Finn and I did a two-mile hike in the woods today. It rained heavy this morning so the air was still thick with moisture. The ground was soft and wet from the morning rain. Every now and then, a sprinkle of leftover drops clinging to the overhead canopy of leaves fell and dropped with a chill on my arms.
The trail Finn and I usually walk at the river, is an easy trail. It’s short, only about a mile in and out. Considering I “sit” a lot at the computer, a few weeks ago, even a mile walk took about 40 minutes. That did include stopping and smelling the flowers, watching the geese, and visiting with a squirrel we see at the same tree every walk. Sometimes, we venture out onto the rocks. Believe me, that works muscles that haven’t been worked in a while.
Now, if we’re walking with purpose and don’t climb the rocks, we can walk it in 15 minutes. So we’ve upped the game a little. Today, we took to the woods of a nearby park and two miles and thirty minutes later, we’re officially in training.
Our goal — Birkhead Mountain in Asheboro. It’s not a difficult trail but it’s 11 miles in and out.
We can do it. Not next weekend. Or the weekend after that. But by summer end, we’ll do it. I know we can.
Good things are happening in my little corner of the world. I recently signed a three-book deal with Henery Press for Nobody’s Baby, the first of the Ava Logan Mystery Series. I’m revising Wink and a Nod and getting it ready to send to my agent. I’ve got several appearances scheduled where people actually want to hear me talk about the writing process. I’m outlining book two in the Ava Logan series and hope to start writing by June 1. I’m doing guest blog posts and am helping the Randolph Writers group with an instructional series. I could go on and on about all this, but the point of the post is taking a step back and finding “that place.”
Overwhelmed with all the stuff that needed to be done, instead of becoming hyper productive and keeping my butt in the chair 18 hours a day, I got a dog. A high energy dog. A dog that would walk to the moon and back if I was game.
And an amazing thing happened. The less time I spent at the keyboard, the more productive I became. A walk along the river with Finn (the dog) can work out plot holes better than sitting and staring at the screen for hours.
When I sit down to work, I know I’ve got about an hour, maybe hour and a half before Finn will want my attention. So I spend less time scrolling through Facebook and more time actually working.
I’ve also started noticing things—like flowers and the sound of the river and the color of the sky. Things that went unnoticed before when I spent 18 hours a day staring at the computer screen.
Happy Anniversary, WINK OF AN EYE! Can you believe it’s been one year since the world was introduced to Gypsy Moran? Seems like he’s been a part of my life forever. Maybe he has and it was just last year I was finally able to share him <smile>
So to celebrate, we have several things going on:
eBook sale: St. Martin’s has graciously agreed to lower the price of all eBooks from $11.99 to $2.99 through Dec. 18 to help us celebrate. So if you’ve really wanted to read it but couldn’t swing the prices (I totally get that), here’s your chance to grab it on the cheap end.
Goodreads Giveaway: Two hardback copies are up for grabs at Goodreads beginning tomorrow (11/18) and ending 12/12. Go ahead and enter and if you don’t win, you still have time to grab the ebook at the discounted price. How’s that for planning?
On Nov. 23, I’ll be featured on Amazeballs Book Addicts blog and I’m doing an author take-over on their facebook page at 8:00PM est. I hope you’ll drop by the take-over and chat awhile, throw some questions at me and laugh awhile. There may be another giveaway involved. Just saying. Here’s the links: Author Take-Over on Facebook & Amazeballs Book Addicts Blog Spot
On December 15, at 10:30pm, I’ll be the sharing the spotlight at Colleen O’Felein’s Facebook release party for her new novel, Eerie. Q & A, chat, laugh, giveaway, repeat. This is going to be a blast so make plans to drop by. Here’s the link: Facebook release party / Author spotlight
And don’t forget to leave a review (on Amazon if possible) if you really liked the book, tell others you liked it, recommend it to your reading circle, and share, share, share on social media. It all helps.
I’ve been back from Bouchercon a week today. I think I’m recovered now. It was my first big conference/convention and the one word that describes it best is overwhelming. I could spend hours detailing my fan-girl moments with all the greats. All the thought-provoking panels and show-stealing panelist with their one-liners. Having lunch with friends and peers you see once a year. Rubbing elbows in the bar with the leaders in the industry. Discovering the book stores in the book room no longer have Wink of an Eye isn’t because they shipped it back to the publisher, but rather because it sold out. Sold out. A good problem to have in the grand scheme of things.
But I won’t spend hours telling you all that stuff. I’ll get to the nitty gritty of what you want to know. No, Wink didn’t win the Shamus but man, is it ever in good company! I never knew so many well-known, A-list authors have lost that award. To lose in the same category as some of the names who have lost the Shamus is humbling. Made me feel like quite the somebody.
All of that—the Bouchercon experience, the Shamus Award, the stories!—take a backseat to the story you’re waiting to hear. The missing car.
Let me just throw this out there and see if you can piece together the puzzle. Like I had to do…
Ten parking decks located within four blocks of one another. Unfortunately, each parking deck can accommodate 4,567,823 cars. Dark blue cars.
Not knowing until it’s too late that leaving the parking stub/ticket from the little electronic dispenser thingy in your cup holder is not a good idea. If it had been in my purse, I would have found it. Eventually. Probably sooner than it took me to find my car.
All parking decks look basically the same. They’re made of concrete.
As writers, we invent details for the reader to visualize. We can’t actually be expected to notice such real details as a parking deck name.
The City of Raleigh actually has an entire department called “Parking Ambassadors” who do nothing but help people find their lost cars. The guy who helped me was super friendly. He said the weekends were their busiest time because you know, people get drunk and can’t find their cars. I wasn’t drunk. And it wasn’t the weekend.
Go ahead….piece it together. I’ll give you time. Like oh, maybe three hours to link it all together.
The Emmy Awards will be presented tonight. It’s my favorite awards show because it honors one of my favorite mediums. I have always been a fan and imagine I always will be. I remember my mom having her favorite shows and life as a kid of the late 60s and early 70s was put on hold in hour increments. As long as there were no broken bones or arterial bleeding, of course.
Chad Everett as Dr. Joe Gannon of Medical Center. Jack Lord as Steve McGarrett of the original Hawaii 5-0. I suppose like many women her age and at that time, my mother wasn’t above a little lust.
My favorites, in no particular order:
Hannibal: The epitome of the good vs. evil storyline, and how more often than not, those lines can blur.
Justified: Perfect characters. Again, there’s a thin line between the good guys and the bad guys and sometimes the line is crossed in both directions. Who can forget Jeremy Davies performance as Dickie Bennett? You wanted to smack him while wishing Raylan would just go ahead and shoot him—until he cried in his mama’s arms. And Dewey! Poor Dewey. He wanted to be bad. And of course we can’t talk about bad characters without mentioning Boyd Crowder. Maybe the baddest of them all. But we loved him.
The Walking Dead: Talk about the perfect “what if” scenario! Think about it a minute. What would you do if you woke up from a coma to find the world as you knew was no more? It’s not just about the zombies, or gore, or violence. It’s about so much more. Surviving. And what would you do to survive and to protect your loved ones? But the kicker? You do what you have to do to survive and hold on to your humanity.
Hill Street Blues: Overlapping dialogue, panning camera shots, multiple point-of-view storylines, ensemble cast. Groundbreaking in so many technical aspects.
Modern Family: My go to when I need to laugh. I also find myself studying the pacing and how it’s used with dialogue.
The Big Bang Theory: Proves even the not-so-attractive, socially awkward, geeky nerds can have fun and find love.
Longmire: Who doesn’t like a cowboy? Great storytelling.
M*A*S*H: A comedy that often left us in tears. The death of Col. Henry Blake…oh my. Clutch your chest, hold your breath shocker.
Friday Night Lights: Coach. And Riggins. ‘Nuff said.
True Detective S1: Flawless.
E.R.: Mark’s funeral. Doug’s redemption. And watching Dr. John Carter grow up before our eyes.
I did this blog spot for Flying Turtle Publishing last year about the toll writing true crime can take on a person. Since Unholy Covenant is part of the Kindle Daily Deal today, I thought it might be worth repeating…
You’ve probably heard the old saying “it’s all fun and games until…” fill in the black. Usually, the statement is followed by until someone gets hurt, or until someone gets killed.
In my world, nothing could be a more true testament to “it’s all fun and games until someone gets killed,” than writing in the True Crime genre. I’ve written fiction and I’ve written non-fiction and without a doubt, the non-fiction is the one that took its toll.
My first published book (Unholy Covenant, Addicus Book, 2000) was in the true crime genre. It was the story of two brothers who conspired to kill the older brother’s devoted wife. I was fortunate that the murder happened in my own community so there was no travel or years long research involved. I knew both families, the victims and the suspects.
It’s one thing to do research for your fiction, you know—how to murder someone 101—but it’s an entirely different thing when you’re sitting across the kitchen table from the victim’s mother asking her to share her thoughts on her daughter’s cold-blooded, premeditated murder. Some writers can do it and not blink twice. I discovered, after the fact, I wasn’t one of those writers.
The case, and book, garnered national attention. I did radio shows, television and newspaper interviews and even negotiated with a producer who wanted to buy the movie rights. I walked away from the bargaining table when he told me what he had planned—he wanted to make the victim a school teacher and the veteran detective a rookie. These are real people, I kept telling myself. They’re not made up characters.
I did agree to do a couple detective-type shows because they were based on the facts of the case, not characters created by a producer. One was for the Lifetime network and featured interviews and recreations. By this time, the book had been out a few years and the victim’s death had occurred several years prior. Yet, for the victim’s mother and brother—the pain was still there. No matter how many years had passed, each time another network called, the wounds were opened yet again. How could they ever move past the trauma of losing their daughter and sister when we kept pulling them back in?
Although I don’t have plans to ever write another true crime book, I’m using what I learned from that experience in my fiction. Primarily, the varied emotions of the victims of crime or like in Wink of an Eye, the survivors.
In Wink of an Eye, a young boy hires Private Investigator Gypsy Moran to investigate his father’s alleged suicide. 12 year-old Tatum McCallen doesn’t believe his father (a deputy sheriff) would have ever taken his own life and wants Gypsy to prove he was, in fact, murdered. To Tatum, it was about restoring his dad’s honor. To let the people of their small town know his father died a hero and not a coward. I drew on those past interviews with the mother of the victim in Unholy Covenant to tap into the raw emotions of losing someone to murder. The longing to see them again, the need to know why, the confusion of not understanding how an investigation works…I used this knowledge to create the drive and tenacity of a twelve year-old boy out to prove his father didn’t kill himself.
I have no regrets about writing Unholy Covenant. It’s a tragic story and because it’s down on paper, Patricia’s story is immortalized. The book is in its third printing which means, fifteen years later, people are still reading Patricia’s story. For that, I’m truly thankful.
I think I’ve figured out my clown phobia. And dolls. And especially puppets. And fun houses. And those distortion mirrors that make you look either really tall and skinny or short and stumpy. Fairs and carnivals? Oh hell no.
Let me preface by saying I did not have a traumatic childhood. No big yikes moment.
I had my share of dolls and loved everyone of them. Even the armless, nappy haired, scuffed up, missing-an-eye ones. I had my share of puppets and participated in my share of puppet shows. I ventured in and out of many fun houses and stood laughing in front of many weird mirrors. Even got to know a couple clowns from Ringling Bros. & Barnum Bailey one year when the circus came to town. They were fun and crazy.
All of it was perfectly normal and safe. It wasn’t until I started writing mysteries that the happy-go-lucky things of childhood became the creepier-than-all-get-out trauma inducers of adulthood. Why? Because I started looking beneath the masks and behind the mirrors. I started looking under the surface, peeling back the layers, page by page.
Fun houses became crime scenes. The distorted features seen in those fun mirrors became the twisted view of a killer. Clowns hid deep, deep secrets beneath the make-up and fake smiles. Dolls pretended to be something they were not—alive. They cried, they wet, they ate and they pooped. Some of them said “mama” in uber creepy voices. And puppets…oh my. They’re the worst. Because they have no backbone. They have no sense of self until someone, probably someone deranged, puts them into motion. And carnival workers, or carnies as they’re often called—don’t even go there. I’m sure some of them are fine people. And I’m sure some of them are serial killers. Those are the ones who seem to always find their way into my imagination.
One of the most frequent questions asked of mystery writers is where do you get your ideas. Take a look around you. Have fun at the fair this year!
The grandkids go back to school tomorrow. For me, they range from kindergarten to a senior in high school, with one in middle school and a heavy concentration in elementary grades. The start of a new school year is always fun and filled with new things. Like clothes and binders and really cool pencils.
When she was in school, my daughter Nina looked forward to back-to-school shopping more than Christmas morning. All the new fangled pencils, pens, markers and other office type supplies marketed as must-haves for every ten year-old girl brought a twinkle to her eye.
I suppose I can relate. I had a Donny Osmond notebook and a pencil bag filled to the brim with the good ol’ No. 2 pencils.
Back-to-school shopping back then was an all day event. It took careful planning. We’d start in downtown Greensboro and go to the shoe store where mom would buy me a new pair of Buster Brown shoes. I’d pitch a hissy to wear them while shopping and by the end of the day, after walking the sidewalks all day, my little girl feet were killing me. Those shoes had no give whatsoever. They required a breaking in period. Like about 6 months. And by that time, you’d out-grown them.
Then we headed to Sears & Roebuck where, if you weren’t naturally slim, you shopped in the Chubbies or Husky section. How’s that for building positive body image in a young mind? Back then, we of the female persuasion, couldn’t wear jeans to school so good ol’ polyester and double knit were our friends once we graduated from pure 100% cotton plaid dresses.
With bags and bags of new clothes, shoes, and supplies—probably bought for under $50—we’d head home and the biggest decision of your life would come. What to wear the first day. It didn’t matter that everything you bought was for fall and winter and it was still August and 90 degrees, you were going to wear that turtleneck.
And then the years pass and you got your drivers license and your mother trusted you to do your own shopping. So she gives you $100 and tells you to shop smart. Yeah, that might have been a mistake.
One 100% silk peasant blouse, a floral maxi skirt and a kick-ass pair of boots later, your mother tells you she hopes you enjoy wearing that outfit because it’s the last thing she’ll ever buy you. I mean, seriously? Those boots would have made Stevie Nicks herself proud.
Why doesn’t he/she/it text me back? I mean, it’s been like two minutes since I hit send.
Sound familiar? We of a certain (clears throat) age, are often less tech savvy than our three-year-old grandchildren so please, show us some mercy. Reply back as soon asour texts comes through. We don’t consider that your phone isn’t attached to your hip or that you might have been at the movies, or that, gads, the battery was dead and you didn’t even read the text until an hour after it was sent.
We think you no longer love us. We see you rolling your eyes, mouthing “her again.”
And why did you let you battery go dead in the first place? What if something happens to you? Suppose you fall and break a hip—oh, sorry, you at your youthful age don’t worry about things like that—we of a (clears throat) age, do. That’s why I take my phone to the bathroom. Fully charged. You think I’m checking Facebook. In reality, it sits on the counter, just in case. It could happen. Don’t laugh. Look what happened to Elvis. Oh, I forgot, that was before your time.
You may not remember this, but there was a time we, of a certain age, left home without phones. If we had a flat tire on the road we did what any reasonable person would do—we walked to the nearest payphone and called Daddy. Now, these days, since my daddy is in heaven (probably shaking his head that I still don’t know how to change a flat tire) and God invented cell phones to use in emergencies, I never leave home without it. And it’s fully charged. I’ll postpone my run to the grocery store a half-mile away if my phone isn’t charged. Never know what might happen.
But then again, I’m not sure who I’d call if I did have a flat tire, break a hip, or fall off the roof of the house (just saying, it could happen). Because people under forty don’t answer their phones or reply to texts in a timely manner to suit anyone over 40 and my friends over 40 don’t know how to change a tire, either.
So yes, this life-saving device can, and often does cause additional anxiety. If you’re over 40.