Sunday, December 4, 2016

COLD COMFORT Read an Excerpt

Amazon Kindle
This scene takes place soon after Riley begins working on Claire's case. 

“Thanks. Take the rest of the cookies.” Claire slipped her feet into her shoes and went to the counter for something to put the treats  in. “Riley ate a cake last night and doesn’t need any more sugar.” She slid the cookies into a red bag and handed it to Mary. “Tell Damien hi and I’ll see him Friday afternoon.”
Claire let Mary out the front door and locked it behind her. “Damien’s working with us on Fridays after school and all day Saturdays this season,” she said to Riley. “He’s a nice boy.”
“I did not ‘eat a cake’ last night. Maybe a big piece, but that’s all,” he said, following her to the back. He guessed she was over her mad spell—good woman. No grudge.
She spun around and walked backward for a couple of steps, facing him with a wide grin. “Okay, half a cake.”
When the smile reached her eyes, the corners crinkled. He caught her arm, afraid she’d stumble. He felt like a cat with a mouse—one hint and he’d have been on her. Shaking his head, he turned her around again and let go. “It was going to waste.” God, but he needed to finish this job and get out of here. “By the way, didn’t I tell you not to leave the store without me?” He gentled his voice, not wanting to be too hard on her, scare her.
“Yes, I believe you did,” she said, stooping to adjust a little tin soldier who kept watch over a glittering ballerina.
Maybe he’d been too easy. “But you went out anyway.”
“Yes, I did.” She looked up, giving him a guileless smile.
He glared. “I mean it. Don’t go out alone.”
She straightened. “I’ll try not to.” She spoke carefully, her tone deliberate.
“You’ll try?” He couldn’t believe her. He definitely hadn’t scared her. “Someone is trying to kill you,” he snarled.
“Yes, I know.” Her gaze met his without blinking. Under the honey lay a note of steel. “You’re supposed to find out who, not hide me in a closet.”
She was warning him. He stepped out of her path, at a loss, as she sailed toward the restroom with the empty cider carafe.
When she came back, she indicated the cash register. “I need to close out and take the money to the bank. I didn’t have time this afternoon. Want to go with me?” Her eyes tilted with amusement.

Riley surrendered. He watched her bustle around the shop, tidying and rearranging. It all looked fine to him. “Okay, then let’s go out for dinner. How about Shields Tavern? Unless you have other plans.” Like the guy next door. Or the nerdy lawyer.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Excerpt from Cold Comfort

Amazon Kindle
   “I’m off duty now. I can give you a ride,” Parsons said. “Where do you want to go?”
   “You sure? Don’t you have family or a friend you could stay with?”
   “No, no one.” She thought about Walt Kramer, her former fiancĂ©. She could hardly call him—he’d eloped with his secretary—his pregnant secretary—two months before the wedding. Six months later, it still stung. Tears of self-pity stung her eyes. Roughly, she wiped them away. Get over it.
   The officer wheeled her outside the door to his car and settled her in the seat.
   Numb from shots and pills, she described the events of the past week. “For three nights, I noticed a car with one dim headlight—it could have been following me.”
   “I’ll put it in the report. Keep watching for that odd light. Anything else?”
   She rubbed her forehead. “Maybe. Several times I had this prickly sensation of being watched. I thought I must be imagining it. And someone may have been inside my house.”
   “May? Did you report it?”
   “I started to, but I couldn’t find anything missing—only the rumpled bedspread and the scent of tobacco and aftershave. No signs of anyone breaking in. I couldn’t be sure all these . . . it wasn’t my imagination.” Maybe she should have called, but she’d been raised to take care of herself. She nibbled her fingernail, then shoved her hands under her thighs. “I didn’t want to overreact.”
   “To be honest, you wouldn’t have gotten much attention.”
   “I found one of the dolls in my storeroom with its head crushed.” But how could she report a broken doll? “It could have been an accident. It just didn’t look like one.”
   He nodded. “Someone’s being very clever, trying to scare you without leaving real evidence.”
   “Last night I got a phone call.” The voice replayed in her head, making her skin crawl. “As soon as I realized what he was saying, what he wanted to do, I hung up and turned off the ringer.”
   “Caller ID?”
   “No. But I added it today.”
   “Not much else you can do unless you get an unlisted number.” He glanced at her with apology in his eyes. “Chances are he watches enough TV to know how to hide his number.”
   “Tonight, just before he ran off, he said he’d be back.” She tightened her arms around her midriff.
   “He knows your name, and it sounds like he’s seriously focused on you,” Parsons said. “I’m afraid you’ve got a stalker.”
   A stalker! Her stomach turned over. A chill ran through her. The word sounded so much worse than a one-time thief or mugger. Why would anyone be stalking her? Since she’d abandoned her dreams of a family, her whole life centered on the store. She didn’t go out, didn’t search for her soul mate in cyberspace, didn’t do anything that would attract attention.

   “He was waiting for you. I found broken glass on the porch from the light bulb. It didn’t burn out.”

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The importance and influence of setting

Blue Ridge

I’ve been thinking about setting because I’m working on two stories in quite different environments. One is in Mexico and the other the Blue Ridge Mountains. The mountain setting is near me and I can easily go there. Mexico, especially the jungle in Chiapas, is much more difficult. I spent some time in Toluca and loved it, but I never got to Chiapas. It’s requiring a lot of research.

Setting, or place, has several functions in a story. The simplest is that it provides background for your characters if you use something well known or that has a character of its own. “He’s from the Bronx.” “She’s from Savannah.” These statements give an initial impression of the character based on our ideas of these places. You may go on to add detail or provide more specific information, but the reader still has certain expectations. We don’t expect the character from the Bronx to be slow-talking and laid back, and we’d be surprised to find the Savannah character edgy and in-your-face; if this were the case, you’d have to explain why.

On the road to Tenango
Setting also provides a backdrop and color for your story. Streets, buildings, restaurants, or some wild, rugged terrain—it all depends on your story and what you want to happen. Most people write what they know or have a good chance of finding out. I wouldn’t set a book in Alaska because I doubt if I could get enough of a feeling for it from books and movies or the Internet, but I could set one in Atlanta or most towns in the South. Even Texas, in the last few years, has taken on a more “cowboy” character and would be harder to write about in depth.

These days, if you chose a place you’re not familiar with, you can easily find pictures and information about restaurants, streets, businesses, and places of interest on the Internet. But be sure you’re correct. If you can find someone who’s spent time there, try to interview them or have them review your story for accuracy. They may be able to add some details you wouldn’t otherwise find, such as smells, sounds, whether it’s windy or the air is visibly polluted.
Threatening storm over TeoTenango

Setting also affects the characters’ attitudes and expectations. If they live in a small town with a strong religious community, it might influence their actions in certain situations, or it could provide part of the conflict. Think what kind of setting would add to your story. What could enrich it?

I have my work cut out for me, but I love both places, so it's fun.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

First in the McGuire Women Psychic books

   Rita Nelson opened the door for them. “Come in. I told them you were coming.” She gestured toward the darkened room behind her. An older woman with short gray hair pointed a remote control at a softly murmuring television set, and the orange-skinned characters faded away.
   The man, slumped in a worn brown recliner, continued to stare at the screen. His hands were folded across his stomach; light from an overhead fixture glinted off his scalp through his thin strands of hair.
   “This is Kate McGuire.” John said as he stepped into the room. He bent down in front of the woman, taking her hands in his. “Hello, Mrs. Nelson. May I ask you a few questions? I don't want to open old wounds, but something has happened, and I need your help.”
   Kate followed him in and, at Rita's nod, slipped into a stuffed chair on the other side of the silent man.
   The woman held tightly to John's hands. “I know you don't mean no harm, son, but there’s not no more we can tell. Harlan here don't talk to nobody nowadays, and Rita don't know nothing.”
   “I'd like to try again though,” he said, sitting on the sofa beside her without letting go of her hands.      “Do you know about the girl who was just found in Lake Jocassee?”
   “Heard it on the TV,” Harlan said, still staring at the screen.
   “It's possible that the same person who … took Charlene from you, is responsible for her.” He tried to avoid using the words they hated, words that pierced the heart. He caught Kate's eye and saw that she understood.

   “Is this one rich? Maybe the police'll try a little harder this time,” Harlan answered, turning to John.    “They didn't find nothing, just quit, when we lost our girl.”

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Misplaced Modifiers

Something I read recently brought modifier placement to mind. A modifier is a word, phrase, or clause that describes another word, phrase, or clause. Modifiers should be placed as close as possible to the word modified. Misplaced modifiers, those that are improperly separated from the noun they modify, change the meaning.
Copyright : Andrey Kiselev
I had a bag of apples from our tree in the freezer, so I made a pie. I would hope the tree is outside and not in the freezer, as this says.

She poured a hot cup of coffee. Hot modifies cup, not coffee.

For sale: three used girl’s bicycles. Used modifies girl, so this means the girl is used but the bicycles, which are for sale, could be any age or condition. However, this is such a common mistake that few would notice. It should be three girl's used bicycles. 

Only one had a flat tire, meaning the other two bicycles had good tires. Moving the word only changes the meaning entirely: One had only a flat tire, meaning it had no other tires.

I loaded the bicycle into the van with the flat tire. The van has a flat tire.

Something to think about. 

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Through the character's eyes

Unless you use your author voice as a narrator in your story, general wisdom says the narrative should be written in the voice and through the eyes of the viewpoint character. The reasoning behind this is first to avoid confusion for the reader. The character doing the thinking should always be clear. Second, using a single POV per scene should make the reader’s experience stronger and help generate stronger feelings for the character. 
Point of view gives us insight into the character. Narrative should show us the world through the character’s eyes and experience. Avoid showing things that character wouldn’t know or notice. A child wouldn’t walk into a living room and describe the red silk upholstery on the Louis XIV settee. A man who’s lived his life at sea is unlikely to rattle off the names of the plants in someone’s garden, and if he does, the reader needs an explanation: Sam, still getting used to being on land again, paused to study the lush garden. He recognized azaleas and bluebells, favorites in his mother’s yard, but most were nameless. Colors rose and fell, red to pink to white and back again, much as the swells of the sea. Okay, not great writing, but it shows how Sam sees the garden and how it relates to his experience.
But if I wanted to show Sam being familiar with the plants and landscape features, I’d give him some background to explain it. Maybe he kept a worn book on gardening in his cabin on the ship and dreamed of solid ground and an English cottage garden. Or his mother owned a nursery and he remembered helping her plant similar flowers.
There are many ways to do it; just keep in mind who the beholder is and how the scene will look through the character’s eyes. What will be important or stand out? Tie the scene to the character.
Can you think of any examples where the narrative didn’t fit the character describing it? Do you do it? I have to go back and check, and often I have to make changes. I find I was the beholder, not the character.

As Nathaniel Hawthorne said, “Easy reading is damn hard writing.”