In the Blink of an Eye
By Laura Bradford
At this time last year, I was reading fellow Stiletto Gang member, Maggie Barbieri's posts about the emotions that were kicking in as she watched her daughter's high school years draw to a close.
Now, here I am, going through the same thing as Dear Daughter # 1 approaches the last five weeks before she walks across the stage to get her diploma.
It's all happening so fast now. First it was the round of "lasts"--last high school dance show, last high school musical, last high school choir concert (yes, my daughter leans toward the arts). Then the college paperwork and its assorted deadlines followed (roommate questionnaires, health forms, bills) along with prom dress shopping and the beginning stages of family graduation party prep. And all the while this is going on, I'm trying hard not to think too much because every time I do, the tears begin to build.
I can remember, so clearly, the moment I dropped DD # 1 off at kindergarten like it was yesterday. She'd never gone to preschool so that day, that moment, was truly a first. And it was hard, very hard. For five years I'd been the person who took care of her 24/7. I watched all her "firsts" to that moment, I taught her about manners and kindness, and we were together all the time. I remember holding DD # 2 (who was not quite two at the time) and hearing her begin to cry as we got Erin settled and...left. I spent those first few steps into the parking lot trying to soothe the baby (who couldn't understand why we were leaving her big sister in a strange place) all the while my own heart was breaking.
Did I cry? Of course. In the car, as I drove away...even knowing I'd be back to get her in less than four hours. But that was the first moment we'd separated and four hours seemed like an eternity.
Now, I'm mere months away from separating from her for weeks, and sometimes months, at a time. I know she'll do great, I know she'll be following her dreams, but still, it's hard.
Life really does go by in a blink of an eye.
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
I got into bed last night and was happy to see that one of my favorite movies—“Unfaithful”—was on. You remember it: it’s the one that stars Richard Gere and Diane Lane as happily married suburbanites whose world is rocked by the affair that Lane embarks upon with a very sexy French bookseller. As I watched the movie, I was struck by a few things, namely that:
* Richard Gere is sixteen years older than Diane Lane yet we believe completely in that fact not being an issue in their marriage.
* It was so windy the day that Diane Lane first goes into the city that she is knocked down, skins her knees, and can hardly walk upright for fear of that happening again. That’s some wind, people.
* After skinning her knees, she willingly goes into the apartment of the sexy French bookseller to get bandaids. And doesn’t get killed.
* Such a thing exists as a “sexy French bookseller.” Who owns an apartment that is approximately six-thousand square feet and filled with as many books as my son has soccer socks. (It’s a thing now, soccer socks. I had no idea.)
* Richard Gere is hardly suspicious when Diane Lane says she’s going into the city day after day wearing nothing but a little black dress and sling-back stilettos. Well, I guess I can cut him some slack. If my husband saw me dressing that way, day after day, he would just assume that there had been a spate of deaths in our circle and that I was attending a lot of funerals. Never would it cross his mind that I was having an affair with a sexy French bookseller. He knows I’m way too tired for that.
Those are just a few of the things that you have to get past in order to enjoy the movie, and trust me, I did both get past them and enjoy the movie. As a matter of fact, every time Diane Lane decides to go into the sexy French bookseller’s apartment to get the bandaids, I scream, “Don’t do it! You’re married to Richard Gere!” but she doesn’t listen. She goes in every single time.
But watching the movie was informative because it got me thinking about what we do as writers, and how far we push things—realistically—in the name of the story. More to the point, how far can we go with the details before the reader is scratching his or her head and saying “That would never happen”? Pretty far, I imagine, if “Unfaithful” is any indication.
Several years ago, I was minding my own business when I saw flashing lights outside my house. Since I was the only person home on the street, I went outside to investigate and was told by the responding officer that the station was receiving 911 from inside the vacant house next door. I assured him no one lived in the house and took him for a tour around its perimeter. Satisfied that this seemingly normal housewife/mystery writer was telling the truth, he drove away.
Let me repeat: HE DROVE AWAY.
I put that story—truncated here—in a book and got some comments. “That would never happen.” “Cops would never drive away.” “What if you were doing something wrong? Why didn’t he ask you any questions?”
All good comments. I asked myself the same things.
Turns out that there was an electronic malfunction in the home’s existing phone service. However, what if that wasn’t the reason? What if I had attempted to murder the upstairs tenants before they left? What if one of them was still alive and trying to alert the police?
I think part of the enjoyment of any story, be it a mystery or a thriller or a family drama, is suspending disbelief. I tell that to my friends who find my upcoming thriller—ONCE UPON A LIE—so dark that they are scared to be around me. “Suspend disbelief,” I tell them. “Pretend that someone who looks like me—happy, friendly, unsuspecting—could write a book about abuse and murder. Pretend that some of the things that happen in the book could happen in real life. And then enjoy the read.”
Strange things happen in the world. Three women can be abducted and go missing for ten years, just blocks from where they lived previously. A seemingly innocent school bus driver could harbor a predatory nature so gruesome that even his neighbors—who enjoyed barbecue dinners with him on pleasant sunny nights—never would have guessed what went on inside the house. The world is full of unbelievable stories.
And it’s our job to make them believable, enough to keep a reader guessing or up at night wondering how such luridness could come out of someone’s brain.
But back to the movie. “It was a dark and stormy day and happily married Constance begins a torrid affair with a swarthy Frenchman.” On paper, it doesn’t sound so great. But in the hands of the right actors—namely someone as gifted as Diane Lane—the story becomes believable. The right writer can do the same thing and hope that you, the reader, doesn’t have to suspend so much disbelief as to scratch your head when you finish the book.
I’ll end this now. I have to figure out how to ruin someone’s life so as to teach him a really good lesson. On the page. In my book. And then later, if it’s not too windy, I’ll go buy broccoli.
Posted by The Stiletto Gang at 5:00 AM
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
I'd like everyone to welcome the fabulous Nancy J. Parra to The Stiletto Gang today. Nancy is an amazing lady and a wonderful author. After years of writing romances, she began penning mysteries. Her first mystery, Gluten For Punishment, (one of now three series that she has sold) hit shelves on May 7th. And I'm pretty sure after you read this post you'll be zipping off to the store to check it out!
Thanks to Joelle Charbonneau for asking me to guest blog. What I love most about the Stiletto Gang isthe wonderful cast of strong, powerful women. When their world needs fixing they don’t run away, they don’t play at being helpless. Instead they step up, get to the facts, follow the clues and make their world a better place.
In Gluten For Punishment, my protagonist is Toni Holmes who dares to return to her hometown of OilTop Kansas and set up a gluten free bakery in the heart of wheat country. Toni has every reason to hide in her bed. Her husband cheated on her, her mother just died and left her to deal with “the family.” Included in her family is her eccentric Grandma Ruth – a lifetime mensa member with a scooter on the go. Not to mention Toni’s 52 cousins and a small town that never forgets what you did in high school.
Hint: Toni was not prom queen
Instead of crying in her gluten-free beer, Toni faces the challenges head on including investigating a murder which happens in front of her bakery.
Gluten For Punishment – excerpt:
“Toni, did you kill George Meister?”
My mouth went dry. My jaw went slack. The camera’s flash kept popping, blinding me. “What?” I glanced toward Grandma Ruth for some help.
Candy Cole, OilTop’s ace reporter, pushed on. “You, yourself, told everyone you were inside the store at the time he was murdered.”
“I was?” I shivered at the idea. It was bad enough to have a dead body nearby but to have a murder happen within a few feet of you? Nauseating.
“Honey,” Candy pushed. “You had motive and opportunity. Did you do it?”
“Seriously?” I asked her. Here I’d been ready to give her a free cup of coffee. Not anymore. I stepped back.
“Did you?” Her mic wafted under my nose.
“Of course not, I wouldn’t kill anyone.”
“Are you telling me, it’s a coincidence you’re new in town and a man gets murdered outside your bakery?” Candy’s eyes glittered like a snake’s.
“I’m not new in town,” I crossed my arms in front of me. “I grew up here. Are you saying any murders that happened while I lived here as a kid were my fault?”
“No,” Candy said thoughtfully. “But it’s a good angle. I can check and see how the murder rate was when you lived here and what happened after you left.”
“Stop it,” Grandma Ruth slapped the counter. “Toni wouldn’t kill anyone.”
“Oh, really? Then why is the Chief at the courthouse right now getting a warrant signed to search your home and your bakery for evidence?”
I sat down hard at the word warrant.
“Put your head between your knees.” Grandma was beside me. Her sharp tone of voice combined with her palm on the back of my head had me doing exactly what she said. I have to admit staring at the black and white tile floor was a bit more calming than looking at Candy. Her delight at my distress was unnerving.
“I thought we were friends, Candy,” I muttered.
“We are friends, honey,” Candy came around the counter and squatted down to peer at me. “That’s why I came before the Chief.”
I turned my head. “You came to warn me?”
“Good friends hide the body, honey, remember?” Her gaze took on a warm and concerned look. I wasn’t sure if I should believe it.
Monday, May 13, 2013
Don't tell me. I know. I shouldn't read my reviews. Actor Kevin Bacon has sworn that he never reads his, although don't you think that his agent probably does?
I know that several Stiletto Gang authors also have forsworn reading reviews.
But you're talking to a woman who happily reads spoilers for her favorite TV shows – and still enjoys them. So you think I'm not going to look to see who loves me – and, tragically, who doesn't?
So I was thrilled when readers begin posting glowing reviews of MURDER DOUBLES BACK. Lesa Holstine, librarian and reviewer extraordinaire, said "When authors can manage to juggle large casts, complicated stories, a fascinating dog, and traces of humor, they shouldn't wait years between books. Evelyn David's entertaining Murder Doubles Back will make readers regret four lost years."
Wow! That made my week, month – year.
But then, here's what another reader wrote, headlined, "Where's The Humor?" Actually the review was quite positive, saying, "The story line was good. The characters were still appealing." But she didn't think we brought the funny.
But, But…she said I didn't have a sense of humor? Me who has considered a job as a stand-up comic? Me, who is a barrel of laughs, except when reading reviews that are like a stiletto to the heart, so to speak.
You're questioning my humor? Question my writing ability, sure. But question whether I can deliver a joke? The horror.
Sigh. Don't tell me. I shouldn't read reviews.
Maybe I'll listen to a George Carlin riff on You Tube. Nobody ever accused him of not having a sense of humor.
Please share your worst review or job performance evaluation. Misery loves company.
Marian, the Northern Half of Evelyn David (the one without a sense of humor, the Southern half is quite the cut-up)
Click the link below to find out how to get 10 free ebooks
(including Murder Off the Books by Evelyn David)
Note: limited time offer
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Murder Takes the Cake Kindle - Nook - Smashwords - Trade Paperback
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Riley Come Home (short story)- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
Moonlighting at the Mall (short story) - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
Brianna Sullivan Mysteries - e-book series
I Try Not to Drive Past Cemeteries- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
The Dog Days of Summer in Lottawatah- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
The Holiday Spirit(s) of Lottawatah- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
Undying Love in Lottawatah- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
A Haunting in Lottawatah - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
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Missing in Lottawatah - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
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Love Lessons - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
Friday, May 10, 2013
By Laura Spinella
Earlier this week I posted at the Girlfriends Book Club. It’s another water cooler blog, a virtual coffee klatch where women share the angst, joy, trepidation and insight of their experiences as published authors. Like the Stiletto Gang, we also share sidebar posts that might not have a single thing to do with writing or books. Not infrequently, much humor and knowledge is gleaned from these left-of-center pearls of wisdom.
I didn’t write that kind of blog at GBC, and I won’t get to write one here today. My calendar insists that I have no time to write personal essays about my favorite fodder: my kids, or to pen breezy posts about pop culture. Although, seriously, have you watched Game of Thrones this season? I could easily do a 600-word diatribe on how those fire-breathing dragons should incinerate the all the characters—the aimless dirty, sometimes handless, wanderers of the realm. They have become characters without a kingdom or meaningful storyline. But, as I mentioned, I can’t write about that. I can’t because the ready-set-go bell of publishing has rung! Six months out from my pub-date and it’s time to start pressing the flesh and get in the game.
Although, really, let’s think about the irony of my predicament. It goes like this: A few years back I wrote a simple story about an ingénue character, Isabel Lang, and her musically gifted best friend, Aidan Roycroft. My oldest daughter, then in her late teens, loved the story. I thought about making more of it, but as the publishing gods would have it, BEAUTIFUL DISASTER sold in the same moment. I tucked that manuscript in a drawer and forgot about it. I wrote another book. It was a long book with a busy storyline and characters I never really fell in love with. But I thought it was the book I was supposed to write, so I pushed on. Turned out my instincts were on target. The agent took one read and sent me straight back to the blank screen. With my ego thoroughly bruised—I don’t know, maybe I was trying to stick my head in the drawer—I came across that shorter story titled THE IT FACTOR. Sure, it needed polish and a better, more mature plot, but I loved these characters, and I remembered that. Things were looking up. I spent a year massaging the manuscript, deciding if I really could pull off a story that involved a rock star. I mean, who does that?
Well, apparently, I do. While the finished product took sweat equity and significant swearing, the book sold right away—last summer. That’s when the elephant-like gestation began. But we’re nearing the homestretch, passing the anticipated milestones: cover art, back cover blurb and title. Things were inching along and I assumed my title, THE IT FACTOR, was set in stone. Not so fast. In a phone call it was re-titled ISABEL’S RHAPSODY, then a generic Aidan & Isabel marker through an idea-less winter, and finally PERFECT TIMING. Edits and ARCs are within spitting distance, as I put another piece of the puzzle in place this week. AuthorBytes launched a shiny new website for me. I think it’s really keen, but I also must confess that the uber-author web developer is my afternoon gig. It’s kind of like needing a new car and being married to Detroit. They’re just going to insist on a Cadillac. Many thanks to the talented team who pushed my site out the door in record time and with optimal precision.
So it all turns out to be my fault. If I hadn’t written a burgeoning sweet story, or a not so great book in between, who knows what I would have written today. It might have been a romp through the perils of securing summer employment for the nearly educated or spicy banter about my Mother’s Day gift—tickets to the Goo Goo Dolls. But shhhhhhh, I’m not supposed to know that! Instead, I’m here to talk about PERFECT TIMING! Blah, blah, blah… Hey, how about hopping over to Amazon and pre-ordering your copy? Thanks.
Laura Spinella is the author of the award-winning novel, BEAUTIFUL DISASTER and the upcoming novel, PERFECT TIMING, visit her shiny new website, www.lauraspinella.net