Saturday, October 22, 2016

A Simple Whack Upside The Head

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A Simple Whack Upside The Head

“Okay, one thing he is, is a son-of-a-bitch,” Julia-Rae swore as she popped the lens cap off one of her two 35mm digital cameras and stared at the obscene crack running crookedly across the lens. The camera was useless to her now. Her cheeks burned with rage as she flung it over her shoulder and stormed down the trail. “Lack of oxygen or not at this altitude, I’ll be damned. No man is going to bowl me over, disturb my shots, wreck my camera, and take off without at least a decent apology. Mr. Name, or no name magnificent tight cheeks, has a few things coming his way.” Julia-Rae yanked her sleeves up. “Oh, I’m so and so and I’m so sorry I’ve bowled you over. Here let me offer you a hand up; it’s the least I can do for you. MEN!” She fumed.
That insidious temper that had got her into so much trouble in the past sank its long, evil claws into her again. As her dad, Dennis McNaughton, would often tell her, “God didn’t plant that wavy pile of red hair on your head to act as traffic lights.”
“You maybe the sexiest man I’ve seen in a long time, but you aren’t getting away with this.” The fire that gripped her heart now had also served her well in the past. It had gotten Julie-Rae through many trials and helped her to stay in command of her life. Of course, it had gotten her in a whole heap of trouble.
Turning a corner of the trail Julia-Rae spied the culprit crouched over staring at something on the stonewall foundations of the ancient city of Machu Picchu. She untied her handkerchief, twirled it taunt and held it like a slingshot. “Here Mr. Magnificent Great Ass, let’s see how you like this!”
That is the opening scene to my novel Shuddered Seduction. I learned a long time ago not to open a novel with ‘It was a dark and stormy night’ and expect to pull your reader in. Smack them upside the head with action and place them head spinning and all into the middle of it.
What if Charles Schulz opened with this instead: Lightning sizzled, hammering away the darkness and in lost in the deafening clap of thunder the clank of metal typewriter keys midst a hot wooden roof.
I think Snoopy would have gone on to be entered into literary contests and not stick to having intimate chats with feathered friends. Not to mention the fact that he’s lucky he’s never been struck by lightning.
Of course one could simply whack someone upside the head and drag them kicking and screaming into the bookstore to buy your novel. Sounds like what Mr. King does. No wonder he’s made a buck or two.

Okay next month I’ll talk about having the sense to immerse your reader so that they feel like they are there in the book with your characters.  Yes, it’s like literally drowning them with words. Which is easier to swim out of. Did I ever mention I can’t swim?

Click  Here To Purchase From Amazon
Also coming soon from Books We Love

Agatha Christie, roll over in your grave, new sleuths on the prowl.  Haida shaman Charlie Stillwaters convinces Carol Ainsworth, a Vancouver detective, to join him as he breaks his way into a high security prison. The duo are determined to find out who killed the previous native elder before all lightning and thunder breaks loose. They encounter deranged inmates, mystical beings, ancient serpents, wood sprites and someone who should have been dead long ago.
Not your usual crime/mystery!
Not your usual criminal investigators!
You thought Jack Nicholson was mad in The Shining
Wait until you meet Charlie Stillwaters in the Sweat lodge.

Frank Talaber’s Writing Style? He usually responds with: Mix Dan Millman (Way of The Peaceful Warrior) with Charles De Lint (Moonheart) and throw in a mad scattering of Tom Robbins (Even Cowgirls Get The Blues). 
PS: He’s better looking than Stephen King (Carrie, The Stand, It, The Shining) and his romantic stuff will have you gasping quicker than Robert James Waller (Bridges Of Madison County).
Or as is often said: You don’t have to be mad to be a writer, but it sure helps.

Writer by soul. Words born within. 
Karma the seed. Paper the medium.  
Pen the muse. Novels the fire.
Twitter: @FrankTalaber

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Essay for Halloween: Undertaker's Daughter

Deadly Undertaking
A handsome detective, a shadow man, 
and a murder victim kill Lauren’s plan for a simple life.
Halloween is an exciting time with parties and treats and scary stories. Deadly Undertaking is the perfect read for this season of the year.  This romantic suspense, set in a funeral home, isn't a scary story with monsters, zombies, and werewolves, but it does have a shadow man, Henry.
Deadly Undertaking grew from the short essay I am sharing with you on this post. The novel's setting is a funeral home because I'm the daughter of an undertaker. And I have two brothers who are funeral directors. When I wrote this story for a fun blog post four years ago, I had no idea I would have a published mystery from the idea. Find out more about Deadly Undertaking after the short essay.
It's Halloween, so you'll have to decide if  the tale I'm spinning is a trick or a treat. Take a break and have fun with this. You'll get to know me better after learning about my "growing up" years.
Is this essay a trick or a treat?
Undertaker’s Daughter
J Q Rose
Right away, I must tell you I am not an eccentric, peculiar person. I’m just a regular woman who is a wife, mother, grandmother. I like eating a burger at McDonalds, shopping at Walmart, and reading mystery novels. But, perhaps some would think my childhood was different. You see, my father was an embalmer and funeral director. I was reared in a funeral home.

It was not unusual to have a dead body laid out in a casket several days in a row in our living room which converted to the funeral chapel. In fact, sometimes we’d have more than one body in our home. The embalming room was in the back of the house, and yes, I wore lots of perfume and soap to cover the pungent odor of formaldehyde on my clothes and hair.

We had knee caps for ashtrays in the private area of our home…not in the public area because that may upset some folks. But Dad was a heavy smoker, so he appreciated having the convenience of an ashtray nearby at all times.

In our kitchen, boxes of ashes of the departed sat in the pantry shelves next to the canned green beans and corn. Some families squabbled over who was going to pay the funeral expenses for their dearly departed, so they never showed up to claim the ashes for fear of being left with the debt.  In one case the family of Ida Mayberry never claimed their sweet aunt. So Aunt Ida took up residence in the cupboard next to the pork and beans.

Life as an undertaker’s daughter did not seem to be any big deal. My friends, well, most of them, were happy to come over and play hide and seek in the casket room or to swipe flowers out of the funeral arrangements to put in our hair for dress up.

My girlfriends did get upset when one of the spirits who regularly hung out in the funeral home flew by. The whoosh of air was the only indicator of their presence. Yes, I lost a couple of friends that way because they were scared to death…well, not literally. They just were creeped out especially when one of the spirits would knock over the Barbie doll house or send the collection of Barbies swirling around the room.

Needless to say, I enjoyed going to my friend’s house. It was a treat to open their pantry door to get a can of pineapple and not see the boxed ashes of poor Aunt Ida. I could never shake the sadness I felt for her because noone cared enough to bury her ashes or at least sprinkle them on their garden.

So, yes, some may believe it was an unusual childhood compared to the experiences of others. But I felt loved, secure, and safe at all times. And that’s what counts for a kid.

The growing up years certainly shape the adult one becomes. I don’t know if this is the reason I can write a horror story or not, but I can assure you I am a normal, well-rounded person, not eccentric or peculiar at all. In fact I got rid of the knee cap ash trays just last week. I do have Aunt Ida in the cupboard. Her family never claimed her and I have grown attached to her company.
# # #
BOO! So do you believe what you read? I must confess most of it is made up. And of course, Deadly Undertaking is fiction, but I did have my funeral director brothers help me with the story. So, it's loosely based on the real funeral business. Keyword here is loosely!

Back of the Book: Deadly Undertaking by J.Q. Rose
Deadly Undertaking
Cover art by Michelle Lee
FREE at Amazon on October 31.

Lauren Staab knew there would be dead bodies around when she returned home. After all, her family is in the funeral business, Staab and Blood Funeral Home. Still, finding an extra body on the floor of the garage between the hearse and the flower car shocked her. Lauren’s plan to return to her hometown to help care for her mother and keep the books for the funeral home suddenly turns upside down in a struggle to prove she and her family are not guilty of murdering the man. But will the real killer return for her, her dad, her brother? Her mother’s secrets, a killer, a handsome policeman, and a shadow man muddle up her intention to have a simple life. 

Welcome home, Lauren!

Have a Happy and Safe Halloween!
from J.Q. Rose

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The True Meaning of Halloween, Charlie Brown by Stuart R. West

So many things frighten me. The odd thing is I love being scared. Just not by heights, serial killers, dirty bombs, nuclear fear, bio-chemical warfare, Trump, and shoe-shopping with my wife.

Maybe that’s why I adore dumb horror films. I know they’re not real, a vicarious and silly joy-ride. One I can easily recover from.

My wife doesn’t feel the same way. Recently, I somewhat hoodwinked her into watching The Babadook, a terrific Australian horror flick. I proclaimed it an art film to entice her into viewing with me. Not entirely a lie. Still, she hasn’t forgiven me.  (Hey, part of the fun of horror films is watching them with someone else, a communal experience. I love to hear people shriek in theaters...for all the right reasons, of course.).

Halloween is near. Spookiest time of the year. My daughter always says it’s her favorite holiday (a girl after my own heart). But, why? Where did Halloween spring from with its ghoulish visual aids and strange customs? 
As always, my faithful research assistant, Ms. Google, held the answers. 

(Read the following with Vincent Price's voice in your head; of course, for those spooky-challenged among you, you can always opt out for Morgan Freeman): Halloween was initially created to honor the dead. Somewhat like Memorial Day, only more morbid. Blame the Gaels for their ancient festival, Samhain, the origin of Halloween. The Irish would set out food and drink, offerings to the Gods for good health and livestock. Cheapskates would go door-to-door in costume looking for food. Back then, singing or poetry was recited for the food. No tricks. Not a bad gig.

Soon, pranking spread, instigated by the cheeky British. Call it door-to-door blackmail. “Gimme candy or I’ll do something rather naughty.” 

Christianity tried to adopt the holiday, turn it into a day of prayer for the deceased. I think they’re still trying to work the kinks out. 

To me, Halloween represents the time to embrace the spooky. Love it. The crisp falling orange leaves of Autumn fill me full of melancholy, a remembrance of my childhood and the horror films I used to seek out (which was quite hard to do when you only had three—sometimes four—fuzzy channels). Have you seen the Val Lewton produced films from the ‘40’s? Scary, yet subtle and artistic. A nice starter kit. Move on to the classic “The Haunting” from the ‘60’s (and, PLEASE, don’t even get me going on the modern remake). From there, the sky’s the limit. I broke my daughter in on “Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein” and Twilight Zone DVD’s. She hasn’t looked back yet.

So. Put out the kids. Tuck the cat in bed. Turn out the light. Fire up the chimney. Cuddle next to a loved one and get scared. Have fun with it.

In my book, Ghosts of Gannaway, I try to cover all spooky bases without being gross (the anti-scary). Kinda based on a true story, the book details the history of a small mining town in the ‘30’s. There are ghosts, murders, an evil mining magnate, claustrophobia, bad juju, nightmares, romance (gotta have romance), shadows, bigotry, pollution, photographs that move, a funny native-American, secrets, mystery, cancer, things that go bump in the night and the fear of being buried alive. Everything that scares me wrapped up in one book.
Click here for spooky Halloween thrills!
Happy Halloween! Boo!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

All Hallow's Eve Nancy M Bell

All Hallow's Eve is almost upon us. A time when the veil between the worlds is thinned and it's easier to slip between them. All Hallow's Eve became Hallowe'en which has become Halloween. In older times it was Samhain (pronounced Sow-en and other various versions of that pronunciation depending on your location). It is the Celtic New Year in the old beliefs. The time when the years draws in upon itself and darkness outweighs the light since the balance of Alban Elved which is the Autumn Equinox. The years slips toward the longest night of Alban Authuran- Mid-winter night- the Winter Solstice.

The custom of wearing costumes comes from the old belief that spirits both dark and light walked in this realm on All Hallow's Eve. The disguise was supposed to protect the wearer from being recognized by spirits who meant the person ill. Also, beginning in the Middle Ages, those children and sometimes adults from less fortunate situations would go door to door asking for food and drink in exchange for songs or a tale. This is the origins of 'mumming' a custom still alive in Cornwall, Ireland and Scotland. In Scotland and Ireland the woman of the house would bake Soul Cakes to give to those who came to her door. Below is an old traditional 'souling song'.

A soul! a soul! a soul-cake!
Please good Missis, a soul-cake!
An apple, a pear, a plum, or a cherry,
Any good thing to make us all merry.

Samhain is a Fire Festival, balanced by the May 1st Fire Festival of Beltane (the Celtic first day of summer). There were four Fire Festivals, Samhain (Oct 31st), Imbolc (February 1) which is also associated with Bride/St. Bridgid and was the Celtic first day of Spring. Lughnasagh which was the beginning of the harvest and the first day of fall. It was believed that no fruit should be taken or eaten after Samhain as it was considered 'faery blasted' and was unfit for human consumption. It was (and is) always ill advised to anger or disrespect the spirits and faeries.

At Samhain it is also a custom to leave food and drink out for the ancestors who wish to visit their families at this time when the thin veils allow them visit.

In Mexico and some indigenous cultures, the date is celebrated as The Day of the Dead which takes place on November 1 and 2. This does actually have parallels with the Celtic timing as Samhain begins at sundown on October 31st and ends at sundown on November 1. They believe, much like the Celts, that the gates of heaven open at midnight on October 31, and the spirits of all deceased children (angelitos) are allowed to reunite with their families for 24 hours. On November 2, the spirits of the adults come down to enjoy the festivities that are prepared for them. On the second day the the festivities are taken to the cemetery. People clean tombs, play cards, listen to the village band and reminisce about their loved ones. Tradition keeps the village close.

No matter how you view the date ~ Hallowe'en, Samhain, Day of the Dead, All Saint's Day ~ it is a time for introspection and mental house cleaning. A time to chuck out that which no longer serves us and to open ourselves to the new possibilities that will present themselves as the scales tip in favour of the Light at Winter Solstice. For a writer, it is a time to examine our hearts and decide what we deem most important that we wish to impart through our work. It may be a profound vision or idea, it may be we only seek to entertain. Whatever we choose, it is what is right for us at this time and not something to be compared to another's success or failure.

I find it comforting to feel connected to my ancestors through celebrations and rituals that have continued through the ages. Of course there has been changes and evolutions of the events, but the core reason remains unchanged over the centuries, even if they are only visible if you choose to uncover them.

Wishing you happiness and joy for the coming months. Christmas is just around the corner. Winter Solstice with the strengthening of the Light.

If you're a fan of my Longview Romance series, my seasonal novella A Longview Christmas is available for a limited time.

If you like it, please consider leaving me a review.

And.... the third book in the series should be released very soon. A Longview Wedding sees Michelle and Cale make it to the altar with a few unexpected side trips. I will have a cover to show you by next blog post.

Until next month, stay well, stay happy.

Monday, October 17, 2016

World Building For All Genres Part 3 Janet Lane Walters #characters #writing #language #etymology

Bast's Warrior (An Alternate Egypt Book 1)

The next area of World building to consider is Characters. There are a number of areas where people help weave the world web.

Clothing is a must. In contemporary stories all manner of places and pictures can help clothe your characters and point to their career, their status in life and where they life. For historical characters there are costume books. If paranormal is your bent, imagination can take over. You can also adapt clothing from pictures of books to dress your people.

Language is important in world building. In paranormal stories finding words that give an other world flavor can be difficult as well as confusing. I’ve read some books with glossaries but constantly turning pages to decipher meaning can turn a reader to a different book. Also using too many strange words can turn prose into gibberish. What you need to do is find words that hint to what the characters are tasting, seeing, hearing, touching and smelling.

If you say. “He raised a con of lug and sipped, the reader’s brow will furrow. But if you say He raised a mug of kafa, the reader will think coffee.

I have three reference books I use. One is a seven language dictionary and the other is an etymology. They have helped me find the words I need. When writing the Egypt books I found an encyclopedia of terms that helped there. The third book is Orson Scott Card’s How To Write Science Fiction and Fantasy. Great world building chapter.

For historical stories the wrong word can jolt the reader out of the story, Also too much usage of the right words such as dialect can send a reader searching for another book. Sometimes the word can be right but it seems too modern to the reader. Take pothole. There have been potholes that were called just that during historical periods as well as today. A friend had to change pothole in her book because an editor felt the word was modern. Also remember when you’re searching for a word to use is that words can change meaning.

In contemporary stories language plays a role in creating the dream. Every career choice, region of the country have specific words. There’s argot, cant, slang whatever you choose to call these expressions, using one of these words can point to a specific area or career.

For example, I’m from Pittsburgh. When company’s coming I’m apt to red up the house rather than clean.

If a character says “Heart attack:” we might think lay person but if "Cardiac arrest,” is used we think of medical personnel.

He aimed his piece, or his gat or his gun or his Glock. Those words can change an opinion of a character and of the world he or she inhabits.

One good thing about writing a contemporary story is there are experts to interview who can provide language and information to help build your world. These people are almost always happy to talk to a writer.

Actually when doing an interview I had an interesting event. How I was nearly arrested for murder.

I needed to speak to a policeman to learn when I could schedule a murder victim’s funeral as this led to the climax of the story. My daughter had a friend from school who became a policeman. He had been at the house many times and was semi-adopted into the family. I called his off-duty phone and left a message for him to call me back.

A few hours later he returned the call. “What’s wrong? What can I do?” he asked.

“It’s about this woman I just murdered. How long before she can be buried.”

Then I heard. “No, Guys settle. She’s a writer.” There was a pause. Then he said, “Ma, I’m at the station. You’re on speaker.”

Sunday, October 16, 2016

The elevator/escalator life of the author

Book sales. Well, am I right? They're up, they're down. They're over the top; they're below the counter. Checking sales statistics every day in the life of an author is like jumping on a moving roller coaster ride. First level, you check the stats on No, that was a downer, take a headlong dive. Check the stats of Amazon. ca. Better. Slowly inch upward. Then, check the stats on Yikes. Where the *#? are my Irish relatives? and what happened to their wallets? Take a sharp, twisted nose dive. Oh, boy. Don't lose the day job. Wait, I don't have a day job. YIKES again. Sigh. Go to Coaster slows down as it pulls slowly uphill. Oh dear. Still under a million sales which is supposed to be not too bad. Ahem.

Almost awful but then check the Author rank under my genre. Sigh. 40,000 sounds so much better, doesn't it? No really, doesn't it? Roller coaster hesitates, stalls and then..... falls. Real life interrupts your twisted dream climb and you know you have to keep plugging away!!

Good thing I still love my book(s). And I love to write and will continue to do so. Jude Pittman shared some words of wisdom with me, something to the effect of:  'Write for the love of it - knowing that your children and their children and their children will enjoy a piece of you and your heart for all eternity.' That struck home with me in a big way. I write because I love to write and because I believe that the good Lord gave me a gift to use. I will carry on.
My promotional activities have led me to so many book stores and libraries and, in every place I've travelled to, I've met people who all share a strong, common bond: the love of words - the love of stories. I call them "Word Movies." No matter what you call them, we all share the love of weaving words into stories and bringing characters to life so that they become real. Magical. Characters that are our friends. And our enemies. Real. When we can do this with our story, with our characters, then our books are true word movies.

I'm loving the writing and marketing journey that my book, The Twisted Climb, brings me. Jude Pittman, our publisher, is a great guide and I follow her directions. Occasionally I go off centre but she always brings me back. Doesn't even need the whip sometimes. Kidding, Jude!

My first official Book Signing at Chapters, in Barrie, Ontario

Had the best time with the professionals at Chapters in Barrie, Ontario on Saturday (yesterday). Everything was well prepared and the staff were fantastic for my first official commercial book signing. I gussied up my book table and added a few cosmetic touches so the front doors, pillars and book table were eye-catching and professional. It was a fantastic learning experience and once I got the art of maintaining eye contact with every passer-by, they were mine. Now I know that I have one-on-one sales skills. I like that ! All this time, I've been plugging my book The Twisted Climb like a one-lung Irish banshee on her last lump of coal and her final sip of whiskey. Ha! Not any more..... but you know, the cool part of my book signing was that Wayne Gretzky was coming to town the very next day at the very same book store, pushing his latest book at the very same table I just emptied of my great book stock. I left him a wee message and told him that if his book signing was as successful as mine, he should be happy. Aren't I the cheeky one chatting up the Great One? !!

Now, I'm taking a breath and about to prepare for an Author Event in my local town - one of five authors invited to read from their novel, participate in a Q&A session and then provide time for a signing/selling session. Throughout this publishing / marketing experience, I've learned that if you invite 50, expect one percent. Even if they are your best friends. The up-side is that even if they don't/can't come, I still love them! I'll take some pics of the 'Meet the Author' event this week - part of the Ontario Public Library week activities - and post on my blog next month. I'll also add some more details about my favourite scale-covered mammal, the pangolin. Until then, enjoy this blog and the other blogs of the very talented writers from the Books We Love collection of authors.

J.C. Kavanagh
The Twisted Climb, a book for young adults and adults young at heart.
Twitter: JCKavanagh1

Brides of Banff Springs by Victoria Chatham

AVAILABLE HERE   VICTORIA CHATHAM is a young-at-heart senior who has written short stories, newspaper and magazine articles on a...