On a Reading Binge

I signed up for the Goodreads Reading Challenge last year. Ha! That went well. I committed to reading fifty books. I read a whopping twelve.

I decided to give the challenge a go again this year. With a positive mindset, I set my number once again to fifty books. I can say with confidence that my goal won’t be a problem. I’ve already read twenty-two of the fifty.

I’ve definitely been on a reading binge. I read at night before bed, in the middle of the night when I can’t sleep, and I read for at least two hours every morning before I start my day. Even though I’d prefer to be able to sleep more, I’m enjoying reading.

I read many books in my own genre of writing, so my list has quite a few fun, light mysteries, but I’ve also picked up some other good reads.

unwanted

I got a big kick out of the western Unwanted Dead or Alive by Gene Shelton. Two ranch hands lose their jobs and decide to try their hand at being outlaws. A reviewer said they were like “Abbott and Costello go west,” and I have to agree.

groovin

Groovin’: Horses, Hopes, and Slippery Slopes by Rich Israel was a hoot! He recounts his travels and travails in the sixties as he traveled around the country during the time of free love and drugs, all the while hoping he wouldn’t be drafted.

prestonblack

One of my favorite reads so far was The Devil and Preston Black by Jason Jack Miller. The book is billed as Appalachian Noir fiction and “… is your ticket into a world where love can save your soul, where a song can change your destiny, and where evil still hides in the dark corners of the night.” I enjoyed the music references and the description of music as the characters played their instruments. Preston Black was a well-written character. It was easy to feel sympathy for him and to root for him.

comfortfoodcafe

Summer at the Comfort Food Café is by British author Debbie Johnson and had a wonderful mix of humor, heartbreak, and family life. I like when I continue to think about a book days after I’ve finished reading. This book was like that for me.

branson

I’ve only recently become aware of Richard Branson and what a motivating person he is. I read Losing My Virginity: How I Survived, Had Fun, and Made a Fortune Doing Business My Way. Having worked in the music industry for several years, I especially enjoyed the stories around Virgin Records, but the entire book was a good read.

Have you ever heard you should never meet your heroes? Well, I think that should be extended to include don’t ever read tell-all biographies of your heroes. I read a Frank Sinatra biography last year, and although it was fascinating, I was so disappointed to read about the man’s faults. Of course, I knew he would have faults, but I should have left that sleeping dog lie. However, I do still love to listen to him sing. I’m currently reading a biography about Jimmy Stewart. He’s not a hero, but I do enjoy a good biography, and he seems to have led a tamer life.

Have you signed up for the Goodreads Reading Challenge this year? If you haven’t, it’s not too late. If you have, what have you read, and what has been your favorite book so far?

Sailing Bravely Into the Unknown

dontstarvesailing

I’ve been pretty quiet for well over a year now – not only with my blog but also with my writing. It’s hard to write humor when you feel like your world is falling apart.

I’ll spare you the details, but with my mother’s diminishing health, Rich’s allergic reactions to medications, and my own blood pressure problems, it’s been pretty rough at times.

It all came to a head last week when Rich had no other choice than to quit his job of thirteen years. It’ll be a few months before the adverse effects of the medications are gone, and then we’ll see how he feels.

I don’t know what the future holds for us. We are in unknown territory. It was terrifying to think of no more job security, but I’m calm about it – for now. With Rich finally making the decision to stay home and get well, my stress level has reduced greatly. That’s good for my blood pressure and my heart.

What’s also good for my blood pressure and my heart is that I’ve lost twenty-seven pounds since Thanksgiving. After a particularly rough day of heart palpitations, I went cold turkey off added salt, sugar, caffeine, and processed foods. I’m eating mostly fruit, vegetables, nuts, and protein.

Do I miss pizza, Taco Bell, M&M’s, and junk food in general? You bet I do, but fear is a great motivator, and I’m too afraid to eat that crap. It’s a good thing I like to cook, because there’s a whole lotta cookin’ goin’ on here. I even make my own spice mixes and salad dressings. It would be nice to have a sous chef.

souschef

The stress reduction was so immediate after Rich quit his job that I’ve been able to work again – with joy. I’d almost forgotten that he was an audiophile, and he has music blaring from the den for a big part of the day. I actually enjoy this. It’s conducive to his healing and spurs my creativity. I’m happy to say, I finally banged out the ending of the seventh book in the Two Sisters and a Journalist series. I even have the main plot and the beginning of the next book mapped out. Onward and upward! This year can only be better than last year, and I’m expecting great things.

I’ll have the cover to Murder Wears a Veil soon. I’ll post it here with an approximate date of publication. And then I’ll get cracking on those Appleseed cozy mysteries.

In other news …

I think I have my Don’t Starve video game addiction under control. … I think I do. … Maybe I do.

And last but not least, or as Word wants me say, finally yet importantly, my friend Tim Dittmer published his second book this week. Five-Toed Tigress. I enjoyed his first book, The Valley Walker, and I’m looking forward to reading his new work. Take a look and grab a copy for yourself! (Click the cover to go to Amazon.)

five-toed-tigress

Bathroom Humor and a Free Book

chummy_ads

My mother is a good sport. I’ve used and abused her in my books but always with a loving heart and with her knowledge and support.

My mother and father were the inspiration behind Susan Hunter’s mother and father. When physically describing Susan’s father, and her close relationship with him, I may as well have been talking about my own late father. Susan’s mother doesn’t resemble my mother in appearance, but many of her characteristics and her love of laughter do. Mom loved reading my Susan Hunter books, and I know she enjoyed knowing so much of her personality went into Susan’s mother.

My mother is now eighty-five years old. A few years back, she proclaimed she didn’t care what people thought any longer. She said she’s lived long enough to say and do what she wants. That made it easy to base Mama in my “Two Sisters and a Journalist” series on my own mother in her later years.

I grew up with three brothers who thought they were comedians. I can’t tell you how many whoopee cushions, fart machines, farts recorded on cassettes, belching contests, and just about any other manner of PG-13-rated potty humor went on in our house. I won’t say which brother, but one of them had so much gas one summer, he kept a notebook and logged each one as it passed.

My mother laughed at those boys until she cried. We all did.

If you don’t know by now, my “Two Sisters and a Journalist” books have bathroom humor in them. With the popularity of Melissa McCarthy and over-the-top humor in movies, I decided to go this route with the series. Where Susan Hunter wouldn’t pass gas in front of herself, Jo Ravens and her family are less couth. There are a few incidences of minor swear words (four in my new book), but they are used as humor rather than as angry swearing.

In Murder Under Construction, Jo laments the fact that her mother passes gas while shopping and then walks away, allowing Jo to come around the corner and walk into the gas cloud. Anyone coming near Jo would assume she was the offender. True story. I told my mother if she didn’t quit doing that to me, I wasn’t taking her shopping any more.

My sister called one day to tell me she picked Mom up to take her to the grocery store, and as Mom walked across the back porch, every step produced a puff of smoke. Upon further inspection, she realized Mom had put foot powder in her sandals. She was laughing so hard, she could barely tell me about it. In Murder Welcomes You to Buxley, Mama has an incident with baby powder in her shoes at the bowling alley.

One of my nieces read Murder Under Construction and asked her mother, “Has Grandma read this? Does she know she’s in here?” The false teeth incident gave it away for her.

My mother has threatened my siblings on occasion. She’ll tell them not to tell me about something she did, because it will end up in one of my books. She’s right, but she always laughs when it does. I know she secretly loves it.

Just last week, I published book number six in the “Two Sisters and a Journalist” series: Murder – A Chummy Affair. Mama is her usual inappropriate and silly self, but her bowling crony Lucille, who was mentioned in a previous book, has a bigger role this time, and she has chronic flatulence.

My mother loved the book and thought Lucille was hilarious. Of course she did! My mother’s middle name is Lucille.

I’m in the mood to give books away today. If you would like a copy of Murder – A Chummy Affair, let me know in the comments section below, and I’ll send a book to you from Amazon. If you need a copy for a different format, I’ll send a code for a free book at Smashwords, and you can choose the file that’s right for your eReader. Just make sure you let me know which venue – Amazon or Smashwords. If you prefer to write and ask me personally, my email is on my About page.

Finally, I was going through old pictures for a family member last week, and I came across pictures of my mother and father. I forgot how attractive my dad was when he was young. He could have been in the movie Grease!

Dad_50s Mom_40s

A Few Reading Recommendations

policeAre there blog police?

If there are, they will be coming to my blog any day now to shut me down for dust, cobwebs, and lack of content.

I love blogging and reading blogs, but I’ve been on a tear writing. This past Wednesday, I published book number four in the Two Sisters and a Journalist series – Murder Wins the Game.

I’m also over fifty percent finished with book number five – Murder Between the Covers. I’m hoping to have the book published by Thanksgiving.

A new series snuck up on me, and I have three chapters finished of Delicious Death. I’m choosing to be optimistic and say the book will be published in time for Christmas. I’ll save the details of that series for later.

A character by the name of Stanley Pearl has been tormenting me since April. He’s not a priority for 2015, but he’s still managed to get me to write three chapters of his story. I expect to finish the book next year.

To top everything off, a reader recently convinced me to write another Susan Hunter book!

I’m sure I’ll be around a little here and there, but for now, let me clear out some of the dust and cobwebs and show you the new book.

Murder_Wins_the_Game_Final_Oct_20152

Murder_Wins_the_Game_Card2

I also want to share some books by my friends and fellow bloggers.

Jackie Phillips at To Breathe is to Write has written and published two books! The Canine Caper is a short story introducing her main character, DeeDee Watson. A Case of Deceit is a full-length novel. The books are fun, cozy mysteries featuring a Papillion. A Case of Deceit was just released this week.

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Carrie Rubin has a new book – Eating Bull. I was honored to read the book ahead of publication, and it’s a great thriller. Not only does Carrie address topics pertinent to many people today – fat shaming, obesity, and bullying – but she writes about the topics in such a way that you will be thinking about the book long after you’ve finished reading. The paperback is available now; the eBook may be pre-ordered for release on November 12.

Eating_Bull

And last but not least, Valerie Clarizio has a new release coming out next Tuesday, November 3 – Plan Interrupted. I’ve read other books by Valerie, and I enjoy her writing style. Her books are a mix of romance and suspense, and I’m always entertained.

plan_interrupted

Happy reading!

Feel free to add your own new releases and recommendations in the comments below.

James Patterson and Me, Part I

James_PattersonI’m taking the MasterClass, James Patterson Teaches Writing. It’s was a big decision for me.

I am firmly in the storyteller camp rather than the writer camp. Writing is a hobby for me. I have fun writing; it’s enjoyable. I simply start at the beginning and tell my story from day one to the end of the book.

I haven’t yet read books about writing, and to be honest, I don’t want to read books on craft. My eyes glaze over when I see articles on plot points, story arcs, and pacing. If I have to research writing, it will become work, and my hobby will cease to exist.

However … when I read about James Patterson giving twenty-two video lessons on writing, I thought that might be something from which I could learn. I wouldn’t have to read books; James could talk to me.

I thought I’d share a few of my notes and thoughts with you from the class.

The first forty seconds of chapter three were the most helpful to that point. Here is one item from James: “Write every chapter as if it were the first chapter in the book.”

I think that’s great advice. I flinch when I read that every word, every action, every thought should advance the story forward. I can’t do that. Sometimes my characters just want to sit down, take a breather, and have a piece of pie. I like that James says every chapter should propel your story forward. That makes much more sense to me.

Lesson five was Research. I like doing research – for my stories. I usually stop in the middle of what I’m writing to do my research right then. This goes against the usual advice to save research for when the book is finished, but I like to edit as I go, and research is easier for me when a topic is uppermost in my mind.

Along the same lines, James says in lessons six/seven (Outlines) that when you are writing, don’t think about the sentences (structure); think about the story. Write the story – get it down on paper. You can rewrite later.

I tried that once, and it resulted in a horrible mess of a book. It took months to clean it up, and the joy of writing evaporated. I’m not disagreeing with James; it’s simply a method that doesn’t work well for me.

I’m a daily editor. Before writing, I always read what I wrote the day before and make any changes or corrections I see at that time. Some days, I’ll read the entire chapter before – or even the entire book to that point, making corrections and changes as I read. The story is then fresh in my mind as I continue writing, and I feel my work is cleaner than when I left it the day before. When the book is finished, it’s much easier to edit, and there is very little, if any, rewriting.

James creates a detailed outline before writing. He presents outlines as crucial and an extremely important part of the writing process. Ack! I can’t do them. It would take me forever to think the book through to the end and put it in outline form. Once I began writing, my characters (my overactive mind) would then take the story in an entirely different direction from my outline, and I would have lost all that time spent outlining when I could have been writing.

However, I’m not completely rudderless as I write. I use a large sheet of paper from a Crayola floor pad, and I create a calendar. As my story progresses, I add notes to the top and bits of information to the calendar as to what will happen on each day. The days fill up as the story progresses. A notebook accompanies my writing, and I jot down additional thoughts and ideas.

Here is the page for my current work in progress, Murder Wins the Game. The book is fifty percent complete, and you can see I only have events through one week. The book won’t end until sometime the following week. I have no idea what will happen until I get closer to those days.

book_four_map1Some of you may tell me there are programs for this – like Scrivener, but I like having this scribbled paper open beside me as I write, and I can drag it with me wherever I go when I write by hand – as evidenced by the crinkles and numerous folds.

Lesson eight was about writer’s block. I don’t struggle with writer’s block. My biggest downfall is simply sitting down to write and sticking with it. I’m easily distracted. James stresses the importance of being focused. Write anywhere no matter what the distraction(s) and focus on your story. Practice this ability to concentrate if you must.

The next lesson covered creating characters. I had to chuckle when he said not to hurt the pets in your stories. “People get ridiculously attached to the pets.”

First lines were discussed in lesson ten. For the most part, I’m happy with my first lines. Here are the first lines from my last book and my current work in progress:

If that was Mama banging on my front door, I was going to kill her and take my inheritance early. –Murder Welcomes You to Buxley

In exactly one minute, I was going to become a millionaire and quit my job as a private investigator. -Murder Wins the Game

I was so tickled when a reviewer left this comment about Murder Under Construction: “It is well written, has a number of twists and turns and the last line was an absolute cracker.” I think the last line of MUC leaves the reader with a smile on their face, and although this reviewer wasn’t a fan of the cozy genre, the last line made an impact on him. It was a good feeling to know I got it right.

First lines draw a reader in. Last lines leave an impression.

Lesson Eleven was Writing Dialogue. I like writing dialogue, and although James doesn’t say it, the most important advice I ever received about dialogue was that people use contractions when they talk, and they don’t always talk in complete sentences. It seems so simple, yet when we are writing, it’s amazing how many times contractions are overlooked and dialogue becomes stilted. The same thing happens when an unnatural complete sentence is foisted upon a character.

I’m to the halfway point of the lessons now, and I wrote a resounding HA! in my notes when I copied this final thought from James as he concluded his lesson on dialogue:

“Everything you write should be moving the story forward and moving the sense of that character forward. … If it isn’t, cross it out.”

Sigh. I’m stubborn. My characters are still going to eat pie.

cherry_pieSee you after the next eleven lessons!

www.masterclass.com

There’s no such thing as a free lunch …

But there is a free book!

I was thrilled to receive a notice from Amazon over the weekend that they have agreed to set Murder Under Construction to permanently free. They made the price change today.

Knowing I was ready to set this first-in-series book to free, I pondered the simple cover I had originally devised. With two more books in the series now, the first cover was too plain, and the title wasn’t in the same style as the others. I asked my cover artist to make some changes. With my bare bones idea, and her creative enhancements, I’m thrilled with the new cover.

Murder_Under_Construction_blog_4-2015I’ve mentioned before that my cover artist is my niece. She’s a graduate of Columbus College of Art & Design. It’s wonderful having an art major in the family, and I love working with her.

I’m busy with an editing project, and I continue to move forward with writing my new book. I may only write a few paragraphs each day, but I am writing!

If you haven’t yet grabbed a copy of Murder Under Construction, a humorous mystery, you can find it free at all major online eBook retailers. Links are conveniently grouped at my website: Breezy Books

I now have two books that are permanently free. Tell your friends!

photo_substitute_4-2015Update 03/24/2015 – 8:30 p.m.Murder Under Construction has broken into the top 100 free books in the Kindle Store at #97. It’s also #5 in Cozy Mysteries and #6 in Women Sleuths. I’m excited!!

Info Dump

springflowersRich usually reads my blog posts before I submit them. He will occasionally talk me out of one – like the last one I wanted to post. He said it seemed more a mishmash of information rather than a cohesive post. He was right, and I nixed it.

However, that gave me the idea to do a post consisting of random thoughts, so here we go …

The first item is a tough one: My brother passed away unexpectedly last week. He was a kind man who loved to laugh and loved to make people laugh. I considered doing a post about him. There are many funny stories to tell, but you didn’t know him, and you sort of had to be there for the funny, so I just want to put it out into the universe that he was a good man, and he will be missed. He was only sixty-one.

Age: In April, I am going to be sixty. I haven’t been shy about saying our son is now twenty-eight, and I am a grandmother, but I never mentioned that I didn’t have him until I was thirty-one. I think using Susan Hunter for my avatar may have given the wrong impression about the person behind the image. It wasn’t intentional. I simply didn’t have a current photo when I first began blogging, and I didn’t want to have one taken. I still don’t. Besides, I like the overall branding that came about for my books by using “everything Susan” and everything pink.

A public service announcement: When you are self-employed, be sure to watch your taxes. (Sad story deleted here.) The bottom line – just make sure you hold enough money back – and stop blaming your accountant for missing the big picture even though you told him last fall what your totals for the year would be.

Weather: Can we be done with winter now? I nearly fell on ice again yesterday. I’m ready for spring flowers, and I’m ready to start writing out on our deck again.

Books: I can’t stop reading. I’m sort of out of control. I finally read Creativity For Sale by Jason Surfrapp. This is the book in which I sponsored page 105. Remember? “Two sassy women from Ohio. One finds criminals. One finds dead bodies. They should meet. Books by Maddie Cochere – www.breezybooks.com

I’m still satisfied with the wording I chose, and I’m especially pleased that I was able to write the books and have the two women meet, thereby giving the ad substance. If you’re an entrepreneur, or looking to launch a business or website, or simply want to be motivated to work harder within your business, this is a great book to read. Jason has an engaging writing style, and I appreciated his willingness to share what worked and what didn’t as he embarked on his own creative endeavors.

Creativity_For-Sale1_smYes, that is a pathetic excuse for a snowman, but that is what Ohio is right now. Sloppy and messy, and we need more sunshine. Most people take a picture of the book on the beach or some other lovely locale. I’ve got nothing but the poor snowman with dog biscuit eyes.

Miscellaneous: I haven’t won the lottery yet, I think I’ve turned the corner on a bout of bronchitis, and I’m making spaghetti for supper tonight. I’m going to start spring cleaning soon. The spring cleaning might be a post of its own. I have a feeling it could turn into an adventure.

End Info Dump

Feel free to dump some info of your own into the comments!