Stella
names

What’s in a Name

I am talking about what we call the animals who live with us. A few arrived with names. The others didn’t. So what do you choose to name them? That’s the fun dilemma.

We try to come up with something that fits their personality and is fun to say like Roxanne, which was the name of calico we had. Of course, I was thinking of that song by Sting, and I often found myself singing her name although not as well as him. Roxanne was an extremely smart cat who figured out that if she jumped on the latched door handle in the kitchen, she could let herself inside. We also had a cat we named Phoebe.

Cats, Amos and Lewis, already had their names, so kept them. When we adopted Two at a shelter in Taos, she came with the name Dusty, which we didn’t like. But we were stumped, so we named her Two after the best two cats we’ve owned — Amos and Lewis. Two, or Two Two or Princess Two Two, as we was often called her, lived with us for 11 years, until last Christmas.

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One of Two’s favorite perches was a gate Hank built for our front yard in Taos.

We’ve had two dogs. Sheena’s previous owners, actually neighbors, left her tied up and moved away. She managed to break away and find us. Sheena was not a name we would have chosen, but she sure responded to it, so we reluctantly kept it. A black Lab, she was a wonderful companion and it turned out, the inspiration for a character in an as-yet-to-be published book, The Sacred Dog. But I gave her a more suitable name.

The next dog, a golden Lab mutt, that came after her was named Sadie, which fit her sweet disposition.

Our most recent adoption is a cat who found her way to outside a friend’s home. I saw a post on Facebook that she was looking for someone to take her in since she already had a cat. We were ready after nearly a year to do that. She appears to have a lot of Maine Coon in her. We are guessing she was at one time an inside cat but was dumped. Perhaps her owners couldn’t afford to take care of her any longer. Understandably, it’s been an adjustment for her after being on the lam for a few months, but she has made great progress in the couple of weeks we’ve had her.

So. about her name. Hank and I went through many before deciding on Stella. We wanted to find something from Maine to call her but couldn’t. Personally, I like giving human names to our animals.

Yes, I was inspired by “A Streetcar Named Desire,” and I feel I channel Marlon Brando when I call her, well, in a lot more loving and softer version, or the poor cat would be frightened. Right now, she’s sleeping in my office as I write this. Aw, Stella.

And if you’re curious here’s the way Marlon said it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S1A0p0F_iH8

PHOTO ABOVE: Yes, that’s Stella.

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Character Traits

Character Traits: Meet George Tokay

J Lewis Paper Picture

Author Joseph Lewis

Joseph Lewis is the next author to contribute to my Character Traits Series. Like many of my author friends, I met Joe, as I call him, via social media. A longtime educator, he writes thriller mysteries. I’ve read and learned from all of his books, which have exposed the ugly world of  human trafficking and other badness in our lives. His books also have an interesting connection to the Navajo Nation. So, fittingly the character he shares is George Tokay from his latest novel, Betrayed. Here. I will let Joseph take over. 

George Tokay is a sixteen-year-old Navajo boy raised in the traditional way. He is a member of ‘Azee’tsoh dine’e or The Big Medicine People Clan, which is one of the oldest clans among the Dine’. His grandfather was a Haatalii, a medicine man. The Navajo elders referred to both George and his grandfather as Hosteen Tokay, a term of respect. His grandfather had been training George from an early age to follow in his footsteps, however, his family had been murdered and he was orphaned. A high school counselor, Jeremy Evans, adopted him and George now lives in Wisconsin. George still practices his heritage with reverence and appreciation, speaking his native tongue and wearing his hair long in the traditional style.

George is quiet by nature, reserved, and content to observe and then act accordingly. He is adept at riding horses, tracking, shooting- particularly with a rifle, and with a knife his grandfather gave him at a coming of age ceremony when he was twelve.

He has suffered greatly. Not only with the death of his family, but he carries the scars of killing at least nine men who had come to kill him or members of his adopted family. He is given to visions and dreams where his grandfather speaks to him. Law enforcement, his newly adopted family, and in particular, the FBI listen when he speaks and take his visions seriously.

EXCERPT FROM BETRAYED:

George and Rebecca stopped at the top of the long dirt driveway leading to the Yazzie ranch. From a distance, it looked quiet, almost sleepy. Neither George nor Rebecca knew him, but it was mid-morning and there should have been some activity.

George thought back to his own home a lifetime ago. Robert might be racing around the yard with his sister, Mary. William might be in the barn working with the horses. His mom and grandmother would be hanging laundry or cooking a meal.

However, there was no laundry hanging on the line. There were no kids playing in the yard. There was no smoke coming from the chimney, and there was no fire in the outdoor stove.

Maybe no one was home. Maybe they were in Round Rock at the trading post.

Impatient, Rebecca flapped her reigns and made a clicking noise getting her horse to move forward. George followed at first, but as they neared the ranch, he sped up next to her.

He whispered, “Rebecca, wait. Something is wrong.”

She pulled on the reigns to stop her horse. She turned, stared at him, and whispered, “What?”

George frowned and shook his head. “Stay back.”

Rebecca reached for her rifle and laid it across her lap. George’s rifle was within reach, but he kept his right hand on his knife.

“Hello, the ranch. Mr. and Mrs. Yazzie?” He and Rebecca waited, but no one responded, nor did anyone appear in the doorway.

George was at once patient and impatient. He felt he needed to give the Yazzies time to respond, but he knew something was wrong. His “Navajo thing.”  A sixth sense sort of thing. Many times, his grandfather would speak to him, sometimes appear to him. Always warning, counseling, or guiding him.

One more time George yelled, “Hello the ranch! Mr. and Mrs. Yazzie!”

Nothing.

George dismounted, handed his reigns to Rebecca, took his rifle out of the scabbard and held it like a sentry, his finger above the trigger, not on it.

The smell. He knew the smell. In three short years, he had experienced this same smell. Nothing like it. Stronger in the hot desert air, and not at all pleasant.

He held a hand up to Rebecca, though he didn’t need to. She hadn’t moved.

George knelt down, bowed his head and shut his eyes, and asked whatever chindi might be present for permission to advance. He promised to find out the truth of what he suspected had taken place, and to bring their spirits justice as well as peace.

He opened his eyes, and instinctively searched the ground. He found tire impressions in the dirt, as well as footprints in at least three different sizes. A shell casing- large caliber. Then another, and another. On the left side of the driveway, there were small caliber casings.

Hard to do in cowboy boots, but he tip-toed into the front yard avoiding any footprints he saw. He would mark and take pictures of them later. The closer he got, the pock marks caused by bullet holes became more noticeable. So were the broken windows.

And the smell. Dark, thick, and wet.

George flashed back to his own ranch home and he imagined his grandparents, his mother, his little brother and sister huddled together in the driveway. He pictured his brother William on the slope watching over the sheep. His cousin had described the two scenes to him, and as he did, George knew his cousin had purposely held things back.

He pictured Brian’s home. The mess of blood, bone and tissue that covered the desk and computer in the office. The dark wet stain in the hallway. Though he had never seen what was behind the bedroom door, he knew who was in there and he suspected- correctly, according to Graff- what had happened.

Just like he knew what had taken place inside the Yazzie home as he stood in the doorway. Wanting to go into the house, but not wanting to. Knowing what he would find, and not wanting to find it.

George turned to Rebecca who looked anxious. He shook his head. Rebecca’s response was to grip her rifle tighter.

Cautiously, George took one step inside and held his breath. His second step took him into the kitchen.

Mrs. Yazzie lay on her back on the floor. Blood had pooled on either side of her like angel wings. George touched it and found it tacky, not wet, but not dry. Her death was recent. Further back in the room towards the hallway were a teenage boy and a preteen girl. The boy lay on his stomach with his arms outstretched overhead, the back of his shirt ripped open and bloody. George counted at least four bullet holes, maybe more. A bloody trail led to the girl. Bullet holes had shredded her blouse leaving the back of her shirt bloody. It looked to George as though she had not died right away, but had tried to crawl to safety.

The only person George didn’t see was the old man.

Staying to close to the wall, George moved further down the hallway and peered into the nearest bedroom. Pock-marked walls and shattered glass blown in from a window. George surmised that the shooters moved around the house and fired indiscriminately into the ranch home.

The second and last bedroom appeared in the same condition.

The old man was not in the house, and there weren’t many other places to look for him.

George left the house, held up a hand to Rebecca to stay put. He patted his knife once to reassure himself, and then crept around the side of the house towards the barn. He stayed close to the walls, but had to cross an open area to reach the barn. He took a deep breath, hunched over, and sprinted to its side.

Staying low, George took off his cowboy hat and peered into the barn from a crack between two broken boards. He set his hat on the ground behind him and tiptoed to the doorway. He peered into the barn, first just one eye. Then he stood up and entered.

He wasn’t surprised at what he first saw. However, further back in the corner in a small corral, he saw something he didn’t expect to find.

CONNECT: Here’s Joseph Lewis on social media.

Twitter @jrlewisauthor

www.simplethoughtsfromacomplicatedmindsortof.com

https://www.facebook.com/Joseph.Lewis.Author

BOOKS: Here are the links to Joseph Lewis’ books:

Lives Trilogy: https://amzn.to/2QKpwuY

Caught in a Web: https://amzn.to/2GrU51T

Spiral Into Darkness: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07L15328K

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Character Traits, characters

Character Traits: Meet Marlene Martínez

Teresa Dovalpage and I have a bit of history. When I lived in Taos, NM, I took her Spanish I class at the university branch where she was a professor. Originally from Cuba, she was a lively prof, and shortly after that she started doing freelance writing in Spanish and English for The Taos News, where I was the editor-in-chief. We became good friends, and I will admit Teresa, who had already written many books, inspired me to stray from writing literary fiction to mysteries. Since then, she has left Taos to work as a professor in the southern part of New Mexico, and I moved east to Western Mass. But we still keep in touch and, yeah, I have read and enjoyed all of her books, including her most recent Death Comes in through the Kitchen. Here. I will let her take over and tell you about her character, Marlene Martínez.

Thank you, Joan, for inviting me to your virtual home!

Teresa in the cruise that inspired the book

Teresa Dovalpage on the cruise that inspired her novel.

I would like to introduce your readers to Marlene Martínez, a character that appeared for the first time in my culinary mystery Death Comes in through the Kitchen (Soho Crime, 2018). The story takes place in 2003, when Marlene is still a young lieutenant in Cuba’s police force:

“She was around twenty-five years old and very tall, with short brown hair and stern gray eyes. Despite her youth, she looked imposing and severe.”

While writing that book, I encountered a problem: I didn’t have the slightest idea of how the Cuban law enforcement operates. So I did what I had learned while working for Joan at The Taos News. I found a source and got all the details. I interviewed a former Cuban cop now settled in Miami who provided me with the information needed to build both character and setting: the way police stations are organized, the fact that they are called “unidades”—that’s why I kept the term in Spanish; using “units” didn’t sound right in English—, and the scanty resources they have at their disposal.

Marlene, however, had mostly a supporting role in this book. The real star was Padrino, a detective turned Santeria practitioner and Marlene’s former mentor, who in the end solves the case.

A similar situation happened in my second mystery, Queen of Bones (Soho Crime, 2019).

But by the third book in the series, Marlene was tired of playing second fiddle. And she let it be known. She is quite opinionated, let me tell you! She wanted, and needed, her very own book. And it so happened that the character followed, with some variations, my source’s real-life journey. Marlene’s next appearance was in the novella Death of a Telenovela Star (Soho Crime, 2020). By then, in 2018, she is living in Miami and owns a bakery called La Bakería Cubana.

Death of a Telenovela Star is based on a Caribbean cruise that my husband and I took three years ago, where I witnessed some mischief that provided the initial chispa, that spark that books need to be born into the world. The story is set on a week-long cruise to Mexico and the Caribbean that Marlene has booked as a quinceañera present for her niece Sarita.

“Aboard the North Star were five thousand travelers and one open bar. What could be expected from such a crowd but shenanigans? That’s what Marlene Martínez thought as she looked around her with suspicion. With so many passengers crammed onto the one-thousand-foot boat, something bad was bound to happen.

Her grandfather, bless his soul, used to say, “Somewhere, something bad is happening to somebody right now.” Years ago, Marlene had laughed at his unabashed pessimism, but now, watching from her lounge chair the noisy throng waiting by the pool for their cabins to be ready, she couldn’t avoid a sense of dread.”

When Sarita discovers that a Cuban telenovela star, Carloalberto, is also aboard, and starts obsessing about him, Marlene realizes there’s going to be trouble.

And it will be up to her to keep it at bay.

I hope you enjoy the book!

Muchas gracias.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Teresa Dovalpage was born in Havana and now lives in Hobbs, where she is a Spanish and ESL professor at New Mexico Junior College. She has a PhD in Hispanic Literature by the University of New Mexico and has published eleven novels and three collections of short stories. Once in a while she delves into theater. Her plays La Hija de La Llorona and Hasta que el mortgage nos separe (published in Teatro Latino, 2019) have been staged by Aguijón Theater in Chicago.

Contact information

In English: https://teredovalpage.com

In Spanish: https://teresadovalpage.com/

Buy links:

Death of a Telenovela Star:

https://www.amazon.com/Death-Telenovela-Novella-Havana-Mystery-ebook/dp/B07XX832PJ

The Havana Mystery series:

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0881XQZPK?ref_=dbs_p_mng_rwt_ser_shvlr&storeType=ebooks

 

 

 

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Stone Angels Bestseller Sticker
Character Traits, Darkstroke Books

Character Traits: Meet James Ravencroft

Next up in this series is Paula RC Readman, a fellow darkstroke books  author who lives in the UK. Paula is the author of the Stone Angels, an intriguingly dark novel I enjoyed. Frankly, I believe it would also make a great movie. For this post, Paula has chosen James Ravencroft, the highly flawed protagonist of her novel. Her journey as a writer and author is also well noting. Here, I will let Paula take over.

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Paula RC Readman

Thank you Joan for this opportunity to introduce my main character from Stone Angels to your audience, James Ravencroft, an artist with a dark heart. He’s passionate about the pure beauty of art. James first appeared in a winning short story I wrote for the Harrogate Crime Writing Festival/Writing Magazine Competition in 2012.

Extract from Roofscapes

“Hey, be careful with that!” the man snarled. With a single sweep of his hand the dangling picture found its place. He then turned his dark blue eyes on me, his shoulder-length black hair shone under the lights. In an upper class tone, he stated, “Aesthetics, my dear woman, art is for art’s sake,”

I caught my balance, and stepped off the ladder.

“Ravencroft,” the man said, offering me his hand, as his dark eyes shone with an eerie hilarity.

I ignored his proffered hand, and instead snatched up my clipboard, hoping he would just leave us to do our job.

“I love your work.” Jude fluttered her eyelashes and flashed her winning smile at him. He chose to ignore her, turning his attention fully on me.

Ever since he had arrived in the gallery with these godless pictures, Jude swooned over this hedonistic, overbearing man in his tight black jeans. I had kept my distance.

“Tina isn’t it?” he said, extending his hand to me again.

I nodded, still not accepting it.

He let his hand drop, unlike his smile. With a nod in the direction of his paintings he said, “You’re doing a grand job, though I expect the public will find something to criticize.”

I lowered my clipboard, “Really?”

“Yes,” he said, letting the word out slowly, “Tell me honestly what you think of my work.”

“Your work?” I shook my head. I had no wish to share my thoughts with the likes of him

“Yes,” He stepped forward, blocking my way.

“I see a darkly delicious city alive in the crowded street below,” Jude said.

Ravencroft turned to her, his smile too sweet, too nauseating. “I wasn’t asking you, my dear.”

How did you come up with the character and his name?

I knew I wanted the name Raven . . .  Something. James Raven on its own was a flat name to me. It didn’t roll off the tongue. According to my dictionary of surnames, Ravenscroft is a town in Chester, England. I just dropped the S, so it became Ravencroft. James’s description I based on the 15th century German artist, Albrecht Durer. There’s a famous self-portrait of the artist with his flowing hair.

Tells us more about Stone Angels.

The inspiration for Stone Angels came from my short story I wrote in 2011, which won the Harrogate Crime Writing Festival/Writing Magazine Competition the next year. The story Roofscapes was told from the view point of Tina Whiteoaks, a picture hanger in an art gallery. She met James, who wasn’t the main character in the story, through her work. In fact we learn everything we need to know about James through Tina and her friend, Jude via their emotions and reactions to him, and his interplay with them. Jude admired James on two levels as an artist, and a subject of desire. Tina, on the other hand found him to be hedonistic, arrogance, and intimidating.

Was a real person your inspiration for this character?

Yes and no. Yes, in as much as my research into serial killers show that most had the ability to be charming and unthreatening to their prey. No, not anyone I know personally who is a serial killer, but a mixture of arrogance and manipulative people I have known during my life time, mentioning no names of course.

Is your character likeable or not?

Yes, James Ravencroft is very likeable. Many people would find him charming, intelligent, a little reserved at times, and even charismatic. Most serial killers are highly intelligent, (it’s why most of them get away with their crime for so long) until you discover their darker side, by which time it’s normally too late if you’re their chosen victim. Of course James’s upbringing, like so many real-life serial killers, has some bearing on his outlook on life.

Athor’s bio:

Paula R C Readman is married, has a son, and lives in Essex, England, with two cats. After leaving school with no qualifications, she spent her working life mainly in low-paying jobs. In 1998, with no understanding of English grammar, she decided to beat her dyslexia by setting herself a challenge to become a published author.

She taught herself “how to write” from books her husband purchased from eBay. After making the 250th purchase, Russell told her “just to get on with the writing.” Since 2010, she has mainly been published in anthologies in Britain, Australia, and America and won several writing competitions. InDays Pass like a Shadow Large 2020 she had her first crime novella The Funeral Birds published by Demain Publishing, and a single collection of short stories Days Pass Like A Shadow published by Bridge House Publishing. Her first crime novel Stone Angles was published by Darkstroke.

Blog: https://paularcreadmanauthor.blog

Amazon Author’s page

Author of Stone Angels, mybook.to/stoneangels

The Funeral Birds https://mybook.to/thefuneralbirds

Days Pass Like a Shadow https://mybook.to/dayspasslikeashadow

Facebook: https://facebook.com/paula.readman.1

Twitter: Paula R C Readman@Darkfantasy13

 

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Edinburgh Crime Mysteries 4 (1)
Character Traits, Edinburgh Crime Series, Val Penny

Character Traits: Meet DS Jane Renwick

Val Penny - relaxed

Author Val Penny

Today, I begin a new weekly series — Character Traits — in which I invite authors to share one of the characters in their book(s). It is fitting that Val Penny, author of the Edinburgh Crime Mystery Series, which I’ve read and enjoyed, is the first to go. Val is a big supporter of other authors, including those with our publisher darkstroke books. She’s chosen DS Jane Renwick to profile. I will let Val take over.

ABOUT DS JANE RENWICK: Detective Sergeant Jane Renwick is one of the main female characters in my Edinburgh Crime Mystery Series of novels. It is, therefore fitting that in 2021 she should become the main protagonist in her own series of novels.

We first meet Jane early in Hunter’s Chase, the first of The Edinburgh Crime Mystery books. DI Hunter Wilson describes her to us.

Hunter stopped concentrating on Mackay’s summary; he let him witter on while he glanced around the room. He noted Rachael had moved to stand near the most elegant DS that Hunter had ever worked with: Jane Renwick. They stood at the far side of the room, whispering quietly together, glancing in his direction. Rachael did look tired and stressed, probably due to the early start and putting up with him. He didn’t blame her. Hunter knew he was sharp when things did not go according to his plans.

In contrast, as always, Jane Renwick was immaculately turned out, with faultless hair, nails and make-up. Hunter would have given his eye teeth to know how the woman could constantly look so spruce. He felt more like DC Colin Reid and DC John Hamilton looked: unshaven and dishevelled. Reid and Hamilton both caught his eye and he nodded acknowledgements. Hamilton brushed the crumbs of his breakfast off his face with the back of his hand as Mackay continued talking.

But Jane is not just an elegant woman, but as we learn later in that book, she is also a capable detective sergeant.

Hunter knelt, surrounded by people but completely alone. It felt like an eternity before he heard Jane Renwick’s clear voice.

“I need you all to move back. Come on now, move back. Everybody move back now and make room. Bear, Mel, move everybody back at least ten feet. Now!”

Bear used his body mass and began waving everybody back, while Mel Grant went to get Tesco staff to help. She instructed them to form a cordon of shopping trolleys to keep the inquisitive public at bay. This was probably the most interesting thing the trolley collector had done all week, Hunter thought. The lad looked so proud and took photos of his work, presumably to share later on Facebook and Instagram. Tesco supplied staff so that potential witnesses did not leave.

When I was creating DS Jane Renwick, I wanted a short recognisable first name that was neither exotic nor fashionable this would contrast with her outward attire. She is always smart and well-dressed. The surname had to be more unusual, because that is not her birth name, for Jane had a difficult start in life and grew up in the care system. The character is not based on any real-life person, but is a figment of my imagination, created to fill an important role in the police team that investigates the Edinburgh Crime Mysteries.

Jane is able, likeable, dependable but severely affected by her unfortunate start in life. She feels that this left her alone in the world, unloved and unlovable. However, we learn that she has found her life partner amongst the members of Hunter’s team in Hunter’s Chase.

Is it any wonder that she moves to the Major Incident Team where she will move forward in her own series of books?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Val Penny is an American author living in SW Scotland. She has two adultLet's Get Published daughters of whom she is justly proud and lives with her husband and two cats. She has a Law degree from Edinburgh University and her MSc from Napier University. She has had many jobs including hairdresser, waitress, lawyer, banker, azalea farmer and lecturer. However, she has not yet achieved either of her childhood dreams of being a ballerina or owning a candy store. Until those dreams come true, she has turned her hand to writing poetry, short stories and novels. Her crime novels, Hunter’s Chase, Hunter’s Revenge, Hunter’s Force and Hunter’s Blood and  Hunter’s Secret are set in Edinburgh, Scotland, published by darkstroke. Her first nonfiction book Let’s Get Published is available now and the first book in the new series centring on Jane Renwick will be published in 2021.

CONTACT INFO: 

www.valpenny.vom

www.facebook.com/valerie.penny.739

www.facebook.com/groups/296295777444303

https://twitter.com/valeriepenny

hunter's secret

 

 

 

 

Buy Links

mybook.to/hunterschase

mybook.to/huntersrevenge

mybook.to/huntersforce

mybook.to/huntersblood

mybook.to/hunterssecret

bit.ly/LetsGetPublished

 

 

 

 

 

 

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