Monday, February 27, 2017

Billing Enclosed

Those are words that can sometimes make your skin crawl.
Some of us deflate a little on payday when we have to sit down with a stack of bills and pay them – especially when there are unexpected expenses. That money seems to dwindle faster than we can pay the piper.

Reality is something we sometimes forget when writing a book. I mean the kind of reality we each have to deal with on a daily basis.

Sandi lives the romantic life of a private investigator. It sounds good, doesn’t it? Of course, that life includes murder, hard work, dealing with difficult people and figuring out who the bad guy is. Unfortunately, it also includes paying the bills for both home and business, grocery shopping, cooking, feeding the dog and running all kinds of errands. I often forget those essential parts of her life.

She and Pete don’t have a perfect marriage, but that’s reality, too. They fuss over things sometimes which is normal for any married couple. Often the issues are small ones.

I remember a woman in a restaurant telling a story about going out to dinner with her husband. When she got to the part about what they had for dessert, things got out of control. She said they had rhubarb pie. He said, no, that they’d had apple pie. She corrected him and insisted it had been rhubarb. He, in turn, corrected her. Uh oh. Before long things got out of control. She stomped out of the restaurant. He whipped out his wallet, threw money on the table, and stomped out after her.

They could have argued about something of substance, but no, it was about pie.

I suspect Pete and Sandi would be more likely to argue about spending money and paying bills, or one of them taking too many chances when dealing with a client or a crime. Of course, the pie issue could lead to some humor.

In most cases I enjoy a book that breaks away from the drama for a moment and lets the character do something normal, like feed the baby or take out the trash. It makes them feel more real to me.

The same applies to pets. If a dog starts barking, it doesn’t always mean there’s a stranger nearby. Earlier today one of my dogs started barking and wouldn’t stop. I went to the door to hush her up, and found her lying on the patio, casually barking at nothing. I guess she just wanted to hear her own voice. She also always manages to get the last “word” in, too. I tell her to be quiet and she barks one last time before moving on to something else. It’s like she’s saying, “I’ll stop barking when I’m good and ready. Okay, I’m ready.”

Reality can be anything – a kid coming to the door to sell cookies or the one whose ball landed in your backyard and he wants it back, a delivery man, someone who mistakenly received your mail along with his own, or a neighbor complaining about your dog barking. Thankfully, none of my neighbors have complained – yet.

Your protagonist might be on the phone listening to a bad guy threaten her life, and suddenly the voice of reality comes from outside the front door. “Yoohoo. I need your help.” It’s the little old lady from across the street whose toilet is running over and she can’t turn off the water.

Reality is what it is, things that happen in everyday life. I think a dose of the little old lady or the kid with an armful of cookies can help the reader relate to the story and your characters.

I guess you’d have to call this a Reality Check. There’s more to a mystery than the mystery. Life happens, and your characters have to be ready to juggle events.

Just thought I’d mention it.

Until next time, treat yourself to a piece of pie and enjoy every morsel. Just don’t try to tell anyone what kind you had.

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My new book, Black Butterfly – A Bogey Man Mystery, is nearing completion. In the meantime, if you haven’t read Bogey’s Ace in the Hole, you might give it a try. And remember, this is fiction. No child, or Church Lady, or mother-in-law was harmed in the writing of this book. They simply make good characters.

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.

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:
Buy Books at Wings ePress or Amazon: OR

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


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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.

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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.

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