Was it murder--or something serious?
Philip Marlow in Murder, My Sweet

Friday, August 29, 2014

Untitled Story snippet #1

Had I but known… 
That’s how all those old mysteries began, isn’t it?  Had I but known the horror creeping through the dark passages of sinister Kensington Manor.  Or was it the creeps whoring?  Something like that.  The gist being that if the sensible heroine (usually a girl with much more expensive lingerie than me) had only known the dangers that lay ahead, she’d never have taken that job as governess.  Which is, I guess, the difference between me and those nightie-clad nannies.  Even if I’d known what waited for me in the castle in the desert I’d still have taken the job.  I’d have taken any job at that point.
I didn’t like her though.  I did not like Shannon Hilliard at our first meeting.  From her pale eyes to her tiny feet in those ridiculous pointy orange shoes.  I didn’t like the way she sat smoking across from me and flicking ash into my paperclip dispenser, or the way she kept shaking her liquid gold hair over her tanned shoulders as though savoring the way it felt against her bare skin. 
“You’re not what I expected,” she said, a comment which rarely wins friends and influences people. Her voice was light and indifferent.
“What were you expecting?”
She shrugged, shook the hair back again.  “Kinsey Milhone.  Sharon McCone.”
Great.  A fan of detective fiction.  At least she didn’t say Nancy Drew.  With my last name it’s always a danger.
“You look more like a lawyer,” she said, adding magnanimously, “but that’s all right, in fact that’s perfect because I want you to pretend to be my lawyer.”
“And David Bellando referred you to me?”
Something malicious crossed her colorless eyes as though she were enjoying a laugh at my expense.  “Right.”
Once upon a time I used to work for Bellando Investigations.  In fact, up until two months ago when Vanessa Noble bequeathed me an unexpected ten grand, which I had used to set up my own operation.  This hadn’t gone down especially well with David Bellando for a variety of reasons, none of them having to do with regret over losing my skills as an investigator, since he didn’t believe I possessed any.
If Dave was sending me clients it had to be because the client in question was defective.
“And what does posing as your lawyer entail?”
“A couple of days.  A week at most.”  She blew a stream of blue smoke across the desk. 
“I mean, what do I have to do?”
“Nothing.  Just agree with everything I say.  Throw some legal mumbo jumbo at them if necessary.”
“You’re not actually expecting any legal advice from me?”
She laughed at the idea.  “I’ve already talked to my lawyers.  I know exactly what I’m doing.”
Yeah, right.
“And you’re going to pay me five thousand dollars for this?  Plus expenses?”
“I’ll write you the check right now.”  She pulled a checkbook out of a flat orange snakeskin bag.  “Pen?”
After a hesitation I handed her my pen.  Obviously there was more to this than met the eye, but five grand was five grand.  I needed the money.  I needed the work.  My only other case involved a lost dog.  And the little time I’d spent in the presence of the AWOL pup’s owner, Mrs. Louisa May-Martin, had me convinced I’d be doing the dog a kindness to let it stay missing.
She wrote the check with a little flourish and handed it over to me.  Round, immature writing with little secretive loops on the ‘Os’ and ‘As’. 
“I was hoping to leave for the castle tonight.  We’ll need to drive out together.”
“The castle?”
She made a face.  “The Castle in the Desert.  That’s what they call it.  I don’t suppose it is.  Everything looks giant to you when you’re a kid.”
I didn’t quite follow that, but it didn’t matter. “Okay,” I agreed,  “I’ll meet you here at…what time?”
Seven o’clock works for me.  That way we’ll miss the worst traffic.”
Seven o’clock,” I said, figuring that would give me a bit of time to run some checks on the peculiar Miss Hilliard herself.   

She rose and headed for the door.  One hand on the knob, she paused to ask, “I assume you have a gun?”         

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Now that's what I call a writing prompt

1093-62338 licensed through shutterstock

What the heck? I have no idea what this is, but I find it totally crazy and totally wonderful.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Simple Pleasures - Stretching

Licensed thru Shutterstock
I notice that I stretch more in the summer. I blink awake and give a big, full body stretch, and it feels so good. In fact, oddly it almost feels like swimming. That easy, buoyant sensation.

Maybe it’s something to do with the quality of light and air in summer? The winter is chilly and the impulse is to scrunch up and stay warm. In summer, we unfold and reach out…

Stretching helps your body wake up. It gets the blood flowing through muscles and opens up your circulation. Oxygen! You reach out as though to embrace the morning and with that action open up your chest cavity -- your heart and lungs expand -- and those first deep breaths feel great. You’re alive and it’s a new day.

Look to this day!

For it is life, the very life of life.

Friday, August 8, 2014

But seriously

I recently heard one of the silliest comments ever from a fellow writer: if the reader is not engaged by my story, then the failure is mine.

Uh. Not necessarily. Speaking as someone who has many times endured the pain of hearing a twelfth grade English class taking turns reading aloud…no. Seriously. No. If the reader is not engaged, there’s a very good chance the reader may not be a very good reader.

Or it might not be the right book for this reader. Every book is not right for every reader.

Or maybe the book IS total crap. That’s always a possibility, but I really do think this tendency of authors to grovel before reader/reviewers is not good for any of us. And I say this as both a reviewer and an author.

All readers are not created equal. Any more than all writers are created equal. Or all baseball players are created equal. And loving to read is not the same as being a good reader. Any more than loving to sing means you can stay on key.

I wish I had a dollar for every time a reader posts something about my books being so much funnier or wittier or more riveting in audio. The reader puzzles over why this should be the case. But there’s no mystery to it. The book is finally being delivered correctly -- the pacing, the emphasis, the pronunciation, for heaven’s sake! are all finally right. The correct dosage is being administered to the patient.  

It’s interesting to me that while we’re all aware that reading comprehension scores have been dropping for years, we fail to see that this might affect us as writers. But of course it does.

However, what really makes me uneasy about this unfounded glorification of sometimes-unthinking and sometimes-uninformed opinion, is that it holds greater ramifications for us as a democracy. This whole idea that opinion is enough, and being informed and educated is secondary or even unnecessary in the face of strong, heartfelt opinion, is genuinely  terrifying when voting time comes around.

Friday, August 1, 2014

High Rhymes and Misdemeanors now in audio

Narrated by Saskia Maarleveld, who has the most perfect "Grace" voice.

While visiting her favorite poets' old haunts in England's Lake District, Grace Hollister, an American schoolteacher and literary scholar, stumbles upon the body of Peter Fox face down in a stream. Thankfully, the dashing local antiques dealer is not dead - but after saving his life Grace soon finds herself pursued by two menacing thugs who are after the gewgaws Peter is hiding. Problem is, Peter doesn't have any gewgaws. He doesn't even know what gewgaws are. But he and Grace soon discover they've got something to do with Lord Byron...and someone's willing to kill for them.

Now available thru Audible.com