Friday, February 17, 2017

Reading as Escape and Relief

by Linda Rodriguez

Like many people, I wake in the morning dreading the new horrors the day will bring us from Washington, DC. Last week, I actually had to go to DC for a conference, and while there, I picked up some nasty respiratory bug. So I'm home now, in pain, exhausted, and weak from the long drive to DC and back, as well as the strains of getting around a massive conference in a huge and inaccessible conference center, and miserable with fever, coughing, and inability to breathe. I'm in no shape to read about more outrages against the Constitution and our entire democratic system. So I've been turning away from the media and all news.

Instead I've picked up a novel on my tottering TBR pile and spent the day pampering myself while I read that book. For a span of hours, I lived in another reality altogether, one as grim in some ways but with amazing adventures and fascinating backgrounds that took me completely out of my sinus-infected, exhausted, and in-considerable-pain self and the democracy-under-attack world we're living in at present. For that span of hours, I found relief from pain, illness, and the depression that Cheeto Hitler's accession to power has brought to the entire civilized world.

I think we tend to forget that novels can offer a kind of medicine to us, a remedy for the unpleasantness and despair of politics and welcome relief from pain and sickness. We often hear genre novels dismissed with the term, “mere escape.” But there's nothing mere about escape when it lifts you out of overwhelming grief or unbearable pain or the miseries of acute and chronic illnesses. At such times, escape can be a true lifesaver, allowing rest and healing to take place when both had seemed impossible.

So I don't want to hear any more cracks about the escapism of genre novels. Escape in times of trouble, even temporary escape, can truly be just what's needed. If my novels provide someone with a few hours' escape from great pain or fear or grief or stress, I will be happy to have provided those hours of relief to my readers.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Relationships – They’re Complicated

Ah, Valentine’s Day. Doesn’t it capture the good, the bad and the ugly in a relationship? Yikes! Hopefully it’s all good, but so often the best words to describe a relationship are, “It’s complicated.”

My husband and I ran errands on Valentine’s Day and watched with amusement as people made mad dashes into Edible Arrangements, CVS, and the grocery store for last minute candy, cards and flowers.  It took two seconds to make up stories about those couples and their relationships. The stories became wilder as the day progressed--funny, tragic, strained, hopeful. The wonderful part—from a writer’s perspective—is how deliciously complicated relationships can be.

“It’s complicated.”

What a wonderful relationship description. Messy, imperfect, human. The term implies a hint of mystery, half a cup of vulnerability, the other half trust. Heartache tossed with belief.

Can you think of any relationship in you life where “it’s complicated” hasn’t applied at some point?

In my life, beyond (my wonderful) husband, there are parents (don’t get me started on my father), children, siblings. Friends who’ve held and broken my trust. Pets who own pieces of my heart. I love them all but the currents, subtext, history and mutual flaws has woven a multi-dimensional tapestry that's still evolving. 

I’m wrapping up a novella this month that features several characters from So About the Money. While the who-dunnit is front and center, the relationships drive the story. The novella is a strange format for me since I’m used to telling wonderfully complicated stories with subplots, but it’s terrific for focusing on one character’s path. (And because I can’t resist, there is a small subplot with Detective JC Dimitrak wrestling with his prickly relationship with former cop, Frank Phalen.) The new story centers on Maddie, though; her relationship with her ex, an elderly gambler and his children… Well, it’s complicated.

What about you? Do you like your relationships stress-free or complicated? Real life vs. stories?

Cathy Perkins is currently working on an as-yet-untitled story in the So About… series.  She started writing when recurring characters and dialogue populated her day job commuting daydreams.  Fortunately, that first novel lives under the bed, but she was hooked on the joy of creating stories.  When not writing, she can be found doing battle with the beavers over the pond height or setting off on another travel adventure.  Born and raised in South Carolina, she now lives in Washington with her husband, children, several dogs and the resident deer herd. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

7 Things to Know About Me

By Kay Kendall

This is where I have lived.
Half of my family is from Texas, the other from Kansas, and I once lived in Canada for 22 years with my Canadian husband. We’ve been homesteaded happily in Texas since 1990, and he now calls himself an American. That said, each of us has dual US-Canadian citizenship, as does our son.

Some people divide the world into two camps. I am a …
I’m a dog person. I’ve lived with a few cats over the years, but I’m allergic to their fur. Dogs I can relate to. Cats, not so much, and besides, just thinking about them makes me wheeze and sneeze. (My fervent love for rabbits is a whole other subject.)  

I once thought I would die and wasn’t even out of college.
On campus I was riding my bicycle down a path, barreling down a slight hill, when my brakes failed. I couldn’t stop and careened onto a busy street. Cars came at me on my right, but I whizzed by in time to avoid getting scrunched. This scared me almost to death.

The first thing I ever wrote was…
I wrote and illustrated my own version of Clement Moore’s wonderful “Night Before Christmas” when I was seven years old. After that I tried to rewrite Little Women.

I wrote for many years before calling myself a writer.
In the early 2000s, while shopping at a Whole Foods store, I spotted a mug adorned with words from Henry David Thoreau. Aimed straight at my heart, the words were, “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you’ve imagined.” I bought that mug and used it for five more years while I wrote and wrote and wrote some more. It took that long for me to acknowledge that being a writer was my heart’s desire, and another year passed before I could call myself a writer. Now I call myself an author, because my two mysteries are published. That is the best part, being a published author.  

Being a writer is the most daring thing I’ve ever done.
The most daring thing I’ve done is to put myself out into the world as a writer. It takes guts to send your baby/book out into the world, knowing that lots of people could sling mud at you and say your book is the stupidest thing they’ve ever read. I’ve heard many very famous authors say how depressed they get about bad reviews, so I know I’m in good company. I figure it is well worth the risk. I can take the heat so I do stay in the kitchen.

If forced to choose, I’d prefer to be famous rather than rich.
Forced to pick, I’d much rather be famous. I would go further and choose to be famous for being an author whose books people love to read. Why not rich? That’s easy. Many rich people lead very unhappy lives. They grow mean and nasty and very, very selfish. Enough said.



Want to read the first 20 pages of Kay Kendall’s second mystery, RANY DAY WOMEN? Go to her website 
That book won two awards at the Killer Nashville conference in August 2016—for best mystery/crime and also for best book. 
Her first novel about Austin Starr‘s sleuthing, DESOLATION ROW, was a finalist for best mystery at Killer Nashville in 2014. 
Visit Kay on Facebook