Wednesday, March 14, 2018

The Joy of New Reading Pleasures

When you are an avid reader you are not only always watching for new books by favorite authors, or books in your preferred genre, you're also always looking for new authors to discover. One of the best discoveries to make is not only an author you had not read before, but someone who writes the sort of stories you love to read!  That was my joyous discovery in the past couple of weeks as I became acquainted with author Jo Hiestand, who writes in the mystery genre. Her works were very appealing and naturally I had lots of questions I wanted to ask her!

Jo, how did you become a writer.  Have you always wanted to write fiction?

First, thank you for having me as your guest today, Rebecca. I’m honored to be here. Now, to your question…
I’ve lived most of my life in St. Louis, Missouri, where I was born.  I wanted to be a writer since I was in grade school but I didn’t do anything about it until I was in my fiftiesI took a continuing education class through the local community college.  That writing teacher ignited my desire and I started writing in earnest.  My first novel, A Staged Murder, was published in August 2004.
Part of the trouble with deciding to write seriously, why it took me so long to get going, is that I have too many interests.  It was difficult to narrow it down.  I love musicI play guitar and the harpsichordso I thought about being a professional folksinger or a concert pianist.  Photography, drawing, quilting and baking also take up large parts of my lifecould I do something with that?  A hobby at one point was writing a script on some topic, like autumn or the day in the life of a pond, then go out and take illustrating photographs, record the narration (tape recorders were the medium back then) and plop it all together with music as a multi-media show with the projected slides, recorded narration and music.  That was so cool!  Could I professionally sell those to school districts for their curriculum?  I also toyed with the idea of setting up a tearoom, baking and selling cheesecakes, creating my own recipes and putting them in a cookbook….  Clearly, I was destined to use all this in my writing, ha ha!
I grew up reading The Three Musketeers, Rebecca, Jane Eyre, Kidnapped…  I loved authors such as Walter de la Mare, Daphne du Maurier, Mary Stewart, and Charles Dickens.  Then, in my adult pre-published years, I devoured every book of the Golden Age mysteries of Ngaio Marsh and Josephine Tey.  I loved the mood of the writing as well as the locations.  Without thinking about it, this atmospheric feel has crept into my writing in the form of my scene descriptions and location choices-–dilapidated stone barns, thunderstorm in the forest, midnight on the moors….
I’m a nature lovertrees, the land, birds, wildlife.  These elements crop up in my writing as descriptive scene writing and as character traits. 
I first tried my hand at writing when I was a teenager. I didn’t know a thing about plotting or editing or that certain publishers accepted certain genres. I didn’t know how to develop characters or describe a scene. Needless to say, that first book was awful, and I still cringe when I think about it.  I can’t remember the title of the thing, but the first lines are engraved on my memory, unfortunately. “You’re an ungrateful nephew, that’s what you are!” yelled the aunt. “But auntie…” “Quiet,” snapped the aunt. “You’re not getting any  more money. I’m cutting you out of my will.” “But auntie…”  Thankfully, the rest of this scintillating dialogue has been lost to the flames decades ago. Through reading authors I admire I’ve learned about plot and pacing and characters.  I’ve learned how to write in a more compact style and let the reader draw assumptions.  I ‘show’, now that I can write descriptively, so I think that brings the reader into the story. Thankfully (to me, if not to readers), I kept trying, and it paid off when the first novel of my Peak District British mystery series was accepted by a publisher.

How did you get started in your writing career? 
I’d been writing and submitting and getting rejections. But some of the rejections came with a few handwritten notes, which I learned was a “good sign” that I was close to producing acceptable stuff. I’d founded the Greater St. Louis chapter of Sisters in Crime (the international mystery writers/readers organization).  One of our members was Shirley Kennett, a published mystery author.  After some back-and-forth debate with myself, I asked her if she’d read my first Peak District mystery and tell me what was wrong with it, since I just couldn’t get it to an acceptable stage for publication. She read it, and wrote a five-page report on its strengths and weaknesses. But the three best pieces of advice were to change one of the male police detectives to a female, change the 3rd person POV to the woman’s 1st person POV, and to give her a female friend in whom she could confide. I bristled at the suggestions: I loved my book and characters, I didn’t want to change them. But the book was  not publishable, so after a few days I decided to follow her suggestions. I changed what needed changing, submitted it, and the first publisher I submitted it to took it. It pays to listen to advice!  When ten books in that series were out, I began another series.  The McLaren Mystery series saw the light of day in 2011; it features ex-police detective Michael McLaren who now investigates cold cases on his own. 

What are you working on right now?
At the moment, I’m polishing the second draft of the ninth book of the McLaren mysteries, Photo Shoot. If all goes well, it will come out August 2018.  I’m racing against the clock on this one so I can take it to a 30,000-attendee Scottish highland games festival this fall and sell it and my other books at my booth. (The story’s based in Scotland instead of his more usual locale in Derbyshire, England) I have another “Scottish” McLaren book, An Unfolding Trap, which is book five. I figured if I wanted more book sales at the Games I should have more than one book set in Scotland. So I came up with Photo Shoot. It’s a bit more personal than most of the books, in that this deals with his family in Auchtubh, Scotland—his grandfather, uncle and the uncle’s new wife. The uncle asks McLaren to investigate the year-old unsolved murder of his first fiancĂ©e. So I spend about half my writing time researching Scottish things I don’t know, like grade levels/ages of school children, dates for fishing seasons in lochs and which ones allow fishing from boats and which allow fishing from the shore, how many Scottish members of parliament represent each person, how long does the train ride from Edinburgh to Callander take, what Edinburgh neighborhood would a young career person live in, what is the name of a male lamb…  Your normal research topics.

Your books are coming out in Audio.  How do you like working in that medium, and how do you think it enhances your books?
Yes, the first McLaren mystery, Cold Revenge, came out January 2, 2018. The others are contracted and should be following this year, I assume. Audiobooks are a new experience for me and I have a lot to learn about the process. I’m in awe of the actors who narrate these books. Such talents, not only in reading but also speaking in different accents. James Lyne, who narrates Cold Revenge, even sings the song in the book! (A song is important to either the victim, to McLaren or to the plot in each McLaren book. The lyrics are part of the story.)  James Lyne puts such emotion into the scenes that my characters seem to step off the page, fully alive and feeling. The story’s so much richer in the audiobook form; the characters are real people. It’s a humbling experience to listen to such talented narrators, and it reminds me not only how important characterization is but also of my duty to write as well as I can.

 How do you come up with characters?
It’s probably no different from most authors. My characters are a mixture of people I know and invented traits I need them to have.  Detective-Chief Inspector Geoffrey Graham, in my Peak District series, is a combination of Ngaio Marsh’s Alleyn, a former minister in my church, and my imagination.  Police officer Scott Coral is 90% real, based on a friend of mine. Michael McLaren is about half and half. He’s based on a real British police detective but I made up a bit of his personality. I think a fragment of me creeps into some of the characters without my being aware of that. Friends will sometimes say a certain phrase in a book is “pure Jo”, but I don’t catch those when I’m writing.
 Characters are the heart of my stories.  They drive the plot.  So, for each book I create a mind map on a piece of paper.  I put my victim in the center of the page, with a circle drawn around that person’s name.  From there, lines like the spokes of a wheel radiate outward.  These are the characters who are connected to the victim, and this includes the killer.  They all must have some relationship to the victim or to each other.  For example, if the victim is a photographer, the characters could be his wife, a gallery owner, a rival photographer, a magazine editor who’s used his photos, his brother-in-law, the landlord of his studio, a client…  You get the idea.  People who are connected to the victim.  From these characters I create their personalities. Then I figure out who would have a reason for hating the guy enough to kill him.  I think this works better than a plot-driven story because the characters never do anything against their personalities.  It’s believable.
I also create a matrix for each character. This is a chart with five columns. The columns are headed: Character, Objectives, Personality Traits, Key Points, and Opponents. The character’s name, age, physical appearance and job go into the first box. Objectives state what each character is trying to attain in the story—fame, marriage, peace, escape from prison, start a business, learn the identity of his birth father…  It’s what drives the character to act.  Personality traits strengthen or weaken the character’s objective. He could be lazy, which would stand in the way of starting a business. Or he could be determined or shrewd or mentally deranged, etc.  Key Points is what might be important to that character, like he lied about his involvement with his former boss.  And then Opponents is anything or anyone that stands in the way of the character attaining his objective. This could be a person in the story or it could be the character’s own weakness. Or it could be something out of his control, like his poverty, or perhaps it’s as fundamental as nature/weather. Like Hemingway’s Old Man and the Sea. So when I have my matrix figured out, I can then write.
For Photo Shoot, the story I’m working on at the moment, McLaren and his grandfather and uncle appeared in book five, so they were established in my mind. I came up with the victim, her ex-husband, the student and his mother, and the local member of Parliament and his wife. Again, these are a mix of people I know or have met, and my imagination. I’ve used co-workers, friends, and even not-so-much friends to fluff out my characters. Every one of the people I meet has a personality trait that might crop up in a story sometime.

What is your next project?
When I complete Photo Shoot I’ll start on book three of my local series. These are the Linn House Mysteries (I write them under the pen name Jessie McAlan). It’s an amateur sleuth series, lighter than the British books.  My protagonist, Rona Murray, is the owner of a bakery/events center. She’s in her mid fifties, been divorced for a year from Johnny, and is trying to make a go of her business, which is on the banks of the Mississippi River about thirty miles south of St. Louis.  In the first book, The House on Devil’s Bar, a woman disappears from her property and is found the next day…dead and close enough to Rona’s place to start the tongues wagging in the small town of Klim, Missouri.  So Rona has to investigate the death in order to keep her business afloat and to clear her name.  Second book is A Hasty Grave, which focuses on a body found buried on her property, a cipher harking back to the James Gang days, and an elderly lady.  I’m developing the storyline for the third book. It begins on Halloween morning at a garage sale and involves a blood-feud.  Haven’t settled on the title yet. That’s something I have to have in place before I can write. A title focuses my mind, for some reason. Early contenders are A Haunting Past, Whispers From the Woods, or Muffled Oars. This is subject to change!  After that, it’s The Stone Hex, the next book in the Peak District mysteries. It centers around the English custom of turning the devil’s stone. It’s a real custom in Devon, but I’m letting a fictional village in Derbyshire have their own go at it. Of course a murder happens that night, and my CID team from the Derbyshire Constabulary investigates.
I guess that’s about it.
If anyone feels inclined, I can be reached at  or
Thanks for interviewing me, Rebecca.  This was fun!

Thanks, Jo, for being my guest.  I know I'll be reading or listening to your McLaren series. And I'll be looking for the Linn House mystery series too. 

Any comments or questions for Jo?

Thursday, March 8, 2018

A Romantic Trip Into the Past

The idea of finding romance in another time period has always appealed to me. There's something about a current man or woman finding love with a person from a totally different age that just seems to shine with promise. And that is what we have today in My Writing Corner.  

Author Michelle C. Reilly joins us to introduce her newest book, Savage Winds, the first book in her Savage Times series.

Michelle is a science fiction romance writer who spent ten years in the U. S. Navy and is the single mother of two boys. She currently lives in Las Vegas. She says she is generally an I.T. geek as well as being a geek of other things as well.  She puts her science fiction roots into her newest series with a time travel twist that totally caught my interest. 

Let's hear more about Savage Winds:

Ana Salvatore, a marine biologist, wants nothing more than to have an independent life free of her mobster family. While on an excursion in the Bermuda Triangle with her uncle, his boat explodes, and she wakes to find herself in the arms of gorgeous Captain Jacen Stirling on an ancient ship. It's like a fairytale, until he tells her the year is 1814.

Jacen is on a secret mission for General Andrew Jackson to infiltrate the infamous privateer Jean Lafitte’s encampment to determine his loyalties. When he discovers Ana while on his way to meet Lafitte, he can’t decide if she’s the worst thing that’s ever happened to him, or the best.

As the Battle of New Orleans draws nearer, can Jacen and Ana work together to help their country beat the invaders? Or will the British, the war, or the savage winds of time keep them apart?

These two characters also grabbed my interest and I asked Michelle to let me do a quick character interview. I needed to find out more about them and their budding romance:

Ana, can you tell us a little about your life as a Marine Biologist.  What made you choose that career?

I’ve always found marine life interesting. As a girl, I spent a lot of time on the ocean with my uncle. I’d dive into books on everything that lived within those depths. Later, I ended up in Santa Barbara, California, with my grandparents, and I was only a few blocks from the beach. I’d walk there every day. It brought me such solitude. It was only natural I attend UCSB and get my degree as a marine biologist. When my grandparents were tragically killed by a mudslide, it kind of threw me for a loop. But they were so proud of my schooling, so I continued until I eventually completed my Ph. D. I hope to one day begin my own program for marine life awareness.

What are you working on right now?

Jacen and I are planning on beginning a new graphic novel series centered around marine life. It’s still a bit of a secret. Of course, since his stories revolve around pirates, we thought this could be a good segue into bringing light to the danger many of the marine life face each and every day.

What frightens you most about your current situation?

I’m very afraid for my and Jacen’s child, and the rest of today’s children. Times are very unsteady. It’s imperative something is done to help ensure our children have a safe future, both with the current violence and with the issues affecting our planet.

What are your feelings about Captain Jacen Stirling? 

He is my world. I could never imagine ever loving someone as I do him. It’s incomprehensible. If someone had told me of a love like this prior to meeting him, I would’ve thought it impossible. I can never imagine living life without him.

Thank you, Ana, for telling us about Jacen and your hopes and fears for the future. 

Want to read more?  Here are the buy links:

And if you would like to get more information on Michelle, here is her contact information:


Thank you Michelle, for being my guest and introducing us to Ana and Jaycen. Any comments or questions for Michelle?

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Finding Romance in Exotic Locales

Exotic locations always mix well with romance and that's just what we have in store today in My Writing Corner. So put on your dancing shoes as our guest author, Mariposa Cruz, takes us on a whirlwind trip to South America with her newest romance, Wedding Tango.  

Mariposa tells us she balances writing with working as a corporate paralegal in her hometown of Reno, Nevada. In addition,  she writes freelance articles for local magazines and newspapers, but she still finds time for salsa dancing! 

Let's hear more about Wedding Tango. Here is the blurb:

Moira Williams is dismayed when her daughter, Tami, announces her engagement. Sure, Jon’s a great guy, but why do they have to get married in Buenos Aires?  Though she dreads seeing her ex-husband, it is Alan, the gorgeous father of the groom, who has her pulse racing.

Widower Alan Rochester buries his grief with non-stop home improvement projects, but a sexy redhead has captured his attention.  He’s eager to show Moira the sights of Buenos Aires from his college days, but is he ready to face the world again?

 South of the equator, nothing is as it seems.  Can Moira and Alan navigate through their feelings for each other and save their kids'’ dream wedding from becoming a nightmare?

Want to read more?  Here is the buy link for Wedding Tango:


Wedding Tango is the third in Mariposa's Rhythm and Romance series. If you would like to know more about her and her books, you can visit her at:

Thank you, Mariposa, for introducing us to your newest book.  Any comments or questions for Mariposa?

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The Joy of a Rediscovered Romance

What could be better for Valentine's Day, the day known for romance, than an old love re-kindled or re-discovered? Those are the kind of books that can touch the heart at any time, but particularly now. That is what guest author Donna Simonetta brings us today in My Writing Corner. Donna is a Maryland author who says she is living out her own true life romance with the man of her dreams--her husband. She calls him her "real life romance hero." 

She tells us her career has been a winding road, having worked in the business world for years. She got her MLS and worked in a library,  but now she is living her dream as an author writing contemporary and fantasy romance. Like so many writers, she also says she loves to read and she and her husband love visiting family and friends and spending time on the beach with an umbrella drink and a good book.  Sounds like fun!

Donna's latest book is Love is Lovelier. Let's get a blurb:

Heather and Mick have a long history together, and Heather wants to leave it in the past where it belongs. Yet, here Mick is, very much in her present, thanks to her brother Jeff, who hired Mick to be her boss at the Retreat at Rivers Bend.

It wouldn’t be so bad, except Heather and Mick are still attracted to each other like metal to a magnet. Oh, and her brother is considering offering Mick a partnership in the Retreat, which by rights should be hers. And even if they act on their attraction, Heather is a small-town, country girl, and proud of it, whereas Mick can’t get far enough from his West Virginia coal-mining roots.

Will they be able to get a second chance at their first love and find their happy ending together in Rivers Bend?

YES! Definitely a great romance for this romantic day!

Let's read on with an excerpt:

“Stick close. I’ll get you out of here.”
He used his broad shoulders as a wedge to propel himself though the crowd; Heather scurried to keep up with him so she could take advantage of the gap he created, not wanting to be so close that she could feel the warmth of his body through his elegant suit, but because she needed somehow to beat this crush of people to the Retreat to make sure that everything was in place for the post-christening party she’d planned for Bethanne – only perfection would do for her BFF.
She watched Mick’s back as she stuck close to him; he looked so strong and fit – it was hard to imagine him the way he was ten years ago, when he’d suffered his NFL career-ending injury, but the same business acumen that kept him with the Portland Pintos organization back then was the reason Jeff and Cisco hired him at the Retreat.
He’d be good for business – she’d just have to keep chanting those words in her head like a mantra, or else she’d do one of two things she’d regret – kill Mick, or kiss him, and she’d gone the kissing route with him before. It did not end well. And tempting as the killing option was at the moment, it probably wouldn’t end any better.

Want to read more? here are the buylinks:

Barnes & Noble:

The Wild Rose Press:

Amazon UK:

Here are the links to get in touch with Donna if you would like to learn more about her and her books:

Thank you, Donna, for being my guest today and for introducing us to your romantic world.  Any comments or questions for Donna?

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

The Joy of Reading & Writing Romance

February is the month of love so romance is naturally that is my topic this week. Let’s face it, who doesn’t love reading a story with a happy ending or one that leaves the reader with tears, whispering  “…ahhh?”  To me that has always meant what reading a romance was all about. I wanted that happy ending for the characters. No matter how chaotic my own life was at the time I wanted to know there were happy endings out there for at least someone – even if the people were fictional. 

When I ask writers about why they love writing romances a good many say the same things – they love writing stories with a happy conclusion and they like the idea of writing positive, upbeat stories. And let’s face it -- readers continue to look for those types of stories. They may want to escape from real life for a few minutes into a fantasy world where no matter how bad things look for a while, the ending will be happy.

That positive conclusion and knowing what is coming is also why I always have loved going back and re-reading some of the great romantic tales that I have always loved – stories like Pride and Prejudice or Sense and Sensibility. Those books captured my heart in high school and I keep going back to them from time to time, just to finish them again with that same “ahhh.”

I have to admit in my writing I was always inspired by the “happily ever after” real life story of my mom and dad. She knew she wanted to marry him from the first moment she saw him, even though she was just a young girl.  The story she told us about the first time she saw my dad was a line I stole for one of the first romance novels I ever wrote – Home Fires Burning.  Now that one scene may have inspired the book, but her love story went in a more romantic direction--one I may write one day. She was truly a daring romantic heroine. The minute she learned he was back in the US from World War II, she quit her job in California to grab the first train back to Colorado to meet him. They eloped as soon as she got back.
Her love story and the fact that she told it to us so many times made me a fan of romance tales. She also loved reading romance novels -- Gone with the Wind being her favorite. She always seemed to have a copy of it around. A good many of my favorite old romances still grace my book shelves together with newer mystery novels, thrillers and fantasy tales.  Among them… that romance novel I loved writing so much – Home Fires Burning. I set it on a Colorado ranch, similar to the location where my mother met my father. It’s still available on Amazon:

“I’m going to marry that man some day!”

Little Bonita Dominguez made that pledge the first time she saw Max Cameron. Now it’s about to happen, but nothing is going the way she planned. Carrying a secret she has kept since she left the ranch ten years ago, she would prefer to be back in California, where she has built a new life, a new life that doesn’t include Max.

Now a chic, sophisticated woman, Bonita certainly isn’t the same playful girl Max remembers from the past. For the past ten years he has devoted his life to his ranch. Does he have room in his heart for Bonita? Or would loving her endanger the legacy he wants for his heirs?

Buy Link:  Amazon

Why do you love reading or writing romance? I’d love to hear from you!

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

A Ghostly Mixture of Murder and Romance

A murder mystery mixed with romance and ghostly doings... what could be more enticing to a reader than those possibilities?  That's what author M. S. Spencer brings us today in My Writing Corner as she introduces us to her latest book,

Our featured author says she has lived or traveled in five of the seven continents, but the last thirty years were spent mostly in Washington, D.C. as a librarian, Congressional staff assistant, speechwriter, editor, birdwatcher, policy wonk, non-profit director, and parent. After many years in academia, she worked for the U.S. Senate, the U.S. Department of the Interior, in several library systems, both public and academic, and at the Torpedo Factory Art Center.

She has published eleven romantic suspense novels, and has two more in utero. She tells us she is the mother of two fabulous grown children and an incredible granddaughter. She divides her time between the Gulf Coast of Florida and a tiny village in Maine. So, take it away, M. S.! Tell us about your newest book, The  Pit and the Passion.

Thanks so much, Rebecca, for letting me talk to your readers about my new cozy murder mystery romance. The Pit and the Passion: Murder at the Ghost Hotel, takes place on the spot where John Ringling began building a luxurious hotel in the 1920s:

Left to slowly disintegrate over the decades, it inevitably came to be called the Ghost Hotel. And what do you find at a ghost hotel? Anyone?

Let's get a blurb:

At midnight, in the darkness of a deserted hotel, comes a scream and a splash. Eighty-five years later, workmen uncover a skeleton in an old elevator shaft. Who is it, and how did it get there? To find out, Charity Snow, ace reporter for the Longboat Key Planet, teams up with Rancor Bass, best-selling author. A college ring they find at the dig site may prove to be their best clue.

Although his arrogance nearly exceeds his talent, Charity soon discovers a warm heart beating under Rancor’s handsome exterior. While dealing with a drop-dead gorgeous editor who may or may not be a villain, a publisher with a dark secret, and an irascible forensic specialist, Charity and Rancor unearth an unexpected link to the most famous circus family in the world.

The Pit and the Passion: Murder at the Ghost Hotel opens when Charity Snow, ace reporter for the Longboat Key Planet meets Rancor Bass. He is preparing a compendium of ghost stories of the gulf Coast and she is tasked with helping him. Together they interview George the publisher, asking for all the ghost stories of the Gulf Coast he knew. The one ghost story he hadn’t heard involved a small child who haunted a restaurant on Longboat Key. When they go to interview the restaurant staff, they uncover a hitherto unknown mystery. 

Here's an excerpt:

“I said, you’re wrong. There has been a sighting there.”
“In the Ghost Hotel?”
“N…no. Not exactly.” He seemed reluctant to admit it. “In the Chart House. It’s built on the site of Ringling’s Ritz-Carlton, isn’t it?”
George put down his cup. “I can’t believe it. I thought between me and my father we’d heard of every event here on the key.”
Charity leaned forward. “What else do you know about it?”
Rancor looked past her to George. “Got the skinny from the bartender. It’s a little boy, about seven years old. Kid shows up in the men’s room fairly regularly. Plays with a toy or just sits there.”
“But who is he?”
Bass heaved a sigh, as though her questions were too, too exhausting. “Should make you wait for the book.”
“Oh, really?”
After a tense pause, he grunted, “Waiters call him Tommy T. Consensus is that he was the son of a carpenter working at the hotel. Fell down an elevator shaft.”
“How do I know? Isn’t that your job? To research and authenticate these stories. I just happened to hear about it at happy hour.”
Charity couldn’t help herself. “And what exactly is your job then?”
“To put the crap you draft into proper English. I’m assuming you’re incapable of decent prose, being a reporter and all.”
She rose an inch, but George put a hand on her knee. “Easy now.” He gave Bass a warning look. “Charity is here to help you, yes. However, you are perfectly free to contribute to the research, provided you have at least two sources for every item. The way a professional journalist would.”
“Yeah, yeah. So, what’s next?”
Charity reflected that she had never disliked a person quite so thoroughly—not even that first boss who loved to put her down in front of the staff—but she understood that George’s reference to professionalism extended not just to Bass but to her. “I want to interview the Chart House staff.”
“I’ll go with you.”
She kept her eyes on George. “That won’t be necessary, Mr. Bass.”
“Well, I want to.” He rose and dusted something minuscule from his faded jeans. “I need a drink. And besides, I can worm more information out of the waitresses than you can.”
Hateful. Absolutely, positively hateful.
Before she could come up with a crushing retort, George broke in. “Yes, take him along, Charity. We’d better get the story quickly—I don’t know when they’re planning to start demolition.”
Charity retrieved her cell phone and purse and led the way to her car. Bass regarded it with dismay. “Are you nuts? I can’t fit in a Mini Cooper.”
She looked him up and down. “What are you, six one?”
“And a half.”
Such a child. “You’ll fit.” She got in and started the engine. After a minute, his feet appeared, then his torso, and finally his head. He threw his jacket in the back and settled on the seat, his knees just grazing his nose.
“At least open the window so an extraneous appendage or two can stretch out.”
“All right.”
As they neared the entrance to the Longboat Key Club, a siren started up behind them. Charity pulled over to let two police cars and an ambulance go by.
They turned into the club drive. She followed them.
“What are you doing?”
“I want to see where they’re going.”
“What are you—an ambulance chaser?”
“No…a professional journalist.”
The ambulance made a left and headed toward the building that housed the restaurant, but instead of pulling up to the entrance, it stopped in a corner of the parking lot. Charity drove past and parked in another section. By the time Rancor had unfolded himself from the seat, she had reached the first squad car. “Hey, Pete. What’s up?”
The police officer—a husky man of about forty with the hard, brown skin of a fisherman—greeted her. “Oh, hi, Charity. Construction crew reported skeletal remains.”
“Really? In the Chart House?”
“Nope.” He gestured at a pile of broken asphalt. “Parking lot. Backhoe started breaking up the pavement in the southeast section and a sinkhole opened up. The foreman found bones at the bottom. Called a halt and us.”
“Mind if I tag along?”
Two medics were working on something in a deep pit. One of them looked up. “Hey, Pete, I think we’re gonna need a specialist.” His face was tinged an unattractive green.
“You okay, Carl? What kind of specialist?”
“Forensics.” He turned away. They heard gagging.
The other EMT added, “And maybe one of those physical anthropologists. Or a dentist.” He helped Carl up and they climbed out of the pit.
“How come?”
He laughed. “’Cause from the looks of this joker, he’s been around a looonnnng time.”
Charity ached to get a look at the thing but knew Pete wouldn’t let her until they’d secured the scene. Rancor apparently felt no such compunction. He marched past the policemen and peered into the hole. Turning to Charity, he yelled, “I think we’ve found our ghost.”
Buy Links:

Barnes and Noble:

Thank you, M.S. for being my guest and introducing us The Pit and The Passion. Any comments or questions for M. S.?

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

New Beginnings from Sad Endings

Normally in this space every week I look at new books that are coming out or have just been released and talk to the authors or characters about their story and writing journeys.  But this week, I am looking at new beginnings.  They are reflected in the new work I am doing and also the new look of my blog.  I've always looked at the new year as a way to either start a new project or get a fresh perspective on old projects or stories I've been working on for a while. It's also an opportunity for looking back -- at things and people who have made a difference in my writing and wanting to be a better writer.

One of those writers who first struck a chord with me as a writer is no longer with us, but she  had a big impact on me. I'm certain her work will continue to influence me and a good many would-be suspense writers in the future. I'm speaking of Sue Grafton, who wrote the Kinsey Millhone mystery series. When I heard of her death I felt like I had lost an old friend, even though I'd only met her a couple of times. Her death touched me because I felt like every year or so I would get the opportunity to check in with Kinsey and see what sort of trouble she was in now. 

I first discovered Kinsey way back in the 80s on a trip to Santa Barbara, and it struck me how similar Kinsey's hometown of Santa Teresa was so similar to it. (Duh!) The first book I read was "F is for Fugitive," but it sent me looking for all her earlier books. I was thrilled to find a number that I had to catch up on. After  getting through A - E, I was forced to wait for G, and I've kept up with every book ever since. Actually I not only read them all, I found myself buying the audio versions just to listen to them all again.

I've just finished listening to X, and I feel sad knowing that Y will be the final book I get to listen to. If I can find all of those audio tapes, I may listen to them all again!

But it wasn't just reading her books that touched me. Listening to her talk about her writing and her feelings about Kinsey at a booksigning in Denver and then the thrill of meeting her was a special treat for me. Getting the opportunity to listen to her talk about her beginnings as an author at a Left Coast Crime gathering in Monterey a few years later was even better.  Hearing her talk about working as a "script girl," and wanting more only made me aware of the struggles we all face. Best selling authors don't pop out of the bookstore shelves without a lot of work and she put in the hours.

So this year I am committing myself to new beginnings with my writing and working harder at getting books not only written but published.  I have more stories to tell, so I plan on getting them told! I may not have an alphabet to get through, but when I think of Sue Grafton and her drive to get through the alphabet it makes want to work a little harder to get those stories that are in in my head down on the written page.