“I really think the vicar has wigged out.” Isca exhaled lungs full of cigarette smoke. Her smoke rings drifted away.
Ever since my friend, Isca Haines, began a part-time job on a sex phone line, I’d been hearing about her clients and their needs. Some were funny, most were routine but her stories were always entertaining.
“Okay, now, I have two problems with that statement. First, does anyone say, ‘wigged out’ anymore and second, what’s with the word, vicar? It’s an English term.”
“Entirely irrelevant, both of them.”
“Or irreverent—for a vicar. Get it?”
Murder on the Line, chapter 1, page 1
I had been writing a gothic novel but my writer’s was pitching a fit about it. One night, when I was working swing shift in a hamburger booth under the grandstand at the Washington state Fair after my full-time, day job at Merrill Lynch, hoping to earn enough to pay for a class at UW since I’d gone back to college, Billy Ray Cyrus was singing “Achy Breaky Heart”, business was nil, and I came up with this opener for a murder mystery. My group liked it but I did find out there is a pro/con debate about whether books should begin with dialogue. The publisher, Books We Love (BWL) changed the original title (Dial 9 Uh! Oh!) because they didn’t want an exclamation mark in the title but didn’t seem to care about the “dialogue” issue, and the book came out.
Fog rolled down from Canada and pressed against the smoke a Northern Pacific engine emitted, obliterating the view outside the train’s windows of old-growth timber on one side of the tracks and Commencement Bay on the other.
A Feather for a Fan, chapter 1, page 1
I was editing (a process I hate) the sequel to Murder on the Line and writing A Feather for a Fan at the same time. I’d spent the better part of a year reading Tacoma, WA newspapers from the 1870s because that when the book takes place, and I was eager to capture what the protagonist experienced her first day on Puget Sound. Then someone quoted to me Elmore Leonard’s first rule of writing: Never open a book with weather. If it's only to create atmosphere, and not a character's reaction to the weather, you don't want to go on too long. The reader is apt to leaf ahead looking for people.” Well, dang. I follow his rules to never use a dialogue attribution other than “said”, and to avoid prologues, which I never read, anyway, but I couldn’t let my opening sentence go. Fortunately, GALE Cengage Learning, who published it, had no weather issues, but, honestly . . .
The day I saw Alice Thorndyke’s body pulled from Hood Canal was the day I gave up eating crab. I knew what they ate. Dungeness and Red Rock crab soft-shell season had just started, and I shuddered at the thought of a chilled crab cocktail.
Murder, When One Isn’t Enough, chapter 1, page 1
The sequel to Murder on the Line came out at the first of this year. So far, no complaints about crabs’ diets, but I did have to change the title from Tahuya Daze. Tahuya is a small community on Hood Canal where the book mostly takes place.
I can’t imagine what I would do if I didn’t write—certainly not be a better housekeeper. Happily, I discovered nothing is dusty if I remove my glasses and if items always remain in their same spot. Move them and a dustless ring shows. Murder mysteries are hard for me; I thought about one set in a brokerage house (I worked at Merrill Lynch for 42 years, six months and half-an-hour: guess what I did during the last half-an-hour), however there are too many possible suspects among the angry clients, jealous brokers, assorted people having affairs, jealous brokers’ wives, gay and straight relations, etc. that the idea overwhelms me even though I have a great title: Fill or Kill. The term means different things depending on the exchange the order goes to. So right now I’m editing ( :( ) Feather for a Fan’s sequel and planning a fiction book about prostitutes. I love to hear from readers and Facebook is probably best.
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A Feather for a Fan: Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Walmart
Murder on the Line: paperbank and Kindle Amazon
When One isn’t Enough: Kindle Amazon