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Isabel Long Series, Writing

Mystery Series: Why I Write in First Person, Present Tense

When I decided to write a mystery, I wanted it to be told from the point of view of my protagonist, Isabel Long. And now that I released the second, Redneck’s Revenge, I am glad I stuck with that format. I also used present tense because I want my readers to feel they are part of the action but more about that later.

First, let me tell you about Isabel Long. She’s a former long-time journalist who is trying her hand at solving mysteries. After all, she has a lot of time on her hands after she lost her job managing a newsroom when the paper went corporate. Besides, her first case was also her first big story as a rookie reporter — and one of the cold case files she snagged from the newsroom on her last day.

Isabel is savvy and sassy. She’s got a great sense of humor. She doesn’t take crap from anyone. But she is a great listener and can relate well with others. Basically, she takes what she knew as a reporter and applies it to being an amateur sleuth. This comes in handy because her second case takes her to a town she is unfamiliar with and also a rather rough group of folks.

For that case, a woman hires her to find out how her father died. The cops say he was drunk when his house caught fire. She says he was murdered. Could it be the work of two drug-dealing brothers, a rival junkyard owner, or an ex-husband? Isabel is going to find out.

Anyway, I wanted you to get the full picture of Isabel by letting her talk her way through my two books so far in this series — Chasing the Case and Redneck’s Revenge. The third, Checking the Traps, will be released next year.

I also wanted my readers to focus on Isabel. I know I sometimes get a little lost when there are so many POVs in a novel I’m reading. I sometimes have to remind myself who the character is.

Why present tense? It can be tricky to write. I have written only one other book, as yet unpublished, that way. But I believe it works with Isabel because sometimes she even talks directly to the reader.

Here’s an excerpt from Redneck’s Revenge, to put you in the mood. In this scene, she’s meeting with Lin Pierce, a licensed private investigator.

All right, Lin, enough with the dillydallying. Let’s get on with it.

“As I said over the phone… ”

He waves his hand.

“Yes, that. You said you want to work for me to fulfill one of your requirements to get a P.I. license.”

“That’s right.”

“So, what would make you qualified to be an associate? Have you ever worked in law enforcement?”

I shake my head.

“A cop? No. I was a journalist for over thirty years. I started as the Conwell correspondent for the Daily Star. Adela Collins’ disappearance was my first big story.” I watch his head bounce in recognition. “I knew how to chase a story. I found the pieces and put them together. I believe the skills are transferable, except I’d never carry a gun or wrestle anybody to the ground.”

He squints as he thinks.

“I recall reading your stories. Didn’t you used to run the paper?”

“Uh-huh, for fifteen years until it got bought out,” I say. “As I explained over the phone, I’m not looking to take your cases although I’d be willing to help if you need it. I’ll find my own.”

“Well, I’ve never hired anybody and frankly, I couldn’t afford you if I did.” His voice drops. “I’d say I’m semi-retired. I own this building, so it’s convenient to keep an office. It helps with taxes.”

I was prepared for this.

“How about a buck a day? Could you afford that?”

He chuckles.

“You work cheap, Isabel.”

MORE: This post appeared first in Zooloo Book Blog as part of a tour in Rachel’s Random Resources.

BOOKLINKS: Thank you if you have already read my books. If not here’s where you can find them on Amazon: mybook.to/chasingthecase and mybook.to/rednecksrevenge

ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE: A creative use of old screwdrivers. Piece of art found outside a studio on State Street in our village of Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts.

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me 2017
Author Interview, Crooked Cat Books

6Ws with Author Anne-Marie Ormsby

Anne-Marie Ormsby is the next Crooked Cat Books author to be featured on this website. Her novel, Purgatory Hotel, is on my reading list.

Writing, as she says, has been a part of her everyday life since she was a young girl.

And check out her so-called unhealthy interests.

Purgatory Cover

Here are Anne-Marie’s responses to my 6Ws — who, what, when, where, how, and why. (How does end with a W.)

Who is author Anne-Marie Ormsby?

Anne-Marie is a school HR & Finance Administrator currently living in south London, with her husband and their tiny human.

She has an unhealthy interest in movies, true crime, vintage Hollywood scandals, and cemeteries.

What does she write?

She writes whatever feels right. Purgatory Hotel which is paranormal fiction was written 12 years ago when she was in a different situation. She also wrote a novel about the highs and lows of relationships and dating in your early 30s, but hasn’t done anything with it yet. She also wrote a lot of poetry and short stories when she was younger.

When did she begin writing?

She began writing when she was 9, after reading some Ray Bradbury short stories. After that it was a part of her everyday life. She would come home from school and go to her room to write, at first by hand then on an old typewriter her parents bought her in a charity shop. Even as she got older and started a social life, she still spent time every day at the typewriter.

How does she write?

In solitude preferably, and with a bottle of red wine.

Where does she write?

Wherever she can. These days she has a toddler so doesn’t get much alone time, and after working all day, once her daughter is in bed (because she finds it impossible to write when she is around), she generally wants to hang out with her husband, watch movies and catch up on their day. So when she gets started on her next book it will be a case of locking herself away for an hour or so a night when she can. Life was very different when she wrote Purgatory Hotel, so now she will have to adapt.

Why does she write?

Because she has stories in her head that she needs to get out, they are like demons she has to exorcise.

More on Purgatory Hotel:

Dakota Crow has been murdered, her body dumped in a lonely part of the woods and nobody knows but her and her killer.

Stranded in Purgatory, a rotting hotel on the edge of forever, with no memory of her death, she knows she must have done something bad to be stranded among murderers and rapists. To get to somewhere safer she must hide from the shadowy stranger stalking her through the corridors of the hotel and find out how to repent for her sins.

But first she must re-live her life.

Soon she will learn about her double life, a damaging love affair, terrible secrets and lies that led to her violent death.

Dakota must face her own demons and make amends for her own crimes before she can solve her murder and move on, but when she find out what she did wrong, will she be sorry?

Purgatory Hotel is published by Crooked Cat Books and is available in paperback and on Kindle:

Purgatory Hotel on Amazon

Anne-Marie Ormsby on social media:

Good Reads

Facebook

Twitter 

Blog

Website

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Professor Groovy, short stories, Writing

A Change of Heart

It’s healthy to be flexible. For me that means letting go of ideas and sometimes, possessions.

First, I am happy, thrilled really, that four short stories that have been languishing in my computer were published this week on Kindle this week via Professor ProfGroovy_CoverGroovy and Other Stories. Versions of two did appear in magazines, but I want the greater world to read them.

Being new to this type of publishing, I struggled with pricing. Really, what is something you write worth? Do you devalue it by selling it cheaply? But, hey, I am not a household name.

So I dropped the original price from $1.99 to 99 cents in a matter of hours. My royalty on each book will be about 35 cents. Why settle for so cheap? Well, the four-story collection is only 10,000 words. And I have an ulterior motive. This book is bait for the novel Peace, Love, and You Know What.

Then, there is my office. I am in one of those clean and purge moods. Friday night I took everything out of the office that I could — the living room looked like a bomb hit it — and then washed, waxed (furniture and the floor) and sorted as needed. I did windows. I will admit I went a bit nuts.

And I took a good, hard look at the books in that room. Several I bought in a whim in a secondhand bookstore or online. I thought I liked the authors. But did I love them anymore? Not enough to hold onto their books. They’re in a bag to donate.

There was other stuff set aside for the recycling center and drop-off boxes.

I finally finished Saturday evening.

My friend Teresa emailed me: “We call that a “ranfla moñuda” sort of spring cleaning, very inclusive… out with everything that is not useful anymore! Very good to move energy and shake things up.”

Move energy and shake things up: I like that idea very much.

LINKS: If you are so moved, here are the links for my books: Professor Groovy and Other Stories and Peace, Love, and You Know What

ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE: That’s one of the robust zucchini plants in my garden.

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books, reviews, Writing

Heading to Canada with Howard Norman

No, the trip wasn’t physical. I haven’t met the author Howard Norman although he did send me a nice note. I’ve just finished his Canada trilogy.

I found the first, The Bird Artist, in a secondhand book storebird artist cover when I was traveling back east. White Square Fine Books and Art in Easthampton, Mass., has a quality selection. It’s good place to find an author or book I had somehow missed. That was the case with Howard Norman and The Bird Artist.

The book begins in 1911. Fabian Vas, who draws and paints birds in a coastal Newfoundland village, admits in the first paragraph he killed the lighthouse keeper named Botho August. Of course, he has a compelling reason. A lot goes on in that little village. I was taken by Norman’s writing voice and his oddly enchanting story.

cover museum

In other words, I was hooked.

It’d been a while since I found myself stealing away to pick up a book. That was the case with The Bird Artist, which was a 1994 National Book Award finalist for fiction.

The second in the trilogy is The Museum Guard. This one is set in the late 1930s in Halifax. DeFoe Russet is the museum guard. He works with his uncle, who raised him after his parents were killed in a zeppelin crash. A woman DeFoe loves is fixated on one of the paintings, Jewess on a Street in Amsterdam.

Again Norman creates an absorbing world although the depth of the woman’s obsession seemed far-fetched. Then again, this is fiction.

I almost didn’t read the third — The Haunting of L. The reviews were iffy, but a trilogy is a trilogy. Peter Duvett leaves Halifax in 1927 to work for a photographer in Manitoba. Naturally, there is illicit love. (Peter takes up with his employer’s wife on their wedding night.) Then there is the darker side of photography with so-called spirit photos and images taken of staged disasters. Intriguing concepts, but hauntingI will admit at times my attention waned.

Although The Bird Artist is the best of the trio, I am happy I read all three. I enjoy Howard Norman’s absurd choices for characters, professions, and living situations. His main characters are young men who appear a bit befuddled by life and love. Canada, at least how Norman portrays it, is not what I imagined.

Then there is Norman’s own story. He is an American, who dropped out of high school and lived in Canada for sixteen years. He became interested in the folk lore and culture of the Cree Indians. He eventually got his high school diploma and other degrees. Besides being a prolific author, he is a college professor in the U.S.

Howard Norman is also a cordial person. Using my snooping skills, I tracked him down to email (with an apology for intruding) a fan letter about The Bird Artist and how I found it. His reply was gracious, thanking me for “your generous, heartening note. I like being in a secondhand bookstore.” Me, too.

ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE: The beds along the fence are teeming with flowers and bees. Here is one of the large plantings of Echinacea aka cone flower.

PEACE, LOVE, AND YOU KNOW WHAT: My debut novel is available in paperback and kindle. Here’s the link: Peace, Love, and You Know What on Amazon

 

 

 

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Taos, Writing

My Writing Companions

I am lucky to have two offices. One is a room inside our home where I write in the early morning, usually with a large cup of coffee. The other is outdoors in the ramada.

ramada

Three years ago Hank, with help from our son Zack, built the ramada, which by description is an open shelter. But being a skilled woodworker and a bit of a perfectionist, Hank built a ramada that is timber-framed wood with a tin roof. The floor has slabs of sandstone. It comes with views of the Sangre de Cristo mountains and the sage-filled mesa, plus a nice breeze and wi-fi from the house.

What more could I want during this spell of hot weather?

But I am not the only ones who feel that way. A bird has built a nest beneath the eaves in a spot that’s inaccessible unless you can fly. (Last year, a bird built a nest in another part of the ramada, but that didn’t work out.)

I am not a birder but my best guess from checking a bird book is that it’s a canyon towhee. The feathers are light gray and there’s some buff color.

Things must be getting serious because mother and father don’t like it when I — or anyone else for that matter — sit in the ramada. The father perches somewhere above in the ramada’s beams or on the house to sound a warning chirp. Sometimes he puffs himself up. He is relentless. The mother chirps too when she’s not sitting on the nest. (I can only see her tail when she does.)

Here is a recording of the father I saved on my phone:

I’ve tried talking in soothing tones to the birds. “I come in peace,” I tell them. But they don’t believe me. I resist trying to see if the eggs have hatched although last night the mother had a worm or something in her beak as she was returning to the nest so maybe they have.

It’s a dilemma. I enjoy working outside. Hank built the ramada because we need shelter and shade from the strong sun. But I don’t like stressing the birds.

I once had an agent who wanted me to join writing groups, because he once heard a famous author say he had been a member of one. I told him I am not a joiner of any group, that I’m a solitary writer. I don’t like sharing my writing until it’s done or close to it. But these days, alas, that’s not true.

ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE: That’s the ad for my novel Peace, Love, and You Know What that is running on the website of The Taos News, which is taosnews.com. Designer Jason Rodriguez created the ad, which takes anyone who clicks on it to Amazon. Thank you to my former colleagues, especially publisher Chris Baker, at The Taos News for their support.

Here is the link Peace, Love, and You Know What on Amazon

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