Saturday, September 29, 2012

Saturday's Chapter - Reluctant Date - Sheila Claydon

First Chapter of Reluctant Date by Sheila Claydon

(published by Books We Love July 2012)

Amazon link:

Claire pulled off her hat and shook out her hair as she glanced around the hotel foyer. There was no sign of anyone who looked like her date for the evening but she had gotten used to that. She was also resigned to the fact that a lot of the men who signed up to dating agencies seemed to have an inflated view of their own attraction. It hadn’t taken her long to realize tall and well built was a code for big and overweight and relaxed and informal was the wrong side of scruffy. She had also discovered that any reference to an unusual hobby almost always meant obsessive.

She found a comfortable chair and settled down to wait. Fifteen minutes she would give him. After that she was out of here, the crazy challenge she’d accepted at a tedious New Year’s party over and done with.

* * *

“Twelve dates unless we get lucky,” Jenny had said as they pushed their way out of the cramped restroom in the over-hyped nightclub where they were celebrating.

Claire’s partner for the evening had so little personal charisma she didn’t immediately recognize him again when she climbed the dark and treacherous stairs back up to the dance floor. Reluctantly accepting the fact that her personal life had hit an all time low, she had thrown caution to the wind and agreed to take up the challenge.

* * *

Jenny, who had organized their disastrous double date in a fog of depression brought on by her approaching birthday, had tried to pass some of the blame for the evening onto Claire as they washed their hands.

“Honestly, I don’t know what else you expect,” she had shouted above the heavy drumbeat that was threatening to bring down the ceiling. “You work in a library all week and then spend most of your free time taking photographs. You’re never going to find a man that way Claire, unless he’s a complete loser that is!”

“I know some very nice losers,” Claire replied with a grin. “Take my boss for instance.”

Jenny rolled her eyes in disgust. “It doesn’t make him marrying material though, does it? Why else is he still living with his mother? He must be at least fifty.”

Claire stopped thinking about John, her very nice but very eccentric boss, and stared at Jenny’s reflection in the dingy mirror. “Who says I’m looking for a husband?” she asked.

“I do! Face it Claire. We’re both pushing twenty-seven and here we are doing the same things we were doing at seventeen. It can’t go on much longer or we’ll begin to look like a couple of real saddos.”

“Speak for yourself,” Claire had repaired her lipstick with unnecessary energy. “I happen to like my life, and we’re not doing the same things we were doing ten years ago, well not as often anyway. I live a blameless existence most of the time. It’s only when you decide to act as my dating agency that I have any problems.”

And that was when Jenny had come up with her plan.

“That’s it!” she gasped. “We’ll join an Internet Dating Agency. We’ll find some real men; men who are looking for commitment just like us.”

“I told you, I’m not looking for commitment,” sighed Claire as, with a final glance at her reflection, she directed her friend towards the doorway. “All I want is to get this evening over with so I can go home. Alone. And go to bed.”

But Jenny wasn’t listening. “I can’t imagine why we haven’t thought of it before,” she said as they returned to their table. “After all, anything must be better than this!”

Claire, who had already spent a large part of the evening dancing as far away from her date as she could manage, could only agree. So, as the clock ticked on to midnight, and the noise levels in the nightclub climbed several more decibels, she accepted the challenge Jenny shouted into her ear. Signing up to an Internet Dating Agency would be her New Year’s resolution.

* * *

That, however, had been then. Now, almost ten months later, she had just about had it. To be fair not all of the men had been bad. A couple had been okay. She had even agreed to a second date with one of them because they read the same books, liked the same music and enjoyed the same films. Smiling agreeably, she had persuaded herself that compatibility was a good enough start. When he suggested they meet for a third time, however, she had turned him down, because by then she was bored enough to know she didn’t care if she never saw him again.

All of which had led her to the here and now, waiting for a stranger in a hotel foyer while she watched the world go by. The problem was it had worked for Jenny. On her sixth date she had met Mark and she was now four months into a blissful affair that showed every sign of long-term commitment. Unfortunately the fulfillment of her own dreams had not stopped her from worrying about Claire’s single state. If anything, it had made her worse.

“If it can happen to me, then it can happen to you,” she insisted when they met up for a drink after work. “You’re far more attractive than me, and more intelligent. The problem is you’re not taking it seriously; and you have to unless you want to end up an embittered old spinster.”

Claire spluttered into her wine. “Excuse me! The embittered old spinsters, as you so quaintly describe them, are today’s feisty, independent and adventurous singletons. We live in the twenty-first century now, in case you haven’t noticed.”

But Jenny was too wrapped up in her own version of romantic bliss to listen. Wanting each new date to turn out to be Claire’s ‘Mister Right,’ she spent a lot of time trying to persuade her friend she needed to adopt a better attitude.

Finally, thoroughly exasperated, Claire lost her temper. “I’m not what they’re expecting,” she snapped. “My profile says tall and slim which instantly translates into potential model material to most men, so when they meet a six foot Amazon with big feet they’re not impressed.”

“Rubbish!” snapped Jenny, equally exasperated. “You’re just afraid of commitment, afraid of settling down, and so you keep looking for excuses. The reason hardly any of your dates has asked to meet up again is because they can sense that you’re not serious. To you this is just a big joke.”

“Oh for goodness’ sake,” Claire swallowed the last of her wine and pushed back her chair in disgust. “Internet dating isn’t about men asking women out. It’s about mutual attraction; the freedom for women, as well as men, to choose. So far I haven’t met a single man I would waste a second date on, let alone give him house room!”

“Well maybe you’re just too picky!” Jenny drained her own glass, and then went all misty eyed as Mark pushed open the door. When he saw her, his face lit up. Thoroughly irritated by her conversation with Jenny, Claire gave them both a cool nod and left them to it.

* * *

Now, however, waiting for her twelfth and final date, she wondered if Jenny was right. Perhaps her past experiences had made her too picky. Maybe she was waiting for something that would never happen. Maybe it was time she gave up expecting Prince Charming and began to consider the frogs. That was assuming she wanted to consider anyone at all of course.

Irritated with thoughts that brought back uncomfortable memories, she glanced at her watch. Seven-thirty! It was already fifteen minutes beyond her self-imposed deadline so it was time she got out of here and got on with the rest of her life. As far as she was concerned a ‘no show’ counted just as much as a flesh and blood date. Now she could retire from the Internet dating scene with her honour intact. She bundled her thick black curls back into her woollen hat and bent to retrieve her bag. When she straightened up a very tall man was standing in front of her with a look of embarrassed apology on his face.

“Claire Harris?” he asked.

Bemused, she nodded. This wasn’t Daniel Marchant, her date. He was too old for one thing, and too tired, and too serious. And yet, as she searched his features, she saw there was a resemblance. It was as if he were a sepia image of the real thing. He had the same eyes, the same mouth, even the same hair although it was longer. He just didn’t have the colour and animation of the photo he had posted on the agency website.

“You’re going?” he said it as a question. He had an American accent.

“Yes, and I don’t usually wait this long,” she replied, her tone and her expression equally frosty.

“I don’t blame you but I would be glad if you would stay for a moment longer, so I can explain.”

“There’s nothing to explain. We arranged to meet at seven. I was on time. You were late. End of story.”

“Not quite I’m afraid. You see I didn’t arrange to meet you. My brother organized our date and then left a message on my voicemail, a message I have only just discovered.”

Claire’s face flushed a dull red. It was bad enough going through this charade because of a stupid New Year’s challenge without ending up with someone who couldn’t even be bothered to organize his own dates. She drew herself up to her full height.

“If you think that makes it better Mr Marchant then you know nothing about women. Doesn’t your brother mind acting as your, your…agent?” She bit back several of the more descriptive words that sprang to mind.

Daniel Marchant stood his ground. “Unfortunately not! He sees it as his life’s work. He has a nice wife who is recently pregnant and I think that must be what has triggered this…uh…fiasco!”

It was clear he considered he owed her a full explanation but, as he spoke, the expression on his face was one of weary resignation.

“Carl is younger than me, so my ongoing single state while he settles into impending fatherhood offends his romantic view of how the world works Miss Harris. And now I’ve rejected the last of his available female friends he has obviously decided to move things up a notch. Unfortunately he did it without informing me at any point along the way.”

His voice, as he explained the situation, was full of irritation. He also looked very tired. Claire knew she should feel sorry for him but for some unaccountable reason she suddenly wanted to laugh. Her lips twitched as she struggled to control herself.

He gave her a sharp look. “Unlike me, you seem to find the situation amusing Miss Harris.”

“Call me Claire, please,” she managed, before going into a paroxysm of giggles that rendered her entirely speechless for several seconds. By the time she finally calmed down Daniel Marchant had stopped glaring although he wasn’t quite ready to smile.

“Sorry,” she said, still gasping for breath. “I’m not laughing at you. Well…not just at you! It’s me too. We’ve both let other people call the shots which, given that we are mature adults, is totally ridiculous. I’m only here because my friend challenged me to join an Internet Dating Agency. She said I needed to find a husband.”

“And do you?”

“You know I really don’t,” she said. “This has made me realize I’m quite happy with my life as it is, even if I am in a bit of a rut. Perhaps I’ll just change my job instead, or book an exotic holiday or something.”

He smiled then. “A much safer bet Claire Harris.”

She grinned at him, hoisted her bag onto her shoulder, and held out her hand. “This has been my best date bar none. As well as making me laugh it has made me see sense. I don’t want a husband. I don’t even want a date. I should never have listened to my friend.”

His smile grew wider. “Now that we have established neither of us is remotely interested in marriage, or even dating, how about joining me for a meal? I can’t guarantee that I’ll be good company because jet lag is bound to kick in shortly. I would like to make up for my brother’s crass behaviour though, if you’ll let me.”

“Won’t that just encourage him?” Claire was still chuckling.

“Not if I don’t tell him, it won’t. Come on. Let’s see what the hotel bistro has to offer. I’m afraid I’m not up to anything more exciting than that this evening.”

Friday, September 28, 2012

Friday - How She Does It - Sheila Claydon

1. How do you create your characters? Do you have a specific process?

I know how each character is going to behave right from the start of the story but I can’t write a word about any of them until I find their face. It might be a photo of someone in a magazine or a television actor or a presenter; it might be a person opposite me on a train or next to me in the queue when I’m shopping; it might even be someone I know really well. Once it was even an animated character from a Disney film! I don’t know why I have to do this but my characterizations don’t seem to work any other way.

Of course I am always very careful not to identify them and, believe it or not, a very tall and attractive man once asked me the fatal question: ‘Do you base your characters on people you know?’ I couldn’t tell him one was based on him could I - so I’m ashamed to say, I lied

2. Do your characters come before the plot? Do you sketch out your plot or do you let the characters develop the route to the end?

Something triggers the germ of an idea and I play around with that for a while. Then I start searching for my characters because without them I can’t develop the plot. And yes, they do lead me through the story. The motto on my website is a misquote from the late and great Ray Bradbury. ‘First find out what your hero wants. Then just follow him…’ and that’s exactly what I do.

3. Do you know how the story will end before you begin? In a general way or a specific one?

I always know how it’s going to end but rarely when or where – that’s what makes writing so compelling.

4. Do you choose settings you know or do you have books of settings and plans of houses sitting around?

I nearly always choose settings I know, although one of my earliest ones was set in Moscow! I am lucky enough to have travelled a great deal during my life and I have also worked and/or stayed in a lot of different environments, so I can pick and choose between countries and backdrops. I like to write about places I’ve visited and, Reluctant Date, which you are featuring in your Saturday chapter, is set in a small town in Florida where I enjoyed a wonderful holiday. The heroine even follows my footsteps in some places.

I equally enjoy using my own locality though and my latest book, Double Fault, which is due to be published this month, is set mainly in the North West of England, where I live.

5. Where do you do your research? On line or from books?

It always used to be books but nowadays, with so much information available at the click of a mouse, it’s mostly online. I find serendipity plays a part too. The hero in the book I am writing at the moment is a film composer. Now although my daughter and son-in-law are very talented musicians, I don’t know one note from another. I do enjoy listening to music though and recently, while I was booking some online tickets for a concert, I found a link to YouTube that gave me exactly the information I wanted for my story.

6. Are you a draft writer or do you revise as you go along and why?

I revise as I go along, and then I revise again, and again…and again! Every time I read one of my manuscripts I see something that can be improved, to the extent that eventually I just have to stop re-reading it and force myself to send it to my publisher for final edits. I always keep my fingers crossed until it comes back though.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Who I've been reading - Carly Phillips

Of course I have been reading her stories since we met at HVRWA and became critique partners for a time. I've watched her career bloom and sometimes feel like her mother in writing. Carly's writing talent has grown and I'm so very happy for her success. I have a lot of her books on my shelf and in the various readers I own. Last week I downloaded all the Serendipity stories and read them one after another. If you like contemporary romance with some hot love scenes and heroes and heroines with problems I'd suggest you run to buy or download her stories.

I was glad to read that the town of Serendipity will continue to exist in Carly's imagination. Hopefully some day the contractor will have his story and the owner of the unique clothing store, too. Keep the emotion filled stories of people finding love. I couldn't pick out one of the stories I liked the best, perhaps Ethan's story.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Wednesday's Writer's Tips - More from Orson Scott Card - Idea stories

In the book  on How To Write Science Fiction and Fantasy, Orson Scott Card talks about structure to stories. What exactly is an Idea story? This kind of story starts with a question that needs answers. I know I've written a number of stories that follow this pattern. These aren't what if kind of stories. Often found in mysteries the question there needing to be answered is who killed the dead person, or who stole the fortune. But the idea story can also be used in the many genres of fiction . Take romance and start the story with a man or woman facing a choice between two others and the question becomes Who will he or she choose? There may not be many of this kind of story since romance has evolved into the one man and one woman story.

When crafting an Idea story the question that needs to be answered should be brought in as close to the beginning as possible. Most of the time this is true but knowing the rules can help a writer know when to break them. In the first mystery I wrote and several others, the murder didn't happen until far into the story. Knowing when to spring the real question can be difficult. A reviewer once wrote about Murder and Mint Tea, since the murder doesn't take place until well into the book. "If someone hadn't killed her, speaking of the villain, I would have.

The one thing to remember about crafting an Idea story is that once the question is answered the story ends. That can be difficult particularly when the characters have become friends of the author.

The point of an Idea story is the question. Who killed Joe Smith? Where did that artifact arise, a thing that couldn't be part of this life? Both Jim and Harry are wonderful men, but who will Mary choose? What really happened during the battle? When the answer is learned the story is over.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Tuesday's Inspiration - Ralph Waldo Emerson

There's been a lot of buzz lately about giving up and going on with the writing one does.  It's been about people being upset about making best-seller list or earning a lot of money. It's been about continuing and giving up. When I read this quote, I thought it fit the way to inspire me. How about you? So here goes.

"Our greatest glory is not in never failing but in rising up each time we fail." Ralph Waldo Emerson. Try, try, try again is what this said to me. I began writing short stories and then graduated to novels when the rejections began to come and the markets dried up. I sold my first novel after the book was sent out seventeen times to different publishers and revised each time it came back with reasons for the rejection. Those were the days when editors gave reasons and not just the cold "Sorry, this doesn't fit our needs."

I went on to sell four more novels after that first sale. Then life happened. Children reached college age so I put my writing career on hold and returned to work as a nurse. When I returned to writing things had changed and once again I went through dozens of rejections but this time they were the cold "Sorry," printed on a piece of paper. I didn't give up. Nor did I feee a failure. I knew eventually something would click and then I discovered electronic publishing and I found my spot.

A lot of my friends have received rejection after rejection but they've continued to rise up after each failure. Other friends have given up their dreams of being a published author.

How about you are you continuing to pursue your dream or have you given up?

Monday, September 24, 2012

Meandering on Monday - Janet Lane Walters

Today's question is interesting. Do writers have periods like painters, especially like Picasso did? Looking at my own lengthy career, maybe I did. I started out in a short story period and then began writing novels. This is where the period idea came into view. When I began with novels I rather scattered my energies dabbling in a variety of fields. There were the nurse romances that sold, the mysteries that didn't until later and the fantasy/science fiction ones that didn't sell at that time. So I put those stories away and concentrated on writing nurse romances. Many of them sold. I believe five did and then I decided to return to work as a nurse to help put those children through school. Writing took a back seat to observing people. The time came and publishing had changed a lot. Things likepartials and synopsis had become the rule. So I set out to learn this and had to decide what I wanted to write. I guess that's when my period became eclectic. I'd written nurse romances because that was an area I knew. But it came to me that one not only has to look at what they know when they are writing but also what they read. Now I'm in my eclectic period and I'm also finding stories that were either completely or partially written years ago and I'm taking them out and polishing them along with penning new stories and new wods. Whether the stories are contemporary or fantasy, the worlds are ones I've created.

As to my current writing schedule'm getting ready to push Lines of Fire to completion and making notes on the two stories to follow in this trilogy. Will be sometime before I finish them. I'm also working on cleaning up The World Has Come of Age and will fit chapters of that between segments of the push.Until all the early writing mistakes are cleaned out I won't know what I have to work with other than some characters who had a story to tell years ago and somehow the carbon copy remained readable. I will see what comes of this while I continue in my eclectic period of writing.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Saturday's Chapter - A House Divided by Sydell Voeller

A House Divided, an inspirational contemporary romance, is available for download on Amazon Kindle:

This book is published by Books We Love Ltd.

Chapter One

“There’s got to be a mistake!” Rebecca Lorenzo exclaimed to the portly real estate agent who stared across the counter at her through wire-framed glasses. The sound of a printer mingled with their conversation.

“As I said, ma’am, the terms are all here in black and white, just as the owner specified. He made them precisely clear.” He stuck out his hand. “Oh, by the way, I’m Norm McIntosh.”

“Good to meet you, Mr. McIntosh. I’m Rebecca Lorenzo.” She turned to the pixie-like child who stood close by her side. “This is my daughter, Wendy.” Rebecca inhaled deeply. If the man thought this interruption—be it good etiquette or not—might distract her, he was wrong. “Mr. McIntosh,” she stated evenly, “I clearly remember the agent from this office that I spoke with on the phone, er . . . Nan Fetterman . . . telling me the two-bedroom apartment above the old Glasgow place was available on a six month lease with an option to buy the entire house. Wendy and I are counting on moving in today. We’ve driven here all the way from L.A.”

Norm McIntosh frowned as he turned his gaze back to the computer monitor. “Did you sign any papers?”

“Uh . . . no.” Rebecca’s face flushed. She suddenly felt more like the unsophisticated small town girl she’d once been during the eighteen years she’d grown up here in Freemont, Oregon—not the widow of a well-known movie star from Hollywood. “Actually, the other agent offered to fax a copy of the agreement to me, but I told her not to bother. I figured we could work out the details after we arrived in town.” Truth was, she’d been so sure of herself, she’d already given the moving van driver the address of the Glasgow place and sent him on his way.

“The house is indeed available,” the agent continued, “but for three months only. I’m afraid Nan must have inadvertently misinformed you. Perhaps she was looking at the file for one of the owner’s other rentals instead. He has a couple elsewhere in the area. On her behalf, I apologize.”

Rebecca’s heart sank. Purchasing the house had been her primary reason for coming here. Not only would she have the satisfaction of living in the very home that lay claim to her heart and soul, but she could earn the much-needed sum of money that Galaxy Productions had offered.

Outside the low-ceilinged office at Freemont Properties, an early summer rain slashed against the front picture windows with a rat-a-tat-tat sound. The office door swooshed open, followed by a blast of cool air as a middle-aged couple—a bird-like blonde woman and a tall, balding man—hurried inside.

Rebecca shuddered against the sudden chill.

“Be with you folks in just a sec,” Norm McIntosh tossed over his shoulder, and then turned back to Rebecca. “Now where were we again, ma’am?”

“We were discussing the Glasgow place on Marine View Drive. My buying . . . er leasing it.” She tried to ignore the yawning ache in her heart as an image of the stately two-storied Victorian house took hold in her mind. Yes, she could still see it standing against a backdrop of oak and maple with its white borders, gingerbread, and a stately turret. And now she was finally back again. Back where she would no longer have to worry about crime and stalking and twisted minds.

“That’s the big old house where the movie Winter Rose was made,” eight-year-old Wendy chimed in. “It’s also the place where my mama and papa got married a long, long time ago. You knew him, didn’t you? He used to be a famous movie star!”

Rebecca patted her daughter’s shoulder. “Wendy, sweetie, it’s not polite to interrupt.” She glanced back at the couple, hoping they hadn’t overheard. Ever since she’d married August Lorenzo, and especially after he died a year ago, she’d struggled to maintain as low a profile as possible for her daughter and herself. Life in the public eye had always unnerved her. And while every fiber of her being yearned to be with August once again, at least she and Wendy could find peace and healing here in her small hometown.

“Are you talking about August Lorenzo and the movie that was filmed in Freemont?” The woman’s flashing blue eyes mirrored her enthusiasm.

“Uh, yes,” Rebecca answered, pasting on a smile as she was forced to acknowledge still another one of August’s many admirers.

“Well, I’ll be!” the woman shrilled. “That’s just why we stopped by! To ask directions how to find it.” She turned to the man who’d casually draped his arm across her shoulder. “Why, Richard and I saw it six years ago when we were first engaged, didn’t we darling? We’ve heard people still stop by that grand old place and sometimes even get a tour of it. We were just driving through town and thought we’d check it out . . .”

The agent looked at the couple through tired gray eyes. “Yes, folks, that’s true. The woman who lived in the apartment above the house often obliged the public that way, but now that she’s moved out, it’s up to the owner.” He cleared his throat. “Hopefully, you’ve caught him on one of his more agreeable days.”

“So how do we go about finding him?” the blonde asked, while Wendy looked on with wide-eyed fascination.

“If you don’t mind holding on for just another moment while I finish here,” he answered, “I’ll phone him and see if he’s home.”

Rebecca struggled to rein in her growing impatience. True, she’d been fully aware that tourists still flocked to the old Glasgow place in droves, just as they’d done soon after the filming. Winter Rose was often said to have put Freemont, Oregon on the map. And the sequel-in-the-works would only help keep it there. But couldn’t the tourists hold off another week or so, closer to midway in June?

Norm McIntosh nodded towards the reception area off to one side and said, “Just make yourselves comfortable, folks. This shouldn’t take much longer.” Readjusting his glasses, he met Rebecca’s expectant gaze. “Shall I print out a copy of the rental agreement for you look it over, ma’am?”

“Yes . . . yes, please.”

She closed her eyes momentarily as the whirring sound of the printer resumed. What should she do? She certainly wasn’t interested in moving again in another three months. Right now was stressful enough, even with the help from the movers. Maybe her best answer was to go ahead and sign the papers, anyway. That would allow her to get her foot in the door, both figuratively and literally. It would also undoubtedly buy her some time to try to persuade the owner to change his mind.

“As I said, Simons also owns two other rentals,” the agent’s voice droned above the hum of the printer. “They’re out near the old mill pond on the far end of town. If it’s a lease-option you’re looking for, he’s offering that on both properties. Would you like someone to drive you over there and show you around?”

“No, thank you.” She shook her head. “I’ll take it. The Glasgow place, that is.”

“Oh, cool!” Wendy burst out. “I just knew we’d get to live there!”

Rebecca smiled down at her daughter. Yes, it was indeed the right decision, she resolved. For this short time, at least, she could relive the memories, the little bit of paradise where she and August had exchanged their marriage vows in the garden-like backyard that sunny day in May—a day when the world had been scented with the heady fragrance of lilac and heliotrope, and she’d been so young, and so much in love. Yes, it was a time she’d hold in her heart forever, the time August had pledged to spend the rest of his life with her.

A life that had ended all too abruptly.

From across the marble counter, the agent handed Rebecca the printed-out copy. “Take your time reading it. We don’t want any further misunderstandings, now do we?”

She tipped her chin, willing her voice to remain even. “I assure you, I will read every word. Ten times over, if necessary—even though, I do intend to sign it, no matter what.” And read every word, she did. This time, there’d be no surprises. No more slips in her typical savvy business-like approach.

Meanwhile, she was only vaguely aware of the agent punching in a number on his phone, and talking to someone on the other end of the line. Coming to the end of the document, she extracted a pen from her shoulder bag, scrawled her signature on the appropriate line, then handed it back.

“Mr. Simons plans to meet our visitors for a tour in about fifteen minutes or so,” he explained as he hung up the phone. “You might as well stick around, so you can get to know him, too. He’s not an easy one to figure out, mind you, so it’s better you understand that right up front.”

Pushing back her sudden uneasiness, she hurried on. “Thanks, but the movers are waiting, so I don’t have extra time. And as far as the house goes, I’m more than well acquainted with it.”

“Suit yourself then.” There was a thin smile on his lips as he handed her the keys.

Moments later, after Rebecca and her daughter climbed back inside her midnight blue Saturn, she started down the elm-lined streets towards the old Glasgow place, a four-mile drive across town. Already an exhausted Wendy had fallen asleep in the back seat of the car, and Rebecca found herself alone with her thoughts.

Her taut neck and shoulder muscles began to relax a little. At long last, she’d be there, she thought. Maybe offering to show the house as the previous tenant had done might give her a modicum of negotiating ammunition. The minor inconvenience would be more than worth the possible end result—if only the owner would agree to sell it to her. Living in the old house meant more to her than anyone could understand. The memories were so precious. So sustaining.

As she drove on, she remembered the winter after high school graduation, the winter she’d met August. Tears stung her eyes, blurring her vision. Yes, she needed to somehow get a grip, extract herself from the vicious claws of grief that had bound her this past year. She’d never dreamed she would lose him, at least not at the mere age of twenty-seven. Imagine . . . a widow before her third decade in life. And while August hadn’t left her penniless by any means, she had no choice but to manage frugally what money she did have.

She cruised past the community swimming pool, crossed the railroad tracks, and came to the long block of stately homes that marked the beginning of the historic district.

The gentle rhythm of the windshield wipers soothed her as she started up the hill. Here the grandest of the grand old Victorians stood, like stately sentinels overlooking the town. It was no small wonder Galaxy Productions had chosen this neighborhood as the scene for their shooting, she mused. In addition to Freemont’s abundance of historic homes, the town also presented the gray skies and driving rains that were all essentials to the story’s gothic theme and plot. The film had been so successful, it only made good sense the production crew had already hired a scriptwriter for the sequel. Ben Rardin, the location scout, had solicited Rebecca to secure the site again, offering to pay her $100,000. That would satisfy the tidy sum she’d need for the down payment, she figured—if only she could persuade the owner to sell the house.

Wendy stirred in the back seat. “Mama?”

“Yes, sweetie?”

“Are we there yet?

“No, but almost. Just go back to sleep. I’ll wake you when we arrive, after I’ve had a chance to talk with the man who’s driving the moving van.”

“Okay, Mama.” Rebecca glanced in her rearview mirror and saw her daughter stretch and yawn. Then, resting her head against the back of the seat, she closed her eyes and soon fell into a pattern of even, shallow breathing.

Rebecca came to the top of the hill and pulled over to a lookout site to better appreciate the view. She gazed west towards the jagged outline of the peninsula across from where the Pacific Ocean met the Columbia River. The rain had turned to a fine mist—sugar mist, as the locals called it. Nostalgia swamped her as she recalled that day in January when she’d been hired as an extra for the filming, the third day the production crew had come to town. Because she’d been working at the Chamber of Commerce—her first full-time job after graduation—she had known about the filming well in advance.

In a matter of weeks after she’d secured the part, Rebecca had fallen hopelessly hard for the sexy lead performer, ten years her senior. It had been love at first sight for August as well. Four months later in mid-May, they were wed. It wasn’t long before the filming was finished, Rebecca had packed up her belongings and bidden her parents and sister, Missey, a tearful good-bye. Then she followed her husband back to California to his own classic stucco home in Hollywood. And now . . . now all she had left of him were Wendy and her memories.

Rounding the final turn that led to the house, she pulled in behind the moving van that was parked alongside the curb. Minutes later, as she spoke with the driver through his open window, she spied a black Lexus parked on the opposite side of the street. Three people were piling out of it.

Looking back at the driver she said, “I’m sorry for taking so long. Things didn’t go quite as smoothly at the realtors’ as I’d hoped they would. Just give me a minute to unlock the front door to the apartment, and we’ll be all set.”

He scanned the house from one end to the other. “And where is it we’ll be unloading your stuff?”

“Upstairs. Follow the path that leads through the rose arbor on the south side. The entry is in the back—you can’t miss it.”

He glanced up at the sky. “Lucky thing it stopped raining, Mrs. Lorenzo. At least we won’t have to worry about tarping your stuff before we haul it all up there.”

“Yes, thank goodness for that,” she agreed with a nod. The sight of the three people drawing nearer pulled her attention away from the driver again. As they paused on the sidewalk next to the arborvitae hedge, she recognized the couple who’d asked for the tour. The third person, no doubt, had to be Mark Simons.

He glanced over at her, flashed her an unreadable grin, and waved.

Offering a perfunctory wave back, she flicked her gaze away. There’d be time for introductions, handshakes, and polite conversation later. But not now. It was already nearly five and she’d hoped to be reasonably settled no later than midnight. Besides, there was nothing more she would like right now than a hot bath, a few moments to soothe her frazzled nerves, and most of all, some quiet time with Wendy. Unfortunately, that might be a long time coming.

Fishing into her purse and drawing out her keys, she strode down the front walkway that led to the rose arbor. The blonde, her husband, and Mark Simons were ahead of her, ascending the stairway of the covered front porch where a flowering vine rambled up a weathered trellis. She caught a whiff of the flowers’ sweet fragrance. The cup-and-saucer-like blooms appeared a deep, rich color—Clematis, maybe.

Curious, she focused more intently on Mark Simons. He stood a little over six feet tall, she guessed, and carried himself with a commanding air of confidence. If he was as disagreeable as the property manager had insinuated, it certainly didn’t seem apparent now.

But first impressions could be deceiving, she was quick to remind herself.

* * *

Mark Simons unlocked the front door to the house, turned on the light switch in the foyer, and stepped aside, allowing his guests to enter first. “Come in, please. Make yourselves at home.”

As they did, he directed his gaze into the parlor off to the right, noting the elegant old sofa in rose-colored velvet with a highly polished mahogany finish. The ladies’ and gentleman’s chairs, in matching fabrics, were graced by a fern stand and lamp table. At the time he’d purchased the home, he’d also convinced the former owner to sell him the period furnishings. This, of course, provided even more interest to the visitors, since the furnishings had also been in place during the interior shots of the filming.

Yet thoughts of the house gave way to visions of his new tenant, the beautiful young blonde with her tall, willowy frame and fluid, regal stride. He’d sensed an aura of sadness about her, however, a vague feeling he couldn’t pin down.

“Oh, that must be the parlor where the wake in Winter Rose was filmed,” the woman enthused, snatching Mark back from his reverie. “That was one of my favorite scenes!” During the drive over from Freemont Properties, the couple had introduced themselves as Betty and Martin Stensilton.

“Yes, most memorable, I’m sure,” he said evenly.

Betty Stensilton fluttered one hand in the air as she continued, “My mind’s in such a fog today. Do you mind telling us your name again . . . er . . . Mister . . .?”


“Yes, of course! Mr. Simons.”

Mark offered her a polite smile. Frankly, he’d never seen the movie, so he had to admit, he could only share his visitors’ enthusiasm vicariously. “Would you like a guided tour or do you prefer to look around on your own?”

“We’ll just mosey around by ourselves,” the man answered. “I promise we won’t take much of your time.”

“No problem. I have a few details I need to take care of while I’m here, anyway.”

The couple wandered into the formal dining room, oohing and aahing over the crystal chandeliers, the royal blue floral wallpaper, and the massive oval mahogany dining table with the ball in claw feet.

Mark’s thoughts, however, were centered on the ringed water stains marring the burnt gold and cream ceiling motif. Please Lord, please let the rains hold off until fall. Last winter’s storms were terrible, and I don’t want to have to replace the roof, only in the end to tear the place down. He realized he needed to get his ducks in order, plan how he was going to write his proposal to Free Will Ministries in order to follow through with his plans for the property. But thoughts of the blonde kept intruding. Let’s see . . . Rebecca Lorenzo, wasn’t that the signature on the rental agreement McIntosh had faxed to him just a little while ago? And there was a child, too. Just the two of them . . .

Overhead, he heard footsteps . . . probably the little girl’s, judging by their quickness. Then came the shouts and heavier footfalls of the movers. They hurried down the outside stairwell, their voices fading as they crossed the front yard.

Mark wandered to the window that faced the street. Beneath the neon streetlight sat the van, its loading ramp still angled off the rear of the truck. A dog barked from somewhere in the distance. A car whizzed by. The headlights cut a fleeting swathe through the darkness, then were swallowed up in obscurity. For a fleeting moment, a pang of empathy for his new tenant and her daughter coursed through him. What on earth had prompted them to take the apartment for only three months? He’d been a landlord long enough now to realize that moving was typically a big-time hassle, especially when there were children involved. Maybe Rebecca was a schoolteacher, seeking a change of scenery for the summer. The Oregon coast was certainly a great place for that. Still, on second thought, hadn’t he sensed her quiet desperation only moments earlier? Surely her reason for coming here must be prompted by something more than just an extended summer vacation. Again, something stirred within him, something intangible, but powerful.

Lord, why has this lady got such a hold on me? he silently prayed. Especially when I don’t even know her . . .

* * *

“Mama! Mama! Come quick! Is this my new bedroom? Oh, it’s so, so pretty!”

Rebecca hurried up the stairs behind Wendy. This is more than just your new room, darling. This is the start of your new life. A new life where you’ll be safe and secure.

At the landing, she turned and spied Wendy disappearing through the first doorway to the right. Rebecca hurried after her.

“Oh, Mama! I’ve always wanted a room with a window seat like this one. And look! Look at the cool wallpaper with the stars, moon, and planets. It’s just like my friend Cindy’s room.”

Laughing, Rebecca joined her daughter inside the threshold where she was surveying the wallpaper beneath the dim overhead light fixture, her arms crossed over her chest. “Yes, this is perfect! I’m thrilled you like it.”

“And you’ll be in the bedroom right across the hall from me?” Wendy asked.

Rebecca laughed again, although it was a trifle disturbing to note her daughter’s recurring uneasiness. Ever since August had died, Wendy had been fearful of letting her get too far out of her reach. Rebecca hoped against all hope that the move, this new home, and new friends at school would help change that.

“Yes, sweetie. My room will be right across the hallway. Just like it was back in California.”

As Wendy raced over to the bay window, Rebecca inhaled deeply. The place smelled musty, but with a good airing, that would easily be remedied. Already she could imagine the tangy salt air wafting through the bedroom, causing the white Priscilla curtains to flutter. Oh, how clean and invigorating that would be—so unlike the smog-filled air back in L.A.

“And can we buy some really pretty blue cushions to put here in the window seat? Maybe we can even find some that will go with this cool wallpaper.” Wendy turned and looked at Rebecca. The girl’s doe-like eyes—so much like her father’s—were bright with anticipation.

“I don’t see why not. Actually, I think that’s a wonderful idea!”

“Just look at that big backyard down there,” Wendy said, twisting back towards the window. “And oh, something else, Mama. Can I get a puppy, too? There’s plenty of room down there for him to run.”

“I . . . I don’t know, sweetie. The man at the real estate office never said anything about whether the landlord will allow pets, and I didn’t think to ask.” Actually, her daughter had been begging for a dog long before August had died, but somehow they’d never gotten around to even looking for one.

“Will you please call up the owner and see what he says?”

Rebecca laughed. “Don’t worry. I’m sure we’ll see him around here sooner or later. There’ll be plenty of time then to ask him about a puppy.” She walked over to the window and, wrapping an arm around Wendy, followed her gaze across the backyard. It looked beautiful, just as she’d remembered it, with its sculptured beds of low-growing white flowers. She doubted whether Mark Simons would think much of a dog digging in the flowerbeds or tearing up patches of the manicured lawns. There was nothing to be gained now in pointing that out to Wendy, however, she decided.

“Wendy, just look at all the beautiful flowers,” she continued, hoping to divert her daughter’s attention from the dog. “Maybe later we should cut a bouquet for the dining room table.” White lilacs grew farther back and next to them dwarf milky white dogwoods. Perhaps the former tenant had planted the all-white flowers to be what Rebecca’s mother had always called “A Moonlight Garden.”

Already her easily distracted daughter had sprung up from the window seat and disappeared into the walk-in closet on the opposite side of the room, but Rebecca kept talking nonetheless. “And oh my, there are the caretaker’s quarters, too. Just seeing it brings back so many wonderful memories. The movie crew sometimes used it as a makeshift costume area.”

Tucked behind the gardens, the small building stood on the back edge of the property. All she could make out was a portion of the peak above the front door and one side of the shingled roof.

“I thought you said you used a costume trailer,” Wendy’s muffled voice sounded from inside the closet.

“We did. We used both, actually. But since the trailer had to stay parked on the front street, the caretaker’s building was usually handier.”

“Hey, look! I’ve even got built-in drawers back in here. This is so cool!” Obviously Wendy’s mind had raced on to more important things, like exploring every nook and cranny of her new bedroom.

Grinning, Rebecca turned from the window just as Wendy reemerged from the closet.

“Is there a mall in this town, Mama? I think we’re gonna need to go shopping pretty soon.”

“Yes, there’s a mall just up the highway, a good-sized one at that. As soon as we get the chance, we’ll go check it out.” She scanned one end of the room to the other, “And oh, while I’m thinking about it, we’ll need to find another twin bed for when your cousin Jodie sleeps over. There’s plenty of room in here for two beds, so it should work out just perfectly.”

“Boy, we’d better start saving our money, huh?”

“You got that right.” Dollar signs were already multiplying inside Rebecca’s mind.



Wendy’s mouth turned down at the corners, her expression pensive. “Please tell me again about the movie. I want to know everything.”

Rebecca closed her eyes. The memories were too poignant. She needed time . . . just a few hours, perhaps, to allow the reality to set in. The last time she’d been here in this grand old place, August had been close by her side. And now she was back again.

Without him.


Her eyes flew open. Giving her head a quick shake, she said, “I . . . I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to lose track of what we were talking about.” She stroked her daughter’s bangs off her forehead, then motioned her back to the window seat. “Come on, sweetie, let’s sit down.”

As Wendy snuggled up close, Rebecca smiled. She had probably already told this story close to a million times, but it warmed her heart how Wendy never tired of it. “Well, let’s see. I guess I’ll start the same way I always do. The movie was about a beautiful lady who lived a long time ago in a grand old house, much like this one. That’s why the location shoot was here, of course. Anyway, the story happened in the dead of winter when the stormy season was at its height. The wind blew hard most every day. It rained a lot too. Sometimes the storms brought thunder and lightning.”

Wendy giggled. “Just like in a Halloween movie, huh?”

“Sort of. Except in some scenes, such as the one I was in, there was snow on the ground, which definitely made it more of a winter story.”

“And don’t forget about the woman, Mama.”

“Okay.” Rebecca squeezed Wendy’s shoulder. “The woman had a head of shiny black hair which nearly touched the small of her back, and her voice was more beautiful than a meadow lark. She was very famous and sang in one of the most elegant and prestigious opera houses in the region. Everyone would come from miles around to hear her. One of her admirers was a handsome sea captain—that was your daddy—who immediately fell in love with—”

“I love to hear about how you and Daddy were such famous movie stars!” a rapt Wendy cut in. “This is the best part.”

“Only Daddy was the star, sweetie, not me.” Rebecca tweaked Wendy’s cheek. “Daddy had been a famous actor long before Winter Rose was filmed. I was just a stand-in, a nobody, when he and I first met.”

“But that’s just not true.” Wendy turned and stared imploringly into Rebecca’s face. Her dark eyes glistened with what Rebecca feared might be the onset of tears. “You’ve always been a somebody, Mama—and most of all, you’ll always be the best somebody to me in the whole wide world!”

Rebecca hugged Wendy long and hard, struggling against tears. She hadn’t meant to sound so self-pitying.

“Wendy.” Her voice caught. “You . . . you and I . . . we’re gonna get along fine here. And just you wait. Before you know it, it’ll seem as if you’ve lived here your whole life.”

The sound of the movers as they lumbered up the stairs, gasping and panting, yanked her back to the present. With luck her several pieces of antique furniture had survived the trip and were still in good shape. If worse came to worst and her money began to run out more quickly than she expected, she might need to sell one or all of them.

“Well, enough of our silly reminiscing,” she said with a forced laugh, giving Wendy a playful swat on her bottom. “There’s work to do and plenty of it.”

“Yeah, and I want to start unpacking my clothes, so I can put them in my cool walk-in closet.”

Rebecca’s cell phone rang. The caller ID said it was Missey.

“Hey, sis, are you in town yet? You said you’d call the minute you arrived.”

“Sorry, I guess I got a bit distracted. And yes, we’re here. We’re in the process of moving into the old Glasgow place this very minute, just as I’d hoped, but things have gotten a bit complicated, I’m afraid. I’ll fill you in on the details later.”

“How about tomorrow afternoon? I’ll have the coffee pot on and a fresh batch of cookies on the table. And you tell Wendy that her cousin’s so excited to see her, she’s about bursting at the seams.”

“I’ll be sure to let her know. And you can bet that Wendy’s feeling the same.”

“Auntie Missey, hi!” Wendy called in a high-pitched voice from alongside her mother.

Missey’s answering laugh made Rebecca smile. “Hi back at you, kiddo! And oh by the way, the cookies I’m baking are your favorite. Chocolate—”

“Mrs. Lorenzo?” The velvety sound of a deep male voice followed by a rap on the half-opened door cut through their conversation.

“Gotta go, Missey!” Rebecca said in a rush. “Someone’s at the door.”

“Okay! Tomorrow then.”

“Uh-huh. See you later.”

“Mrs. Lorenzo?” This time, the rap was louder.

It must be Mark Simons, she thought. The voice didn’t match either of the two men from the moving company, so it had to be her landlord’s. Her emotions bounced between anticipation and near panic as she hurried to the door.

But oh why now? She dragged her hand through her disheveled hair and bit her lip. I’m just not prepared to face him yet—-in more ways than one.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Friday - How She Does It - Sydell Voeller

Sydell and I share a former profession and now a publisher.
Okay, here are my answers to the six questions. I'll work on sending you a sample chapter from A House Divided next. I hope you're having a good weekend, and thanks again for allowing me to participate in your blog site. (If you find any errors in my answers, please don't hesitate to let me know or just go ahead and fix them yourself!)

We all know there are six elements in writing fiction and often fact. Who, What, When, Where, Why and How. I believe the first five lead to the sixth which for me is the plot. What's your take on this?

1. How do you create your characters? Do you have a specific process?

I first get to know my characters by first delving into their psyches. I ask myself, what are their goals? Their hopes and dreams? Their vulnerabilities and greatest fears? From there I discover what conflict/problem they'll need to conquer by the end of the story.

2. Do your characters come before the plot? Do you sketch out your plot or do you let the characters develop the route to the end?

For me, character development and plot usually go hand-in-hand. In regards to sketching out my plot, I usually have a rough idea to work with before I actually start writing. Yet often twists and turns I never expected pop up along the way--and they work! That's one of the joys of writing.

3. Do you know how the story will end before you begin? In a general way or a specific one?

I know how my plot will end in a general way. I usually just have to start writing to get the creative juices flowing, however, so I can come up with the plot details.

4. Do you choose settings you know or do you have books of settings and plans of houses sitting around?

I pattern the location for my stories around real cities and towns, but I give them a fictional name. As far as houses go, I often picture my own home or the home I grew up in--with variations, of course.

5. Where do you do your research? On line or from books?

I use both sources. I've also interviewed experts in various fields to answer my questions that pertain to my plot.

6. Are you a draft writer or do you revise as you go along and why?

I tend to revise as I go along, although I understand writing experts often advise new writers to "turn off the editor inside your head" when composing initial drafts. That's never worked for me, though. I try to make sure a scene reflects my best writing before I move on to the next part of the story. Since I'm also a writing instructor, that "little editor" is always present, it seems. I just can't turn it off.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Thursday's Who I'm Reading - Sydell Voeller

If "sweet romances" are what you crave to read, this author has a number of books to fill that need. I haven't read all her books but the ones I've read I've enjoyed. The interesting thing here is that I've been reading some of her stories this past week and she's up tomorrow and Saturday talking about writing and giving a taste of one of her books. We also share a background in Nursing.

You can find Sydell's books here.

Of her books I've read I'm torn between The Fisherman's Daughter and Her Sister's Keeper for my favorites. There are still a few more to read so maybe I'll find a different book of hers that will take me into a world where love is sweet.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Wednesdays' Writer's Tip, More from Orson Scott Card

Running behind today and that happens but found this interesting bits of writer's knowledge from How To Write Science Fiction and Fantasy by Orson Scott Card. This bit of knowledge can apply to all kinds of fiction no matter the genre. Orson Scott Card talks about deciding on what kind of story you're planning to write. There are four Milieu, Idea, Character and Event. The decision will depend on how you slant the story.

Today I'll look at the Milieu king of story. What he speaks of here is having a person enter an environment that is unfamiliar to him or her and showing the story through discovery. The story looks at all the new things the character uses. Sometimes bits of this can enter into the story but this isn't the main focus. I've used a bit of mileau when I'm doing the three books based on an alternate Ancient Egypt since the characters must explore what is unfamiliar to them. But that's not the real focus of these stories.

In Milieu stories the action begins the moment the characters enter the unfamiliar environment. There's little seen of their childhood, their background. The focus is on the new and interesting. Orson Scott Card mentions several books where the milieu plays the largest part of the stories. Think Gulliver's Travels or Shogun. The new culture and the characters experiences with the unfamiliar are what brings the story together.

So remember all stories have a milieu but not all stories follow the pattern making the story mainly focus what goes beyong the setting, the time or the place.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Tuesday's Inspirations - Sinclair Lews ala Janet Lane Walters

This quote sort of follows what I wrote when I was meandering, so here goes.

"It is impossible to discourage real writers -- they don't give a damn what you say, they're going to write." Sinclair Lewis.

This is how I feel about writing. No matter what I'll keep on doing it. How about you? Stories are to be told. Characters come to life and suddenly you become so immersed in their lives and adventures you can't stop until you reveal all the nooks and crannies of their lives. So why do you write?

Is it for fame and fortune? Or is it because you must? There are people who begin writing and who become discouraged when they don't sell. These days publishing has become a wide open street. People can aim for the huge publishers, they can mesh with a smaller publisher or they can self-publish. Much depends on the nature of the writer.

I look back on the many writers I know who have given up or the ones who if they're not going to be a best seller stop writing. I also see friends who are afraid to succeed. They hang back and quit writing. So one has to find that reason inside that says this is what I have to do. This is what I want to do. Discourage me not. I am going to write. Determination is where it's at. The motto, should be finish the book and move on to the next.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Monday's Meanderings ala Janet Lane Walters

On one of the online groups I belong to and often comment, someone asked this question or close to this. With the advent of so much self-publishing does the author need to follow the markets when choosing what to write? We've all seen books that leap from nowhere to become best sellers and then we see all the clones of these stories follow, some good and some bad. As a writer how closely do I follow the copycat movement? I'm not sure I do. Now I've written some erotic romances but that's not because I'm following a trend. I have this curious bump in my writing self and I wonder "Can I do that?" Then I go on to do my own take on whatever type of story has captured my interest. That's what a writer must do, rather than make their story a carbon copy of what seems to be popular they must find a twist.

Of course, there is this sort of question and that's why do you write? For me it's because there are these ideas, these people yelling ot have their story told and they rather creep up and hit me. So my heros and heroines have their own take on the world and sometimes not of the world where we exist here. So I look at the trends. I may or may not read the latest flash in the literary world but if I do, I want to make this twist my own and not follow the herd. Will I ever become a best-selling author, doubtful? Will I become an author who is proud of the stories she's crafted, absolutely?

What about you? Why do you write?

Last week I nearly finished the 4th draft of Lines of Fire. That means only 3 to go and these are not so much re-writing but beating into shape the language and fully realizing the characters. This is where the fun begins but then for me every draft of a story is an adventure. There are some interesting elements developing in this story and will be followed through in the 2 sequels to the story, each with different elements of these lines that may or may not be my take on the vampire story. Don't ask where this thought came from since vampires aren't generally my favorite characters. But there are vampires who aren't going for blood but for something else.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Saturday's Chapter - Death Runs by Heather Haven

Chapter One

Another Mrs. Papadopoulos?

I threw back the covers and staggered to my front door, commanded by the insistent ringing of the doorbell. Ordinarily, after the night I’d had, and it being eight o’clock in the morning, on a Sunday no less, I would have just let it ring; hoping whoever it was would go away or fall into a sinkhole. But this ringer wouldn’t stop, and the bell sounded more and more like an air raid siren to my hung-over eardrums.

My name is Liana Alvarez. Everyone calls me Lee except my mother and the less said about that the better. My email reads, but I don’t always respond in a timely fashion, especially when I’m in the middle of a case. D.I. stands for Discretionary Inquiries, the family-owned investigative service, and everybody knows what a PI is. I’m thirty-four-years-old, five-foot eight, 135 pounds on a good day, with thick, brown/black hair. The love of my life, the gorgeous Gurn Hanson, says my eyes are the color of twilight. At the moment, however, they mostly resembled a beady-eyed hippo’s.

The previous night, Lila Hamilton Alvarez, mother and CEO, fobbed off a last-minute job on me, one not so good for my California lifestyle. Due to our close relationship, my designer-clad mom knows she can do this. So, instead of being at home playing with my cat and sucking down a mango-orange-guava yogurt shake, I was imbibing huge amounts of Tequila Slammers. This slamming was in an effort to get the tipsy girlfriend of a software thief to reveal where he’d gotten to. Said girlfriend dished, but my liver will never be the same.

Me being about as hardboiled as a two-minute egg, the following morning found me sleep deprived, alcohol poisoned, and feeling enormously sorry for myself. But I still remembered to look out the peephole instead of throwing open the door because L.H. Alvarez did not raise a stupid child. Not seeing anyone, I leaned against the framework in a hangover-induced quandary. Was someone there or not?

But the ringing continued, so shrill and loud that it had to be an affirmative unless my front door’s electrical system had gone wiggy. I squinted into the little round circle of glass again, strained my eyeball downward, and spied what looked like the back of a curly, platinum blonde, female head. I left the chain on when I opened the door, because my mother did not raise…never mind.

Facing away from me, the blonde female continued to lean into my doorbell for all she was worth, oblivious to my presence. A serious shrimp, she wore a pair of fire engine red spike heels and still didn’t clear much over five foot two. Looking pretty harmless unless she came at me with one of those six-inch spikes, I undid the chain and opened the door.

“All right, all right. I’m here. Get off the bell.”

Startled, red stilettos wheeled around and faced me. “Hi,” she said in a voice with no bottom to it, reminiscent of Marilyn Monroe, but not nearly as sexy. “I was beginning to think you weren’t here.”

As self-confident as her body language had been earlier, she seemed to become unsure of herself, shy almost. Although how anyone could pull off shyness in that getup I’ll never know. The killer heels were a perfect complement to the red satin miniskirt, scanter than a Dallas cheerleader’s costume, and the plunging neckline of the yellow and green floral blouse emphasized cleavage aplenty. A thin, black polyester sweater, way too small, was buttoned haphazardly below her breasts. Clanking gewgaws hung from her ears, neck, wrists, and fingers. She looked like a walking display case of gaudy jewelry. Before me stood a young lady who could send any self-respecting fashionista screaming into the night.

“You’re Lee, right?” she said in a barely audible voice.

“That’s me,” I croaked, and I tried to clear my throat, which didn’t do much good. “And you are?”

“Why, I’m Kelli, with an ‘i.’” The name was pronounced as if it should mean something to me.

She waited a beat, expectantly.

I was clueless.

“Kelli with an ‘i’?” Although in my condition, it came out more like ‘Kawawaya?’

“Yes, Kelli. With an ‘i.’”

There was the damn pause again.

She stared at me, as if me not knowing whom she was made me too stupid to live. I stared back in complete agreement. I think I hiccupped.

“Nick’s wife,” she said, in a manner reserved for the slow of mind.

“Nick’s wife?” I stuttered.

I only knew one Nick, and that was a Nick I’d divorced four years prior with joy in my heart and a gun in my hand. “When you say, ‘Nick’s wife,’ you don’t mean, Nick Papadopoulos, as in my Nick or rather my ex-Nick, by way of being my ex-husband, Nick? You’re talking about someone else, right? Another Nick I can’t quite place…” My voice trailed off because she was nodding in the affirmative every time I said his name.

“You’re Nick’s wife?”

She nodded again just as Tugger, my adolescent orange and white cat, came out of the bedroom and trotted down the hallway followed by my boyfriend’s gray and white Persian mix, Baba Ganoush, named for the eggplant dish. My boyfriend, Gurn, was in Washington D.C., and I was catsitting this darling, little green-eyed girl until his return.

Baba entered quietly, but Tugger caterwauled the entire time, obviously complaining about being awoken at such an ungodly hour of the morning. He sauntered over, sat down in front of me, stared up at this Kewpie doll of an intruder, and gave a long, wide mouthed yawn. My sentiments exactly.

Kelli looked down. “What a beautiful cat,” she exclaimed, not seeing Baba who was hiding discretely behind my legs. Then the girl/woman extended both arms out to Tugger.

Without further ado, my traitorous feline leapt into her open arms, snuggled in, and began to purr almost as loudly as he yowls. There was nothing left for me to do. I opened the door wider and stood aside.

“All rightie. You’d better come in, Kelli, and bring the cat with you. He’s not allowed outside.” I bent down and picked up Baba, who rewarded me with her own yawn.

“What’s his name?”

“Rum Tum Tugger, but we call him Tugger. This one is Baba. She’s a friend’s cat.”

“What a darling cat,” she cooed, walking over the threshold and into my home. “And I just love your name, Tugger,” she said, rubbing noses with my little guy.

“Go straight down the hallway and turn to the right. That’s the kitchen.”

“What an awesome place. Who would have thought such a hot apartment would be over a garage?” Kelli tottered down the hall chatting away, while I bent over to pick up the morning paper. Barely able to straighten up, I set Baba down, afraid I’d drop her. I needed coffee badly.

“And whose house is in front? Or should I say, mansion?”

“My mother and uncle live there. Back in the ‘30s, this apartment was for the chauffeur. I’ve done it over.”

“Lucky you.”

“Yup, lucky me.”

With a throbbing head, I traipsed behind Kelli, my eyes riveted on her foot action in those heels. It was nothing short of remarkable. Even Baba seemed impressed.

“I like your kitchen.” Continuing the review of my two-bedroom, one bath digs, she scrutinized the backsplash. “Those tiles French? I know they use a lot of yellow and blue in France. I read it once in a book.”

I wasn’t going to touch that statement with a ten-foot pole. “No, Talavera from Mexico. I hauled them back on one of my trips to Dolores Hidalgo.”

“Neat,” she murmured, now looking up at my ceiling. “What’s that?” Kelli slowly spun in place studying the large inverse teacup-shaped dome set in the center of the terracotta ceiling.

“It’s called a cupola.”

“What’s it for?”

“See the series of small glass windows at the top? Not only do you get extra light, but you can open them with this pole for fresh air.” I pointed to an eight-foot pole languishing in a nearby corner, while I wondered which kitchen cabinet held the Aspirin.

“Cool.” Kelli focused again on Tugger, rocking him back and forth in her arms and cooing in a bilious tone of voice.

With the House and Garden tour over, I slipped around her, threw the paper on the counter, and reached for the coffee pot with a not-too-steady hand. I poured water into it and counted out scoops, suddenly aware the cooing had changed to sobs.

I turned, scoop in hand, and saw Kelli crying into Tugger’s lustrous fur, something I’ve been known to do myself. Tugger reached out and caressed her face with a soft paw, purring his head off. A true gentleman, my Tugger. Even Baba sat at Kelli’s feet looking up, emerald eyes large with concern.

I clicked the coffee pot on and let it do its thing while I did mine.

“Sit down, Kelli, and tell me what’s wrong.” I put my arm around a shoulder and guided her to one of the cobalt blue chairs gathered around my kitchen table.

Kelli snuffled and wiped at her runny nose with the hand that wasn’t wrapped around a cat. I slapped a paper napkin from the holder into said hand and chucked Tugger under the chin. He was a good boy.

Kelli blew her nose and started talking. I couldn’t hear or understand a word.

“Kelli, you’ll have to speak up and not just a little.”

Whether she was embarrassed, or something else was on her mind, she started playing with Tugger’s tail, something he can’t stand, so I took her hand, shook it, and made her look up at me.

“What is it?”

Kelli snuffled again, and a large tear ran down a painted cheek. “He told me if I was in trouble, and he wasn’t around, I was to come to you.”

“Who told you that?”


“Nick said that?”

She nodded. I was shocked but tried not to show it. This was the ex-marine who started cheating on me soon after the honeymoon and who beat me up when I finally confronted him. He was the main reason I got a black belt in karate, to protect myself from his unwanted attentions before and after the divorce. When I flattened him one day, he got the message and left me alone. But I still breathed a sigh of relief when I found out he’d moved to Las Vegas and married someone else, someone currently sitting in my kitchen blowing her nose into one of my paper napkins.

“So where is Nick?”

Her voice nearly gave out on this one. “I don’t know.” She cleared her throat and began to speak louder. “He’s been missing for a week. That’s why I’m here.”

“Forgive me, Kelli. I’m not quite getting this.” I smelled the coffee, got up, poured some into a mug, and took a good, scalding gulp before I turned back to her.

“Coffee?” I offered. She shook her head and wiped another tear away. “If he’s missing in Las Vegas, why are you here in Palo Alto?” I started opening cabinet doors, searching for the errant bottle of Aspirin.

“Because last night I found this on the doorstep.” She reached inside her blouse—I didn’t think anything else could fit in there—and pulled out a crumpled envelope. “I got into the car and drove most of the night to get here. I’ve been waiting in your driveway since around five-thirty this morning.” She thrust the packet at me.

I stopped my search for Aspirin, sat down, took the small, square shaped envelope and looked inside. A man’s gold wedding ring looked back at me. My PI mind kicked in, albeit if only on one and a half cylinders.

“Is this Nick’s?”

She nodded, pursing her lips together.

“Was he wearing it the last time you saw him?”

She nodded again.

“Was there anything else inside the envelope?”

This time she shook her head. I could see this was going to be more or less a one-sided conversation.

“Have you been to the police?”

She looked at me as if I’d suggested we eat the cat she cuddled in her arms.

“I can’t go to the cops.” This time her voice was loud and clear.

“Why not? It’s what they’re there for, among other things. We pay them to find missing people. I don’t mean to sound like a poster boy, but I am a big believer in using natural resources.”

“You don’t understand.” Her voice became small and childlike again.

“Then enlighten me.”

“Nick has been…we’ve been…there have been some money problems ever since he had to close the office…” She stopped speaking, sobbed, and buried her head again in Tugger. Looking a little soggy and cramped, my boy had apparently had enough and pushed free of her grasp. He hopped down from her lap and sauntered off toward the bedroom with a careless flip of his long, graceful tail. Baba followed, giving a toss of her luxuriant tail for good measure. Maybe if I’d had a tail, I’d have done the same thing. But I didn’t, so I stayed put.

In that instant, I reevaluated Kelli’s persona. Once you got past a face looking like it had been drawn upon by the more colorful contents of a crayon box, she was quite pretty, with a gorgeous kind of coloring that takes your breath away. I’d put her hair down to Clairol’s finest but knew then it was a natural pale blonde. Her eyes, huge and round, were the bluest blue I’ve seen outside a Paul Newman movie, even when red-rimmed and surrounded by running black mascara. Barely out of her teens, there was a residual sweetness to her that bad taste had yet to tarnish.

Still, she was absolutely everything my classy, conservative, and well-bred mother would find appalling. Lila Hamilton Alvarez’s idea of bad taste hovers around the lines of an art gallery showcasing Andy Warhol’s work. I just had to get Mom and Kelli together one of these days. Then stand back and watch.

“So tell me about Nick,” I said, getting up for a second cup of coffee. “He’s a real estate agent or something?” I noticed I could move my eyebrows again. Things were looking up.

“He’s what they call a broker. And he was good. We had lots of money, even after the recession. He bought me a new Mercedes convertible for my birthday. Yellow. But something happened, and he had to close the office. And oh, I don’t know, everything fell apart about six weeks ago.”

“How so?” I said, resuming my search for Aspirin.

“Bills were piling up. We got behind in our mortgage payments. We had to sell my car.” She shook her head. “He wouldn’t let me go back to work, either. I offered, but Nick said no.”

“What type of work did you do?” Bingo! I found the Aspirin bottle hiding behind the sugar.

“I was a blackjack dealer at the Royal Flush Casino. That’s how I met Nick.” A fleeting smile crossed her lips for the first time, I guess at the memory.

“You don’t look old enough.” I crammed three pills in my mouth, took a slug of coffee, and sat back down.

“I’m twenty-two. I’ll be twenty-three in a couple of months.” I realized I was the same age when I married Nick. Glad to see I was part of a pattern here.

“Then he went to work for a bank as a courier or something, I could never figure out what, but when I asked him…”

Her voice faded out. Maybe she was talking, maybe she wasn’t. I couldn’t tell. I waited. She reached out a hand and touched one of mine. Still looking down at the floor, she began to pour her heart out, loud and clear.

“Nick told me you were the best thing that ever happened to him.”

I blanched. What kind of man makes a statement like that to a current wife about an ex?

“Nick said if anything happened to him, I was to come to you. He said you’re the only person in the world he trusts.”

I froze. What the hell is the matter with the man?

“He also said you were the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen.”

Okay, it’s official. The man’s a bozo.

She looked up at me with appraisal in her eyes. “I guess I can see why he’d think that,” she said, her baby voice riddled with doubt.

“Now wait a minute.” I checked out my reflection in the stainless steel toaster and ran fast fingers through hair looking like it had been combed with an eggbeater.

“I usually look a little better,” I said, with a feckless laugh that sounded like the death rattle of a soot-clogged moped. “I’ve had a tough night. I was up until two-thirty knocking back margaritas and tequila shooters with the girlfriend of a missing-in-action software designer, hoping to get her to tell me where the M.I.A. was.”

Kelli nodded a little too enthusiastically, as if she were the unwilling caretaker of the town drunk.

“And she must have had a hollow leg,” I went on, “or me a hollow head, because at last count, four shooters and three margaritas passed her lips and consequently mine before she uttered the magic words, ‘Bruce, South Dakota,’ and slid under the table.”

Out came another feeble laugh. This one sounded like the sucking noise made by a water buffalo’s leg when he pulls it out of a mud hole.

“You see?”

She nodded sagely. “You like to drink.”

“No, no! Last night’s bout was business. I had to get this 3D program, this little computer gizmo back, understand? It was vital to my client.”

“Is it like the 3D they do in the movies, like in the cartoons and stuff?”

She was finally with me. “Yes! But this 3D is on a computer. And being worth about fifteen mil, the client wanted it back pronto.”

Kelli inhaled a sharp breath at the amount. Money she understood.

“But let’s move on,” I said, feeling somewhat vindicated, even though I needed to work on my laugh. “What exactly do you want from me?”

“I want you to find Nick.”

I must have rolled my eyes or something because she grabbed at my hand this time. “Please, Lee. He once said you were the nicest, smartest person he ever knew.”

I’ll kill him.

Kelli let go of my hand and looked down at short, black fingernails. Hers, not mine. I don’t do nail polish. “Please help me. I don’t have anybody but Nick. My family disowned me after…after… Then I moved to Las Vegas, but I don’t have any friends, not real friends. None that could or would help.” She put those black fingernailed hands up to her face and started blubbering into them.

“Did you two have a fight or words?” She shook her head. “Did he seem unhappy or preoccupied about something?” Another shake.

“He has a cell, doesn’t he?” She nodded but continued to blubber. “What happens when you call it?”

A muffled voice spoke through her fingers. “Nothing, it goes into voice mail. I must have left fifty messages, and he’s never called back.”

“What about friends? Has he been in contact with any?” She gave her head another sad shake. “Credit cards? Have any been used during the time he’s been gone?”

“The only one not maxed out is in the bureau drawer. I got the statement yesterday, and there aren’t any new charges. None of his clothes are missing, and he didn’t take the car. I’ve got it; it’s right outside. But he’s got to be hiding somewhere.”

“Why do you say that?”

She shrunk into herself. “Oh, maybe he isn’t. Maybe he’s…” She broke off and suddenly leaned into me with such force, I spilled half my coffee in my lap. “I’ve been reading the papers looking for unclaimed dead bodies. I even called the morgue once.”

“Oh, I’m sure he’s not dead.” Only the good die young, sweetie.

I set the dripping cup down on the table and reached for several paper napkins to blot up the mess.

“And I’ve been calling the hospitals every day, too.” She went back to blubbering. I patted one of her shoulders with a limp, coffee-drenched hand, while the other dabbed at my wet, stained robe.

“Maybe he rented a car, took a bus or a plane. There are other ways of getting out of town.”

“No, he’s around. I can feel.” She wiped her eyes with her soggy, make-up stained napkin. I gave her a fresh one, noting to buy more at the rate we were going through them. She blew her nose into it and handed it back to me.

Gee, thanks.

Then Kelli looked up at me and smiled. It was a rather glorious, angelic smile and made you want to like her. Oh, God. I did like her.

I’m doomed.

“Sometimes I think he’s watching me.” She reflected. “Or somebody’s watching me.” She actually started to swoon at this point. I thought she was going to pass out and grabbed to steady her.

“When was the last time you slept? Or ate?” She shrugged her shoulders and shook her head in a dismissive manner. “Where are you staying?’ She raised the shoulders again, this time dropping them in a sad, waif-like gesture.

“I don’t know. The car, I guess. I don’t have much money left, only enough for gas, about twenty or thirty dollars. I spent the night in your driveway, because I can’t afford a motel room. There was four thousand dollars in our savings last week, and it’s gone. All his stuff is still in the condo, but the money’s gone! All I have left is the car and Lady Gaga.”

“Beg pardon?”

“Lady Gaga’s my goldfish. She’s in her tank in the car. I can’t leave her out there when the sun comes up; it’ll get too hot. I had to keep the heater running in the car last night, so she wouldn’t get too cold. They’re delicate,” she explained, looking into my bloodshot eyes with the sincerity of a true animal lover. “They need a constant temperate temperature in order to maintain optimal health,” she said, as if reading from a manual.

She looked at me.

I looked at her.

“All rightie.” I stood, resigned to my fate as the world’s biggest chump. “Go get Gaga. We’ll find somewhere in the apartment where the cats can’t get at her. Then we’re going to feed you. I can only make scrambled eggs, so if you want something else, you’re out of luck. You can crash on the couch for a day or two until I make some phone calls and see what’s going on. I’m not promising anything, but I’ll do the best I can.”

Kelli snatched at my hand and held it to her cheek in an act of gratitude and supplication. If I’d been wearing a ring, I think she might have kissed it. If this is what the pope goes through on a daily basis, you can have it. Wait a minute. It was more like the godfather.

I opened my mouth to speak when the landline rang. Pulling away from Kelli, I grabbed the phone after the first ring. Few people know this number, and each person who does means a lot to me. I’d turned off my cell and given the hour, I knew the call had to be important. I looked at the incoming number. Richard, my brother. He knew better than anybody what I’d been doing the previous night.

“What’s wrong?” I said, leaving the kitchen and crossing into the living room for privacy.

He paused and gulped. “I’m on my way over to the Big House. I’ll be there in about five minutes. Meet me there.”

Since we were kids, the Big House is what he and I have called the large two-story family home, an ode to the American success story, Palo Alto style.

“Where are you now?” I asked.

“D.I. I just left the office.”

“On a Sunday morning? What the hell were you doing there?” Silence. “Richard? What’s wrong?”

“Lee, there’s some…some news. Vicky just told me it’s in this morning’s Chronicle.” Vicky and he have been married less than a year, but she is the finest addition to a family any one could ask. I adore her. My brother’s voice cracked as he went on.

“That’s why I’m calling you. Mom didn’t want to wake you after the night you had. But I don’t want you to find out from the papers. I’ll be there in five minutes.”

“Find out what? Jesus, Richard, you’re scaring me. Just tell me.”

More silence.

“Richard! The paper’s in the kitchen. Should I go read it, or are you going to tell me right now?”

He let out air in a whoosh then said, “It’s Stephen. It’s about Stephen.” He hesitated. “It’s bad.”

“Stephen?” I tried to flip my mind around from Kelli’s mess to Mom’s only living relative, outside of us. My heart began to pound. Something happened to Stephen. Stephen, my older second cousin, who taught me how to ride a bike, play Scrabble, who’d stolen my Easter candy when he thought I wasn’t looking, who tipped over our canoe on a disastrous but fun river ride; wonderful, gregarious, sweet-natured, joke-telling Stephen. Although he’d moved to Phoenix thirteen years ago, he was still a much loved, integral part of the family. I tried to steel myself.

“When you say ‘bad,’ how bad is bad?”

His voice broke. “The worst. There’s no other way to say it. He’s dead, Lee. He’s dead.” Richard became lost in sobs.

I gasped, drawing air into my lungs so fast it physically hurt. Then I half stumbled, half sank into a nearby wingback chair, glad it was there, glad it caught me.

“Dios mio!” I whispered.

Richard gulped. “Sorry, Lee. I didn’t mean to break it to you like that. But I didn’t know…I couldn’t think of any other way to say it. I’m sorry.”

“But he was only forty-three,” I said, faltering over the words.

“I know.”

“Maybe there’s a mistake.” My voice had an anguished, yet angry tone. “Maybe—”

“No mistake, Lee,” Richard interrupted me, his voice low and hoarse. “The medical examiner’s off-the-record comment was it probably was a heart attack. He was dead before he hit the ground.”

My kid brother began to cry full out, while I listened on the other end of the line. I sat still, trying not to breathe, trying not to move, warding off the inevitable rogue waves of emotion heading in my direction. I knew them only too well. They would be like the ones pounding at me when our father died. They would strike again and again, endlessly and without mercy. My mind fought off the oncoming onslaught and hid behind numbness and denial.

“Richard, this can’t be. I don’t understand. Stephen was in such good health. He had a physical every year. How could this…?”

“I’m searching for the answer to that question, myself. Meanwhile, you need to come.”

“Of course, I’ll come.” My voice broke. “Where are you?”

“About two blocks from home. Meet me in the driveway.”

“Why there? Why not inside the house?” More damned silence. “There’s something else. Something you’re not saying.” Fear grabbed me. I didn’t know why at the time. Call it premonition or something in Richard’s voice.

He took a deep breath, exhaling it in a rush but hesitating over the words. “It might be a lack of sleep, Lee, or shock; I don‘t know—” He interrupted himself. “No, it’s not any of those things. I’d thought, I’d hoped, but facts don’t lie. I’ve been up all night, checking stats, looking into this.”

“Looking into what?” I demanded. But the other end of the line went stony silent again. “Richard, are you still there?”

“I’m here,” he said. His voice was filled with grief, but there was something else besides the sorrow—something that reached out and clamped down on me as if it were a steel vise. For a moment, all I could hear was my brother’s staccato breathing and the sound of my own heart thudding in my ears.

“Oh, God, Richard, you don’t think his death was accidental or from natural causes.”


“You think Stephen was murdered.”


Friday, September 14, 2012

Friday's How She Does It with Heather Haven

We all know there are six elements in writing fiction and often fact. Who, What, When, Where, Why and How. I believe the first five lead to the sixth which for me is the plot. What's your take on this?

Hmmm. First is the character - so that would be the who, second is the plot. Everything else seems to fill in as I go along. For instance, I have the protagonist and I know what they are going to do, but everything revolves around the plot of the murders or happenings. How, when, where, and why comes to me as I go along. That's the fun part!

1. How do you create your characters? Do you have a specific process?

I meet people I like (or don't like), mentally store facets of them from real life, and transfer those facets to the written page. For me, it is essential that all characters WANT something, even if it's just a glass of water. If they want to be a bigger B&BP - bigger and better person - so much the better, but that's usually saved for my protagonist or series characters. Show me a person who wants to learn and grow and I'm there. All my characters strive to get along, to be better, all while getting what they want. I think that helps to keep them real.

2. Do your characters come before the plot?

Yes, if they are a main character. Sometimes the plot calls for somebody to come in a shake it up a bit, cause trouble, add to the drama! I'm big on drama.

Do you sketch out your plot or do you let the characters develop the route to the end?

I never sketch out my plot. Ever. For me, it would be meaningless. I need to keep the story open to change, flowing, in the moment. If I am surprised, so is the reader. If I don't know what's going to happen, neither does the reader. This is all within reason, of course. I had a character up and take me to Rio de Janeiro and had no idea we were going there until I read it on the page while I was typing. I was shocked. But there I went, taking research and copious notes with me. I didn't go there physically, but with the computer. Frankly, the locale added to the flavor of the book and I created this fabulous hotel I only hope exists somewhere. Be open to what you are writing and the storyline. The world is yours!

3. Do you know how the story will end before you begin?

Yes. I always know the ending. It's how I get there that's the magic.

In a general way or a specific one?

Very specific. I know the last scene. Maybe not the last words, but the last scene for sure.

4. Do you choose settings you know or do you have books of settings and plans of houses sitting around?

Well, I just told you we went to Rio de Janeiro out of the blue, but I try to choose setting(s) I know or go there if I can, plus do research for accuracy. I'm fortunate in that I live in the Bay Area (the Alvarez Family Murder Mysteries), lived many years in NYC (The Persephone Cole Series), and have done a little traveling. It makes it much easier for my imagination to take off with the setting if I know a little beforehand.

5. Where do you do your research? On line or from books?

Both, but if I can, I go there, soak it up, see little things that jump out at me, that give the story individuality and sparkle. In A Wedding to Die For, for instance, I went to several museums to see Toltec and Aztec pottery and other works of art. That helped me be more authentic in my writing and spurred me on to visualize a cave full of plundered works of art. I could 'see' the cache of antiquities with my mind's eye. It helped tremendously.

6. Are you a draft writer or do you revise as you go along and why?

A draft writer, for sure. I do a myriad of drafts and rewrites. Writing is rewriting. You can take that to the bank.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Thursday's Who I'm Reading = Wendy Marcus

As a former nurse and a writer who has been known to write medical romances, lately I've been reading Wendy Marcus' step into the world of the hospital. You can find her books here

Though Wendy has written three so far, I'm sure there are more stories that will enthrall readers who love to read about nurses and doctors, or just nurses and the choices they make both in and out of the hospital. Of the three I've read, Once a Good Girl is my favorite but the other two aren't far behind in the favorite category.

So if you like nurses as heroines, try one of Wendy's. Sit backm read and enjoy.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Wednesday's Writer's Tip - Orson Scott Card Beginnings and Endings

Once again I'm looking at How To Write Science Fiction and Fantasy by Orson Scott Card.  Beginnings and Endings.

I'm one of those writers who needs to have a general idea of where a book will end before I begin. I'm also one of those writers who often begins the story in the wrong place. How about you? Do you have that kind of problem? The story I'm writing now has a prologue. I'm not a fan of prologues because often they tell too much or confuse me into not knowing who the characters are in the story? Sometimes they are involved in explaining the world the reader is about to enter.

Scott Orson Cord starts about the myth of the story or what happens and why. This is usually simple and starts long before the story begins and continues after the story ends. Sort of like this. In the past an event occurred causing a person or persons to act in a specific way and this brings on the situation or event that opens the story. The results of this long ago event may continue to influence happenings after the story ends. The writer has to pick a point along this line to start the story and one to end the story. This will give the structure of the story. The triggering event is known to the author but may not be revealed to the reader until near the end of the story. That depends on the structure of the story

The opening of a story creates tension and brings a need to know in the reader. The ending is the moment the the tension ends bringing satisfaction to the reader. Sometimes the writer begins too soon into the story and sometimes too late. Then the tension isn't present. There are times when a writer continues the story after the point where the ending should have been. So the writer must decide on the structure of the story.

Next week, I'll look at what Orson Scott Card looks on as the story structures and how they can help make a story grip the readers and keep them turning the pages.