Friday, July 24, 2015

A Writer Grows Up

I’ve been revising some of my books. It’s interesting to read them after two or three years because I’ve changed. I’m not afraid to write what I want to now, unlike when I first began writing and held things back for fear of what others would think if they knew my real thoughts and feelings. That came from years of feeling too weird to gain the approval of others, but since I’ve shed my desperate need to please everyone, a gift that came from practicing my craft, my characters now say the darndest things.

Sometimes this is a good thing. It makes my work more honest, and hopefully, more interesting. However, it can also disappoint those who like what I did before. One reader hated my dark crime fiction “Circumstantial Evidence” because “It started out really goodThen it just got gross and weird murder after murder no suspense.” At first, I was a bit hurt by her admission. She probably read the first chapter in one of my shorts or in an anthology I did with my good friend, J. Naomi Ay, and expected a full-length novel in the same tone. My bad. I shouldn’t have put it in the back of a lighter short, but this review is a good example of what happens when an author matures and begins to spread their wings. I took a chance. It’s not an easy read, but it’s what it is, and frankly, I don’t blame her for being mad. She felt hoodwinked.

I was reminded today of a piece I wrote back in February about how my desire to entertain people had eclipsed my desire to market on social media. This hasn’t changed. In fact, since I’ve decreased my exposure on Facebook and Twitter, the sales of my books have increased. This just proves to me that driving myself crazy coming up with 100 pithy 140 character blurbs a week wasn’t selling my books. I’m not Kim Kardashian. No one is watching my Twitter profile. I post the link to it in the back of my books so my readers can visit my profile, and when I post, I post for my readers.

Now that I’ve confessed my lack of enthusiasm for Twitter, I must extol the awesomeness of Pinterest. The difference between the two isn’t just that one limits you to 140 characters, it’s in the experience. With Pinterest, I can give my readers a visual tour of the era in which my books take place. Hopefully, this enhances their involvement with the characters and the story. It also teaches me a thing or two about the way my characters lived. Seeing a corset or a chamber pot can really put things into perspective. 

I guess this is my confession that I haven’t so much abandoned social media as I have planted my flag on planet Pinterest, and that’s where I go when I feel the need for inspiration, or to find out what a pair of eighteenth century men’s breeches looked like. And, doggone it, I just plain like it.

Please visit my Pinterest page. Let me know what you think, and / or what you would like to see pinned to my pages. Summer is here and the pinning is easy. Enjoy!

Friday, May 29, 2015

I'm a Writer

Five years ago, I didn’t know I was a writer. I just thought I had a fertile imagination, and then one day I looked at a picture of my granddaughter on my fridge and imagined her carrying my little dog down the hallway. I wrote the beginning of But the Children Survived, and sent it to my friend Loraine, who was a copy editor at the Orlando Sentinel. She was shocked. She asked me how long I had been writing like that, and I said that this was the first time. She told me to keep writing. I published the book in 2012 and have written many since. If you’ve ever wondered if you’re a writer, read this.

I went to dinner with my husband, Hans. A family walked in – a man, his wife, and their young daughter. The wife wasn’t beautiful, her body bears the shape and weight of a past pregnancy, and when she and her daughter went to the bathroom, an image of the husband came to me. He’s at a bar, sitting alone, and having a beer when this hot little number sidles up and asks him to buy her a drink. He’s a regular guy – overweight, wearing the same clothes he wore in high school, wearing a short hairstyle that’s easy to care for – so he’s all excited when this young, sexy woman talks to him. After she chats him up, he follows her to the men’s room where, while he’s kissing her neck, she sticks a needle in his. It’s filled with a drug that will render him unconscious. She makes a phone call and leaves him there.

Back to reality: By now, the guy’s wife and daughter have returned to the table. Hans and I are talking about having the grandkids over for a couple of days and in my mind, I’ve got the guy hogtied in the back of an SUV on his way to the hospital. There, the bimbo-from-the-bar's father is waiting for a lung transplant. Her boyfriend, a not-too-smart guy with a thick neck and a strong back, takes bathroom guy into the hospital and leaves him on a gurney. The girl, now dressed as a nurse, takes him to the OR where a team is waiting to extract his lung. 

Back to reality: The couple has ordered, and the waitress brings their drinks. Hans is saying he can’t finish his meat, and I tell him to get a box. While we’re talking, I’m imagining a doctor opening up bathroom guy’s chest and finding out that he has stage four lung cancer. There will be no transplant today. The End. 

We pay our check and get up to leave. The couple and their daughter are eating,  and as we pass their booth, they are unaware of the precarious situation in which I have placed the husband / father, nor if the irony surrounding his tragic end. Hans and I go home and he puts his take-home box in the fridge.

I was the type of kid who, when I couldn’t fall asleep, would imagine my bed was riding on the waves of the ocean. I would plan how I would survive or when an island would come into view, or when the plane would spot me and save me. The images never stopped. Ever.  So if this sounds familiar to you, if this is what you do while carrying on a conversation with your spouse, friends, co-workers, or you find yourself constructing an elaborate tale while waiting in traffic, odds are you’re a writer, too.

Friday, May 22, 2015

A Thousand Words

I find it very difficult to talk about myself and that’s why I love Pinterest. The images I’m drawn to say a lot about me. The old saw “a picture is worth a thousand words” is true.

When I first came to Pinterst, I added photos that were related to my books – things Kevin Chandler would like, or Mindy Lane from But the Children Survived would be into. I created boards kids could pin things to. But as time went on, I found myself adding things that were more about me than the characters in my books, and that’s when people began interacting with me.

So far, my eighteenth century clothes are the most popular boards. These boards were set up in conjunction with my Secret of Truelock Manor series, and I’ve enjoyed learning about hairstyles, clothing, and architecture from that era. It’s nice to see the way people looked, where they lived, etc. The characters become living, breathing human beings. Seeing the layers of clothing they were required to wear, even during the hottest summer, makes me think, “No wonder they were always swooning!”

Mixed in with my “author” boards are the ones I added to pin images I loved, or to add something I wanted to share because it said something about me I was unable to express in words. These photos, movie posters, and artists evoked a memory or emotion that I wanted to share. Some of the fantasy images inspire stories. Some are just nice to look at and bring a sense of peace.

If you want to express yourself, your love of food, or your sense of style, come on over to Pinterest. It’s the one place my introverted self can feel at home.

Friday, April 10, 2015

The Dead Key by D. M. Pulley, a Review

I read this book fast. I’m not a fast reader, but I enjoyed it, so I picked it up every night when I went to bed. I hated the ending, however. This is part of my OCD. I need closure. Despite the ending, I thought it was well written, fast-paced thriller with plenty of action. I was even surprised a few times. At my age, that’s something.

The story format is one of my favorites. My editor is always kidding me about my love of history. I give a lot of background in my stories, and that’s part of my OCD, too. I need to know why someone is the way they are. Yes, there are psychopaths with no motivation save an evil nature, but most characters have a past that shapes their destiny. At least I’d like to think so. In this story, though, the past is not given to describe the heroine’s character. It’s there to tell us what happened twenty years earlier, so we know what is happening before she does. It’s like when someone opens a closet in 2015 and gets hit on the head with a bowling ball. We know who put it there and why – she doesn’t. Warning – you don’t get the whole history, just parts. You don’t know the whole story until the end, which, if you recall, I hated.

Anyway, the main character is Iris Latch, a young engineer with her first job working in an architectural firm. Being low man on the totem pole, Iris spends her days checking other people’s work. She is B-O-R-E-D, and she makes up for the tedium of her job by drinking too much and making questionable choices that cause us to say, “Yeah, she’s gonna get into trouble."

One day out of the blue, her supervisor tells her she is going to help him with a new job. It involves working the weekend, and Iris is not pleased. She shows up late and hungover. The job entails measuring the floor space of an old bank in downtown Cleveland. The bank, which closed abruptly in twenty years earlier, is a time capsule of the late seventies. Most of the furnishings are still there, as are old bank records, etc. The vault still contains unopened safe deposit boxes, and here is where the key in the title comes in. I won’t give away that spoiler here, though.

After a weekend working with her supervisor, Iris is left on her own to take the rest of the measurements in the huge, multi-storied, spooky building. She is also reminded that she is not to talk about what she is doing to anyone, a rule Iris breaks almost immediately when she having a drink in a seedy bar close to the bank. Iris also has trouble focusing on her work, and finds herself delving into the lives of the former employees of the bank by looking at their files, etc. Her curiosity leads her to find a safe deposit key in a desk drawer, and that key sends her on a quest to find out what happened to its owner. We know who the owner is, of course, having been given that part of the back story, but it’s still fun to see what Iris will do to avoid doing her job. But like the proverbial cat, she may find herself in a pickle she can’t get out of, a pickle that endangers not only her life, but the life of those close  to her.

If you like investigative stories with nice plotting and characters who do stupid things (because, as I keep reminding myself, if they didn’t, there would be no story) you will like this as much as I did. D.M. Pulley has fashioned a twisty story which shows that no matter how many times we make mistakes, whether during one risky financial era or another, we will just do it all over again. Greed, avarice, and entitlement are nothing new, and they always make for good fiction. I read this through Kindle Unlimited

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Animal Lover's Beware

I recently posted a review on Goodreads that included a "paw up." As an animal lover, I hate being blindsided by an act of violence toward an animal in a movie, TV show, or book. It's a fact of life that terrible things happen to animals, but as I get older, I find it more difficult to "get over" these scenes and have to turn away. That's why I added the "paw up" to my review. I didn't want to give a spoiler, but I did want to let anyone who might be upset by animals in danger to know that the animals were there at the end. 

I've been this way all my life. I blame Lassie. She was always getting into things she had no business doing, putting herself in danger to save Timmy, her juvenile master, whose ability to land in dangerous situations was mind boggling. It prompted the old joke wherein Lassie runs to Timmy's father and barks, causing him to say, "What girl? Timmie's in the well!" I'm surprised Lassie didn't say, "Yeah, that idiot kid is stuck again." Frankly, I didn't give a damn about Timmy. I cared about Lassie, and in one episode when Timmy was mad at Lassie and wouldn't play catch with her even after she brought the ball to him, I cried. Boy, that Lassie was some actress.

Then, there was the night my mother and I watched a black and white war movie called "The Victors." I was around eleven or twelve when we watched it so the subtexts went way over my head, but there was one part I will never forget. A young soldier adopts a dog while stationed in war torn Italy (I think it was Italy, but don't quote me on that.) Of course, when the troops move out, he has to leave the dog, a small terrier, behind. That was enough to bring tears to my eyes, but as the dog valiantly tries to follow the truck taking his beloved master away, a despicable, evil G.I. shoots the dog. I sobbed uncontrollably through the rest of the movie. To this day, I can't watch it. My mother tried to console me, but it was useless. I just kept seeing that poor little dog running toward that truck.

I also blame Walt Disney. I'm sure you all know what I mean. Dumbo and Bambi. When my nephews, Donald and Paul, were young, I took them to the movies. 

In the mid-seventies, a small theater in Red Bank, New Jersey ran a summer long Disney film festival and every Tuesday morning I would take one or the other, or both, to the movies. I didn't remember the movies well from my childhood, or I hadn't seen them myself (there were no VCRs, DVD players, or Netflix then), so I looked forward to a bonding experience with my sisters' sons. Dumbo was the first assault. I had to be scraped off the floor when that one was over (Oh, mama, why don't they understand? How could they put you in a cage? Oh, how I love the feel of your trunk against mine.), but no one prepared me for the horror that was Bambi. One of my nephews, I won't embarrass him by naming him here, was so traumatized he couldn't take his hands from his eyes. I'm sure my sister was thrilled when I brought him home. I think he cried for the rest of the week. Why, Walt, why? 

And I won't even go into the nightmares caused by Sarah McLachlan commercials. 

So you see, I had to do something to help my fellow animal angst sufferers. I won't call for censorship or a ban on books, I simply want to inform those so traumatized by terrible things happening to animals that they should beware. I won't give the plot away. I won't spoil it for others. I simply want to provide a public service. 

Monday, March 23, 2015

A Fond Rememberance

For those who actually saw "Mary Poppins" when it opened in September, 1964, the movie "Saving Mr. Banks" is highly enjoyable, but for a writer, it is an amazing exploration of what it's like to hand over your beloved characters to someone like Walt Disney, who believed in entertainment above all else. I liked the way the movie shows another side of him without getting maudlin. I also understand P.L. Traverse feelings when she sees her characters portrayed in a way she finds irreverent. We all know our characters better than anyone else and she guards hers tenaciously. If Walt hadn't been such a salesman, this movie never would have seen the light of day. 

Kudos to Mr. Disney, although I will never get over not being able to see this movie the first time I went to the theater. It was sold out and I couldn't understand why they didn't just make more tickets! That's what I thought at ten. I didn't know they had run out of seats! I remember the lights on the marquee, "Mary Poppins" in huge letters, and the pictures of Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke. I had the album and listened to the music like kids listen to the "Frozen" soundtrack today. My mother probably hated "Just a Spoonful of Sugar." 

(Spoiler Alert) I cried with P.L. Travers when she watched her story unfold and recalled the real man she had based Mr. Banks on slowly succumb to TB. My father was kind of boring in comparison to P.L. Travers' dad so I've never based any of my characters on him, sorry William H., but I have used family members in my book, "But the Children Survived." They all know who they are. 

"Saving Mr. Banks" is playing on Starz right now. It's also available on DVD. 

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Releasing the Muse

I finally gave in and did my floors and this is what came to me while I ran the vacuum over my living room rug. 

"He was there again, staring up at my window."

I saw the guy holding an umbrella, gazing upward, and then I saw the woman standing at the window holding the curtain to one side. She was illuminated by a lamp on the table next to the window. I know who she is. She's a character I've been struggling with for three years. I've been wanting to start this series forever, but it's epic and I wasn't up to it, really, but I keep thinking about it so maybe I'm ready to put everything else aside and do it.

I become inspired when I am cleaning. The mindless tasks seem to free my muse from a shackled place in my mind. This is when my muse begins to speak in perfect prose that I can’t ignore. A line, a weird, whispered string of words that ignites another and another until I have to leave my vacuum and write. 

At one point, I walked away while the vacuum was still running; knowing the elusive thought would vanish if I waited another moment. The words flow easily and I manage to capture the lines I have been searching for for months. They say exactly what I’ve been seeing in my mind and it feels good.

This is what it feels like to be a writer. I take a walk with the dog and imagine someone following me. Why are they after me? Does it have something to do with the dog? This is a case for Libby the psychic dog! Or, I think of Nick Dandino wrestling the guy to the ground and forcing him to talk. I'm pissed off because I don't have a notepad with me, or a voice recorder. All Nick's dialogs fly away on the wind. 

I get very inspired when I walk her at night. The stars, the moon's glow, all work on me. It makes me feel romantic and dreamy. While I pick up Trixie's poop, I am thinking about how it feels to have the wind whipping through my hair as I stand on the deck of a cruise ship headed for some tropical isle. It makes the mundane tasks of life doable. I am grateful for my imagination. It's helped me through some very difficult times.

I bought a waterproof notepad for the shower. It works well. Well, it will if I ever install it. But this shows how desperate I am to capture these thoughts when they come. They flow so fast that there is no way I will remember them just as they are, but when I clean, I'm close to the computer. If I'm struggling with something I feel I have to write, but just can't start, I pull out the vacuum cleaner. It's a sure cure for writer's block.