Guest Blog / My Mysterious Humorous Heaven

Guest Author Daisy Pettles

I turned 60 this year and promptly retired. I’ve always loved to write, and for the last 20 years focused on writing for a practical niche area–-education and Internet marketing—where I could do what I loved and still pay the bills.

Prior to retiring and taking up writing , author Daisy Pettles was a therapist and Internet entrepreneur.

Retirement put me back in that great and rare place where I suddenly had endless days without responsibilities. Everything was possible again—a luxurious feeling that I’d not had for a few decades.  Better still, I had the amazing trio of treasures—time, money, and experience—required to launch into riskier passion projects, like fiction writing.

I’ve devoured books my entire life, but fiction writing was a new adventure and a huge challenge. I love mysteries, romance, and humor so I decided to try my hand at humorous mysteries that harked back to my rural origins in southern Indiana.

Because I love to laugh, and am a bit quirky myself, I knew humor would under gird my first fiction project. I’d write what I wanted to read and see if I could pick up a readership from there.

That’s how my small-town Indiana setting, Pawpaw County, came into being for my award-winning “Shady Hoosier Detective Agency” series. I grew up in a tiny river town full of nosy neighbors, quirky characters, and kind-hearted souls.

Like many Baby Boomers born in rural America in the 60’s I found myself growing nostalgic for an America that never did exist, but that many still hope for. I wanted to write something light-hearted that celebrated small town living.

I deliberately set out to replicate the “feel good” mood of vintage Hillbilly TV sit-coms, those set in rural America. My childhood was awash in the silliness of great comic series like The Andy Griffith Show, Petticoat Junction, Gomer Pyle, and Green Acres.

When it came to creating leading ladies I decided to abandon the safe cozy mystery formula of the thirty-something, college-educated woman escaping to a simpler life in the country.

I created instead aging and somewhat cranky heroines who would love to retire but lack the resources to do so. They are very street smart, but lack the varnish and subdued manners that often accompany college and urban living. I love them to death.

My leading lady detectives, Ruby Jane Waskom and Veenie Goens, are working class, high-school educated, both with a prior chain of everyday jobs as factory and farm workers. They share a house, overdue bills, and laughter. They co-exist on social security, taking jobs as detectives in-training hoping to scrape up a little “Twinkie money” on the side.

They are much older than the genre usually allows: 68 and 71, to be exact. (Every literary agent I talked to loved the series and the writing but were horrified by the age of the women.) My leading ladies are unusual—and therefore very risky—for the cozy mystery niche today.

While the books are labeled cozy mysteries, their strongest element is humor. They are true crime comedies. One critic called Daisy Pettles the “hillbilly Janet Evanovich.” Another, in “Shelf Discovery” tagged them “a wildly entertaining (detective) team—like an elderly Stephanie Plum and Lula.” My senior crime fighting duo, Ruby Jane and Veenie, are very much a silly Lucy-Ethel gal pal team.

Much of what is good in the Shady Hoosier Detective Agency character-driven series is the way the two senior sleuths slide along together through life, and their cases. Their get-it-done “gal pal” energy enlivens the series.

My one goal as a writer is to entertain. I love it when people laugh, and feel even better when I might be cause of that laughter.

I have found enough of an audience with the Shady Hoosiers that Book 3, “Chickenlandia,” is coming out as I write this. Book 4,”Catfish Cooties,” is now steeping in the stew pot of my imagination.

Writing humorous fiction with mysterious twists is truly my retirement heaven.

AUTHOR BIO: Daisy Pettles’ debut humorous cozy series, the Shady Hoosier Detective Agency, set in fictional Pawpaw County, Indiana, won the 2019 Gold Medal as Best Humor Book from the Indie Reader, The Next Generation Indie Book Awards, and the American Fiction Awards. Prior to retiring and taking up writing she was a therapist and an Internet entrepreneur. The Chickenlandia Mystery is Book 3 in Daisy Pettles’ Shady Hoosier Detective Agency cozy humor series, which the Indie Reader describes as “Murder She Wrote meets the Golden Girls … where the fun is infectious.”

Visit her anytime at https://www.daisypettles.com

CONTACT: Daisy@daisypettles.com

TWITTER: @DaisyPettles

FB: https://www.facebook.com/daisypettles

Chickenlandia Mystery: Shady Hoosier Detective Agency (Book 3)

Release Date: 9/15/2019

PLOT: Pawpaw County, Indiana, is all atwitter about Ma and Peepaw Horton’s annual Chickenlandia Festival. The mood turns dark though when the Horton’s prize-winning rooster, Dewey, and his best laying hen, Ginger, vanish, leaving behind only a ragged trail of tail feathers. Also missing: Gertie Wineagar, local sourpuss, and BBQ chicken cook-off queen. Senior sleuths, Ruby Jane (RJ) Waskom and Veenie Goens, suspect Hiram Krupsky, Pawpaw County’s self-proclaimed Chicken Wing King, of master-minding the crime spree in an attempt to sabotage the Horton’s free-range chicken ranch. The sleuths get an unexpected “in” when Hiram commences to court a reluctant RJ. Follow the Hoosier senior snoops as they attempt to sort the good eggs from the bad in this hilarious, small-town crime comedy.

Shady Hoosier Detective Agency – AMAZON BUY LINKS

Ghost Busting Mystery (Book 1)

Baby Daddy Mystery (Book 2)

Chickenlandia Mystery (Book 3) – Due out 9/15/19 check link before posting

August Blog: The Dog Days of Summer

Here in South Carolina, the kids are already back in school. Personally, I think going back to school before Labor Day is an abomination and simply un-American. That may be why I simply can’t get myself motivated to sit down and finish the book I’m writing, even though I’m within spitting distance of the finale.

I get up every day with the intention of writing at least two hundred words — my bare minimum goal as per John Grisham’s advice — but I just don’t feel like it. Yesterday I received my weekly Inspiration for the Week from Cathleen O’Connor (cathleenoconnor.com). If you don’t subscribe to her emails, I highly recommend you do. This week’s message  was entitled “You Deserve a Break Today”. I felt as if she wrote it just for me. Thank you, Cathleen.

She began with a quote from writer Anne Lamott:

“Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes…including you.”

I love that. Of course, I’ve been pretty much unplugged since I got back from my vacation at the end of July. You think I’d be re-booted by now.

I do have at least one legitimate reason for not writing the last two weeks. Each Monday when I sat down to type, my computer ground down to the slowest speed imaginable. On my own I was able to go to the settings  and determine that my 465 GB’s of storage were completely filled up. I knew that was impossible.  I managed to clear out the inordinate amount of temporary files that somehow downloaded themselves to my computer, not once, but twice.

When these phantom files were back again last week, I decided I needed professional help, so I  called my trusty IT guy, Peter Manse, out in Colorado. Guess what? He was in California for a brief vacation. Nevertheless, he managed to get me back up Wednesday. Somehow, starting something on a Wednesday just never feels right to me. Still, I managed to get one chapter completed last week.

And then there’s the new puppy. If you’re friends with me on Facebook, you already know I’ve adopted a new dog — Trixie.  She’s a sweetheart, but she’s only about six months old, so she needs lots of attention and exercise.  I still miss Lucky, my dog of 12 years, whom I lost in February, but I confess it’s so nice to have a little buddy once again. I mean, really. Is there anything more endearing than seeing that little tail wag when you walk in the room? Second only to a baby smiling at you. Really.

So, today, I’ve decided to take Cathleen’s advice and embrace Anne LaMott’s message and heed Cathleen’s own words:

“Just take some deep breaths. Ask yourself what you need to feel rested and restored . . . and then give that to yourself. “

Maybe next week — after Labor Day — I’ll start writing again in earnest. In the meantime, it’s a rainy day here in Mauldin this morning, so it won’t be at all difficult to go over to the couch, curl up with Trixie and finish that cozy mystery I’m reading — One Taste Too Many by Debra Goldstein.

Ah, yes. I think I’ll just release all guilt and totally indulge in what’s left of the remaining dog days of summer! Happy Labor Day, Y’all.

That’s What It’s All About

Happy Memorial Day! Hope you are enjoying a great kick-off to the summer season. In spite of the fact that I am hosting the family cook-out today, I wanted to take a moment to share with you a reflection that makes me smile and hope it does the same for you.

I’m sure by now you’ve seen the Apple Watch commercial set to the tune of a childhood favorite of mine — the Hokey Pokey. From the first time I saw it, I was hooked and no matter how many times I see it again, I’m always filled with glee.

Remember Robert Fulgham’s book, All I Really Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten? The older I get the more profound I find the simple things we learned as children. The other day at our mailbox kiosk, someone posted a sign that read: “Take the outgoing mail. Whoever delivered mail yesterday didn’t take it.” Seriously? What happened to “please” and “thank you”? Clearly, the writer who penned that note missed school that day.

But back to the Hokey Pokey commercial.  When I see those people dancing, jumping, playing to the tune, I’m exhilarated. And what could be more profound than the simple words “You put your whole self in…That’s what it’s all about.”

This summer, I hope you do nothing half-heartedly and that you put your whole self into everything you do. What chance do you have to be truly happy if you don’t? I mean, why bother doing anything, if your whole self isn’t in it? I’m especially talking to my fellow retirees out there. We have less in front of us than we have behind us. Why waste a single minute?

Just in case you need a little more inspiration, click below.

Happy Summer!

Book Review: Steeplejack by A.J. Hartley

If you love to read, you probably also love discovering new authors. It doesn’t matter if they are well-established authors. If they are new to you, you feel the joy of discovery. And what a special treat to find an author who’s written a series. Knowing that, after you finish that first book, you have more  adventures with the same characters to look forward to is sheer delight.

Delighted to meet AJ Hartley at SinC meeting in May.

Earlier this month I had the pleasure of meeting ,  A.J. Hartley, aka Andrew Hart, who spoke at our local Sisters in Crime meeting, recounting his journey  to becoming an international bestselling author of novels spanning a variety of genres.   He has written several archaeological thrillers, the Darwen Arkwright children’s series, the Will Hawthorne fantasy adventures and novels based on Macbeth and Hamlet. And as if that wasn’t enough to keep him busy, he is also the Robinson Distinguished Professor of Shakespeare at UNC Charlotte.

For me, AJ’s talk was one part informative, one part inspirational and two parts humorous.  Afterwards I selected Steeplejack, the first in his three-book YA Fantasy series. The book’s protagonist and heroine, seventeen-year-old Anglet Sutonga, earns her living cleaning and repairing chimneys and towers in the city of Bar-Selehm,  “an industrial city resembling an alternate Victorian South Africa.”

Anglet is a Lani. In the culture of the Lani people, the first daughter is a blessing, the second a trial, the third — a curse.  Anglet is a third daughter.  Nevertheless, she is a talented climber and excels at her job. She is also independent and fierce, characteristics that draw us to her immediately.

Near the end of the story, when Anglet is on the run and in great peril, she encounters a black weancat with a collar, a creature with whom she feels a kinship. She muses that the collar is a “collar of the mind” that you could simply refuse to believe in, and without the collar “all the cat had was itself: muscle and sinew, claw tooth and bone, senses, experience, skill, instinct and roaring, blood-pumping animal need.”  She, of course, could be describing herself — or any of us, for that matter.

I loved this character and I loved this book. The story is gripping, the action, non-stop, the setting, hauntingly beautiful — the language, soaring.  No wonder more and more adults are turning to Young Adult literature.  Can’t wait to finish reading the series.

#MaliceDomestic = #CozyMysteryHeaven

Linda Lovely and me at Malice Domestic 30

I can still recall the first time I heard about Malice Domestic. A fellow attendee at an International Women’s Writer’s Guild workshop recommended it to me when I revealed I was writing a cozy mystery. She said Malice Domestic was a yearly conference dedicated to cozy mystery writers and their fans.

Sounded ideal to me. So I googled Malice Domestic, registered for the conference and drove myself down to Bethesda, MD the last weekend in April 2014.

I didn’t know a soul, but soon discovered that didn’t matter. I had found “my people”. My fellow attendees and I shared a love of the same books and when you have books in common, you share a kindred spirit.

A few years back I read Avenue of Mysteries by John Irving — not a cozy mystery at all — but a book I love nevertheless. In one scene, the main character, writer Juan Diego Guerrero, reflects on the idea of using books as the criteria for finding mates and lovers. I thought that was a brilliant alternative to dating websites. A shared love of the same books is by far a more sound basis for the start of a relationship than any of the criteria used by Match.com and eHarmony.  But I digress…

Bethesda in bloom!

This year, I once again returned to Bethesda for Malice Domestic 30 the last weekend in April. If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you already know that I rated it as “the best Malice Domestic ever.” Louise Penny was the Guest of Honor and Nancy Pickard received the Lifetime Achievement Award. Their interviews were magnificent. I’m always amazed at how open and generous writers are as they answer questions about their personal journeys. They never fail to inspire us to keep writing our own stories.

The first night of the conference we were treated to a viewing of Season nine’s first episode of Vera, a British crime series based on the novels of Ann Cleeves.  Brenda Blethyn was honored with the Poirot Award for her portrayal of the intrepid Detective Chief Inspector Vera Stanhope. The interview with both Ms. Blethyn and Ann Cleaves was marvelous.

Author of the Dandy Gilver mystery series, Catriona MacPherson was the Malice Domestic Toastmaster. And what a delight she was! Her remarks about the award winners at the Agatha Awards Banquet were eloquent and heartfelt. Best of all, she tapped into the sense of kinship Malice attendees share whenever she took to the podium all weekend, her sense of humor making us laugh all the while.

On Saturday afternoon, I attended an event entitled “30 Years of Malice Memories.” One question from the audience was where did the name “Malice Domestic” come from. That was something I’d always wondered, too. Turns out the name comes from who else? My absolute favorite writer of all time–Shakespeare.

“….…………Duncan is in his grave.

After life’s fitful fever he sleeps well.

Treason has done his worst; nor steel nor poison,

Malice domestic, foreign levy, nothing

Can touch him further.”

Macbeth, Act III, Scene 2

Was there ever a character more embroiled in malice domestic than Macbeth? Could there be a more perfect name for a conference dedicated to mysteries about murders usually committed by family and friends in small towns and home-bound settings?

Finally, one of the things I love best about Malice is coming home with a bag of books and a list of titles to read by authors I either heard speak or met face-to-face at the conference. I even sold a few of my Holly and Ivy mystery books–the cherry on top.

If you like cozy mysteries, whether or not you can attend the conference, you may want to check out malicedomestic.org for the names of authors you might like to read. In the meantime, as the days grow longer and warmer, I wish you a summer free of actual malice domestic and full of cozy mysteries where there are no cold cases, justice is always served, and with a little luck, the spunky female sleuth always gets her man!

 

Countdown to Book Launch

I’m delighted to announce that my cozy mystery will launch on Amazon.com on May 15th. What’s a cozy mystery you ask? Ironically, when I started writing Second Bloom, I had never heard the term myself.

The word “cozy” says it all. Whatever you picture when you hear that word–a fireplace, a steaming pot of tea, a fluffy comforter, the smell of bread baking in the oven–that’s what to expect from a cozy mystery. Jessica Faust of Book Ends Literary Agency explains it this way:

“When you read one you feel like you’re being embraced by a world you want to be in. You’ve found new friends and maybe a protagonist who inspires you or who could easily be your best friend. The book itself doesn’t move too fast, there tends not to be a lot of blood, usually no more than one body…”

Like so many other mystery fans, I developed a  love of traditional and cozy mysteries reading Nancy Drew books, graduating to Agatha Christie as I got older. As I wrote in my November blog: “Especially when the world seems gray and gloomy, whether literally or figuratively, I know no better escape than reading about a plucky heroine who says and does all the things I can’t, a shero who conquers the bad guys and finds true love with some hunky hero.”

I got the idea for Second Bloom, the first book in my Holly and Ivy Mystery series, sitting in the garden at the Daniel Webster Inn on Cape Cod. My sister and I were admiring the flowers and I said something about Rosemary and Thyme, the PBS cozy mystery series that featured two women gardeners as amateur sleuths. Suddenly I got the spark of an idea. Wouldn’t an American version be great…a series about two sisters who garden and solve mysteries? And that’s where it all began, the summer of 2010.

The resulting book, Second Bloom, is  a cozy mystery about Holly Donnelly, a 55-year old adjunct English professor, and her younger sister, 52-year old Ivy Donnelly, a recently widowed, retired nurse. The look-alike sisters are reluctantly drawn into the investigation of an elderly neighbor’s murder when Juan Alvarez, Holly’s trusted gardener, is accused of the crime. Holly fears police detective, Nick Manelli, assumes Juan is guilty and won’t conduct a proper investigation, while Ivy feels the “hunky” Manelli is not only a good cop, but also a possible romantic match for her sister. The burning question is: can the clues the sisters unearth from neighborhood gossip about the victim’s family, a politically connected neighbor and a powerful real estate developer help save an innocent man, or will the gardening duo dig up more than they bargain for?

Tomorrow, April 27, I leave for Bethesda, Maryland to attend the annual Malice Domestic conference. This gathering is an annual fan convention  that celebrates the traditional mystery. As you can guess, these are “my people”. I’ll be there spreading the word about my imminent launch…all those years of marketing have not been lost on me.

If you like cozy mysteries, I hope you’ll check back here on May 15th. If you subscribe to my blog, you will automatically get notified when the book goes on sale and, if you subscribe before May 15th, I’ll send you Holly’s recipe for Honey Oat Bread.
Until then, wishing you sunny days and cozy nights!

Who Wrote Shakespeare?

On Sunday evening, June 26, 1977 I sat down at the desk in my room at Wroxton Abbey in Oxfordshire, England. The next day I would attend the first of my master’s level classes at Wroxton College, the British campus of Fairleigh Dickinson University. That summer we would be reading Henry VI, Parts One,Two and Three. Later in the summer, we would be attending all three of these Shakespearean history plays performed at the Royal Shakespeare Theater in Stratford-upon-Avon.

My sister, Mary Ellen, and me on a return visit to Wroxton Abbey, Summer 2011.

I still remember the thrill I felt when I read that the setting of the first scene was Westminster Abbey. I had just been there the day before. Yes, I loved Shakespeare before, but my three summers at Wroxton would transform that love into unconditional adoration.

Imagine my horror when I picked up the newspaper this past October and read the following headline: “Oxford says Shakespeare will share credit for Henry VI.” Wait…what? That’s right. Oxford University Press’ new edition of Shakespeare’s works will credit Christopher Marlowe as co-author of the Henry VI plays. [Are you rolling in your grave, Will?]

Gary Taylor, a professor at Florida State University and the principal investigator of the new edition crowed, “Shakespeare has now entered the world of big data.” He and a team of 23 international “scholars” used “computerized data sets to reveal patterns, trends and associations— analyzing not only Shakespeare’s words, but also those of his contemporaries.”

Seriously? Why would anyone do that? Have modern scholars run out of original ideas and thoughts to explore and research? This reminded me of one disappointing lecture by a tutor at Wroxton that focused on the number of active and passive verbs Shakespeare used in his plays. After listening to visiting Shakespearean scholars lecture all semester, providing brilliant insights into Elizabethan life and times and inspiring interpretations of Shakespeare’s writing, I found the verb identification exercise rather uninspiring. And now, computer analysis of Shakespeare? Positively dispiriting, not to mention yawn-inducing.

It’s no secret that writers often seek the advice of other writers, and in Elizabethan England, there was “a demand for new material to feed the appetite of the first mass entertainment industry.” I’ll concede that the small group of writers working at that time probably consulted one another and may have even collaborated. As a writer myself, I participate in classes and critique groups where members of the group provide wonderful suggestions about editing my phrasing, language, and even plot, and I have amended my work based on their suggestions. Does that make them my co-authors?

It’s hard to account for the obsession with discrediting a beloved and venerated writer who’s been dead nearly 500 years. Historically, there have been writers, scholars and critics who questioned Shakespeare’s ability to have written all the plays that have traditionally been attributed to him. Some say Shakespeare simply didn’t have the experience to write about the subject matter he covered. In response to that James Shapiro, author of Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare? writes:

“What I find most disheartening about the claim that Shakespeare of Stratford lacked the life experience to have written the plays is that it diminishes the very thing that makes him exceptional: his imagination.”

The Bard

So, my question to the scholars using “big data” to analyze Shakespeare’s plays is what imaginative contribution have you made to the world of literature? Even if you’re right, does it really matter that Christopher Marlowe, a poet and playwright himself, may have written some scenes in the Henry VI plays, perhaps to help out a fellow writer trying to meet a deadline or because he needed the money?

Will any one of the scholars who completed this study be quoted 500 years from now? Methinks the answer lies in the Bard’s own words. Compared to Shakespeare, the scholar using computer analytics to define his work is:

“…but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more.” Macbeth, Act V, Scene 5

And as for his computer study, well:

“ It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
Signifying nothing.” Macbeth, Act V, Scene 5

Long live Shakespeare! Long live the Bard!

Book Review: Avenue of Mysteries by John Irving

The main character of John Irving’s novel, Avenue of Mysteries, is a writer named Juan Diego Guerrero. Irving says this about his protaganist’s writing:

“In a Juan Diego Guerrero novel everyone is a kind of outsider; Juan Diego’s characters feel they are foreigners, even when they’re home.”

avenue-of-mysteriesThe same can be said about John Irving’s novels in general, but this is especially the case in Avenue of Mysteries. Born in Oaxaca, Mexico, Juan Diego and his sister, Lupe, are los ninos de la basura or dump kids. Their mother was a prostitute and they were raised by el jefe, the dump boss, who had a relationship with her at one time. Whether or not el jefe was Juan’s biological father is one of the book’s many mysteries.

What is extraordinary about Juan Diego is that he has taught himself to read, scavenging books that have been tossed in the garbage. Even more remarkable, he has taught himself to read both Spanish and English. Lupe, on the other hand, speaks her own language that only Juan Diego can understand. He is her translator. Some people think she’s retarded, but  she often surprises them because she can read their minds and sometimes she can even foresee the future.

We learn the story of Juan Diego’s life in Mexico and later in Iowa, mostly through his dreams and memories. After the luggage carrying his medication is delayed on the first leg of his flight to the Phillipines, Juan Diego’s “thoughts, his memories—what he imagined, what he dreamed were jumbled up.” And thus begins a masterfully crafted story that moves seamlessly from the present to the past and back again.

On the back jacket of Avenue of Mysteries is a blurb lifted from a TIME magazine review. It says:

“…unlike so many writers in the contemporary canon, he [John Irving] manages to write books that are both critically acclaimed and beloved for their sheer readability.”

I have to tell you I laughed out loud when I read that. So, was the reviewer acknowledging that critics like books that are unreadable? I have read my share of critically acclaimed, prize winning novels that experiment with time…no boring, formulaic beginning, middle and end for them. Quite frankly, they make my head hurt. Half the time I’m not sure who’s speaking or what century we’re in. I do believe those writers should read and study Avenue of Mysteries. This is how you do it so that your reader is with you every minute, enjoying the journey, spending time reflecting on the ideas you’re writing about, not struggling to figure out who’s who and what time period we’re in..

"The books which help you most are the books that make you think the most." Theodore Parker, American Transcendentalist and reforming minister of the Unitarian church.

“The books which help you most are the books that make you think the most.” Theodore Parker, American Transcendentalist and reforming minister of the Unitarian church.

There is so much more to say about this book. Irving expounds on various topics —writing, life’s mysteries, Shakespeare and the Catholic Church (anyone who went to Catholic school will most certainly recognize Sister Gloria) to name just a few. There’s also one wonderful episode in which Juan Diego views a book store bulletin board in Lithuania and mistakenly thinks he’s stumbled on a dating service that matches people based on the novels they read. He thinks it’s a wonderful idea. My question is why hasn’t anyone thought of this before?

I look forward to writing future blogs inspired by Mr. Irving’s reflections. I’d love to  share some of his thoughts on writing and I especially can’t wait to write my answer to the question “Who wrote Shakespeare?”

Just a word of caution. In previous blogs, I have expressed my love of cozy mysteries and happy endings. The word cozy is not one that could be applied to John Irving’s work, and satisfying might more aptly describe his endings than happy. If you’ve never read John Irving before, you might prefer to start with his all-time, best-selling novel , A Prayer for Owen Meany. However, if you are looking for a masterful piece of writing that gives you much to think about, Avenue of Mysteries is the book for you.

Book Review: Dear Killer

I was an English major in college and have a Masters Degree with a concentration in Shakespearean studies, but I must confess there are times I like nothing better than to crawl into a cozy mystery or a romantic suspense story. Especially when the world seems gray and gloomy, whether literally or figuratively, I know no better escape than reading about a plucky heroine who says and does all the things I can’t, a shero who conquers the bad guys and finds true love with some hunky hero. Formulaic and unrealistic? Perhaps. But sometimes that’s just what you need.

dear-kill-cover-finalTo my delight this week I discovered a new, audacious female protagonist, Marley Clark, when I started reading Dear Killer by Linda Lovely (http://www.lindalovely.com/). Marley is a 52-year old widow and a retired military intelligence officer, working as a security guard for the fictitious Dear Island community where she lives on the coast of South Carolina. When she discovers the body of a local real estate appraiser drowned in a Jacuzzi, she becomes involved in a murder investigation that upends her lazy “Mayberry by the sea” and puts her in mortal danger.

Linda Lovely is masterful at writing page-turning suspense scenes. I stayed up past midnight last night because I just couldn’t stop reading…that from a person who rarely makes it up past ten o’clock. Lovely’s writing style is a pleasure to read and Marley’s voice throughout is full of wry wit and raw, honest female emotion. She’s absolutely someone I’d enjoy having a few beers with.

What about the romance, you’re probably wondering. Well, Lovely does not disappoint in that aspect. The deputy sent to investigate the murders is Braden Mann. That’s right, Braden Mann…what a name! What a guy! He’s twelve years younger than Marley, but he doesn’t even seem to notice. Their spicy love scenes will warm you up on a cold night.

And here’s the best of all…Dear Killer is just the first in the Marley Clark Series. I’m often regretful at the end of a book when I must say good-bye to characters I’ve come to enjoy spending time with.  How I love learning these characters live on in a series!

My next book club title is John Irving’s Avenue of Mysteries. It’s been awhile since I read a John Irving book and I really am looking forward to it. Then there’s Bruce Springsteen’s young face beckoning me from the cover of Born to Run, which I just haven’t had time to start reading. Marley Clark will have to wait a bit…but winter’s on its way, and I have curling up in front of the fire on a dark and stormy night with No Wake Zone, book 2 of the series, to look forward to.

If you like romantic suspense, you’ll love Dear Killer.

Didn’t See It Coming

November begins in just a few days and I was beginning to despair that I could come up with a blog topic for October. Oh, lots of ideas have come and gone, but I just couldn’t seem to settle on something I really wanted to write about. Actually, I confess, I haven’t been able to write at all this month. My moribund search for an agent along with a rejection from a publisher sort of took the wind out of my sails. I spent much of this month wringing my hands, feeling like a fraud and a failure, wondering what in the world makes me think I can write. Knowing all writers experience moments of dejection and self-doubt was no consolation.

Instead of writing, I spent one day clearing junk off my laptop and discovered an article entitled Ten Steps to Becoming a Writer by Joe Bunting of The Write Practice (thewritepractice.com). That motivated me to at least start typing a journal entry every morning. Here’s how my first entry on Monday started:

From A.Word.A.Day (www.wordsmith.org)

 ORNERY
adjective: Having an unpleasant disposition: irritable, stubborn, combative, etc.
 Yes, today, I feel ornery. I want to indulge in being ornery. I don’t want to be Ms. Nice Guy. I want to rant and rave and rail against everyone from the unwashed masses that simply annoy me to anyone who makes demands on me. I don’t want to be the sane one, the smart one, the responsible one, the one who knows better.”

It went downhill from there.

Then on Tuesday night my sister and I went to Centre Stage to see Luna Gale, a powerful play in the theater’s fringe series. (If you live in the Greenville area, try to get to see it.) Before the performance, we stepped into the theater lounge and on the counter I noticed a stack of paperback books entitled Didn’t See it Coming. I picked one up and saw it was the work of The Writers Block Project.

I first learned about The Writers Block when Scott Lewis, the warden at Perry Correctional Institution spoke at our Sisters in Crime meeting earlier this year. Perry Correctional Institution is a maximum security prison here in South Carolina which has instituted a Character-Based Unit “composed of men who have indicated a desire to make changes in their lives, even if they will spend the rest of their lives there.”

The Writers Block Workshop is one of the classes the men can enroll in as part of the behavior contract they sign when they are accepted into the Character-Based Unit. I bought the book and read the section entitled “I Write Because…” I immediately knew what I had to blog about…what I had to share with you.

Below is a poem written by Arimatia Buggs in response to the writing prompt: “I write because”.

I write because I must

I write to release

To bring inner peace

To make sense of confusion

 To focus life’s kaleidoscopic illusion

To mend the souls of those broken kindred spirits

Who feel what I feel and see what I see

But never penned the words so it was left up to me

I write because I must

I write because of peace, love, joy and pain

Stress, hurt and strain

I write to appreciate

I write to innovate

I write to reveal

What I see, know and feel

To cry and to vent

To forgive and relent

To reminisce of time spent

I write because I must

I write to breathe

I write because I believe

You can achieve everlasting life when you write

Living forever on a page

Then reincarnated–through reading–through windows of

The soul to stand again upon life’s stage

I write because I realize I am who I am because of words.

Words that moved me, taught me, grew me

Made me into the man that I am

I write because I must.

Today I, Sally Handley, write because I have been inspired by Arimatia Buggs. Didn’t see it coming.

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To get a copy of Didn’t See it Coming (only $15), or to learn more about The Writers Block, visit www.thewritersblockproject.org.