Archive for May, 2011
May 29, 2011
Presenting Sharon Ervin
This week I’m featuring Sharon Ervin on this twelve week MURDER WE WRITE 2011 Author Tour. Help me welcome her, folks!
Hi, Beth. Thanks for inviting me to visit your blog today. I want to tell you a little about my second published novel, BODACIOUS, a book inspired by a tiff with my husband. Bill thinks faster in an argument. A sore loser, I created a hero who didn’t talk for BODACIOUS, my best selling Kindle title.
Log line of BODACIOUS: Unable to find her way alone from the isolated cabin back to the Twenty-First Century and civilization, Sara Loomis must convince Bo, a stubborn, old, mute mountain man to help
Excerpt from BODACIOUS:
They had gone less than two miles up and through a gulch then downhill through a stand of pines, when she saw lights from a cabin nestled in a valley separating two low mountains. That seemed to be their destination, although the wolf’s doleful wail came from beyond.
A short, stout woman with a shawl clutched around her ample frame bustled up from somewhere below the cabin. Could she be Bo’s girlfriend? Sara didn’t think so. Looking beyond the woman, Sara saw reflections and heard the muffled torrent of rushing water.
The woman waved. “Bo. Thank God.” She spoke breathlessly as her fat legs propelled her toward them. “It’s Lutie. He rode the mule acrost…” Her voice faltered as she tried to catch her breath. “…to cut a tree for Deborah. Before he come back,” she hesitated, catching her breath again, “the river swoll. He only got part way.” The woman stopped directly in front of Bo, staring up into his face and gasping. “He’s stuck out there on that dern spit. The mule come on the rest o’ the way without him. The water’s coming up fast. Fayette ain’t got back from town yet.”
Sara had a hard time following the account. She peered into Bo’s face. Who was Lutie and why was this woman telling Bo all this? Was he obligated to her? Sara looked again at the dark, silent sweep of the river. What did the woman expect Bo to do?
He nodded, his calm demeanor soothing the woman momentarily, allowing her to catch her breath. Apparently he understood what she wanted. He didn’t seem alarmed.
The woman glanced at Sara, said “Howdy,” studied her for a moment, then looked back at Bo who handed his guns to Sara, removed his coat, and handed her that, as well. She felt honored until she realized what he must be thinking. She grabbed his shirt sleeve. “Don’t be crazy, Bo. You can’t go into that water. The current’s too fast.”
With a look of mingled annoyance and surprise, he pulled his arm free, walked into the shadows around the cabin and returned moments later, leading a mule. Bo had skinned out of his clothes, down to the pants of his long handles, a T-shirt, and socks. Sara bit her lips and continued shaking her head. “Please don’t go. I don’t want you to.” As if what she wanted would influence him.
He didn’t hesitate as he led the mule, but the animal balked at the water’s edge. Sara hoped the mule’s common sense was contagious. Bo pulled the mule’s head down, took a firm hold of its sizable ear and put his mouth close to it. It looked as if Bo bit the ear, or maybe he only whispered into it. Whatever the method, it convinced the animal to step out beside him into the black, swirling water. . . .
Sara stood paralyzed as Bo eventually emerged from the river, her eyes locked on the man. She had intended to fling her arms around him, to hold onto him and comfort him and praise him for his courage. Instead, she stood stunned, staring. The powerful man who had emerged from the water was a stranger. She retreated a step, confused, frightened.
His hair and beard were plastered back revealing a high forehead, full dark eyebrows and a strong chin. The wet clothing clung to him, outlining the swells and crevices of a strapping body, broad shoulders, muscular biceps. She could see the definition of his chest and stomach, his slim waist and narrow hips. The long underwear clung to his well-formed legs. Amazed, Sara caught her breath as her eyes trailed from his face down his long physique.
This was not the old man who had shuffled into the river. Yet this was the same man who only appeared to be old behind the whiskers and layers of clothing. Now the river had exposed the truth.
ABOUT SHARON ERVIN
Sooner born, Sharon has a degree in journalism from the University of Oklahoma. Once a newspaper reporter, Sharon now works in her husband and son’s law office half-days, gleaning material for her nine published novels. She is married to McAlester, Oklahoma attorney Bill Ervin and has four grown children.
BO is available in print and Kindle at http://www.amazon.com/Bodacious-Sharon-Ervin/dp/1588514943/ref=sr_1_fkmr1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1306707707&sr=1-1-fkmr1
And on Nook at http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Bodacious/Sharon-Ervin/e/9781588514943/?itm=6&USRI=bodacious
Sharon, I love your excerpt! It’s very real, and I will be buying a copy for my new Kindle. I can’t imagine a better place to work for mystery ideas! Thanks so much for sharing your excerpt and a bit about yourself this week! Good luck and cheers, Beth
Folks, This week I’ll be featured at Vivian Zabel’s blog http://www.vivianzabel.blogspot.com . Come on over and see what I had to say there. Folks, Vivian’s husband has been having serious medical issues and she’s spending most of her time at the hospital with him, so she probably won’t have time to respond herself, and it’s possible my blog might not even get be there this week, but if it is I’ll be checking in from time to time to say hi and answer your posts. Update: My blog is up there. Kudos for Vivian for doing that, even with a sick husband. Thank you, Vivian!
Also, if you’re a new writer and you want to know what “voice” really means, I was guest blogger over at Ellis Vidler’s blog this past week and I’m sure you’ll be able to find my post as well as another newer one from the upcoming blogger over there, OR maybe a post by Ellis herself. Her url is: http://theunpredictablemuse.blogspot.com/ . Ellis is a former grammar teacher and her almost daily posts are a treasure trove of information, as are my Lecture pages on this same website. If you need help, good information is out there on all these blogs, so please take advantage of it. We do these things for YOU.
Hope you all have a Happy and Safe Memorial Day holiday, and if you see one of our servicemen or women, be sure and say Thank You. They’ll understand and be grateful, even if that’s all you say. It’s the “Thank You” that counts.
And don’t forget, you can find RAVEN TALKS BACK, only $2.99 for the e-book version and also in print at the following places: http://www.amazon.com/Beth-Anderson/e/B000APMRR4 , my Raven Talks Back Kindle page. and http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Raven-Talks-Back/Beth-Anderson/e/2940012515407/?itm=1&USRI=beth+anderson , my Barnes & Noble Nook page .
Come back next week for my next guest blogger, Jackie King. I love y’all, you know I do! I’ll leave the porch light on for you.
XOXOXO, Beth Anderson, DenaliDawg, Sarge, and BooBoo
May 22, 2011
Pat Browning–Success in Slow Motion
Today I’m welcoming author Pat Browning as the first in a 12 week series of author blogs called Murder We Write 2011. I’ve known Pat for a long time, she’s well known on the Internet and she’s a first-rate author as well as one of the most fascinating women I know. The book we’re discussing today is her first novel, and it’s very unusual to have a first book as good as this one. I read and reviewed it myself a while back and I LOVED it, as you will too. But first, Pat’s Bio:
Pat Browning was born and raised in Oklahoma. A longtime resident of California’s San Joaquin Valley before moving back to Oklahoma in 2005, Pat’s professional writing credits go back to the 1960s, when she was a stringer for The Fresno Bee while working full time in a Hanford law office.
She is a veteran traveler. Her globetrotting in the 1970s led her into the travel business, first as a travel agent, then as a correspondent for Travel Age West, a trade journal published in San Francisco. In the 1990s, she signed on fulltime as a newspaper reporter and columnist, first at The Selma Enterprise and then at The Hanford Sentinel.
At the Enterprise, her lifestyle coverage placed first two years in a row in the California Newspaper Publishers Association Better Newspapers Contest. She was also a co-finalist for the 1993 George F. Gruner Award for Meritorious Public Service in Journalism. The award was for a story she and a colleague wrote about AIDS, which was a recent phenomenon at the time. At the Sentinel, her feature story on the Japanese-American “Yankee Samurais” of World War II, placed second in the CNPA contest.
Pat’s articles on the writing life have appeared in The SouthWest Sage, the monthly journal of SouthWest Writers, based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She is building a new website. In the meantime she has a page at Author’s Den – www.authorsden.com/patbrowning
SUCCESS IN SLOW MOTION
I came late to fame. Actually I’m not famous at all, except by comparison. My mystery novel is doing well but first I had to write it. That was the hard part. As I write this I am halfway through my second mystery, after beginning it 10 years ago. So what happened? Life happened. But that’s nothing compared to my short nostalgic essay that was finally published last year. I spent more than 40 years on that one.
It’s easy to say that writers are born, not made, and there’s some truth to that. But writing, even fiction writing, is a matter of communication. If you can learn to talk, you can learn to write. Otherwise, all those high school and college English classes and online writing classes are a colossal waste of time. I’m a veteran of all of those, and they pushed me forward to where I am today.
Actually, they nudged me forward, like an ant moves a rock, but that’s what it took to keep me at the keyboard. Patience and persistence, not talent, are the first requirements of writing. I grew up assuming I would write The Great American Novel. Of course, I’m not dead yet so there’s still time, but for years I was nudged toward essays/newspaper columns/blogs that I write about looking back on my life and times.
I’ve always loved words. My mother said I learned to read by asking her about the letters on her coffee can. Her favorite brand was Folger’s so maybe I should say Folger’s Coffee taught me to read and write. Maybe, too, that’s why Lipstick Red ties with Lime Green for my favorite color. Red, when I want to stand out in a crowd. Green, when I need to relax. That’s why I loved the cover of my book ABSINTHE OF MALICE the minute I saw it. It flashes red and green, like a traffic signal: STOP. BUY. READ.
Red and green. Everything in my life is a tie. Talk about a split personality. Gemini, the zodiac sign of the Twins, was just scampering toward the horizon when I was born. Cancer was moving up big time, bringing with it a lifelong weight problem. Gemini kept me in designer shoes during my salad days. Cancer put me in walking shoes when I could no longer trust high heels.
My father called me his “talking daughter” because I just never shut up. Now you know why I’m a writer. But let’s get back to the essay that spent 40 years on the road to publication and its connection to my first mystery.
In the 1960s, as a stringer for The Fresno Bee, I met and interviewed Dorothy Baker. She was well-known in academic and literary circles, but her claim to popular fame rested on her novel YOUNG MAN WITH A HORN. It was a based on the life of famed coronetist Bix Biederbecke, who shot across the 1920s jazz scene like a comet and died in 1931 at the age of 28.
I mentioned to Ms. Baker that I had started writing a book but couldn’t get past Chapter One. She said, “Don’t worry about it. If you have something to say, you’ll say it.”
My Chapter One was a recreation of the old-time Southern Baptist church services of my growing-up years in Oklahoma. I meant to use it in a novel I would call SWEETER DAY, a title inspired by my memory of country preachers who promised a sweet life in Heaven, and a neighbor who talked constantly about going to California, where every yard had a tree decorated with big juicy oranges.
I spent the next 40 years looking for a place to use it. Every few years I dragged it out of my filing cabinet and rewrote it. In 1999 I tried to slip it into my working manuscript of FULL CIRCLE. I thought it was so clever, turning that old memoir into a chapter where a character dredges up her memories for an adult writing class. The chapter stuck out like a sore thumb, so I took it out of the manuscript and filed it away again.
In 2007 I was scrolling through My Documents and there was the old memoir. I retitled it “White Petunias,” rewrote it and entered it in the Nostalgia category of a contest sponsored Panhandle Professional Writers in Amarillo, Texas. It won second place and $50.
Sometimes a piece of writing is like an old house — all it needs is a fresh coat of paint. A year later I completely rewrote “White Petunias” and submitted it to the Red Dirt Book Festival Committee. In the winter of 2009 my memoir appeared in the RED DIRT BOOK FESTIVAL ANTHOLOGY, OKLAHOMA CHARACTER.
I’m satisfied with the final version and happy to see it finally in print. It’s nothing earth-shattering. It’s simply about a summer night in 1939 on the eve of World War II, before the world changed forever. If you are curious, you can read it on my personal blog, Morning’s At Noon: http://tinyurl.com/2ga6hbm .
What I started so long ago finally became a mystery novel, although it bears no resemblance to the story I began with. My mystery novel is set in California’s San Joaquin Valley, modeled after several small towns near Fresno, and features a reporter on a one-horse newspaper. Discovery of an old skeleton in a cotton field leads to revelation of long-buried secrets, murder—and romance.
I finished FULL CIRCLE in 2001 and self-published it through the new print-on-demand company iUniverse. I had some fun with it. I ran up and down the San Joaquin Valley making talks and selling the books I lugged with me. Mostly, though, FULL CIRCLE just sat on Amazon.com looking lonely.
In 2008 the publisher of a new small press read the book, liked it, made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. He changed the cover, changed the title to ABSINTHE OF MALICE, and asked me to make a couple of revisions. Getting that book into print was a trip and it all happened so fast I had barely stopped laughing before I had a brand new book.
Unless you are one of the famous few whose royalties number in the millions, it may take a while for your book to find its audience. About a year after publication of ABSINTHE OF MALICE the Kindle edition suddenly took off like a house afire. Oh, boy. Oh, joy.
I keep quoting The Grateful Dead: “What a long strange trip it’s been.” Another quote I bear in mind comes from mystery author and teacher, Carolyn Wheat. When I first began writing FULL CIRCLE, now ABSINTHE, I sent her my first three chapters to critique. She drew blue lines through almost every page. I got lots of good advice from her and she always ended her e-mails by saying, “Don’t forget to have fun with it.” It’s worth remembering. There may be times when that’s all you get out of it.
But the best quote for a struggling writer or any other artist is by the late Elizabeth Taylor. Her quote from the London Guardian comes via The Week of April 8, 2011: “Success is a great deodorant. It takes away all your past smells.”
So how about it? Let’s have a drawing for a print copy of ABSINTHE OF MALICE. No contest, just a names-in-the-hat drawing. Leave a comment here and if you want to enter the drawing, mention that. Be sure we have a way to contact you in case you win. Also, if by some miracle my sequel (working title METAPHOR FOR MURDER) is ready, I’ll include an ARC or finished print copy of that, too.
There are extensive excerpts from ABSINTHE OF MALICE at Google Books, http://tinyurl.com/23pojdm . Thanks for listening, and thanks to Beth for letting me sound off.
http://patbrowning.weebly.com (under construction)
See what I mean, folks? She really is a fascinating person, a great writer. It’s a pleasure to showcase her here on my blog. Thank you so much, Pat!
This week I’ll be featured in the first of my 12 spots in MURDER WE WRITE 2011 at Anne K. Albert’s blog – http://www.anne-k-albert.blogspot.com . Come on over to Anne’s blog and see me after you’ve finished looking up more on Pat Browning, and you should because she’s an author heading for the top.
Bye for now, see you soon, and come back later on toward the end of this week when I’ll be telling y’all what all is going on with my book. I’ll leave the porch light on for ya!
Love y’all, you know I do! Beth Anderson, sometimes known as Hotclue. 😉
May 17, 2011
Presenting Melissa Bradley’s MAXIE
The Night A Werewolf Took Over My Brain
By Melissa Bradley
Hello! Hope you don’t mind me sitting here and taking over for the day. I’m so excited Beth let me come over and play. She is one wicked crime writer and a favorite author of mine.
People often ask me how I come up with my characters. The process varies from me creating a particular situation and deciding what kind of person would be most likely to encounter this to having a certain character type in mind then creating the plot around them. I create backstory and personality traits, vulnerabilities, fears, hopes and dreams. At least that was my M.O. until one night in the not-too-distant past. The night a werewolf took over my mind and wouldn’t let go until I told her story her way.
I’d often read author interviews where they talked about how characters would speak to them. That these men, women, supernatural beings, would appear in their mind’s eye and start yammering on. It had never happened to me and I could not imagine what the experience was like. Then Maxie Briscoe happened and it was one of the greatest, strangest, most exciting experiences of my writing career.
Before Maxie, I was burned out and at a low point in my life. I’d just had two stories rejected and I was in a creative stupor. I sat at my computer night and night, trying like mad to think of something, anything. One evening on the verge of flipping my desk like a crazed lunatic, I put my head down and took a huge deep breath. I had just decided it was time to shut down and go to bed when it happened.
‘The name’s Maxie Briscoe and I am a werewolf.”
I heard those words and I sat up instantly. I typed them onto the screen and stared at them for a minute. Suddenly my fingers were flying over the keys. I could not stop typing. The words flowed fast and furious as Maxie literally dictated to me. I went from having nothing at all to having seven pages that first night. I was absolutely stunned when I finally went to bed that night.
And she didn’t leave me alone until it was “my writing time,” either. Oh no. Maxie kept right on talking to me throughout my days. I had to walk around with a notebook because she just kept right on speaking, no shutting up. And I had to tell her story, her way, too. I tried to go the third person route like usual, but the story lost its punch. It was her saying. “these are my words, sister and you aren’t changing a thing.”
Maxie is the first and so far only character who has ever kicked in the doors of my brain and taken over. I had to do no outline for her, give her a background, nothing. Her entire being is my brain. I know her like I know myself. And her story, Maxie Briscoe: Werewolf, isn’t the only one. No, she has already told me that there is a trilogy in there and I have to share. So fasten your seatbelts, the wild ride has only just started.
Here’s a little taste of Maxie:
The name’s Maxie Briscoe and I am a werewolf…
That’s right, a real live, full moon-loving, Halloween icon. It’s hard out here for girl like me. To survive, I hide my true self and act the part of a normal human, all while discreetly indulging the Beast within. Talk about walking a narrow ledge. And that’s not even the worst part. Sex is. You see I can bench press a pick-up truck and that spells disaster in the bedroom. You can’t have any real fun knowing you might accidentally crush a lover while in the throes. Kind of kills the mood.
When a friend’s murder shatters the careful existence I’ve carved out, I come face to face with Damien and Noah, two of the hottest men I’ve ever laid eyes on. They are also the first werewolves I’ve run across since my conversion. The attraction is instant, but complicated, the sex…explosive.
Too bad there’s a killer out there with his sights on me …
They materialize from the darkness, hunters intent on their prey. Me.
My breath hitches, the animal inside rippling beneath my skin. I’m nervous, but I refuse to let them see. This bitch rolls belly-up for no one. I stride onto my front porch, prepared to defend my territory. Dressed in loungewear, I am hardly the picture of a strong alpha female, but you go with what you got. I look them both dead on.
I fold my arms over my breasts. “What do you want?” I growl, my voice a low rumble.
“We’ve come for you, little one.” With a voice like muffled thunder, the taller of the two moves forward onto my lawn. Twisted steel with sex appeal about sums him up. His dark hair is pulled back in a tail, tee-shirt molded to his cut frame.
My nostrils flare, catching his scent, fresh like a mountain spring at first thaw; my female parts quiver in anticipation. I want to coil myself around him like a python on a Kapok tree, hugging every hard inch of flesh. Ruthlessly, I shove down the urge. It’s dangerous. Ulterior motives are written all over the two of them, and I just know one of those motives is to dominate me.
“It took us a long time to find you, Maxie.”
The whisky baritone draws my attention, and I watch the other one emerge, lean and graceful, his muscles liquid precision. Definite hotness is woven into the male half of the werewolf genetic code. His scent is warm and dark, like night in a jungle. My nipples bead with excitement as he lopes toward me, brushing past the larger wolf. He stops at the base of my stairs, conqueror etched in every line of his body. This is definitely the alpha of the pair.
“Didn’t know I was lost.” I widen my stance, ready to spring. If he’s looking for a challenge, he’s got one.
He smiles, teeth bared, the faint light from the scimitar moon exposing the predatory glint in his eyes.
I can feel the hunger resonating through them, matching my own deep desire.
“We can smell your craving, little one,” the taller one rumbles as he joins his partner.
I hate arrogant assholes. “Is this the part where I’m supposed lie back, spread my legs and say, ‘Do me like Red Riding Hood, you Big Bad Wolf’?”
They chuckle in that knowing, masculine way, the sound like tropical waves lapping along my insides, teasing and inviting.
“She’s more than we imagined, my friend.” The dominant wolf smiles over his shoulder at the other one as he starts up the first step.
“Hold it right there, Romeo,” I snap.
He stops, huffs out a breath and moves back to his original position. “The name is Damien Black. And this is Noah Rayburn.” He jerks a thumb toward the larger guy who inclines his head with a gleaming look in his eyes.
They stand there, watching me, probably wondering when I’m going to quit being so difficult and invite them inside. Maybe I will and maybe I won’t. All depends on their explanations.
Is this lady talented or what! I invite you to get a copy of her book like right now, in many different formats including print.
To buy Maxie: http://amberquillpress.com/AmberHeat/MaxieBriscoe.html
My Blog Melissa’s Imaginarium http://melissasimaginarium.blogspot.com/
My Space http://myspace/com/melbwrites
Thank you, Melissa and Maxie, for visiting this week. I’m so happy to meet both of you, and looking forward to the next Maxie book!
Folks, come back next week, when I’ll be featuring Pat Browning in the first of my 12 weeks with Murder We Write 2011, a multi-blog tour featuring mystery writers from all over the map. I’ll also let you know where I’ll be on each of the 12 weeks.
Oh, and one more thing:
RAVEN TALKS BACK is now at Amazon.com and Borders.com in both ebooks and print and already doing very well. Thank y’all for that! If you haven’t gone to get a copy, here are the links to my author links on both sites:
Cheers, Beth, whose house is now almost in order again…that is, after we get everything back in “perfect” order. The house is dry, the new carpeting is beautiful, the cats and DenaliDawg are happy again now that they know we’re not moving and their food bowsl are safe.
May 11, 2011
90 Degrees in Chicago and My Ice Cube Trays are Empty!
Time for an update, right?
Plumbing is all fixed. Waiting for new carpet installation Monday the 16th. After that, put everything that’s piled in my family room back. End of story, I hope. I got ashamed of myself for whining about the floors being wet when I saw how many people down south don’t even have their floors anymore, and no way to pay for any of it. I don’t put a lot of faith in our government helping them out to any extent because our government doesn’t appear to have the money to pay for it, unless you’re a U.S. Senator who wants to go on a trip somewhere. I wouldn’t mind having that job, I can tell you. Some of them, all they do is preen in front of the camera crews and lie. On second thought, not for me.
I’m making headway with my book promo. Starting in a couple weeks, I’ll be having blogs by a lot of very good authors who will each have their week on my website. 12 in fact, for 12 weeks straight. In case you’re thinking I’m getting all generous and altruistic, I’ll be on their different blogs for 12 weeks too. I’ll let you know every week where I am, in case you miss me. This is called the 2011 Murder We Write Blog Tour. I finished all mine and sent them to the various authors already, and tried to make all of them different and interesting. I’ll post on here and Facebook each week who I’m hosting and where I’ll be. The person who visits the most blogs of mine and leaves a comment will win a print copy of Raven Talks Back. You do remember the heroine is an Alaska Native, lower 48 educated, and the hero is a great cop named Jack O’Banion, don’t you?
Book news: Raven Talks Back is now available for only $2.99, folks, at both Amazon.com and B&N.com. Here are the actual links.
Amazon’s Kindle edition: http://www.amazon.com/Beth-Anderson/e/B000APMRR4
They take you to my own pages on each site where you can see all of my books. I hope you’ll go there and take a chance if you haven’t read any of my books. Raven Talks Back is my best book yet, and all my others have generated mostly five star reviews and not from family or close friends. I’d love for you to read them, especially this new one and leave a review at Amazon and B&N. In a week or so, Raven Talks Back will be up there also in print, I know a lot of people are waiting for that. But if you have a Kindle or a Nook, you can get the book much cheaper. Just sayin’.
Also, I’ll be at Sloane Taylor’s blog on May 13, then Ellis Vidler’s blog on May 24th, Jenny Milchman’s Suspense Your Disbelief blog on July 20, and Leila Taylor’s Creatures & Crooks on July 24. June will pretty much be taken up by the Murder We Write blogs. I will post the blog addresses every week.
Same offer for all blogs. At the end of them, in a couple months, I’m keeping track of who comments on these blogs and one person will win a print book, one person will win a chance to have a character named after them in the next Raven book. So come on out and comment, I’ll leave links every week for a while so you’ll know where to go each week. Can’t make it any easier for you without sending a police escort, right? 😉
I’ll be having family at my house early in June, can’t wait to see all of them! Yay!
That’s probably most of the news so far. I did get one review up on Amazon, five stars. Hope some of you will add to them, that little one review looks mighty lonely up there.
Back to moving more stuff into this back room. Can’t wait for the new carpeting to be down. After this past month I’m really looking forward to that. I’m trying to get everybody to levitate when they come in so they won’t get the floors dirty. I’ll let you know how I make out with that.
Oh. I did, on my last blog, give you the opening page, didn’t I. How about the whole first chapter, right here, right now? Okay, you talked me into it. Here goes:
The thought had never entered my mind that I might find myself standing in my back yard shuddering with nausea and disbelief, staring down at a nude female body with no head or hands, and equally horrifying, a painted rock close to where her head would have been. The only other thing missing was blood.
Mark Taylor’s men had graded and leveled our yard the previous week, ready to set the foundation for the attached greenhouse my husband, Red, had been promising for years. Alaska winter days are so short and dark that nothing grows without a heated greenhouse and ultraviolet light. Of all the things I longed for in the wintertime, I missed fresh flowers most.
As was often the case in Valdez, things got done whenever they got done no matter which day it was. I hadn’t known they were coming on Saturday. Mark and his men had simply pulled into the driveway and started working.
My eight-year-old son Timmy stood under the tall pine in the northeast corner of the yard with his thumb in his mouth. I froze when I turned and saw him because he hadn’t done that for three years, ever since he’d started school. I hurried over to him, pulling him close. He shivered when my fingers brushed over his arm and his skin felt cold, although it was quite warm that morning and the fog was already beginning to dissipate over the Sound.
“Timmy, are you hurt?” I forced my voice to stay calm because his black eyes were ringed with white and his lips were a bluish tint.
He pointed toward Jack O’Banion, our chief of police, without making a sound.
I frowned, puzzled by his silence. Timmy had never had a problem speaking; he’d been talking nonstop since he was eleven months old. Now he just shook his head and looked back down at the ground.
Alice, my daughter, was still at the door, where we’d brushed past her in our rush to get outside after she’d awakened us from a sound sleep a few minutes before. I beckoned for her to come.
A surrealistic film seemed to float over the yard as she headed my way. Although she was only twelve, she was constantly swiping her long black hair away from her eyes the way girls did on TV, and lately she had taken to walking in slow motion, her hips moving in a deliberate way that made me nervous. Her voice, shrill with fear before, was now flat and emotionless. “I don’t think he can talk. He saw it first.”
I glanced down at Timmy again. One of the straps on his overalls had come unbuttoned. His black hair hung down over his eyebrows, reminding me as it always did of my father and his father before him when they returned, sweaty and exhausted, from their caribou hunting trips.
His feet were bare, as usual. They were never cold until after termination dust, first snow, appeared on the surrounding mountains early in September, when the temperature would dip below twenty degrees at night. Other than that he went barefoot everywhere, but today his feet were blue and mottled. I tried to pick him up to carry him into the house where I could warm him, but he seemed to have gained twenty pounds overnight. I could not lift him and he could not move.
“Red,” I called, “I need help here. Come carry Timmy into the house for me, will you?”
Red turned to face me. “Why can’t he walk?”
“I think he’s in shock, Red. He’s ice-cold.”
At that, Jack strode over to us and knelt, lifting Timmy’s chin with his finger.
“You okay, son?”
I’d never before heard such a compassionate tone of voice coming from Jack. I’d always thought him distant and unreadable, but this time even the look in his eyes had softened somewhat, a real departure from his usual all-business behavior, and for the first time I found myself drawn to him, whereas before there had been nothing to like or not like.
Timmy turned away from him, still silent.
Jack felt Timmy’s forehead then glanced up at me. “He feels clammy. You’re probably right, I’m pretty sure he’s in shock. Mark told me he was watching while they were loosening up the dirt a little more and he saw it first.”
My heart almost stopped. “What did he do?”
“They told me he ran over to the tree where you found him and hid his eyes with his hands. He hasn’t made a sound. Let’s get him inside so you can call Doc Martin. Tell him I said to get on over here, he can check Timmy first and then I’ll need him out here.”
Timmy shuddered. Jack picked him up without effort and slung him over his shoulder. What a picture they made, Jack in his silver-tipped snakeskin boots and cowboy hat, long legs striding across the lawn toward the house, worn leather holster moving as he walked, and my sad, silent little boy lying limp on Jack’s shoulder with his eyes closed.
I followed them into the house but found myself glancing up into the nearby mountains as if someone were crouched, hidden from sight with binoculars trained on us, watching our every move.
Someone had to be watching. I could feel the certainty of it snaking along under my skin. Otherwise, why had the body been left in our yard?
Okay, Chapter Two next week, then Chapter Three. Maybe four. After that, it’s up to you whether you want to read the rest of it.
Bye for now, please come back soon. I’ll leave the porch light on for you. Love you all, you know I do!
Cheers, Beth, Denali, BooBoo and Sarge.
May 1, 2011
LIFE! The Good and the Bad
Talk about life interfering! A week and a half ago, the same week my book, RAVEN TALKS BACK, went up at Amazon.com in its Kindle version, which is here: http://www.amazon.com/Beth-Anderson/e/B000APMRR4 on my author page, along with my other three Kindle books, the pipe that brings water into my house broke. I don’t know which one to talk about first because one is wonderful and one is traumatic. Let’s do traumatic first, then we’ll get into the good stuff.
Just three years ago, two months after my husband passed away, the outgoing sewer pipes in my house broke and I had to have my kitchen floor broken and dug up and all the new PVC sewer pipes re-routed outside of the house. Eight foot square hole in my kitchen, where it all began, and although the pipes work just fine, my kitchen floor has never been the same. Neither has my bank account, because homeowner insurance no longer covers almost everything, it covers almost nothing. But I got the problem fixed and life went on.
Until the middle of the night on Thursday, the day before Good Friday. When nobody wants to do anything. My daughter and I both woke up to the sound of a strange hissing sound and discovered my living room and hallway had become flooded with incoming water. We’re talking REALLY flooded. I’d put towels down. Ten minutes later it would be wet again. It. Would. Not. Stop.
On Saturday I rented a shop vac. That helped some, but this success was fleeting because I had a real flood and there was no stopping it. I shop vac’ed all weekend, even when I had company for Easter dinner, but the flooding just got worse.
Monday I started the ball rolling with a plumber, but the cost was/is monstrously high and I had to find out how much the insurance would pay. I soon discovered it would pay approximately one fourth of what it cost.
BUT we set up the repair to be done this past Friday. It took them just one day to fix it. Two more holes in my foundation, one where the water control was, one in my living room, where the underground pipe actually broke.
My insurance company sent a company that does mold control. They came today, did a masterful cleanup job, pulling up the soaked carpets–living room, hallway, and surprise! My daughter’s bedroom floor was also wet, which we didn’t even know about because everything was so wet we never took our shoes off. (It’s the little things that get ya, right?)
So, sooner or later we’ll have new carpeting, meantime, we have four water/mold removal machines going 24/7 that sound like Boeing 747’s, which explains why I’m up in the middle of the night writing this. Who can sleep through that?
Oh, DanaliDawg, Sarge, BooBoo, and my daughter can, apparently. Me, the noise has kept me awake most of the night. The good news is, it’s getting dry in here. A couple more days of this and I’ll feel like I’ve moved to Arizona, without all the unconcealed carrying laws.
So that was the bad, and it’s kept me from even thinking about blogging, even though this week was the Kindle launch of my new book. I’m very happy about that, although I also can’t wait to see the print book which will be sometime this month. Happy May, by the way. For a lot of us, especially the people down south here in the US, I hope May is a whole lot better than April was.
I want to introduce Raven to you, as I said I would last time I posted. I am going to post the first three chapters of my book here on my website’s Books page as soon as my webmaster can get to it, but meantime, I’d like to let you read just the first page here so you’ll know where Raven comes from and how she thinks. That’s really why I have this first page the way it is in the first place, because what it leads into is a mainstream murder mystey in Valdez, Alaska, where I spent a few months a few years ago, and on my very first day there fell completely in love with the fog and the haunting ambiance of Valdez, Alaska, enough to write an entire book about it.
Here we go. Folks, meet Raven on the first page of RAVEN TALKS BACK:
The spirits of my ancestors live in the towering Chugach Mountains that surround my world in Valdez. I know they are there. I can see them most mornings, great cottony masses of gray fog rolling down the mountains, sinister characters in a black and white movie, shivering and mourning their inevitable disintegration above the marina before they disappear over Prince William Sound. They call to me through that fog, whispering my name. I hear them, soft, desolate sounds you can only hear if you’re really a part of this beautiful land.
My people will tell my story to future generations of Athabascans, and tourists from the lower forty-eight who come to walk through our villages and see for themselves how little is left of what we were. We have no written ancient history. Everything known about our past has evolved only because of stories told in the dark of night before our children go to sleep, when wind screams over the mountaintops and roars down through the passes, bringing the icy chill of our glaciers spiraling into our homes in spite of insulation invented by modern man. The wind is still bitter and we know it.
Even so, we lead a lovely, slow-paced life in this part of Alaska, where flowers burst with fragrant beauty everywhere in the summertime, and deep undercurrents of love and laughter seem to hover beneath the surface of our daily lives.
At least to me it had always been that way, until the Saturday morning in early June, when my world of gentle laughter disappeared and violent death entered the soft space I had occupied all my adult life.
–End of Excerpt–
As you can see, Raven is a somewhat soft, spiritual person, not religion-wise especially, but it’s the nature of Athabascans to be soft-spoken and a bit reticent. At least, in the beginning she is. Raven is married to a Caucasian man, they have three children, one of whom is temporarily emotionally crippled because he saw the body in their back yard first. No head, no hands, just a rock with a face painted on where her head would have been. What is left of her body is covered with scarification, many, many raised tattooes. And so the story begins.
Raven and Jack O’Banion, the Valdez chief of police, share alternate chapters. Hers are always in first person, his are in third person. It’s a wonderful, compelling way to tell a story like this and I had a great time writing it. It has lived in my mind for years now, and is finally going out into the world all by itself.
Right now it’s at Amazon at the link I gave you above, in its Kindle version. A Barnes & Noble Nook version will be uploaded soon, and the beautiful print version will go to print sometime this month. I hope you’ll give it a try.
My publisher, Krill Press, is pricing the Kindle version at $2.99 because the lower cost books sell a lot more than if it’s priced higher. If you don’t have a Kindle Reader, you can download a Kindle app free at Amazon.com and read it on a computer or laptop or any number of reading devices, i-phones, etc. I really love my little Kindle Reader, but I also like to read on my computer, so whatever way you choose, I hope you’ll love reading it as much as I did writing it.
Cheers for now, as I am officially finally getting sleepy. I think I’ll sleep in here with Denalidawg though, since it’s a lot quieter. Nitey night, and please do bookmark the link I gave you above and maybe give it a try.
In case you were wondering, although it turns quickly into a mainstream murder mystery after that first page, that first page is the very soul of Raven Morressey, who finally, in the end, to save her family, had to talk back.
Come back soon. I’ll try to post weekly from now on, unless something else happens. Pray for me that it doesn’t. Stop by. I’ll leave the porch light on for you,
XOXOXO, Beth and DenaliDawg and Sarge and BooBoo