"The notion that such persons are gay of heart and carefree is curiously untrue. They lead, as a matter of fact, an existence of jumpiness and apprehension. They sit on the edge of the chair of Literature. In the house of Life they have the feeling that they have never taken off their overcoats."
- James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The hard way every time

Well, now I'm in a pickle.

In working on the new mystery, I decided that one love interest might be boring for the reader in that "of course they'll get together" kind of way. I mean, Willie's been alone for a long time and doesn't realize she might be ready for a relationship, and Tyler has been severely hurt and doesn't want to risk getting hurt again.

They're made for each other.

But creating another man who might also awaken Willie's heart was a problem because I thought I wanted Willie and Tyler to be together in the end. At first, I considered the man who is perfect for her in every way except that he doesn't stir anything in her.

That wouldn't do. The reader would see through that and wonder why I bothered.

Then I thought of a man who would pursue her, as opposed to Tyler, who won't make his feelings known. It sounded like a good plan. Most readers might still want Tyler, but a gregarious new guy who knows what he wants and goes out to get it would keep them guessing.

Thomas Macy is one of the detectives who will be investigating the murder at the horse show. I based him on this guy:

I picked him because he's a straightforward cop, imposing in that "Vincent D'Onofrio, Law and Order: Criminal Intent" kind of way without any of the side trips to Crazy Town. I mean, Bobby Gorin was a fascinating character to me, but at the end of the day, came with too much mental illness baggage to be a love interest. Plus, Matthew Macfadyen was a rather breathtaking Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice.

What could go wrong?

When I actually wrote Thomas' journal (while watching Ripper Street), something surprising happened. Here's what he told me.

Can’t really say how I got where I am, but there you have it. I was born in Norwich, England and raised by me mum and dad with four sisters. Dad worked for the oil company. Mum stayed home. I never gave too much thought to what would become of me. I’d go to school, then work the oil company like Dad.

Sissies all went about getting married and having babies. I was the youngest myself. When I got out school, I was supposed to start work at end of month. Then my girl, Lizzie, said she was going to university and couldn’t be seen with an oil worker. What’s a fella to do?

I enrolled with her, at University of Anglia in town. Didn’t much think of what I’d get out of it, except to be near Lizzie. Took writing classes. Liked them. My best story was about the girl who talks her boyfriend into going to college with her, then leaves him for another chap.

Call it memoir.

Lotsa blokes lose their girls. It’s not a big deal. Funny how it turned out that way to me. Guess I was so used to an ordinary life, no highs or lows, I just thought we’d roll on out to our graves together. Me and Lizzie.

After that, I quit. University, working, living. I breathed when I had to.

It was Mum who saved me. Came home one day with a plane ticket to America. Bless her soul, she doesn’t know very much about the country, so she got me a ticket to Los Angeles. “It means City of Angels,” she said. “You need an angel to guide you out of this.”

I tramped around L.A., serving as a waiter and a clerk and anything else that would pay for a one-room flat and an old car, one that I banged up frequently because I couldn’t get used to driving on the wrong side of the road. Still, I wasn’t mixing with folks, even the ones I worked with. I learned to like baseball. Cold beer and nachos with the blokes. Girls would flirt, but I felt so empty, it was like they were batting their eyes at a seashell. Nothin on the inside but an echo.

Got a job at a little cafĂ© in Burbank, local family place but really friendly. One night, I was closing up. It was me and the cook Gussie left. The owner had already left with the night’s deposits, and Gussie had to clean the grill again after a mob came in five minutes before we closed and ordered full breakfasts. I told Gussie I’d stay to see her to her car.

He came in through the back door, the one she’d propped open to take out the trash. Young kid with a gun bigger than his head, it seemed. His eyes were wild. He just kept asking for the money. I opened the till, showed him it was empty. He wanted the safe. We didn’t have a safe. The owner always took all the money at night and brought the till money in the morn.

Gussie was a big strong woman who had no patience, especially at two in the morning after a full shift. She opened her bag and threw a few dollars and change his way. “This is all you gonna get, Fool.”

She shouldn’t have done that. Her quickness, her hand throwing, it all startled him. His finger jerked on the trigger, the gun exploded, and Gussie fell. After being so afraid of being shot, I suddenly forgot he was in the room. I reached the phone on the counter and dialed for the police. Gussie was hit in the right side. I got a towel and pushed on the blood, tried to tell her she’d be okay.

That’s what you say, whether you believe it or not.

When I looked up, the young man was gone. I could hear the sirens, so I just kept pressing on Gussie’s side.

“Talk to me, baby,” Gussie said. “I just love to hear you talk. It’s so pretty, like one of them romances in the old movies.”

I talked until the medics arrived, then I held her hand on the way to the ambulance. The last thing I did for her that night was to call her husband and let him know where they’d taken her. The medics seemed to think she would pull through, and thanked me for keeping pressure on her wound.

“She could have bled out without you,” they told me.

The police questioned me for a while. I thought I’d grow tired of their questions, but they intrigued me. The more they asked, the more I thought about the young man and the gun and the circumstance, and was able to give them descriptions. They thanked me for my help.

I woke up the next day and did the most amazing thing I’ve ever done. I applied to be a police officer. The Burbank police department accepted my application, and after requisite training, I became a copper. My mind and body were completely absorbed by the job, so much so that promotions were easy, until I was made detective. I’m good at my job, and consider it my goal to help the victims.

My heart, however, remains as ever, dead and buried away.
Great. I not only have an Englishman on my hands, who will put me through the ringer as far as his voice and word choices, but he's a broken-hearted bloke at that. If he manages to open himself up to Willie, it'll break him all over again if she chooses Tyler.
Now what do I do?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Hippity-hopping on Ara's blog tour

My fellow SCWC buddy, Ara Grigorian (aka Ara THE Writer) got pegged for a "Next Big Thing" blog hop and of course, tagged me as one of his Hoppettes. I say "of course" because I torture Ara from time to time by challenging him on either Facebook or my blog to bare his writing soul for readers everywhere.

This is my karma and I accept it.

As far as my own next BIG thing, I'm in an interesting state of being, writing-wise. My next book is complete and completely different than anything else I've ever done. It's my horse's memoir, told in his voice. The title is FROM THE HORSE'S MOUTH: ONE LUCKY MEMOIR. This week, I had my favorite equine photographer, Lynne Glazer, come out and shoot pictures for the cover. Once I decide on the photos, I will turn them over to my cover designer, Joe Felipe. I'm also awaiting comments from two of my three beta readers.

Then there's the marketing and publicity campaign to schedule so I know when to release the book. Ah, the life of a self-publishing author!

All of this doesn't mean I'm not writing anything new. I am. It's a new mystery, with all new characters. And so starts my Next Big Thing blog blather (a big Thanks to Ara for providing the cut-and-paste action)...

* * * * *

What is a blog hop? Basically, it’s a way for readers to discover authors new to them. I hope you'll find new-to-you authors whose works you enjoy. On this stop on the blog hop, you'll find a bit of information on me and one of my books and links to five other authors you can explore!

My gratitude to fellow author Ara Grigorian for inviting me to participate in this event. You can click the following links to learn more about Ara and his work.


In this blog hop, I and my fellow authors, in their respective blogs, have answered ten questions about our book or work-in--progress (giving you a sneak peek). We've also included some behind-the-scenes information about how and why we write what we write--the characters, inspirations, plotting and other choices we make. I hope you enjoy it.

Please feel free to comment and share your thoughts and questions. Here is my Next Big Thing!

1: What is the working title of your book?


2: Where did the idea come from for the book?

At horse shows, when we clean our horses' stalls, we dump the used bedding at the end of the barn aisle, where it's scooped up daily by a tractor and hauled away. I was walking to my barn at the last show, looked over at the pile of dirty shavings and thought, what if there was a pair of boots in there, with a body in them?

3: What genre does your book come under?


4: Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

My main character is an amateur rider. I'm picturing her as a kind of normal looking gal who is spunky and appealing. Rikki Lake and Janeane Garofalo come to mind. For the male lead, I've got either Viggo Mortenson or Hugh Jackman in my head, depending upon the day. I've actually got a Pinterest board on this story, if you're interested.

5: What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

All Willie Adams wanted was to buy a horse. How was she to know love and murder came with the deal?

6: Is your book self-published, published by an independent publisher, or represented by an agency?

Right now, all my books are published under my own umbrella, Dancing Corgi Press. But I never say never to traditional publishing and try to do the right thing for each of my books.

7: How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

True confession: It's not written at this time. I'm still gathering my cast and doing my outlining.

8: What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Probably Michele Scott's cozier mysteries, especially the Michaela Bancroft Suspense Series.

9: Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Because I have horses and I show competitively, people always want to know why I don't write about them. So I'm writing a horse mystery, just to shut them up.

10: What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

It will be set in Burbank at the LA Equestrian center, and will feature an aging actor who rides. There is a (very famous) actor who rides, along with his wife, and we see him often at the shows. Let's just say he makes us laugh.

NOT the famous aging actor, this is trainer Tom Foran on my favorite reining horse, Cattitude.

This is where I'm supposed to tag other writers and have them blog about their next big things. But I'm not. The trail goes cold here, mostly because I have now hopped around three times and just can't ask one more of my author friends to do this.

P.S. If any of my writer friends reads this and WANTS to hop onto my blogging coattails, feel free and I'll promote the heck out of it!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

One from Column A, one from Column B

Whenever I go out to a new restaurant with my son, Marcus, there is a point in the adventure where I say, "Make up your mind." This is usually said with a bit of force and a touch of impatience, since I've been watching him trying to decide what to eat for several several SEVERAL minutes.

Karma's a bitch, friends.

I am now staring at a goodly number of most excellent photos of my horse, Snoopy. I need one of these photos for the cover of his book. I also need one for our Bio page. I had used Lynne Glazer for my bio picture with Frostie in 2006. She has such an eye for every detail of her photos, from the original setup and composition, to light and color and post-processing. I knew I wanted her for this job. Now my problem is, she's so good, how do I choose?

So I have my book's title and jacket blurb in front of me as I carefully study each pose and ask, is this the one? I will probably choose two or three, just to give my cover designer a little wiggle room for his spectacular designs. But still...

I feel like my son, having to choose between the scampi and the crab. (Yes, his choices are always between the most expensive things on the menu.)

Here is the link to Lynne's photo shoot. http://www.photo.lynnesite.com/event/Snoopy-2013/MWMncPVKV7TxE
Here is the jacket blurb.



By Snoopy

As told to Gayle Carline


When I was a young horse, I thought if I wasn’t always good, I could at least be useful. Then I broke my leg.

Snoopy is an American Quarter horse. When he was three years old, he won the 2007 Pacific Coast Quarter Horse Association Trail Futurity. Both his trainer and his owner had his career mapped out. He excelled as a show horse. He would be campaigned around the circuit and qualify to be invited to the AQHA World Show.

Then in the spring of 2008, Snoopy broke his left hind sesamoid, a small bone in the leg that can mean anything from surgery to euthanasia. Two years later, he was finally being ridden. But would he be shown again?

In the tradition of Black Beauty, this is his story, told from his view in his voice. The story of a young horse who was a champion, then was injured. He tells the tale of his fight to return to the show arena, to prove he’s the same horse he always was, only different.
* * * * *
Now then, all I have to do is select wisely. No pressure.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Creating characters is fun

For my new mystery, I decided to add in a little romance. Having never juggled two boyfriends before, I started out with just one cowboy, although now I'm thinking he'll have a little competition. His name is Tyler Ransome. I'm not going to tell you his whole story because as I wrote his journal, I found a surprising subplot.

Here's part of what Tyler had to say:

I don’t even know how my life turned out so wrong when I thought I was doing everything right. I followed my dad’s example. He was a good man who always played by the rules. Honorable. Hard working. He built our ranch in Wyoming from nothing to a respectable cattle and cowhorse operation. Mom was a rodeo queen he met at the Calgary Stampede. She was beautiful, smart, and as much in love with Dad as he was with her.

People used to stare at them when they first married. They were an odd-looking couple. John (my dad) was a small wiry guy who packed plenty of muscle in that short frame. His folks were mostly from England. My mom’s people were from Norway. Ingrid was tall and blonde and towered over Dad by a bunch of inches.

They raised two sons and three daughters together, worked the ranch all day long in all weather, and still held hands when they went to church on Sundays.

My brother Jacob was the oldest. It naturally fell to him to take over Dad’s business. The rest of us kids didn’t mind. Jake loved the ranch and loved working it. My sister Katy went off to college and became a vet, which left her no time to take care of a ranch. Sarah married a cowboy up in Canada and is building his business with him and their three kids. Maggie’s the baby—she’s still drifting around trying to figure out what she wants to do when she grows up. We all hope she finds out someday. In the meantime, Jake and his wife, Elle, pay her to help out with their kids and the house while Elle helps out in the field. Saves them from hiring one more ranch hand.

Even as a kid, I had a knack for horses. Just got along with them, could figure out how to make them do what I wanted instead of what they wanted. Any time Dad got an ornery colt or a stubborn filly in, he’d just hand the lead rope over to me and say, “They’re all yours, Ty. Work your magic.”

 Some folks say I got the best of my parents. I’m tall, like my mom, and have her blue eyes and her inability to sit down and relax. I got my dad’s strong jaw and stubbornness. Ever since grade school, the girls would giggle and call me Tyler Handsome. I guess I could have used that to my advantage and gotten all big-headed about it, but lucky for me, I had a family around me to put me down a peg or twelve when I needed it. Jake’s two years older than me and about six inches shorter, but he can still kick my ass. And my sisters were always quick to point out when my hair was stuck up all lop-sided, or if I had something in my teeth or a pimple on my nose.

Trust me, I never thought I was God’s gift. No one gave me that privilege.

I was twenty-two when I graduated from the University of Wyoming with a degree in business. I had already decided I was going to be a horse trainer. I tried my hand in Wyoming, but it’s a hard land with a lot of miles between neighbors. Soon, I went down to Texas and found work with a couple of trainers, assisting them and learning how to deal with clients and the business end as well as the horses. Horses I could manage. People are tougher.

I finally moved to a stable in Arizona and set up my own shingle. Thought about making up some fancy name, but decided to keep it simple. “Tyler Ransome Training.” I only had a couple of clients with pretty rank horses. It was okay. I was building a business.

It took me five years, but I finally had ten steady clients and a QH stud, Sonny, of my own. When I started, I took anyone who wanted to train their horse to do anything. Now I had clients who competed in reining. Reining is a good event, mostly because the shows pay money to the winners. It’s so much better than just a blue ribbon.

I was living as cheaply as I could and saving as much money as possible, which is hard to do when you’re also trying to keep your horse shod and vaccinated and competing. The stable’s board fees kept going up, too, threatening my clients. Horses are a luxury, and when times get tough, the first thing to go is the training, then the horse. I knew I needed my own place if I was to ever control costs.

I talked it over with my family and they agreed to lend me the money for down payment on a ranch. I found a nice twenty-acre place on the outskirts of Scottsdale, not far from the stable. It needed a lot of work, which I was willing to do.

A few years later, I was doing all right. I leased part of my place to a Western trainer, had ten nice clients, and took them all to the best shows. That’s when I met Melissa. She was beautiful and outgoing. She rode horses and had competed in AQHYA events. I confess I saw a little of my mom in her, with those blue eyes and blonde hair. I thought I had found what my dad had.

I was wrong. Melissa may have had some of my mom’s beauty, but she wasn't much on the inside. She “let” me handle most everything on the ranch, unless it was her own horse, which she took care of. The household work was left mostly to the housecleaner I had before I married. Melissa was spoiled, but I loved her and was unable to see her as anything but lively and outgoing. Her family had money and knew a lot of people. She got me going out to parties and introduced me to those wealthy folks. Soon, I had another level of clientele—the kind who could spend hundreds of thousands on a good horse.

I was mostly happy, until we had our two boys, Zachary and Seth. I loved being a dad and had all these notions about raising my sons the way I was raised. I had such happy memories of working the ranch all day with my dad, then coming in to the smell of something good on the stove that my mom cooked for dinner.

Melissa had other ideas. She nagged at me to get a nanny for the boys so she could continue to go shopping and lolling around with her girlfriends. It was the first time I ever said no, and I was surprised and angry when she went to her daddy, got the money, and hired the nanny anyway.

Seemed like that was the beginning of the end for us. The unhappier I got, the more time she spent away from the house. She started to come home late, drunk. I was worried that she’d cause an accident, or get killed in one. When I tried to talk to her about it, she’d say I was old-fashioned and needed to lighten up. Even two DUIs didn’t stop her.

I’ll never forget our last evening together. We went to a party at her friend’s house. It was a birthday party for their daughter, who was turning six and a friend of Zach’s. I didn’t exactly want to go, but I knew the couple and knew there would be adult beverages. I wanted to be there, to be the designated driver.

Let's just say that night changed my life.

There was a year-long nightmare of court appearances, where I fought my wife for control of my ranch, custody of my remaining son, everything. After a year and a half, I had had enough. I was on the verge every day, on the verge of either killing myself or killing her. Neither of those options were healthy. I sat down at my desk and signed all the papers. The divorce papers, the custody papers, the settlement agreements, everything that gave her everything I owned. All she allowed me to keep was my truck and trailer, and my stud horse.
She only let me keep my stud because she thought he had laminitis. Seems like the vet gave her some false information, and I wasn't in the mood to correct her. Okay, so it wasn't my finest moment, but I needed that horse.

After that, I wrote a letter to my clients, giving them notice. Bless their hearts, they had believed in me and stuck with me through the whole ordeal. Melissa thought I would continue to train on the ranch—my ranch that she owned. Somehow she would continue to punish me for her sins.

Well, I’m no Jesus.

I wrote a letter to Zach and sent it to my brother to give to my son. I hoped he would be able to see his nephew.

Then I loaded Sonny in the trailer and drove.

Texas might have made more sense, but I went west instead and ended up in southern California. I guess I wanted to get lost in a crowd of people. I also guess I thought people in California tend to be a little more understanding about a fella who lost it all.

It’s been three years now, and I’m building a new business, renting space at an equestrian center. I’ve got five clients. Only one of them does reining. The rest do pleasure events—horsemanship and trail and showmanship. And four of them have Quarter horses. The fifth has a Paint. I’m going to smaller shows and doing different things, but I’m surviving.

I miss Zach until it aches sometimes. And I wish that ex-wife of mine would die. Does that sound harsh?
Stay tuned to meet more of the cast.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Gone fishin'

Not really, but I'm not at my own blog today. I'm over at Writers Who Kill, a very perky group of writers I love to read about. Come on over and sit a spell. I'll put the coffee on.


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Back to business

As anxious as I am to move on to the next book, The Hot Mess still deserves my attention. I like this book a lot, which I know sounds silly from an author. We're supposed to love all our books, the way we love all our children. (Okay, since I only have one child, that's pretty easy for me.) But we love our children differently.

I loved Freezer Burn because it was my first mystery novel and I was able to tell the story with a fun cast of characters and a plot that wasn't too full of holes. The whole thing was joyful. I especially loved the references to 40s film stars.

Hit or Missus was a difficult child, but I love it because it's more complex than Freezer Burn. I love the chick-lit elements of fashion and the elbow-rubbing Peri gets to do with the richer side of the Placentia tracks. Oddly, I hadn't planned to bring Benny Needles into this story, but my readers begged for him, so I relented. I'm glad I did. I enjoy him in this, as the little needy man who seems inept, until he displays some unknown talent that makes him indispensable.

The Hot Mess began as just the third story. It had possibilities. I planned to burn Benny's house down, put a body inside for good measure, and see how he melted down. What I ended up with was a story about people and families and secrets and tragedies and I love it. I love Peri and Benny's relationship in this. I love learning so much about their respective families. I love it that Skip and Peri have an active and exciting love life.

As with all my other books, I'm doing a giveaway via Goodreads. You've got until January 20th to enter. I chose that date because, well, it seemed like a good idea at the time. The bad news is that I'm only opening this contest to US residents. I'm sorry, I know I'm being selfish, but the last time I opened the contest to US, Canada, Australia, and the UK. Most of the winners were from Canada and Australia. This not only cost me extra $$ in terms of postage, but Canada's mail system was on strike at the time, so the US was not mailing anything to Canada until it was resolved. It took me weeks to get the darned books sent.

Here's the link to enter: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/16249116-the-hot-mess.

I hope you win.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Listening to the voices in my head

When I began writing Freezer Burn, I knew my main character. My buddy Robin and I had joked around about "Peri Menopause, Private Eye" for such a long time, it was easy to give her a better name and make her a real woman.

For this new mystery, I had the idea for a murder, but not characters, so I had to invent a new population. Would my main character be male or female? Amateur sleuth or seasoned professional? After much thinking, I decided on a female sleuth. I made her younger than Peri and mostly different. Peri is a tall, icy blonde. Willie (short for Wilhelmina) Adams is a short, curvy brunette. She is a little like me in that she has to watch her weight more than she'd like, and she'd like to pay more attention to her looks than she does. She is unlike me in that she is a widow.

I considered giving her children, but in the end thought she might be more interesting to be a woman who thought her life was going down the married-with-children route until her husband died of pancreatic cancer. Now she's in her 30s and wondering if that ship has sailed, and how she feels about it.

How do I know how her husband died? Because once I started to write her life story, in her voice, she told me. If you write, you know this feeling. If you don't, all I can say is that you give your characters a few physical, emotional, and behavioral boundaries, and they do the rest.

Here is Willie's story (please forgive her for the occasional grammar lapse - she thinks she's just writing for me):

I thought I'd have the normal life. Married with children. A job, maybe a career. They say we plan and God laughs.

I grew up in a suburb of Chicago. We were very middle class average people. Dad was Irish, Mom was German. I could have been a tall, fetching redhead. Instead I got the wrong side of both tracks. Dad's shortness, mom's curves, dad's freckles, mom's dark hair. We did normal family stuff. Went to church on Sundays after bbq'ing with friends on Saturday nights.

Maybe it started to go awry when I went to college. I was the baby although not by much. I have a sister one year older and a brother 3 years older. We didn't give Mom much time to do anything but raise us.

When I moved into the dorms at U of Illinois and began taking classes for a teaching career, I started to see how my mom sacrificed for us and how I didn't want to spend my life taking care of kids.

I changed my major after a trip to the counseling office, to engineering. Mom thought I was pissing away money on a degree I'd toss once I got married. Dad didn't say anything, but kept paying the tuition. I got my BS in CS and was recruited to work at a big aerospace company on the west coast. I had just moved into my new apartment when Trina, my sis, called.

Dad had a heart attack and died. Trina and my brother Stefan still lived in Chicago, but somehow Mom thought I should be the one to move home with her. I wasn’t married, didn’t have a family, etc. I gave up the new job and apartment and moved back. It’s what dutiful children do, right?

The first year was rough. We were both grieving our loss, and acting out as people do, by being alternately angry and clingy with each other. It slowly started to get better. We each found our own niche in the household and worked together instead of battling over territories. One year after Dad was gone, the light switched back on in Mom’s spirit.

Actually, it was less of a light and more of a disco ball. It seems Mom woke up one morning and realized all she had sacrificed as a wife and mother, and set out to reclaim her freedom. Suddenly she was never home. She found a group of single women her age and they were always out to have as much frivolous fun as possible. There was a lot of shopping, a lot of drinking and dancing, and a lot of money running out of the house.

I had gotten a job at a bookstore back home, the only thing I could find that at least kept my mind active. There were no engineering jobs in the Chicago vicinity for me. But I had money coming in. Dad had left Mom comfortable, had she continued with the lifestyle they once shared. I could see this new way of living was going to drain every bit of money he had left her. She was in her fifties and in fine health. She’d also never worked outside the home.

I tried not to butt in, but finally I had to speak up. I had seen her latest bank statement and it was a train wreck. I sat her down and showed her the statement and pointed out the increase in her expenses. I even extrapolated a few numbers, to show her how soon her money would run out if she kept spending this way. The house was paid for, but she still had taxes and insurance and utilities. She could sell the house and get some money from that, but it would not solve the problem of her out of control spending.

She said the most amazing thing to me: “We’ll pay the household expenses out of your pay. You may have to get another job to support us both.”

I met Trina and Stefan for lunch that day, and explained the entire situation to them. Then I packed my bags and bought a one-way fare to southern California. There was only so much duty a dutiful daughter would perform. Enabling my mom’s second childhood was not on the menu.

Mom stopped speaking to me. I heard via my sibs that she refused to cut back or slow down, despite their protests. Stefan even explored legal action, but when a person is sane there’s not much you can do. You can’t fix stupid.

I quickly found a job at a video game company. It’d be fun to say I write all these great games, but they wanted my services in the administrative end, so I work on their employee database, payroll software, game catalogs, processes, etc.

That’s where I met Tom Adams. He was exactly the kind of guy I was attracted to — not too tall, the kind of strikingly awkward looks that made him adorable, and a sense of humor. We hit it off like peas in a pod. Although we both knew from the start that we were completely compatible, we took our time with courtship. Neither of us was in a hurry to run off and marry. I enjoyed being in the relationship, and so did he. After a year, we moved in together.

Two years later, we married. It wasn’t a huge affair, but my sibs came out to celebrate with us. Mom returned the invitation. “Recipient Unknown.”

Life was so much fun. We went to concerts and plays, saw the latest movies, had friends over for dinner, did the big fat social scene. Tom wanted kids, and so did I, but we weren’t in a hurry. We had plenty of time.

Then one day Tom woke with a stomach pain that kept hurting the next day and the next. After a week, he went to the doctor. There were tests and tests and more tests, and painkillers because the pain was increasing. I drove him everywhere. He used up a lot of his sick days. It took two weeks to diagnose him. Pancreatic cancer.

Two months later he was dead.

Trina and Stefan were out in sunny SoCal again, except it wasn’t so sunny anymore. They helped me with everything, along with my friends. Quite frankly, it was all a blur. I thought I knew what grief felt like, after Dad died. I had no idea what it was like to lose someone who was beyond family, more than close, intimate in ways that you don’t discuss in polite society. When my eyes weren’t weeping, my soul was.

Mom was still a no-show, which was doubly painful. I thought that, being a sudden widow herself, she might have reached out to me. Stefan reported that she had finally opened her bank statement one day and realized she had a thousand dollars left. Dad had left her $250,000 and she had one thousand left. She called my brother in a panic. Taxes were due, what was she to do?

He got out the newspaper and turned to the Help Wanted section. Then he got out his checkbook. “This is the only money I’m going to give you. Your children tried to warn you and you wouldn’t listen. We are not going to pay for your mistakes. You will have to get a job now and re-learn how to live on a budget.”

She’s not speaking to him now, either. Oh, she cashed the check, but she’s not speaking.

Eventually, he and Trina had to go back to Chicago, and I had to re-learn how to live as a single gal. My friends helped me a little, for awhile. I tried not to burden them with my recovery, and they tried to include me in everything they were doing. The problem was that they were couples and I was not. After a few months, I started to feel the awkwardness instead of the comfort. It was not their fault. They were always inviting, warm, friendly. Maybe they just made me miss Tom too much.

I took the advice of every columnist on the planet. I got a dog for company, a schnauzer I named Hansel. He kept me from spending my days in bed. I signed up for classes, did volunteer work, tried new things to keep busy. Most of it didn’t fit, until I tried horse riding lessons.

I had wanted to ride as a child, but Mom always said no. “Too expensive. We can’t afford things like that.” Maybe that was in the back of my mind when I called the local stables looking for lessons. Ha ha, Mom.

I’ve tried skiing, scuba diving, and all kinds of sports. None of them seemed a good fit for me. Being short and curvy does not translate to athletic grace. But from the first time I gave the lesson horse a deep massage with the curry and saw him stretch his neck out in pleasure, to the satisfaction of controlling his movements through my own riding, I knew this was it. There was no other activity I had experienced where I loved the prep work as much as the action.

Soon I was riding my trainer’s horse and competing in horse shows in the area. It’s becoming a consuming passion with me. Now I’m looking to buy a horse It’s been two years since Tom’s death, and I finally feel like the fog is lifting.
So, that's Willie. What do you think of her?

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

What's that? A NEW mystery?

Yes, I'm leaving Peri and her pals momentarily to wander off and write a new mystery with new characters. Why? For two reasons.

One: I'm tired of being asked why I don't include horses in my books, since I do wrap so much of my real life around them. I have the flimsiest of excuses - it's hard work. Most people do not possess a lot of knowledge about working with horses, so I have to write in a way that lets the non-horsey reader in on the world without boring the horsey reader. It's not an easy task.

Two: I had an idea for a mystery when I was at the last horse show. Horses' stalls are usually bedded with wood shavings and we must clean them at least once a day. At shows, we put the used shavings at the end of the barn aisle and a tractor comes and scoops them up. One morning, as I walked toward our barn, I thought, what if there was a pair of cowboy boots under the shavings... with a body in them?

I've got the basic plot written down, and journals written for my two main characters. Journaling not only gave me their voices, their description of their lives created my subplots. I love it when my characters make my life easier.

So meet my female sleuth, Wilhelmina (Willie) Adams. She is somewhere in her mid-30s, a short, curvy brunette, and a widow. Her husband has been gone for two years and after taking a few horse riding lessons, she discovered that horses are good for the soul. She is now competing on her trainer's horse, but they go to a show to try to find a horse for her to buy.

Enter Tyler Ransome, a 40-something horse trainer who is divorced and bitter. He is friendly enough to keep clients and sell horses, but nothing more. To Willie's eye, he is too tall, too handsome, and too gruff to be bothered with.

Of course, a game of romance will be played along with the whodunit.

Check out my Pinterest board for some of my inspiration. In the meantime, I'll share a little of my journaling over the next few posts. Stay tuned.

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