July 31, 2013

Sneak Peek:  Secrets & Sins

Kenosha, Wisconsin, March 2010
Julia, wearing a surgical gown, sat up in bed in her cubicle in the preoperative area of the local hospital, a cell phone held to her ear. “I love you, too, Melvin,” she said to her husband of fifty-four years. “And I’ll be back home just as soon as they discharge me. All right, sweetheart.” She held the phone in front of her and clumsily depressed the End button with a finger bent from arthritis, then handed it to her eldest daughter, Faye. “Thanks, dear. I promised your father I’d talk to him before they put me under.”
Faye shuddered. “Mama, I wish you wouldn’t use that expression. It’s creepy.”
“Oh, come on. You know what I mean. It’s only a colonoscopy. You’re a nurse, for heaven’s sake.”
Robin, Julia’s younger daughter, chimed in. “When you talk about being put under, Mama, it sounds like you’re about to be buried.”
“In that case allow me to clarify,” Julia said, laughing. “Before they put me under anesthesia, not in the ground. It’s only a colonoscopy.”
“Good morning, Mrs. Cheeks.” A nurse greeted Julia as she pulled aside the curtain and entered the cubicle. “I’ve got a pill for you to take to put you to sleep for the procedure.”
“I’m all set,” Julia announced. “I figure the sooner they get started, the sooner I can get home.” She swallowed the pill with a sip of water, then leaned back on the gurney against the pillow. “I do hope Scott will get to the house and sit with your father,” she said, obviously worried. “He’s not there yet.”
“He’ll be there, Mama,” Faye assured. “And Daddy’ll be all right if Scott is a little late. His Parkinson’s isn’t so bad where he can’t manage, and I know he might be a little forgetful, but it’s not like he won’t remember why you aren’t there, or to forget to turn off the stove when his egg is done.”
“Yes, I suppose you’re right. I’d just feel better if I knew he weren’t alone in the house, so I hope Scott doesn’t let me down.”
“He probably just had a date last night or something,” Robin offered.
Julia sighed at the thought of her only son. “Yes, I understand he has a lot of ‘dates.’” Her droll tone made it obvious that she considered ‘date’ a euphemism for ‘bed partner.’ Sometimes I think the older he gets, the more irresponsible he becomes. I can’t believe he left a wonderful wife to go out and sleep with a different woman every night of the week. He should come to his senses and beg Lynn to take him back…not that she’d take him after the way he treated her. All I can hope for is to live long enough to see him settled down with some other nice girl.”
“You’re not going anywhere, Mom,” Robin said. “And as for Scott, he’s just having a midlife crisis.” She grunted. “I guess he and Avaughn started theirs at the same time.”
For a moment silence hung heavily in the air. The topic of Robin’s ex-husband, whom she’d divorced after fifteen years of marriage once she learned he'd been having an affair, remained a sore subject. They managed to be civil to each other while forced to share their house by economics, but once Robin learned that he’d gotten his girlfriend pregnant, relations between them had swiftly deteriorated. Robin had struggled unsuccessfully for years to conceive, and news of her ex’s impending fatherhood sent her, at forty-seven, into a depression as severe as the one she’d had throughout her thirties while at the height of her infertility.
Finally Julia spoke. “I’m really uncomfortable with the idea of the two of you sharing that house after your divorce,” she said. “It can only lead to trouble. Why don’t you move back in with Daddy and me, Robin?”
“I can’t do that, Mom. “I’d still be responsible for half the mortgage and utilities. If I’m not there, it’ll be like Avaughn has an invisible roommate. He’ll be able to entertain his baby mama, even move them in.” She made a face.
“In other words, he won’t have any incentive to sell the house,” Faye concluded.
“Exactly. And I’ll be stuck indefinitely in a part of my life that’s over.” Robin patted Julia’s leg through the thin blanket that covered her. “Don’t worry, Mom, it’ll be fine.”
Julia sighed. “I don’t know why you two had to buy that big house by the lake anyway.”
“Because it was what I wanted,” Robin replied softly. “I felt I deserved to get something I wanted out of my life.”
“Of course you do, dear. I didn’t mean to suggest otherwise.”
“I know you didn’t.” Robin knew she’d been feeling a little sensitive lately. It had everything to do with her upcoming forty-eighth birthday. Her life had taken a cruel turn in the last year, and if that wasn’t bad enough, in two years she’d be fifty.
She looked at her mother curiously. “Shouldn’t you be getting sleepy, Mom?”
“I feel fine. Now, tell me why you’re smiling like that. I already know it’s not an offer on the house, but you seem a little cheerful about something.”
Robin smiled. “I can never hide anything from you,” she said affectionately. “The girl who’s organizing my class reunion told me last night that one of the guys asked her about me. I haven’t seen him since our twentieth reunion ten years ago, and even after all that time he was still the best-looking guy in the class. Of course, I was with Avaughn, so all I could do was admire him from a distance. But he was single then, and he still is.” Robin’s eyes shone. “So even though the reunion isn’t for another two months, I’m kinda excited at knowing he asked if I was coming.”
“Sounds promising,” Julia said.
“Still single at forty-eight? Has he ever been married?” Faye asked, a suspicious undertone in her voice.
“I don’t know,” Robin admitted. “But I’m sure he’s not gay.”
“You can never be too sure.”
Robin bristled. “Listen, Faye, there are plenty of men who get married and have kids and then come out. Some men just aren’t the marrying kind.” She thought for a minute. “Does anyone think Al Pacino is gay?”
“Or what’s-his-name?” Julia contributed. “Shirley MacLaine’s brother.”
“Warren Beatty,” Faye supplied. “He’s married, Mama. Has been for years, although he was about my age when he finally said ‘I do.’ And to a much younger woman.”
“Well, I remember when he was a notorious ladies man. Not surprised he married someone a generation younger.” Julia grunted and mumbled, “These old men are always chasing after young tail.”
Faye thought it odd that her mother seemed so annoyed about older men marrying younger women—it wasn’t as if her father had a roving eye—but her thoughts were with Robin. She glanced at her sister, who was still seething over her remarks. Robin’s divorce had made her super-sensitive these days, but any woman with a lick of sense would be suspicious of a forty-eight-year-old man who’d never been married.
She decided to change the subject. “Mama, I can’t believe the pills haven’t knocked you out yet,” Faye marveled. “Most people don’t last two minutes after taking that pill.”
“Just call me Superwoman,” Julia boasted. “Seventy-six years old, and invincible.” She focused on her younger daughter. “This young man you had a crush on in high school. Do I know him?”
“No, but you’re probably familiar with his family. They’re pretty prominent in the communities on both sides of the lake.”
“What’s his name?”
“Pace. His first name is Vernon.”
Julia’s eyes grew wide, and then she slumped forward, eyes closed.
“Mom!” Robin cried out, alarmed.
“It’s all right, Robin,” Faye soothed, her fingertip pressed to Julia’s throat. “It’s just the sedative kicking in. She’s got a strong pulse.”
Robin lowered her chin to her chest. “It was more than medication, Faye. Did you see that wild look in her eyes?”
“She probably realized that, in spite of all that bragging she did, that she was about to pass out. Of course, if she did that without the sedative, I’d be in the hall screaming for a doctor right now,” Faye said with a laugh.
Robin joined in. “That’s a relief. For a minute there, I thought she was reacting to hearing Vernon’s name.”
“Just a coincidence. I mean, how crazy would that be?”
The nurse brushed aside the curtain and stepped into the cubicle. She confirmed Julia was asleep and informed the sisters that she’d be transported to the procedure room at any moment now. “Come on, Robin,” Faye said, “They’re about to take her in. Let’s go to the waiting room.”
Julia saw vivid images in her sleep. There she was, fifty-five years ago, a young woman of twenty-one, shaken from the sight of what instinct told her were Vernon’s feet sticking out of that rolled-up rug in her father's office. Scenes from both before and after that pivotal moment replayed themselves.
She didn’t mention a word of what she’d witnessed to anyone...not the next day when she sent a message to her mother...not when she talked to her boyfriend, Melvin, the next day, not even at the hospital when Lorraine mentioned how Vernon’s family members said he’d disappeared. The Paces, and Lorraine as well, believed he’d skipped town to avoid being arrested for assault or worse, since Lorraine’s injuries resulted in the death of her fetus. Then she kept hearing Robin saying, “His name is Vernon Pace...Vernon Pace...Vernon Pace.” She could still hear the name when she opened her eyes.
Julia dreaded seeing her daughters. She remembered being shocked to hear Vernon’s name, but nothing after that. Damn that anesthesia. Had the alarm she felt shown in her face? If it had, Faye and Robin were sure to ask about it.
She smiled weakly as her daughters noisily pulled aside the curtain and approached the large cushioned chair where she sat upright.
“Welcome back, Mom,” Faye said with a smile.
“You feeling all right?” Robin asked.
“Maybe a little sleepy.” Julia’s words came out slightly garbled. “What happened to my teeth? I don’t remember taking them out.”
“Robin and I were on our way to the waiting room when the nurse said she’d forgotten to have you remove your dentures,” Faye explained. “We called out to you and tried to wake you up, but you were out like you’d just been punched by Floyd Mayweather,” she added with a laugh.
“Finally, Faye put on a surgical glove, reached in your mouth, and took them out,” Robin concluded. “It was pretty funny, almost as funny as the anesthetic putting you to sleep so suddenly. Mom, why’d you look so funny when I told you Vernon’s name?”
“Did I? I don’t remember.” She paused. “But since you brought him up, tell me, is he part of the family who owns all the funeral homes?”
“Yes. Do you know the Paces, Mom?”
“I know of them. One of my friends from high school with used to date one of them.” Julia sought to change the subject. “So tell me, does this young man work in the family business?”
Robin nodded.
“Wait a minute,” Faye said through the beginnings of full-blown laughter. “This guy you’re so looking forward to seeing at your reunion. He’s an undertaker?”
“Yes…what’s wrong with that?”
Blood rushed to Faye’s brown face, making her complexion brighter, and she dissolved into uncontrollable mirth that shook her entire body. “What’s wrong with that? Come on, Robin. It’s bad enough to see dead people, but this man touches them. If you don’t care where your man’s hands have been, you might as well start dating a gynecologist. They make more money.” She laughed once more.
Julia, momentarily forgetting her dilemma, joined her, then, seeing Robin’s distress, gestured for Faye to stop as she struggled to regain composure. “Robin, we don’t mean to laugh.”
“No, we don’t,” Faye said through a giggle. She cleared her throat. “We really don’t,” she repeated, this time sounding more convincing.
“There’s nothing wrong with making a living by burying people,” Robin said indignantly. “It’s a decent, honest living. Besides, before you call someone else’s profession disgusting, Faye, maybe you should look at your own. You spend all day treating skin ulcers and wounds. Is Godfrey ever reluctant to touch you because of where your hands have been?”
Julia sat back, for once content to listen to her daughters bicker as Faye rushed to her defense and that of her husband. She knew that Robin, sensitive about her inability to conceive and living in an incredibly stressful situation, was a little envious of Faye’s long and stable marriage and the two daughters she'd raised. Normally Julia would attempt to bring a halt to all the fussing, but this time she sat back in her bed and became lost in two very pressing concerns.
Her first was for Robin. Like Faye, Julia found the whole undertaker thing a little distasteful, but if Robin didn’t mind, she certainly wouldn’t object. But the fact that this younger Vernon was a member of the large Pace family and had obviously been named for his late uncle unnerved her. The Vernon she’d known was a ladies man who couldn’t keep his penis in his pants, and well on his way to becoming a drunkard as well. What type of man was his namesake? If he was anything like Vernon I, she didn’t want him anywhere near her child...and the fact that the child in question was almost forty-eight years old made no difference.
As much as Julia wanted happiness for her baby girl, she already worried that a relationship between Robin and Vernon Pace had the potential to bring out the secrets she’d worked so hard, and for so long, to conceal. Even her late mother, God rest her soul, had gone to her grave not knowing the entire truth, only the part of her father’s betrayal that he’d been unable to conceal. That betrayal haunted Julia for years and had kept her from fulfilling her daddy’s deathbed wish. After all this time—Roscoe Scott had died in Nineteen Ninety-Five—she’d stopped thinking about it, was no longer haunted by it, and when she said her final goodbye to her father as his casket was lowered into the ground in the Mississippi town where he’d been born, at last she felt she could put the whole sordid mess behind her. Only one person still alive besides Melvin knew the whole truth...and Julia never expected to see that person again.
But all that might change if anything serious developed between Robin and Vernon’s namesake. The entire Pace family, whether they lived in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, or Wisconsin, knew what transpired less than a year after Vernon I’s murder, and if they weren’t suspicious of Roscoe before, surely that changed after his subsequent action. Roscoe, to his credit, had done such a masterful job of covering his tracks that they had no proof. But if the Pace family were ever to find out that Robin was Roscoe Scott’s granddaughter, all the Scott family secrets could spill out like ketchup out of a bottle.
Julia always presumed that both sordid secrets would die with her and Melvin. It just wasn’t fair to be threatened with exposure after over fifty years.
But if anything of substance did develop between Robin and Vernon II, how on earth was she supposed to keep the truth from coming out?
July 25, 2013

Chewing the Fat with...Deatri King-Bey

Deatri King-Bey has been a published author since 2006. She’s one of the hardest-working women in publishing, being on the organizing committee for the Romance Slam Jam annual conference for at least the last five years, moderating several Facebook groups, operating an editing service, and somehow finding time to write those books readers love!

Deatri's newest release (available in both print and eBook formats) is The Only Option. In the words of the review of author Angelia Vernon Menchan, The Only Option is “an interesting, entertaining look at arranged marriage, family ties and secrets.” Now, if that's not intriguing, I don't know what is! (of course, novels about family secrets are one of my favorite themes…) So check out what Deatri has to say, and show her some love by leaving her a comment!

Tell us a little about The Only Option.
Deatri says:  Sane, upwardly-mobile women don’t agree to enter into arranged marriages…or do they?

Control freak Jonah Tazi comes from a long line of arranged marriages, but the thought of his parents picking his bride never sat well with him. Time is working against Jonah, so he reluctantly agrees to allow his father to find him a proper bride. Then he meets Isis and becomes infatuated with the vibrant, funny, and talented woman. A powerful man used to getting exactly what he wants, exactly when he wants it, he is unprepared when Isis doesn’t agree to his proposal immediately. Now he is determined to convince her (and everyone else) that he and Isis belong together. Jonah intends to be her only option.

Isis Michaels has always been sheltered by her father. The tables have turned, and now she must shelter him. Isis rearranges her life and will do whatever it takes to please her father during the time he has left—almost anything. It becomes clear that he wants to see her settled before he passes. Is marrying Jonah, a man she’s emotionally and physically attracted to but just met, her only option?

Please share with us your inspiration to write this story. 
Deatri says: I’m a tad bit psycho (as most authors are). I have voices in my head. It’s kind of like multiple personality disorder. Anywho, there is usually a triggering event that brings a new voice forward. For example, when I saw my grandson playing with the puppy, Gloria from my Write Brothers Series, popped into my head and started telling me about her family. The first book started off with her grandson playing with a puppy.

For The Only Option, there was no triggering event. The opening of the first scene just appeared in my mind’s eye and plagued me like a bad dream for years. I say bad because it was driving me crazy. I only saw the opening of the first scene and no dialogue. I knew what the profession of the hero and heroine were and I knew her name, but that was it. Then a few months ago, Isis demanded I get to writing their book. So, without knowing where the characters would lead, I just started writing and the result was The Only Option.

What romance subgenre would you say this book is, or does it defy classification other than contemporary romance? 
Deatri says: It’s a contemporary romance.

Will this be a series, or will there be future books featuring other characters introduced in this story? If yes to either, any approximate timeframe for the next book? 
Deatri says: This book will not be a series, but I will be writing the stories of some of the secondary characters.

Do you happen to have an excerpt with you that you can share with us?  
Deatri says: I surely do. Here is the opening of the first scene, the one that plagued me for years. For me it was like a silent movie that they forgot to put the captions on. Don’t worry, I’ve given you the dialogue. 


Chapter One
“Dad, you’re not choosing my wife.” Adjusting his earpiece, Jonah exited the elevator. Fifteen minutes early for an acquisition meeting, he considered himself late.

“You’re a lot closer to forty than thirty. People are starting to talk.”

“I don’t care.” Artwork lined either side of the hallway. The priceless collection had taken Jonah years to build and there were more pieces to acquire.

“Well, I do. Three years. Three years ago you promised to dedicate time to finding a wife.”

“I’ve been busy running a multibillion-dollar corporation.”

“I was just as busy as my father and his father before him. We’ve always had arranged marriages. That didn’t change when my father moved to this country. He did an excellent job of choosing my wife.”

“You’re divorced.” Jonah’s grandfather had moved his wife from Morocco to the United States shortly after their marriage. The majority of the family remained in Morocco and Spain along with many of their traditions. Jonah’s selection of a wife went beyond tradition. As the only son, Jonah believed it was his duty to produce at least one heir to carry on the Tazi name. Time had slipped by too quickly for him to find a wife. A control freak, he hated the idea of his father choosing his wife, but he didn’t see an alternative.

Attracted to the maturity of women his own age, if he waited much longer, the type of woman Jonah wanted wouldn’t be of childbearing age. “Fine, I’ll get married. I take it you have suitable options in mind?”

“Of course I do. I’ll have your assistant set up the meetings.”

“Speaking of meetings, I have one in thirteen minutes. We can talk later.” Jonah disconnected and continued along the hallway. Originally, he’d tried to acquire D. M. Solutions two years ago, but the owner wouldn’t consider his offer.

He rounded the corner, then stopped in his tracks. Few people had access to his private floor, so seeing a woman standing dangerously close to his Auguste Rodin sculpture shocked him. What drew him even more than her presence were her legs. Quite tall himself, he rarely met a woman who reached his shoulders. He’d give his Rembrandt to have her legs wrapped around him as he pushed into her.

Soon he’d be selecting a wife and other women would be off-limits. Currently a free man, Jonah had no intention of allowing the long-legged lovely to pass him by.


How can readers purchase The Only Option?
Deatri says: Print, Kindle, and Nook/ePub (via Barnes & Noble) formats.

Thanks for the continued support, everyone. I hope you enjoy Isis and Jonah’s story.  And please help spread the word.

You can find me online at: http://www.DeatriKingBey.com, https://www.facebook.com/deatri, http://www.Twitter.com/DeatriKingBey my dangerously-sexy suspense is written as L. L. Reaper http://www.LLReaper.com

Bettye, thank you so much for the continued support. I appreciate all you do.
July 23, 2013

The Royal Baby might not have a name...

...but my heroine does! 

I've spent the last day mulling over the contest entries for my character naming contest...I eliminated some good ones that contained first names I've already used for main characters (the first name of Ava, the last name of Ballard, both from backlist titles ePubbed earlier this year).  I then eliminated some I just didn't like (including one that sounded like a stripper ("Blaze").  I narrowed it down to two names, but there can be only one winner...and it is "Courtney Mathis," submitted by Louise Brown.  Congrats, Louise!  You win a $10 gift card and, since I know you already own all my eBooks, a complimentary download of Secrets & Sins when it comes out this fall!  Thanks for giving my heroine a name.  Her book, It Happened in Eighty-Eight, will be out in 2014.
July 17, 2013

The Hardest Part of Starting a Book

Ah, starting a new book!  It's a wonderfully blissful feeling...crafting a new story that will (I hope) keep readers turning the pages.  Such joy as I exercise my creativity.  Possibilities are endless.  Who knows, maybe this will be the title that turns the page of my career from modestly successful to overnight sensation (one can always dream, and what's more, one should).

Sitting down, fingers poised over the keyboard, studying the scenes I've laid out, I start to work on the first scene.

The next day I change it.

The day after I change it again.

I find that I can easily rewrite my opening chapter a half dozen times.  There has to be a perfect balance...not too heavy on the narrative...don't introduce too many characters...and above all, keep the reader wanting to turn the pages.  It can be astoundingly difficult to capture just the right structure.

Writing the end is a cinch.  Writing the middle isn't bad.  But writing the beginning is torture.

What's the hardest part of a project for you?
July 13, 2013

Character Name Needed

It's commonplace for me to work on more than one project at a time...whenever I get a strong picture for a scene in a book on the drawing board I drop everything and write it down!  As I work on Secrets and Sins, which will be my first indie published women's fiction and will kick off my  fictitious town of Eighty-Eight, Mississippi, I find my excitement growing about the series I (and possibly other authors) will be writing with that setting.  I've long since summarized (if not outlined) the plot of the first book set in my little town; an idea that occurred to me after a shocking, untimely event four years ago now. I don't mean to sound overly secretive--this is a book, not espionage--but it's best I not say too much about the plot until the book is about to be published.

One thing I've never been able to do is name my characters, particularly my heroine.  I held a character-naming contest last year for another project, and after the winners had been chosen, I realized that I wanted to replace one of the winning names with one I thought would work even better (it's my contest and my book, and I can do what I want).  I am going to use that previous winning character name--Jordan Thomas--for either the hero or his brother; I haven't decided.  All I have to do with that is come up with a first name for the other unnamed brother that goes with the surname Thomas.

But my heroine is another matter.  I haven't the faintest idea what to call her.  That's where you come in!

A little about her:  She's in her early 30s and African-American.  An only child whose parents abandoned her, she was raised by her late grandmother in the Mississippi Delta town of Eighty-Eight (population less than 2000), outside of the college town of Cleveland, Mississippi.  She works as an RN at the medical center in Cleveland.  When her grandmother became ill about eight years earlier she asked to be put on the third shift, a circumstance that continues to this day, as she found she likes it.

Caring for her grandmother at home all day and working all night left her with little time to sleep, and while running on fumes she is stunned to be approached by the family member of one of her patients with an offer that will make life a lot easier for her. She gratefully accepts, not knowing that it will come back and haunt her years later...

If you'd like to provide a first and last name for this character, please email it to me at contests@bettyegriffin.com .  Contest closes Sunday, July 21st, at 11:59PM Central Time.  The winner will receive a $10 gift certificate to the online eBook retailer of their choice, and also a complimentary download of the Bunderful Books title of their choice (excluding my three-book bundle).  Winner will be announced on my blog and Facebook pages (both the Bettye Griffin and Bunderful Books pages) by Tuesday, July 23rd.  One entry per person.

Let the naming begin!
July 12, 2013

Anatomy of an eBook:  Secrets & Sins

Now that Love Will Follow is published and I've re-published A Love of Her Own, I'm busy working on my women's fiction project, Secrets & Sins.  Most of the action of this story takes place in present-day Zion, Illinois, and Pleasant Prairie, Kenosha, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with flashback scenes to mid-century Chicago, other scenes take place in the fictitious town of Eighty-Eight, Mississippi, which I've come to think of as my little town (I heard the Simon and Garfunkel song with that title on satellite radio the other day).

I've actually changed the name of my little town several times. It's important that it have just the right name, because while it doesn't play a major role in Secrets & Sins, it will be the setting of a series of books I'm planning to write after its introduction.  The South in general is known for having towns with unusual names (Due West, South Carolina; Evening Shade, Arkansas).  Mississippi has a boatload of nutty names, like Itta Bena and my personal favorite, Whynot.  There is a reason for the name Eighty-Eight, which you'll see in the finished book.

Six years ago, my husband and I took a "blues vacation."  We went down to Clarksdale, Mississippi, and Memphis, Tennessee, and listed to some authentic (and fabulous!) blues.  We were only in Mississippi for two days, but I remember my first look at miles and miles of cotton fields along Highway 61 (a sight I won't ever forget), the dozens of casinos in the Tunica area, and the pleasant surprise at seeing African-American law enforcement officers in an area where less than 50 years ago, crimes against blacks were openly ignored by police and sheriffs.  When I visited the Clarksdale Walmart I asked the manager to announce that I was in the store, since they had a healthy supply of my print titles.  People came to the book section to meet me, and I sold all the books they had in stock, some to shoppers and some to store employees.  I knew then that I wanted to set a small town series in that area.  My personal family roots (the Southern ones) are in North Carolina, but there is not a dearth of people from there living in the Midwest (most people from this area escaped to the Northeast).  Besides, looking at those cotton fields and huge oak trees, you can't help but feel the history in the air.  The racial discord and the emergence of the so-called "New" Mississippi--even Myrlie Evers-Williams returned to the area to teach at one of the colleges over 40 years after her first husband, Medgar Evers, was shot to death in the driveway of their Jackson home--provides groundwork for dozens of stories. 

When I did research, I decided to set my little town not in the Clarksdale area, but closer to the college town of Cleveland, 35 miles away.  The problem is, I've never been to Cleveland, and while we are planning to stop in Clarksdale on our way to our family reunion in New Orleans and take in some more live blues at the local juke joints (and munch on the wonderful catfish BLT sandwiches at Morgan Freeman's Ground Zero Blues Club), we won't have time for a side trip to Cleveland.  So, in essence, I'll be writing about a place where I've never been.

In fiction, it always drives me crazy when I see small towns that are entirely self-sufficient, where it isn't necessary to leave the town limits, no matter what service is needed, which is highly unlikely in real life.  For this reason, it's important that I get a feel for the real area, specifically the city of Cleveland.  In Mississippi, towns are really small, I mean hundreds of people, not thousands, and there are usually no chain stores.  The Internet is a huge help in capturing the essence of the area.  For instance, the stores of the Target chain in Mississippi are located mostly in the northern and Gulf coast areas of the state.  There are no Targets in Cleveland, although there is a Walmart.  General services, like hospitals, are easy to identify as well.  Just this morning I wrote a flashback scene taking place at the Bolivar Medical Center.  It occurred to me that in 1995 (the year of my flashback), the medical center might have been called something else.  I went to the hospital's website and looked up their history, and sure enough, it didn't take on its current name until 1997.    
The absolute best way to capture the feel of a place you're writing about, though, also involves the Internet:  reading their  local newspaper.  Obituaries and wedding announcements that go into detail (not the ones with just a few sentences) about the lives of the parties involved can be particularly useful.  I'm tickled to see how many elderly people from Cleveland, Mississippi, who pass away have children living locally, but also in the Greater Chicago area...northwest Indiana, the north and south suburbs, the city itself, and in my area of southeast Wisconsin.  That lends a special air of realism for me.

So there are my research tips. Welcome to my little town.  I hope you'll want to read about it.
July 10, 2013

A Return to Writing

Most of the last few months have been largely spent reading over previously written material and polishing it...removing text in some areas, adding new text in others, filling in missing words, rephrasing, correcting inconsistencies, and making general improvements.  I did this both when preparing to send the manuscript for my most recent eBook to my editor, and again after she sent it back with her corrections and suggestions, which makes for a lot of reading.  (Incidentally, I published that book, Love Will Follow, a few days ago, and you can either order it direct at a 25% discount or from Amazon at this link.)  In addition, I've been reading over a backlist title as I prepare it for ePub, doing the same thing--adding passages here, deleting passages there. 

While you can really never have too many reads of a work-in-progress (because there is always something to improve on, and yes, mistakes can be overlooked, even with several read-throughs), it does get frustrating after awhile, because the writer in me longs to sit down and create new words, not polish old ones.  But such is the down side of being a writer...it doesn't end with creating the words, or even going over them at the end of the day.  They all have to come together to form a story that's consistent, and that takes work.

I'm happy to report that today I did something I haven't done in what seems like forever...I sat down and simply let the words flow.  And did it ever feel good!  How I've missed that simple joy of just dictating a scene.  I'm looking forward to doing much more of it over the next three months...because when I take a look at my project board, I've got quite a few books to write!

Do you feel as constricted by self-editing as I do?