Maggie rides again

I’m celebrating the release of my new humor book, I Never Drove a Bulldozer. But ever moving on to the next project, I thought I’d share an excerpt from my work in progress, the next in the series of Maggie Gorski mysteries. There’s no keeping a good woman down, or Maggie either.

“Touché,” Maggie cried as she raised her foil into a jaunty salute, then dropped into her stance.

“I believe you mean En Garde.” Cher said.

“I knew that.” Maggie hopped forward as she swung her sword wildly from side to side. Continue reading

Walk the walk

Disclaimer: Despite the title, at no time during this blog will you find anything touchy-feely, enlightening, or socially redeeming. If you want self-awareness and personal growth, you should try www.DrPhil.com.

A well known author claimed that all writers should make a New Year’s resolution to “own” their profession. Even if your day job involves cow cadavers and goat guts, you need to define yourself first and foremost as a writer (and seriously consider a new day job).

Police officers have uniforms. Road workers have those ugly orange vests. Lawyers have Rolexes, penis cars, and $500 Italian leather shoes. Writers have half-price underwear. Since I don’t walk around with my Fruit of the Looms outside my pants (except on Tuesdays), how are people supposed to know my profession just by looking at me?

crime sceneI was at a mystery shop in downtown Charleston last week, shamelessly trying to peddle my books when I saw it. It was blindingly yellow and majestic. Even though yellow makes my skin look like I just ate three pounds of undercooked pork, I knew it would be mine.

I walked out of the shop with my new scarf and a spring in my step. I looked like the epitome of a mystery writer, or a serial killer. I knew now that I would have the respect and admiration of all my non-writery peers.  “Look at me owning it!” I thought.

My peers were staring blatantly at my scarf, or my boobs. Either way it was a win. I couldn’t attract any more attention unless my fly was down, and I had toilet paper stuck to my shoe. Do I regret spending $24 for a scrap of yellow fabric that accentuates the bags under my eyes? I figure it still looks better than Fruit of the Loom Tuesdays.

Rising to the challenge

I’ve just completed my training at the Writer’s Police Academy—an odyssey of self-discovery. What I learned was … I’m short. You kind of get used to looking up at people all the time, but I’d say that the majority of the attendees were post-menopausal, osteoporitic, and vertically challenged. Put a group of us next to a strapping young fireman, and it looks like a munchkin convention.

When it was my turn to knee the tackling dummy in the groin, I had to jump up to reach it. Most assailants lack the patience to wait while you get a ladder. Fortunately, put a gun in my hands and I turn into a major badass. I managed not to shoot any innocent bystanders, but that’s only because my aim was off. I was firing at anybody who looked remotely suspicious. Hey, that blue-haired old lady was asking for it. My finely manicured trigger finger was flying. Moral of the story: don’t mess with a dwarf holding a standard-issue police glock.

I have a new appreciation for the police who have to stare down a knife or gun and make split-second decisions. I got to talk to bomb squad guys, canine handlers, divers, and motorcycle cops. Of course, as a writer, my hard-hitting questions were not exactly typical. “Does your unit have cadaver dogs? When recovering a body underwater, does it gross you out to know that you’re swimming in people soup? How do you pee when you’re on a stakeout?”

When you get the facts wrong in a mystery, people respond like rabid beavers on crack. Generally, that’s not a good thing, since you’re likely to get your ass chewed. I know more than I care to about dismembered, charred human remains, dripping with melted fat. The slide show featuring said body parts came right after lunch. Note to self: take the morgue tour on an empty stomach.

I’ll just have to content myself with writing about crime rather than fighting it. They don’t have standard-issue police ladders, and the gendarmes are not likely to issue me a glock anytime soon. Those kids should really learn how to duck and cover.

24 hours and counting

Within the next 24 hours, my first book will be up and available as an ebook on Amazon. The book will especially appeal to those of us who go to the store for a Glade plug-in (Spring Bouquet) and come back with everything but. Only slightly more terrifying than a senior moment is the sure knowledge that your house is now going to smell like unwashed feet.

Box of Rocks is a humorous murder mystery, whose main characters are fifty-somethings, searching for adventure, meaning, and underwear that doesn’t leave a panty line. Aren’t we all? Right now I have an advanced release copy sitting on my desk (so pretty!), and it will be out in paperback within the next couple weeks (sooner than I thought).

Not only will I be able to offer readers an enjoyable story, but I might get to occasionally visit the steak end of the meat counter. There aren’t that many good tripe recipes out there. Unfortunately, authordom is about as good of a get rich quick scheme as creating gift baskets with cactus plants and balloon animals. Try the saguaro/bunny combo.

Want a taste? Please enjoy this brief excerpt from the book.

Extricating the fallen man was a comedy of errors. Apparently the shaft was too narrow for a stretcher. They lowered a man down who rigged a harness around the victim, but as they attempted to raise him, the limp body kept banging into protruding rocks, dumping stones and dirt onto the EMT waiting 20 feet below. With dead weight on the other end, the rope slipped twice from the fingers of the other EMT. “Hey, guys. Could I get a hand over here?”

The space between the fence and lip of the pit was too narrow for more than one man, so they strung the end of the rope over the fence and Jonathan, Mike, and Bobby joined in on the macabre tug of war.

The victim was wearing only thermal underwear. When he finally reached the top, he was flopped over like a rag doll, and his long johns had snagged on several rocks and a protruding tree root, dragging the underwear to pool around his knees. He emerged from the pit with his backside exposed to the sky in an impressive full moon.

 

Box of Rocks

You’re invited to enjoy an excerpt from my current work in progress: a comic murder mystery titled ‘Box of Rocks.’

Bear limped back to his truck, still parked down the street from the building. Could he call it, or what? The rungs on the fire escape had long ago rusted through, and his weight was more than the weakened steel could bear. The drop hadn’t been far, but he had landed awkwardly in a pile of plastic bags, which split open upon impact. He had the wind knocked out of him, and as he was finally able to suck in air, he realized how rancid it was. He had counted at least four rats the size of terriers, and one of those had refused to run away. It was unnerving to see the creature’s black button eyes latched onto him, unflinching in the dark. He had felt something squirming under his hands, and shuddered at the thought of maggots making their way into his pants.

He looked down at his pants. Great! There was a rip that went from his knee up to his thigh, then continued up through his leather jacket. Apparently his clothes had caught on a sharp edge of the broken ladder rung. There wasn’t any blood on his leg, but he gave a shudder at the proximity of the tear to his manhood.

He hobbled around to the front of the building, and was alarmed to see one police car after another pulling up all along the street. Worse yet, a news van was double parked next to his truck. As he backpedaled, ducking around the corner, he nearly bumped into a young couple who were hurrying over to see what was going on. They grimaced, and veered off across the street, giving him a wide berth. He could hardly blame them.

“The perfect crime.” he thought.  At least nobody had seen him enter the building, and they tried to politely avoid him as he left. As long as they didn’t photograph his truck, he wasn’t going to need an alibi for this fiasco.

He smelled like rotting cabbage, his ankle was killing him, and he was pretty sure that there was a piece of gum stuck in his hair. God only knew how long he would have to wait there before the news crew left. A woman walking by paused before him, pulled a dollar out of her purse and pressed it into his hand.

“God bless you, honey.”

In one evening Bear had passed from contract killer to beggar.

Rosanne Dingli

Rosanne Dingli

Rosanne Dingli, award winning Australian author of Death in Malta and three collections of short stories has completed her latest mystery thriller, According to Luke.

When is According to Luke coming out?

I wish I knew – the book is currently in the design department at my publishers, BeWrite Books. I have yet to see a cover, but luckily I have been assigned a designer whose work I have admired in the past. The time from when a manuscript is accepted to when it becomes a book is variable, depending on how busy the publishing house is at the time. I am using the time to plan publicity and promotions. My publishers supply me with promotions materials, and I plan engagements and events, which depend on the time of year.
Define puzzle thriller.

Well – I didn’t come up with the term. It was suggested to me by a member on a discussion group for writers. It is a loose term he uses for the genre that captures books similar to the Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown, The Splintered Icon by Bill Napier, People of the Book, by Geraldine Brooks, The Gospel of Judas by Simon Mawer, The Confessor by Daniel Silva, The Last Testament by Sam Bourne, and many others. They are books that pose a puzzle for the reader to solve. They are also books that incorporate a lot of verifiable facts along with the fiction, so that readers can have fun looking all the things up, to determine how much of the book is ‘true’. According to Luke is such a book.
Who influenced you most?

It’s difficult to say because I read rather widely, both inside and outside the genre. I really like the writing style of Arturo Peres-Reverte, for example, who wrote The Flanders Panel, which is another puzzle thriller. And I like the narrative ease of Robert Goddard, who wrote Days Without Number. I have read all Goddard’s books and like the way he puts in art, literature, locations, music and food in his books to make them feel realistic. AS Byatt does it too, but in a more highbrow and refined way. Recognizing these inclusions gives the reader another level of enjoyment apart from the story. I try to do this as far as I can without making the props more important than the story.

How has your writing evolved over time?

I used to write a lot of short stories. I was quite successful at it and won a number of prizes and commendations, and had many published in magazines and journals (both hardcopy and online) and read on the radio. I had so many that I collected the published and awarded ones into three books, which are now out of print. But writing short stories is not the same at all as writing novels – I had to learn how to develop long stories and that took literally years. It was a matter of trial and error, and listening very carefully to those who had any comments about my manuscripts. I can see the difference in the way I write now when I compare my first novel to According to Luke: readers can tell I am on a journey towards perfecting my personal voice as a writer.

What advice do you have for new writers?

Make sure the advice you follow is up-to-date. Get as much information on the whole business and industry that publishing is becoming, not what it was in the past. Advice from ten years ago is far too old: publishing is changing, like everything else, and because it is part of communications, its changes are rapid. Read new writings: it’s all very well to admire Hemingway and Woolf and Platt – but they were published at a time when the industry ran along very different lines.

Another piece of advice is that although you write for yourself, you publish for an audience. The reading public for any piece of writing is different. Researching your audience, and directing what you write to that audience, is quite important. If you write for everybody, you will reach nobody at all.

What is your favorite part of writing?

Certainly not setting down that first draft! Novels are very hard to write. Telling a story in a consistent voice with all the action, narration, dialogue, description and so forth in the right places and with the right tone is incredibly hard work. It’s almost impossible not to correct yourself as you go along, and it’s easy to get side-tracked. Some inspired things you think up are forgotten and are lost forever, and it’s difficult to avoid writing completely useless passages.

What I like is cleaning up the mess! Rewriting, editing, cutting, putting back, chopping and changing: I spend literally years fixing up a manuscript. My books go through several radical changes, especially when they come back from my band of readers. I revise, revise, revise. And then I miss the process when the thing goes off to the publishers after acceptance!
Is there anything new in the works?

Of course. Only, I am avoiding writing it at the moment. I am still too excited to concentrate on a new book when According to Luke has not yet come out. I am writing another ‘puzzle thriller’ using another piece or pieces of art and another controversy, using new protagonists I still need to get to know. And yes – I will have at least one car chase, guns will go off, people will be injured… I cannot decide yet whether anyone will die. And hopefully the guy will get the gal. But it’s all still to be written!