Predictable. I had money in my pocket, and I walked past a used bookstore everyday. Which meant, even though I am a painfully slow reader, my personal library got its start to the tune of a couple of books a week.
Many of them were suggested by the owner, the wife of a retired University of Maryland professor. She had an amazing knowledge of her inventory, and she was almost always right when she suggested something. She was the one who got me interested in Graham Greene — something way out of my zone of reading.
I can thank the Gonzaga faculty for some of my choices. I loved my German classes so much that I picked up almost anything written in that language, including a gorgeous book of Renaissance Art. But I also grabbed German or English versions of Kafka, von Kliest, Hesse, Thomas Mann, and a dozen others.
English class pointed me toward Steinbeck and Vonnegut. I read a lot more of the former than the latter. And because KV was filed in the SF section, I ended up picking up some anthologies included the works of New Wave writers like Zelazny and Harlan Ellison.
I was totally overwhelmed by this stuff. Heinlein, Bradbury, and Asimov suddenly seemed old-fashioned. After almost four years of not picking up SF, I was hooked. I couldn’t get enough of the newer writers, to the point where I badgered librarians to get copies of the latest works of my favorites and I even bought new books–unheard of given my stinginess.
A few years later, after encouragement by one of Gonzaga’s priests, I was writing my own stories, many in the vein of my own heroes. I recently had to state as part of a query to an agent who I felt I wrote most like. Even though the correct answers should always be Stephen King, Nora Roberts, or James Patterson, I fearlessly said Roger Zelazny. I don’t know if it is fair to compare my work to his, but I feel very comfortable with his humor, his rhythms, his themes, and his prose.
I had the terrific good fortune to have Harlan Ellison as one of my teachers at the Clarion Writers Workshop, and he generously took time to talk with me even years afterward. I’m fortunate to have recordings of him reading his stories, but I’ve been even more fortunate to hear him read them in person many times.
I still find bookstores irresistible, especially used bookstores. They have a special magic that lures me in. And, though my life has not been changed by as much by any other bookstore, I remain hopeful.
March 31st—a day to wax schmaltzy and celebrate three babies in my life. Today I have a tale of three babes, each with a unique personality, and each related to the others in such a random way the connections can only be cosmic. One is no longer an infant (far from it), one I haven’t met yet, and one is not human, but each is a vital part of me. Read the rest of this entry »
Here is how you make fabulous, secret fish sauce. Take two envelopes of dried onion soup mix, plus a one-quart jar of sweet pickle relish (drained), and add them to a 10-gallon bucket of mayonnaise. Wash your arm thoroughly several inches up past the elbow. Shake dry, and begin manually folding the ingredients together until the whole bucket is homogeneous.
Ah, the magic of handmade garnishes at my first burger joint. For a long summer between Junior and Senior years, I did everything at a fast food place close enough to walk to (about a mile from home). This was the job where I got my first uniform–a brown and yellow shirt and a paper hat. It’s where I first registered a Social Security number for my income–although, I’m pretty sure I got a digit wrong. I hope it at least applied to the credits for one of my sibs whose card would have been in the same series.
Other than fish sauce detail, which left me with a frozen, aching arm, my least favorite job was the cash register. As an extremely shy person, dealing directly with customers and, in those days, doing calculations for change in my head, I found it nerve-racking. The low point was when one customer kept coming back complaining about too few apples in his apple pie. Sure enough, every time he bit into one, it looked half empty. I collected each bitten-into apple pie, dumped it in the counting bucket, and made the man a new one. After about five pies were dispatched, he was too full to try anymore, and I gave him his money back. When the manager went through the counting bucket, where all flawed or rejected food was audited at the end of the day, he had some serious questions for me.
My favorite job was sweeping the parking lot. Since I tend to be a rather thorough person, I cleaned every corner of the lot on my first try, absorbing about three hours of the workday. By my calculations, this cost the company $4.65. I was told that in the future, “spot cleaning” was sufficient. My spot cleaning took about a half-hour (less than $.80), and it wasn’t unusual for me to find lost change. One time I found a ten-dollar bill and another time I found a twenty.
My boss was a serious student of the Chicago Journal of Surface Anatomy, which he usually perused with the office door shut. The one exception was an issue that featured the girls of the University of Maryland. Since the college was just down the road, he became excited about possibly meeting one of these females, and he asked everyone if they recognized any faces. As I recall, faces weren’t what was featured in that issue.
The biggest excitement on this job still makes me sad. The safe left open, and money was found to be missing. Each one of us got questioned by a county detective. For some reason, I wasn’t nervous at all. My biggest concern was for the assistant manager, who I still remember as being terrific and kind. She was on the hook since the money disappeared on her watch.
After talking to the detective, she told me the whole story more than once. My chief reply was, “It’ll be okay.” Eventually suspicion shifted to a young woman who had just come on staff a week earlier. She was poor and miserable, and it didn’t take long before she confessed. The manager was pleased that she was discovered, and even more pleased that she had scooped up a couple of rolls of quarters, which put her take just over $100. That meant she could be charged with a felony. Of course, the assistant manager was more sympathetic, as was I. She blamed herself for putting temptation in the way of this young girl by failing to close the safe in a timely manner.
For everyone but the manager, it was a gloomy day. But luckily, we had a lot of hamburgers and fries to make, and that distracted us from the sad events.
Julie Lindsey is a fellow Carina author who released a new mystery this month, the second in her Seaside series. Please welcome her to the Muse while she tempts us with her island retreat.
In 2007, about four years before I knew I was a writer, my family visited a tiny East Coast island on vacation. It was the kind of place that worms into your soul and grows there. I never wanted to leave. In some ways, I really haven’t. For those of you who aren’t familiar, Chincoteague is a small island off the coast of Virginia. When I say “small” I mean 3×7 miles small. The tiny island community is delightfully unusual, made up of some transient folks who spend the winters elsewhere and others who stay year round. There are quaint little shops and gulls galore. Fishermen and tourists. Craftsmen and artesians. When it finally occurred to me I wanted to write a novel, I knew this was the perfect setting and I couldn’t wait to get started.
I can still vividly remember the scent of brine and salt in the heavy humid air and how the evenings smelled of ash from grills and bonfires with a note of butter from families eating dinner on their decks. I close my eyes and see the weathered boards of the fishing pier and the curving steps to the lighthouse. Chincoteague had everything I needed to tell my tale. The small community was great for lovable secondary characters. The island setting was perfect for romance. The national forest was great for scary chase scenes.
Yep. There’s even a national forest! Chincoteague’s sister island, Assateague, is attached by a long bridge over a marsh. Assateague is home to a national forest, national seashore, historic lighthouse and the famous wild ponies. Wild. Ponies. You see? The possibilities for romance and mystery were unending. I couldn’t resist.
Murder Comes Ashore is the second book in my new cozy series set on this island. I wish I could write a dozen more. I’ve never had so much fun writing anything. Rediscovering the sights and sounds of the island was a task I cherished. I only hope I did the town justice.
If you’re looking for a fun new mystery series, I hope you’ll consider Murder Comes Ashore. You’ll find mystery, chemistry and fun. Plus, who doesn’t need an island get away?
Have you ever visited a place that didn’t leave you when you went home?
Murder Comes Ashore
Patience Price is just settling into her new life as resident counselor on Chincoteague Island when things take a sudden turn for the worse. A collection of body parts have washed up on shore and suddenly nothing feels safe on the quaint island.
Patience instinctively turns to current crush and FBI special agent Sebastian for help, but former flame Adrian is also on the case, hoping that solving the grisly crime will land him a win in the upcoming mayoral election.
When the body count rises and Patience’s parents are brought in as suspects, Patience is spurred to begin her own investigation. It’s not long before she starts receiving terrifying threats from the killer, and though she’s determined to clear her family’s name, it seems the closer Patience gets to finding answers, the closer she comes to being the killer’s next victim.
Julie Anne Lindsey is a multi-genre author who writes the stories that keep her up at night. She’s a self-proclaimed nerd with a penchant for words and proclivity for fun. Julie lives in rural Ohio with her husband and three small children. Today, she hopes to make someone smile. One day she plans to change the world.
Murder Comes Ashore is a sequel in her new mystery series, Patience Price, Counselor at Large, from Carina Press.
Learn About Julie at: Julieannelindsey.com
by Lora Bailey
Thank GOODness, right? I know we aren’t completely done with the “white stuff” just yet, but I am so grateful to be celebrating the first day of spring. This has certainly been a long winter, for sure.
I love to hear the return of the birds in the morning and I can already feel the warmth of sunnier days. Spring is always so full of hope and promise, I can’t wait to dig into whatever new project I select for myself.
Every year about this time I go on a spring cleaning frenzy. I go through closets and drawers and purge my household of items no longer of use. I didn’t think I’d feel the frenzy this year, given our move to a new house 4 months ago, but I found myself spending most of last Sunday filling boxes and bags for donation.
I guess it’s my way of making room for what’s to come. I have a ton of gardening ideas for the new yard, and I still have a few room re-do’s to finish on the inside. Yet, spring is always the time to start a new writing project, and I’m very happy that I have two new stories in the works!
Also around this time is a ‘spring break’ type of vacation to somewhere warm with no snow. Unfortunately we had to skip it this year due to the house move. Perhaps that’s why the arrival of spring has me so jazzed this year.
How do you celebrate the arrival of spring?
by Livia Quinn
Spring is upon us! Or it’s supposed to be. I vote for no more of this.
My launch plan for the new series started with a decision to attend the RNC event – no not the GOP convention – but Jimmy Thomas’ Romantic Novel Convention in Las Vegas in July. If you aren’t familiar with Jimmy Thomas — well, where have you been– Saturn? Seriously, cover model and entrepreneur, romance genre advocate, a staunch educator for romance marketing, Jimmy has over 6000 yep, that’s SIX THOUSAND romance covers to his credit. And last year he put together, singlehandedly, the first Romance Novel Convention which included workshops, book signings, all inclusive pricing for the five day event, costume ball, and cover models…it was a steal. Still is.
By Sandra Parshall
I hate to haul out a cliché in my first sentence, but it’s true: it takes a village to make a novel. I’m not talking about the business of writing and publishing. I’m referring to all the other fictional people who populate the protagonist’s world.
Sidekicks, secondary characters, walk-ons who appear in one scene or chapter and never show up again — they’re all necessary to create a fully-realized fictional world, and each one deserves thoughtful attention from the author. A great lead can’t come to life in a crowd of cardboard cutouts. Would Sherlock Holmes still be thriving in books and on the screen if Watson, Mrs. Hudson, and Mycroft didn’t have their own vivid personalities and quirks?
The best secondary characters are worthy of co-protagonist stature. For example, medical examiner Dr. Maura Isles in Tess Gerritsen’s Rizzoli and Isles series started out as a minor character named for a woman who won naming rights at a charity auction. Now she shares billing with Detective Jane Rizzoli and has been the focus of several novels. Robert Crais wrote Joe Pike as Elvis Cole’s enigmatic sidekick in a long string of books, but eventually Pike emerged as a leading man in his own right.
I love creating secondary characters, whether they’re going to be around for a while or appear in only one book like the villain-of-the-moment. My protagonists, veterinarian Rachel Goddard and her husband Tom Bridger (yes, they got married between books five and six, and he was elected sheriff) have their own story arcs and I must stay true to them and avoid any drastic changes. With supporting characters, though, I can turn my imagination loose.
In Poisoned Ground, the sixth Rachel Goddard mystery, I especially enjoyed writing about Jake Hollinger, an aging lothario sporting Ted Danson hair, whose dalliances with local women have left a nasty trail through the community, and his current love, a seductive widow named Tavia Richardson whose husband died in questionable circumstances.
The adult children of a murdered couple and Hollinger’s adult son are all in the same situation: wondering how they can profit if their parents’ land is sold to a big company that wants to build a mountain resort for the rich in quiet Mason County, Virginia. I had to know each of them thoroughly to make them individuals instead of stereotypical greedy offspring.
My favorite secondary characters in Poisoned Ground are the Jones sisters — Winter, Spring, and Summer — who have never married and still live in the family house with their cats. (The youngest sister, Autumn, died tragically decades ago.) Winter is the disciplinarian, trying to keep her sisters in line. Spring dyes her hair bright gold and loves colorful outfits. Summer is quiet and sweet… or is she?
Series regulars such as Holly Turner and her grandmother and Rachel’s friend Joanna McKendrick have important roles in the story, and I discovered a few things about them I hadn’t known before. That’s one of the pleasures of continuing secondary characters: like old friends, they can still surprise you after you’ve known them for years.
I’ve always believed that people read mysteries more for the characters than for the clever plots. But the protagonists can’t do it all alone. A full cast of believable, well-developed supporting characters will make the leads shine and leave readers satisfied, regardless of who the villain turns out to be or what his or her motive is.
Who are some of your favorite supporting characters in crime fiction?
Sandra Parshall is the author of the Rachel Goddard Mysteries: The Heat of the Moon, which won the Agatha Award for Best First Novel of 2006; Disturbing the Dead; Broken Places; Under the Dog Star; and Bleeding Through (Sept 2012). A former reporter on newspapers in her home state of South Carolina as well as West Virginia and Baltimore, MD, she now lives in the Washington, DC, area with her journalist husband and two cats.
Learn more at her website http://sandraparshall.com/
Brother Fritz was an anomaly among the Jesuits at Gonzaga. Most of the religious were priests, a few were scholastics on the way to taking their vows, but very few had chosen to be brothers. I asked one of the priests why someone would make that choice, and he said there were some men called to serve who did not have the intelligence to master the philosophy, theology, and other disciplines Jesuit priesthood required.
But Brother Fritz was smart. And, unlike some priests, he had powerful skills in getting people to work together and encouraging camaraderie.
He was small, barely older than we were, and almost never without a smile. One distinction, which I didn’t notice but someone else pointed out to me, was his tendency to push his ears forward when he was listening to you. I wonder now if he had some sort of hearing impairment or attention deficit.
He also was virtually unflappable. In the midst of the kind of raucous chaos that can erupt with no reason at all at a boys’ high school, he was always the calm center. I only saw him get agitated once.
When I was a senior, our class was given a gift. The school provided us an alcove in the back of the auditorium, which I presume was once a cloakroom, as a senior lounge. The traditional spot for seniors had been a sectioned off part of the parking lot, where they smoked and snatched freshmen at random for torture. Our spot, newly painted and filled with used overstuffed chairs and couches, was a great place to get together–and no freshmen were harmed in the process. Besides chatting and smoking, the main activity was table shuffleboard. An alumnus had contributed a beautiful set, brand new when I was there, with shiny stainless steel pucks and a long smooth surface. The game was similar to the one played on ships, and also to bocce and curling. We coated the surface with fresh sand and slid our pucks down to the end to gain position or knock an opponent’s puck.
I fell in love of the game. I still love it, although it only found tables in a few bars over the past decades. I often think about installing a table in my house. Anyway, I was playing with a friend, and he got bored. When his turn came up he crumpled a piece of notebook paper, put it on his puck, and set it on fire.
Nothing looked more amazing than that puck gliding down the table with smoke trailing behind it. It reminded me of the movies with old steam engines, puffing their way along the tracks. I was delighted that such an amazing variation on a game I already love had been invented. Soon we had a whole pile of crumpled papers, and there are very few sights so vivid in my imagination as seeing four of these pucks trailing smoke, risking collision, and flying down the table surface at increasing speeds.
I was so absorbed in the game, I barely heard the choking sounds behind me. My friend, however, caught on and crushed out all the flames with his bare hands in the middle of a run.
I turned around to find Brother Fritz, red in the face, with his arms flailing. “Are you crazy? Are you out of your minds?”
My friend said he was sorry, immediately, so Brother Fritz turned all his attention to me. I got a lecture about how easy it would be for this old building to burn to the ground. Oddly, it was something I had not considered. This was new information. And, I thought there was a possibility that I might be in some sort of trouble. He deserved an explanation, so I calmly told him about what we were learning as far as the physics of fire and smoke. As I did this he leaned in and aimed his ears at me.
Now I was completely distracted—partly because someone had pointed this mannerism out to me and partly because I could feel laughter bubbling up inside, looking for escape. To keep myself under control, I continued speaking with in a steadier, quieter way. Brother Fitz leaned in further. He tilted his ears at a more extreme angle. I had the impression that I was being interrogated by Mickey Mouse.
I was definitely at risk for punishment, and I knew something crazy inside of me was going to explode and make things worse. I threw my hands in front of my face to contain the laughter and I began to shake.
Through my fingers, I saw Brother Fritz shift from anger to compassion. He thought I was crying, and he didn’t quite know what to do about that. He put his hand on my shoulder and said, “It’s all right. It’s all right.”
Somehow I found this funny. By now my whole body was spasming. It was too much for Brother Fritz. He turned to my friend who had invented Flaming Pucks. “Can you clean all this up?”
My friend nodded, and Brother Fritz took that opportunity to escape. I took the opportunity to let the laughter out. Side-splitting may not be an exaggeration. The next day, I still was sore.
March Madness is a very familiar term. First and foremost, of course, it refers to NCAA basketball. In Minnesota (and other states, I’m sure) we also dub our state high school hockey tournament with the title. It brings to mind Alice in Wonderland and the Mad Hatter, the March Hare and all their resulting insanity. Finally, it’s a good catch-all phrase around my neck of the woods for the dopiness that is Minnesota winter. Read the rest of this entry »
by R. R. Smythe
Writer’s Journey–where Brynn speaks with up-and-coming writers about their path to publication as well as the stories they love to read.
Welcome, Tanisha. Tell us about your writing journey?
I’ve written off and on for years, but only in the past three years have I been focusing seriously on my writing.
My Journey as a writer has taken the scenic route. I began writing at an early age about seven or eight years old. I was an only child until I was eleven and though I have a very tight knit extended family, I was the only girl in a family of boys. I think that’s why most of my characters are such strong willed women. I have a complete understanding of men because I grew up with boys and I have seen everything they do, the way they speak to each other, the way they interact, so I understand those characters. I also have an affinity for strong female characters that still have softness and vulnerability that makes others want to protect them.
By the time I reached middle school, I had written my first young adult series, The Ten, about a group of high school kids, reminiscent of Sweet valley High but with a more diverse cast of characters. My writing has always been multi-cultural since I have never lived a segregated life, neither has any character I’ve ever written. It became even more important to me to have diverse characters once my daughter was born, since she is bi-racial (we’ll tri-racial according to her) I wanted her to see that there are no limits to who your friends or loved ones are. Especially since my daughter is fair skinned with red hair and I am soo not.
I also have a love of everything sci fi, kung fu and comic book related. As I said, I grew up with boys which has basically turned my into a twelve year old boy in the guise of a grown woman. So not only do I watch the New Orleans Saints every Sunday during football season ( it’s a religion here in New Orleans) but I will geek out for hours on movies, books, tv shows and cartoons, in my pajamas with my daughter. She happens to be thrilled beyond belief that she may make it to Comic Con next year and is currently planning a costume.
What genre do you write?
I write paranormal romance when I write “adult” stories, but I began as a young adult writer. I still dabble every now and then, as a matter of fact I recently completed Day Fall, a retelling of little red riding hood. The main character is a 14 year old girl who has taken on the provider roll as a hunter since her mother was killed in a hunting accident. The main character, Lycia, tells of her village and the coming harvest and the choosing ceremony in which she will chose her marit (husband) and the impending danger of the Soltaia, the solstice in which the moons and suns of Eldorra rise and set at the same time, when the beasties that roam during the day are able to stalk the villagers at night as well. The nights are when the women of Lycia’s village hunt and fish, since the sun damages their delicate skin, while the men take on the traditionally female roles.
This story actually came about while watching television with my own very opinionated and strong willed 10 year old daughter. She was watching a movie and realized that if the bad guy was after the girl and everyone else was running, why didn’t the girl just set a trap and kill it, instead of waiting for someone else to do it. It made me wonder, why doesn’t she just kill it?
I wrote Dayfall that night, for her. She loved it. It’s posted on my blog tanishadelill.wordpress.com if you want to read it.
What are your favorite books and why?
My taste in books runs the gamut, Everything from Harry Potter to Kill a Mockingbird. I’ve always read and love stories about under dogs or strong characters. I’m a fan of Anne rice because of the gothic elements in her books. Janet Evanovich, she infuses so much humor into her characters, Charlaine Harris, love Sookie Stackhouse’s spunk, but most of her characters are spunky self-sufficient women. And of course, Sherilyn Kenyon who inspired me to write about the fantastic in everyday life.
Tell us about what your agent is shopping now, and what you have in the works?
Currently, my agent is shopping around the first in a plan series, “The First to Fall”. The First to fall, the first in a series, introduces New Orleans police detective Elijah Cain. Standing nearly seven feet tall with eyes the color of turquoise, he has the ability to read minds and live the memories of others making him intimidating and unnerving. When he meets the woman who has haunted his dreams for nearly a year, the attraction is immediate and all consuming. The enigmatic Dr. C. Keegan Kent is everything he’s ever wanted and more than he could ever imagine. As they grow closer, he is drawn into a world he never knew existed and a war that has been centuries in the making.
Tanisha Jones is a writer of Urban Theological Mythological Slightly Erotic Romance or Paranormal romance for the less creative thinker. She was born and raised in New Orleans, where she still lives with her daughter. When she isn’t writing, she is a true New Orleanian either cooking, reading or watching the New Orleans Saints.
Follow Tanisha at:
Tanisha D Jones, Divinely Dark Romance: