Sunday, June 23, 2013

Summer Editing

Finally.  What I’ve been waiting for since we returned from the South—warm weather.  The rains that filled the stream out back and brought back the fears of to two years ago and the flood are simply a memory.  They may return, but for now the skies are filled with big puffy clouds that may develop into a storm later today, but I’m happy to be sitting on my back deck overlooking the creek and enjoying an occasional breeze.


I did the same yesterday, my computer on the table in front of me working on what I hope will be the final edit for my book A Secondhand Murder scheduled for release September 15.  The manuscript is in Adobe so you can imagine how frustrating that is, but it’s made far easier by what I see when I lift my gaze from the computer to the scene in front of me.  Yesterday the Canada geese we’d noticed in the region brought their kids down to the stream to have play time.  It looked very much like taking the gamily to the beach on the weekend.  They were joined by several crows who usually claim the beach for their own, hence our name for it, “Crow Beach”.  They didn’t seem to mind the company.  In addition to the Canadas was a white goose, bigger than all the rest.  I couldn’t see if it was an albino (I don’t even know if birds some in albino form) or simply a regular goose who had adopted the Canada family as its own.  It seemed to be well accepted as it swam among the children and adults,  Maybe it was the nanny or a baby sitter hired for the day.


This morning our resident woodchuck occupied our backyard at the creek’s edge bringing with her a smaller “chuck”.  We were going to trap her, but now Glenn is afraid to separate the two and is obsessing about how he can capture them together.  The young one is well able to find for itself, but Glenn doesn’t like to break up the family.  I’m sympathetic, but pointed out he can move them both to the same spot.  They’ll find one another again.  He’s putting this off.  I can’t blame him, but it’s not going to settle itself.  We already moved a chipmunk to the cemetery across the stream.  No, no.  Not dead.  We trapped the little bugger and moved him live.  The cemetery is a beautiful place for a chipper critter and would make a great home for our chucks too.  We like seeing them until they begin to eat our garden then it’s time for the moving truck.

Sharing Summer

The stream is back down from high water several weeks ago.  It flows gently toward our property, then rushes over the rocks to drop several feet and continue its flow past our house.  I can hear it babble and see the white ripples sparkle as the sunlight hits them.

It’s clear now, revealing large rocks on the bottom.  People come down to the bank on the other side of the stream to swim and wade often bringing their dogs who seem to enjoy a brief dip also.  It’s become the community pool in these hot days.   Last weekend while the water was still high and the days still cool, several adolescents came by on inner tubes enjoying the excitement of being twirled and dunked by the whirlpool at the base of the downed willow trees just in front of our yard.


Well, you get the idea.  It’s so tranquil here, a feast for the soul.  What’s that I hear?  The blackbirds, crows, a cardinal and two squirrels are chorusing a message for me, saying, “Get busy editing,” so I must go, but I hope you enjoyed this little reprieve from work as much as I did.  Do you take soul satisfying breaks?  What are they like?

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Using Fear to Write

But first some news:  Coming soon from Camel Press, my first Eve Appel Mystery, A Secondhand Murder.  At Eve's Florida consignment shop the bargains are to die for.  This is thrift with a twist.

My Fears: Can I make them work for me as a writer?

I watched the rain continue to come down last week and watched our little trout stream turn into a raging river.  Oh no, I thought.  Not again.  Two years ago the stream spilled over its banks leaving our basement filled with three to four feet of water.  The worst part wasn’t the basement.  It was the fear the night before that the river would sweep the entire house away.


I’ve always had a fear of drowning.   My parents did not have the money to buy swimming lessons in the summers when all the other kids were learning to paddle their way the length of the community pool.  It was not until I was in my teens that I learned to swim, but I never passed my beginners’ test because I was too terrified to jump into the deep end of the pool, a requirement to pass.  I swam with my head out of the water, never able to put it under water and learn to hold my breath.  I still swim that way although I’m more comfortable being in the water.  I can do almost every stoke as long as I don’t have to put my face in the water.


I have recurring dreams about driving down a road and the road leads into a lake which I drive right into.  I usually wake up.  So no, I’m not water nymph. 


Seeing that water rise again this past week brought back all the terrors of the flood two years ago.  I was alone then because Glenn was on a cross country motorcycle grip promoting his book.  He’s here this year, so I felt comforted by his presence, yet still frightened by the prospect of another flood.  The last time they declared a state of emergency which means no one is to be on the road, a real catch twenty-two.  How as I to get out of the way of the waters if I couldn’t drive off?  The best I could hope for was someone pulling up to my back deck in a boat while I handed them my two cats and abandoned the house.  That’s if they found me and not the house floating down the river with me and the cats in the attic.


To my great relief the rain let up and the waters subsided the next morning, giving me the emotional space to think about fear and to realize that my fears have colored my writing.


I don’t think I have many fears, but fear of drowning in a flood found its way into several of my books as well as the feat of wild fires.  I’m big on finding natural disasters particularly terrifying for my protagonists. 


But there are the little other fears that are more personal.  I do use these to provide exciting moments for my sassy country gals.   I have a fear of heights that has developed over the past five years.  It is related to a medical condition, vertigo.  My protagonist in Angel Sleuth finds she can deal with being hung over a chasm and handle the challenge of getting to safety.  Good for her.  She should be better than I, don’t you think?  I hate snakes.  Now isn’t that a kick when I live in Florida where we can grow ‘em big and scary?  For some reason I’ve been reluctant to use this fear in my writing until just recently as I was working on the second book in my Eve Appel Murder Mystery series.  I don’t want to ruin it for you, but I used snakes not simply to scare, but to work for my protagonist. 


When I was a kid I used to be scared of vampires and werewolves.  Not now, so you won’t read about my protagonist turning into a vampire any time soon.


What are your fears?  Do you use them in your writing?  Do you like protagonists who share these fears and overcome them?

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Finding and Hiding Dead Bodies


Body in Beer Cooler Truck
Body in Dumpster behind Bar


I like to locate my dead bodies in interesting or odd places.  I think all mystery writers do this when they can, so I was thinking as I was trying to take a nap that it might be fun to come up with a list of places where a writer might locate a body.  I’ve tried to divide my list into categories.
All Around the House
            In bathtubs, large sinks, washing machines, dryers, stoves, dishwashers.  In closets, in the old coal bin in the basement or an antique trunk in the attic.  Tucked into the eaves, bricked up behind a wall, stuffed under the couch, hidden in the dog crate, shoved behind the draperies if in a hurry (to be moved later).  Under the front or back steps, behind the stack of newspapers that were to be moved last week.  In the hamper with the dirty clothes, then moved to the clothesbasket with the freshly laundered ones.
            Tied to the chimney, for who looks up there anyway?
For Outdoorsy folks
            Floating or weighted down in a stream, lake, river, or pond.  In a gravel quarry under a pile of crushed rock, or crushed by a rock under a pile of gravel.  In the woods, buried or propped up by a tree, as if enjoying the day.  In a swamp, but before the alligators find it. In a cave covered by bat doodoo.
            In the compost pile, under the mulch pile, buried in the garden or used for a scarecrow.  Lodged behind the bushes along the fence line, jammed into the wood chuck’s hole.  Under the grill cover which is never used anyway.  Tossed into a ditch along the road with the rest of the litter or tossed in the trash can at the interstate rest area.
Going on a Trip
            In the truck of the car or in the car carrier on the top (see outdoorsy locations for final resting place).  Left behind in a motel room under the bed, in the shower or in the spa or pool.  With the carryon luggage or, if willing to pay extra, checked with the other bags.  In the airplane lavatory or train lavatory.  Or in the bus station’s bathroom to be discovered when it is cleaned next month (year).  Dumped in a foreign country without a passport.
            Discarded in any of the outdoorsy locations suggested above in any country, e.g., On Top of Old Smoky, at the Great Wall or in the Kremlin.
            Sent into outer space (unmanned probe).
Body found in neighbor's brewery
Body found in protag's brewery
Scary or Ghoulish Places
            In a funeral home in its own coffin or sharing with another.  In a graveyard, buried alone (so overdone) or sharing (as above).  In a meat packing plant, incinerator in the county landfill or simply left out with the trash on Monday morning (see All Around the House above).
At a fun house in the tunnel of love.  Riding the Ferris wheel, merry go round or tilt a whirl.
            In a trick or treat bag on Halloween (big bag!).  Dressed as a corpse being pulled around in your kid’s red wagon on Halloween.
Old MacDonald’s Farm
            Since I grew up on a farm, I couldn’t resist this category.
In the milk cooler, under the manure pile, in the manure spreader (see the outdoorsy category for final resting places), in the hay mow, in the tack room, in the corn crib, in the chicken coop (that’s where I used to hide my teddy bear), in any piece of farm machinery—baler, corn picker, plow, hay wagon.  Down the well or up in the windmill (again, who looks up there?), in bossy or Dobbin’s stall.  Tucked in the middle of a herd of sheep, goats cows or horses, a tricky maneuver, but I’m certain any good writer could work around this one.  Feed troughs and water troughs are big enough to accommodate several bodies in case you’ve got a serial killer on your hands.
City Places
            On a bus, subway or in a subway tunnel.  In the 57th precinct coffee room.  In the fountain for a big splash.  Dressed as a mannequin in the department store window.  In a dressing room.  On the treadmill, stepper, spin bicycle or any other piece of equipment in a fitness club because everyone will just think the person is resting between reps.  In the mayor’s chair, just resting.  On the floor of the House of Representatives, again simply resting.  In Central Park, the most clichéd location.  In a ghetto, again cliched.  In a Park Avenue apartment or in their laundry chute, also clichéd.  Seated in a car in a parking garage.  Seated in a car at an expired meter.  Located in a trunk in the aforementioned locations is also cliched.  In the alleyway in a commercial dumpster along with the other bodies there the cops haven’t yet discovered.
Body at foot of stairs while protag pedals by chased by a gaggle of geese
It’s Your Business
            In any business such as in a dressing room (in my newest book due out Sept 15), behind the Slurpee machine at a convenience store, hidden with the two by fours in a Do-It-Yourself store, feet first with the cherry tree in the garden shop or side by side with yesterday’s pastries in a bake shop.
If I kept at this I’ll bet I could come up with more.  I’ve used some of the more absurd ones in my mysteries.  You too must have some great ones.  Share.