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.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Over the Rainbow Bridge

When fashioning a story, we take things from our lives. Today I learned that my neighbor’s dog has passed away and I knew that her passing would inspire me. I wanted to remember her in some way because she was a very good dog, and she will be in my next Libby the Psychic Dog story.

Her name was Sally and she was a black lab. When I first met Sally, she was a rambunctious toddler who would “walk” her owner, who at 81, would struggle to hold her back. She liked to jump on you and say hello with big kisses and wags of her tail. She was one of the sweetest dogs I’ve ever met.

As she grew older, she slowed down a bit, easing my neighbors’ walks with her. They went out a few times a day and I could count on seeing her when I came home from work. She would make a beeline for my car to greet me. When I walked my dog, Trixie, she would be at her window to say hello. We always responded with a wave and a hearty, “Hi, Sally!” When I didn’t see her in the window this past month, I knew something was wrong.

Sally was suffering from back trouble and couldn’t get into the family car anymore. One day, her back gave out, and she lost the use of her back legs. She was eleven and was gently put to sleep. I will miss her and I wish I’d had a cell phone camera when she was younger. I have no pictures of her. She was a beauty and I will miss her as if she were my own.

As I said in my Facebook post, she will probably be my neighbor’s last dog. He’s almost ninety. It’s possible that my dog is the last I will own, too, and as I head into my sixties, I realize that this may be the last home I ever live in, of my own choosing that is, and the car I’m driving may be my last car. I understand my mother better now, that she was living a life of “lasts,” and I hope this realization makes me more aware of the present, loving the people in my life mindful of their being alive, and giving my husband the attention he deserves.

Peace, Sally. Say hello to Sweet Pea, Benny, Butch, Worm, Shotzi, Susie Q, Heidi, Middie, and Chester for me.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Mandatory Deposit Revisited

I have caught up on my paperback book submissions for mandatory deposit and decided to re-publish my blog from September, 2013 about mandatory deposit and the Copyright office. I've updated some of the information.

I have to do what!!??
Disclaimer - I am not a legal representative or an expert on Copyright law.

One thing about self-publishing that I rarely hear about in my other groups or on forums is Mandatory Deposit.  I was researching the benefits of having a Createspace ISBN as opposed to buying my own ISBNs, and I read on someone's blog that Createspace does the Mandatory Deposit for you.  This sent me on a quest.  I wanted to find out if this was true.  It isn't, but it would be nice.  

Mandatory Deposit is required for published works.  It is a law that was enacted to keep the Library of Congress filled with books for minimal cost.  Authors, publishers, etc., are required to deposit two copies of the best edition (hard cover, or if you don't have hard cover, soft cover) with the Library of Congress within three months of publication.  If you register for a copyright, you are required to deposit two copies at that time. You can deposit PDF versions with your copyright registration, but it will not satisfy the Mandatory Deposit requirement of the best edition. 

There are exemptions such as electronic or online only publications.  Page 2 of the this Copyright Government PDF states that "A physical copy is not required for works that are published or distributed only electronically."

I don't know how many self-published authors are publishing away without making these deposits, but if the government doesn't default, they will get notice of the requirement.  Not making this deposit can lead to fines, some as high as $2500 if you refuse to comply.  

Registration isn't expensive.  It's $35 right now, and sending in those two copies with your registration with a Notice of Mandatory Deposit will satisfy your obligation.  I've attached some info at the bottom of this post if you want more information or the links to the Copyright Office.

I tried to state the facts as I found them, but if you see something here that is incorrect, please leave a comment.

Thanks for stopping by!

U.S. Copyright Office 

U.S. Copyright Registration

§ 407 . Deposit of copies or phonorecords for Library of Congress8

Monday, January 19, 2015


I made a big decision this weekend. The holidays had thrown me into a funk that lasted for seven weeks and fortunately, at my age, I realized it would pass and didn’t fight it. I let it run its course. Now, with the clarity of hindsight, I realized that the funk stemmed from the desire to be something other than what I am – the optimized me, the better me. I would read all the posts on writing that Facebook had to offer and feel less than, until the dark specter of depression would envelope me and lull me into a non-resistant state. No, I didn’t take to my bed, but I stopped writing.

I was tired of pushing myself. Finish three chapters, five chapters, etc. a day. Don’t worry that it is no fun, or that it may not even be that good, just produce. And marketing, well, we won’t even go into that. I had come to an impasse, the place in the road where one must make a decision about what it is they truly want. If I had started writing when I was thirty, I would have gone one way, but I started in my late fifties. Now, after four years, I understand something I’d never understood before – I can’t do it. I can’t do business. I have tried so many times to do something that would give me an income, or prove I wasn’t the less than a human being I’d always believed myself to be, but nothing worked. It wasn’t because I lacked passion, focus, or direction, it just wasn’t meant to be. If I had only accepted myself for who I am, I would have spent more time doing things I regret not doing now, such as getting on the floor and playing with my kids.

I have fought against calling my writing a hobby as somehow that made it seem trivial. At my age, however, hobbies become useful. It keeps us involved with the world and brings us new friends. When we are home alone, or even with a spouse who doesn’t share our passion, it helps to be in touch with someone who does understand it. A significant other can be supportive, but they can’t experience the flight of fancy you feel when you’re feeding your passion. I have fought the fact that I am not, nor will I ever be, a businesswoman. Encouraged by others I saw on Facebook, I pushed myself beyond my limits, forcing myself to read boring articles about SEO, and missing opportunities to take my grandchildren to the movies because I had to finish one more chapter. Why? Because of an unmovable deadline I had set for myself as per some article or blog post I’d read.

No more. I have a wonderful hobby that feeds my soul and brings me joy, but I’m too old to make it a business. First of all, it costs too much. I don’t make enough selling books to pay for the advertising, etc. that goes along with a business. Secondly, I just don’t like business and never have. It’s too much work and I’m retired. Also, I was born this way. I have fought my biology most of my life. I hated going to school because I had to get up in the morning. If I had been able to go in at noon, I think my years in school would have been more productive. I might even have gone to college. I might have started writing when I was in my twenties. Like most weird people, I have struggled to fit into this world. Fortunately, I met a man who didn’t care what I did. He just loved me. How many of us can say that they found unconditional love in the person they married?

Writing is a necessity for me. I can’t give it up, nor would I want to. I just can’t go on believing it can be anything other than a hobby for me. I want to share my stories because I want to entertain. I have no lofty goals other than to make people happy. I understand those who want writing to be their career and I applaud them for their desire to work hard and establish a profitable business. I wish them all the success in the world, and hope that they will support me in my decision as well.