Back to Reality

I’ve recently gone back to work full-time, and, boy, has that been an adjustment. I’ve done freelance assignments and written fiction for six years, and I haven’t written a word of fiction since taking my job a month ago.

That is not good.

officeI enjoy writing fiction, but it has been years since I’ve come home from putting in eight hours and set down at the computer again. I write or edit most of the day now, and I find myself doing household chores, vegging in front of the TV, or reading. When I was working from home, I was reading an average of three books a week. Gone are the days…

I like to think I’m going through a period of adjustment…and I hope I get adjusted pretty quickly. My writing partner and I have published two books, and recently had Harlequin back out of our deal for a trilogy for their now-defunct e-book line. That has made it difficult to write too, just the sheer sadness of such a loss.Home

What do you do when you motivation has reached an all-time low? I like to put inspirational quotes on the refrigerator and my computer, so I’ll have visual reminders of what it is I want to do.

How about these?

“Writing is easy. All you have to do is cross out the wrong words.”  Mark Twain

“A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.” Richard Bach

“The road to hell is paved with works-in-progress.”  Phillip Roth

“There are no laws for the novel. There never have been, nor can there ever be.”  Doris Lessing

These are good quotes, and I’m feeling more inclined to put fingers to keyboard. I mean, I wrote this, didn’t I? Now all I have to do is read the last chapter I wrote so I can catch up on my fiction.

 

Madam President and Her PI

Don’t you love it when you find a new series you truly enjoy? Not only are you reading something between new releases, you can add a new writer to your list of favorites. I’ve very much enjoying the exploits and investigations  in Joseph Flynn’s Jim McGill series. A former Chicago cop, Jim is now married to the first female president of the United States, and instead of cutting ribbons and organizing luncheons, he is a licensed private investigator, with an office on P Street in Washington, D.C.

McGill1Jim is referred to as The President’s Henchman, which is also the title of the first book. In this one, we’re introduced to the ensemble cast that makes these books so entertaining. In addition to Jim, there’s Patricia Darden Grant, the president, Jim’s ex-wife and three children, along with her new husband, Sweetie, Jim’s longtime partner who now works with him, along with various politicians, Secret Service agents, military personnel, and the president’s staff.

I’ve read the first two books and am deeply into the third book. This series is quickly moving up the list of my favorites. When I finish these books, I plan to check out the two otherMcGill1 series Flynn has. I’m happy as a clam that I found something new to read during one of my lulls. If you love mysteries, I think you’ll enjoy these books too.

Have you found any new authors this summer? Share and we’ll all have plenty to read until the fall releases!

Bone to be Wild by Carolyn Haines

HainesBone to be Wild is the fifteenth book in the Sarah Booth Delaney Mysteries. Sarah Booth’s old friend, Scott Hampton, is bringing his special brand of the blues back to Zinnia in the wonderful old club located at the crossroads of Sawmill and Pentecost roads. It was rumored to be “the location where the devil made more than one bargain for a musician’s soul.” Playin’ the Bones would be the happening place—unless someone kept Scott from fulfilling his dream.

See my full review at Criminal Element. Carolyn Haines is a prolific writer from Mississippi, and her heroine Sarah Booth Delaney is a charming private investigator who doesn’t let her Southern politeness keep her from digging up the truth when it’s needed.

Check out www.criminalelement.com!

A Day at Henry’s Palace

Neely Powell 2014-31-1Jan Powell and I make up the writing team called Neely Powell. We recently were privileged to go to England together and explore the familiar landmarks while visiting with my son and his family, who live in Weybridge.

Not far from Weybridge is the town of Hampton Court, where the famous Hampton Court Palace, a favorite home away from home for Henry VIII. It’s just ten miles from London and rises up beside the River Thames. Stepping through the gates takes you back in time 500 years. You actually feel the enormity of the history. All of Henry VIII’s wives came here. Henry’s heirs were born here.

HCPalaceThe first thing you notice is the immensity of it. There’s no way you can stand in the grounds and fully comprehend how big the palace is. There’s also no way you can see everything in its mighty walls in just one day, so I’m sharing some of the highlights that we really enjoyed. It was one of 50 or 60 palaces Henry owned, but it was by far his favorite.

You can feel the power still hovering in the corridors. Epic decisions and petty jealousies were familiar guests in the royal bedrooms. The amount of food and wine consumed in one day is staggering. The court required 600,000 gallons of bear every year and around 10,000 gallons of wine. FountainThere is actually a replica of a wine fountain in the courtyard used to provide unending red wine during a peace conference, complete with resident drunkards. A temporary palace made to look like Hampton Court was erected just for the conference, which was called “Field of Cloth of Gold” because of the many gold-plated tents used for housing.

Henry’s life was defined by his lavish lifestyle and preponderance of wealth. When he visited Hampton Court Palace, he had a court of 1,000 people. It’s interesting to note that the Great Hall, where Henry and his court dined was the last medieval great hall built for English royalty. Henry was so anxious to have it done, he made the masons work by candlelight at night.

When we walked down The Gallery outside Henry’s chambers, we hoped for a sighting of the ghost of Catherine Howard. Throughout the day a number of events are portrayed by actors in the palace. We happened upon the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, just outside the king’s court. He confided in us that he had found evidence of the queen’s deceit and had informed the king. However, Henry was reluctant to believe him, and he was distressed. Of course, Henry came to believe the Cardinal, and Catherine was beheaded for adultery while married to the king.

CardinalIt was fascinating to speak with the actor who portrayed the Cardinal. He never dropped character. We felt like a part of the tense drama going on in the palace. As we watched the dialogue between Henry and members of his court, the audience weighed in with their opinions on matters. It was great fun.

Unfortunately, we had to leave the grounds when they were closing for the night. We strolled along the river as we made our way back to the busy 21st street with its traffic and familiar noises.

We finished our day enjoying Sticky Toffee Pudding at a pub across the street from the palace called The Mute Swan, where we promptly began plotting a short story. We are now working on this little murder mystery, which will include a visit to one of Henry VIII’s favorite palaces.

Fidelity or Adultery? That is the Question

bed_frameI’ve come to a definite conclusion about the things I read and watch of late.  I find I’ve become increasingly uninterested in plots that include infidelity in a marriage. It seems so easy to me for characters to forget promises they’ve made and loyalty to a spouse to enjoy the secrecy and intrigue of adultery. The marriage bed is no longer sacred.

I know this happens in real life. My husband and I were part of a group of eight couples when we were newlyweds. Before we moved away from our hometown, there was only one other couple besides us still together. Nearly all of these marriages ended with adultery. One husband engaged in a work-place romance. Another friend lost her husband to her best friend. With another, the affair was between two men. I’m not foolish enough to think it never happens, but I am tired of seeing it as a gratuitous sex on the screen and between the pages.

I’ve been wondering if other people feel the same way. One thing I enjoy about murder mysteries is while the crime is often about passion, it can be passion about anything, not just love and sex.

I still enjoy romance novels, and I love the many mystery series I read. While John Sandford’s Lucas Davenport was a real lady’s man when he was single, he hasn’t been unfaithful to Weather since they married. Eve Dallas and Roarke value each other and their commitment too much to consider infidelity. Robert B. Parker’s Spenser adores Susan even though they have never married.

I also know I can choose the “hotness” of the books I read, but I’ve always enjoyed a variety of genres and books. I’m just tired of seeing adultery as a key plot element.

Anybody else thinking this way?

Broken Window by Dorothy H. Hayes

Broken Window by Dorothy H. Hayes, one of our very own, is out today!

Hayes2Reporter Carol Rossi achieved some local notoriety with her last investigative piece for the local newspaper in Wilton, Connecticut. Still, it’s completely unexpected when she’s drawn into a case that has her trolling for information in the streets of New York City.

Kelly Singleton, a recent graduate of Wilton High School, was thrilled to take her friends to see her dorm room at NYU. The girls had begged their parents to let them learn the ins and outs of riding the subway.

However, the young women discover they’re completely out of their element when Kelly vanishes without a trace.

We met Rossi in Dorothy’s first novel, Murder at the P&Z, where she used her investigative skills to look into local politics at the Planning & Zoning Commission. She’s an interesting and innovative amateur detective who loves to rescue animals and is an uncompromising vegan.

Hayes has woven a complicated mystery with this challenging story line, set in steamy New York City in 1984. It’s obvious she did extensive research into the times and issues facing NYC during this critical time.

Check out this trailer for this suspenseful read:

For a chance to win a copy of Broken Window, check out my review at Criminal Element and enter the sweepstakes!

A dogged reporter and a missing teenager lost in a city of millions. It makes for good mystery.

Obsession in Death by J.D. Robb

Stalking has become a reality in our world. There’s even a new TV show called “Stalkers.” ObsessionIt’s the creepiest thing in the world to imagine someone being obsessed with you, with your life, with everything you do.

When Eve Dallas finds a personal message from the killer on the wall at the scene of a homicide, she knows there’s more than murder involved. A pesky defense attorney who had an adversarial relationship with Eve is her victim, and the killer makes it clear the killing was done to settle a score for Eve.

As in most of the books in this series, Obsession in Death has Eve running against this clock to solve a case. Added to the mix this time is a murderer who not only wants to help Eve,  but is obsessed with helping Eve outside the constraints of the law.

With shades of Stephen King’s Misery, Robb scores five stars with this one. I’ve complained about the last two books in the series for their lack of references to the secondary characters. This time, they’re part of the case.

I got caught up in this one and thoroughly enjoyed it. If you haven’t read the series before, you can read this as a standalone, but it’ll be better if you go back to the first one, Naked in Death.

Of course, that also means you’ll be reading thirty-nine books before you get to this one!

Pardon the Ravens by Alan Hruska

HruskaIf you’re into legal mysteries, you’ll want to read Pardon the Ravens. Set in the 1961, this book follows an interesting case for young, inexperienced lawyer, Alec Brno. It’s a great recipe for suspense and intrigue: a sadistic mob boss, an abused drug-addicted, a case that’s probably not a winner, and a young attorney in love with the wrong woman.

It’s out today. Check out my review at Criminal Element.

Riding the Roller Coaster

At the end of 2013, my writing partner and I (we write as Neely Powell) were on a high of success. Our first book came out in November 2013, and we had signed a contract for a trilogy with a major romance publisher. The first book came out in March 2014 as part of a new digital venture. We were thrilled. We completed the second book and went through he editing process; it was scheduled for later in the year, and we began work on the third book.

Months passed with no word from our editor. Emails went unanswered or vague references were given for the delays. We began to worry and learned in November that the publishing line was being shut down. We are still waiting to get the rights back and finish the third book. At least if we offer it to someone else, we’ve got two complete and edited manuscripts.

roller coasterAnd so the roller coaster ride of writing continues.

I’ve been through this before. My first book was bought by the second publisher I offered it to, however, they ended up going out of business before it was published. I’m beginning to feel like Jinx, the character in the old Lil’ Abner comic strip who walked around with a cloud above  his head that was always dumping rain on him.

We’re not giving up. My partner and I are looking at agents, other markets, and self-publishing. At this point we have no idea what we’re going to do, but we’ve had contact with other writers in this publishing line that are going through the same thing. Misery loves company.

The one thing I know we won’t do is stop writing. Our first book is still available for sale, and we do promote it.

It’s up and down, but it’s what we’ve chosen. How are you feeling about your writing right now?

 

 

Read Me a Bedtime Story

audiblebooksI was very pleased to see the recent post by Clare Toohey about the rise in listening to audible books. I’ve been an avid listener for many years now. With the right narrator, a books comes alive and you become engrossed in the story quickly. Likewise, a narrator that doesn’t grasp the tone of the book can make listening like hear fingernails on a chalk board.

Still, audible books are wonderful for listening while driving, doing a workout, walking, and any number of activities. In fact, they’ve replaced the radio in my life.

One of the thing I’ve found I enjoy the most is listening to a book before I go to sleep. As most children know, there’s something very soothing about listening to a comforting voice reading a story. It’s just a minor difference that my stories usually revolve around a murder or the actions of a supernatural creature.

There are those who don’t care for it. My daughter-in-law says she just can’t keep up with all the characters when listening. My daughter, however, finds the snarls of Atlanta traffic the perfect place to listen to a book.

According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, sales have risen in recent years. With the easy access to listening with smart phones, they’re becoming more popular.

What’s your view on audible books? Do you have a favorite you listen to over and over? I’ve been revisiting Nora Roberts’ books this way, and I love the werewolf back Patricia Briggs writes about.

I’ve heard it’s also another good source of income for a writer. More good news!