THE NEW 60?

On a recent milestone birthday I called  75 “the new 60.” That may have been a slight exaggeration. But it was how I felt, or desperately wanted to feel.

Some think me young—especially those older than I. On hearing my age, people in their eighties and nineties look at me with amused forbearance, calling me “just a kid.” Is it because I relate well to tots and teens?  I still make up my eyes as I did at 16 when sex-kitten Brigitte Bardot rocked the silver screen with her bouncy breasts, white lipstick and smoldering gaze (although my breasts bounce differently, now). Am quick to dance to a hot tune. Laugh loudly. Walk short dogs up tall hills.

I embrace intellect, fresh ideas. Write books. And, with a nonchalant grin or occasional grimace, heft a 40-pound Western saddle onto the back of my 16-hand horse, Brad, and ride him several days a week.

Youngers consider me old. My skin sags and wrinkles where once it was taut. My muscles, weaker now and slower to recover from stress as they did—even at 60—are quick to slack from underuse. Arthritis gnaws my fingers, knees and hips. It makes me slow to rise, and more mindful doing everyday tasks. Such physical changes feed my genetic tendency toward fleeting depression. I can’t do some things I once took for granted—what differently abled  people never could do, or do with difficulty.Let’s not even talk about my mind, as known names and memories sometimes dodder.

And yet. Folks in their sixties or younger say they hope they’ll be blessed with spunk like mine when they’re old, that they’ll enjoy a “get on with it” attitude. Ouch! There’s a compliment with teeth. OK. Whatever. I’ll take it. It’s what I admired about Marjorie Lewis, a 100-year-old friend. Certainly age depression and mourning the loss of abilities and loved ones, shadowed Marjorie. And yet…

At 75, face it: I am indeed aged. I was born before World War II ended. Years of experience might gild this truth. A wish to keep going  allows me to cling to illusion. But numbers don’t lie. So why do I skip or amble along in apparent denial, swept up helplessly but mostly happily in benign, unfurling time?

Call it faith. Inborn will. And a commitment to being meaner than whatever is chasing me, as my book heroine Pepper Kane would say, “down the tunnels of decrepitude.” Chasing me toward an ending—though I see death as a transition to a another dimension neither understandable nor sought. I grin, read, sip coffee. Watch the TV morning show. Tussle with dogs. Endure the sad fact of our aging and eventual demise. Look for signs and answers. Lunch with friends, attend church, deeply inhale fresh air and silence. And welcome blessings and endure curses as I find them.

Our subconscious, our spirits, see this, and know. They come to know graceful ageing is an act of will, or of NO will. Ultimately we are asked to love, forgive, accept what is, and feel what is. Look at plain truths, even if discomfiting. Just not for too long, nor too publicly. That does no one any good.

“Just do it,” I remind myself sternly or gently. I ask, “What’s next on my calendar?” I stay engaged.

As long as I have life, I must live it and try to love it. Warts and all. Nothing lasts forever in the same form. But one’s individual energy, wisdom and style endure in footprints and soul prints left on the Earth and other beings.

Breathe. Love. Cry. But most of all, smile. In my experience, even those precious aware souls who seem to have lost all, can still convey a smile, if only in their eyes. Show acceptance. Hope. Love.

And that, to me, is the ultimate triumph of mind over matter. Even when mind no longer matters.

Two Flights of Doves

I saw a flight of doves yesterday while walking Georgie, my last remaining Boston terrier, down our hill. Then through bare branches against a weeping sky, I saw another small flight, chirping in time to their fast, pillowy wingbeats. I took this repeated sign to mean I should be at peace.

Peace has been hard to come by this holiday season. That’s because Dolly, our spirited 12-year-old Boston, has suffered from the effects of deafness, near-blindness and Cushing’s syndrome due to a brain mass. I have been her on-call nurse, guide and comforter.

That chapter or our earthly connection died Friday with our precious girl. My protector, finder and healer left us almost a year after Billy—her stoic yet playful consort—died last January. A wise and compassionate mobile veterinarian helped all of us honor the passing. We lay our Dolly in a sanctified hole in our fenced back yard, said sacred words, and smudged.

I have moved through subsequent days in a veil of tears or the oblivion of sleep, aware of her spirit slightly confused, but close, comforting. A streaky smudge of her face, llke ones left by Billy, remains on a front-door side window and a mirrored closet-door. She follows me, I talk. Sometimes stroke her invisible body. Trying to affirm and reassure us both.

But the pain remained, until came the doves. 

I’d just read in a book, “Signs from Pets in the Afterlife,” that the heart-center of beloved ones—pets and humans—sends signals to comfort us, to reassure us they are still around though in different form. Signals that suggest we feel at peace about them and ourselves. Signs that we cherish memories, but go forward with something like hope, faith and love. And that doves, a gentle, peaceful bird, embody all that plus peace. When one sees doves, especially in flocks, one is  reminded to embrace peace, and know that our loved one is at peace.

And, after yesterday, so am I.

HOPE! Why we never lose it

Carole Beers

(Please enjoy my guest sermon of Dec. 1 at Bethany Presbyterian Church, Grants Pass, Ore.):

“Hope.” Like “home,” it’s a positive idea and word, universal in feeling, emotionally loaded. We hope things turn out. We hope for better health, weather, circumstances. After disappointment we adjust our hopes. We aspire to survive in soul if not body, delivered from evil, God willing. We hope, in winter, for return of the light. We’re almost born knowing its meaning. Almost as if it were transferred in utero from mother to child.

“If there’s life, there’s hope.” Who doesn’t have at least a glimmer of hope? Who doesn’t wish it for others? Hope is praised in the Bible, notably First Corinthians, 13, and many other places.*

But what is “hope?” I’ve learned in my 75 years it’s a combination of yearning for life, and faith.

Hope, with a generous helping of faith, is what launched my triple-great grandparents on both sides on arduous cross-America journeys to the Northwest 140 years ago. In wagons and on foot they came, from the Midwest and South, before cars or railroads, leaving behind almost everything to find more productive ranchlands and business opportunities. Hardy, brave and steeped in Protestant tradition, some preachers themselves, they bore the blood and wanderlust of Europeans who emigrated to North America generations earlier.

As a child, in the Eastern Washington coulee country, I heard stories told by the old ones. How one relative walked BAREFOOT across America when his shoes failed. Another was born in a dugout under a hill. Still others trembled upon reaching Walla Walla, scene of the Whitman massacre by Native people. But I also heard of their founding ranches, schools, churches. Surviving epidemics. Helping build small towns.

Talk about perseverance, faith and HOPE! Most of your ancestors also had hope big time. Or you might not be here. To think I whimper at freezing fog, a potholed road, or a shortage of staples in the pantry. Computer troubles. Think what our ancestors went through chasing dreams. What sacrifices people made in wars when metal, foods and fuel were rationed.

My own hope shows in how I set aside fear of failure to embrace adventure and new things. I love brave people, look up to them—especially women who broke ground and STOOD their ground. Like my female ancestors who crossed the country, became nurses or teachers, plopped themselves down on gun trunks to stop their men from going out to settle some senseless score. That’s why I learned to ride, shoot, fly airplanes, embrace strangers. And, yes, write stories for The Seattle Times, and then Pepper Kane mystery novels full of what? HOPE. I call my books “New West Mysteries with Heart.” They fulfill my lifelong HOPE of being an author. I should call them, “New West Mysteries with Hope.”

Why did people back when, and why do some of us now who write books, build businesses or sustain churches, put ourselves through tough journeys, and chances to be knocked down? Because they had, and we have…HOPE! Hope for a better life. Better future. Better now.

We were supposed to tell a personal story, show how it illustrates what  hope or faith means to us. But I had to start with the earliest examples of hope that affecting my life now. Pioneers in any time inspire me to toughen up, keep going, work the dream. Because I find work, prayer and hope get you through. Ease your heart, stand you up straight, let you to look on others with compassion, and ultimately succeed. May hope be with you!

*Romans 5:1-5 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

TRIPLE THE FUN!

Night Rides by Carole Beers

Three books published in one year? Hell, yeah. That was my output for 2019—two new Pepper Kane Mysteries, plus the holiday novella, “In From the Cold.” In a world where publishing one book a year is the norm or at least a goal, I gobsmacked even myself. How’d that happen?

My background, as many of you know, was in daily big-city journalism for nearly 40 years, and mainly for The Seattle Times. Features, hard news, obits, criticism and columns. Oh, I ground out some stories for romance and horse publications. But predominantly I was shaped by the values and daily discipline. Fine training for any writer—Hemingway and Faulkner, included!

Retiring in 2006 and moving back to Grants Pass, Oregon, where I graduated high school, I read voraciously, gardened, rested and competed in horse shows—all the things I couldn’t pursue as I liked while employed full time. I also wrote short stories as part of the Monday Mayhem fiction group. The stories were, for the most part, less than stellar. I soon learned writing fiction is way different than doing journalism! You invent characters, settings, plots, rather than having them handed you on a sterling tray.

The next ten years, between stories, I penned three rough-draft novels—including the devilishly tongue-in cheek whodunnit, “Saddle Tramps.” And queried, and queried some more. In 2016 a small indie press I use today, W & B Publishers, signed me to a contract for “Saddle Tramps.” The next two years I wrote a book a year for them while continuing to study craft and build my author platform. Always trying to hue to a morning writing schedule, ever building more complex plots and characters. Learning from readers and other writers. Social media!

What happened was, rather than working at and studying writing, at sweating, editing, grinding it out—which I still confess to doing, at times—I fell in utter love with it. And, as they say, If you love your work, you’ll never work a day in your life. So I was in love. Fully engaged, inside my stories and settings, caring about my characters as if they were family, and wanting to know what happens with them, 24/7.

And, voila! Stop the presses! For me this was the “secret,” the key to prodigious (and more fulfilling) production. My path to writing three books a year. Being “retired,” no doubt, is a ginormous help. More time and energy! But it was the love that made it happen.

You’d be surprised at how much writing you get done when you’re prepared for and are truly captivated by a project—as writers taking part in NaNoWriMo learn. (I’ve not done National November Writing Month, but I understand you madly plot and prepare for it in advance so your daily word count in the month is stratospheric!)

Here’s to falling I love with not only writing, but also what you’re writing about. It can take you places you never imagined. Even to multiple books a year!

SHOW YOURSELF!

Can authors have it both ways? Create books that earn honors, tick bestseller boxes and align with a strong author brand while laying bare our hidden secrets, shames, fears and dreams? I’m beginning to believe so, thanks to recent nudges from Creator. I touched on inner concerns—or wrote around the edges—in my first books. Used social issues as metaphor, or offered guarded glimpses into my/my heroine’s flaws and vulnerabilites. It was my unbiased reporter’s way. But now I’m ready to show myself more clearly through characters and story, to be not only brave and positive, but also as sometimes clueless and vulnerable as anyone else.

In her seminar here in Grants Pass last week, literary strategist Anna Weber said that an author’s writing her own deep, scary but authentic truths in her book speaks to READERS’ deepest needs, desires and truths. Which we must do to be successful. This is a big reason why we read book, crave story. Weber’s seminar resonated powerfully with me. That’s one reason I want to read. That, and to be entertained.

The next day came my author friend Susan Clayton-Goldner’s newsletter, “Writing the Life.” She said that sharing in book form (“Missing Pieces,” the achingly dark tale of her late father and her relationship) not only helped heal her, but also to reveal her strength. All of which we as readers also look for. Don’t we all want to be healed and strengthened? Susan says showing one’s weakness without fear, not hiding behind words or an image, is the real strength.

For example, I might write deeper into my longtime fear of not being chosen (for a team, friendship, prize) despite hard work and commitment. Or, my often-fulfilled situation of forming a group, or hosting a party for friends and loved ones, and then having the committed guests cancel. Fifteen minutes before the event. When the standing rib roast is coming out of the oven. Knowing how such betrayal crushes me, I try to respond to invites and requests in a timely, truthful way, and fulfill commitments even if “something came up.”

God! The pain of promised success–whether in friendship, finance or romance–that is inexplicably yanked away. I’m sure the lesson here is to stay loose, and flexible. But it’s still hard.

I’ve occasionally faced having to eat a beautiful dinner alone or semi alone. I accept that I’ll never understand the whys. But at such times I’ve somehow pulled myself together and asked someone else to come on the spur-of-the-moment, and had them come! I’ve also driven the meal to people who haven’t eaten yet, and will appreciate having dinner delivered. And had a blast!

To be successful, authors must come up with relatable characters, engaging plots, and fascinating twists and turns. We want to immerse readers in story and action. To do so, it turns out, we must also show ourselves/our characters as realistic, relatable, engaging, with fascinating twists, turns—including darkness and vulnerabilities. Maybe even celebrating same.

We don’t have to go overboard. Don’t have to devolve into melodrama. Who wants to come to that party? But we as authors can think more about our book characters, show their fears and weaknesses and, by proxy, some of our own. Which goes a long way forward making them “true.”As a matter of fact, I have begun to do exactly this in “Shadow on the River,” my current Work in Progress. It is Pepper Kane Mystery #5. It may be my strongest yet.

MUD PUDDLE MUSINGS

Yes, we’ve had some rain in Oregon. I have to come clean. Mud puddles are not my preferred body of water. Murky brown glimmers or shining silver sheets on the path or road hold terrors and mysteries my horse and I can only speculate about. Does that wet patch lying dead flat ahead or shimmering in a breeze, hide a rock, a bog, perhaps even a bottomless hole?

Same deal when an author writes toward a perceived hole or other obstacle in a book. I write forward boldly, stodgily or timidly, for forward I must go. While the soggy monster lying in the way grows larger and more threatening. I am drawn toward it, and yet I fear it. Funny thing is, the closer it looms the more I start second-guessing and questioning why I even considered such a random development in the first place. Why on Earth did I think I need this question, that scene, this surprising dialog, that shocking denouement? Am I mad? My heroine would never, SHOULD never, do such a thing. It’s out of character.

But is it really? I put a toe in, keeping one foot back on solid ground, and what the heck. Write her into the puddle, see what happens. My writers group balks. “You can’t have her/him doing that. It’s not realistic. Your readers won’t like it. I don’t like it.” I sulk a moment. Then I rise to the challenge.

“You say my amateur sleuth, Pepper Kane, wouldn’t let her memory challenged, 80-YO father go on night patrol on the guest ranch after a body was found? And that I, the writer, shouldn’t make him go?

It’s the the nudge this Creative needed. Go ahead. Tell me I can’t do it. Then I’ll move heaven and earth to prove you wrong, make my book even better than I’d imagined. What’s “wrong” suddenly seems terribly right. This plot twist, this character trait, was never expected. But that’s why it’s so damned satisfying when it works.

Does something similar happen to you? The more you want something, the more resistance you encounter, the less time or energy you seem have to go through or get past something unresolved or unpleasant? Yet you lift your chin, call in your courage and imagination, and tackle it anyway? I bet you often find it turns out pretty well, in the end. Maybe better than everyone thought.

My parting words to you, when writing, when living, when facing puddles? Maybe even a whole swamp? Embrace the mud!

KILLER COVERS

What do you see in book covers? Promise of the world between them, of what a reader can expect as to theme, mood and style? Or a wall graffitii’d with a title and author name? To me a cover is like a front door. It can either be an invitation to enter, or a barrier that practically dares me to open it.

With the rise of covers shown in online vendor sites such as Amazon, we’ve noticed larger type and more contrasty colors against nondescript backgrounds. Or with simpler, cliched images (e.g., romance and Westerns). The thinking is to simplify since readers can’t discern detail let alone realistic people and places, in an image the size of a thumbnail or tarot card depending on the device displaying it. And with the barest suggestion of the characters, setting and action inside. Unless you’re familiar with the author’s work, buying such a book is a guessing game.

I don’t want to have to guess! I want to get an idea of what I’m buying. In the case of my own books, The Pepper Kane Mysteries—four to date, one one the way—I’ve been blessed with a publisher who asks if I have a cover concept. I not only have a concept, I have 200+ professionally shot photos from which to choose (thank you Jenny J Jaks Grimm), and a wonderful designer (Cheryl F. Taylor) to add filters, backgrounds and effects that suggest what’s inside the book. Perfectly. A Western show diva and her horse silhouetted against a mysterious background with symbolic details, e.g., a sky with full moon and owl (“Ghost Ranch”). Western colors such as coral, Sienna and aqua add to the ambience.

Many compliments have come our way for those covers—particularly the one for the latest, “Night Rides” (Pepper #4) with its mountain horizon, night sky and lightning bolt. But all capture well what I intended with the novels, which is a gripping, and sometimes beautiful and lighthearted, mystery set in today’s sophisticated American West, with shades of cozies and serious women’s fiction. Can we touch on tough issues like loyalty, child trafficking, and faith/race/gender prejudice? OK, but with a hopeful outcome.

Oh, yes. I worry the horse and the cowgirl hat will turn off some readers who think my books are Westerns, or horsey, or I-don’t-know-what. That with my books’ unique covers in related styles, which indicate a series, they might look a little different from “Big 5” or establishment covers. But I kind of love them for those same reasons! They ARE different, they do offer a unique entertainment and voice.

Besides. I get to immortalize not only a way of life I’ve enjoyed—horses, nature, life sleuthing and relationship building–but I also get to see my entire creative vision displayed. That’s big. And YOU get what you see. My doors don’t lie!

Write for the Brand


We’ve all heard about author “branding,” or creating an effective, identifiable writer persona that will draw readers of certain genres and  styles to our work. After all, whether out shopping for cars, tools, groceries or clothes, through experience or advertising, we expect certain things of a maker when it comes to fit, styles, craftsmanship.

It’s the same for manufacturers of fiction. Any kind of fiction, romance to mystery, family drama to literary. The author name on a book cover should raise readers’ expectations about what’s inside regarding genre fit, styles and craftsmanship. Therefore we author’s can’t be shy creating a literary persona. It is an authentic representation of who we are, what we care about, what we write.

This is not about one’s deep feelings, doubts, day to day triumphs and tragedies. Although if one “does” social media as part of the marketing plan, it can touch on such things. No. This is about a persona we create and reinforce, a detached name-brand guaranteeing a certain prose behind your name. Shrinking violets take heart. You, rather your public brand, are about writing or selling books. Maybe Ralph Lauren is the same dude who’s suggested in his company advertising with its depictions of an idyllic life sailing, attending polo matches, and living on an upscale Aspen ranch. But l’ll bet the farm he’s not telling all, and certainly is not spending sleepless nights thinking The Real Ralph (poor, shy, artsy Jewish boy from Brooklyn or wherever) will be discovered via his advertising.

When I began writing fiction for publication in 2014 or so, I sought a marketing mentor in a program offered free by Mystery Writers of America. They paired me with bestselling thriller author, Libby Fischer Hellmann. In phone interviews, she suggested I first identify and codify my author brand. That would go into a website, so readers could find and learn about my work. She had me pick a selfie or other portrait that captured what I am about—expression, favorite genre, and loved setting, etc.

Then she had me create my motto, or logo—six to ten words expressing the kind of books I write. Currently it is “New West Mysteries with Heart,” suggesting modern, cozy whodunits with a dash of romance. Writers with more than one category or genre can create a different logo or motto for each category.

Finally, this Carole T. Beers branding effort, after I’d identified what “look” and “motto,” stood for how I look, what I like to do, how I live and what I believe in, took me into social media. Free friending, free marketing, but first, gathering like-minded souls and responding to their posts. My brand was launched! Now I have 5,000 “friends” of my Facebook profile, 1,500 “likes” of my FB Carole T. Beers Author page, and opportunities daily to spread my message and reinforce my brand.

I am a friendly type, though clinically an introvert, and absolutely love doing it all. It does take time from writing. But what will my writing be, with no one drawn to read it?!

Let’s do a little exercise, to make sure you “get” this  branding thing., whether or not you’re a writer. Because every public thing an you do or say, whatever you post, drops info about you, for good or for ill. And you don’t want people confused by what you reoresent. Write down the names of three of your favorite or influential authors. Take a moment and pick out the best. Write down three qualities of personality, outlook, lifestyle or writing style you admire in these authors. That is their brand.

Now write down three to five of your own qualities of personality, outlook, lifestyle or style that you would like to be known for, or at least would not mind people knowing. Congratulations! You’ve just identified your brand. This can define and shape manuscripts. Or lives!

I had an idea about my brand long before I was published: New West Mysteries with Heart. I love the West old and new, books and art dealing with it, people navigating it, as well as horses, dogs and growing things. I love a mystery, risk, adventure. And celebrate our connections, gnarly or mutually gratifying. Energy and humor are musts. My website and posts reflect this. Unbranded livestock can be stolen or get lost in the herd. It simplifies my writing life, brings it into sharp focus.

For me, there’s no room for doubt. A brand tells readers what they need to know. What they might reasonably and reliably expect when they borrow or buy a book with my name of its cover. I write, therefore I brand. And I’ve branded myself so I can write even better. And be discovered, read, and relied on. Consistency and standing in your truth is a powerful thing.

 

Starting Fresh (But Not!)

Fresh starts require fresh thinking. And sometimes, no thinking. Let me explain. I’ve just sent “Night Rides,” Pepper Kane Mystery #4, off to the publisher, A-Argus, the small press in North Carolina that printed my three previous books. Quick acceptance, editing, forrmatting and turnaround. Now I have time and ideas on my hands—boy, do I have ideas—before proof copies come back for line editing and final author checks.

What better way to spend this time bonanaza than getting the jump on writing Book #5, where Pepper opens her long dreamed-of guest ranch—really a bed, barn and breakfast that offers a Western ranch experience as well side trips to other Rogue Valley recreational and cultural sites. Problem is, this book already exists, kinda. But in super rough-draft forrm, it representing the first run at the series. Written almost ten years ago!

There actually are three or four different beginnings to this book, originally called “The Hay Hook Murders.” The two main characters, best friends Tulip and Pepper, are reversed in look and name. There’s a whole different boyfriend. And some elements of the murder weapon seem wrong, not to mention that two whole chapters in the middle are missing. Entirely. So something happened between saving the digital draft, and printing out all 300 pages.

I’ve started re-reading the version(s) I have, which I can salvage as a kind of detailed outline. There is that. But now I’ve found so many versions of the beginning, and directions to go in, that I’ve become a bit confused. OK, a lot confused. Maybe I need to chuck the whole thing and start from square one.

But wait. There are some really good scenes, dialog, and useful people, in that draft. I realize it’s an advantage ro have options, to have a bunch of set characters with their own agendas, some already roughed-in scenes, and a general idea what’s going to happen. There’s gold in that there manuscript, albeit covered in grit and sitting at the bottom of the river. Time to pan for grains and nuggets, maybe even get out the old suction dredge.

I’m writing new. Just setting out, setting up camp, keeping to me vision for the book, but letting my subconscious that already knows the important bits, bring me along. This is the fresh-thinking and no-thinking part. Fresh, in terms of new wording and scene-setting. But completely new in terms of how and where the story goes. In terms of what I discover as I write forward into new yet oddly familiar territory.

That makes me excited. That makes this book #5 seem like an entirely new adventure. And if it feels that way to me, think how much more so it will feel that way to a reader. Tally ho, I say. Onward, the wagons. Northwest discoveries await.

Get real!

:

My author friend Tisha Martin’s smashing 5-star Amazon review of “Saddle Tramps” praises how I portray my characters, including horses—their  traits and trappings—convincingly.

It is the most lighthearted of my books, where I tested my author’s voice and outlook, explored what role horses would play—I don’t want to be thought only a “horse-book” author, though it paid off for Walter Farley—and uploaded onto the page some dark thoughts, goofy observations and sometimes off-center opinions I’ve developed over the years. I refined these, wove them even more tightly into the story in “Over the Edge”and “Ghost Ranch,” Pepper Kane Mysteries #2 and #3.

Formal Western horse shows are an abiding interest of mine, my area of expertise. Few authors I know of have understood or taken them on. There are some books on cutting, reining and roping. And Carly Kade does portray a trainer specializing in the “arena” Western pleasure, but not in an in-depth detailed way. Perhaps for fear of boring readers. My writer’s critique group keeps me keeping it interesting. Detailing what the rider thinks and feels doing the event, what they’re aiming for, maintains pacing and excitement. Particularly if the horse is a bit bronc-y!

Regarding another tack I take (pun intended), I think relationships, whether human or cross-species, absolutely must be FELT by an author as she writes. Actions, reactions and interactions that appear accurate make a book come alive for a reader. The personality and give-take between my amateur-sleuth and her horse—a thinking, feeling being with instincts that’ve helped it survive for millennia—come from my own experience. I really feel these things in my mind’s eye as I write.

Finally, to answer many an interviewer’s burning question, Pepper and Sonny’s opposite personalities and elusive but electrifying relationship reflects a long-ago love affair of mine that (in the dreamworld) persists to this day! And Pepper, herself, is a lot like me. Former reporter, dancer, cogitator, kidder, nature girl with sometimes expensive tastes. Hello?

Writing all this into a book, and a mystery, at that, while peppering it with believable humor, is daunting. Hell. All writing is scary. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

I think the key to any author’s success lies in fearlessly tapping into one’s true times and personality, warts and all. In fact a few warts, laid bare and shown honestly, can make one’s writing stand out. Hopefully in a good way. In other words, instances/essences of a writer’s actual life “goods” AND “bads,” dreams and disappointments edited and channeled into a book, make her word tapestry unique, fully engage people, and take them on that winning ride. It does help if one is able to walk in another’s boots and live as an empath on some level.

Takeaway? Feel the horse, the mother, the friend, the killer. Put yourself in the alley, onstage or in the arena. Analyze your feelings and thoughts at what’s happening around and to you, ask questions, what you imagine will happe or HAS happened, no matter how seemingly insignificant. Then record it. All of it. You can edit and refine later.

That’s how a writer sucks me into a book and makes me live inside it. That’s what I do when I craft my own books. They become code and a metaphor for real life, past/present, real or imagined. Setting it down lights a way, brings answers. And prepares me for more daring literary exploration. 

Yes, books can do that!