Friday, 30 January 2015

Book #1 Naked in Death

The ‘In Death’ books are basically stories of murder and suspense, but with an underlying story of a romance. This is my review of the book, not looking at the plot of the murder, but looking at how the characters evolve, how new characters are introduced, how repeated information is given. I hope to read one book a week and share my thoughts, from a writer's perspective.


EVE DALLAS is a ten year veteran of the New York Police and Security Department. She is a complicated and conflicted woman. At eight years of age, found abandoned in the street, beaten and abused, she has no memory of who she was or what happened to her.

To be a cop, and a good one, is all she’s ever wanted. She’s had no experience of family, of love and belonging, her life was the job.

Other characters introduced are CAPTAIN RYAN FEENEY, her former partner and now head of the Electronic Detective Division, and COMMANDER JACK WHITNEY, the head of the police department at Cop Central.

During the murder she is investigating, she crosses paths with ROARKE, a mysterious self-made multi billionaire and her prime suspect. This is where the romance begins. The attraction is immediate, and though Eve tries to resist, she admits to feelings she’s never before experienced.

Their budding relationship causes problems for Eve, a conflict between the personal life she never allowed herself to have, and her career. As much as she trusts Roarke is not her killer, the evidence is there, and others in the police department are not as convinced.

Roarke also had a troubled childhood, running the streets of Dublin, frequently abused by his father. It seems to be what gives this couple such a unique understanding of each other. The only person close to Roarke is Summerset, the man who takes care of his house, a man he brought with him from Ireland. Their history is not disclosed in this book.

Other characters are MAVIS FREESTONE, an entertainer who Eve once arrested, and NADINE FURST, a reporter. There’s also a male prostitute, CHARLES MONROE, that Eve interviews. At the time the story takes place, in 2058, prostitution is legal, the workers screened and licensed.

DOCTOR CHARLOTTE MIRA is a psychiatrist and profiler, working with the police department. She knows Eve’s background, and it is when she consults with Mira that we learn of Eve’s childhood.

Eve has had nightmares and flashbacks, and with this case worsens that situation worsens as she remembers more details of her childhood.

There are ongoing themes in each book that start from the beginning. One is the lack of real food, meat, eggs and fruit, the cost of which is out of the reach of most, but available to Eve now because of her connection to Roarke.

There’s the cat that belonged to a murder victim. Eve reluctantly takes it home, the first pet she’s ever had.

I like reading the books in order and seeing Eve change. In the beginning she’s closed off to any relationships and during the course of this book she gains a lover and a new friend. Watching her open herself to new possibilities is interesting reading.

The stories are intense and intricate for anyone who likes a good murder and mystery. The main characters have depth, and there are secondary characters that add humor and make the story even more interesting.

It’s a good start, but believe me, it only gets better.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Writing a Series

I love a good mystery or murder story, and have my favourite authors, many who write in a series format, where the cast of characters remains the same, though the plot and setting may change. Often, if I pick one of these books up, and like it, I go back to the beginning and read them in order.

Here are a few authors who write in a series.
J.A. Jance has one series set in the south west, her character a female sheriff. Another series is about a detective in Seattle. I liked both series as each takes place in a part of the country that I’ve never visited and is vastly different than where I live.

Lee Child writes the Jack Reacher series. You may recognize the name from the movie starring Tom Cruise.

I also like Alex Kava’s series about FBI Profiler Maggie O’Dell.

Then there is James Patterson’s series with detective Alex Cross and the Women’s Murder Club.

And one other example is Lisa Scottolini’s series about a group of female lawyers in the Italian district of Philadelphia.

I know there are many more, but these were the names I pulled from the books on my shelf.

One of the challenges in writing a series of novels based on the same characters, and maybe the same location, is each book must be a good stand-alone read. By that I mean the reader should be able to pick up book #10 and understand the character almost as well as if they had read the books in sequence from #1.

This requires a lot of back story. The information that needs to be told about the ongoing characters’ past, the how and why of who they are. But, if you read all the books in the series, you know this stuff. The writer must give this information in each and every book so the new reader can understand the character, and do it in such a way so as not to feel repetitive or boring for the reader who follows the series.

My favourite series is written by J.D. Robb, otherwise known as Nora Roberts. As much as I like Roberts’ work, I was reluctant to try this series because it is set in the future. I tend to stick with novels written in the here and now. But I gave one book a try and I was hooked, and started reading from the beginning.

The first book is Naked in Death, and all the books are titled in the same way so that they are part of what has been called her ‘In Death’ series. The setting is 2058 New York City, the main character, Eve Dallas, a NYPSD homicide detective. The first book was published in 1995, the latest in 2014, yet the time span covered in almost forty books is only a few years, each book a different case that Eve must solve.

The futuristic stuff is interesting, as it’s not as ‘out there’ as what you see in the space shows on television, and with the advances being made today in science, medicine and technology, the changes in the future seem plausible, credible and become an acceptable norm as you read on.

I have read this series in its entirety, some books more than once. I read each new book for pleasure, and a second time as a writer, looking at how the plot is woven, information given and how the characters grow, personally and in their relationships.

As Eve Dallas is such a complicated and conflicted character, I decided to read the series again, and make notes, as a writer, as to how new characters are introduced, how the characters change. I plan to share these thoughts here, without giving away the ‘who-done-it’ outcome of the book.

Consider me a book club of one and this a welcome to join.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Saved in a Binder

As I sit here having my morning coffee, I’m watching an episode of Listening from 2013. This is a police drama about a psychic who can read what people are thinking, an obvious asset for the police.

In this episode, Toby’s girlfriend, a reporter, is concerned that her co-worker was targeted because of a story she was working on. The detective and psychic go to the woman’s apartment, the scene of the crime.

The woman was what you might call super organized. Her work area in the apartment is covered in sticky notes, each different story colour coded, and with binders to match. The visual was extreme, and yet I thought...impressive.

I also tend to organize with binders. When I worked and had an office there were rows of binders on my bookcase. And today, as I glance across the room I see a series of binders, in black, green, blue and purple. A bit obsessive I’ll agree, but I can explain.

The blue and purple binders hold copies of all my short stories, one copy for each of my kids. I’m not going to look, as it’s been awhile since I added anything to their binders, but I expect there are dividers in each, separating my writing into genres. There should be poetry, childrens’ stories, and short stories.

I know, I know, I can save it all on a Flash Drive, and I have, but there was a rationale behind my action. I thought this might make it easier, and more accessible for them to read. Maybe writing this will inspire me to update the binders, and give them to the kids and off my shelf. Ha ha ha.

The green binders are my way or organizing my writing. One is notes, work started and left unfinished, snippets of ideas, or phrases I like and saved. The second is full of articles on writing, the third the record of my writing, what is complete, what is published etc..

When I work on a book I start a binder and fill it with plot ideas and character studies. I keep a record of all my characters’ background, as I do of the locations. Everything together in one spot for reference.

Then there are my cookbooks. Years ago I started taking all my family and frequently used recipes and did them up, scrapbook style, each protected in a plastic sleeve. I made copies for each of my grandchildren, and remember ,at the time I began, there were four and I had to make another two when each of my children added to their family.

Each recipe is tried and true; some pages include photographs of the grandchildren making that recipe, or the occasion. There are anecdotal notes of our family life. It was a keepsake from me to them.

I also have binders of knitting and crochet patterns, printed off the craft sites I frequent. At that time, I was not as handy on the computer and feared I would never find that same pattern again and so printed it off. This was before Pinterest, my new knit and crochet binder.

I see no reason to be alarmed by this kind of organization, though I know it can get out of hand. I’m much better than I was; I have to be. When I moved I had to get rid of a four drawer filing cabinet. If you think the binders are over done, you should have seen my files...I saved everything. You just never know when you might need that bit of information, right?

As long as there are people like me, there will never be a paperless world and I’m Ok with that. There’s just something about the smell and feel of paper that you cannot duplicate with an electronic device.

Friday, 16 January 2015

A Sewing Task

I was at my grandson’s hockey game last week, all the kids wearing the same jerseys, their faces hidden behind helmets and masks. At that young age, unless it’s a girl with a long pony tail hanging down her back, they all look somewhat the same.

I was glad to see that some of the kids had large name tags with their last name sewn on the back of their jerseys. It was so much easier to find my boy, and learn the names of the other players.

I know about those name tags, an option for parents, because for the second year in a row, I’ve sewed that tag on my grandson’s jersey. It’s not a difficult bit of sewing. But to get it right, and to make sure it was straight, I pinned it in place, then basted it, and finally sewed it on with smaller stitches around the serger finished edge.

I do it, because my daughter has no knowledge of, or interest in sewing. I have been the go-to person for repairs and little sewing jobs for her and her family. She’s not alone in her disinterest in the art or craft of sewing.

At the end of the game, another Hockey Mom approached my daughter, wanting to know where she had the name patch sewn on. Really, I’m thinking. My daughter pointed to me and we all laughed. And I ended up volunteering to sew the patch on.

It’s nice to know I have a needed skill, but I think it’s a shame that this next generation, and the one that follows have no interest in sewing, as a hobby, or even just as a required skill, like how to cook or do the laundry.

I still have handmade quilts made by my great grandmother. She also crocheted, and tatted. My grandmother sewed her own clothes, and some pretty dresses for my sister and I when we were little.

My mother made beautiful clothes, even had a home based clothing line for a while. She was also a talented artist, did landscapes and portraits in oil, and then switched to acrylic and watercolour. She could knit and crochet, but like rug hooking, weaving and crewel, done in wall hangings of her own design.

I’ve been like my mother. I started out painting in oils and learned to sew as a teenager. Later I tried just about everything, like pottery, ceramics, macramé, but the mainstays of sewing, knitting and crochet were my ongoing activities.

I got back into art and discovered mixed media collage was my best style, and a few years ago began writing.

Maybe it’s a sign of the times, with everyone being so busy, but I don’t think that’s really an excuse for why people seem to have abandoned learning these useful skills. I still found time to paint, even as a single Mom, working full time. I think it’s because life is fast, and everybody wants what they want, quick easy and right now. It’s easier to buy what you want than make it.

Or maybe, it’s part of our individual genetic makeup. I much prefer time in isolation, doing whatever creative venture I’m interested in at the time. And some people prefer the company of others, you know...being social.

Maybe, at some future time, the younger generation will want to create, and seek me out. Right now, they seem content to benefit from my knowledge, skill and talent...second hand.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Recycling in Hollywood

I would imagine the studios in Hollywood, where they film television shows and movies, cover an incredible amount of acreage. Even with the new technology of CGI or Computer Generated Imagery, there is still a need for actual sets.

I remember once seeing a movie about making a movie, where different rooms used for scenes were actually only three walls, a floor but no ceiling. It must be a strange feeling to walk out of a room to the back of another room, from a supposed living room, to a hospital setting or a store. Kind of like when we were kids and we made rooms for our dolls by setting books on edge to be the walls.

I just read an article in one of those celebrity magazines (I was in the laundry room, and it was there), about a house that is owned by actor Christopher Meloni, from Law and Order SUV. The house had been used in the show Entourage, as the house where character Art Gold lived. And strangely enough was the real and television home of Ozzie and Harriet Nelson.

I used to watch a show called the Gilmore Girls, and one of the frequent locations in the show was a diner. It was distinctive because the door was on the corner of the building. I swear the diner in the show Bones is the same one.

The Royal Diner from Bones, at Fox Studios

It’s nice to see that Hollywood believes in the whole reuse/recycle thing. I bet those studio tours would be an amazing trip down memory lane.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

End of the Season Celebration

Last Friday was my sister-in-law’s birthday, a significant one as she starts into a new decade.We were all getting together, a post holiday thing, plus it was my hockey-crazy, six year old grandson’s first hockey game.

I decided to make cupcakes, not that the birthday girl would miss it if I didn’t, (she’s one of those rare women who doesn’t care for chocolate or sweets), but the kids think birthdays call for cake.

I baked the day before, 12 regular cupcakes, and 24 minis. It was a frustrating event. One, I only had black cup cake liners, covered in white skulls, and two, once I was done, I couldn’t find any of my plastic containers to store all the cupcakes in.

I finally dug out my fancy cupcake carrier for the regulars, and divided the mini cupcakes between three other containers. It worked.

But, the morning of the game, I was loading up my walker, hoping to carry everything in one trip. I had two gift bags, my purse, and the cupcake containers. It was a balancing act, for sure.

I had one gift bag in the carrier and one on the seat, with all the cake containers in a stack beside it. I was concerned the bins would drop off the front, but the gift bag held them in place.

The problem was the small lip at my entry that requires I lift the front wheels, in order to get out the door. I made it through the door but the cake containers somehow went flying and 3 out of 4 of them ended up...upside down on the sidewalk. Big oops.

So, we didn’t have a candle kind of celebration, it was more of a cake decorating party, as I scraped the icing off the lid of the container and re-iced each cupcake. The kids didn’t care at all.

We got to see my grandson score a couple of goals, had a nice visit, a great dinner and some ugly cupcakes for dessert. It started to snow like the devil so we made it an early night. It was my first time driving in the snow this winter, and it was getting dark, so I had an anxious drive (I don’t get out much). The others had a far longer trip, one group heading west hit rain, and the other went north to find snow and then freezing rain. We did the check in thing when everyone was home safe and sound, always a necessity when winter travel is involved.

A good day, a good end to the holiday season, now back to our previously scheduled routines.