I’m tired. I’ve been writing since this morning, and my brain’s had it. I took a short break but only could squeeze in one more scene. My brain’s calling it quits. And it’s Mae Clair and Staci Troilo’s fault.

They’re blog friends, so they’d never purposely mess me up. But I’m still blaming them. They co-wrote a book, THE HAUNTING OF CHATHAM HOLLOW, and I started it. And I’m staying up later than I’m supposed to, trying to squeeze in one more chapter before I go to bed each night. And I’m feeling it. But DAMN, this book is good!

I love mysteries. No surprise there. And I love historical. Boy, Mae’s good at that! And I love it when tension builds and builds…and Staci’s making me want to whack Aiden with a two by four because he REFUSES to believe in ghosts. When, hello! He’s talking to one.

The thing is, this is one really fun book to read. So I’m reading it. And staying up later than I should. And today, I’m feeling it. And I have my own book to write, but boy, my eyes are tired. My brain’s tired. ALL of me is tired. And it’s their fault. I thought they were my friends:) Okay, they are. But did they have to write such a good book?

I have to finish this soon before I sleep through an entire day. I guess what I’m saying is that I REALLY recommend this book. I have to finish it so I can write mine. I love dual timelines, and I love both of their writing. But…boy, am I tired.

I’m Trying Something New

Usually, when I write a Jazzi Zanders mystery, I use a day by day pacing for the stories. Jazzi and Ansel wake up in the mornings, go to work, or do their thing, and go to bed at night. I like that pacing for them because it shows the balance of their lives. It’s not all work and not all looking for clues. It’s what real life looks like–a little bit of everything most days. But it makes for chapter endings that have to stretch to be hooks. No goodnight kisses and happy dreams. So this time, I’m changing it up. I’m writing scenes and finishing them whenever the drama is done. No carrying George up to his doggie bed for the night. No Inky and Marmalade snuggling against legs. It’s going to take away some of the homey feel of the books, but hopefully, it will punch up the pacing.

I really enjoy Lynn Cahoon’s Tourist Trap series, and one of the things I enjoy about it is the cozy feel of Jill opening her bookstore in the mornings, taking her dog for a run on the beach when she goes home, or Jill going to Lill’s to meet her friend for lunch. Sometimes, though, the everyday routine gets as much time as the mystery, and it makes the book more of an evening stroll as a mystery and less of a page turner. I don’t need every book to be a page turner. But I don’t want Jazzi and Ansel to get in a rut either. So I thought about what to change and what I’d miss if I changed it. And I got rid of some of the ordinary in favor of more punch.

I’m not sure how I feel about the change. Sometimes, I worry about getting boring. And sometimes, I worry about fiddling with the familiar that people like, including me. I can’t tell if I like the new balance, so I’m going to have to rely more on my critique partners. I love series, but some of them stay fresh, and some of them get stale. I don’t want Jazzi and Ansel to get stale. So I’m fiddling with them. I hope it makes them better, but we’ll see.

Happy Writing!

Sneaks

I’m a third of my way through my WIP, a Jazzi Zanders mystery. I called my daughter (and critique partner) and she asked, “Who did you kill this time? Why did he die?” So, I told her the new victim is a guy who loves to race cars on weekends at the derby track in town.

“What did he do to get himself killed?” she asked.

“He was a sneak. He smiled to your face and went behind your back.”

And she understood immediately.

When she and her sister were growing up, I was a stay-at-home mom. The only one in our neighborhood. My husband worked second shift, (from 3:30 to midnight), and would be working it for a long time because he was one of the youngest people his company had hired, and he wouldn’t have seniority to move to first shift for a long time. He didn’t want me to go back to work because we’d only see each other on the weekends, and he said (rightly) that we’d only be dealing with kids on the weekends, so we wouldn’t have time for each other.

Two of his friends at work had already been through that–them working second shift and their wives working first, and they both ended up divorced. He didn’t think it went well when husbands and wives didn’t see each other very often. I had plenty to deal with at the time anyway. His mom needed to be in a nursing home. I needed to make arrangements for that and then check on her once a week. The girls were young, and my dad had just died, and my mom was a mess. So, we decided I’d be the “deal with whatever crap happens” person, and he’d work. The offshoot was that neighborhood kids ended up spending a lot of time at our house, because their parents worked, and they wanted an adult in their lives.

Kids crave an adult. They might fuss about rules and moan about homework, but they need structure, encouragement, and just having someone THERE. I ended up being that person for quite a few of them. And I’ll never regret it. BUT one of the boys, a nice boy that I felt really sorry for, never felt like he fit in with the other kids. He was an only child, and both of his parents worked, and somehow, he felt like an outsider. I had two girls, so he didn’t quite gel with them. Neighborhood boys ended up at our house, but he didn’t quite gel with them either. So….when he got really upset, I’d find something broken when he left. A toy. The trim in our basement. A swing on the swing set. And I knew he’d broken it on purpose, but no one ever SAW him do it. It was all small stuff, so I told myself he’d outgrow it. He’d learn to control his emotions. But that’s not how it worked. It got worse, and bigger things broke, until I finally had to tell him he couldn’t come to our house anymore. And I felt TERRIBLE. Because I knew he needed us. His mother called and yelled at me for being so mean to him. But she got him a babysitter during the day and then in the evenings, he went to play at another neighbor’s house, and she had to ban him, too. Same reason.

I felt so sorry for that boy. But he grew up and turned into a together adult. Not wonderful. I won’t lie. But he was okay. He met a girl and got married, and he’s had a decent life. But that’s how Sparks was born for my book. A sneak. He smiles and compliments you while he’s sabotaging you behind the scenes.

My mother hated sneaks. My dad detested lying. They said they were the worst kind of humans. You couldn’t trust them. I don’t know where I’d rate them on the severity of mortal sins, and thankfully, I haven’t met that many of either, but they make great characters for stories.

Happy September! And happy writing.

Hmmm……

I don’t know about other authors, but lately, I’ve been getting ratings, but hardly any reviews. Don’t get me wrong. I’m grateful to any reader who takes the time to rate my book, but I sort of miss the reviews that tell me WHY they ranked the book the way they did.

I first noticed the difference on Amason. People hit how many stars they thought the book was worth, but no reviews. But I expected more from Goodreads. Not so much. I have a lot more ratings than very few reviews.

I don’t know if readers felt that writers didn’t pay attention to what they wrote, but I checked on my reviews occasionally, and was always interested in why a person gave me 3 stars instead of 5. Or 5 instead of 3. I think the problem might have started when Amazon wouldn’t let me respond to reviews with even a “like,” a thank you in my mind. I know there are writers who get so many ratings and reviews they couldn’t possibly respond to them, but mine trickled in and I enjoyed reading them.

I know this proves that I’m not a huge author. But I used to get reviews, and I miss them. Something’s changed. Readers who used to take the time to write a review aren’t anymore. I miss them.

An Exciting New Experience!

I’m excited about this! I love both Mae and Staci’s writing, and I love a good ghost story. This sounds right up my alley.

From the Pen of Mae Clair

Hello, friends! Remember the excitement of publishing your first book? For writers, every release is special, but occasionally, the stars align for “WOW!” moments. Today, I’m excited to announce something I’m super excitedjazzedgiddy over-the-moon about!

If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, you’ve probably heard me say I’ve been sitting on two finished manuscripts. What I neglected to mention is that I also had a THIRD project in the works, and that’s the one I want to unveil today. Click play on the video below for a surprise.

Drum roll, please. . .

And now you understand the “An Exciting New Experience” referenced in the title of this post. Although I have been writing for a long time, I have NEVER co-authored a work with anyone. It’s not that the idea didn’t appeal to me, but the timing was always off, or I didn’t have…

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Couples

A lot of the books I read start with a female protagonist who meets a male during her attempt to fix whatever problem the book deals her–solve a murder, go on a quest, conquer a villain. Almost the minute the two meet, readers know this is the beginning of a romance subplot. And we want the two to get together.

Photo by Vera Arsic on Pexels.com

This is just me, but I can’t help it, when there’s a love triangle, I’m done. I hate them. I don’t know how many series I’ve stopped reading because the author keeps bouncing the heroine between two men, trying to decide which one is right for her. Ugh! I especially hate it when I like them both, and one of them gets hurt. Then I’m down for the count. Goodbye, series.

One of the gimmicks I like is the enemy to lover romance meme. The hero and heroine meet, and she instantly dislikes him. Could be for good reasons. Sometimes not. I don’t care. He’s usually haughty. She’s independent and feisty, and the two don’t mix. But he wants her. And she swears it’s not going to happen. But it always does:) Because we know they’re meant for each other. I’m thinking of Ilona Andrews’ Kate Daniel series with Curran and Kate. Pride and Prejudice, and lots of paranormal romances. I’m a sucker for these. M.L. Rigdon’s romances often use these, and I can’t wait until the heroine realizes the hero APPEARS to be a pain in the fanny but is actually the perfect man for her.

In standalone novels, one book solves all the problems between the male/female mating dance. In a series, it might take longer than that. I’m thinking of the Lady Darby historical mysteries by Anna Lee Huber. Lady Darby and Sebastian met in book one, and the attraction was strong, but he had obligations he had to meet and left at the end of book one. And so on and so on until they finally married in a novella, book 4. I’m a fan of Lynn Cahoon’s Tourist Trap series, but if Greg and Jill don’t finally tie the knot in book 15, I’m going to be frustrated. Sexual tension can only go on so long. Enough is enough. And that’s the game plan for romances in series. When do the protagonist and hero resolve the back and forth and become a couple?

The next important question is What do they do after that? I have to say, Ilona Andrews and Anna Lee Huber are great with life after marriage. Instead of working separately to solve problems, the hero and heroine team up to work on them together. And that can be more fun than the romantic part. In M.L. Rigdon’s latest series, The Seasons of War, Torak works hard to win Sorda in book one and by book three, they’re battling the evil sorceress trying to overtake both of their countries together. After marriage…or becoming a couple…the hero and heroine become stronger as a team than they were separately. https://www.amazon.com/GRACARIN-SEASONS-WAR-Book-ebook/dp/B07XBMCYNT/ref=sr_1_3?qid=1660939110&refinements=p_27%3AM.L.+Rigdon&s=digital-text&sr=1-3&text=M.L.+Rigdon

Romance novels are almost always standalones. Boy meets girl. Boy struggles to win girl. Boy finally succeeds. But it’s a different process in a series. Then, the romance is a subplot, and it might go on book after book. I happen to enjoy the couples who become a working unit that’s hard to trick or defeat. But all’s fair in love and war. And to each his own.

Happy writing!