Monday, February 20, 2017

Dorothy Bodoin, Guest Author



This week I'm pleased to welcome Dorothy Bodoin as my guest author. Dorothy has 28 published books with more on the way, and I've read them all. They have elements of mystery, the paranormal, collies, and something new -- time travel. If you enjoy any of the aforementioned elements, you'll enjoy these stories. Collie lovers, here's the series you've been waiting for. This week Dorothy discusses time travel, which appeared in The Mists of Huron Court and again in Down a Dark Path. Welcome, Dorothy!

Jennet Ferguson, Time Traveler
I have always loved time travel novels.  Not the silly kind like the one I’m reading now in which the heroine is clueless.  She purchases an antique item, and when her world breaks apart, literally, complete with lights flashing and painful physical reactions, she wonders what is happening to her.  (You’ve traveled into the past, oblivious one.)
Among the books I love are Connie Willis’ classics: Doomsday Book, To Say Nothing of the Dog, Blackout and All Clear.  These are novels I can read over and over again and each time find something new.
Rather than write a stand-alone time travel, I decided to give Jennet Ferguson, the heroine of my Foxglove Corners Cozy Mystery Series (with Wings ePress) a time travel adventure.  How better to explain the mystery of the pink Victorian that ages a hundred years between one visit and the next?
I didn’t think this would be too radical a departure for my readers, for Jennet is used to encountering the unusual.  Soon after moving to Foxglove Corners, she saw a phantom Christmas tree in the window of an old white Victorian.  This was her first supernatural experience.
As she settled into her new home, she realized that Foxglove Corners was a town in which many strange occurrences happened.  For example, a certain road was the source of several disappearances.  Rumors spread that sometimes when traveling on it, one reached the end of the earth and fell off.
As she marries her true love, Deputy Sheriff Crane Ferguson and adds collies to her household, Jennet frequently comes across actual ghosts.  The white collies of Lost Lake, a girl who haunts the town’s library, another ghost who appears in the hall of the Spirit Lamp Inn, and a girl ice skater who returns to the lake where she fell through the ice and drowned.
I didn’t think Jennet’s misstep in time would be that different.
https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_rsis_1_1?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=Dorothy+Bodoin&sprefix=d%2Caps%2C681https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_rsis_1_1?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=Dorothy+Bodoin&sprefix=d%2Caps%2C681

However, a few of my readers, unfamiliar with the genre, were confused.  Did Jennet really go back in time in The Mists of Huron Court or did she imagine it?  When Brent Fowler disappears in Down a Dark Path, has he been cast adrift in the past as Jennet suspects?  What else could be going on?
For Jennet in these two books, as well as in a more traditional mystery, the worst may happen but there is always a way out for those courageous enough to search for it.
I’ve always been a little puzzled by the time-tripping heroine who decides to stay in the past with the man of her dreams, turning her back on modern conveniences such as wonder drugs.  I can’t see myself doing that.  At present, I don’t plan to give Jennet any more adventures in time.  My summer book, Shadow of the Ghost Dog, will be a mystery with a supernatural touch.  No journeys into the past or future.
Foxglove Corners provides Jennet with plenty of opportunities to rescue collies and solve mystery in the twenty-first century.  That’s where I plan to leave her.

Dorothy Bodoin's website:  http://www.dorothybodoin.com/
Buy Books at Wings ePress or Amazon:  https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_rsis_4_0?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=Dorothy+Bodoin&sprefix=%2Caps%2C376 OR http://www.books-by-wings-epress.com/mystery-1

Thank you for sharing your thoughts about time travel, Dorothy. I hope you'll come for another visit soon.

 

CLICK HERE to visit Marja McGraw's website
CLICK HERE for a quick trip to Amazon.com 

Monday, February 13, 2017

Change Your Shoes, Please



I was watching something on TV the other night and, well, there was a scene that bugged me. I’ve seen the same instance happen in several shows over a period of many years. A cop or P.I. or whoever is sneaking up on someone. They accidentally kick something, knock something over, or step on a twig that cracks and gives away their presence. No one seems to notice that their footsteps were a dead giveaway. They’re not wearing rubber soled or athletic shoes, so every step they take makes a sound. That should have actually been what gave them away. You can’t sneak up on someone if your steps are clicking or clacking or echoing.


A sneeze or a cough would make a better giveaway. They might drop a flashlight or some other heavier object, but I like the sneeze or the cough better. Those are sounds that you can’t necessarily control, and they’re human sounds. When’s the last time you heard a rat in an old warehouse cough or sneeze?

Some things are just too predictable when it comes to giving yourself away. Sneaking isn’t all that easy, but it might be smarter to wear those athletic shoes. An allergic reaction to flowers might cause the sneeze, or dust floating in the air might cause the cough. Of course, there’s always the possibility that your character has a cold but believes the job must be done anyway.

Maybe the character isn’t following anyone. Maybe they’re hiding from a bad guy and they’ve secreted themselves behind a pile of boxes. A sneeze, cough or a nervous hiccup will still work. Of course, it might make it harder to run for their lives if they’re coughing.

You have to look at all possibilities, all sides of what could happen.

I’ve also found it unrealistic if a character reaches into her purse, searches for and pulls out a weapon, and defends herself all in one swift movement. On the other hand, what’s she supposed to do? “Oh, hold on a sec, sweetie. I need to search my purse before you shoot, strangle, or beat me. cough cough With any luck I’ll find a cough drop before you hurt me. Be patient. I’m looking. Oh, here’s my gun. Uh, I mean here’s a cough drop.”

Bang! Too late. She didn’t even get her hand out of her purse. Yes, I know many people are anti-gun, but we’re talking about fiction here. And, frankly, if someone meant to do me harm, I sure hope I’d have something to defend myself with.

I once read a book where the protagonist used a bowl of salad as a defense. Figure that one out. It made sense in the context in which it was used and I’ve never forgotten that simple bowl of salad. (Darkness at Foxglove Corners by Dorothy Bodoin)

How about when they whisper to their partner? I understand that in a TV show the viewer wants to hear what’s said, but unless the character gets really close to their partner’s ear, the bad guy might hear something, too. It works better in a book.

Here’s one I almost forgot. Isn’t it just a bit silly when you see a female protagonist chasing a bad guy and she’s wearing high heels? She’d break her ankle before catching the bad guy. Unless, of course, the perpetrator that she’s chasing is also wearing high heels. She could take off the heels and run barefoot, but then she might step on something like broken glass and the whole chase could be over.

I understand these are probably farfetched ideas in the minds of some, but when writing a book I think the authors often need to put themselves in the footsteps (or shoes) of the  protagonist and think things through logically. What would work and what wouldn’t, and how do you keep from giving yourself away?

Of course, you can throw all of my comments out the window when you’re writing with humor or you need the characters to give themselves away. It’s just that there should be a purpose behind clicking shoes or a sneeze, or the type of shoes someone is wearing, or the weapon used to defend yourself.

Just some thoughts. Maybe I watch too much television.

Until next time, be prepared. Dress comfortably. Stay healthy. Think logically. Most of all, enjoy life.

CLICK HERE to visit Marja McGraw’s website
CLICK HERE for a quick trip to Amazon.com

Like ghost towns? What if you were stranded in one? Try Old Murders Never Die - A Sandi Webster Mystery 


Monday, February 6, 2017

How Long is Forever?




Many moons ago, when I was a divorced mother raising a daughter by myself, I walked into a store and saw a poster hanging on the wall. It was a lovely country scene of green fields, trees, and a soft blue sky with wisps of clouds. At the bottom it said, “Dreamers Live Forever.” I studied it, sighed, and even though I couldn’t afford it, I took it home and hung it on the wall. The poster is long gone, but the thought lives on – dreamers live forever.

Does that apply to writers? Read on.

I can only give you my own perspective, and I’ve always been a dreamer. I’ve spent plenty of time coming up with good-intentioned ideas that I thought would either help me earn a better living or that would set me apart from the masses. While nothing ever came of the ideas, the dreaming kept me going. Even as a child, I dreamed of successes.  My best friend and I tried to make our lemonade stand a cut above the others in the neighborhood. We sold both lemonade and Kool-Aid so people would have a choice. We even added cookies to the menu once. You find that a lot now, but in those days the stands were lemonade or nothing. And I understand that in many places you have to have a license to run a lemonade stand now. My, how times have changed.

I tried my hand at local arts and crafts fairs held at the park. I tried things like decoupage, but then everyone else was doing the same thing at the time. Dreaming isn’t always coming up with something unique.

I think, and this is just my humble opinion, that many fiction writers are dreamers. We have something we want to say and we hope and dream that we might make some small difference in the grand scheme of life. I’ve read plenty of books that made me take a second look at life and that gave me a new perspective on certain issues.

My mysteries may not be the Great American Novel, but they’re mine. They’re stories that I dreamed up and told. They’re tales that I put my heart into, and they’re meant to entertain the reader. Learning how to write and tell a good story was a long process, but the hardest part was learning about marketing and promotion. I’m still wishy-washy about that. Too much dreaming and not enough research can be deadly. I wrote and self-published two books many years ago that can attest to my naiveté. I rewrote one and reissued it, and it’s done well. The other one is better left alone and hidden in a closet.

However, this was all a learning process and part of the long-term dream. I began to understand my chosen field, writing, and I improved with each story. It turns out to be a never-ending process and I continue to learn with each new character and situation.

I asked if the dreamers live forever idea applies to writers. Of course it does. Think of the authors from bygone days whose books are still being read and enjoyed. Their dreams will live forever.

Hopefully I’ll live on through my books. They’re my dream and my passion, and that dream will be fulfilled if I can entertain even one reader. Two would be even better. Three would make me do cartwheels, if I could do cartwheels. Actually, that creates a pretty funny picture in my mind, being the natural born klutz that I am. Try picturing someone doing a cartwheel whose feet leave the ground by maybe six inches before they fall over.

Think about what makes you dream this week, and see if you can’t take some small beginning step to make your dream, and you, live forever. If you’ve already taken that step, take another. And another.

Until next time, wishing you a week of wishing and hoping, and dreams that come true.

CLICK HERE to visit Marja McGraw’s website
CLICK HERE for a quick trip to Amazon.com

Monday, January 30, 2017

Inspiration Can Come from the Oddest Places



Once upon a time I was at a hardware store and saw a Scorpion UV Flashlight on a display by the counter. Curious, I picked it up to see what it was. Turns out it’s a black light, such as you’d see someone using on a crime show. Turn out the lights, turn on the black light, and you can see stains, among other things. To be honest, I didn’t want to see any stains – human, animal or otherwise. However, since it wasn’t expensive, I brought it home with me. My curiosity got the best of me. I wanted to take it into a dark room and see what would show up. Interestingly, the only thing I found was that the carpet in the walk-in closet needed to be vacuumed. Little pieces of white fuzz showed up under the light. Who knew? I thought I was a good housekeeper.

As a writer, I’m always looking at things that might be used as props. I also look at things I can use for research. There’s more to research than the Internet and the library. If I were to include an antique ceramic elephant in a story, I’d want to hold one in my hands and study it. Does it have cracks? Is the finish crackling? What color is it? Is it chipped? I’d want to look at the bottom of it and see if there’s a manufacturer’s mark.

When I started writing about a young, female private investigator, I drove right over to the hat store at the mall and bought a fedora. You don’t know what a fedora is? Let me tell you. It’s the kind of hat that Humphrey Bogart wore in movies where he played the role of a P.I. I love my hat. I also love the yellow trench coat I found when I visited Colorado. Do I wear these things? Nope, but I should. I guess I just never go anywhere that would require a fedora and a trench coat.

https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_1_8?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=marja+mcgraw&sprefix=marja+mc%2Caps%2C395&crid=26NPTGCS2RUZ6
 An Old House in Nevada

 I have pictures of things surrounding me when I write – photos of things that would pertain to the story I’m working on. When I wrote Old Murders Never Die (A Sandi Webster Mystery) I had a picture of an abandoned house from the Old West that still hangs on my wall. Because of my Bogey Man series, I have a picture of Humphrey Bogart hanging on another wall.

https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_1_8?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=marja+mcgraw&sprefix=marja+mc%2Caps%2C395&crid=26NPTGCS2RUZ6
 Purple Cows - Top Step

I have a purple cow and calf sitting on my shelf which are old, and they amuse me. I ended up including them in How Now Purple Cow. You never know where inspiration will come from.

My current work in progress involves a Red Admiral; a black butterfly with color on the tips of its wings. There was one in my backyard this summer and he seemed to like it there. He hung around all afternoon.

Why am I telling you about these things? Because inspiration has to come from somewhere, and these things cause my brain to wake up and say, “Hey! There’s a story idea in that object or photo.” And sometimes the inspiration comes from someone I see on the street or in the store.

When you read a book, and something or someone catches your attention, remember that it just could be from the author’s surroundings. Things in stories aren’t always directly from the writer’s imagination. Sometimes taking a look around you can set the wheels in motion. Once those wheels get moving, it can be difficult to stop them until a book is done.

Until next time, take a look around you. See what peaks your interest. And if you don’t see anything that wakes you up, have some chocolate. Chocolate is my answer to every problem.

CLICK HERE to visit Marja McGraw’s website
CLICK HERE for a quick trip to Amazon.com

Having a Great Crime –Wish You Were Here (A Sandi Webster Mystery) was inspired by a green field. Yes, just a field. However, in the book there’s a vintage house in that field.