Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Ready for November?

Colder days predicted here on the west coast with La Nina headed our way. More snow. An election to recover from or celebrate. Yet much to be grateful for. We drove down to Redmond, Oregon, for a good visit with friends. Finally recovered from that foot surgery (that was not easy). Yes, I can drive again! Running errands feels like dating!  

Meanwhile, here's my progress report for November: 

  • The Lost Sarcophagus: Wrote only 1.5 words (goal 3K), but feeling back on track with NaNoWriMo ahead. 
  • Family history: Wrote only 500 words (goal 1K). Would love to have one major section done before year end. 
  • Other Writing: Wrote a Halloween short story, Hunter's Moon, for Write-Edit-Publish's October Challenge. Just a side note: Found out that people with rabies may suffer from face spasms and bare their teeth with a bloody froth  -- maybe leading to fears of vampires!
  • Vella. Amazon credited me $10 so I'm back to adding a few more episodes to Mothers Don't Die, after deciding 'no go' last month. I'd love for you to check this out and let me know what you think of my story AND of the Vella program!
  • Reviews: Wrote just one: Really enjoyed Colin Conway and Frank Zafiro's The Ride Along!, a thoughtful exploration of that tension between what being a police officer entails and the passionate support to end police brutality.  
  • Marketing: Ran a Fussy Librarian campaign just last week for Standing Stones to reach new readers and perhaps add a few reviews. Gave away 1,089 e-book copies. 
  • Blogging: Met my goal of posting every Wednesday. My guest post on visiting Stirling Castle to see the tapestries there appeared on Lois Winston's blog, Killer Crafts and Crafty Killers. I'll never forget exploring Stirling Castle, discovering more of the history of James V, and seeing the weavers work on large looms. All this led to my first art crime mystery, The Seventh Tapestry
  • Quilting: Finished all 12 blocks of Jacob Yenter quilt! 

What's ahead in November: NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) begins November 1, a perfect writing challenge for writers to focus their writing by writing 50,000 words in one month! I do not aspire quite so high. Here are my goals:

  • Writing: The Lost Sarcophagus: write 25K.
  • Family history: write 2K.
  • Blog: Post every Weds. Recruit 'Meet the Author' x2. 
  • Reviews: write 2 reviews. 
  • Marketing: Develop list of potential reviewers. 
  • Quilt: Design border for Jacob Yenter quilt. Make 1 comfort quilt.
Something about the coming of winter, the unpacking of sweaters, and being away for a week and now home, sets me to organizing. I found the beginnings of a poem stuck in my travel journal about a night spent in Edinburgh. Here's the poem! 

Last night we climbed five flights of stairs 
to sleep under the eaves of this old stone building. 
We lay awake under pale blue and green quilts 
as summer lightning skittered across the sky,
Thor's hammer cracking in some ancient battle.
Hot and humid booms split the night open,
and I fell all the way to childhood,
comforted at last by the rain,
you next to me,
and then quiet.

Stirling Castle, Scotland (2009)

Stairs to Blair Street apartment, 
Edinburgh (2009)

May November be very good for you!

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

WEP: A Halloween Love Story

"Hunter's Moon" (Wikipedia)

Ready for Halloween? Here's a short story to get you thinking about . . . 

“Irreconcilable Differences”

   A deep yellow moon tinged with orange hung low in the darkening sky.
   “That’s a Hunter’s Moon,” said George, his voice low and soothing as he drove the car home. “Pretty amazing, don’t you think?”
   “Yeah, dad,” said Chris. “I guess.”
   George was quiet.
   “OK,” said Chris. “Why’s it called a Hunter’s Moon?”
   George smiled, even if Chris, sitting in the back seat, couldn’t see him. How can I explain everything to a ten-year-old who doesn’t know what life is truly like? “You know things change all the time, right?”
   “Right, I know.” Chris sighed. “Like you and Mom.”
   “Maybe. But people change just like that moon. In fact, that moon brings change. The Hunter's Moon always comes in October. It means winter’s coming. Time to prepare for cold nights ahead. At least in the old days, that meant hunting.” He shrugged. “Now we have supermarkets.”
   “Guess it still means change. Doesn’t mean I have to like it.” Chris kicked his foot against the back of the seat. “I don’t understand why we can’t be together as a family, like we used to.”
   “We’ve talked about this.” George paused. It didn’t feel like he understood either. “I think maybe we’ve got something called ‘irreconcilable differences.’ Your mom and me, we’re both different, and we’re not quite sure how to go back to how things were. Just know I’ll take you to visit your mom whenever you want. She loves you, and I love you. We’ll make this work.”
   Chris sighed.  
   George stared up at the yellow moon. “We’ll manage. And someday you’ll understand this all a little better. We have good things to look forward to. Like Hunter Moons and Halloween. You like Halloween, don’t you?”
   “Yeah, I do.”
   “You decided what costume you’re going to wear this year?”
   “I’m gonna be a vampire. That way I can tear and slash and roar and eat all the candy I want.”
   “A vampire? Don’t you think that’s a little close to home?” George glanced in the rearview mirror to check on Chris. “You know you’re named Christian for a reason.”
   Chris wrinkled his nose and lifted his lips in a snarl. His incisors lengthened, and he hissed. “I don’t care anymore. What’s the point.”
   “The point is nobody knows but you and me. Not your mother. Not your friends. No one.” George couldn’t help the growl that emerged.
   “But maybe if Mom knew, she would stay with us.”
   “Nope. Not happening.” George pulled past the iron gates that surrounded his Gothic mansion. “She doesn’t know. She can’t know.” He stopped the car just outside the garage and turned to look at his son. “And she will never know, right?” His eyes glazed iridescent green as he stared at his son.
   “Right, Dad. I won’t tell her.” Chris glared. “Not yet.”
   “Come on, grumpus. You’re cranky tonight. Let’s get you inside and have a little something to eat before bed. Some things you can’t change. But we still have tomorrow. It will get better. I promise.”
   After a cup of hot apple cider, Chris calmed down, ready for quiet time on his iPad before bed.
   George walked out into the back yard, tired but pleased that he’d talked to Chris. What would happen when Chris was older? How would he fit in? Hell, how will I fit in now that Gwen is gone. George looked up at the moon that still hung in the sky.
   A shadow of a broom seemed to skitter past the full moon and then another. Now they come, he muttered. Right when I think nothing could be worse. Gwen must have sent them to plague me. Well, at least she was not quite the ordinary housewife she had always pretended to be.
   The shadows flitted away as Gwen materialized in front of him. “What do you think?” she squealed. “That you’re the only one having fun?” She paused. “Is Chris still upset?”
   “You don’t need to ask. He’s angry too.” George shrugged. “He’s aware our family is, well, different.”
   Her cat eyes glinted, and she tapped one finger on his shoulder. “I know we’re different, and I know Chris is different too.”
   “He told you?”
   “He didn’t have to tell me.”
   George sighed. “I’m sorry we have irreconcilable differences.”
   “You sure they’re irreconcilable?” She sketched a link between the two of them, another shadow.
   “Maybe not.” George couldn’t help the grin forming on his face or the warm night push of his blood. He stilled. Yes, he loved her. Even if she was a witch. “He’ll be a teen in such a short time. He’ll need both of us.” George leaned close to smell her sweet mix of violet and lavender. “You know I love you.” He paused. “No more secrets. Are you willing to try again?”
   Gwen flung her arms around him. “Yes, I’m willing. Besides, that’s the Hunter Moon, a time of endings and beginnings. This is our beginning. Always and forever.”

How did this 874-word story get started? The short answer is -- just for fun. Write...Edit...Publish's October Challenge was to write a story with somewhat of a Halloween slant, maybe even horror. Somehow George, Gwen, and Chris -- and the idea of family, even an unusual family -- came to mind. 

I hope you enjoyed reading my short story (any feedback is welcome), and that you will explore other such tales on WEP's website

Thank YOU for visiting. Have an amazing Halloween!

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Meet the Author: Bellamy Gayle

 I first met Bellamy Gayle, browsing through new releases on the Sisters in Crime website. What drew me into Keep Me Safe first was its setting -- New Orleans, and its characters -- of course, a feisty female lawyer. Beautifully written and full of unexpected twists, this story is classic suspense and an entirely satisfying read.

Which led me to reach out to the author. Surprise! She graciously answered my questions! Thank you, Bellamy.

1. When did you realize you wanted to write mysteries? Why? I spent a week every summer in my childhood with my grandparents, who lived only one long block away from their city’s library, which was like paradise to me. The building even smelled bookish, you know what I mean? And, though hushed, I could always here a few shuffles, rustling, and clearing of throats. I made my choices, and Murdear checked out the maximum number of books allowed. I identified with the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys mysteries, loving the process and thrilled with the stories. Mysteries and suspense became part of the fiber of my being then, and that has never changed.

2. You’ve mapped out two more books following Keep Me Safe. How did you get the ideas for these next books? 
Not very far into writing Keep Me Safe, I realized the manuscript had to become the first book of a series, which I dubbed "The Sazerac Series," because other characters in the novel seemed to be asking me for their own stories. 

Cecile Dumond, the protagonist in my novel, is raised by her great aunt, Hattie Dumond, a fascinating woman born in 1914, who finished her degree at the Sorbonne in Paris as WWII broke out, and she…well, you’ll have to read her story, which is that of No Ordinary Woman

Hattie does the neighborly thing and takes a plate of goodies to welcome her new neighbor, Odette Lattimore. It was highly unusual in those days, even in a city as cosmopolitan as New Orleans, to have a black couple settle in a white neighborhood, but Odette is bright and capable of taking care of herself while her riverboat pilot husband is plying the Mississippi, and she and Hattie become best friends. She is a worthy protagonist in Odette: Run For Your Life

3. About how long does it take you to write a book? What strategies work to help you be most productive? Do you consider yourself a ‘pantser’ or a ‘plodder’ or something else?

Writing is truly my vocation, but it’s fun, too, and I don’t want that to change. I do write every single day, with rare exceptions. Extra-large cup of cafĂ© au lait in one hand, yogurt in the other, I head to our office and spend about four hours a day. It looks like a book takes about a year to complete, including 2-3 drafts and at least one round, if not more, of copy and line editing. 

Mostly, I’m a pantser. Save The Cat comes in handy to adjust the flow of the narrative and increase the story’s tension when it’s necessary. In my tiny brain somewhere, there’s a sneaking suspicion that I’ve mentally begun to plan, if not plot, out my stories. I’ll never learn everything there is to know about how to write the best possible novel, but that doesn’t mean I won’t keep trying.

4. One question I always try to ask: Do you have a pet? Any funny story to share? Pet? Certainly! Over the years we’ve had just about every kind of pet from songbirds to fish to black labs and raising litters of Russian Blue kittens. With time comes wisdom and reason, and we now have only Baby, who walked up our driveway as a kitten a few years ago and has stayed with us ever since. 

Baby had been neutered and had a little notch in one ear, so we knew he’d been “in the system” and adopted by someone. Guess it didn’t take. His “meow” seems damaged, but his purring works just fine. Baby has this lovable quirk. 

I listen to “Dinner Jazz” on Pandora at night while I read, and that sweet cat has become addicted to the music, curled up on the floor at my feet. He cannot abide vocals and will stare at the speaker, tail swishing, until I change to an instrumental so he can return to his reverie.

5. Is there anything else you’d like to share with your fans and/or other writers? Like so many of us who love to write, I had little formal training in creative writing—only one Tulane University class way back in the day. Writers today, including me, have a world of free, or nearly free, resources at our fingertips because of the Internet. I Google, use Wikipedia, spellcheck, a thesaurus or two, etc. Chrome extensions of Pro Writing Aid are of immense help. There are fabulous FB groups who are generous with their time and expertise. Don’t be afraid to search for help. It’s out there waiting for you.

Thank you, Bellamy Gayle, for talking with us today. I can't wait for your next books to come out. I'm more than ready to explore once again the fascinating history and mystery of New Orleans!

Check out Bellamy Gayle's website at 

You can find Keep Me Safe on Amazon and Barnes & Noble!

Wednesday, October 05, 2022

IWSG October 5: Digging into Genre

This month begins with a nicely layered question from the Insecure Writer's Support Group.  

IWSG October Question: What do you consider the best characteristics of your favorite genre?

This question could apply to reading as well, but I'd like to talk about genre as it relates to writing. 

I write in two genres -- historical fiction (1840s) and art crime mysteries (21st Century). My fascination with history, art, culture, and what life was like back then creates an overlap between these two genres.
  • Underlying theme: Pretty close to the same: My historical fiction characters generally struggle to find/make a better life, despite sometimes overwhelming obstacles, often created by the upper class. My art crime investigators work to try to resolve crime, restore what was lost, and find truth and justice along the way.
  • Settings: Pretty much international -- Scotland, France, Australia, Canada for my historical fiction, and, so far, France, Scotland, and Egypt for art crime. I absolutely love to travel anywhere and happily love the adventure that pursuing a new story brings.
  • Characters:  My stories follow a family (brothers and sisters) for historical fiction (most likely, a family saga), and a pair of detectives (male and female couple) for art crime. 
Although readers may expect certain scenes and actions (even style of dialogue) for the genres they read, I don't rely too heavily on genre outlines. I do use them to check the story has depth as it develops. For example, I'm still learning how to really outline with the goal to not need 3 years to write a novel! Genre outlines like the Journey of the Hero, or Savannah Gilbo, for example, her 6 Scenes Every Crime Story Needs (genre checklists), or Jessica Brody's Save the Cat Writes a Novel, are all helpful.

But I hope I avoid formulaic writing that may entertain but lead to stories that are too predictable. I still remember that meeting with literary critics on East Coast, where one potential agent asked, "You write genre fiction?" I swear she sniffed, her nose in the air, as if genre fiction were something with a horrible odor.

Maybe I'm like you, more of an intuitive writer, enjoying the process of sinking into a time and place with particular characters and setting them up with a nasty twist of fate to see what happens next!

More About IWSG: 

Note that the first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Here's a chance to post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writers - aim for a dozen new people each time - and return comments. This group is all about connecting! Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG.

And plan to visit those writers who are co-hosting this month: Tonja Drecker, Victoria Marie Lees, Mary Aalgaard, and Sandra Cox!

I'd like to add a challenge: Why not celebrate the coming fall by reading maybe just one book written by one of the IWSG members? And review it on Amazon and/or GoodReads, knowing that writing a review is the best way to say thank you to other story writers! 

Meme from AutoCrit