Friday, May 31, 2013

The Black Count


Hands down, bar none, the book I’d have given my right arm, ‘cause I’m left handed, to have written is The Black Count by Tom Reiss.  Deservedly, he’s won the Pulitzer this year in the biography category for penning this amazing and true tale of Alex Dumas.  He was the father of the man who gave us grand adventure novels such as The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo.  As Michael Schaub on NPR opined, "You might forget, while reading, that The Black Count is a work of nonfiction; author Tom Reiss writes with such narrative urgency and vivid description, you'd think you were reading a novel..."

I can’t come up with enough superlatives about the life of the son of a black slave and white no account viscount.  He is acknowledged by his father and brought to Paris in the immediate years and political and social foment leading to the French Revolution.  Alex Dumas by dint of personality and skill rose from private to general, leading successful campaigns in the Alps and Italy, and eventually running afoul of Napoleon.  The book also looks at race and race relations in that time period in France, who we're reminded went into debt to help us defeat the British, their colonial enemy, in our revolution in the 18th century. 

As various reviewers have noted, his story reads, in part, like that of Edmond Dantès, the aforementioned count or The Man in the Iron Mask, only it’s true.  For the father’s exploits would eventually be told to his young son.

Serendipitously, I’m pleased too that in the wake of this wonderful book, though planned without having read, at the time last fall, The Black Count, Black Pulp has recently debuted from Pro Se Press.  The anthology, which I co-edited and contributed to, offers original stories in the pulp vein of adventure and derring-do by a range of writers including Mel Odom and Kimberly Richardson.  I’m not equating the two books, but it does remind us that history, especially a hidden history, can endure so as to be revealed for future generations.  And that exploits like that of Alex Dumas can entertain and educate writers and readers.  For certainly it was reading the Muskateers and his son Alexandre Dumas’ other works when I was young that, along with other such literature, fired my imagination to be a storyteller.

Viva La Black Count!


Thursday, May 30, 2013

I Wish…

by Alan

What existing book do you wish you could have written?

Besides The Cat in the Hat? (And yes, I use every opportunity I can to slide a picture of me and my idol into the blog.)meandthecat

Although many (most?) of the books I like are character-driven stories, when I thought about this question, the books I wished I’d written all had a common element.

A Big Idea. A Great Hook. A High Concept. An Amazing Premise. A Grab-Me-By-The-Shirt-And-Don’t-Let-Go Situation. I don’t remember plots; I remember premises.

I couldn’t pick a single book, so I’ve compiled a short list:

Two Agatha Christie classics made the cut: And Then There Were None and Murder on the Orient Express. Both use clever devices, which, many years later, have become classic mystery plots (and have been repurposed on numerous occasions).

Firestarter – Stephen King has no shortage of great ideas, and this was one I wished I’d hatched.

The Lock Artist – Cool idea, great main character, and, oh yeah, it won an Edgar.

Ender’s Game – Set in the future, a whip-smart kid must save humanity, without succumbing to peer pressure. In a word, awesome!

And if I had to select just one book I wish I’d written, that book would be:

Fifty Shades of

Jurassic Park

 

Jurassic Park - Theme park! Sabotage! Tropical island! Kids in danger! And dinosaurs! (mean dinosaurs!) And sequels! And a movie! And movie sequels!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

My choice for best book of the year



By Vicki Delany

This week's question is: What existing book do you wish you could have written?
Product Details
The Da Vinci Code.

‘Cause then I’d be super rich.

But if you mean in terms of quality….

There are plenty of wonderful books out there that when I’m reading them I think (sadly) that I might as well give up writing right now, because I can never be this good.

If I have to pick one, I’ll go with my choice for last year’s favourite: The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton.
Beautifully written, excellently plotted, with twists so subtle you don’t really even realize something is amiss, until it is.  A wonderful story of an Englishwoman with secrets dating back to WWII and her daughter’s attempts to uncover them.
Exactly the sort of book I love!


I also loved The House at Riverton, The Forgotten Garden and The Distant Hours, all by Kate Morton. 


As you know, as well as other things, I write Gothic Thrillers (Burden of Memory, More than Sorrow).  I love those books, but I really really, wish I'd written The Secret Keeper. 

Product Details

Monday, May 27, 2013

The Books I Wish Were Mine

What existing book do you wish you could have written?

by Meredith Cole

We've all had that experience, I'm sure. You read an amazing book, zipping through it in just a matter of hours (if you're me--I read very fast). And at the end, you take a deep breath and feel so disappointed that the book is over. If you're in the middle of struggling through writing a book, you might also feel incredible envy. I wish I'd thought of that and written that, you think. Of course, it's totally impossible to have written exactly the book another writer wrote, but here's a few I would have loved to have written if I could:

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

If there is something wrong with this book, I haven't found it yet. Each time I read and reread it, I discover more interesting layers to the story. The book is about childhood, the South, race relations, parenting, friendship, fear, bravery, justice... But it never feels didactic or dull. It is a very nuanced portrait of the American South which, as someone who grew up in Virginia just an hour from the Capital of the Confederacy, I appreciate. The fact that her friend Dill was based on her childhood friend Truman Capote is just icing on the cake.

When Where There Be Good News? by Kate Atkinson

This book has multiple plot lines and crimes, and many of them are never sewn up. Normally this would drive me crazy, but I was pulled in by her voice and characters. I loved how the book was so puzzling and interesting and I stayed with it every step of the way.


Turtle Moon by Alice Hoffman

I loved the notion that there is a period of time every year in this Florida town when everyone goes a bit crazy. Turtles crawl across the road. Bushes burst into flame. And this year a teenager steals a baby. The images stuck with me for a long time, although I don't remember the plot very much. Alice Hoffman's voice is always strong, and she blends the supernatural into her stories with a kind of careless confidence that I really admire. And her images are always amazing.

There you go. Three books among the many that have stuck with me over the years. So--what books do you wish you'd written?

Friday, May 24, 2013

Pardon Me While I Back The Bus Up


by Sue Ann Jaffarian
 
Okay, okay ... I know last week’s question was on favorite reference materials and this week is my week to post, but I just have to put my 2 cents in about my favorite reference tool or I’m gonna bust: 

GOOGLE MAPS!!!! 

I love using Google Maps, especially the zoom feature, when I'm writing. It's a great tool when I have to describe places, roads, routes, etc. or know the relationship of cities to each other in both distance and travel time, or what buildings are on which streets and intersections. Or even if it’s rural or developed. It’s almost as good as getting in the car and driving the area. Even better if you factor in time and gas.

Right now, this very minute, I have 2 different Google maps up while I work on my current manuscript and I'm using both of them to give readers an idea of where the story is taking Emma and Granny. Here's a hint.

 

I also use Google Images when I need to picture something specific in order to describe it. What can I say, I’m a very visual person.

Another great resource is the online Farmer’s Almanac. If you want to know what the usual weather is for a place, that's the best place to go, especially if you're looking for historical weather, which I sometimes use in my Granny Apples books.
 
The Internet is a virtual cornucopia of useful information at my fingertips and I use it as much as I can.

Now if you’ll excuse me, according to the online Date Calculator, I have just 10 days to get GHOST OF A GAMBLE to my publisher.

P.S.: I want to be Jessica Fletcher of Murder She Wrote. She's retired and spends her days writing and snooping around. And she lives in a cute, albeit homicide-riddled, Maine village.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Location, Don't Punch Me, Location.

This is tough.  One fictional world?  One single, solitary world?  It's easier to pick a world I wouldn't want to live in: Myron Bolitar's, because he always gets beaten up.  I've never been beaten up and I want to keep it that way.

I've got it down to three. 

I wouldn't mind being Alvirah Meehan in Mary Higgins Clark World.  There are no pictures of Alvirah - a cleaning lady - so here's one of Hilda Ogden, another iconic cleaning lady from the world of Coronation Street:



And - I realised when I dowloaded this photo of her - my identical apron twin.


Why Alvirah Meehan?  Anyone who's seen my house will tell you I'm not cut out to be a cleaning lady.  Well, Alvirah lives on 59th St in New York with a view of Central Park and - crucially - she is a lottery winner.  Also, she's married to a plumber, which is like winning the lottery all over again.

If I couldn't be Alvirah, I'd be Isabel Dalhousie in Alexander McCall Smith's Sunday Philosophy Club series.  Now Isabel is a philosopher with inherited wealth, and I'm beginning to look shallow here, but the crucial factor is that she lives in Edinburgh.  She lives in a house like this one:


a place I understand, with window weights and shallow presses by the fireplace, encaustic tiles in the vestibule and sarking to keep an eye on.  As I wonder about when to have my California house checked for termites again and begin to plan a new barn to replace the one that blew down, I could quite happily revert to a big lump of Scottish stone. 

And if I lived in Merchiston then, right now, tonight, I could hop in my rusty little manual shift Fiesta and visit my mum.

My final choice is the serious answer: I'd like to be Minnie Cassands in the opening chapters of Margery Allingham's Beckoning Lady (before it all goes wrong).  Minnie is a splendid old trout, married to a splendid old buffer - Tonker - and when we meet her she's in the midst of preparing for their annual spectacular - a completely bonkers garden party held at their house, The Beckoning Lady, in Suffolk.  Ohhhh - just writing that much means I'm going to have to read it again. 


Minnie wears a Mother Hubbard and - again - an apron, buys too much Champagne and serves it all, and says things like "clowns are children without innocence; that's why they're so awful".  She's right too.   When I first read the novel, years ago, I took to her on finding out that she polishes her dining table by putting towelling knickers on fat babies and letting them wriggle.  That's my kind of housekeeping.  And Minnie Cassands is my kind of gal.



Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Lost in a Good Book

by Chris F. Holm

"If you could step into the world of a fictional sleuth or crime-stopper, which would it be? What would be your role/character in their story?"

I confess, upon reading this week's question, I was tempted to offer up the Lily Moore series, by Criminal Minds' own Hilary Davidson. Lily is a travel writer, after all, who flits from Manhattan to Spain at the drop of a hat, and spends her workdays in luxury hotels from Acapulco to Machu Picchu. But then I got to thinking, and realized -- exotic locales aside -- folks in Lily's orbit don't exactly have a great survival rate. So maybe instead, I'll wait and see how Lily's trip to any given locale works out before I book my ticket, and steer clear of her in the meantime.

So if not Lily's, whose book-world would I most like to inhabit? Easy: that of Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next. Thursday, for those not familiar, inhabits an alternate reality in which literature is the dominant pop culture, and travel between the real world and the world of books is not only possible, but common. Thursday is involved in policing literature both in the real world (as a Literary Detective) and within the world of fiction (as a member of Jurisfiction). She also has a pet dodo named Pickwick, because of course she does.

Sounds crazy, doesn't it? In truth, it kind of is. But if you're as much a bibliophile as I am, it might just be your brand of crazy. Folks communicate via footnoterphone. There is a Great Library, which consists of every book ever written, and within it, a Well of Lost Plots, which contains works either unpublished or unfinished. Every character ever written lives and breathes (though the poorly sketched ones are kinda boring to hang out with). Which, incidentally, takes the pressure off of me for part two of this week's question. Who in Thursday's world would I choose to be? Any character in the whole of human history I felt like.

Provided they're a safe distance from Lily Moore, of course.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Crime Tour Takes Ontario!


I've finally finished my book tour for Evil in All Its Disguises, and it was capped off in the best way I could imagine: a four-day, seven-event tour with fellow crime writers Ian Hamilton, Robert Rotenberg, and my dear partner in crime Robin Spano. We hit a series of towns in Ontario, and we had a blast.
At the Woodstock Art Gallery for an event sponsored by the Woodstock Public Library (L to R: Robert Rotenberg, Robin Spano, Ian Hamilton & me)
At Centre Fellowship in Orangeville for an event sponsored by BookLore. We also raised $600 for the University Women Scholarship Fund! 
In Orangeville
At the Clemens Mill Library in Cambridge
Being introduced at the the Brantford Public Library
Robin reading in the stunning event space at the Guelph Public Library
Getting a hilarious intro at the the L.E. Shore Memorial Library in Thornbury. Two truths and one lie about each of us...
Signing books in Thornbury
Murder and Mayhem on Mother’s Day at the Manticore in Orillia

In case you haven't guessed, I love doing library events. This is the second time Ian, Robin and I have toured together (last year we were in BC with Deryn Collier). Anyone have suggestions for next year's library tour?

Monday, May 20, 2013

Welcome to Ocean Beach



By Reece Hirsch

If I could inhabit a fictional world, I think I would choose the Ocean Beach of Don Winslow’s “The Dawn Patrol.”  First, it’s probably the most thoroughly entertaining crime novel that I’ve read in the past few years.  Second, I like the notion of being a charter member of the Dawn Patrol, that group of surfers and longtime friends sitting in the waters off the San Diego coastline sharing laconic jokes and engaging in minor debates as the sun comes up over the horizon and they wait for the big swell.

And, no, I don’t surf, so the Dawn Patrol is the sort of club that would never have me as a member in real life.  But I do like the idea, particularly the quiet and stillness of sitting out there on a board, simultaneously together with your friends and alone with the ocean.  The Dawn Patrol consists of part-time PI Boone Daniels, Hang Twelve, Dave the Love God, Johnny Banzai, High Tide and Sunny Day.  In Winslow’s expert hands, they are fine company.

After working up an appetite riding the waves with the Dawn Patrol, I would proceed to The Sundowner, the wood-paneled, surf-photo-adorned restaurant next door to Boone’s office.  It’s best in the morning when the place is full of locals and before the tourists arrive.  I would order the eggs machaca, which come with warm flour tortillas on the side.  As Winslow notes, correctly, everything tastes better on a tortilla.

Among the Dawn Patrol’s topics of conversation is the constantly revised List of Things That Are Good, which includes:

"1.  Double overheads.

2.  Reef break.

3.  The tube.

4.  Girls who will sit on the beach and watch you ride double overheads, reef break and the tube.  (Inspiring Sunny’s remark that “Girls watch – women ride.”)

5.  Free stuff.

6.  Longboards.

7.  Anything made by O’Neill.

8.  All-female outrigger canoe teams.

9.  Fish tacos.

10.  Big Wednesday."

On my own personal and constantly revised List of Things That Are Good, I would most definitely include Don Winslow’s “The Dawn Patrol.”

Friday, May 17, 2013

The Professionals


by Gary
 
Including the aforementioned Chicago Manual of Style and Strunk & White, here’s my list of indispensible reference material written by the professionals.

While it’s obtainable via them internets, I have a lovely hardback copy my wife bought me for a birthday of Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing.  While I don’t always follow his rules to the letter, there is something comforting and reassuring to be able to crack this book open now and then to re-read the master of dialogue’s take on this thing of ours.

 Plots and Characters, A Screenwriter on Screenwriting is by my late friend Millard Kaufman, best known as the screenwriter of bad day at Black Rock.  Millard also produced and directed several movies, co-created Mr. Magoo, and had great stories about his time as a marine in WWII to his travails in Hollywood.  You don’t have to want to writer screenplays to dig the insight Millard brings to matters such as pacing and character development, helpful hints to any type of writer.  

The Story is a Promise by Bill Johnson.  I don’t have many “how to” write books on my shelf but Bill’s is one I always recommend to people.  Using examples from various novels, Bill lays out how writers build structure, use metaphor and symbolism to tell their stories – to fulfil the promise to the reader to deliver an emotionally satisfying resolution.

James Baldwin’s The Devil Finds Work isn’t about the writing process per se but rather a book-length essay about the racial and social context of movies.  His often wry commentaries also include him talking about how he got fired from writing the screenplay of Che!  This the ‘60s studio version with, and I kid you not as I’ve seen the flick, Omar Sharif as the famous revolutionary and Jack Palance as Fidel Castro.   

Raymond’s Chandler’s classic essay on “The Simple Art of Murder” should be re-read each year by mystery and crime storytellers.

My wife and her mom gifted me many Christmases ago this wonderful honking mother of all dictionaries I’m always looking up words and their correct iteration in; the 2,400 some odd page The Random House Dictionary of the English Language, Second Edition, Unabridged.  When I get loopy from writing, I take a break and do come curls with it.

And just because I think it helps if writers can think visually when putting scenes to paper, the late great comics artist Gil Kane wrote an article years ago, “Bypassing the Real for the Ideal” that’s worth reading  He explores the dynamics of comics art and offers samples in his trademark style of what he’s talking about.  Click this link here to check it out.  There’s also the well-illustrated book Comics and Sequential Art by Will Eisner (who wrote and drew the Spirit among many other creations) that goes further in depth on the power of visuals...all to the good in helping craft memorable stories.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

I Need Style

What reference work (dictionary, thesaurus, style guide, etc) is indispensable in your writing? Why?

Here’s what I’ve got on my reference bookshelf (yes, these are actual printed books!):

The Dictionary of ClichésChicago Manual
The Bantam Medical Dictionary
The New International Dictionary of Quotations
What Happened When
Woe is I
Chicago Manual of Style
The Elements of Style (otherwise known as Strunk and White)
Mark My Words
Formatting & Submitting Your Manuscript
Webster’s Dictionary
Roget’s Thesaurus
The Synonym Finder
Illustrated Reverse Dictionary
The New York Public Library Desk Reference
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary of Quotations
A Treasury for Word Lovers

Do I ever use these books? What, with the Internet a click away? Are you kidding? Truth is—for good or for bad—I do most of my research/grammar-checking/spell-checking/synonym-finding/procrastinating on line.

From time to time, however, I will crack open my Chicago Manual to check on some arcane usage question (I slept through my high school English classes). There’s just something about that authoritative tome that I trust!

(This entry is “simul-posted” on Criminal Minds.)

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Reading, Writing, and Reference



by Tracy Kiely

When I first set up my “office” (a desk/hutch off the kitchen) I stocked it with every single reference book I’d ever acquired over the years – even the ones I never liked or used. Among the many tomes stuffed in my shelves is a dog-eared version of Strunk and White, an embarrassingly pristine copy of The Chicago Manual of Style, a mildly worn Eats Shoots and Leaves, one thesaurus, and three dictionaries, one of which is so massive that it’s mainly used to press flowers. Of course, I don’t need three dictionaries, and as my prom going days are a thing of the past, I don’t really need the flower-pressing dictionary. However, I love it because it’s fun to look up modern words in the version I was routinely sent to in my youth as the all-knowing resource center and find…nothing. 
I stacked my writing desk with these items because I thought it lent the area an air of authenticity and made me look like I knew what I was doing. However, the thing is, I hardly ever use them. I find that when I need the thesaurus, I use the online version. And can I just send out a special “Hallelujah” to the creators of SpellCheck? Seriously, I would be lost without that technology. Although it’s horribly embarrassing to admit, considering I make a (paltry) living as a writer, I’m a terrible speller. Terrible. You don’t even want to know how I just butchered the hell out of hallelujah before SpellCheck stepped in to save the day – and most likely – my eternal soul.
Of course, the grammar check thing is for the birds. I would love to write a blog one day in which I accept all of grammar check’s helpful suggestions.
So, while those books sit forever at the ready like patient soldiers for the times I need them, they are not the books that I constantly reach for when I write. Those would be my battered Jane Austen books, their pages covered in various shades of gold highlighter, with half legible (and mostly misspelled thoughts) scribbled in the margins. I have two sets of all her books (and, in some cases, more); one for my “proper” bookshelf and one for my desk. The ones I keep at my desk, I write in and make notes in without feeling like I’m defiling a masterpiece because I know there’s a pristine version in the next room. That is, until I can’t find my research copy and have to steal the “good” copy (FYI: grammar check just recommended this: “Those is, until I can’t find my research copy and have to steal the “good” copy.”) That’s why I have more than two copies of some books. Once I’ve scribbled in a copy, I have to buy a “clean” version.
It’s a thing. Don’t judge.
Anyway, those are the books I constantly reach for when I write. While I have read Austen’s books so many times I can practically recite most scenes (which makes me a huge hit at any gathering where sports are a focal point), there are times when I can’t quite remember it all. That’s when I reach for my book –and find myself losing a solid thirty minutes because once again I’ve become lost in Austen’s prose.
Ohhh, Lost in Austen’s Prose. That’s a fun title, eh? I’m calling dibs on it now.
I think I’ll make it a research book.
     

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Importance of Mothers in Crime Fiction


by Vicki Delany
         
Last week’s question was about mothers.  Because I have a mother, and because I am one it’s is a topic close to my heart so I’ll address it today.

Mothers are important in my books because family is what my books are largely about.  They might be comedic mysteries, police procedurals, gothic thrillers, but someone’s mother, or the memory of her, is in there somewhere.

In my debut novel SCARE THE LIGHT AWAY (just re-released by Harlequin) the protagonist, Rebecca McKenzie, returns home after thirty years absence to attend the funeral of Janet, her mother.  While there, Rebecca discovers her mother’s journals as a WWII English War Bride, and comes to understand Janet and the depths of her courage only after her death.

In my most recent novel, MORE THAN SORROW, the character Hannah is trying to keep the severity of her TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) hidden from her mother, who’s a doctor.  The book is largely about Hannah trying to get her life back after her experiences in Afghanistan, and she tries to pretend to her mother that she’s far healthier than she actually is.

Never try to fool Mom!

In the Klondike Gold Rush series, Fiona MacGillivray is a mother.  Her son, Angus, loves her, but he’s twelve years old and thus almost a man.  She still tries to ‘mother’ him, whereas he thinks he should now be the head of the family.  In the forthcoming GOLD WEB, Angus thinks:

Then again, his mother wasn’t exactly like other women.  Some of the things she knew… Angus didn’t know much about women, but he didn’t think other boy’s mothers carried a knife in the top of their stockings (as he’d seen on the Chilkoot trail) or could unpick a lock with a hatpin as fast as he could blink (the day they’d been accidently locked out of the house).

Still, she was just a woman, and it was Angus’s responsibility as her only male relative to protect her.

Fiona herself lost her both of her parents when she was eleven.  She still thinks of them almost every day.
Which is why a mother can be so powerful. Long after her death, she influences us in so many ways. (Here I am speaking not from experience as my mom is alive and kicking!)  

Molly Smith’s mother, Lucky, is also most definitely alive and kicking.  And closely involved in the politics of their small town, demonstrating against wilderness development, even once, to Molly’s horror, taking part in a riot.

It’s not easy for a cop, knowing that you mom is likely to be involved, on one side or another, in anything that affects your small town.  But Molly’s relationship with her mother is deep, affectionate, sometimes antagonistic, often embarrassing.  But always loving.

Sorta like real life.

My mom, who hasn't embarrassed me since I was Angus's age. Snorkeling in T&C.
  

Monday, May 13, 2013

Just the answer I need

What reference work (dictionary, thesaurus, style guide) is essential to your writing?

by Meredith Cole

When I started my first book, I carefully collected a dictionary, a thesaurus, a baby naming book and various writing and formatting books and lined them up on my bookshelf. I also added our giant French/English dictionary because it looked weighty and important. I was a writer and I needed to show the world I was serious about my craft.

So when do I crack open and consult all these tomes during my writing process? Uh, almost never. I think I've opened the baby naming book once or twice. I get to that point in the story where I realize that all my secondary characters have names starting with the letter "P" and I need to fix it right away. But I find baby naming websites much faster and easier to use (quick--what's a Lebanese boys name that starts with an "R"?).

But the dictionary and thesaurus have gathered some serious dust over the years as I've grown to want the instant gratification (and the immediate results) from online sites. If I can't remember how to spell something, Google will sometimes even help me out by suggesting the correct spelling. I find this so helpful that I manage to suppress my uneasiness about how much information Google is collecting about me. It's also great not to have to leave my computer and interrupt my writing flow since I write often somewhere other then my desk in my office.

I just had to go out and buy a new bookshelf so I could pick up all the novels piled onto my floor (reading for contests creates quite a lot of clutter!). Perhaps it's time to get rid of the dictionary and thesaurus and make some more shelf space. But then I think--maybe the Internet will go down and I'll need to know something right away! So I keep them and tell myself I'll crack them open again one of these days...

Friday, May 10, 2013

Where's a Bat When You Need One?

by Sue Ann Jaffarian

I'm so excited about this week's question because I've just completed a second book featuring Odelia Grey's mother, Grace Littlejohn.

#5 Grace's 1st appearance
When Odelia was just sixteen she came home from high school to find her alcoholic mother MIA - no note, no nothing.

I still remember the day I came home from high school to discover my mother had moved out – lock, stock and vodka bottle. There was no note, no forwarding address, not even a prior clue that this might happen. One morning I left for school. She was getting ready for work, as usual. When my day was over, I returned to find her and all her personal items gone. I lived in our apartment alone for nearly a month, wondering if she’d return, half-hoping she wouldn’t, but not daring to call anyone. I even paid the rent out of my savings account to avoid having to call my dad. On the surface, I was sure she’d be back as soon as her bender was over. In my heart, I knew she wouldn’t be. I wasn’t a favorite handbag she’d simply forgotten. I was old baggage she didn’t want to lug around anymore.
Tough stuff for a 16 year old to handle.  Odelia went to live with her father and crazy step mother until she was 18, then hit the trail of independence. She didn't see her mother again until she was 50 years old, when her father passed away and among his things was a clue to her mother's whereabouts.

Even though readers know the story of Odelia's missing mother from the beginning of the series, Grace first shows up as a full character in Corpse On The Cob, the 5th Odelia Grey novel. She has a new family, is sober but not very likable, and offers no apologies for the abandonment of her daughter.  To complicate matters, the first time Odelia sees her mother in over 30 years, she's hovering over a dead body.

Odelia is tough-minded and independent, she's also used to being on her own, having had to carve her own path most of her life. Nothing was ever given to her. Her parents' volatile marriage and divorce, her mother's alcoholism and disappearance, and her father's marriage into a bullying family, all helped mold her, for better or for worse. When Odelia marries, is it any wonder she finds it difficult at first to see herself as part of a couple - a united we instead of a solitary I.

Grace's next appearance -
Out December 2013
I brought Grace back in Secondhand Stiff, the 8th Odelia Grey novel, which will be out December 2013. Since the 5th book, Odelia and Grace have stayed in touch and Odelia has become quite close to her stepbrother, Clark Littlejohn. Grace is still cantankerous and prickly and still offers no apologies for her past behavior, but she's making an effort to be part of Odelia's life and vice versa. In Secondhand Stiff, Grace is visiting Odelia for Thanksgiving and insists on getting involved in Odelia's snooping when a body is found in a storage locker.  It makes for both a funny and tearful reunion.

“Are you allowed to eat that?” I asked my mother. “Don’t you have a cholesterol problem, like Clark?”

Mom turned on me and said loud enough for the woman and her son to hear, “You don’t see me counting your calories, do you, Chubs?”
I swear, if there had been a bat close by, I would have been tempted to take a swing. I’m not sure at what since I wouldn’t want to rot in jail for matricide, but surely I could find something to hit that would only result in a vandalism charge.

I stepped up to the window. “Make hers a double, extra cheese and butter.”
The woman shook her head and laughed. “Mothers. They always have a hold on us, don’t they?”

Yes, they do...

And now for some shameless BSP:

In addition to the Odelia Grey mysteries and the Ghost of Granny Apples mysteries, I write a digital short story series - Holidays From Hell.  And, yes, I have a Mother's Day story!  It's called Pull My Paw, available for only 99 cents from Amazon.

A dog with a flatulence problem wasn’t high on Judy Bowen’s wish list of Mother’s Days gifts, no matter how cute the canine. So imagine her surprise when the spa gift her eldest daughter, Norma, usually gave her was substituted with a little dog named Crankshaft who suffers from tummy trouble.