Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Bringing Inspiration Home

A couple of weeks ago, I told you about some of the research I've been doing. I actually went on a field trip to research a very rare type of wood, but the shop that might have carried it was selling off their fixed assets when I arrived - chairs and shelving. No stock left. So I mail-ordered. I am now the proud owner of a cat carved from palo santo wood.

Along with the cat, I received a free tree agate and some perfume. According to the card that accompanied the agate, it provides inspiration and wisdom. Sounds like it belongs right next to my computer, don't you think?

The point of this exercise was to smell the palo santo. It is supposed to have a unique fragrance, and the wood is regulated. It can't be harvested until after the tree has died and the wood is seasoned for a period of time (left lying "in state" outside).

My office is VERY smelly fragrant right now. The first couple of days, it made my eyes water! But now I have real-life experience with what this rare wood smells like, feels like, etc. What does it smell like? As advertised, the wood is something like pine/mint/lemon. I couldn't quite imagine those scents together, but each of them is present (or I smell them because someone told me I should). The agate is infused with "Druidess" perfume. It smells like perfume - I'd venture to say more along the floral spectrum.

Now I can apply my real-life experience to my characters. I know that Jared (my hero in Epitaph 2), who is a finish carpenter and likes to work with wood, will be able to craft pieces of the wood and that those pieces will serve as a room freshener (among other things). I guess that means its time to get back to work!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016


One of the toughest decisions today - what to read!

I work a day job, and then I work the night job-writing. Like most people, my life is BUSY, but there's always time for reading. In fact, reading is an essential part of my life. I am subscribed to several book newsletters that offer recommendations, and I have my go-to authors along with newsletters that I subscribe to. I have several books on my Kindle in several different genres, and in spite of having a long TBR list, I continue to comb through those newsletters and mailers and recommendations and frequently add more.

I'm currently reading Robyn Carr. I met her at the Chicago Spring Fling, and when I saw an anthology of her books come through on one of my newsletters, I jumped on it (and yes, I have books from her from the conference). I'm finding her writing style very different from most of the books I read, and at first it threw me for a loop. "This isn't normal." But it's very refreshing. I like her voice. I'm reading the Thunder Bay series, and each book touches on several different characters. It's a continuing saga, which doesn't mean you have to have read the previous one to pick it up, but if you do, it's almost like picking up where you left off. Like being the postmaster and everyone stops into the post office to gossip. Or they stop into the diner for a cup of coffee and to find out what's going on in town. And she does it well.


I really think this is my niche. I like reading small town books, where everybody knows your name, in any genre. Stephen King does that in his horror novels. Heck, going back to Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden. Communities. Places where people "see" each other and know when something is wrong or someone is missing.

Do you prefer billionaires or small town life? What are you reading? Is there an underlying theme or a voice in a book that speaks to you?

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

The Three Stooges and Home Repairs

For the past couple of weeks, we've had workmen at our house doing home improvements. First, we had a new roof after our insurance guy found wind damage. I can't say enough good things about the roofers - Toby and his son, Nick. They did a great job, were friendly, cleaned up after themselves every night and honored all of DH's wishes in regard to protecting other parts of the house. We also had siding added, and the coordinator for those guys bothered Toby nearly every day to make sure he was on schedule and they'd be out of the way on the siding guys' schedule. Okay, a little irritating, but he wanted to keep things moving. The weather cooperated for the most part, and Toby finished the job on schedule.

Enter the three stooges. Now, I realize there is bound to be some inconvenience when people are working on your house, but these guys were like slaves with that coordinator holding a whip to their backs. They worked fast, and messy and were IN THE WAY a lot of the time. They blocked the driveway from 7am until 7pm (in fairness, Toby blocked the driveway, too, as he used his truck as a dumpster, but he wasn't there both before and after work hours). DH had some instructions for the siders as well, which they either didn't get or didn't pay attention to. One of the things involved fixing the outside water faucet they broke. Then, with all three of them crowded around the faucet, they made it worse. Wrenches on the driveway, they waved when DH drove in, and he had to point to their tools to get them to move them and make room for his car. Do you have to leave your tools in the middle of the driveway? So the scheduler sent out a plumber at DH's request since the stooges couldn't figure out how to fix the faucet. The plumber shows up and its "Let's Make a Deal." I told him the scheduler was paying for it since his stooges broke the faucet. Oh.


When they completed the job, Mr. Scheduler decides the roofer guy helped him out by leaving his protection on those parts of the house DH wanted covered and will throw him a couple of bucks to thank him (because if the roofer hadn't extended that courtesy, the stooges would have ruined more of the house). So he brings CASH, puts it in a baggie, and staples it to the tarp the roofer left OUTSIDE. "I told him it would be here and I told him to get over here and pick his stuff up now that we're done." (more whipping of the slaves, except the roofer isn't one of his slaves.)

I have never been so glad to have a project finished in all my life. They're done now, provided we don't find something they've screwed up. The roofer is coming back to repair the NEW ROOF where they scuffed it up, and being the good guy he is, he says this is pretty normal for siding guys.

Did they do a nice job? Overall, I'd say yes. They put in long hours so I don't want to criticize overmuch, but it sure would have been nice if they were more careful while they were working instead of letting things fall off the house, banging into things on the way down. For the most part, they cleaned up after themselves. The end product looks nice, but man, the stress of watching them work! If DH had been home, he would have been out there yelling for them to BE CAREFUL every five minutes. And then to have a plumber who wanted to barter with me? (he did a nice job, he did a nice job, he did a nice job)

This was one of those times that I kept siccing DH on them because Mr. Scheduler AND Mr. Plumber took one look at a woman and decided she was dumb. Period. End of Story. Ignore what she says or try to take advantage of her "lack of brains." Mr. Plumber learned quickly not to underestimate me, and Mr. Scheduler can just deal with the wrath of the Big Guy.

Did I mention I'm glad its done?

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

In the name of research

As an author, I find my characters often have secrets. In fact, one of the tenets of fiction writing is that characters are SUPPOSED to have secrets, but when they keep them from their creator, that can be interesting. Of course, that's part of what makes writing so much fun!

I'm about halfway through the second Epitaph book and I found that my hero is hiding something. Originally, I thought it was one thing, but it has turned into something else, which has sent me on Internet searches.

The Epitaph series is decidedly supernatural, with ghosts and spirits and haunted houses, but sometimes I'm amazed at the way the research falls right in my lap. My hero is a carpenter, which means he works with wood on a daily basis, but generally not soft wood. So imagine my surprise when I was looking for a type of wood that would fit my criteria for the story and stumbled on Palo Santo. This is definitely NOT something Jared would look for in his everyday job, but it provides interesting backstory, and a secret that he doesn't want the world to know.

I will admit that while I was looking into this fragrant wood, which is used more for incense and essential oil, that I reached a point where I rolled my eyes and shook my head. Even I, as someone who appreciates a supernatural bent, had reached saturation. In fact, at one point I'd talked myself out of pursuing the "Holy Wood." These little babies in the picture? The person who makes them recommends hanging them in the shower (out of the water stream) to bring out the scent of the wood.

Today's writing journey is exploratory. I have two chapters outlined BEFORE the discovery of palo santo that need to be written, and there is a local shop I'd like to visit before I commit to Jared's secret.

Even if palo santo doesn't work with the current story, I've learned something new, and I always enjoy the journey.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Living with a Writer

Since I'm still "technically" recovering from surgery, I'm not supposed to take long trips, particularly driving long distances. I have precautions I'm supposed to follow. So when I started to panic about driving three and a half hours to Writer's Police Academy, my Dear Husband offered to take me. We made a stop halfway to visit One Young Son, which gave me the opportunity to get out of the car and stretch my legs. I have to admit, I was glad not to have to drive that distance. While I traveled well, the doctors know what they're talking about.

While we were on the road, I started brainstorming with The Big Guy. Trying to work through plot points in Epitaph 2, my husband has an area of expertise that is relevant. Unfortunately, he doesn't always understand how a writer's brain is wired. I'd ask a general question, and he, being an engineer, wants specifics and parameters. If I knew the specifics, I wouldn't have to ask! He doesn't always follow my train of thought or my path to logic. So I started laying out the characterization and the plot, which helped somewhat, but when I started to venture into the "woo-woo" parts, I lost him. This does not compute. He shot me a startled and confused look with the unspoken, "What??"

What can I say? My only explanation for him is that's how my brain is wired. I'm a writer. I get to have an imagination!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Writer's Police Academy

This past weekend, I joined a couple hundred fellow writers at the Writer's Police Academy. It's an awesome opportunity for authors to get in the trenches with policeman and firemen and EMTs to find out how things work and ask dozens of questions. We go to the school where they are trained and the fun part is that we get involved in real-life scenarios.

When we arrived at the Tech the first day, it was to the scene of an accident. Someone was lying on the hood of a car after going through the windshield and other passengers were trapped inside the car. Once we'd all arrived on the scene, the police drove in, lights flashing and sirens blaring, along with firetrucks and ambulances. They demonstrated (very realistically!) how they triage the victims, including putting one of the drivers through a sobriety test (which she failed). A flight for life helicopter joined the scene and transported the most seriously injured person, while they declared the man on the hood of the car a potential fatality (he can't be declared dead until the coroner arrives). Except the guy on the hood kept turning his head (I'm sure he was uncomfortable!) When the scenario ended, the "dead guy" hopped off the hood to a rousing round of applause. Then the questions commenced. Details the authors wanted or had missed. And the weekend continued from there. Lots of hands-on stuff, lots of demonstration stuff, more live-action scenarios. SO SO helpful for authors, and a lot of fun. One of my classes was specifically designed to help you kill off your characters using poison. Had several police officers look at us in our classes and say things like "you're making me nervous!" with the scenarios the authors presented.

Back to the daily grind again this week and working on the next in the Epitaph series. The funny part? I have more ways to kill off characters than I'd ever imagined before, thanks to the Writer's Police Academy.

That is kind of scary!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Back to normal?

I started back to the day job last week after six weeks recuperating. During my time off, I developed some new habits (read "better" habits), but it is interesting to see how much the day job affects my behavior. I plan to maintain those new habits as much as I can. I have also re-established some of the old habits, one of which is reading on the train ride into the Big City.

So what did I do with my time off? I finished Epitaph and sent it off to the publisher who'd requested the full MS to review. I also interviewed people for characterizations and information I want to include in the next book. It was nice to have "all the time in the world" to write, but with all that time, I also found a lot more diversions. So one of the old habits that I'm happy to get back into is focused writing time. Knowing I have to finish a project motivates me to concentrate during my allotted time and budget certain times of the day for other distractions (like, say, work?).

As I retrain my brain to return to a set schedule, I've started work on the second in the Epitaph Series. Epitaph is a ghost story, and the second will also contain a decidedly supernatural element. Thanks to my experiences while I've been laid up, I have a strong starting point, with fun characters. I know what supernatural element I'm including (and the hint for today is "inosculation"). The immediate goal is how to tie all this together into a compelling story. There is a strong suspense element in Epitaph along with the inevitable romance, and I 'm working on finding more suspense in the next book. I've got a five thousand word start, but I'm still in the discovery phase. Starting a new story is always exciting! This one hearkens back to "You've Got Mail" or "Pillow Talk" (those are old movies in case you aren't familiar), but not as "fluffy."

And speaking of exciting, I'll be attending Writer's Police Academy in Green Bay, which should provide lots of fodder for the third book in the Epitaph series with a policeman as a hero, and quite possibly help with this current book once my plot starts to gel.

What do you do when you have time off?