Grumpy Fries and Crazy Lies Part Deux

“Maybe I’ve been hitting the bricks myself.” He paused long enough to crook his index finger under my chin.

While I struggled to get my blood pressure out of the stratosphere he continued in a voice so soft I nearly missed his words over the pounding in my ears, “You’ve heard of the Brickyard?”

“But that’s, but, that in…” I sputtered like a cold engine on a frigid morning. “Indianapolis.”

He tapped the tip of my nose with his finger, winked, and said, “Smart girl. Tell me if you think of anything else.” Then he turned and walked toward Grumpy’s house.

Taking my life, and maybe my liberty, in my hands again, I leaned as far over the dratted tape as I dared. He’d touched me. Twice. And I swore never to wash that particular spot on my nose or chin again.

A shiver coursed through me and I remembered the first and last time I’d met the stellar Sterling Spreadbury. It was the night I’d gotten the strange letter from my ex Aloysius Everslam. I’d just sat at my computer, promised myself I’d dump the jerk via the Bill Gates express when the letter slot in the door jangled. I mean, it was ten at night. Who gets mail at ten at night? Well, there it was, a letter in his bold, upright, thrusting, handwriting. I slit the thing open with a steak knife. The words that met my eyes meant for someone else. The salutation read Dear…

“You okay, Persephone? You shivered?”

Pulled from the swirl of my memories I recognized my neighbor standing next to me, the one who made the late delivery. I hadn’t heard her approach. What else had I missed? “Sorry, I…”

“That cop will do it to you. What a hunk.” Merry Goosebury sighed. “Remember how he got to the bottom of that horrible letter? The one in the envelope addressed to you?” At my nod, she gave me a knowing look, poked my shoulder, and said, “Yummy.”

Merry’s poke nearly toppled me from the perch atop my shoes. “You coulda had him then. Don’t miss out this time.” She jerked her chin over her shoulder. “Check out the great car. Bet he catches all the speeders. Think they give him a cut of the ticket fees?”

That was a road I didn’t want to travel. I drew myself up to my full height, plus four inches, and said, “Poor Mr. Fries. Did you hear anything suspicious? I can’t believe this could happen in our neighborhood. And two shoes? What a mystery.”

The look in her eyes tipped me off. Something was going on. Something important. Had I missed something slaving away over my deadline while my neighbor died? Did I deserve to be the last one to know?

“There was an odd sound last night, and a roar. It woke me. Like a rocket ship landing or something.” Merry gave a dismissive wave and wiped a trickle of perspiration from her face with a tissue she pulled from her sleeve. “It was probably nothing. Since they changed the flight path for the Snodgrass International Airport. We’ve even had sonic booms.”

The roar, that was Merry’s rocket ship landing. It was so hot last night I had the window open. I’d heard it too. It pulled me out of my deadline-induced semi-coma. It annoyed me. Here I was trying to get my words right and some idiot with a glasspack muffler was turning my street into a race course… my head slewed around so fast I nearly got whiplash and my sweatshirt slid the full way down to my elbow revealing more of Persephone than I felt comfortable with.

What did that hot red Maserati sound like on acceleration?

Great Oaks from Little Acorns Grow

I looked the quote up. Turns out it’s a proverb, not a quote from a poem as I had first thought. Somehow, I had expected to find the line came from a poem by Robert Frost or Henry David Thoreau. Instead, the phrase is the perfect metaphor for the writing life.

There’s an oak tree in my side yard the arborist tells me is 500 years old. I find the concept hard to wrap my head around. But who am I to argue with and arborist? If he is right, then this tree was a sapling when the Calusa Indians settled this area in 1500. A great oak from a little acorn.

Writing stories is similar. It’s the tiny seed, the first event, that gives birth to 100,000 words. Rarely does the idea for a book or story spring full-blown into the writer’s mind, or this writer’s mind at least. Often, the idea is triggered by a tidbit of conversation overheard in a restaurant, or a leading edge of a news story, or headline half read from a newspaper. Nothing concrete, nothing complete, merely a wisp of something that sparks the imagination. A plastic bag floating out of the window of the submerged wreck was the seed that gave rise to the scenario that grew into Death by Blue Water. The plastic bag became a hand, the hand was attached to a murder victim. The story was born.

As with any seed, the gardener’s job is to plant and nurture it. Leaves and branches of new ideas sprout from the main stalk filling out the story. The author, like the gardener, initially lets the story and the characters decide their own avenues of growth. Branches sprout and seem vigorous for a while, then die out, or a strong branch may grow from an unexpected limb and cross the main trunk. The author, plotter or pantser, follows the story and keeps an eye on these offshoots not yet trying to reign it in. In the end the author returns to the story picture and looking at the whole, prunes away excess words, dead branches, and unimportant (although sometimes much loved) storylines, to leave only the vibrant, living, story behind. From the small germ of an idea a solid and strong story tree has grown.

Writers, are you surprised by the route your ideas have taken?

Readers, are you surprised to learn the seeds that have sparked your favorite books?

Warning Will Robinson, Blog Stuff Ahead: by Kait Carson

Sometimes it’s hard to go first when you’re writing a themed blog. I always want to know what other folks are writing about. How my blog sisters will approach the theme. What will catch their fancy? Inquiring minds what to know. Then again, going early allows me to set the bar, a bit, and maybe the tenor of the theme—to a certain extent. That part is fun.

This month’s theme is humor and laughter. The first thing that popped into my mind when I saw the calendar was Robin Williams in his Patch Adams costume. Remember him? The doctor who used humor to treat his patients? Then I remembered Robin Williams’s tragic end. The fine line between comedy and pathos.

OK, tuck that away and turn to books. Humorous books. Laugh out loud funny books. I live in Florida. Carl Hiaasen springs to mind – then there is Dave Barry. Oh my. Yes, both are hysterical. Carl writes mysteries of course. Dave. Well, he writes. I still have an article Dave wrote after Hurricane Andrew (1992) where he happened to mention that if Bryan Norcross (weathercaster extraordinaire) happened to suggest we pull our dirty underwear over our heads and wear it outside to avoid another hurricane, all of South Florida would be thusly attired. All of South Florida laughed hysterically at the suggestion. Then we contemplated our cleanest pair of dirty undies in case the suggestion was made.

Carl’s books always have characters that I know I’ve met in real life if only I could remember where. In the 1980s the Dade (we hadn’t become Miami-Dade yet) County Chamber of Commerce launched an ad campaign that touted “the rules are different here.” Floridians, especially transplanted Floridians, took the campaign to heart and maybe massaged it to mean the rules don’t exist here. Carl exploits that very natural mistake. I mean, anyone could see how it could happen. Right? Humorous writing. When you dissect it you discover that it’s merely reality, from a sideways slant.

Sounds so simple. Some cozy writers do it so well. Janet Evanovich and own Diane Vallere to name two make it look so easy. I’ve tried. Won’t work. Anyone like bread without yeast. That’s how my humor writing comes off. Which is strange. Because in real life—I’m funny. My natural viewpoint is slightly left of center (NOT a political statement but a way of looking at things from a different perspective). However, when I write it—I feel the need to explain. See the previous statement. SO – hats off to the humor writers. They give us the gift of natural laughter and lighten our daily life. What’s more, done well, it looks so easy.

Oh, the Robbie comment. Anyone ever wonder what happened to Robbie the Robot? Well, this is supposed to be a true story, but it’s funny, and maybe true. A Tennessee, or maybe Kentucky, bar owner bought Robbie at auction. He had him in the pickup bed of his truck and was driving him to the bar. Somewhere between the auction and home, the driver was in a wreck and Robbie flew into a ditch. When the paramedics and the police arrived, the bar owners was concerned and kept talking about the robot in the ditch…the rest, as they say, is local legend, but it all worked out well, and now, I understand, you and raise a glass with Robbie in Tennessee, or maybe Kentucky, and the first responders drink for free.

Don’t you love a dash of lightness in the day? I do.

 

Relationships by Kait Carson

Our theme this month is relationships. What a great topic for February and for writers. I’m having such a hard time decided which part of this critter to lasso. I may have to bifurcate the blog!

Readers know all about one of the most important relationships a writer will ever have. It’s the relationship between reader and character. A writer creates her characters, gives them names (which sometimes they graciously deign to keep), hair and eye color, hobbies, values, quirks, and flaws. Unless a character is part of a series, the writer determines most of these before sitting down to write the story so they will hopefully stay consistent and flame-haired Mystie won’t turn into raven haired Maggie around page eighty. Has been known to happen, though. If the character is a series character, then the baselines are constant, but the character does grow and change, and the writer needs to keep track of the changes as they happen

Now that we’ve talked about a perfect world here’s the real 411 – characters have lives of their own. Somewhere between their neat creation and the story taking place on the computer screen, those critters hijack the story. Your characters expect you to trust them to act in a way that is best for the story, and while it makes no sense in the three-dimensional world, in the story world, the character is always right. I spent a long month writing entire chapters of Death by Sunken Treasure while my character rebelled. It wasn’t working. Finally, in sheer desperation, I started a new file called “Hayden’s Way.” I wrote the same chapters letting the character take the lead. Know what, those were the ones that made it to the book. And they changed the entire story.

The idea of trusting a character that I created to make changes to a story I was writing took a bit of getting used to. It’s second nature now, provided I’ve come to know the character well enough. After all, a story doesn’t work at all if the character doesn’t change and grow. Just as in real life, we have to learn let go and trust we’ve done our job well enough.

There is a second relationship that readers may not be aware of in a writer’s world. It’s the relationships between writers. An interviewer once asked me what I wish I had known when I first became involved in this business. I responded that I wished I had known how welcoming and generous other writers are to newbies. There is nothing cutthroat about the writing business. One would think given the rapid demise of large publishing houses, the decline of bookstores, the explosion of online retailers, the glut of books enticing readers, the pressures of self-marketing, the difficulty in acquiring an agent, and/or obtaining a publishing contract that writers, when approached by “the competition” would curl into small balls and pretend not to notice other writers. NOT SO. Shouting intended.

Established writers will go out of their way to respond to comments, requests for blurbs, give advice, encouragement, whatever it takes to get a new or newer writer on the path to publication or help keep the writer there. Writers see what they do as a gift, and successful ones seem to remember the uncertainty and struggle they went through and want to honor that difficult time by easing the way for others.

So, the point of this blog? Writing is all about relationships. In the writing life, and in the life of writers.

Happy February all, and happy Valentine’s day.

Kait Carson lives in an airpark in south central Florida with a pilot husband, eight tropical birds, and six rescue cats. By day, she’s a practicing probate and litigation paralegal, in the evening, legal pads give way to a keyboard, and she spins tales of murder and mayhem set in the tropical heat. Kait writes two series, the Catherine Swope series, set in Miami, and the Hayden Kent series set in the Fabulous Florida Keys.

Kait loves to hear from readers, check out her website at www.kaitcarson.com; follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/kaitcarsonauthor, on Twitter at @kaitcarson, or e-mail her at kait.carson@gmail.com.

 

 

2017 (IMAGINE FIREWORKS HERE) by Kait Carson

Our theme this month is new beginnings. What better way to return from a Holiday break that includes the introduction of the year 2017?

Can’t speak for everyone, but I love the blank page, in writing and in life. 2017 is a blank page. I’m surrounded by new calendars (crack for me) and a new book. I turned in Death Dive (working title) to Henery Press on 12/31/16. Yep, right at the end of the old year. It wasn’t due until 1/3/17, but I wanted to finish 2016 with a flourish. Needless to say, I haven’t heard if they are accepting it. But I think it’s one of the best I’ve written.

There’s some breathing room before I have to begin the next Hayden Kent book so I’ve begun the third book in my self-published indie series, the Catherine Swope mysteries. This too is a departure. Catherine is a former cop and current realtor trying hard to establish herself in the high-end Miami market. Her best friend Nancy calls and Nancy’s brother is dead, in front of the UFO houses in Homestead. The resulting investigation jars Catherine to the core and threatens her friendship with Nancy and Catherine’s relationship with Mike, the man she has come to see as the love of her life. Can Catherine’s fragile sobriety survive these blows? Will she be able to help Nancy and find her brother’s killer? You’ll have to check out the new book. I plan on a June release date – just in time for a beach read.

On other new beginning fronts (you’ll note I’m not calling anything a resolution), I’ve decided to cut back on work at my day job. I’ve been working 12 hour days and if the workload will allow, I’d like to cut them back to ten hour days. My boss is on board with that as he understands how important my writing life is to me. Pretty cool to have a supportive boss. Kudos, Richard Milstein!

I’ve also managed to run four and a half miles three days in a row. While I know my body will not take that punishment on a daily basis, I have found a wonderful yoga program app. Yoga Studio by Gaiam. It lets me practice at home and will provide wonderful stretching and balance exercise for my off days. Looking forward to participating with the app on days when I won’t have time to run—or shouldn’t run.

My new beginnings also include writing goals. I used to publish with the Trues magazines. You know, True Story, True Romance. I haven’t participated with them for a while, but now, I want to get back to the short story form and that’s a great way to do it, so—I’m figuring on writing at least one a month. Same with Woman’s World. I never could crack the romance market there, but I have published in the mystery market. Again, it’s been a few years and now, I’m aching to get back to it. There is something so satisfying about writing short, but it’s difficult too. I need to relearn the skill and flex my writing muscles.

Can you tell what kind of a year I’m beginning? A year of transition from the day job to a full-time writer.

That’s my dream. I hope it comes true.

What about you? What’s your dream for 2017?

Kait Carson lives in an airpark in south central Florida with a pilot husband, eight tropical birds, and six rescue cats. By day, she’s a practicing probate and litigation paralegal, in the evening, legal pads give way to a keyboard, and she spins tales of murder and mayhem set in the tropical heat. Kait writes two series, the Catherine Swope series, set in Miami, and the Hayden Kent series set in the Fabulous Florida Keys.

Kait loves to hear from readers, check out her website at www.kaitcarson.com; follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/kaitcarsonauthor, on Twitter at @kaitcarson, or e-mail her at kait.carson@gmail.com.

Wrapping it up and Sending 2016 on the Road

Where did this year go? Seems like only yesterday I was in a track stance and waiting for the new year. Father time has traded in his two-wheeled handcart for a Ferrari.

December is a special month. A time to look back and ahead. I’ve kept a journal since I was nine or ten. I remember my first one—it had a Girl Scout logo, and a lock. Every December I’d reflect on what happened over the year and make plans for the upcoming year. The December 31st entry always had a list of what I hoped to accomplish during the next year. It’s strange, but when I go back through my older journals, I discover how many plans came to fruition. Did writing the hopes and dreams set a cosmic force into play, or was it the act of writing that laid the groundwork for accomplishment? That’s a theory to explore another time.

Over the course of the last few years, I’ve fallen away from journaling. Part of it is the curse of the computer. I’ve spent hours flipping through handwritten journals trying to find an event I wanted to use in a story only to throw my hands in the air and re-shelve the book. So, I tried keeping a journal in Word, and even in One-Note to make use of the search function. Neither satisfied. A different part of the mind engages with pen hits paper. I guess I have my first plan for 2017—get back to regular journaling. Maybe color coded pens are the way to go. General stuff in one color, events to remember for stories in another. If nothing else, the pages will be festive.

Now it’s time to put 2016 in a box, wrap it up, and tie it with a bow. This is the year my second book, Death by Sunken Treasure, was published. I learned more about marketing, and became a charter member of a new blog, MotiveMeansOpportunity. By the time this year officially closes, my third book in the Hayden Kent series will have been sent to Henery Press. I’ve started work on the third book in the Catherine Swope series and I intend to self-publish it. To more books are perking away in my thoughts. One for a new series, and the second for a standalone I’ve always wanted to write. Overall, it’s been a very good year, one that left me with a sense of satisfaction and anticipation.

What about you? Do you have a sense of contentment looking back on 2016?

All the best for the upcoming holiday season no matter how you celebrate it.

Atmosphere

This is a hard blog to write. I keep getting caught up in the feeling of atmosphere. That doesn’t do the reader a bit of good. Instead of writing about atmosphere, I’m lost in a swirling cauldron of emotion and feeling and setting. My mind is filled with images of dark nights, empty moors, forbidden and forbidding places.

Walk with me through the night. We’re in an alley, it runs between a series of storefronts and art studios. The moon is a silver crescent in the night sky. The stars wink on and off. Occasionally you see the red and green twinkle that means an airplane is flying overhead. You hear your footsteps. They echo off the empty buildings. There is no other sound. Nothing human. Can you feel the velvet touch of darkness on your skin? Are your senses heightened until each and every sound is distinct? What else do you feel?

Now, just for the moment, imagine a loud cacophony of sound. The crash metal cans and a loud wail breaks the silence of the night. Your heart pounds, sweat, dampens your hairline. You’re sure it’s cats fighting or mating. Until the shards of concrete slice into the side of your face. You taste the bitter, almost coppery flavor of adrenaline racing through your system. Warm liquid runs down the side of your cheek. You lift a hand and touch it. Your fingers come away coated in blood. You’re running, but you don’t remember moving your feet. Fear fills you with primitive responses. Get safe, stay safe. Your only imperative is to get away.

In the distance, a buzzing sound irritates you. You try to ignore it. It doesn’t go away. You push yourself to consciousness annoyed at the interruption to your self-preservation. The sound is your alarm. It was all a dream.

Atmosphere. It’s more than setting. It’s a mix of setting, character, emotion, and the key ingredient… imagination.

Kait Carson lives in an airpark in south central Florida with a pilot husband, eight tropical birds, and six rescue cats. By day, she’s a practicing probate and litigation paralegal, in the evening, legal pads give way to a keyboard, and she spins tales of murder and mayhem set in the tropical heat. Kait writes two series, the Catherine Swope series, set in Miami, and the Hayden Kent series set in the Fabulous Florida Keys.

Kait loves to hear from readers, check out her website at www.kaitcarson.com; follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/kaitcarsonauthor, on Twitter at @kaitcarson, or e-mail her at kait.carson@gmail.com.