Zooming with Heather Haven

Heather cartoon-smallest copy

If anyone had said to me six-months ago a large part of being an author in today’s world would be virtual, I would have laughed in his or her face. So much for reading the future. Before the pandemic, I did my share of in-the-flesh panel discussions, book signings, writers’ meetings, board meetings i.e., the basic tools of the trade. They were enough of a trial. Back in the day, the Bay Area traffic was so bad it would take hours to travel anywhere that wasn’t your local filling station. But here I am, forced into the unlikely reality of Zoom.Zoom

First off, I had no idea how to Zoom. What do you mean, I need a camera? And a mic? Am I going to have to push a bunch of buttons? But soon I realized it was time to come kicking and screaming into 2020. This old Poodle needed to learn a few new tricks. Bow-wow.

So I took a free Zoom online class offered to those like me to learn the rudiments. For the next forty minutes, we rushed through everything that makes Zoom a gift to the virtual world. I watched the clicking of the teacher’s mouse going from here to there and back again while trying to remember what went where. After my class, I asked my heart sister to let me practice on her with a Zoom meeting. She was the ideal person because whatever I did or didn’t do, she would be all-forgiving. I managed to set up the Zoom meeting and it went great. Was this one-on-one Zoom stuff really this easy to do?

Not quite.

To attain a more professional look, I needed an interesting backdrop behind me instead of the basket of laundry sitting on the dining room table waiting to be folded. Or hubby walking by in nothing but his boxers, grateful as I was for him at least wearing those. Then I remembered my class. The look of a real background could be solved by using a virtual one. Virtuality saves the day?

Not quite.

IMG_3460Unfortunately, one has to have a fairly new computer to support this enhancement. I don’t. But wait! I could buy a green screen plus its stand to place behind me. Then a multitude of backgrounds could be superimposed on the green screen.  Once I got that, they said, I could virtually be wherever I wanted to be: the Roman Coliseum, Waikiki beach, or even outer space (which seemed pretty good at the time). Problem solved?

Not quite.

Bela LugosiThe lighting has to be just so, they warned, or you will look like Bela Lugosi. Or in my case, his mom. And the virtual background on its little green backdrop won’t work so well, either. It shouldn’t have too much or too little light, but something just right. Goldilocks aside, now I’m a lighting director?

Not on your tintype.

This all seemed a little too sophisticated for me, so I axed the virtual background thing. But after a bit more research, I did buy a ring light on a mini-tripod that sits behind the laptop. I have to admit, the lighting does smooth out some of the wrinkles in my face…ah…dress.

I’m still looking for that perfect writerly background. I’ve been prowling around the house, laptop and ring light in tow. The only acceptable background I’ve found so far is the bookcase in the bedroom directly across from the bed.  So I set the laptop and ring light on a box on top of the bed because I’ve learned the camera needs to be elevated. This is so my double chins don’t show as much. One hopes. Then I brought in a chair and sat down between the bed and the bookcase trying to look writerly. Not so comfortable and the cat was totally confused. Just who did I think I was dumping all this junk on her bed and interrupting her mid-afternoon nap?

Okay, so I’m still trying to work out the bugs of this new media stuff. I am beginning to appreciate the idea of the green screen. But I am really beginning to appreciate the idea of radio.

 

The Natural World in Crime Fiction

Many of the books I enjoy include some aspect of the natural world. An obvious recent example is The Witch Elm by Tana French, which revolves around an old tree in a yard where the main characters played as children and one returns as an adult to recover from an assault. Then there’s my own Below the Tree Line, which is set on a farm in rural Central Massachusetts. Now that I’m writing about a suburban setting, I’m taking a look at my neighborhood for scenes or aspects of nature to include in a traditional mystery. It’s not going as expected.

My first choice was to talk about apple trees, since we have one. However, it hasn’t produced a real crop in a few years, and right now looks like it’s dying. It might work if the book were entitled “Death of an Apple Orchard,” since the tree looks more like a sculpture than something that might have ever produced fruit. Scratch that idea.

The ornamental trees in this area seem to have developed a disease that kills off their leaves, so for the last two years they have looked like they too are dying. No one seems concerned enough to take them down, so we’ll have to wait and see what the future holds.

To this I can add all the invasive species that have killed off our native species, thereby depriving other plants, birds, and animals of expected sustenance. Our own backyard is being overtaken by bittersweet, bamboo, rose of Sharon, and lots more. I’m not sure it’s even possible to get rid of the invasives now. It may be too late. Nature as evil invader. Not my idea of the setting for a cozy.

The other obvious choice for drawing nature into a tale is birds. I love birds, love watching them flit among the shrubs picking up a meal—bugs or seeds—and jabbering at each other. Cardinals are of course always welcomed, along with goldfinches, northern flickers, and egrets, even crows. But the winged creatures I most often see are not nearly as attractive, or as much of a pleasure to watch. Turkeys.

Turkeys are everywhere now.

Last year a flock made its way slowly down our street, passing from yard to yard in search of edibles. When they encountered a fence they headed out to the street. A driver trying to park made the mistake of honking at one of them. This is received as a direct insult, and the turkeys responded accordingly. Two of them attacked the car, pecking and jabbering at it. Not satisfied with this display of temper, they headed out into the street, bringing two lanes of traffic to a halt. This was so disruptive that a neighbor entered the fray shooing away the turkeys to the other side of the road, allowing traffic to flow again. But the turkeys weren’t done yet. They reentered traffic, once again tying it up, until bored, they wandered away, down the center of the road.

Once when a turkey was behaving appropriately, I snapped a pic of it. The click of my iPhone startled the bird and he looked up, scanning the area for whatever creature had threatened him. I moved on.

These feather characters won’t work as background detail for a story, though they might serve as a motive for murder.

Notice I began looking for an apple tree but mine was not attractive, and then moved on to other aspects of nature that were less than serene or beautiful. The cozy mystery needs the apple tree in blossom, but a thriller or suspense story needs the scaly fruit tree. Nature offers us both (and a lot in between) and as writers we choose aspects of the natural world to signal theme, tone, mood. I plan to get those diseased decorative trees into a story very soon. The turkeys are more likely to find their way into a humorous story, perhaps fleeing a homeowner determined to get rid of them. I’ll enjoy writing that one. And then I’ll talk about the rabbits that are now everywhere.

Thanks Giving

D. Z. Church

How lucky am I to have my blog appear on Thanksgiving Day! This year. In the middle of a pandemic. When no one can travel or sit at a table with all those they love. Okay, it’s been on my mind.

A lot.

Thanksgiving has always been my holiday. Back in the days when we had nuclear families, as in grandparents living with us or nearby, aunts and uncles and cousins just up the road, Thanksgiving was it! Just a great big, whack-a-doodle party from beginning to end. Especially since as kids our entire responsibility was to stay out of the way while the feast was prepared. My older sister and I and an aunt and uncle our ages made Christmas chains out of all the left-over aluminum foil at a big old card table in the front parlor. If we were really good, we got to pour water into the water glasses and set up the kids’ tables. Remember those?

The outbuildings at the farm, the house was to the left of the tall trees.

The entire family, including great aunts and uncles from Chicago, all converged on the family farm, a Century farm in northwestern Illinois with a big old Victorian farmhouse. The local aunts, uncles, and cousins arrived by late morning. But, since we lived only twenty minutes away, we strolled in for breakfast, which always included Grandma Mid’s thumbprint cakes. These things were to die for, and you might actually die from them. They involved large dollops of heavy cream hand-churned from milk from our cows by a second cousin a few miles away. OMG!

Cooking for the big day, started the previous weekend with pies. Grandma Mid and her daughters were glorious pie makers. The inscription on one aunt’s tombstone ends with: And the best damn pie maker. No kidding. For reference, imagine one of those ads you used to see with a huge family around an enormous table covered in food and double it. It was like a Norman Rockwell painting gone wild.

As soon as we were released from our eating obligations, we kids would roar out into the farmyard or across the lane to the timber and romp and stomp. Back then, there were only six grandkids and our youngest aunt and uncle, but the eight of us could make a world out of the woodland, the ditch, and the farmyard. Sooner or later, a ball game would erupt on the front lawn with the walnut trees standing in for bases. When darkness descended, the Hearts game started. My uncles played hardcore unforgiving Hearts with raised voices, accusations of cheating, and peals of laughter.

I once drew a picture for my second grade class of Thanksgiving at our farm. I was meticulous about it, putting every single one of the thirty-one participants in the picture. The assignment had been to draw a true picture of the holiday, suspicious my teacher questioned my accuracy. She even showed it to my mother, who forever gained my adoration by systematically naming all thirty-one persons in the picture. Though I think she fudged on more than a few.

Is it any wonder that this farmhouse stood in for the one in my Cooper Vietnam Era Quartet? Becoming a character in the newest and third book, Pay Back.

The farmhouse

Redolent with years of yeasty bread and the gossip of farm families, the farmhouse kitchen took up a full quarter of the ground floor and was the aorta of the home. Everything and everyone flowed through it whether to climb the stairs, enter the front parlors, or go to the bathroom. An oak table, ten feet long without leaves, surrounded by ladder-backed oak chairs with a captain’s chair at each end, took a full third of the room. A built-in corner hutch gleamed with a new multi-paned glass door.

Ash planking adorned the restored floor. The cabinets were white, the countertop butcher block, and the appliances stainless steel and time-tested. Rag rugs made by the Plainwell Woman’s Club from strips of used clothing were sprinkled around the room, one in front of the six-burner gas stove, one in front of the sink, and one under the oak table.

That kitchen stove had a bun warmer to one side. Every now and then, I would have the joy of tumbling downstairs for breakfast to tiny cheeps emanating from behind the warmer door. I remember Grandmother frying eggs at the stove, then casually leaning over to open the bun warmer as the cheeps crescendoed. Tiny little yellow chicks bobbled out on to the floor, trying their untried wings, and wobbling along. Grandma’s calico cat, the only working cat allowed in the kitchen, rested her paws on the edge of her water dish. She watched them take their first drink, her little cat lips pursed.

Sigh.

We may not have this Thanksgiving with family, but we have all that came before and all those to come. So, get out the albums, cook up your turkey, and snuggle in front of a fire (be it on Netflix, electric, gas, or wood), and spend time with your family on Zoom, Hangouts, or a video conference of choice. And enjoy!

Three books of the Cooper Era Vietnam Quartet: Dead Legend, Head First, and Pay Back are available on Amazon in paperback and ebook. Pay Back at https://www.amazon.com/Pay-Back-Cooper-Vietnam-Quartet-ebook/dp/B08CJDHP92

Guess What I Just Realized

My latest mystery in the Rocky Bluff Police Department series, Not as We Knew It, is now available on Kindle and in paperback from Amazon.

Of course, this means it’s time to promote it. Since in-person events are for the most part no longer available it means relying on the Internet to let people know I have a new book out.

I’ve always enjoyed visiting other’s blogs to talk (write) about my latest books, and as I’ve been thinking about what to write, I realized this was the second time I’ve done something odd in a mystery.

There is no murder!

What a shocker. There is definitely plenty of mystery, and as in all the Rocky Bluff P.D. mysteries, a lot about the officers and their families and how they are dealing with what’s happening in their lives. And since I’m writing in more or less real time, you can guess what the biggest problem going on that they must cope with.

And, there was no murder in my last RBPD mystery either, Bones in the Attic.

Maybe that’s a good thing since Rocky Bluff is such a small town, but I am a tad worried about my readers. Almost all mysteries revolve around murder. A missing woman is the main mystery, but other crimes are committed like happens anywhere.

The book is done and being read, waiting for the reviews to come in.

Not as We Knew It is  #16 in the series.

 Marilyn who writes this series as F. M. Meredith

Guest Author ~ Sharon Dean

A male English professor once asked me, why do all you women trade these mystery novels? By “all you women” he meant people like me, female English professors of a certain age. I used to trade with someone during final exams and escape into a mystery between reading student papers. My favorites were by Amanda Cross. How could I resist something called Death in a Tenured Position?

            Amanda Cross was the pseudonym for Carolyn Heilbrun, a faculty member at Columbia. She escaped the stress of being a woman in what was then a male dominated profession by writing novels about a female professor stumbling upon and solving crimes.

            What my female colleagues and I all had in common were preteen years reading Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden, the Dana girls, any of a huge number of mysteries put out by the Stratemeyer Syndicate. Bobbee Anne Mason, who wrote her Ph.D. dissertation on Vladimir Nabokov, studied these novels in a book called The Girl Sleuth (1975) before she turned to writing fiction of her own. In a line that captures how these books led so many of us to become English professors, Mason writes that after all “A scholar is a version of a sleuth.”

            My last scholarly book was an edition of letters by the nineteenth century writer Constance Fenimore Woolson. I had to be a sleuth to edit these letters. I had to find them, to puzzle together how they fit chronologically, to search for many of the names now lost to us. When I gave up writing books that required footnotes and turned to writing fiction, mysteries were a logical place for me to begin.

            My first amateur sleuth, Susan Warner, is what you would expect from me––a retired English professor. My new one, Deborah Strong, is not far removed. She’s a librarian in a town adjacent to the one I imagined for Susan. Both these amateur sleuths listen, watch, put clues together. Both allow me to draw on my life as an academic, especially the second in both series. My Susan Warner novel Death of the Keynote Speaker is set on New England’s Isles of Shoals. It weaves together the real history of Celia Thaxter’s literary salon on Appledore Island and a notorious murder on Smuttynose Island, with a fictional nineteenth-century writer I named Abigail Brewster. Writing it, I drew on many of those letters by Constance Woolson that I edited. In my forthcoming novel, The Wicked Bible (scheduled for Octorber 2021), Deborah Strong encounters a letter to the imagined Brewster when she’s at a conference on the history of libraries.

            I’ve let go of the academic life and learned to edit out the scholarly voice that used to intrude into my drafts. But I can’t let go of the connections to the scholarly research that creep into my fiction. Mine is a life that a good sleuth might have predicted. Reader of girl sleuth mysteries becomes analyzer of literature, and scholarly sleuth becomes writer of whodunits. I’m enjoying the journey.

The Barn

In 1990, Deborah Madison and Rachel Cummings, both seventeen, are enjoying a bicycle ride on a beautiful September day in New Hampshire. They stop at a local barn that no longer houses cows but still displays a wooden cow’s head that peeks out from a window in the rafters. Sliding open the door, they find Rachel’s boyfriend, Joseph Wheeler, dead on the barn’s floor.

            The case lies as cold as Joseph for nearly thirty years until Rachel returns to New Hampshire to attend the funeral of Joseph’s mother. The girls, now women, reopen the cold case and uncover secrets that have festered, as they often do, in small towns. Against a backdrop of cold and snow and freezing rain, Deborah and Rachel rekindle their friendship and confess the guilt each of them has felt about things that happened in the past.

The Barn is a story of friendship lost and recovered, secrets buried and unburied, and the power of forgiveness.

Buy links: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08BZWKTMB

publisher’s link: https://encirclepub.com/product/thebarn/

Sharon L. Dean grew up in Massachusetts where she was immersed in the literature of New England. She earned undergraduate and graduate degrees at the University of New Hampshire, a state she lived and taught in before moving to Oregon. After giving up writing scholarly books that required footnotes, she reinvented herself as a fiction writer. She is the author of three Susan Warner mysteries and of a literary novel titled Leaving Freedom. The Barn, the first novel in a new mystery series, features librarian and reluctant sleuth Deborah Strong as she and her friend solve a thirty-year-old cold case. Set in the depth of New Hampshire’s January, The Barn is a story of friendship lost and recovered, secrets buried and unburied, and the power of forgiveness.

website: https://wordpress.com/page/sharonldean.com/31
publisher’s link: https://encirclepub.com/product/thebarn/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/267389.Sharon_L_Dean

Gratitude and Poetry by Karen Shughart

For many years the poetry books I collected, starting in my teens, sat on our bookshelves untouched. I have no idea why I stopped reading poetry, but I did.

Then, one cold and rainy afternoon last month, I made myself a cup of tea and after pulling several books off  a shelf, curled up on the loveseat in front of the fire and began to flip through the pages. I intended to find poems of gratitude to be used for this blog, but I got off track, delighting in rediscovering poems I had loved and admired regardless of topic.

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

In high school,  I was introduced to the Romantic poets: Wordsworth, Coleridge, Keats, Shelly, Byron, and Blake; whose works beckoned me to understand the world through nature, imagination, revolution and those marginalized in society. I memorized stanzas that I can still recite because they so filled my heart.

Later, still in my teens, I was drawn to The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, a lyric poem that presents deep feelings and emotions on subjects such as life, death, love, and religion. Did it help clarify or shape my own identity? Probably not, as my own experiences and travels unfolded in their own unique way, but at the time, I was entranced by it.

As an English major in college, I read and discussed the works, both in and out of the classroom, of  contemporary poets like John Barth, who was in residence at my university; Laurence Ferlinghetti;  Karl Shapiro; Leonard Cohen; and  Wallace Stevens, who, in 1955, won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for his Collected Poems. To me, his poems resonate like verbal music and his perfect control of language evokes a myriad of complex feelings.

Throughout my college years and beyond, I discovered, read, and admired the works of many more poets, Walt Whitman and T.S. Eliot among those, but also the Welsh poet, Dylan Thomas.

My father, who was born in 1919, graduated college and then went to serve our country during World War II.  One of George Patton’s scouts, he received two bronze stars. He was a fierce man: in his morals, ethics, and values; his love for his family and for his country. Towards the end, his fierceness continued as he battled serious health issues that never seemed to daunt or derail him from living the remainder of his life to the fullest.

The eldest of his four children, I was the first to read a eulogy at his funeral. I never could have  expressed what I knew of my father’s spirit better than Thomas’ poem, “Do not go gentle into that good night”, written for his dying father in 1947, the year I was born.

So, I guess this blog really is about both poetry and gratitude. Gratitude that I had a family that encouraged education, an education that exposed me to poetry, and a family that embodied and still does today, the meaning and actions of love.

Another Missye K. Clarke 1st: A 1st Unofficial NaNo Pep Talk

It’s that time upon us–nip in the wood stove-smoke air, days are shorter, and that damnable Daylight Savings is a memory. Oh, and Thanksgiving. Food, glorious food!

And NaNoWriMo. It’s nuts. If you’ve done it, you’re nuts. If you haven’t, try it. It’s nuts. I’m doing it again. Yes, I’m nuts. Make mine pistachios, pumpkin, and pinions (oh, my!), please. 😎

So I’ll go back to Casebook #4 while you enjoy this little pepper I gave a fellow NaNo nutter frightened her book is a pile of hot garbage. It well could be; we don’t know until seeing the final version, if ever. May this give you a booster as I hope it has for her.

Oh, right . . . I promised y’all my news since last month’s post. Time to fulfill a promise, as The Patrick Bowen Files author Steven James oft says to do.

JERSEY’s got two reviews on ‘Zon at 4.5 stars! And my first-ever go for a story album submission, I made it in, squeeeee! Soon as I receive details, y’all can enjoy “Punxsutawney Kill” in the 2020 BOULD Anthology when it’s available. Although I still think I should’ve picked “Groundhog Slay” for the story title, my husband Pete says “Punx” has mure a nyah–zhuzh edge to it; its quirkyness was why I made it in “Slay” doesn’t have. Well, that, and we’re living in battleground state Pennsylvania, so . . . 😏.

Happy reading! Back again next month, Lord willing, the last before 2020 ends. What a ride it’s been, huh?

* * *

Aawww, honey. It’ll be okay, I swear. At the expense of coming across like a mother hen to her daughter chick, instead, see me as your wise old “Slappy Squirrel” big sister (Yeah, I’m just as cudmudgeony, but I mean well.). Follow my train of thought for a bit, okay?

My first mystery I indie-published in 2018 was HARDLY the book that came to me in 2005 (yeah, 13 years, I know.). But for two stinking scenes–TWO, AAARRRGGGHHH!!!!!–in 2011, I scrapped the entire MS I’d drafted since 2005. Lord God, I about clewed the grey from the pavement outside my house, I was so mad at the time. Another writer friend from TX, sadly now deceased, reached out when she heard I was lit up. She talked me down, said this will pass, because SHE scrapped her first book, too. And from the words of a Writer’s Digest instructor during an assignment in 2009, most of the submitted chapter had a severe lack of credibility that began on a different topic altogether. Put another way: if that chapter was seriously questioned, the book around it was a hot pile of crap, but I was too emotionally invested. She said the story was fine, but where I’d plucked the execution from for it, was a poor fit.

“Eureka!” lightbulb, on!

Your MS is a pile of hot crap–so what? Every author writes or has written a book version of an Edsel. I think in past NaNos, YA author Meg Cabot said you’re going to write over A MILLION WORDS before you dig into the gold, so let this book be your trainnig ground to get you there. It doesn’t have to see the light of day in its early stages, nor should it. Leave yourself some secrecy, some dignity in how that magic came to be. The story being sound is what counts. It’s the rejected execution you’re ticked about, mad at, elated and pissed over, laughing at/to/or for that’s got you rattled–but if you know in your heart the MS needs to be trashed where it is, do it. It stinks hearing and reading these words, but trust me on this. I’m a Gemini. I’m the product of Speedy Gonzales and Ricochet Rabbit, thanks to my untreated-since-childhood ADHD. I’m a 9 Life Path; I’m naturally harder on myself than most are, and I’m not naturally prone to patience. Coming from somebody with my background, you best believe it’s damn tough to trust the process!

But everybody in our position before us were right. The scenes I’d rebuilt JERSEY DOGS around bookends Ch. 12’s “Brother . . . Oh, Brother,” to segue the badass “A Message From Ewe.” And it is badass, not because I drafted it, but because of the stinking “Wow!” magic doing it for me building it. Had I not scrapped the ’05-’11 book, “Ewe” might not’ve happened. So allow the hurt, frustration, jealousy. confusion, anger, shock and sorrow over your loss fuel you to construct an MS better, stronger, leaner, and meaner than you’d thought. Why? Because the bloat of your story’s backstory is out of the way, you know what’ll go in and/or what’ll be left out in the next MS, and you’ll know where your story is telling you where its execution lies. You’re okay. You will be. Honest. It’s just words, tools none wasted if you hold the right perspective for them, and you, in this crazy writing life.

PS: Nathan Brandsford had a blog post a decade plus back citing that you NEVER go with the first idea, because that’s likely been done, done to death, and done ad nauseum even after that. Instead, dig deep for an original story. Deeper. DEEPER! DEEPER, dammit! Go REAL deep! So deep you’ll get the bends coming back up for air. After that, let your best listed ideas marinate for twenty-four hours before picking one. It’s that story you’re living with, so better make it a doozy and make it really count for a reader to love what you do to make him smile.

And now . . . Slappy Squirrel’s got her date with two hot McG guys I’m being a NaNo Rebel for in Casebook #4, OWL ROCKA THE ROCKAWAYS. Go knock ’em dead, author! Readers, show us love, because it’s for you and for our imaginations we’re working our tails off for.

Mea Culpa!

I admit it. I goofed, and send my most profound apologies to everyone.

2020 has got me! Between deadlines and some familial issues, yesterday’s posting date just slipped by like… well, I don’t know like what, but it did.

Again, my apologies. I will do better. I promise.

A Party and New Covers by Paty Jager

I’m excited to reveal the new covers for my Isabella Mumphrey Action Adventure/Romantic Suspense/Thriller trilogy.

However, you won’t see them here. 😉

I’m having a “Where in the world is Isabella Mumphrey?” Facebook party on this coming Saturday, November 14th from 5-7 pm Pacific time. If you go to the page and sign up to join the party, it will tell you what time it will be live in your time zone. Since Oregon had decided to not change time this Fall, yet, I’ve been hearing we are… So hopefully you can catch me during one of the two hours.

https://www.facebook.com/events/471554667120961

I’ll be giving away two large prizes and many small prizes during the two hours, besides revealing my covers, giving you clues to the “Where in the world” game, and visiting about how this trilogy came to be and anything else you want to talk about.

Here are the Blurbs for the books. Secrets of a Mayan Moon won the Reader’s Crown in 2013 for Best Romantic Suspense.

Secrets of a Mayan Moon

Book one of the Isabella Mumphrey Adventure series

Move over Indiana Jones and MacGyver- Isabella Mumphrey has arrived!

Child prodigy and now Doctor of Anthropology, Isabella Mumphrey, is about to lose her job. Unless she can decipher an ancient stone table—and she can. She heads to Guatemala at the request of her mentor, but drug trafficking bad guys and artifact thieves wreak havoc on her scholarly intentions.

Upon seeing Dr. Mumphrey has never been in a jungle or out of the states, undercover DEA agent, Tino Kosta, gets tangled up in helping her discover the truth.

Which could make them casualties of the jungle.

Secrets of an Aztec Temple

Book two of the Isabella Mumphrey Adventure series

Revenge isn’t always sweet… 

Isabella Mumphrey can’t leave a puzzle alone.  Much like Indiana Jones and MacGyver, she has a knack for getting out of sticky situations. This time she attempts to use her anthropology knowledge to uncover who is stealing priceless artifacts from an Aztec Temple in Mexico City.

Tino Konstantine is also in Mexico City. He has infiltrated a drug lord’s organization to find enough evidence to not only prove the man’s illegal activities, but to bring him down for numerous deaths. Namely those of Tino’s family.

But when their operations collide, and Isabella, strolls into the drug lord’s home, Tino is challenged with the choice of saving her or fulfilling his revenge.

Secrets of a Hopi Blue Star

Book three of the Isabella Mumphrey Adventure series

The truth doesn’t always set you free…

Landing in the underground world of human trafficking, anthropologist Isabella Mumphrey, a female Indiana Jones / MacGyver, learns her own past is as sordid as the predicament she’s uncovered.  No one is who she’d believed them to be—not her parents, her cousin, her aunt.

The only constant in her life is her fiancé, Tino Konstantine, and now their enemy is using her knowledge of the Hopi blue star to lure Tino to his death.

If yo can’t wait to see the covers or wish to purchase them, here is the link to their page on my website. https://www.patyjager.net/romantic-suspense/

My post next month should be informing you about my latest release from the Gabriel Hawke series. It was fun to write but a booger to get logistics correct. I had to call in help from my sister-in-law and my younger brother. More on that next month! There you go. I like to keep people in suspense and wondering….

Guest Author ~ Zaida Alfaro

Since I can remember, I was always writing.  I would write poems to my family and to my imaginary best friends.  Then as I got older, my poems progressed into song lyrics, and those song lyrics progressed into my two music albums. Then, many years ago, I became an avid reader of cozy mysteries, because of my sister. She gifted me a book because of its cover.  I ended up reading the entire series of the author.  I didn’t know the cozy genre existed before then. The story lines were intriguing, engaging, and funny at the same time. I was so inspired by the authors, that I then decided to take my musical experiences, and put it on paper. I began writing and completing this first novel, in between my full-time job, my weekend gigs, and my personal life. The phobia’s, the dream sequences, and the quirkiness of the main characters, are all based on facts. I also wanted to bring the love I have for Miami, the Cuban culture, my family, and music, to the readers of my novel, and to the series to come. The ironic thing is the main character is not my favorite character in my book.  My favorite character is Alexia.  At first, Alexia was not going to have such a big role in my book, but the more I wrote her, the more that I fell in love with her character.  The character is based off my older sister, and a lot of the bantering, communication, and the closeness that Vy and Alexia have in the book, portrays my actual relationship with my older sister.

If you are currently writing a novel, the best advice I can give you is to not give up.  I received so many rejection letters, that I was on the verge of not sending out any more query letters.  Then I attended a book signing for one of my favorite authors.  Fortunately for me, and unfortunately for her, I was the only person that attended the signing.  I was able to sit with her for an hour and talk about my novel and the hardships.  She said to me, “give yourself a deadline of a year before you resort to self-publishing. Do not give up just yet.”  So, when I left that signing, I calendared a year from that date.  In six months, my book was picked up!  So, do not give up.  Give yourself a deadline and send out as many query letters as you can.  There will be one publisher that will believe in your work, but make sure that you believe in your work first.

I just want to say, thank you readers and to Paty for taking the time to read my book and also blog about it.  I hope that you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.  Welcome to my crazy world!

THE LAST NOTE: A Miami Music Mystery

Killer songs and a killer voice, but a killer at her gig?  Vy has always found herself at the center of attention as the lead singer for one of Miami’s top cover bands, but when she finds herself at the center of a murder investigation, while performing at the Steel Horse Bar, that changes the tune of the night.

Someone believes that Vy knows the truth behind the murder of the bar owner Ricky, and now that person is after her. Vy better figure out quickly who wanted Ricky dead, who is threatening her with her favorite band’s song lyrics, and why she’s falling for the handsome Detective Houston, before she too sings her last note.

With a mixture of mystery, mayhem and comedy, you will find yourself immersed in Vy’s musical and murderous world.

buy link:
https://www.amazon.com/Last-Note-Miami-Music-Mystery/dp/1946063487

The novel’s main backdrop, the amazing city of Miami, Florida, is beloved and well-known to me. I was born and raised in Miami, and like the novel’s main character Vy, I am a singer/songwriter, as well as the lead singer to a self-proclaimed cover band. All things relating to music or literature are my passion. I keep a journal, and I am constantly writing poems, stories, and any thought that comes to mind. I have a fascination for black and white films, that have the element of mystery. As I have been told by many, I have a very creative imagination.  Many years ago, I became an avid reader of cozy mysteries. The story lines were intriguing, engaging, and funny at the same time. I was so inspired by the authors, that I then decided to take my musical experiences, and put it on paper, hence the outcome of The Last Note: A Miami Music Mystery.

Having a Series Under Option by Heather Haven

The Alvarez Family Murder Mysteries are under option (again) for a series of television movies. Naturally, I am delighted. Three years ago it happened and I was totally delighted then, as well. But this time I’m a little more – well, not jaded because that’s the wrong word – but wiser as to the way things go.

Casting Call for a Corpse is the latest book of the series although I am currently writing The Drop Dead Temple of Doom.

First off, only 1 out of a 1000 projects make it to production. Putting COVID aside, something usually falls apart somewhere along the line, such as the desires of the public, the drawing-power of the stars chosen, the changes in the dynamics of anyone in the decision-making process, which is a gaggle of other people. This means at any point it could all go south. Going south has little to do with the quality of the book or books under option. And here’s an interesting fact: the author of said books is probably going to be the last person to know what’s going on.

In a way this makes a lot of sense. The author – in this case me – has already done his or her part, the start of everything. Consequently, I have no input as to the development of a television movie (maybe if I was Stephen King I might, but I’m not so I don’t). I write books; I don’t write television screenplays. Everything is up to the whims of fate. Bottom line of what I know: my little series about a humorous, loving, and diverse family is under option for one year, starting October 20, 2020 and ending October 19, 2021. Bada Bing Bada Boom.

Three years ago, it made it pretty high up the tiers of possibility. Even the executive producer was surprised to see it fail. During that time, I realized a lot of things. Mainly, my life would be better if the series went but wouldn’t change significantly. Even though the money would be nice, we don’t have kids sitting around the table waiting to be fed. Maybe hubby and I would go out to a better restaurant occasionally. Maybe we’d take one more vacation per year. Maybe I’d have that eyelift I’ve been promising myself.

But here’s what is a delicious thought: if people watched movies based on my books, maybe those same sweet souls would buy my books and read them. Glory hallelujah! Truth be told, the most important thing to me would be the credit line at the beginning of each movie, “Based on the Alvarez Family Murder Mysteries by Heather Haven.”

So I’m in a pretty good place with this. But nonetheless, please keep your fingers crossed for me!